Tuesday, October 31, 2023


A Haunted and Enchanted Spot

D.B. Wyndham Lewis (1891-1969), Ronsard (London: Sheed & Ward, 1944), pp. 79-80:
Deeper and serener is his passion for his countryside, and of all the first poems of his youth none rings more truly than the Ode [IV.5] in which he chooses his sepulchre once and for all on a little green tree-shadowed island in his beloved home-river. Of the twenty-seven stanzas these eight have the most solemn and beautiful cadences:

Antres, et vous fontaines
De ces roches hautaines
Devallans contre bas
    D’un glissant pas,

Et vous, forests et ondes,
Par ces prez vagabondes
Et vous rives et bois,
    Oiez ma voix.

Quand le ciel et mon heure
Jugeront que je meure
Ravi du doux sejour
    Du commun jour,

Je veil, j'enten, j'ordonne
Qu'un sepulche on me donne
Non près des Roys levé
    Ni d'or gravé.

Mais en cette isle verte,
Ou la course entr' ouverte
Du Loir, autour coulant,
    Est accolant,

Là où Braie s'amie,
D'une eau non endormie,
Murmure à l'environ
    De son giron.

Je deffens qu’on ne rompe
Le marbre pour la pompe
Do vouloir mon tumbeau
    Bâtir plus beau,

Mais bien je veil qu'un arbre
M’ombrage au lieu d'un marbre,
Arbre qui soit couvert
    Tousjours de vert.1

It was not until 1924 that the Green Islet received, if not Ronsard’s tomb, at least a votive tablet à l'antique, affixed to its stoutest tree by the Ronsardians of Vendôme. The waters of the Loir and the Braye wash round it as they did when Ronsard dreamed there, the silence under the poplars is cool, green, and fragrant with the same "thrilling-sweet and rotten, unforgettable, unforgotten" river-smells Rupert Brooke longed for in exile; the reeds grow thick, the weeds and water-lilies float on the glassy tide, the birds still sing. It is a haunted and enchanted spot.

Caverns, and you, fountains,
From the high rocks
Leaping below
With your sliding surge,

And you, forests, and you, waves,
Flowing through these meadows,
And you, banks and woods,
Hear my voice.

When Heaven and my hour
Decree that I must die,
Ravished from the sweet habitation
Of the common day,

I desire, I intend, I order
That my sepulchre be made
Not lifted high near kings,
Nor graved with gold,

But in this green islet,
Where the divided tide
Of Loir, flowing round,
Embraces it,

There, where Braye her beloved
With sleepless waters
Murmurs around
Her bosom.

I forbid them to quarry
Marble for pride,
Desiring to make my tomb
More comely,

But I firmly desire that a tree
Shade me instead of marble,
A tree that shall be always
Vested in green.


The Longer One Lives, the More One Weeps

Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), I libri della famiglia, Book 3 (p. 148 Mancini; tr. Renée Neu Watkins):
It's true we old fellows find the slightest exertion a painful strain. I feel it myself even now....Yet I am already exhausted, I am weary through and through. The truth is that the winter season treats us very differently from the trees, for winter lightens the trees, unclothing and stripping them of leaves, but to us old men winter brings heavy burdens and clothes us in shadow and in pain. Thus it is, my children, that the longer one lives, the more one weeps in this world.

Troppo bene a noi vecchiacciuoli ogni piccolo travaglio nuoce. Questo pruovo io testè in me.....Ora qui a me pare esser tutto rotto, tutto sono lasso. Per certo questi dì serotini fanno a noi il contrario che agli àlbori. Sogliono ei dì serotini alleggerire, spogliare et difrondare gli àrbori. Vero a noi vecchietti e dì serotini nella età nostra ci caricano et vestonci di molta ombra et affanno. Et così, figliuoli miei, chi più ci vive più ci piagne in questo mondo.

Monday, October 30, 2023


It Isn't Long

Augustine, Sermons 33A.2 (Patrologia Latina, vol. 46, col. 918 = Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. 41, p. 418; tr. Edmund Hill):
However much you live here, it isn't long. How can that be long which doesn't satisfy you? A boy says a man he sees to be old has lived long. But when he gets to the same age himself, then he will see how indeed it wasn't long. Yes indeed, that's how a lifetime flies by, that's how the moments run into one another, so that it seems it was only the day before yesterday we were boys, only yesterday we were young fellows, today we are old men.

Quantumcumque hic vixeris, diu non est. Quomodo est diu, quod te non satiat? Dicit puer diu vixisse hominem, quem videt senem; sed cum pervenerit quo ille pervenit, tunc videt quam non fuerit diu. Prorsus sic volat aetas, ita in se momenta transcurrunt, ut videamus nudius tertius fuisse nos pueros, heri iuvenes, hodie senes.



Pindar, Isthmian Odes 1.5 (tr. Anthony Verity):
For what is dearer to good men than cherished parents?

τί φίλτερον κεδνῶν τοκέων ἀγαθοῖς;
Homer, Odyssey 9.34-36 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
                                                                                So it is
that nothing is more sweet in the end than country and parents
ever, even when far away one lives in a fertile
place, when it is in alien country, far from his parents.

ὣς οὐδὲν γλύκιον ἧς πατρίδος οὐδὲ τοκήων
γίγνεται, εἴ περ καί τις ἀπόπροθι πίονα οἶκον
γαίῃ ἐν ἀλλοδαπῇ ναίει ἀπάνευθε τοκήων.


Linking Up the Present With the Past

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957), Occasional Sermons (New York: Sheed & Ward Inc., 1960), pp. 47-48:
[E]very new thing in human history is built against the background of some older thing which went before it. As the picture gallery of some great house preserves the memory of its ancestry, tracing down to the latest instance the persistence of the same characteristics, and linking up the present with the past; so the greatest institutions of the world are those which combine something ancient with something new. And among these, even the Catholic Church.

It is a human weakness of ours to be always crying out for complete novelty, an entire disseverance from our past. Our old traditions have become so dusty with neglect, so rusted with abuse, that we are for casting them on the scrap-heap and forgetting that they ever existed. The Church conserves; she bears traces still of the Jewish atmosphere in which she was cradled; traces, too, of the old heathen civilization which she conquered. And in her own history it is the same; nothing is altogether forgotten; every age of Christianity recalls the lineaments of an earlier time. People think of her as if she kept a lumber-room; it is not so; hers is a treasure-house from which she can bring forth when they are needed things old as well as new.

