Monday, February 28, 2022


The First Commandment

Aristophanes, Clouds 423-424 (Socrates to Strepsiades; tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Is it correct, then, that you will now recognize no god but those we recognize,
the Void around us, the Clouds, and the Tongue, these three?

ἄλλο τι δῆτ᾽ οὖν νομιεῖς ἤδη θεὸν οὐδένα πλὴν ἅπερ ἡμεῖς,
τὸ Χάος τουτὶ καὶ τὰς Νεφέλας καὶ τὴν Γλῶτταν, τρία ταυτί;


What Never Was and Never Will Be

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Yancey (January 6, 1816):
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.



Bob Townsend, "On Georgia cattle farm, raising grass-finished beef begins with the soil," Atlanta Journal Constitution (February 22, 2022):
"The best cow pies look like pancake batter, are almost symmetrical and even have a divot in the middle," [Dan] Glenn instructed. "That's the perfect patty. What you don't want is a tall pie that looks like horse manure. It has too much fiber in it."
From my brother:
Years ago my cows produced perfect patties. I guess I fed them right.
Cf. Anthony Burgess, Little Wilson and Big God (London: Heinemann, 1987), p. 21:
A healthy human bowel movement, so I was later to be told in the Royal Army Medical Corps, went 'twice round the pan and was curly at both ends'.


Saturday, February 26, 2022


Praise of Attica

Aristophanes, Clouds 298-313 (song of the Clouds; tr. Stephen Halliwell):
Rain-bearing maidens,
Let us go to Pallas' lustrous country, to see where stalwart men
Abound in Kekrops' lovely land.
Where awe of secret rites abides,
Where the home in which the mysteries are housed
Is opened up in sacred ritual acts.
The heavenly gods receive gifts there as well,
High-roofed temples and glorious statues,
Sacred processions for the blessed ones,
Garlanded sacrifices and feasts for the gods
At every season of the year,
Including springtime's Dionysiac joy
When mellifluous choruses compete
And the pipes' deep-resonant notes resound.

παρθένοι ὀμβροφόροι,
ἔλθωμεν λιπαρὰν χθόνα Παλλάδος, εὔανδρον γᾶν        300
Κέκροπος ὀψόμεναι πολυήρατον:
οὗ σέβας ἀρρήτων ἱερῶν, ἵνα μυστοδόκος δόμος
ἐν τελεταῖς ἁγίαις ἀναδείκνυται,
οὐρανίοις τε θεοῖς δωρήματα,        305
ναοί θ᾽ ὑψερεφεῖς καὶ ἀγάλματα,
καὶ πρόσοδοι μακάρων ἱερώταται,
εὐστέφανοί τε θεῶν θυσίαι θαλίαι τε,
παντοδαπαῖς ἐν ὥραις,        310
ἦρί τ᾽ ἐπερχομένῳ Βρομία χάρις,
εὐκελάδων τε χορῶν ἐρεθίσματα,
καὶ μοῦσα βαρύβρομος αὐλῶν.
Charles Segal, "Aristophanes' Cloud-Chorus," Arethusa 2.2 (Fall, 1969) 143-161 (at 148), calls this "one of the most beautiful lyrical passages in Attic literature."

K.J. Dover ad loc.:

Thursday, February 24, 2022


All Alike

Philip McFarland, Hawthorne in Concord (New York: Grove Press, 2004), p. 225, with note on p. 318:
Politicians and shrill reformers, people telling other people what to do: Hawthorne cared for none of them—cared, he said, for no party anymore, hated them all, "free soilers, pro-slavery men, and whatever else—all alike."

225 "free soilers, pro-slavery men": To William D. Ticknor, 10/10/56; quoted in Hall, Critic, 152.


Mutual Aid

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, chapter XLIII:
It is a delicious sort of mutual aid, when the united power of two sympathetic, yet dissimilar, intelligences is brought to bear upon a poem by reading it aloud, or upon a picture or statue by viewing it in each other's company. Even if not a word of criticism be uttered, the insight of either party is wonderfully deepened, and the comprehension broadened; so that the inner mystery of a work of genius, hidden from one, will often reveal itself to two.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022


A Refuge

Jean Grenier, quoted in Jacques Bonnet, Phantoms on the Bookshelves, tr. Siân Reynolds (New York: The Overlook Press, 2012), p. 71:
Libraries, like museums, are a refuge from old age, sickness and death.

Comme les musées, les bibliothèques sont un refuge contre le vieillissement, la maladie, la mort.



Portrait of actor as Philopotes, "lover of drinking" (Compiègne Painter, Apulian Gnathia kalyx krater, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva):
From Alan Hughes, Performing Greek Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 44, fig. 3.


The Hearth

Pierre Hadot, "The Genius of Place in Ancient Greece," The Selected Writings of Pierre Hadot, tr. Matthew Sharpe and Federico Testa (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), 177–182 (at 177, with n. on 181; translators' notes omitted):
The first sacred place in Antiquity is the 'home', that is to say, the hearth of the house; not the fire of the kitchen, but the sacred altar where the fire consecrated to the gods smoulders continuously. This is where the goddess Hestia is present, 'seated at the centre of the house', as the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite says. The hearth is thus in some way rootedness in the Earth, which is itself Hestia, the immobile centre of the Universe. But the hearth is also the point of contact with the higher gods, the point from whence the smoke of the incense or the sacrifices rises. Hestia is, nevertheless, not solely the figure of the Earth, but the figure of the woman who remains by the hearth, whereas the man will work outside.1 Our civilization has perhaps been profoundly marked by the poem, The Odyssey, which describes the pilgrimage of the exiled man who strives to come back to the hearth where the woman whom he loves awaits him: return to the native land, which is at base a return to oneself.

