Tuesday, May 31, 2022


Akkadian Drinking Song

Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature, 3rd ed. (Bethesda: CDL Press, 2005), pp. 769-770 (footnotes and line numbers omitted):
This Akkadian drinking song, known in widely variant versions from both Syria and Mesopotamia, was originally a Sumerian text about ancient rulers studied in schools and provided with an Akkadian translation during the Classical period. It enumerates great heroes of the past who have vanished, then recommends intoxication as preferable to despair.
Plans are made by Enki,
Lots are drawn by the gods' will.
From former days only empty air remains:
Whenever has aught been heard from any who went before?
These kings were superior to those, and others to them.
Your 'eternal abode' is above their homes,
It is far away as heaven, whose hand can reach it?
Like the depths of the earth, no one knows anything of it.
The whole of a life is but the twinkling of an eye.
The life of humankind is surely not forever.
Where is king Alulu, who reigned for 36,000 years?
Where is king Etana, who went up to heaven?
Where is Gilgamesh, who sought life like Ziusudra?
Where is Huwawa, who was seized and
      knocked to the ground(?)?
Where is Enkidu, who [showed] forth strength in the land?
Where is Bazi? Where is Zizi?
Where are the great kings from former days till now?
They will not be begotten (again),
      they will not be born (again).
How far did a life without glamor transcend death?
Fellow, I will teach you truly who your god is.
Cast down unhappiness in triumph,
      forget the silence (of death)!
Let one day of happiness make up for 36,000 years of
      the silence (of death)!
Let the beer-goddess rejoice over you
      as if you were her own child!
That is the destiny of humankind.
Related post: Ubi Sunt?


The Fate of All Men

Beowulf 1002-1008 (tr. Howell D. Chickering):
                                         No man escapes
easily from death    —let him try who will—
but all soul-bearers    walking the earth,
each son of man,    driven by need,        1005
must enter his place    made ready from birth
where the body-covering    deep in its earth-bed
sleeps after feast.

                              No þæt yðe byð
to beflēonne,    fremme se þe wille,
ac gesēcan sceal    sāwl-berendra,
nyde genȳdde,    niþða bearna,        1005
grund-būendra    gearwe stōwe,
þǣr his līc-homa    leger-bedde fæst
swefeþ æfter symle.


Ancient Ways of Speech and Ancient Modes of Thought

Calvert Watkins (1933-2013), "The Black and White Adunaton," in his Selected Writings, ed. Lisi Oliver, Vol. III: Publications 1992-2008 (Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, 2008 = Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 129), pp. 814-818 (at 818, footnote omitted):
'Ancient ways of speech', and 'ancient modes of thought', as I have sometimes sententiously evoked them, turn out not to be very different from what we say and think ourselves, right now. This is one of the lessons of philology and historical linguistics. The adunaton as a figure of speech is still with us, and the antithesis of black and white is created afresh with every dawn. Any one of us could produce examples galore. Let me here offer only one, a visual image from twentieth-century Ireland, in fond memory of Conn Ó Cléirigh. It has the classic linguistic form of adunaton. The 'familiar substance in the culture' and its attendant message may be left to speak for themselves.
The Irish on the Guinness advertisement is "Ní féidir an dubh a cur ina bhán air," i.e. "Black cannot be made white."


A Revised Edition Introduces a Typographical Error

Ovid, Fasti. With an English Translation by Sir James George Frazer ... Second edition revised by G.P. Goold (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 130-131 (3.135-138):
neu dubites, primae fuerint quin ante Kalendae
    Martis, ad haec animum signa referre potes.
laurea, flaminibus quae toto perstitit anno,
    tollitur, et frondes sunt in honore novae.

If you would convince yourself that the Kalends of March were really the beginning of the year, you may refer to the following proofs: the laurel branch of the flamens, after remining in its place the whole year, is removed (on that day), and fresh leaves are put in the place of honour;
For remining read remaining, which appears in the first, unrevised edition (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1931).

Image of second edition:
Image of first edition:


Monday, May 30, 2022


Anatomical Pars Pro Toto

Joshua T. Katz, "The Riddle of the sp(h)ij-: The Greek Sphinx and her Indic and Indo-European Background," in Georges-Jean Pinault and Daniel Petit, edd., La langue poétique Indo-Européenne: actes du colloque de travail de la Société des Études Indo-Européennes (Indogermanische Gesellschaft/Society for Indo-European Studies), Paris, 22-24 octobre 2003 (Leuven: Peeters, 2006), pp. 157-194 (at 174-175):
Although it may seem patently absurd initially, there is in fact no a priori reason why Sphinx should not at some level mean « buttocks »: humans, at least, are frequently named after lower body parts,43 and in iconography, the monster's haunches are typically emphasized. On this interpretation, the name Sphinx might actually be connected to the creature's riddling nature, as Georges-Jean Pinault cleverly points out to me: the greatest riddle of all is sex and the greatest sexual riddle the forbidden part of one's own body that one cannot see, namely the buttocks or anus.

43. The most detailed study of the phenomenon of anatomical pars pro toto focuses on Latin (Adams 1982a; see also Adams 1982b: Index [271] s.v. pars pro toto), where the considerable majority of cases are overtly sexual (e.g., Mentula « Mr. Prick »); for Greek (where the locus classicus is the seemingly abusive γαστέρες οἶον, Th. 26, « mere bellies » in Hesiod's Dichterweihe, for which a new interpretation is offered in Katz & Volk 2000), Bain 1994 makes a good start with his discussion of a graffito from ca. 400 B.C. about a man from Thorikos called ὁ πρωκτός « (known as) Asshole » (compare Neumann 1999: 202-5 and see also Bain, 1995 and 1999a).
Related post: The Best Part of a Man.



Inscriptiones Graecae II² 6217, tr. Jeffrey M. Hurwit, "The Problem with Dexileos: Heroic and Other Nudities in Greek Art," American Journal of Archaeology 111.1 (January, 2007) 35-60 (at 38):
Dexileos, son of Lysanias, of Thorikos.
He was born in the archonship of Teisandros [414/3 B.C.E.];
He died in that of Euboulides [394/3 B.C.E.],
at Corinth, one of the five horsemen.

Δεξίλεως Λυσανίο Θορίκιος.
ἐγένετο ἐπὶ Τεισάνδρο ἄρχοντος,
ἀπέθανε ἐπ’ Εὐβολίδο
ἐγ Κορίνθωι τῶν πέντε ἱππέων.
Grave stele of Dexileos (Athens, Kerameikos Museum, inv. no. P 1130):
Hurwit, p. 35 (footnotes omitted):
In its broad outlines, the story is well known. On a day in early summer, 394 B.C.E., on a coastal plain where the Nemea River flows into the Corinthian Gulf, the Spartans and their allies met a combined force of Boeotians and their allies (Athenians, Argives, Euboeans, and Corinthians), turned the Athenian flank, and routed them all by nightfall. Fought in the second campaign season of the Corinthian War (395-386), the Battle of the Nemea River was at the time the largest battle that had ever been fought between Greeks, with some 20,000 hoplites on each side. The Spartan alliance is said to have suffered 1,100 dead (the Spartans themselves only eight), while the opposing coalition lost 2,800. It is impossible to know how many of those 2,800 were Athenians, but among their number was, very likely, a 20-year-old horseman from the tribe of Akamantis named Dexileos.
To Hurwit's bibliography (pp. 58-60) add Nic Fields, "Dexileos of Thorikos: A Brief Life," Ancient History Bulletin 17.3-4 (2003) 108-126.

Sunday, May 29, 2022


Deliver Me From the Evil of This Dog

Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature, 3rd ed. (Bethesda: CDL Press, 2005), p. 730:
O Shamash, king of heaven and earth, judge of above and below,
Light of the gods, guide of humankind,
Who judges the cases of the great gods,
I turn to you, I seek you out.
Command among the gods life (for me),
May the gods who are with you speak favorably of me.
On account of this dog that has urinated on me,
I am afraid, anxious, frightened.
Deliver me from the evil of this dog,
Let me sound your praises!



Finnsburg Fragment 10-12 (tr. Francis B. Gummere):
But waken ye now, warriors mine;
seize your shields, be steadfast in valor,
fight at the front, and fearless bide!

Ac onwacnigeað nu,    wigend mine;
habbað eowre linda;    hicgeaþ on ellen;
winnað on orde;    wesað onmode.


Assigning Blame

Isocrates, Areopagiticus 50-51 (tr. Yun Lee Too):
[50] No one should think that I have something against young people. I do not hold them responsible for what's happening, and I am aware that most of them are not at all pleased with this state of affairs, which permits them to spend time in these excesses. It would not be reasonable to criticize them, but it would be fairer to blame those who managed the state a little before our time. [51] These were the ones who encouraged them to these acts of contempt...

[50] καὶ μηδεὶς οἰέσθω με δυσκόλως διακεῖσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ταύτην ἔχοντας τὴν ἡλικίαν. οὔτε γὰρ ἡγοῦμαι τούτους αἰτίους εἶναι τῶν γιγνομένων, σύνοιδά τε τοῖς πλείστοις αὐτῶν ἥκιστα χαίρουσι ταύτῃ τῇ καταστάσει, δι᾽ ἣν ἔξεστιν αὐτοῖς ἐν ταῖς ἀκολασίαις ταύταις διατρίβειν· ὥστ᾽ οὐκ ἂν εἰκότως τούτοις ἐπιτιμῴην, ἀλλὰ πολὺ δικαιότερον τοῖς ὀλίγῳ πρὸ ἡμῶν τὴν πόλιν διοικήσασιν. [51] ἐκεῖνοι γὰρ ἦσαν οἱ προτρέψαντες ἐπὶ ταύτας τὰς ὀλιγωρίας...



Cicero, Letters to Atticus 3.19.1 (Thessalonica, September 15, 58; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
...crowds are odious to me...