Sunday, October 29, 2023



Lucian, Menippus 15 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
It was not at all easy, though, to tell them apart, for all, without exception, become precisely alike when their bones are bare.

τὸ μέντοι διαγιγνώσκειν ἕκαστον οὐ πάνυ τι ἦν ῥᾴδιον· ἅπαντες γὰρ ἀτεχνῶς ἀλλήλοις γίγνονται ὅμοιοι τῶν ὀστῶν γεγυμνωμένων.
Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 18.1 (tr. M.D. MacLeod):
I can only see bones and bare skulls, most of them looking the same.

ὀστᾶ μόνα ὁρῶ καὶ κρανία τῶν σαρκῶν γυμνά, ὅμοια τὰ πολλά.
Forensic anthropologists can see lots of differences. Or they could until recently.
Charnel house, Holy Trinity Church, Rothwell, Northamptonshire


Thanks for Nothing

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957), Barchester Pilgrimage (London: Sheed & Ward, 1935), pp. 196-197:
The motor-car, in bringing us all closer together, by making it easy to have luncheon two counties away, has driven us all further apart, by making it unnecessary for us to know the people in the next bungalow. And so, once again, we have to thank civilisation for nothing.
Related posts:



Latin Howler

Steven Hayward, "The Week in Pictures: Habemus Decentis Edition," PowerLine (October 28, 2023):
White smoke from the capitol chimney! Habemus decentis! (We have a speaker!)
I thought maybe Hayward had relied on Google Translate, but apparently not. Google Translate renders "We have a speaker" as "Habemus orator" (equally ungrammatical).

Cf. Alex Mitchell , "Bad grammar causes actual physical distress in others, study reveals," New York Post (October 27, 2023). I feel physical distress when I see something like "Habemus decentis" or "Habemus orator" masquerading as Latin.

Forgo Latin if you don't know Latin.


Saturday, October 28, 2023


The Snob-Value of the Classics

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957), Let Dons Delight: Being Variations on a Theme in an Oxford Common-Room (London: Sheed & Ward, 1939), pp. 264-265:
I don't see how one's to eliminate class-consciousness without eliminating classics-consciousness. God knows why it should be so, but as a matter of observation it seems to me quite certain that the whole legend of the "English gentleman" has been built up on Latin and Greek. A. meets B. on the steps of his club, and says, "Well, old man, eheu fugaces, what?", and B. says "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori", and the crossing-sweeper falls on his knees in adoration of two men who can talk as learnedly as that. Nobody can really explain the ridiculous prominence the classics still have in English education except by admitting that what saves them is their snob-value.

Friday, October 27, 2023



William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), "The Tower," lines 97-100:
Did all old men and women, rich and poor,
Who trod upon these rocks or passed this door,
Whether in public or in secret rage
As I do now against old age?
Id., lines 156-164:
I have prepared my peace
With learned Italian things
And the proud stones of Greece,
Poet’s imaginings
And memories of love,
Memories of the words of women,
All those things whereof
Man makes a superhuman
Mirror-resembling dream.
Id., lines 180-194:
Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it to study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Testy delirium
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come—
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath—
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades;
Or a bird’s sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.
Thoor Ballylee (photograph by my friend Eric Thomson):



Excerpts from Paul Claudel, "Magnificat," Cinq Grandes Odes (tr. Edward Lucie-Smith):
Blessed be God, who has delivered me from idols.
You permit me to worship you only, not Isis and Osiris,
Not Justice, nor Progress, nor Truth, nor Divinity, nor Humanity, nor the Laws of Nature, nor Art, nor Beauty...


Learned men, epicureans, Masters of the Novitiate of Hell, practitioners of the Introduction to Nothingness,
Brahmins, bonzes, philosophers, Egypt, your counsels! your counsels!
Your methods and your demonstrations and your discipline,
Nothing will reconcile me, I am alive in your night of abomination...


Do not damn me with Voltaire, with Renan, with Michelet, and Hugo, and all the rest of the infamous.
Their souls are with dead dogs, their books on the dungheap.
They are dead, and their very names after their deaths are poison and corruption.

Soyez béni, mon Dieu, qui m'avez délivré des idoles,
Et qui faites que je n'adore que Vous seul, et non point Isis et Osiris,
Ou la Justice, ou le Progrès, ou la Vérité, ou la Divinité, ou l'Humanité, ou les Lois de la Nature, ou l'Art, ou la Beauté...


Savants, épicuriens, maîtres du noviciat de l'Enfer, praticiens de l'Introduction au Néant,
Brahmes, bonzes, philosophes, tes conseils, Égypte! vos conseils,
Vos méthodes et vos démonstrations et votre discipline,
Rien ne me réconcilie, je suis vivant dans votre nuit abominable...


Ne me perdez point avec les Voltaire, et les Renan, et les Michelet, et les Hugo, et tous les autres infâmes!
Leur âme est avec les chiens morts, leurs livres sont joints au fumier.
Ils sont morts, et leur nom même après leur mort est un poison et une pourriture.


Pindar's Prayer

Pindar, fragment 155 Snell-Maehler (tr. John Sandys):
What shall I do to be dear unto thee, O loudly-thundering
son of Cronus, and dear unto the Muses,
and to be cared for by Jollity? This is my prayer to thee.

τί ἔρδων φίλος σοί τε, καρτερόβρεντα
Κρονίδα, φίλος δὲ Μοίσαις,
Εὐθυμίᾳ τε μέλων εἴην, τοῦτ᾿ αἴτημί σε.

καρτερόβρεντα Snell: καρτερόβροντα codd. Ath. 5.18.191f
See Robert Renehan, Greek Textual Criticism: A Reader (Cambridge: Harvard Unicersity Press, 1969), pp. 127-128.

Thursday, October 26, 2023


Quoting Parallel Passages in Full

John Edwin Sandys, The Bacchae of Euripides with Critical and Explanatory Notes (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1880), p. iv:
Further, I have, as far as possible, gone on the principle of quoting parallel passages in full, instead of contenting myself with a bare reference, considering the former course not only more convenient to the reader, but also fairer in every way, as by this means any argument that rests upon a quotation can at once have its due weight assigned to it,—neither less nor more. Those who have ever had to spend much time in looking up references will, I think, agree with me in holding that few things are more vexatious than to find a particular opinion on a doubtful point supported by an array of references which may or may not be relevant, but all of which have to be tested in detail before any further advance can be made. As a matter of fact, few people take the trouble; and those who do, find themselves often discouraged by their experience from continuing to make the attempt.