1 Cf. Jean-Pierre Vernant, Mythe et pensée chez les Grecs, tome 1 (Paris: F. Maspero, 1971), 124-170.
In the English translation of Vernant, Myth and Thought among the Greeks (New York: Zone Books, 2006), the page numbers are 157-196.

On "the woman who remains by the hearth, whereas the man will work outside," see e.g. Euripides, Electra 73-76 (Electra to her peasant consort; tr. M.J. Cropp):
You have enough in the outdoor tasks; my job is to keep things in the house in order. A worker coming in from outside likes to find things properly set up within.

                                                 ἅλις δ' ἔχεις
τἄξωθεν ἔργα· τἀν δόμοις δ' ἡμᾶς χρεὼν
ἐξευτρεπίζειν. εἰσιόντι δ' ἐργάτῃ 
θύραθεν ἡδὺ τἄνδον εὑρίσκειν καλῶς.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022


How to Respond When Someone Farts

Aristophanes, Peace 20-21 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
If any of you knows where I can buy an unperforated nose, please tell me!

ὑμῶν δέ γ᾽ εἴ τις οἶδ᾽ ἐμοὶ κατειπάτω,
πόθεν ἂν πριαίμην ῥῖνα μὴ τετρημένην.
Id. 38 (translation slightly modified):
That thing is filthy and smelly...

μιαρὸν τὸ χρῆμα καὶ κάκοσμον...
Related posts:




K.J. Dover, ed., Aristophanes, Clouds (1968; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. lii-liii:
We study Greek literature and philosophy, and in this study we set ourselves very high standards of accuracy. But in order to understand Nu. we must make an imaginative effort to adopt an entirely different position, the position of someone to whom all philosophical and scientific speculation, all disinterested intellectual curiosity, is boring and silly. To such a person distinctions which are of fundamental importance to the intellectual appear insignificant, incomprehensible, and often imperceptible. Nothing is more striking, in all departments of human life, than the extreme subjectivity of differences. For everyone who understands and cares about the difference between Bach and Rachmaninov, the Labour Party and the Communist Party, Oxford and Cambridge, or England and Scotland, there is another to whom the difference is of no interest or consequence. This is nowhere more conspicuous than in popular attitudes to the intellectual. Until very recently—nowadays, the illustrator has to choose between library and laboratory as background—a 'professor' in popular literature was a man from whom one could expect a learned opinion on any subject from the history of Assyria to the anatomy of the newt. Ar., as a successful writer of comedies for a mass audience, did not have to make a great effort to look at the world from a popular standpoint; he must in essentials have adopted that standpoint by nature, for otherwise he would not have been a comic poet. To judge from the extant citations, the comic poets of the fifth century were unanimous in their adoption of what seems to their modern readers a reactionary and philistine persona, and in this respect they resemble modern music-hall comedians rather than modern writers of comedies.
Terracotta figurine of two drunken old men (Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, TC8405):

Monday, February 21, 2022


Party Over Family

Thucydides 3.82.6 (tr. Jeremy Mynot):
Indeed, the ties of family became less close than those of party...

καὶ μὴν καὶ τὸ ξυγγενὲς τοῦ ἑταιρικοῦ ἀλλοτριώτερον ἐγένετο...


The Book-Lover

Jacques Bonnet, Phantoms on the Bookshelves, tr. Siân Reynolds (New York: The Overlook Press, 2012), pp. 24-25:
There is a lithograph by Daumier called “The book-lover in heaven” (from Le Charivari, November 5, 1844) which perfectly illustrates the fascination rarity holds for the bibliophile. It shows a man thumbing through a little book and explaining to another book-lover, “I can’t tell you how happy I am … I’ve just found the 1780 Amsterdam edition of Horace for fifty écus — it’s very valuable, because every page is covered with misprints!”
Honoré Daumier, Un bouquiniste dans l'ivresse:
Hat tip: Jim K.


An Aristophanic Coinage?

According to Liddell-Scott-Jones, the compound πλουθυγίεια (wealth-and-health) occurs only in the plays of Aristophanes, at Knights 1091, Wasps 677, and Birds 731. Likewise Franco Montanari in The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, who adds however that Philo, On the Posterity of Cain and His Exile 114, has πλουθυγεία. In a list of blessings of peace, Philemon, fragment 74 Kassel and Austin, line 10, juxtaposes πλοῦτον and ὑγίειαν. Wealth and health are among the four best things, according to an anonymous drinking song (D.L. Page, Lyrica Graeca Selecta no. 447, tr. C.M. Bowra):
For a man health is the first and best possession,
Second best to be born with shapely beauty,
And the third is wealth honestly won,
Fourth are the days of youth spent in delight with friends.

ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῷ,
δεύτερον δὲ φυὴν ἀγαθὸν γενέσθαι,
τὸ τρίτον δὲ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως,
καὶ τὸ τέταρτον ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων.