...celebritas mihi odio est...
Related post: Motto for a Curmudgeon.

Saturday, May 28, 2022


Clean Up Your Own Mind

Ezra Pound, radio broadcast on March 26, 1942, in Ezra Pound Speaking. Radio Speeches of World War II. Edited by Leonard W. Doob (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978), p. 76:
How can you DO it? Damn it, you can start by cleaning up your own minds. You can clear out the crap that you JOURNALISTS KNOW is crap: when they write it.

You can then clear out the crap that journalists BELIEVE along with their fake news, along what the advertisers LET the OWNERS (so called), let the editors PUBLISH. There is a second layer of crap that newspapermen believe to be real. BUT it is not grounded on a real knowledge of ANYTHING.

They have NOT gone into the documents. They have not read the real history. They chase one butterfly after another.
This would make more sense to me if the second you in the third sentence were removed. Pound wasn't addressing his words to journalists.


Personal Pronouns as Devonian Rocks

Joshua T. Katz, "Etymological 'Alterity': Depths and Heights," in Shane Butler, ed., Deep Classics: Rethinking Classical Reception (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), pp. 107–126 (at 107-108, with notes on 121):
I am by training a shallow classicist — my degrees are in linguistics rather than in Greek and Latin — but my interest in Classics is deep. Indeed, it is in some ways extraordinarily deep. My PhD dissertation, for example, which had the glamorous title 'Topics in Indo-European Personal Pronouns' (Katz 1998), took on the task of explaining the internal morphology of this small class of small words, most of them mono- and disyllables, that made their way from Proto-Indo-European into Greek, Latin, English and the many other related languages flung far across the globe from India to Ireland and from Brno to Bristol — words like me, you and us. Proto-Indo-European is the reconstructed ancestral tongue spoken on the Pontic-Caspian steppe some 5,500 years ago, thousands of years before our earliest records,1 and the personal pronouns have been called this language's 'Devonian rocks' because (to quote from the simultaneously delightful and authoritative American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots of Calvert Watkins, who also happened to be the adviser of my pronominal thesis and about whom more will be said later) they 'belong to the very earliest layer of Indo-European that can be reached by reconstruction' and '[t]heir forms are unlike those of any other paradigms in the language' (Watkins 2011: xxii). The metaphor 'Devonian rocks'2 takes us just two counties and a few dozen miles from Bristol but a good 400 million years back in deep time, to what is sometimes called the 'Age of the Fishes', and while the force of the description is to emphasize the greatly archaic and seemingly impenetrable nature of the pronominal beast, what my dissertation attempted to do was delve inside forms such as you in English, nōs 'we, us' in Latin and the peculiar Homeric second-person dual σφῶϊ(ν) to figure out where they come from and how they fit into the larger linguistic system.

As a firm believer in the importance of knowledge for its own sake, I make no apologies for writing 300 pages on such a topic.

1 The geographical and temporal details are controversial; Fortson (2010) provides the best overview.

2 Which goes back to Lancashire native Joshua Whatmough (thus Watkins apud Katz 1998: 1).


Time Doesn't Heal All Wounds

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 3.15.2 (Thessalonica, August 17, 58; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Time, far from relieving this heartache, actually increases it. Other hurts grow less acute as they grow older, this cannot but increase from day to day from the sense of present misery and the recollection of the life that is past. I mourn the loss not only of the things and persons that were mine, but of my very self. What am I now?

dies autem non modo non levat luctum hunc sed etiam auget. nam ceteri dolores mitigantur vetustate, hic non potest non et sensu praesentis miseriae et recordatione praeteritae vitae cottidie augeri. desidero enim non mea solum neque meos sed me ipsum. quid enim sum?


Cucumbers of Antioch

Calvert Watkins (1933-2013), "Language, culture, or history?" in his Selected Writings, ed. Lisi Oliver, Vol. II: Culture and Poetics (Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, 1994 = Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 80), pp. 663-673 (at 668):
I pass now to a final example, which will illustrate what one of my teachers, Werner Jaeger, called the 'cucumbers of Antioch' argument. To explain: a question arose of the dating of a certain Greek text. Jaeger's reply was that anyone with a feeling for Greek style comparable to, say, Jaeger's, would know that the composition of the work in question must be dated to the last quarter of its century. But for others lacking this discriminatory faculty, he could point out that the text mentioned someone in Athens eating cucumbers from Antioch; and it was known independently that cucumbers were imported from Antioch to Athens only from the beginning of the last quarter of that century. So too we linguists may have recourse to 'argumentation from realia' in this detective-story fashion.
See Werner Jaeger (1888-1961), "Diocles of Carystus: A New Pupil of Aristotle," in his Scripta Minora, Vol. II (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1960), pp. 243-265 (at 248 ff.).


A Dangerous Business

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Part I: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), p. 83 (Book I, Chapter 3):
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say.

Friday, May 27, 2022


It's Just as Well

Stephanie W. Jamison, "The Secret Lives of Texts," Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.1 (January-March 2011) 1-7 (at 2):
This sense of the reality of texts makes it something of a wonder to me that more children don't grow up to be philologists—though, given the job market, it's just as well.


Politically Unreliable

Noel M. Swerdlow, "Otto E. Neugebauer (26 May 1899-19 February 1990)," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 137.1 (March, 1993) 138-165 (at 144-145):
The year 1933 began with the Mathematisches Institut straitened by the depression, but as yet unharmed by outside interference. On 30 January Hitler became chancellor, and the change was rapid and catastrophic, for almost immediately brown shirts and swastikas appeared among the students and Privatdozenten. Then on 7 April the Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service, which included university faculty, authorized the dismissal of civil servants of non-Aryan descent or of uncertain loyalty. During the following week Neugebauer was involved in discussions between Courant and Max Born and James Franck of the physics faculty about some act of protest. Franck, who held a Nobel Prize, thought it would have some effect to resign, and on 16 April did so, for which forty-two members of Göttingen's faculty issued a statement condemning him for giving the foreign press material for anti-German propaganda. Then on Thursday 26 April a local newspaper carried the notice that six professors, including Born, Courant, and Noether, were to be placed on leave. Courant designated Neugebauer acting director of the Institut, but students were by then agitating to stop the lectures of Edmund Landau and Paul Bernays and attacking Neugebauer as politisch unzuverlässig, "politically unreliable" (his political views were always very liberal). That weekend he was required to sign an oath of loyalty to the new government, and when he refused was promptly suspended as untragbar and denied access to the Institut building.
I see history repeating itself.

Related post: The "No Platform" Movement.


Accelerated Onset of Old Age

Homer, Odyssey 19.360 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
For in misfortune mortal men grow old more suddenly.

αἶψα γὰρ ἐν κακότητι βροτοὶ καταγηράσκουσιν.


Required Reading

Andrew Lang, Adventures Among Books (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1905), pp. 15-16:
While we were deep in the history of Pendennis we were also being dragged through the Commentaries of Caius Julius Cæsar, through the Latin and Greek grammars, through Xenophon, and the Eclogues of Virgil, and a depressing play of Euripides, the "Phœnissæ." I can never say how much I detested these authors, who, taken in small doses, are far, indeed, from being attractive. Horace, to a lazy boy, appears in his Odes to have nothing to say, and to say it in the most frivolous and vexatious manner.


A Good Researcher

Neil Price, Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings (New York: Basic Books, 2020), p. 13:
An essential prerequisite for a good researcher is the willingness to be wrong, the invitation of constructive critique.


Your Good News

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 3.7.3 (Brundisium, April 29, 58; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
I see you are collecting every item in the political news which you think could afford me some hope of a change. They don't amount to much, but, since you wish, let us wait and see.

de re publica video te colligere omnia quae putes aliquam spem mihi posse adferre mutandarum rerum; quae quamquam exigua sunt, tamen, quoniam placet, exspectemus.

Thursday, May 26, 2022


A Change of Heart

Hermippus, fragment 28 Kassel and Austin (tr. Ian C. Storey):
What I liked then I dislike now.

ἃ τόθ᾿ ἥσθην, ταῦτα νῦν ἀνήδομαι.


As People Say

Yuan Zhongdao, "The Life of Li Wenling" (tr. Haun Saussy), in A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings of Li Zhi, edd. Rivi Handler-Spitz et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), pp. 325-333 (at 333):
As people say, "From a foul toad comes a foul turd" ...



The Art of Poetry

Robert Graves (1895-1985), On English Poetry (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922), pp. 82-83:
There was once an old Italian portrait painter, who coming to the end of his life, gathered his friends and pupils together and revealed to them a great discovery he had made, as follows:—

"The art of portrait painting consists in putting the High Lights in exactly the right place in the eyes."

When I come to my death-bed I have a similarly important message to deliver:—

"The art of poetry consists in knowing exactly how to manipulate the letter S."


Lust for Power

Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 7015-7017 (tr. Stuart Atkins):
                            Those not competent to rule
their own unruly selves, with eager arrogance
seek to impose their will upon their neighbor's will.

                            Denn jeder, der sein innres Selbst
Nicht zu regieren weiß, regierte gar zu gern
Des Nachbars Willen, eignem stolzen Sinn gemäß.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022



L.P. Wilkinson, Golden Latin Artistry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), p. xi:
There must be—there are, I know—many whose experience has been the same as mine; who feel that much of the criticism of Latin literature they read is somehow irrelevant, springing from what critics expect to get out of modern literature, not from what Romans were intent on putting into theirs.



Goethe, Faust, Part II, line 8003 (my translation):
Here no one sees and no one notices you.

Hier niemand seht und niemand euch erblickt.
Related posts:


A Proverb

Il faut hurler avec les loups.

One must howl with the wolves.

Rousseau (letter to M. de Beaumont) added "ou risquer d'être dévoré."