Slaves to Lucre

Aristophanes, Wealth 362-363 (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
Oh dear, there's no one honest alive these days.
The only thing they care about is lucre.

ὡς οὐδὲν ἀτεχνῶς ὑγιές ἐστιν οὐδενός,
ἀλλ' εἰσὶ τοῦ κέρδους ἅπαντες ἥττονες.
The same, tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers:
There's nothing sound or honest in the world,
The love of money overcomes us all.


The Spell of the Antique World

D.B. Wyndham Lewis (1891-1969), Ronsard (London: Sheed & Ward, 1944), pp. 14-15:
Two ragged Greeks, unable for some reason to find a protector at the Court of France — the Italian market being presumably at saturation-point at this moment — arrive, begging their bread and driven to the last extremity, at Du Thier's door and exhibit their merchandise.
. . . c'estoit du vieux Pindare
Un livret inconnu, et un livre nouveau
Du gentil Simonide éveillé du tombeau.1
They did not offer this trove to a bibliophile in vain. The courtois, gentil, et débonnaire Du Thier sped them from his library with a "round harmony of golden guineas" to jingle in their purse.

It is easy to imagine the alleluias of such Western intellectuals and dilettanti, on many of whom Christianity sat so lightly that the religion of that far-off pagan world, sun-gilt, marble-white, idealised as a Flaxman vision, seeped unconsciously into their veins, so to speak, as they devoured the manuscript, and hypnotised them. Modern travellers who see for the first time the smiling Cyclades rising at sunset from a level summer sea of violet and lapis-lazuli, rosy with such ethereal loveliness that they shake the heart, know the instant spell of the antique world and can understand dimly how a Renaissance scholar felt on first seizing a Greek codex. Actual palpable enchantment of
Illyrian woodlands, echoing falls
   Of water, sheets of summer glass,
   The long divine Peneïan pass,
The vast Akrokeraunian walls,1
the lofty pure serenity of the virgin Parthenon (though Time has given it by our day a lovelier patina of honey and cream), the grave and gracious sweetness of the Korae on the Acropolis, the musical surges of the wine-dark Aegean, the reedy piping on thyme-scented, crocus-starred uplands of the shepherds of Crotona in a wash of everlasting blue, the veiled Mysteries of Eleusis, the olive-bronze, glistening nakedness of the athletes of Olympia, the songs and torches and cymbals of the procession to the Delian Apollo — no wonder, with all these new visions rushing on the mind, that the splendour of the Gothic and its august mystical harmonies seemed, to long-sated eyes and restless spirits swayed by pride, something belonging to a dead and barbarous past. Homer's dullest catalogues were an incantation.

[p. 14, n.1:]

. . . it was a little unknown book
By ancient Pindar, and a new one
By the gentle Simonides, risen from the tomb.

De Nolhac [Ronsard et l'humanisme (Paris: Champion, 1921), pp. 131-132] identifies these two Greeks tentatively with the brothers Palaeocappa, later employed in the Royal Library at Fontainebleau.

[p. 15, n.1:]

Tennyson ["To Edward Lear on His Travels in Greece," lines 1-4].


Augustine in a Sour Mood

The Works of Saint Augustine, Part III: Sermons, Vol. II: Sermons 20-50, on the Old Testament, translation and notes [by] Edmund Hill (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1990), pp. 150-151 (note 1 on Sermon 32):
Augustine is not exactly at his most genial in this sermon. He comes through as being in a somewhat sour and peevish mood, and perhaps rather tired. If the sequence of preaching engagements suggested above is correct, and he was also fully occupied in council meetings, then what with the hot weather as well, this is not surprising. Readers may sympathize with some members of his congregation not being in a very good mood either (section 23, note 29 below).
Id., p. 152, n. 29:
I have added the sentence in brackets ["At this point a number of women begin to leave the basilica."] as a kind of stage direction. I infer it from the sentence a few lines further on, "Our sisters, unwilling to listen ... " The only way they can have shown they were unwilling to listen, I suppose, was by getting up and walking out — or rather just walking out, because they would all have been standing in any case. I infer this disturbance occurred precisely here, because it is here that he begins to get a little agitated and urges everyone to listen.

Why the ladies started walking out (or possibly, of course, making a subdued tumult over someone who had just fainted) is anybody's guess. It is unlikely that it was in protest against anything the preacher had just said. It may have been impatience, perhaps, because earlier on (section 18) he had said the text was so plain it didn't need any explanation or clever interpretation — and here he is giving a typically subtle (far-fetched?) interpretation. More likely they were thinking of the dinner spoiling at home, or they just couldn't stand the heat.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023


The Ideal Historian

Lucian, How to Write History 41 (tr. K. Kilburn):
That, then, is the sort of man the historian should be: fearless, incorruptible, free, a friend of free expression and the truth, intent, as the comic poet says, on calling a fig a fig and a trough a trough, giving nothing to hatred or to friendship, sparing no one, showing neither pity nor shame nor obsequiousness, an impartial judge, well disposed to all men up to the point of not giving one side more than its due, in his books a stranger and a man without a country, independent, subject to no sovereign, not reckoning what this or that man will think, but stating the facts.

τοιοῦτος οὖν μοι ὁ συγγραφεὺς ἔστω—ἄφοβος, ἀδέκαστος, ἐλεύθερος, παρρησίας καὶ ἀληθείας φίλος, ὡς ὁ κωμικός φησι, τὰ σῦκα σῦκα, τὴν σκάφην δὲ σκάφην ὀνομάσων, οὐ μίσει οὐδὲ φιλίᾳ τι1 νέμων οὐδὲ φειδόμενος ἢ ἐλεῶν ἢ αἰσχυνόμενος ἢ δυσωπούμενος, ἴσος δικαστής, εὔνους ἅπασιν ἄχρι τοῦ μὴ θατέρῳ τι ἀπονεῖμαι πλεῖον τοῦ δέοντος, ξένος ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις καὶ ἄπολις, αὐτόνομος, ἀβασίλευτος, οὐ τί τῷδε ἢ τῷδε δόξει λογιζόμενος, ἀλλὰ τί πέπρακται λέγων.
The same, tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler:
There stands my model, then: fearless, incorruptible, independent, a believer in frankness and veracity; one that will call a spade a spade, make no concession to likes and dislikes, nor spare any man for pity or respect or propriety; an impartial judge, kind to all, but too kind to none; a literary cosmopolite with neither suzerain nor king, never heeding what this or that man may think, but setting down the thing that befell.



Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implicito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 38 (my translation):
In the intellectual pharmacopoeia there are poisons that cure and remedies that kill.

En la farmacopea intelectual hay venenos que curan y remedios que matan.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


A Barbaric Mind

Robert Graves (1895-1985), The White Goddess (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1997; rpt. 2013), p. 218:
The joke is that the more prose-minded the scholar the more capable he is supposed to be of interpreting ancient poetic meaning, and that no scholar dares to set himself up as an authority on more than one narrow subject for fear of incurring the dislike and suspicion of his colleagues. To know only one thing well is to have a barbaric mind: civilization implies the graceful relation of all varieties of experience to a central humane system of thought. The present age is peculiarly barbaric: introduce, say, a Hebrew scholar to an ichthyologist or an authority on Danish place names and the pair of them would have no single topic in common but the weather or the war (if there happened to be a war in progress, which is usual in this barbaric age). But that so many scholars are barbarians does not much matter so long as a few of them are ready to help with their specialized knowledge the few independent thinkers, that is to say the poets, who try to keep civilization alive. The scholar is a quarryman, not a builder, and all that is required of him is that he should quarry cleanly. He is the poet's insurance against factual error. It is easy enough for the poet in this hopelessly muddled and inaccurate modern world to be misled into false etymology, anachronism and mathematical absurdity by trying to be what he is not. His function is truth, whereas the scholar's is fact. Fact is not to be gainsaid; one may put it in this way, that fact is a Tribune of the People with no legislative right, but only the right of veto. Fact is not truth, but a poet who wilfully defies fact cannot achieve truth.


Hard to Swallow

Lucian, How to Write History 7 (tr. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler):
History, on the other hand, abhors the intrusion of any least scruple of falsehood; it is like the windpipe, which the doctors tell us will not tolerate a morsel of stray food.

ἡ δὲ οὐκ ἄν τι ψεῦδος ἐμπεσὸν ἡ ἱστορία. οὐδὲ ἀκαριαῖον ἀνάσχοιτο, οὐ μᾶλλον ἢ τὴν ἀρτηρίαν ἰατρῶν παῖδές φασι τὴν τραχεῖαν παραδέξασθαι ἄν τι ἐς αὐτὴν καταποθέν.

Monday, October 23, 2023


For Your Own Good

Augustine, Sermons 32.22 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 204 = Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. 41, p. 408; tr. Edmund Hill):
But do you consider yourself worthy to be given these things too by God? Ask yourself how you would use them. If he hasn't given them to you, you must know that it is for your own good that a good Father doesn't provide you with them. Because sometimes your own little boy cries for you to give him that lovely knife with the gilt handle, and he can cry as much as he likes, but you don't give him something he can hurt himself with.

Sed dignum te iudicas cui et ista Deus det? Quaere quomodo utaris. Si non dedit, scias quia prodest tibi quia non dat pater bonus. Quia et filius tuus quando plorat, ut des illi formosum cultellum manubrio deaurato, quantum vult ploret, non illi das unde laedatur.
Related post: Cruel or Kind?


A Man's Place

Euripides, Rhesus 626 (tr. E.P. Coleridge):
And it is right to station a man where he may best serve.

χρὴ δ' ἄνδρα τάσσειν οὗ μάλιστ' ἂν ὠφελοῖ.


The Great Modern Growl

D.B. Wyndham Lewis (1891-1969), Ronsard (London: Sheed & Ward, 1944), pp. 7-8:
Pater, that homely nuncio of the Graces, whose moustache ruined Max Beerbohm's first impressions of Oxford, whose doctrine of Art and continuous excitement and Life burning with a hard gem-like flame had such a deleterious effect on romantic Oxford youth, is blunter than some of his fellow-thinkers, who disguise with a vast parade of allusive congees and salamalecs, becks and courtesies, side-glancings and œillades, cadenzas and fioriture, the essential Whig grievance against the Middle Ages, the great modern growl; namely that medieval man, driven in blinkers by the Catholic Church (which will have nothing to do with the philosophies, ancient or modem, which minister so cosily to human self-idolatry) thought far too much about God and far too little of his own marvellous, imperial, jolly self. Numbers of the men of the Renaissance agreed on this and thought Millennium had come,—with far better excuse than modern dons. Erasmus' cry to Budé, which I have quoted at the head of this chapter, is the cry of Wordsworth at the French Revolution. "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very Heaven"—a quaint enough cry it sounds to anyone who has ever lived under the Revolution's final flowering, the late Third Republic, that paradise of crooks. The deistic Rabelais makes Gargantua write to Pantagruel: "For this [medieval] time was darksome, obscured with clouds of Ignorance, and savouring the infelicity and calamity of the Goths, who had, wherever they set footing, destroyed good Literature; which in my age hath by the divine goodnesse been restored unto its former light and dignity." The atheist Etienne Dolet concurs: "Now men have learned to know themselves, now their eyes are opened to the universal light." This sentiment has been ritually repeated ever since by a cloud of authorities who have also had no doubt about it whatsoever.
Erasmus' cry to Budé quoted at the head of the chapter (p. 1) was "Immortal God! what a world I see dawning! Why am I not young again?" (letter 534 Allen, February 21, 1517: Deum immortalem, quod saeculum video breui futurum! vtinam contingat reiuuenescere!).


Punishment for Brown-Nosing

Barbara Reynolds (1914-2015), Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man (Emeryville: Shoemaker Hoard, 2006), p. 163:
The second ditch [of the Eighth Circle] contains the souls of flatterers, who suffer the most repugnant punishment in the whole of Inferno. The sinners are immersed in excrement, snuffling and scratching at themselves with filthy hands. The sides of the ditch are encrusted with faeces, an offensive sight and stench. By flattery (lusinghe) Dante understands all forms of toadying and insincere adulation made use of for self-advancement. Ordure was an image of foul or deceitful speech (as the word ‘crap’ is used in English) and he has chosen this worst possible degradation to express his scorn. He must have observed much flattery in political life and seen with contempt how well it served those who demeaned themselves to employ it. Peering into the depths, he perceives one whose head is so heaped with filth he cannot tell whether it is tonsured or not. The soul shrieks: ‘Why look at me, more than at the others?’ Dante replies: ‘I’ve seen you before, without shit on your head: you’re Alessio Interminelli of Lucca, that’s why I’m looking especially at you.’
Dante, Inferno XVIII.100-126 (tr. Dorothy Sayers, with her note):
Already we’d come to where the narrow ridge        100
Crosses the second bank, and makes of it
An abutment for the arch of the next bridge.