Sunday, February 20, 2022


Arrest of the Rebels

Jules Girardet (1856–1938), Les Révoltés de Fouesnant ramenés à Quimper par la Garde (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper, accession number 55-112):
Gerry Charlebois, arrested for honking his horn (2022):


Connecticut Latin

Dumas Malone, The Sage of Monticello (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1981), pp. 190, 192 (the Sage is Thomas Jefferson):
During his presidency he stated that he never read translations, but, since he had a good many of them, it would doubtless be more correct to say that he much preferred to read originals. He was at home in French, Italian, and Spanish, and stressed their importance, but he regarded Greek as the finest of human languages. He said that Homer must ever remain the first of poets until a language "equally ductile and copious shall again be spoken."20

He was much interested in the pronunciation of classical Greek, and had made special efforts to ascertain this in Paris, where he learned the pronunciation of modern Greek from persons who spoke it. Though he accepted this as something of a guide, he fully recognized that, since sound is "more fugitive than the written letter," there must have been very considerable change after so long a time. He did not really hope ever to recapture the voices of Homer and Demosthenes, but he never ceased to regard Greek as a notably euphonious language. He quoted it frequently to John Adams, though in letters to persons of lesser learning  he generally contented himself with Latin.21

He accepted the Italian pronunciation of Latin and seems to have harbored little doubt of its authenticity. In the last year of his life he bemoaned the necessity of admitting "shameful Latinists" to the classical school (department) of the University of Virginia, being specially disturbed by the pronunciation they brought with them. Thus he said: "We must rid ourselves of this Connecticut Latin, of this barbarous confusion of long and short syllables, which renders doubtful whether we are listening to a reader of Cherokee, Shawnee, Iroquois, or what."22

He appears to have said much less about Latin as a language than about Greek, but, while something of a stickler about its pronunciation, he was not one about its grammar. Outside the realm of poetry his favorite among the Roman writers was Tacitus, of whom he said: "It is by boldly neglecting the rigorisms of grammar that Tacitus has made himself the strongest writer in the world. The Hypercritics call him barbarous; but I should be sorry to exchange his barbarisms for their wire-drawn purisms. Some of his sentences are as strong as language can make them. Had he scrupulously filled up the whole of their syntax. they would have been merely common.23 He was nearing eighty when he said this. A decade earlier he had made a similar observation: "Fill up all the ellipses and syllepses of Tacitus, Sallust, Livy, etc., and the elegance and force of their sententious brevity are extinguished."24

20 TJ to John Waldo, Aug. 16, 1813 (L. & B., XIII, 341; cited by Sowerby, IV, 412).

21 The appearance of a pamphlet on the pronunciation of Greek occasioned him to discuss the subject with Adams, Mar. 11, 1819, with John Brazier, Aug. 14, 1819, and with others.

22 To W.B. Giles, Dec. 16, 1825 (Ford, X, 357).

23 TJ to Edward Everett, Feb. 24, 1823 (L. & B., XV. 414-415).

25 To John Waldo, Aug. 16, 1813 (L. & B., XIII, 339).
I was probably one of Jefferson's "shameful Latinists." I remember that one of my exercises in Latin Prose Composition at the University of Virginia was criticized by the instructor as "Yankee Latin."

Saturday, February 19, 2022


A Lamp to Lighten My Path

Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (May 17, 1818):
My repugnance to the writing-table becomes daily and hourly more deadly and insurmountable. In place of this has come on a canine appetite for reading. And I indulge it, because I see in it relief against the taedium senectutis; a lamp to lighten my path through the dreary wilderness of time before me, whose bourne I see not. Losing daily all interest in the things around us, something else is necessary to fill the void. With me it is reading, which occupies the mind without the labor of producing ideas from my own stock.

Friday, February 18, 2022


The Fall of the Mighty

Euripides, Hecuba 619-628 (Hecuba speaking; tr. James Morwood):
O stately halls, O my once happy home, O Priam who had so much and was so blessed with children, myself here too, the ancient mother of my children, how we have come to nothing! We have been stripped of our former pride. So why do we mortals swell with conceit, one of us over the wealth of his house, another over his reputation for honour among the citizens? Wealth and honour are nothing, nothing but ambitions for the heart and boasting for the tongue. The truly happy man is the one who meets with nothing bad from day to day.

ὦ σχήματ᾽ οἴκων, ὦ ποτ᾽ εὐτυχεῖς δόμοι,
ὦ πλεῖστ᾽ ἔχων κάλλιστά τ᾽, εὐτεκνώτατε        620
Πρίαμε, γεραιά θ᾽ ἥδ᾽ ἐγὼ μήτηρ τέκνων,
ὡς ἐς τὸ μηδὲν ἥκομεν, φρονήματος
τοῦ πρὶν στερέντες. εἶτα δῆτ᾽ ὀγκούμεθα,
ὃ μέν τις ἡμῶν πλουσίοις ἐν δώμασιν,
ὃ δ᾽ ἐν πολίταις τίμιος κεκλημένος.        625
τὰ δ᾽ οὐδὲν, ἄλλως φροντίδων βουλεύματα
γλώσσης τε κόμποι. κεῖνος ὀλβιώτατος
ὅτῳ κατ᾽ ἦμαρ τυγχάνει μηδὲν κακόν.