In German: Wer unter Wölfen ist, muß mitheulen.


Woe Is Me

Claudian, The War Against Gildo 1.44-45 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
Woe is me, whither are fled the power of Latium and the might of Rome? To what a shadow of our former glory are we by gradual decline arrived!

ei mihi, quo Latiae vires urbisque potestas
decidit! in qualem paulatim fluximus umbram!


Ancient Lore

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Part I: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), p. 390 (Book II, Chapter 8; Celeborn speaking):
But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


Obesus Etruscus

Ugo Bardi, "The impending global collapse: will it end the obesity epidemic?" The Seneca Effect (May 22, 2022):
Livy spoke of the obesus etruscus ('fat Etruscan') as an insult to a people he considered lazy and decadent.
I don't think that Livy said it, but Catullus (39.11) certainly did. I don't have access to David W. Packard, A Concordance to Livy, 4 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968). Also, obesus in Latin is an auto-antonym, a word that can mean the opposite of itself. It can mean both lean and fat, according to Lewis and Short.

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Joshua T. Katz, "What Linguists Are Good For," Classical World 100.2 (Winter, 2007) 99-112 (at 102, footnote omitted):
To most administrators and to all too many of our own colleagues, linguists are covered in nineteenth-century dust, which is, as we all know, a far dustier dust, being tainted with old methodology, than what classical archaeologists encounter in the Roman Forum. Or, alternatively, we are interested in so-called modern linguistic techniques, but these have the stench of social science, which some of our colleagues think smells less good than the Roman sewers' humanities. Either way, we linguists are narrowly focused misfits with a humorless eye for grammar and no interest in, much less imagination for, wider cultural questions. Such is our stereotype, but I have never met a good linguist who fit the bill (certainly none of my teachers did), and all of us must do what we can to combat it, in our scholarship and, even more important, in our teaching. Linguistics is a broad, vibrant, and result-driven discipline, not the recherché domain of fuddy-duddies, and it really shouldn't be very difficult to persuade our students and colleagues that this is so.


Social Media

Excerpt from Li Zhi, "Disciplining the Sangha" (tr. Jennifer Eichman), in A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings of Li Zhi, edd. Rivi Handler-Spitz et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), p. 184:
Not one finger or ten fingers but millions of fingers will point out your transgression.


A Century of Peace, Security and Wealth

G.M. Trevelyan, "Introducing the Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians," in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians: An Historic Revaluation of the Victorian Age (1949; rpt. London: Sylvan Press, 1950), pp. 15-19 (at 17-18):
And it was the England and Scotland of the nineteenth century that supplied the population of those new lands. The birthrate in all classes was so high that our industrial expansion at home was rendered possible. The population of Great Britain rose from under twelve millions in 1811 to thirty-seven millions in 1901. And during those same years the tide of emigration founded these new Britains overseas. As we should not now be capable of peopling vast empty territories, it is as well that we did it just in time, while we were still a very prolific race.

A century of peace, security and wealth was in many respects favourable to the higher aspects of civilisation. In the nineteenth century our fortunate ancestors were not precluded by national poverty from obtaining the books they wanted to study, from making or buying beautiful things or from travelling to see them. The shores and mountains of their own island were opened to them by the new railways, and they had free access to the Alps, to Italy and all the ancient lands of Europe, made significant to them by their study of history and the Classics, by the writings of Shelley and Byron, Ruskin and Browning. It was an age of cheap and rapid book production, patronised by a very large leisured and semi-leisured class, and by prosperous professional and artisan classes. There was a very large public for the many good writers whom England then produced out of these same leisured and professional classes—poets, novelists, historians, scholars, essayists, humorists; many of their names are still household words today, even if too few now read their books. It was a time of active political, philosophical and religious speculations, carried on in an atmosphere of freedom, with the impact of Darwin and Huxley to stimulate it with new conceptions of the universe. It was good, serious stuff that was read. The competition of cheap journalism and literature, aimed at the lowest level of intelligence, only became dangerous at the latter end of the century.


Two Epithets of Poseidon

Homer, Iliad 13.43 (my translation):
earth-bearing, shaking-earth

γαιήοχος ἐννοσίγαιος
Both epithets are used exclusively of the god Poseidon. Juxtaposed like this, they make a convenient hexameter ending (also Iliad 9.183, 13.59, 13.677, 14.355, 15.222, 23.584; Odyssey 11.241; sometimes in oblique cases). The presence of γαῖα (gaia = earth) in both compounds, at the beginning in γαιήοχος and at the end in ἐννοσίγαιος, creates a sort of chiastic arrangement.

Stephanie West on Odyssey 1.68:
γαιήοχος: in Homer this title is Poseidon's alone. Its origin and meaning are controversial, mainly because of uncertainty about -οχος. The poet and his audience, like the tragedians (cf. A. Supp. 816, S. OT 160), probably connected it with ἔχω and understood the compound as 'earth-holding, the Earth Sustainer', but Laconian Γαιάϝοχος (IG V i 213, 9, etc.) rules out this etymology. The usual assumption that the second element is related to ὀχέω, Lat. veho etc., leaves the interpretation of the compound debatable: 'he who rides (as a river) beneath the earth (and thereby shakes it)' Nilsson, 'husband of Gaia' Borgeaud. Meillet's suggestion that the root is *wegh- 'shake', cf. Lat. vexare, is attractive. Cf. Hainsworth on viii 322 and see further Frisk GEW s.v. γαιάοχος, Chantraine, Dictionnaire, s.v. γῆ, LfgrE.
J.B. Hainsworth on Odyssey 8.322:
Ποσειδάων γαιήοχος: the form and etymology of the divine name are discussed by C.J. Ruijgh, 'Sur le nom de Poseidon et sur les noms en -α-ϝων, -ι-ϝων,' REG lxxx (1967), 6-16. It is probable that the name consists of Ποσει- (an ossified vocative, cf. Iuppiter) +δα- 'earth', a calque of various oriental divine titles derived ultimately from the Sumerian EN.KI, 'Lord of the Earth': see Palmer, Interpretation, 255-6. The epithet γαιήοχος (< *wegh-, not *segh-, cf. Γαιάϝοχō IG V i 213), 'earth-bearing', is perhaps another version of the same title, with the nuance that the god is 'Lord of the Earth' because he is, or personifies, the 'water under the earth' on which the terrestrial disc, in Near Eastern cosmology, was conceived to float. Further literature in Burkert, Greek Religion, 402.
Martha Krieter-Spiro on Iliad 14.135:
Ἐννοσίγαιος 'Earth-shaker' (from γαῖα and ἔνοσις 'tremor') for Poseidon is probably a more recent metrical variant (20× Il., 6× Od., 10× Hes., 1× h.Hom.) of the synonym Ἐνοσίχθων (at 150, 384, etc.; with one exception always in the nom., in total 23× Il., 18× Od., 4× Hes.), since in contrast to Ἐνοσίχθων it is used as a noun and is better adapted to oblique cases. Ἐννοσίγαιος has been linked to both Mycenaean e-ne-si-da-o-ne, attested on tablets from Knossos (M 719, Gg 704), which likely denotes a deity, and Ἐννοσίδας attested at Pind. Pyth. 4.33 and 173 (etc.) (Simon 1980, 70; LfgrE s.v. Ποσειδάων 1470.52 f., 1474.1 ff.).

Monday, May 23, 2022



Claudian, Against Rufinus 1.360 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
See how many cities the barbarians' fires have laid low.

adspice barbaricis iaceant quot moenia flammis.



Pherecrates, fragment 78 (tr. Ian C. Storey):
You're out of your mind, an old man at your age.

ὑοσκυαμᾷς ἀνὴρ γέρων.
ὑοσκυαμάω = to be mad from taking henbane: to be raving mad (Liddell-Scott-Jones), from ὑοσκύαμος = henbane, from ὗς = pig and κύαμος = bean.

Sunday, May 22, 2022


At a Loss in This Generation

Qu Yuan, Li Sao, lines 57-64 (tr. David Hawkes):
All others press forward in greed and gluttony,
No surfeit satiating their demands:
Forgiving themselves, but harshly judging others;
Each fretting his heart away in envy and malice.
Madly they rush in the covetous chase,
But not after that which my heart sets store by.
For old age comes creeping and soon will be upon me,
And I fear I shall not leave behind an enduring name.
Id., lines 73-74:
I take my fashion from the good men of old:
A garb unlike that which the rude world cares for.
Id., lines 89-96:
Truly this generation are cunning artificers,
From square and compass turn their eyes and change the true measurement,
Disregard the ruled line to follow their crooked fancies;
To emulate in flattery is their only rule.
But I am sick and sad at heart and stand irresolute:
I alone am at a loss in this generation.
Yet I would rather quickly die and meet dissolution
Before I ever would consent to ape their behaviour.
Id., lines 97-100:
Eagles do not flock like birds of lesser species;
So it has ever been since the olden time.
How can the round and square ever fit together?
How can different ways of life ever be reconciled?


The Best Things

Plato, Gorgias 451e (tr. Walter Hamilton):
You have heard, I suppose, people at parties singing the well-known song where they count up the best things: asserting that the greatest good is health, the next beauty, and the third, according to the author of the song, wealth honestly come by?