Here we heard people in the farther pit        103
Make a loud whimpering noise, and heard them cough.
And slap themselves with their hands, and snuffle and spit.

The banks were crusted with foul scum, thrown off        106
By the fume, and caking there, till nose and eye
Were vanquished with sight and reek of the noisome stuff.

So deep the trench, that one could not espy        109
Its bed save from the topmost cliff, which makes
The keystone of the arch. We climbed; and I,

Thence peering down, saw people in the lake’s        112
Foul bottom, plunged in dung, the which appeared
Like human ordure running from a jakes.

Searching its depths, I there made out a smeared        115
Head — whether clerk or lay was hard to tell.
It was so thickly plastered with the merd.

“Why stand there gloating?” he began to yell,        118
“Why stare at me more than the other scum?”
“Because,” said I, “if I remember well,

I’ve seen thy face, dry-headed, up at home;        121
Thou art Alessio Interminei, late
Of Lucca — so, more eagerly than on some,

I look on thee.” He beat his pumpkin pate,        124
And said: “The flatteries I spewed out apace
With tireless tongue have sunk me to this state.”

The Flatterers. These, too, exploit others by playing upon their desire and fears; their especial weapon is that abuse and corruption ot language which destroys communication between mind and mind. Here they are plunged in the slop and filth which they excreted upon the world. Dante did not live to see the full development of political propaganda, commercial advertisement, and sensational journalism, but he has prepared a place for them.


Sunday, October 22, 2023


The Road Less Travelled

Callimachus, Epigram 28 Pfeiffer = Greek Anthology 12.43 (tr. W.R. Paton):
I detest poems all about the same trite stories, and do not love a road that carries many this way and that. I hate, too, a beloved who is in circulation, and I do not drink from a fountain. All public things disgust me. Lysanias, yes indeed thou art fair, fair. But before I can say this clearly an echo says, "He is another's."

ἐχθαίρω τὸ ποίημα τὸ κυκλικόν, οὐδὲ κελεύθῳ
    χαίρω, τίς πολλοὺς ὧδε καὶ ὧδε φέρει·
μισῶ καὶ περίφοιτον ἐρώμενον, οὐδ᾿ ἀπὸ κρήνης
    πίνω· σικχαίνω πάντα τὰ δημόσια.
Λυσανίη, σὺ δὲ ναιχὶ καλὸς καλός· ἀλλὰ πρὶν εἰπεῖν        5
    τοῦτο σαφῶς, ἠχώ φησί τις "ἄλλος ἔχει."
Commentary in Alexander Sens, Hellenistic Epigrams: A Selection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), pp. 149-152. See also Peter Krafft, "Zu Kallimachos' Echo-Epigramm (28 Pf.)," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 120 (1977) 1-29.


A Walk in a Graveyard

John Quincy Adams, Diary (September 20, 1824):
I walked in the burying-yard and viewed, the Granite tombstones, erected over the graves of my ancestors, by my father — Henry Adams, the first of the family who came from England — Joseph Adams Senior, and Abigail Baxter his wife. Joseph Adams junior and Hannah Bass, his second wife — John Adams, senior my father’s father, and Susanna Boylston his wife — Four Generations; of whom very little more is known than is recorded upon these Stones. There are three succeeding Generations of us, now living. — Pass another century, and we shall all be mouldering in the same dust, or resolved into the same elements — Who then of our posterity shall visit this yard? — And what shall he read engraved upon the Stones? — This is known only to the Creator of all — The record may be longer — May it be of as blameless lives.


Patristic Economics

Augustine, Sermons 32.21 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 204; tr. Edmund Hill):
You can't have gold unless someone else loses it.

habere aurum non potes, nisi alius amittat.
This odd notion, that the amount of money in the world is a fixed quantity and that one man's economic gain necessarily entails another's loss, can also be found in the writings of Jerome, e.g. (my translation):

On Isaiah 33.13:
Monies are not heaped up for one man except with loss and damage to another man.

nisi cum alterius damno et malo, pecuniae alteri non coacervantur.
Letters 120.1:
For all wealth is derived from wickedness, and unless one man has lost, another cannot find.

omnes enim divitiae de iniquitate descendunt, et nisi alter perdiderit, alter non potest invenire.
Tractate on Psalms 8.24:
For whoever is rich, cannot be rich unless he has robbed a poor man.

quicumque enim dives est, nisi pauperem exspoliaverit, dives esse non potest.

Saturday, October 21, 2023


Prayer to Demeter

Callimachus, Hymn to Demeter 134-138 (tr. Dee L. Clayman):
Hail, Goddess, and preserve this city in harmony
and in prosperity. And bring everything wholesome from the field.
Feed the cows, bring fruit, bring corn, bring the harvest.
Especially nurture peace, so that whoever sows may also reap.
Be gracious to me, O thrice-prayed for, great Queen of goddesses!

χαῖρε, θεά, καὶ τάνδε σάω πόλιν ἔν θ' ὁμονοίᾳ
ἔν τ' εὐηπελίᾳ, φέρε δ' ἀγρόθι νόστιμα πάντα·        135
φέρβε βόας, φέρε μᾶλα, φέρε στάχυν, οἶσε θερισμόν,
φέρβε καὶ εἰράναν, ἵν' ὃς ἄροσε τῆνος ἀμάσῃ.
ἵλαθί μοι, τρίλλιστε, μέγα κρείοισα θεάων.



Hat tip: My sister's husband, who hunts with bow and arrow.



Roger Ascham (1515-1568), The Scholemaster, ed. R.J. Schoeck (Don Mills, Ontario: J.M. Dent, 1966), p. 20:
For I assure you, there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit, and encourage a will to learning, as is praise.