620 κάλλιστά codd.: μάλιστά Harry

Thursday, February 17, 2022


The Assassination of Paris

Richard Cobb (1917-1996), "The Assassination of Paris," People and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 187-199 (at 187):
Architects, town planners, and specialists in traffic circulation are much more dangerous than sociologists, who, so often, have merely served to complicate what might have seemed self-evident and simple to the historian. The errors, assumptions, and miscalculations of the former are both durable and visible: solid contributions to human misery, whereas, while sociologists may attempt to bypass history, or to render it unintelligible and unreadable, they do not seek to destroy it altogether.

What virtually all architects and urbanists since Haussmann have had in common is a loathing for the past and an overriding desire to erase its visible presence. Like sociologists, they have little time for individuals and their trying, quirky, and unpredictable ways, tending to think only in terms of human destiny: so many units in the formation of a Grand Design (or a Grand Ensemble, to use a modish French expression), as if people, in rectangular blocks of a thousand, or ten thousand, were to be assimilated to a gigantic set of Lego. There is nothing more remote from humanity and more devoid of the human scale than an architect's model plan for a new urban development. Even the trees are puny and plastic, and of a sickly green (chlorophile); the cars, lined up in their parkings souterrains, are gaily coloured, but the people to be assigned to the new Alphavilles are not even dots.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


Bad Seed

Euripides, Hecuba 254-255 (tr. David Kovacs):
An ungrateful lot you all are, who want to be political leaders!

ἀχάριστον ὑμῶν σπέρμ᾽, ὅσοι δημηγόρους
ζηλοῦτε τιμάς.


The Life of a Farmer

Louis Hémon (1880-1913), Maria Chapdelaine: A Tale of the Lake St. John Country, chapter XII (tr. W.H. Blake):
Madame Chapdelaine shook her head. 'There is no better life than the life of a farmer who has good health and owes no debts. He is a free man, has no boss, owns his beasts, works for his own profit . . . The finest life there is!'

'I hear them all say that,' Lorenzo retorted, 'one is free, his own master. And you seem to pity those who work in factories because they have a boss, and must do as they are told. Free—on the land—come now!' He spoke defiantly, with more and more animation.

'There is no man in the world less free than a farmer . . . When you tell of those who have succeeded, who are well provided with everything needful on a farm, who have had better luck than others, you say: "Ah, what a fine life they lead! They are comfortably off, own good cattle." That is not how to put it. The truth is that their cattle own them. In all the world there is no "boss" who behaves as stupidly as the beasts you favour. Pretty nearly every day they give you trouble or do you some mischief. Now it is a skittish horse that runs away or lashes out with his heels; then it is a cow, however good-tempered, that won't keep still to be milked and tramples on your toes when the flies annoy her. And even if by good fortune they don't harm you, they are forever finding a way to destroy your comfort and to vex you . . .'

'I know how it is; I was brought up on a farm. And you, most of you farmers, know how it is too. All the morning you have worked hard, and go to your house for dinner and a little rest. Then, before you are well seated at table, a child is yelling:—"The cows are over the fence;" or "The sheep are in the crop," and everyone jumps up and runs, thinking of the oats or the barley it has been such a trouble to raise, that these miserable fools are ruining. The men dash about brandishing sticks till they are out of breath; the women stand screaming in the farm-yard. And when you have managed to drive the cows or the sheep into their paddock and put up the rails, you get back to the house nicely "rested" to find the pea-soup cold and full of flies, the pork under the table gnawed by dogs and cats, and you eat what you can lay your hands on, watching for the next trick the wretched animals are getting ready to play on you.'

'You are their slaves; that's what you are. You tend them, you clean them, you gather up their dung as the poor do the rich man's crumbs. It is you who must keep them alive by hard work, because the earth is miserly and the summer so short. That is the way of it, and there is no help, as you cannot get on without them; but for cattle there would be no living on the land. But even if you could . . . even if you could . . . still would you have other masters: the summer, beginning too late and ending too soon; the winter, eating up seven long months of the year and bringing in nothing; drought and rain which always come just at the wrong moment . . .'

'In the towns these things do not matter; but here you have no defence against them and they do you hurt; and I have not taken into account the extreme cold, the badness of the roads, the loneliness of being far away from everything, with no amusements. Life is one kind of hardship on top of another from beginning to end. It is often said that only those make a real success who are born and brought up on the land, and of course that is true; as for the people in the cities, small danger that they would ever be foolish enough to put up with such a way of living.'

He spoke with heat and volubly—a man of the town who talks every day with his equals, reads the papers, hears public speakers. The listeners, of a race easily moved by words, were carried away by his plaints and criticisms; the very real harshness of their lives was presented in such a new and startling light as to surprise even themselves.

However Madame Chapdelaine again shook her head. 'Do not say such things as that; there is no happier life in the world than the life of a farmer who owns good land.'


Pierced Ears

Xenophon, Anabasis 3.1.31-32 (tr. Robin Waterfield; he = Apollonides):
At that point Agasias of Stymphalus broke in and said: 'Actually, he doesn't belong in Boeotia or anywhere in Greece: he has both ears pierced, Lydian-style—I've seen them.' This was true, and they evicted the man from their company.