οἴομαι γάρ σε ἀκηκοέναι ἐν τοῖς συμποσίοις ᾀδόντων ἀνθρώπων τοῦτο τὸ σκολιόν, ἐν ᾧ καταριθμοῦνται ᾁδοντες ὅτι "ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστόν" ἐστιν, τὸ δὲ "δεύτερον καλὸν γενέσθαι, τρίτον δέ", ὥς φησιν ὁ ποιητὴς τοῦ σκολιοῦ, "τὸ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως".
The song, from 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.
E.R. Dodds on Plato, Gorgias 451e:
The fourth item is omitted by Plato, since it does not depend on any τέχνη. The verses probably reflect aristocratic Greek opinion pretty accurately (cf. Euthyd. 279 ab, Meno 87 e, Hipp. ma. 291 d), though a speaker in a comedy by Anaxandrides (fr. 17) derides them for putting beauty above wealth. Aristotle (Rhet. 1394b11) and Sextus Empiricus (adv. math. 11.49) declare that the ordinary man everywhere puts health first, and the latter quotes a variety of writers from Simonides onward to the same effect. As to personal beauty, we learn from Aeschines (Timarch. 145 [sic, should be 134]) that Athenian parents prayed that their children might be καλοὺς κἀγαθοὺς τὰς ἰδέας καὶ τῆς πόλεως ἀξίους, and from Aristotle (E.N. 1099b3) that ὁ τὴν ἰδέαν παναίσχης cannot be really happy. (Wilamowitz, Glaube der Hellenen, ii.254 f., asserted that the author of the quatrain had more than physical beauty in mind, but Plato does not take it so, and the addition of φυὰν makes it unlikely.) The list is confined to what Aristotle called τὴν ἐκτὸς χορηγίαν: the intellectual goods are conspicuously absent, and only ἀδόλως pays an implicit tribute to virtue. At the end of his life (Laws 661 a) Plato referred to this σκολιόν again, and reaffirmed against it his own belief that all natural good is relative to spiritual good (661 b, 631 bc): the "three best things" are best only for the man who is spiritually healthy; otherwise they can but add to his secret misery.


Sacred Groves

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America, chapter 3 ("A Crisis of Agriculture"):
If we are to be properly humble in our use of the world, we need places that we do not use at all. We need the experience of leaving something alone. We need places that we forbear to change, or influence by our presence, or impose on even by our understanding; places that we accept as influences upon us, not the other way around, that we enter with the sense, the pleasure, of having nothing to do there; places that we must enter in a kind of cultural nakedness, without comforts or tools, to submit rather than to conquer. We need what other ages would have called sacred groves. We need groves, anyhow, that we would treat as if they were sacred—in order, perhaps, to perceive their sanctity.

Saturday, May 21, 2022


A Foul Smell

Aristophanes, Wealth 703 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
My farts aren't frankincense!

οὐ λιβανωτὸν γὰρ βδέω.
A bit more literally:
Not frankincense do I fart.
M.T. Quinn's school edition of Aristophanes' Plutus (London: George Bell and Sons, 1896) omits lines 697-706 altogether. In the preface Quinn admits that his edition is "expurgated".

Erasmus, Adages III vii 34 (tr. Denis L. Drysdall, with his notes):
34 Pedere thus
To fart frankincense

Βδέειν λιβανωτόν, To fart frankincense, has the appearance of a proverb. It will be apt for those who enjoy their own vices or those who are deeply in love. The cause of the former is φιλαυτία 'love of self,' because everyone enjoys his own vices and finds them pleasant, even if they are of the most nauseous sort.1 The cause of the latter is extravagant love: 'Even Agnes' polyp delights Balbinus' as Horace writes.2 And Aristophanes in the Plutus: 'I am not accustomed to farting frankincense.'3 The expression will also suit flatterers who praise the vilest things instead of the most noble.

34 Aristophanes (see n3 below); in Aristophanes the expression is not used proverbially — Erasmus probably associated it with Adagia III iv 2 Everyone thinks his own fart smells sweet (4 above).

1 Cf Adagia I ii 15 What is one's own is beautiful, where the passage from Horace (n2 below) is also quoted.

2 Horace Satires 1.3.40

3 Aristophanes Plutus 703

Βδέειν λιβανωτόν, id est Pedere thus, proverbii speciem habet. Accommodabitur in hos, quorum et vitia placent aut ipsis aut aliis impendio amantibus. Facit enim hoc φιλαυτία, ut unicuique sua placeant arrideantque, etiam si sint putidissima. Facit item hoc amor immoderatus, ut Polypus etiam Agnae delectet Balbinum, veluti scripsit Horatius. Aristophanes in Pluto: Οὐ λιβανωτὸν γὰρ βδέω, id est Non soleo thura pedere. Quadrabit et in assentatores turpissima pro honestissimis laudantes.
Aristophanes' "not frankincense" reminds me of Cervantes' "not ambergris" in Don Quixote 1.21 (tr. John Ormsby):
Just then, whether it was the cold of the morning that was now approaching, or that he had eaten something laxative at supper, or that it was only natural (as is most likely), Sancho felt a desire to do what no one could do for him; but so great was the fear that had penetrated his heart, he dared not separate himself from his master by as much as the black of his nail; to escape doing what he wanted was, however, also impossible; so what he did for peace's sake was to remove his right hand, which held the back of the saddle, and with it to untie gently and silently the running string which alone held up his breeches, so that on loosening it they at once fell down round his feet like fetters; he then raised his shirt as well as he could and bared his hind quarters, no slim ones. But, this accomplished, which he fancied was all he had to do to get out of this terrible strait and embarrassment, another still greater difficulty presented itself, for it seemed to him impossible to relieve himself without making some noise, and he ground his teeth and squeezed his shoulders together, holding his breath as much as he could; but in spite of his precautions he was unlucky enough after all to make a little noise, very different from that which was causing him so much fear.

Don Quixote, hearing it, said, "What noise is that, Sancho?"

"I don't know, senor," said he; "it must be something new, for adventures and misadventures never begin with a trifle." Once more he tried his luck, and succeeded so well, that without any further noise or disturbance he found himself relieved of the burden that had given him so much discomfort. But as Don Quixote's sense of smell was as acute as his hearing, and as Sancho was so closely linked with him that the fumes rose almost in a straight line, it could not be but that some should reach his nose, and as soon as they did he came to its relief by compressing it between his fingers, saying in a rather snuffing tone, "Sancho, it strikes me thou art in great fear."

"I am," answered Sancho; "but how does your worship perceive it now more than ever?"

"Because just now thou smellest stronger than ever, and not of ambergris," answered Don Quixote.

"Very likely," said Sancho, "but that's not my fault, but your worship's, for leading me about at unseasonable hours and at such unwonted paces."

"Then go back three or four, my friend," said Don Quixote, all the time with his fingers to his nose; "and for the future pay more attention to thy person and to what thou owest to mine; for it is my great familiarity with thee that has bred this contempt."

"I'll bet," replied Sancho, "that your worship thinks I have done something I ought not with my person."

"It makes it worse to stir it, friend Sancho," returned Don Quixote.
Related post: An Icelandic Proverb?.




Excerpt from Li Zhi, "Self-Appraisal" (tr. Rivi Handler-Spitz), in A Book to Burn and a Book to Keep (Hidden): Selected Writings of Li Zhi, edd. Rivi Handler-Spitz et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), p. 138:
He was by nature narrow-minded and he appeared arrogant. His words were vulgar, and his mind was wild. His behavior was impulsive, his friends few, and his countenance ingratiating. When interacting with people, he took pleasure in seeking out their faults; he did not delight in their strengths. When he disliked people, he cut them off and sought to harm them for the rest of his life.
Cf. another translation of the same passage in Rivi Handler-Spitz, Symptoms of an Unruly Age: Li Zhi and Cultures of Early Modernity (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017), p. 52:
He was by nature narrow-minded and he appeared arrogant. His words were vulgar, and his mind wild. His behavior was impulsive, and his friends few, but when he got together with them he treated them affectionately. When interacting with people, he took pleasure in seeking out their faults; he did not delight in their strong suits. When he hated people, he cut them off and sought to harm them all his life.


A Censorious Nature

Goethe, Faust, Part II, line 6467 (tr. David Luke):
Why must you men find fault perpetually?

Ihr Herren wißt an allem was zu mäkeln.
Id. 8992-8993:
Is a censorious nature so ingrained in you
That your mouth opens only to upbraid and scold?

Ist dir denn so das Schelten gänzlich einverleibt,
daß ohne Tadeln du keine Lippe regen kannst?



Victor Klemperer (1881-1960), The Language of the Third Reich. LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook, tr. Martin Brady (2000; rpt. London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 229:
But there is no vox populi, only voci populi, and it can only be ascertained in retrospect which of these various voices is the true one — I mean the one which determines the course of events.
For voci read voces. Compare the German original:
Aber es gibt keine vox populi, sondern nur voces populi, und welche von diesen verschiedenartigen Stimmen nun die wahre, ich meine die den Gang der Ereignisse bestimmende ist, das läßt sich immer nur hinterher feststellen.


Friday, May 20, 2022



Stefan George, "Der Krieg," line 118 (tr. Olga Marx and Ernst Morwitz):
When its gods have died a people dies.

Ein volk ist tot wenn seine götter tot sind.



Hermippus, fragment 3 Kassel and Austin (tr. Ian C. Storey):
You seem to have the speech and face of a lamb, but inside you are no different from a serpent.

τὴν μὲν διάλεκτον καὶ τὸ πρόσωπον ἀμνίου
ἔχειν δοκεῖς, τὰ δ᾿ ἔνδον οὐδὲν διαφέρεις
Matthew 7:15 (King James Version):
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασιν προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες.

Thursday, May 19, 2022


The View from Here

Goethe, Faust, Part II, lines 4782-4786 (tr. David Luke):
Look down from this high place, look far and wide
Over the empire: it must seem
A nightmare of deformity, a dream
Of monsters, law to lawless power unfurled,
And rooting error spread about the world.

Wer schaut hinab von diesem hohen Raum
Ins weite Reich, ihm scheint's ein schwerer Traum,
Wo Mißgestalt in Mißgestalten schaltet,
Das Ungesetz gesetzlich überwaltet
Und eine Welt des Irrtums sich entfaltet.
The same (tr. Bayard Taylor):
Who looks abroad from off this height supreme
Throughout the realm, 'tis like a weary dream,
Where one deformity another mouldeth,
Where lawlessness itself by law upholdeth,
And 'tis an age of Error that unfoldeth.
The same (tr. Stuart Atkins):
If from this lofty vantage point one views below
your far-flung realm, it seems an ugly dream
in which Deformity holds sway among deformities
and Lawlessness prevails by legal means
as Error spreads and fills the world with error.