Friday, October 20, 2023


The Present State of the Country

Letter of Ezra Pound to Hubert Creekmore (February 1939), in The Letters of Ezra Pound 1907-1941, ed. D.D. Paige (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), pp. 417-418 (at 417):
Am I American? Yes, and buggar the present state of the country, the utter betrayal of the American Constitution, the filth of the Universities, and the — — — — system of publication whereby you can buy Lenin, Trotsky (the messiest mutt of the lot), Stalin for 10 cents and 25 cents, and it takes seven years to get a set of John Adams at about 30 dollars. Van Buren's autobiog not printed till 1920.


When are you going to make the place safe for natives? Or to hell with safe; when are you going to make it or permit it to be made a fit habitat?
A. David Moody, Ezra Pound, Poet: A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Vol. II: The Epic Years, 1921-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 298, dates the letter to March 1939 and quotes "shitten" in place of the dashes.


Art and History

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implicito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 132 (my translation):
If we ignore an era's art, its history is a colorless chronicle.

Si ignoramos el arte de una época, su historia es un relato incoloro.


Straight Speaking

Euripides, Rhesus 394-395 (Hector to Rhesus; tr. David Kovacs):
It is my custom always to speak the truth; I am not double-tongued.

                                                φιλῶ λέγειν
τἀληθὲς αἰεὶ κοὐ διπλοῦς πέφυκ᾽ ἀνήρ.
Id. 422-423 (Rhesus to Hector):
I too am the sort of man who cuts a straight path in his speech; I am not double-tongued.

τοιοῦτός εἰμι καὐτός, εὐθεῖαν λόγων
τέμνων κέλευθον, κοὐ διπλοῦς πέφυκ᾽ ἀνήρ.



Excerpt from Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IX, Supplementum, Pars 1, Fasc. 2 (Marrucini — Paeligni — Vestini) 7164 (near Anversa degli Abruzzi, 3rd century A.D.), tr. Michael Kulikowski, "Murranus the Pannonian and the Sorrows of the Immigrant," Revista Diálogos Mediterrânicos 21 (2021) 19-35 (at 21-22):
Salue, uiator, qui istac iter facis saluo tuo corpore, consiste et lege: iniquitate Orchi, qui perperauit saecula, quod debuerant facere filii patri et matri, fecerunt miseri pater et mater filis dulcissimis suis.

Greetings, traveller. You who pass this way sound in your body, stand and read: By the iniquity of Orcus, who batters the ages, the duty that children owe to their mother and father, a poor father and mother did for their children, their sweetest ones.
Kulikowski, p. 24:
As one might expect in the marking of a premature death, we are here introduced to the “injustice of Orchus” (iniquitate Orchi), who either deforms the course of time, batters and beats down the ages, or hastens the centuries along (perperauit saecula). The uncertain meaning is a function of the linguistic ambiguity. The aspirated form Orchus for the more correct Orcus is not unusual, but perperauit is bizarre, either a unique form related to the adverb perperam (mistakenly, amiss), a peculiar spelling of uerberare, or simply a mistake for properare.24

24 The aspirated ‘c’ in Orchus might as easily be a stone-cutter’s error as the author’s. See MACKAUER, W., in RE18, pp. 908-28 for distribution of aspirated vs. unaspirated spellings. For perperavit, Mancini read perdiravit, which is both meaningless and not what one sees on the stone. Buonocore prints perperavit and takes it for a hapax related to the adverb perperam (mistakenly, amiss) and thus meaning ‘make something go wrong’ and to the Italian word sperperare (to squander or fritter away). But it may be a stonecutter’s error for verberare, to batter or strike (cf. Jerome, Comm. in Ezech. 8.27: saeculi...verberantur; ibid. 11.39: saeculi…verberantur and verberanti saeculis); or it is perhaps best read as mistake for properavit (hasten), with its Silver Age parallels in Sen., Troades 386ff.: Quo bis sena volant sidera turbine, /quo cursu properat volvere saecula / astrorum dominus, quo properat modo / obliquis hecate currere flexibus (cf. also Auson., Parent. 26.5-6; Claud., In Eutrop. 2.40ff.)
Also worth serious consideration is the proposal of Jerzy Linderski, "Updating the CIL for Italy: part 2," in Journal of Roman Archaeology 11 (1998) 458-484, rpt. in his Roman Questions II. Selected Papers (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007), pp. 369-413 (at 375):
Lines 5–8: iniquitate Orchi, qui perperavit ṣạẹcula, / quod debuerant facere filii patri et / matri, fecerunt miseri{s} pater et mater / filis dulcissimis suis. An unusual and poetic beginning, a trite and formulaic ending. In line 5 perperavit is printed as if it were fully assured, but in his commentary Buonocore notes that this reading was suggested to him by A. Mazzarino. Hence a conjecture, and a bold one for perperare is a hapax, though the meaning is clear enough: “sconvolgere l’ordine naturale” (accepted without any qualms in AE). But before we add a new word to our dictionaries, it is well to see whether a less exciting solution is available. There are two photographs appended: one of 1935, and the other of 1982. On both photographs one can clearly read only PER–––AVIT. In the partially obliterated middle part the earlier photograph seems to display the beginning of an M or N; on the later photograph there is perhaps a flicker of a P, but if it is a P, it is quite different from the first P. I propose permutavit (although the phrase itself permutare saecula does not seem to be attested nor, for that matter, is attested perturbare saecula. {But cf. Sen., Ep. 108.32: ea quae consuetudo saeculi mutavit, referring to changes in the meaning of words and locutions. See now the discussion by M. Buonocore, “Reminiscenze poetiche in un Pannone d’Abruzzo”, Bullettino della Deputazione Abruzzese di Storia Patria 80 (1990 [1992] 57–76}.

Thursday, October 19, 2023


An Old Man

Aristophanes, Wealth 265-267 (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
I'll tell you, then, you nasty things: he's brought an old man home,
A dirty, stooping, wrinkled wretch, who's bald and toothless too.
What's more, I'll swear by heaven above he's circumcised as well!

ἔχων ἀφῖκται δεῦρο πρεσβύτην τινʼ, ὦ πόνηροι,
ῥυπῶντα κυφὸν ἄθλιον ῥυσὸν μαδῶντα νωδόν·
οἶμαι δὲ νὴ τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ψωλὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι.
J. van Leeuwen ad loc. compares Plautus, The Merchant 639-640 (tr. Paul Nixon):
A gray-haired, knock-kneed, pot-bellied, big-mouthed, stubby fellow,
with blackish eyes, lantern jaws, and feet a bit splayed.

canum, varum, ventriosum, bucculentum, breviculum,
subnigris oculis, oblongis malis, pansam aliquantulum.


