Monday, March 20, 2023


A Pindaric Calendar

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 32.4 (1911) 478-487 (at 480-481):
Quoting Latin is out of fashion, quoting Greek quite obsolete, or it might be maintained that no Greek poet of the same bulk of authorship lends himself so readily to quotation as Pindar; and last summer, being off on a holiday and separated from all Greek books except a text of Pindar, I amused myself with constructing a Pindaric Calendar after the fashion of the familiar Shakespeare Calendar, and had no difficulty in finding three hundred and sixty-five quotations—one for each day of the year. To be sure, there are recurrences of thought. There are gods enough for Sundays and Natures enough for week ends, for Phya looms in Pindar as Phye did in the procession of Peisistratos; but for all that there are pat mottoes for every phase of modern life and for all the emergencies of modern politics. Commonplaces? Yes, there are commonplaces, but do we not all live by commonplaces? What gave 'good old Mantuan' his vogue for two centuries except his copy-book sentences? 'Semel insanivimus omnes' has become as familiar a quotation as any in the whole list of household words, though few of us stop at 'semel'. But the famous 'Carmelite', whom Professor MUSTARD has brought back to life for most of us, is as hopelessly 'homely' as Pindar is hopelessly unapproachable in his distinction. What if Pindar does repeat himself in thought? There is wonderful variety in the phrasing, for he is as proud of his ποικιλία as Plato was of his. However, that is an old story, broidered by all the commentators on Pindar. But the other point, the aptness of Pindar's verses as electric signs for our times, might bear one or two illustrations. 'Hands across the sea' is tersely Anglo-Saxon, but οἴκοθεν οἴκαδε is as tersely Greek, and means more for an Anglo-American alliance; and the cry that is ringing in our ears 'See America first' is an echo of οἴκοθεν μάτευε. 'Dollar diplomacy' is one manifestation of ὁ πλοῦτος εὐρυσθενής and τὰν ἔμπρακτον ἄντλει μαχανάν might answer for a treatise on Pragmatism.

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