ἐντεῦθεν ὑπολαβὼν Ἀγασίας Στυμφάλιος εἶπεν· ἀλλὰ τούτῳ γε οὔτε τῆς Βοιωτίας προσήκει οὐδὲν οὔτε τῆς Ἑλλάδος παντάπασιν, ἐπεὶ ἐγὼ αὐτὸν εἶδον ὥσπερ Λυδὸν ἀμφότερα τὰ ὦτα τετρυπημένον. καὶ εἶχεν οὕτως. τοῦτον μὲν οὖν ἀπήλασαν.
Luuk Huitink and Tim Rood ad loc.:

Tuesday, February 15, 2022


Fall of the Giants

Guido Reni (1575-1642), La caduta dei giganti (Pesaro, Musei Civici di Palazzo Mosca):

Monday, February 14, 2022



Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), Manon of the Springs (tr. W.E. van Heyningen), chapter 6:
"And where does she come from?" cried M. Belloiseau.

"She's the daughter of the poor hunchback," said Pamphile.

In Provence "poor" means the person being spoken of is dead. It is a word used by pagans who believe that a dead man no longer possesses anything.

«Peste!» s'écria M. Belloiseau. «Et d'où sort-elle?»

«C'est la fille du pauvre bossu!» dit Pamphile.

En Provence, «pauvre» veut dire que la personne dont on parle est morte. Parole de païens, qui considèrent qu'un mort ne possède plus rien.
Cf. id., chapter 8:
"The truth is, the more you've got, the more you want, and finally, the cemetery. So what good is it?"

«La vérité, c'est que plus on en a, plus on en veut, et finalement, au cimetière. Alors, à quoi ça sert?»


European Union

Herodotus 7.8c.2 (Xerxes speaking; tr. A.D. Godley):
No land that the sun beholds will border ours, but I will make all into one country, when I have passed over the whole of Europe.

οὐ γὰρ δὴ χώρην γε οὐδεμίαν κατόψεται ἥλιος ὅμουρον ἐοῦσαν τῇ ἡμετέρῃ, ἀλλὰ σφέας πάσας ἐγὼ ἅμα ὑμῖν μίαν χώρην θήσω, διὰ πάσης διεξελθὼν τῆς Εὐρώπης.
The Greek text at the Perseus Digital Library mistakenly omits μίαν (screen capture taken today):


Sunday, February 13, 2022


The Smallpox War

M.E. Bradford, A Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers of the United States Constitution (Marlborough: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1982), p. 9:
During the "smallpox war" in Marblehead in 1773-1774, mobs of angry fisher folk had threatened to injure the property and persons of the Gerry family because of their involvement in the erection of a pest house on Cat Island and their promotion of inoculation.


The Hand of Age

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Duane (October 1, 1812):
I am past service. The hand of age is upon me. The decay of bodily faculties apprizes me that those of the mind cannot be unimpaired, had I not still better proofs. Every year counts by increased debility, and departing faculties keep the score. The last year it was the sight, this it is the hearing, the next something else will be going, until all is gone. Of all this I was sensible before I left Washington, and probably my fellow laborers saw it before I did. The decay of memory was obvious. It is now become distressing. But the mind too is weakened. When I was young, mathematics were the passion of my life. The same passion has returned upon me, but with unequal powers. Processes which I then read off with the facility of common discourse, now cost me labor, and time and slow investigation.

Saturday, February 12, 2022


Discussion of Certain Political Questions

William Samuel Johnson, quoted in M.E. Bradford, A Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers of the United States Constitution (Marlborough: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1982), p. 31:
Certain political questions, like some intricate points in Divinity, had better never be meddled with. The discussion of them can hardly do any good and will certainly produce much mischief. While they serve to whet the wits of men, they more surely sharpen their tempers toward each other.
The truth perhaps is that neither side is so bad or have so mischievous designs as the other imagines...
The latter quotation in Elizabeth P. McCaughey, From Loyalist to Founding Father: The Political Odyssey of William Samuel Johnson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), p. 110:
The truth perhaps is that neither side are so bad or have so mischievous designs as the other imagines...



Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 20.5 (tr. H. Rackham):
And even before the Alcmaeonids Cedon had attacked the tyrants, owing to which people also sang in his honor in their catches:
Now fill to Cedon, boy! let's drink him too,
If duty bids us toast good men and true.
ἔτι δὲ πρότερον τῶν Ἀλκμεωνιδῶν Κήδων ἐπέθετο τοῖς τυράννοις, διὸ καὶ ᾖδον καὶ εἰς τοῦτον ἐν τοῖς σκολιοῖς·
ἔγχει καὶ Κήδωνι, διάκονε, μηδ᾽ ἐπιλήθου,
    εἰ χρὴ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς ἀνδράσιν οἰνοχοεῖν.
P.J. Rhodes ad loc.:
The couplet is Poetae Melici Graeci, fragment 906 (Carmina Convivialia, fragment 30).

Rackham's translation is too free, because of his insistence on rhyming. Rhodes' translation is preferable:
Pour to Cedon also, steward, and forget him not,
If wine is to be poured to valiant men.