Scholarship and Stamp-Collecting

Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 80, with notes on p. 329:
As Maurice, self-mockingly, described his working methods, it was all a matter of perspiration and akin to stamp collecting: 'My long and boring book goes on and on. There is a lot of nonsense about learning. It is really a substitute for stamp-collecting, but instead of coloured bits of paper one collects comic little facts in the faint, far hope that one day they will fall into a pattern. But of course they don't.'57 He used nearly the same words to a goddaughter:
I have begun work on a subject so obscure that I can't tell anyone about it. It is quite mad, and I have no qualifications for it. Not that that has ever hindered me. I collect bits of useless information and put them together. It is just as if, after fifty years, I had gone back to stamp-collecting. It provides what Tennyson calls 'the sad mechanic exercise', words most appropriate to what we dignify by the name of learning.58
57. C.M. Bowra to A. James, 3 Dec. [1950]; Harvard, Houghton Lib., BMS AM 1938 (152).

58. Idem to C. Clark, 28 Dec. [1960], C. Clark MSS.
Arthur Stanley Pease, quoted in J.P. Elder et al., "Arthur Stanley Pease 1881-1964," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 69 (1965) ix:
I will confess that I am by nature a collector, that I began with marbles and horse-chestnuts, advanced to postage stamps, continued with botany and books, and at all times have gathered facts and occasionally ideas.

These two latter items, in lack of sufficient cranial space for dead storage, I enter methodically on 3 x 5 slips of paper. When enough of a kind are amassed, they are outspread, classified, digested, written down, dehydrated, and lo! an article, or more rarely a book, to be perused by some lone watcher in Czechoslovakia or beside the Bay of Biscay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Rude Behavior

Pherecrates, fragment 93 Kassel and Austin (preserved by Pollux 10.45, from the lost play Korianno; tr. Ian C. Storey):
Putting a chamber pot beside my head he farted.

πρὸς τῇ κεφαλῇ μου λάσανα καταθεὶς πέρδεται.
The main verb (πέρδεται) is in the present tense.

On the supposed etymological connection between Greek λάσανα and Italian lasagna see B.L. Ullman, "Horace Serm. I.6.115 and the History of the Word Laganum," Classical Philology 7.4 (October, 1912) 442-449, rejected by Anthony F. Buccini, "Lasagna: A Layered History," in Wrapped & Stuffed Foods: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2012 (Totnes: Prospects Books, 2013), pp. 94-104.

On this fragment see Eduardo Urios-Aparisi, The Fragments of Pherecrates (diss. University of Glasgow, 1992), pp. 287-288.




J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Part I: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987), p. 276 (Book II, Chapter 2; Gandalf quoting Old Gamgee):
"I can't abide changes," said he, "not at my time of life, and least of all changes for the worst." "Changes for the worst," he repeated many times.
Isocrates, Nicocles 55 (tr. Yun Lee Too):
Maintain the present order of things, and do not desire change, knowing that through disturbances states must perish and private households must be overturned.

διαφυλάττετε τὴν παροῦσαν κατάστασιν, καὶ μηδεμιᾶς ἐπιθυμεῖτε μεταβολῆς, εἰδότες ὅτι διὰ τὰς ταραχὰς ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστι καὶ τὰς πόλεις ἀπόλλυσθαι καὶ τοὺς οἴκους τοὺς ἰδίους ἀναστάτους γίγνεσθαι.


A Failure

Chang Tai (1597-1684?), "An Epitaph for Myself" (excerpt), in Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p'in Anthology. Translated with Annotations and an Introduction by Yang Ye (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), p. 100:
He studied calligraphy, and he failed. He studied swordsmanship, and he failed. He studied morals and ethics, and he failed. He studied literature, and he failed. He studied Taoism, Buddhism, farming, and gardening and he failed in all. He could only let himself be called a wastrel, a good-for-nothing, a misfit, a dull-witted pedant, a sleepyhead, or a damned old fogy.
Mutatis mutandis, de me fabula narratur.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022



Aldous Huxley, Eyeless in Gaza, chapter X:
Books. The table in Anthony's room was covered with them. The five folio volumes of Bayle, in the English edition of 1738. Rickaby's translation of the Summa contra Gentiles. De Gourmont's Problème du Style. The Way of Perfection. Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. Three volumes of Byron's Letters. The works of St. John of the Cross in Spanish. The plays of Wycherley. Lee's History of Sacerdotal Celibacy.

If only, Anthony thought as he came in from his walk, if only one had two sets of eyes! Janus would be able to read Candide and the Imitation simultaneously. Life was so short, and books so countlessly many. He pored voluptuously over the table, opening at random now one volume, now another.
Gerrit van Vucht, Stilleven met boeken (Rotterdam,
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. 1285)

Gerrit van Vucht, Still Life with a Skull and Books (Oxford,
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, acc. no. WA1940.2.77)



Dio Cassius 73.18.3-4 (on Commodus; tr. Earnest Cary):
And let no one feel that I am sullying the dignity of history by recording such occurrences. On most accounts, to be sure, I should not have mentioned this exhibition; but since it was given by the emperor himself, and since I was present myself and took part in everything seen, heard and spoken, I have thought proper to suppress none of the details, but to hand them down, trivial as they are, just like any events of the greatest weight and importance. And, indeed, all the other events that took place in my lifetime I shall describe with more exactness and detail than earlier occurrences, for the reason that I was present when they happened and know no one else, among those who have any ability at writing a worthy record of events, who has so accurate a knowledge of them as I.

καὶ μή μέ τις κηλιδοῦν τὸν τῆς ἱστορίας ὄγκον, ὅτι καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα συγγράφω, νομίσῃ. ἄλλως μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ἂν εἶπον αὐτά· ἐπειδὴ δὲ πρός τε τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος ἐγένετο καὶ παρὼν αὐτὸς ἐγὼ καὶ εἶδον ἕκαστα καὶ ἤκουσα καὶ ἐλάλησα, δίκαιον ἡγησάμην μηδὲν αὐτῶν ἀποκρύψασθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτά, ὥσπερ τι ἄλλο τῶν μεγίστων καὶ ἀναγκαιοτάτων, τῇ μνήμῃ τῶν ἐσέπειτα ἐσομένων παραδοῦναι. καὶ μέντοι καὶ τἆλλα πάντα τὰ ἐπ᾽ ἐμοῦ πραχθέντα καὶ λεπτουργήσω καὶ λεπτολογήσω μᾶλλον ἢ τὰ πρότερα, ὅτι τε συνεγενόμην αὐτοῖς, καὶ ὅτι μηδένα ἄλλον οἶδα τῶν τι δυναμένων ἐς συγγραφὴν ἀξίαν λόγου καταθέσθαι διηκριβωκότα αὐτὰ ὁμοίως ἐμοί.


The Secret of Happiness

The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, ed. Michael Davie (1976; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979), p. 787 (March 9, 1962):
Abjuring the realm. To make an interior act of renunication and to become a stranger in the world; to watch one's fellow-countrymen, as one used to watch foreigners, curious of their habits, patient of their absurdities, indifferent to their animosities—that is the secret of happiness in this century of the common man.

Monday, May 16, 2022


Hymn to Rome

Melinno, Hymn to Rome (tr. Andrew Erskine):
Hail, Roma, daughter of Ares, warlike mistress with a girdle of gold, who has as a dwelling place on earth holy Olympus forever unshaken.

To you alone, most esteemed one, Fate has given the royal glory of everlasting rule so that you may govern with lordly might.

By your yoke with its strong straps the breasts of the earth and the grey sea are bound fast. With a sure hand you steer the cities of men.

Almighty time overturns everything and moulds life this way and that. It is only in your case that it does not change the favourable wind which maintains your rule.

Certainly, out of all people you alone bring forth the strongest men, great warriors as they are, just as if producing the crop of Demeter from the land.

χαῖρέ μοι, ῾Ρώμα, θυγάτηρ Ἄρηος,
χρυσεομίτρα δαΐφρων ἄνασσα,
σεμνὸν ἃ ναίεις ἐπὶ γᾶς ῎Ολυμπον
αἰὲν ἄθραυστον.

σοὶ μόνᾳ, πρέσβιστα, δέδωκε Μοῖρα        5
κῦδος ἀρρήκτω βασιλῇον ἀρχᾶς,
ὄφρα κοιρανῇον ἔχοισα κάρτος

σᾷ δ' ὐπὰ σδεύγλᾳ κρατερῶν λεπάδνων
στέρνα γαίας καὶ πολιᾶς θαλάσσας        10
σφίγγεται· σὺ δ' ἀσφαλέως κυβερνᾷς
ἄστεα λαῶν.

πάντα δὲ σφάλλων ὁ μέγιστος αἰὼν
καὶ μεταπλάσσων βίον ἄλλοτ' ἄλλως
σοὶ μόνᾳ πλησίστιον οὖρον ἀρχᾶς        15
οὐ μεταβάλλει.

ἦ γὰρ ἐκ πάντων σὺ μόνα κρατίστους
ἄνδρας αἰχματὰς μεγάλους λοχεύεις
εὔσταχυν Δάματρος ὅπως ἀνεῖσα
καρπὸν †ἀπ' ἀνδρῶν.        20

20 ἀπ' ἀγρῶν Bergk: ἄρουρα Bücheler
Another translation, by Matthew Dillon and Lynda Garland:
Hail, Roma, daughter of Ares,
Golden-crowned warrior queen
You who live on earth on holy Olympus,
For ever indestructible.