Consolations of Literature

Callimachus, Aetia, fragment 1, lines 37-38 (tr. Annette Harder):
For whomsoever the Muses did not look at askance as a child
they will not reject as a friend when he is old.

Μοῦσαι γὰρ ὅσους ἴδον ὄθματι παῖδας
μὴ λοξῷ, πολιοὺς οὐκ ἀπέθεντο φίλους.
Cicero, In Defense of Archias 7.16 (on the study of literature; tr. A.H. Allcroft and F.G. Plaistowe):
The other classes of enjoyment are not for every time or every age or every situation, but these pursuits are the food of youth and the charm of age; they are the ornament of prosperity, and lend a refuge and comfort to misfortune; at home they are a pleasure, abroad they are no hindrance; they are with us by night, upon our journeys, at our country seats.

nam ceterae neque temporum sunt neque aetatum omnium neque locorum: haec studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solacium praebent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur.


Death of an Ash Tree

Thanks to Eric Thomson for the following:
C.R. Leslie R.A., Life and Letters of John Constable, R.A. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1896). p. 399:
On the 25th July, 1836, Constable delivered a lecture before the Literary and Scientific Institution at Hampstead, on the subject of landscape generally.
Id., pp. 403-4:
Constable then gave some practical rules for drawing from nature, and showed some beautiful studies of trees. One, a tall and elegant ash, of which he said, " Many of my Hampstead friends may remember this young lady at the entrance to the village. Her fate was distressing, for it is scarcely too much to say that she died of a broken heart. I made this drawing when she was in full health and beauty; on passing some time afterwards, I saw, to my grief, that a wretched board had been nailed to her side, on which was written in large letters, 'All vagrants and beggars will be dealt with according to law.' The tree seemed to have felt the disgrace, for even then some of the top branches had withered. Two long spike nails had been driven far into her side. In another year one half became paralyzed, and not long after the other shared the same fate, and this beautiful creature was cut down to a stump, just high enough to hold the board.
Detail, with B (of BEGGARS?) and LAW legible:
The vagrant woman and child reminded me of the foreground of Dedham Vale in which sentinel trees equally afford some protection to the pair beneath.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023


From Good Stock

Horace, Odes 4.4.29-32 (tr. Niall Rudd):
The brave are born from the brave and good. Their sire's valour comes out in young bulls and horses; ferocious eagles do not father timid doves.

fortes creantur fortibus et bonis;
est in iuvencis, est in equis patrum
    virtus, neque inbellem feroces
    progenerant aquilae columbam.
Plato, Menexenus 237 a (tr. Tom Griffith):
Why were they good? Because they were born of good ancestry.

ἀγαθοὶ δὲ ἐγένοντο διὰ τὸ φῦναι ἐξ ἀγαθῶν.
Euripides, fragment 75 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Son of Creon, how true then it has proved,
that from noble fathers noble children are born,
and from base ones children resembling their father's nature.

ὦ παῖ Κρέοντος, ὡς ἀληθὲς ἦν ἄρα,
ἐσθλῶν ἀπ᾿ ἀνδρῶν ἐσθλὰ γίγνεσθαι τέκνα,
κακῶν δ᾿ ὅμοια τῇ φύσει τῇ τοῦ πατρός.

Monday, October 16, 2023


The Answer Is No

Euripides, Rhesus 360-369 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Will it ever happen again that our ancient Troy
will know the day-long revelries,
the love pledge and companionship,
the strumming on the lyres and the wine cups circling,
passed to the right, in sweet contention,
while on the open water the sons
of Atreus make for Sparta,
gone from the shores of Ilium?
O friend, could it only be
that with hand and spear you would do
this before you leave us!

ἆρά ποτ᾽ αὖθις ἁ παλαιὰ Τροΐα        360
τοὺς προπότας παναμερεύ-
    σει θιάσους ἐρώτων
ψαλμοῖσι καὶ κυλίκων οἰνοπλανήτοις
ὑποδεξίαις ἁμίλλαις
κατὰ πόντον Ἀτρειδᾶν        365
Σπάρταν οἰχομένων
Ἰλιάδος παρ᾽ ἀκτᾶς;
ὦ φίλος, εἴθε μοι
σᾷ χερὶ καὶ σῷ δορὶ πρά-
    ξας τάδ᾽ ἐς οἶκον ἔλθοις.
Almut Fries ad loc.:
The joys of feasting and the symposium are regularly opposed to the grimness of war: Pi. Pyth. 10.29-46 (of the Hyperboreans, who live in a sort of paradise), Bacch. Pae. 4.61-80, Phoen. 784-92, E. frr. 369, 453 (cf. West, Ancient Greek Music, 13-14). But our passage appears to be connected with the third stasimon of Ajax (1185-1222), where the Salaminian sailors (another chorus of simple soldiers) bemoan the absence of drink, music and love in much the same way as the sentries here (Ai. 1199-1205) and eventually wish they were at home in Attica (1216-22). Correspondingly, the Trojans hope for the Greeks to depart so that they can resume their previous life.


For a Select Audience

Callimachus, Aetia, fragment 1, lines 29-30 (tr. Annette Harder):
For we sing among those who love the clear sound
of the cicada, but not the noise of asses.

ἐνὶ τοῖς γὰρ ἀείδομεν οἳ λιγὺν ἦχον
τέττιγος, θόρυβον δ' οὐκ ἐφίλησαν ὄνων.


Exhortation to Vigilance

A sonnet by Lodovico della Vernaccia, in Italian Poets Chiefly Before Dante: The Italian Text with Translation by D.G. Rossetti (Stratford-on-Avon: The Shakespeare Head Press, 1908), pp. 28-29:
He exhorts the State to vigilance.

Think a brief while on the most marvellous arts
    Of our high-purposed labour, citizens;
    And having thought, draw clear conclusion thence;
And say, do not ours seem but childish parts?
Also on these intestine sores and smarts
    Ponder advisedly; and the deep sense
    Thereof shall bow your heads in penitence,
And like a thorn shall grow into your hearts.
If, of our foreign foes, some prince or lord
    Is now, perchance, some whit less troublesome,
        Shall the sword therefore drop into the sheath?
        Nay, grasp it as the friend that warranteth:
    For unto this vile rout, our foes at home,
Nothing is high or awful save the sword.