Friday, February 11, 2022


A Sound, a Light, a Shadow

Georges Lefebvre (1874-1959), The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France, tr. Joan White (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973), p. 50:
Now when an assembly, an army or an entire population sits waiting for the arrival of some enemy, it would be very unusual if this enemy were not actually sighted at some time or other. It is the excitable individuals who respond to this sort of atmosphere, especially when placed in isolation or on guard duty, or when they feel particularly exposed or else when some responsibility suddenly lies heavy on their shoulders. A suspicious character, a cloud of dust, less than this even: a sound, a light, a shadow is enough to start an alarm. Auto-suggestion plays an even greater part and they imagine that they see or hear something.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022


Let Drinking Be the Order of the Day

Tibullus 2.1.27-30 (tr. J.P. Postgate):
Now from the old bin bring me out the smoked Falernians and loose the bands of the Chian jar. Let drinking be the order of the day. Now we keep holiday, and to be tipsy is no shame, nor to carry ill our unsteady feet.

nunc mihi fumosos veteris proferte Falernos
    consulis et Chio solvite vincla cado.
vina diem celebrent; non festa luce madere
    est rubor, errantes et male ferre pedes.
Paul Murgatroyd ad loc.:


Consolation Without Philosophy

Walter Savage Landor, Antony and Octavius, Scene 10, lines 39-53 (Antony speaking):
We can not always swagger, always act
A character the wise will never learn:        40
When Night goes down, and the young Day resumes
His pointed shafts, and chill air breathes around,
Then we put on our own habiliments
And leave the dusty stage we proudly trod.
I have been sitting longer at life's feast        45
Than does me good; I will arise and go.
Philosophy would flatten her thin palm
Outspred upon my sleeve; away with her!
Cuff off, cuff out, that chattering toothless jade!
The brain she puzzles, and she blunts the sword:        50
Even she knows better words than that word live.
Cold Cato, colder Brutus, guide not me;
No, nor brave Cassius.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022



Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), Jean de Florette (tr. W.E. van Heyningen), chapter 17:
About eight o'clock he hung the scythe on an olive tree, laid out his tools, and played a hunting horn refrain on his mouth organ. Then his wife and daughter arrived carrying his breakfast, because he stayed at his place of work for his breakfast, like a peasant ... It was a real feast: hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, cold meat, thick slices of bread, and a big glass of red wine.

Vers huit heures, il accrochait la faux dans un olivier, rangeait ses outils, et jouait sur l'harmonica une ritournelle de cor de chasse. Alors, sa femme et sa fille venaient apporter le casse-croûte, car il tenait à déjeuner sur les lieux de son travail, comme un paysan … C'était un vrai repas: des œufs durs, des anchois, des charcuteries, d'épaisses tranches de pain, et un grand verre de vin rouge.


Life in an Italian Walled Town

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, chapter XXXII:
Some of the populace are at the butcher's shop; others are at the fountain, which gushes into a marble basin that resembles an antique sarcophagus. A tailor is sewing before his door with a young priest seated sociably beside him; a burly friar goes by with an empty wine-barrel on his head; children are at play; women, at their own doorsteps, mend clothes, embroider, weave hats of Tuscan straw, or twirl the distaff. Many idlers, meanwhile, strolling from one group to another, let the warm day slide by in the sweet, interminable task of doing nothing.

From all these people there comes a babblement that seems quite disproportioned to the number of tongues that make it. So many words are not uttered in a New England village throughout the year (except it be at a political caucas or town-meeting,) as are spoken here, with no especial purpose, in a single day. Neither so many words, nor so much laughter; for people talk about nothing as if they were terribly in earnest, and make merry at nothing as if it were the best of all possible jokes. In so long a time as they have existed, and within such narrow precincts, these little walled towns are brought into a closeness of society that makes them but a larger household. All the inhabitants are akin to each, and each to all; they assemble in the street as their common saloon, and thus live and die in a familiarity of intercourse, such as never can be known where a village is open at either end, and all roundabout, and has ample room within itself.


Some Gods

Aristophanes, Knights 221 (Demosthenes to Sausage-Seller; tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Now crown yourself and pour libation to the god Blockhead...

ἀλλὰ στεφανοῦ καὶ σπένδε τῷ Κοαλέμῳ...
Id. 634-638 (prayer uttered by Sausage-Seller):
I said, "Come now, ye Saucies and Bamboozlers, ye Follies and Imps; come, god of Cheek, and Agora in which I was brought up as a boy, give me now a brazen boldness, a resourceful tongue and a shameless voice."

"ἄγε δὴ Σκίταλοι καὶ Φένακες," ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ,
"Βερέσχεθοί τε καὶ Κόβαλοι καὶ Μόθων,        635
ἀγορά τ᾽ ἐν ᾗ παῖς ὢν ἐπαιδεύθην ἐγώ,
νῦν μοι φράσος καὶ γλῶτταν εὔπορον δότε
φωνήν τ᾽ ἀναιδῆ."

635 τε καὶ Κόβαλοι codd.: Κοαλέμοί τε Dobree
Μόθων Kuster: Μόθωνες codd.
Some say English goblin is related to Greek κόβαλος, but see the discussion by Anatoly Liberman.

Monday, February 07, 2022


Injustice on High

Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy 1.5.29-33 (tr. S.J. Tester):
The innocent endure the pains
That are the proper penalties of crime,
And evil ways sit in the thrones of kings,
And wicked men in unjust recompense
Trample beneath their heels the necks of the good.

                 premit insontes
debita sceleri noxia poena,        30
at perversi resident celso
mores solio sanctaque calcant
iniusta vice colla nocentes.