To you alone, most revered one, has Fate        5
Granted royal glory of unbreakable dominion,
So that, with your sovereign power,
You might lead the way.

Under your yoke of strong leather straps,
The chests of earth and grey sea        10
Are tightly bound together; with firm hand you govern
The cities of your peoples.

The longest eternity, which overthrows everything
And shapes the course of life first in this way, then in that,
For you alone does not change the wind        15
Which fills the sails of empire.

Indeed, out of all, you alone give birth to
Strong men, wielders of spears,
Sending forth a well-aiming crop of men
Like the fruits of Demeter.        20
Scholars differ about the hymn's literary worth. Contrast W.A. Oldfather, "Melinno," in RE XV/1 (1931) 521-523 (at 522):
Mir scheint es genau so gut als der grössere Teil von Horaz' Liedern, besonders Carmen Saeculare und die politischen Oden überhaupt, und der gewönliche Poeta Laureatus dürfte stolz auf eine ebenso gelungene Leistung sein.
with Hugh Lloyd-Jones and Peter Parsons, Supplementum Hellenisticum (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1983), p. 269:
nobis quidem turgidus iste stilus et inanium iterationum strepitus aetatem Hadriani sapere videntur.


No Tittering

G.G. Coulton, Ten Medieval Studies With Four Appendices (1930; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 45:
"Let not novices be easily moved to laughter," writes Bernard [of Besse], "...tittering in general is a great disgrace to the gravity of a Religious. It is utterly despicable for a man of Religion to titter like a boy. No man of Religion should utter laughter with undisciplined lips, but show with a glad face the gladness of his heart."
Related posts:


War and Peace

Apollodorus of Carystus, fragment 5 Kassel and Austin, lines 1-14 (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
O world of men! Why do ye give up the happy life, and devote all your thought to injuring one another by making war? Can it be that some boorish fate to‑day presides over our lives — a fate which knows no culture at all, is completely ignorant of what is bad or what is good, and in some random way tosses us about as chance decrees? I think so indeed. For what fate, were she really a Greek, would prefer to see men thrashed​ by one another and lying prone as corpses, when they might be jolly, playful, just a bit tipsy, enjoying the sound of music as they should? Tell me, yourself, sweetest lady, say that our fate is indeed a boor.

ὦ πάντες ἄνθρωποι, τί τὸ ζῆν ἡδέως
παρέντες ἐπιμελεῖσθε τοῦ κακῶς ποιεῖν
πολεμοῦντες ἀλλήλους; πότερα πρὸς τῶν θεῶν
ἐπιστατεῖ τις τοῦ βίου νυνὶ Τύχη
ἄγροικος ἡμῶν, οὔτε παιδείαν ὅλως        5
εἰδυῖα, τί τὸ κακόν ποτ᾽ ἢ τί τἀγαθὸν
ἔστ᾽ ἀγνοοῦσα παντελῶς εἰκῆ τέ πως
ἡμᾶς κυλίνδουσ᾽ ὅντιν᾽ ἂν τύχῃ τρόπον;
οἶμαί γε· τίς γὰρ μᾶλλον ἂν προείλετο
Ἕλλην ἀληθῶς οὖσα λεπομένους ὁρᾶν        10
αὐτοὺς ὑφ᾽ αὑτῶν καὶ καταπίπτοντας νεκρούς,
ἐξὸν ἱλαρούς παίζοντας ὑποπεπωκότας
αὐλουμένους. † ωδει † λέγ᾽ αὐτή, γλυκυτάτη,
ἔλεγχ᾽ ἄγροικον οὖσαν ἡμῶν τὴν Τύχην.

13 ωδει codd.: ᾠδῇ Grotius (unde κηλούμενος ᾠδῇ Meineke): ὡδί Morel: σποδεῖν Kock: ὡς δεῖ Lumb: σὺ δὴ Kaibel: ἰδεῖν Palmer

Sunday, May 15, 2022



Dio Cassius 72.26.3 (speech of Marcus Aurelius; tr. Earnest Cary):
Perhaps all this seems incredible to you, but you ought not to disbelieve it; for surely all goodness has not yet entirely perished from among men, but there is still in us a remnant of the ancient virtue.

παράδοξα μὲν ἴσως ταῦθ᾽ ὑμῖν φαίνεται, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἀπιστεῖν ὑμᾶς αὐτοῖς δεῖ· οὐ γάρ που καὶ ἁπλῶς πάντα τὰ ἀγαθὰ ἐκ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπόλωλεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἔστι καὶ παρ᾽ ἡμῖν ἔτι τῆς ἀρχαίας ἀρετῆς λείψανον.



Yüan Tsung-tao (1560–1600), in Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p'in Anthology. Translated with Annotations and an Introduction by Yang Ye (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), p. 44 (notes omitted):
If you have not yet reached a comprehensive and thorough understanding of things in learning, then you are likely to say yes to those who agree with you, and say no to those who don't. It is like a southerner in a boat sneering at a northerner in a carriage, or the long-legged crane spurning the short-legged duck. Not to reprove yourself for holding a prejudice, but to reprove others for holding a different opinion—isn't that preposterous?


Different Linguistic Habits

Victor Klemperer (1881-1960), The Language of the Third Reich. LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook, tr. Martin Brady (2000; rpt. London: Continuum, 2006), p. 172:
The variations in speech dependent on class are by no means merely of aesthetic significance. Rather, I am convinced that the unfortunate mistrust between intellectuals and proletarians is largely a result of their different linguistic habits. There were so many occasions during these years when I said to myself: how on earth shall I put it? Workers like to use fruity expressions relating to digestion in every sentence. If I did the same he would notice it didn't come naturally and regard me as a hypocrite trying to ingratiate myself; however, if I talk naturally, or as I was taught in the nursery and at school, he will think me arrogant or a jumped-up so-and-so.

Die Verschiedenartigkeit des Sprechens je nach der Sozialschicht ist ja keineswegs nur von ästhetischer Bedeutsamkeit. Vielmehr bin ich überzeugt davon, daß das unselige Mißtrauen zwischen den Gebildeten und den Proletariern zu einem sehr großen Teil gerade auf den Unterschieden der Sprachgewohnheit beruht. Wie oft in diesen Jahren habe ich mir gesagt : Wie soll ich's nur anstellen? Der Arbeiter liebt es, in jedem Satz die saftigen Ausdrücke der Verdauung zu verwenden. Tu ich desgleichen, so merkt er, daß mir das nicht vom Herzen kommt, und hält mich für einen Heuchler, der sich anschmieren will; red' ich aber, wie mir der Schnabel gewachsen oder in Kinderstube und Schule geformt worden ist, dann hält er mich für hochmütig, für einen feinen Pinsel.


Fierce Anne

Enid Blyton (1897-1968), Five Go To Billycock Hill, chapter 10:
'I know what we'll do now! We'll get out our portable radio and turn it on. If there's some decent music, it will sound glorious up here!'

'All right. But for goodness' sake have it on softly,' said Anne. 'I loathe people who take radios out into the country with them, and switch them on loudly, so that it spoils the peace and quiet for everyone else. I could go and kick their radios to pieces!'

'Gracious, Anne — you do sound fierce!' said George, looking at her cousin in surprise.

'You don't know our quiet sister Anne quite as well as we do, George,' said Julian, with a twinkle in his eyes. 'She can be really fierce if she thinks anyone is spoiling things for others. I had to stop her once from going up to scold people at a picnic — they actually had a gramophone going full-pelt, in spite of the angry looks from people all round. I do believe she meant to take off the gramophone record and break it over somebody's head!'

'Oh, Julian! How can you say such a thing!' said Anne. 'I did feel like it — but I didn't do it.'
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator, who told me about this passage when we heard loud music while hiking at Schaar's Bluff yesterday.


England Hath Need of Thee

Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 71-72, with note on p. 328:
As he put it, 'It is to be hoped that some Aristophanic satirist will arise and mock the bores and bullies of today. In the meantime we can get considerable comfort from the incorrigible and high-minded satirist, who cared little for good taste or respectability, and flung fine handfuls of mud at a number of unpleasantly self-righteous people.' Sadly, England honoured the wrong people: 'English education has taught us to attribute nobility of character to those who would repress and deny. To Aristophanes these men were crooks and cranks.'22

22. Oxford Magazine, 4 May 1933, 612.

Saturday, May 14, 2022



Revelation 6:6 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four animals, saying: A measure of grain for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius...

καὶ ἤκουσα ὡς φωνὴν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων λέγουσαν, Χοῖνιξ σίτου δηναρίου, καὶ τρεῖς χοίνικες κριθῶν δηναρίου...
David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16 (1998; rpt. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014 = Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 52B), p. 397:
χοῖνιξ σίτου δηναρίου, καὶ τρεῖς χοίνικες κριθῶν δηναρίου, "A liter of wheat for a denarius, and three liters of barley for a denarius." This statement suggests an exorbitant price for basic commodities during a period of famine caused either by drought or by war (about eight times the normal price for wheat and five-and-one-third times the normal price for barley) and indicates the relative value of wheat and barley. According to b. Sotạ 49b, produce will soar in price with the advent of the Messiah. One liter of wheat and three liters of barley are mentioned together here because it is the appropriate ration for a cavalryman and his mount, or for an individual and his domestic animals. Here the term "liter" is used as an equivalent to the Greek dry measure called a χοῖνιξ (choinix, pl. choinikes), roughly equal to a day's ration of wheat for one person (Herodotus 7.187; Xenophon Anabasis 7.3.23; Athenaeus Deipn. 3.98e; Diogenes Laertius 8.18; Livy 4.15.6). Three choinikes of barley was the approximate amount of daily fodder necessary to feed a horse (Polybius 6.39.13; see Stolle, Der römische Legionar, 59), while the ration of wheat for a Roman soldier was thirty-two choinikes per month (Polybius 6.39.13–15; two-thirds of a medimnos, which was forty-eight choinikes). 8 χοίνικες = 1 ἑκτεύς; 6 ἑκτεῖς = 1 μέδιμνος, i.e., a χοῖνιξ is 1/48 of a μέδιμνος. A choinix of barley or a half choinix of wheat per day was regarded as the normal ration for a slave (Thucydides 4.16.1; Athenaeus Deipn. 6.272c).


According to the Romans, a shortage in the grain supply could be considered a prodigium, i.e., a divinely sent sign foreshadowing coming disasters (Tacitus Annals 12.43; see Excursus 6A: Ancient Prodigies and the Plagues of Revelation).

The author's emphasis on a denarius as the cost of a liter of wheat and three liters of barley presupposes that this amount represents a daily wage for an average worker (Matt 20:1–16; Tob 5:14). The normal cost for a choinix of wheat was about one-eighth of a Greek denarius or two Roman asses, while barley was about half the cost of wheat, i.e., one-sixteenth of a Greek denarius or one Roman as (2 Kgs 7:1, 16; Polybius 2.15.1; Cicero Verrine Orations 3.81.188). During times of famine, grain prices could rise steeply. The prices mentioned in Xenophon Anabasis 1.5.5–6, for example, are fifty times the normal rates.

Friday, May 13, 2022


Quintessentially English

Norman Douglas (1868-1952), Some Limericks. Collected for the use of Students, & ensplendour'd with Introduction, Geographical Index, and with Notes Explanatory and Critical (© 1928; rpt. Boston: Nicholson and Whitney, 1942), pp. 24-26:
Whatever may be thought of speculations such as these, there is no denying that limericks are a yea-saying to life in a world that has grown grey. That alone justifies their existence. They are also English—English to the core. Of how many things can that be said? Take only our other poets: can it be said that Milton, or Keats, is English? They may have been born in England, and they certainly write the language of that country—quite readable stuff, some of it. But how full of classical allusions, what a surfeit of airs and graces! Open their pages, where you will, and you find them permeated by a cloying academic flavour; one would think they were written for the delectation of college professors. The bodies of these men were English, but their souls lived abroad; and the worst of it is, they carry their readers' souls abroad with them—abroad, into old Greece and God knows where, into the company of Virgil and Ariosto and Plato and other foreigners.

There is none of that continental nonsense here. Limericks are as English as roast beef; they, and they alone, possess that harmonious homely ring which warms our hearts when we hear them repeated round the camp-fire. Wherever two or three of our countrymen are gathered together in rough parts of the world, there you will find these verses; it is limericks that keep the flag flying, that fill you with a breath of old England in strange lands, and constitute one of the strongest sentimental links binding our Colonies to the mother country. Indeed, I should say that their political value is hardly appreciated at home, and that the Colonial Office might do worse than instal a special department for the production and export of ever-fresh material of this kind (I have reason to think that such a department is already in existence). These planters and Civil servants, the cream of our youth, might often suffer from the irritation produced by living lonely lives in lonely places; they might often be at loggerheads with each other, but for the healing and convivial influence of limericks that remind them of common ties and common duties and a common ancestry, and make them forget their separate little troubles. Or do you fancy they discuss art and politics in their leisure moments? If so, you have never lived among them. Can you hear one of them reciting cosmopolitan effusions like the Ode to a Nightingale or Paradise Regained? Let him try it on!
Quintilian said "Satura quidem tota nostra est." An Englishman might say, "Limericks at least are completely ours."

Thanks to John O'Toole for sending me a limerick about Ezra Pound by Robert Conquest:
Said Pound, "If one's writing a Canto
It should be a sort of portmanteau
Full of any old crap
That occurs to a chap
With patches of pig Esperanto."


Three Classes

Aristotle, Politics 4.11.4-7 (1295b; tr. Carnes Lord):
[4] Now in all cities there are three parts of the city, the very well off, the very poor, and third, those in the middle between these. Since, however, it is agreed that what is moderate and middling is best, it is evident that in the case of the goods of fortune as well a middling possession is the best of all.

[5] For it is readiest to obey reason, while for one who is overly handsome, overly strong, overly well born, or overly wealthy—or the reverse of these things, overly indigent, overly weak, or very lacking in honor—it is difficult to follow reason. The former sort tend to become arrogant and base on a grand scale, the latter malicious and base in petty ways; and acts of injustice are committed either through arrogance or through malice. Moreover, these are least inclined either to avoid ruling or to wish to rule, both of which things are injurious to cities.

[6] In addition, those who are preeminent in the goods of fortune—strength, wealth, friends, and the other things of this sort—neither wish to be ruled nor know how to be. This is something that marks them from the time they are children at home, for the effect of living in luxury is that they do not become habituated to being ruled even at school; but those who are excessively needy with respect to these things are too humble.

[7] So the ones do not know how to rule but only how to be ruled, and then only to be ruled like a slave, and the others do not know how to be ruled by any sort of rule, but only to rule like a master.

[4] ἐν ἁπάσαις δὴ ταῖς πόλεσιν ἔστι τρία μέρη τῆς πόλεως, οἱ μὲν εὔποροι σφόδρα, οἱ δὲ ἄποροι σφόδρα, οἱ δὲ τρίτοι οἱ μέσοι τούτων. ἐπεὶ τοίνυν ὁμολογεῖται τὸ μέτριον ἄριστον καὶ τὸ μέσον, φανερὸν ὅτι καὶ τῶν εὐτυχημάτων ἡ κτῆσις ἡ μέση βελτίστη πάντων.

[5] ῥᾴστη γὰρ τῷ λόγῳ πειθαρχεῖν, ὑπέρκαλον δὲ ἢ ὑπερίσχυρον ἢ ὑπερευγενῆ ἢ ὑπερπλούσιον ὄντα, ἢ τἀναντία τούτοις, ὑπέρπτωχον ἢ ὑπερασθενῆ ἢ σφόδρα ἄτιμον, χαλεπὸν τῷ λόγῳ ἀκολουθεῖν· γίγνονται γὰρ οἱ μὲν ὑβρισταὶ καὶ μεγαλοπόνηροι μᾶλλον, οἱ δὲ κακοῦργοι καὶ μικροπόνηροι λίαν, τῶν δ᾽ ἀδικημάτων τὰ μὲν γίγνεται δι᾽ ὕβριν τὰ δὲ διὰ κακουργίαν. ἔτι δὲ ἥκισθ᾽ οὗτοι φυγαρχοῦσι καὶ σπουδαρχοῦσιν, ταῦτα δ᾽ ἀμφότερα βλαβερὰ ταῖς πόλεσιν.

[6] πρὸς δὲ τούτοις οἱ μὲν ἐν ὑπεροχαῖς εὐτυχημάτων ὄντες, ἰσχύος καὶ πλούτου καὶ φίλων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν τοιούτων, ἄρχεσθαι οὔτε βούλονται οὔτε ἐπίστανται (καὶ τοῦτ᾽ εὐθὺς οἴκοθεν ὑπάρχει παισὶν οὖσιν: διὰ γὰρ τὴν τρυφὴν οὐδ᾽ ἐν τοῖς διδασκαλείοις ἄρχεσθαι σύνηθες αὐτοῖς), οἱ δὲ καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν ἐν ἐνδείᾳ τούτων ταπεινοὶ λίαν.

[7] ὥσθ᾽ οἱ μὲν ἄρχειν οὐκ ἐπίστανται, ἀλλ᾽ ἄρχεσθαι δουλικὴν ἀρχήν, οἱ δ᾽ ἄρχεσθαι μὲν οὐδεμίαν ἀρχήν, ἄρχειν δὲ δεσποτικὴν ἀρχήν.


Unclean Linen

The Book of Margery Kempe, chapter 76 (tr. Anthony Bale):
Then she took her husband home with her and looked after him for years afterwards, as long as he lived. She had a great deal of labour with him, for in his last days he turned childish and lost his reason, so that he could not (or else he would not) go to the toilet to relieve himself, but like a child he voided his bowels in his linen as he sat by the fire or at the table, wherever it was, he would spare nowhere.

Than sche take hom hir husband to hir and kept hym yerys aftyr as long as he levyd and had ful mech labowr wyth hym, for in hys last days he turnyd childisch agen and lakkyd reson that he cowd not don hys owyn esement to gon to a sege, er ellys he wolde not, but as a childe voydyd his natural digestyon in hys lynyn clothys ther he sat be the fyre er at the tabil, whethyr it wer, he wolde sparyn no place.



The Gods

C.M. Bowra, The Greek Experience (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1957), p. 45:
If the Greeks thought of their gods as possessing human shape and a nature like that of men, they recognized that between gods and men there are enormous differences. The first is that the gods suffer from neither old age nor death. They are able to live as men would like to live if they were not continually dogged by care for the morrow and the consciousness that at any moment they may pass into nothingness. In their undecaying strength and beauty the gods have something denied to men, which makes them objects of awe and wonder. The Greek sense of the holy was based much less on a feeling of the goodness of the gods than on a devout respect for their incorruptible beauty and unfailing strength. If this was a price which the Greeks paid for seeing the gods in human shape, it had vast compensations; for it both made the gods more real than many religions can and gave to men an increased self-respect because they resembled them. It presented an ideal which was indeed not possible to rival but which by its fascinating challenge made men feel that it was good to possess, even in the humblest degree, qualities shared with the gods, and when they saw an unusual manifestation of these in their fellows, it was a matter for delight and pride.