In Communion With Nature

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), Jean de Florette (tr. W.E. van Heyningen), chapter 11 (J. de F. speaking):
I want to live in communion with Nature. I want to eat the vegetables of my garden, the oil of my olive trees, to suck the fresh eggs of my chickens, to get drunk on the wine of my vines, and as far as possible to eat the bread I make with my wheat.

Je veux vivre en communion avec la Nature. Je veux manger les légumes de mon jardin, l'huile de mes olives, gober les œufs frais de mes poules, m'enivrer du seul vin de ma vigne, et dès que ce sera possible, manger le pain que je ferai avec mon blé.

Sunday, February 06, 2022


Private and Common Property

Aristotle, Politics 2.1 (1261 b; tr. H. Rackham):
Property that is common to the greatest number of owners receives the least attention; men care most for their private possessions, and for what they own in common less, or only so far as it falls to their own individual share; for in addition to the other reasons, they think less of it on the ground that someone else is thinking about it...

ἥκιστα γὰρ ἐπιμελείας τυγχάνει τὸ πλείστων κοινόν· τῶν γὰρ ἰδίων μάλιστα φροντίζουσιν, τῶν δὲ κοινῶν ἧττον, ἢ ὅσον ἑκάστῳ ἐπιβάλλει· πρὸς γὰρ τοῖς ἄλλοις ὡς ἑτέρου φροντίζοντος ὀλιγωροῦσι μᾶλλον...

From Augusto Franzini:
Il cane che ha cento padroni, salta il pasto.

Old Italian (north of Italy) proverb meaning "A dog subject to one hundred masters will starve (jump its meal)."


National Union

T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935), Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926; rpt. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1938), p. 100 (from Book I, Chapter XIV):
The Semites' idea of nationality was the independence of clans and villages, and their ideal of national union was episodic combined resistance to an intruder. Constructive policies, an organized state, an extended empire, were not so much beyond their sight as hateful in it. They were fighting to get rid of Empire, not to win it.

Friday, February 04, 2022


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Aristophanes, Birds 44-45 (tr. Peter Meineck):
We're in search of a land free from hustle and bustle
where a man can just settle down and rest.

πλανώμεθα ζητοῦντε τόπον ἀπράγμονα,
ὅποι καθιδρυθέντε διαγενοίμεθ᾽ ἄν.
A more literal translation:
We two are wandering, seeking a place free from trouble,
where settling down we might live.
Alan H. Sommerstein on line 44:
Greek aprāgmōn, "not involved in troublesome affairs", "keeping itself to itself"; the very opposite of Athens, where "he who takes no part in public life is not regarded as aprāgmōn but as worthless" (Thuc. 2.40.2) and where Alcibiades in 415 had successfully argued that "a city that has not previously been aprāgmōn will be taking the quickest road to ruin if it tries to become aprāgmōn" (Thuc. 6.18.7).

Thursday, February 03, 2022


You Have the Qualifications for Political Leadership

Aristophanes, Knights 180-193 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
DEMOSTHENES: It's for exactly that reason, don't you see, that you are to become great, because you're low and from the Agora and bold as brass.

SAUSAGE-SELLER: I don't consider myself worthy to hold great power.

DEMOSTHENES: Heavens, whatever's the matter, that you should say you're not worthy? It seems to me you've something good on your conscience. You don't come of good, upright stock, do you?

SAUSAGE-SELLER: Good god, no! nothing but bad stock.

DEMOSTHENES: Oh, congratulations! what good luck! what an advantage you've got for political life!

SAUSAGE-SELLER: But, my good man. I've not even had any education, except for reading and writing, and I'm proper bad at that.

DEMOSTHENES: That's your only impediment, that you know them at all, even "proper bad". The leadership of the people is no longer a job for an educated man or one of good qualities, but for one who's ignorant and foul.

δι᾽ αὐτὸ γάρ τοι τοῦτο καὶ γίγνει μέγας,        180
ὁτιὴ πονηρὸς κἀξ ἀγορᾶς εἶ καὶ θρασύς.
οὐκ ἀξιῶ ᾽γὼ ᾽μαυτὸν ἰσχύειν μέγα.
οἴμοι, τί ποτ᾽ ἔσθ᾽ ὅτι σαυτὸν οὐ φῂς ἄξιον;
ξυνειδέναι τί μοι δοκεῖς σαυτῷ καλόν.
μῶν ἐκ καλῶν εἶ κἀγαθῶν;
                                                   μὰ τοὺς θεοὺς,        185
εἰ μὴ ᾽κ πονηρῶν γ᾽.
                                       ὦ μακάριε τῆς τύχης
ὅσον πέπονθας ἀγαθὸν ἐς τὰ πράγματα.
ἀλλ᾽, ὦγάθ᾽, οὐδὲ μουσικὴν ἐπίσταμαι
πλὴν γραμμάτων, καὶ ταῦτα μέντοι κακὰ κακῶς.
τουτὶ μόνον σ᾽ ἔβλαψεν, ὅτι καὶ κακὰ κακῶς.        190
ἡ δημαγωγία γὰρ οὐ πρὸς μουσικοῦ
ἔτ᾽ ἐστὶν ἀνδρὸς οὐδὲ χρηστοῦ τοὺς τρόπους,
ἀλλ᾽ εἰς ἀμαθῆ καὶ βδελυρόν.