Thursday, May 12, 2022


The Labour Is Enormous

Leslie Mitchell, Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 55:
In 1927, he told a close friend that he wondered whether he was a true scholar at all, and feared that he had nothing new to contribute:
I have been trying to work and been signally unsuccessful. I should like to be a very good man of letters and find myself only a parodist. It might even be fun to be a very good scholar, but it is so damned difficult to say what has been said many times before by good Germans, and the labour is enormous for the smallest result.
Cf. Jerome, Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1.9.1 (tr. Robin McGregor, modified by me):
And the comic poet [Terence] said something similar to this: "Nothing has been said, which has not been said before" [Eunuch 41], whence my teacher Donatus, when he was lecturing about this verse, said: "Let them perish, who have said our words before us."

huic quid simile sententiae et comicus ait 'nihil est dictum , quod non sit dictum prius.' unde praeceptor meus Donatus, cum istum versiculum exponeret, 'pereant,' inquit, 'qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!'
See Fabio Gasti, "Fortuna e varia ricezione di un motto terenziano (Eun. 41)", in Silvia Condorelli and Marco Onorato, edd., Verborum violis multicoloribus. Studi in onore di Giovanni Cupaiuolo (Naples: Paolo Loffredo Editore, 2019), pp. 363-378.


The Correct Drill

C.M. Bowra, Memories 1898-1939 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1966), p. 75:
He knew all the tricks of military life and enjoyed the role of an old soldier. Once, we had fallen in and were standing at attention, when Bourne smartly stepped three steps forward, broke wind loudly, and stepped smartly back. This was the correct drill for such a need, but he alone knew it. The sergeant in control was on the point of explosion but not sure enough of himself to say anything.



The King and His Subjects

Demosthenes 2.15-16 (tr. J.H. Vince, slightly modified):
[15] You must not imagine, men of Athens, that Philip's subjects share his tastes. No: glory is his sole object and ambition; in action and in danger he has elected to suffer whatever may befall him, putting before a life of safety the distinction of achieving what no other king of Macedonia ever achieved.

[16] But his subjects have no share in the glory that results. They are perpetually buffeted and wearied and distressed by these expeditions north and south, never suffered to give their time to their business or their private affairs, never able to dispose of such produce as they can raise, because the war has closed all the markets in their land.

[15] μὴ γὰρ οἴεσθ᾽, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοῖς αὐτοῖς Φίλιππόν τε χαίρειν καὶ τοὺς ἀρχομένους, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ μὲν δόξης ἐπιθυμεῖ καὶ τοῦτ᾽ ἐζήλωκε, καὶ προῄρηται πράττων καὶ κινδυνεύων, ἂν συμβῇ τι, παθεῖν, τὴν τοῦ διαπράξασθαι ταῦθ᾽ ἃ μηδεὶς πώποτ᾽ ἄλλος Μακεδόνων βασιλεὺς δόξαν ἀντὶ τοῦ ζῆν ἀσφαλῶς ᾑρημένος·

[16] τοῖς δὲ τῆς μὲν φιλοτιμίας τῆς ἀπὸ τούτων οὐ μέτεστι, κοπτόμενοι δ᾽ ἀεὶ ταῖς στρατείαις ταύταις ταῖς ἄνω κάτω λυποῦνται καὶ συνεχῶς ταλαιπωροῦσιν, οὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἔργοις οὔτ᾽ ἐπὶ τοῖς αὑτῶν ἰδίοις ἐώμενοι διατρίβειν, οὔθ᾽ ὅσ᾽ ἂν ποιήσωσιν οὕτως ὅπως ἂν δύνωνται, ταῦτ᾽ ἔχοντες διαθέσθαι κεκλειμένων τῶν ἐμπορίων τῶν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ διὰ τὸν πόλεμον.


An Obsession

Lu Shu-sheng (1509-1605), in Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p'in Anthology. Translated with Annotations and an Introduction by Yang Ye (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), pp. 12-13 (notes omitted):
I have few hobbies. All my life, except for books, I have not collected any "superfluous thing." When I served as an imperial historian, I obtained a Tuan inkslab. When I was an official at Nan-yung, I obtained another inkslab, made of She stone. In a number of years I got several kinds of inkstone. Having instructed some craftsmen to work on them, I acquired ten inkslabs altogether. I told myself, "These are quite enough for a collection. I should not get any more than ten." So I gave myself a cognomen, Master of Ten Inkslabs. I put them in a cabinet, which I named Inkslab Den. From time to time I would take them out, place them on the table, and sit there, facing them, in great pride. A friend of mine reproved me for my obsession with them. I responded, "Isn’t such an obsession better than one with some other things?"

One day a friend who had an eye for inkslabs examined them and found that none was of superb quality. I said, "My friend, you know I am obsessed with inkslabs. Why should I be obsessed with superb ones only? Besides, there has already been much discussion of inkslabs. Ou-yang Hsiu, Ts'ai Hsiang, and Hung Kuo believed that some of the good ones among the Dragon-tail are superior to the Tuan inkstone. But Su Shih argued to the contrary, and even elaborated on it in his writings. Perhaps there is simply no fixed value for things, and their worth is to be decided only through the mouths of the literati? In that case, how can anyone know whether those in my collection are superb or not? If, in my hobby of collecting inkslabs, I'll take nothing but the very best ones, then among rare antiques in the world, aren't there a myriad things other than inkslabs? As for rare antiques, men in power can surely acquire them, but often they have to snatch them from the possession of others. Therefore I will not give up my preference for any other hobby. Lacking in both talent and refinement, I do take a fancy to inkslabs, and yet have no idea how to treasure them. I am indeed not worthy of treasuring inkslabs, so how am I supposed to be able to consider the superiority or inferiority of their quality? However, I will not replace my hobby of collecting inkslabs with one of collecting rare antiques. Thus, by staying in my favor, perhaps these inkslabs have indeed been treasured accordingly? So, my obsession will stay unchanged."


Two Tendencies

Victor Klemperer (1881-1960), The Language of the Third Reich. LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook, tr. Martin Brady (2000; rpt. London: Continuum, 2006), pp. 69-70:
In every revolution, be it political, social, artistic or literary in nature, there are always two principles at work: on the one hand the appetite for the new, whereby the total contrast with what was previously valid is swiftly stressed, and on the other the need to connect with the past, to use tradition as a defence. What one is doing isn't absolutely new, rather it is a return to those things which the foregoing age had shamefully rejected, a return to humanity, the nation, morality or the true nature of art, and so on. Both tendencies are manifest in naming and renaming.

In jeder Revolution, ob sie nun Politisches und Soziales betrifft oder die Kunst oder die Literatur, sind immer zwei Tendenzen wirksam: einmal der Wille zum völlig Neuen, wobei der Gegensatz zu dem bisher Gültigen schroff betont wird, sodann aber auch das Bedürfnis nach Anknüpfung, nach rechtfertigender Tradition. Man ist nicht absolut neu, man kehrt zurück zu dem, wogegen die abzulösende Epoche gesündigt hat, zurück zur Menschheit oder zur Nation oder zur Sittlichkeit oder zum wahren Wesen der Kunst, usw., usw. Beide Tendenzen zeigen sich deutlich in Namengebungen und Umbenennungen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022


The Seeker

Novalis, Das Allgemeine Brouillon § 686 (tr. David W. Wood, with his note):
Whoever is unhappy in our present world, and does not find here what he seeks — delves into the world of books and art — into Nature — that eternal antiquity and modernity — and resides in this ecclesia pressa302 of a better world. He certainly finds here a lover and a friend — a fatherland, and a God.

302. Translation: oppressed Church; a reference to a small suppressed or persecuted community.

Wer unglücklich in der jetzigen Welt ist, wer nicht findet, was er sucht — der gehe in die Bücher- und Künstlerwelt — in die Natur — diese ewige Antike und Moderne zugleich — und lebe in dieser Ecclesia pressa der bessern Welt. Eine Geliebte und einen Freund — ein Vaterland und einen Gott findet er hier gewiß.



Isocrates, Against Lochites 9-10 (tr. Larue Van Hook):
[9] I think that you would be as indignant as the circumstances merit if you should reflect how much more reprehensible this misdemeanor is than any others. For you will find that while the other unjust acts impair life only partially, malicious assault vitiates all our concerns, since it has destroyed many households and rendered desolate many cities.

[10] And yet why need I waste time in speaking of the calamities of the other states? For we ourselves have twice seen the democracy overthrown and twice we have been deprived of freedom, not by those who were guilty of other crimes, but by persons who contemned the laws and were willing to be slaves of the enemy while wantonly outraging their fellow-citizens.

[9] ἡγοῦμαι δ᾽ ὑμᾶς οὕτως ἂν ἀξίως ὀργισθῆναι τοῦ πράγματος, εἰ διεξέλθοιτε πρὸς ὑμᾶς αὐτοὺς ὅσῳ μεῖζόν ἐστι τοῦτο τῶν ἄλλων ἁμαρτημάτων. εὑρήσετε γὰρ τὰς μὲν ἄλλας ἀδικίας μέρος τι τοῦ βίου βλαπτούσας, τὴν δ᾽ ὕβριν ὅλοις τοῖς πράγμασι λυμαινομένην, καὶ πολλοὺς μὲν οἴκους δι᾽ αὐτὴν διαφθαρέντας, πολλὰς δὲ πόλεις ἀναστάτους γεγενημένας.

[10] καὶ τί δεῖ τὰς τῶν ἄλλων συμφορὰς λέγοντα διατρίβειν; αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς δὶς ἤδη τὴν δημοκρατίαν ἐπείδομεν καταλυθεῖσαν καὶ δὶς τῆς ἐλευθερίας ἀπεστερήθημεν, οὐχ ὑπὸ τῶν ταῖς ἄλλαις πονηρίαις ἐνόχων ὄντων, ἀλλὰ διὰ τοὺς καταφρονοῦντας τῶν νόμων καὶ βουλομένους τοῖς μὲν πολεμίοις δουλεύειν, τοὺς δὲ πολίτας ὑβρίζειν.

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