The Consistory

Tom Holland, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (New York: Basic Books, 2019), pp. 330-331, with note on p. 562:
It was precisely because he [John Calvin] knew that many would spurn the gifts of the Spirit that he laboured so hard, not just to gather together a community of the elect, but to bring it into harmony with God's plans. Four offices existed to uphold it. There were ministers to preach the word of God; teachers to instruct the young; deacons to meet the needs of the unfortunate. Then, watchdogs elected to stand guard over the morals of the laity, there were the 'elders': the presbyters. Meeting every Thursday, it was they and the city's ministers who provided the church with its court: the 'Consistory'. Fail to attend a service on Sunday, or transgress the Ten Commandments, or break the laws devised by Calvin to define the doctrines of the Church, and a summons was bound to come—no matter the rank of the offender. Every year, almost one in fifteen Genevans would end up making an appearance before it.31 For those in the city who hated Calvin, who rejected his theology, who resented the endless lectures and harangues from the pulpit, it was this that constituted the worst intrusion: the dread that the eyes of the Consistory were always on them, watching, marking, judging.

31. The figure—'somewhere in the range of 7 per cent of the population each year'—is quoted by [Bruce] Gordon, Calvin, p. 295.
Mutatis mutandis, we have our own modern Consistory, watching, marking, judging.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022


Bastidian Morals

Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), Jean de Florette (tr. W.E. van Heyningen), chapter 1:
All the same, they chatted willingly and had no objection to cock-and-bull stories. But always, whether talking about everything or nothing, they rigorously respected the first law of Bastidian morals—"Stay out of other people's business."

The second law was that Les Bastides was the most beautiful village in Provence, infinitely more important than the market towns of Les Ombrées or Ruissatel that had more than five hundred inhabitants.

Pourtant, ils bavardaient volontiers, et ne détestaient pas la «galéjade»… Mais tout en parlant de tout et de rien, ils respectaient rigoureusement la première règle de la morale bastidienne. «On ne s'occupe pas des affaires des autres.»

La seconde règle, c'était qu'il fallait considérer les Bastides comme le plus beau village de Provence, infiniment plus important que le bourg des Ombrées, ou celui de Ruissatel, qui comptaient plus de cinq cents habitants.
On the second law cf. id., chapter 6:
One never saw a Bastidian desert his village, except for the son of the Médérics, and the Testards. The young Médéric one could forgive, because he had finished school and had become a customs officer at Marseille; an altogether glorious profession since a customs officer wears a uniform and has the right to search everybody, even a curé; and moreover, nothing stops him from sleeping, neither ice, nor drought, nor hail, and everything ends with retirement, and no more work. It was not possible to have such a fine career while remaining at Les Bastides. But the Testards, who had gone elsewhere to till a less ungrateful soil, had thereby defamed their native soil and betrayed the honor of the village; when one passed by the ruins of their farm, one spat on the ground. Besides, what good was it to succeed in a "foreign" land? There were no friends to rejoice in your success, and you were not able to enjoy the comforting envy of your neighbors.

On n'avait jamais vu un Bastidien abandonner son village, sauf le fils de Médéric, et les Testard. Le petit Médéric, on lui avait pardonné, parce qu'il avait fait les écoles, et qu'il était devenu douanier à Marseille : profession tout à fait glorieuse, car le douanier porte un uniforme, et il a le droit de fouiller tout le monde, même un curé; et de plus, rien ne l'empêche de dormir, ni la gelée, ni la sécheresse, ni la grêle, et tout ça finit par une retraite, les mains dans les poches… Il n'est pas possible de faire une si belle carrière en restant aux Bastides. Mais les Testard, qui étaient allés piocher ailleurs une terre moins ingrate, avaient ainsi diffamé le sol natal, et trahi l'honneur du village: quand on passait près des ruines de leur ferme, on crachait par terre. D'ailleurs, à quoi ça servirait de réussir dans un pays «étranger»? Aucun ami ne s'y réjouirait de votre succès, et vous ne pourriez pas déguster la réconfortante envie des voisins.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022


Stigma Misread

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Vol. I (London: Rest Fenner, 1817), pp. 248-249 (footnote in Chapter 12):
Coleridge here quoted lines 180-182 and 187-200 from Synesius' 3rd (not 4th) hymn. Here are lines 187-188 transcribed (with στ for stigma ϛ):
Μύστας δὲ νόος
Τά τε καὶ τὰ λέγει
Adam Roberts in his edition of the Biographia Literaria (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), p. 176, with n. 542, printed and translated these lines as follows (brackets in original):
Μύςας δέ Νόος
Τά τε καὶ τά λέγει

Music of the mind, [Synesius actually wrote 'Μύστας', 'mysteries']
speak of this thing and that
Roberts didn't realize that Coleridge did have Μύστας, just not in the Porsonian character set. He also didn't recognize the light Doric coloring of the word (= μύστης, "one initiated in [the mysteries]"), mistook the uncontracted nominative form of νοῦς, and found an imperative in λέγει. The lines should be translated "Initiated mind speaks now of this, now of that."

Hat tip: Kenneth Haynes.


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