Se 'l subietto preclaro, o Cittadini,
    Dell'atto nostro ambizioso e onesto
    Volete immaginar, chiosando il testo,
    Non vi parrà che noi siamo fantini?
S'alli nostri accidenti ed intestini
    Casi ripenserete, con modesto
    Aspetto inchinerete il cor molesto;
    Fien radicati al cor in duri spini.
Quando ragion corregge li difetti
    Del diverso inimico; e lor conturba
    Non della spada il trionfar posarse,
Ma imbratta con forza e' sensi eretti,
    Se vuole usar contra la falsa turba,
    Solo la spada vuol magnificarse.
"A literal rendering" by Richard Francis Burton in The Academy, vol. 24, no. 590 (August 25, 1883) 129:
If you, O Citizens! theme so high; so digne
    As our ambitious deeds aimed honestly,
    Glossing the text would test by phantasy
Seemeth it not some pastime infantine?
If on our accidents and intestine
    Troubles you ponder with due modesty,
    You will incline your stubborn souls and see
Deep rooted in your hearts the horny spine.
When lief would Reason punish all offences
    Of divers foemen and debel the proud
    Ne'er must the triumph of the Sword be shent:
But, an by violence spoiled and high pretences
    It must be used on the losel crowd,
    Sole shall the Sword be held magnificent.
debel = subdue, vanquish ("debel the proud" is an echo of Vergil, Aeneid 6.853: "debellare superbos"); shent = disgraced; losel = good-for-nothing, worthless.

Sunday, October 15, 2023



Publilius Syrus 677 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
To help the guilty is to share his crime.

Socius fit culpae qui nocentem sublevat.


Outside My Area of Expertise

Bion of Smyrna, fragment 7 (tr. J.D. Reed):
I know not how — nor is it proper — to labour at what we have not learned.

οὐκ οἶδ' οὐδ' ἐπέοικεν ἃ μὴ μάθομες πονέεσθαι;

οἶδ' codd. Stobaei 4.16.4: ἔστ' Ameis
μάθομες Ahrens: μάθωμεν vel μάθομεν codd.
Reed ad loc.:
The sentiment recalls the proverb ἔρδοι τις ἣν ἕκαστος εἰδείη τέχνην (Aristoph. Vesp. 1431; cf. Cic. Ad Att. 5.10.3, Tusc. 1.18.41; Hor. Epist. 1.14.44; Crinag. A.P. 9.516.1).
Related posts:


The Spot That We Seek Is Nowhere

Petrarch (1304-1374), Rerum Familiarum Libri 17.3 (to Guido Sette; tr. Aldo S. Bernardo):
"Nowhere on earth is life peaceful." In one place there is war, in another a peace sadder than war; in one place there is infected air, in another an even more fatal infected morality; in one place there is desolate famine, in another a flowing abundance more dangerous than famine; in one place there is wretched slavery, in another an insolent freedom worse than slavery; in one place there is thirst and a desert region, in another a widespread raging of rivers; finally in one place there is heat, in another cold; in one place attacks by beasts, in another the deceits of men; in one place a vast and horrible solitude, in another a rough and troublesome crowd. Thus the spot that we seek is nowhere.

Nusquam terrarum mora tranquilla est. Illic bellum, hic tristior bello pax, illic aer infectus, hic quod est pestilentius infecti mores: illic fames avida, hic fame periculosior exundans copia: illic calamitosa servitus, hic servitute peior insolens libertas; illic sitiens et inaquosa regio, hic fluminum vagus furor; denique illic æstus, hic frigora, illic ferarum impetus, hic hominum doli; illic solitudo vasta et horribilis, hic gravis et importuna frequentia. Ita locus ille quem quærimus nusquam est.

Saturday, October 14, 2023


Three Commandments

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.51 (tr. Robin Waterfield):
When doing something, don't be sluggish; when talking to people, don't be muddled; when thinking, don't be vague.

μήτε ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν ἐπισύρειν μήτε ἐν ταῖς ὁμιλίαις φύρειν μήτε ἐν ταῖς φαντασίαις ἀλᾶσθαι.
Related post: Thought, Word, and Deed.

Friday, October 13, 2023



Ezra Pound, Literary Essays (New York: New Directions, 1968), p. 38:
A curriculum for instructors, for obstreperous students who wish to annoy dull instructors, for men who haven't had time for systematized college courses. Call it the minimum basis for a sound and liberal education in letters (with French and English 'aids' in parenthesis).

CONFUCIUS—In full (there being no complete and intelligent English version, one would have either to learn Chinese or make use of the French version by Pauthier).

HOMER—in full (Latin cribs, Hugues Salel in French, no satisfactory English, though Chapman can be used as reference).

OVID—And the Latin 'personal' poets, Catullus and Propertius. (Golding's Metamorphoses, Marlowe's Amores. There is no useful English version of Catullus.)

A PROVENÇAL SONG BOOK—With cross reference to Minnesingers, and to Bion, perhaps thirty poems in all.

DANTE—'And his circle'; that is to say Dante, and thirty poems by his contemporaries, mostly by Guido Cavalcanti.


PARENTHETICALLY—Some other medieval matter might be added, and some general outline of history of thought through the Renaissance.

VOLTAIRE—That is to say, some incursion into his critical writings, not into his attempts at fiction and drama, and some dip into his contemporaries (prose).

STENDHAL—(At least a book and half).

FLAUBERT (omitting Salambo and the Tentation)—And the Goncourts.


This would not overburden the three- or four-year student. After this inoculation he could be with safety exposed to modernity or anything else in literature. I mean he wouldn't lose his head or ascribe ridiculous values to works of secondary intensity. He would have axes of reference and, would I think, find them dependable.
For "and, would I think" read "and would, I think".


Academic Celebration

Paul F. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (2002; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), p. xv:
At Padua in the first week of June 1996, I sat in an upper-story room of the sixteenth-century Palazzo del Bo reading documents from the Archivio Antico dell'Università di Padova. The window overlooked the small square in front of the Palazzo. Early June is the time for the laureate (doctoral) examinations in Italy, some in progress in rooms below. As a successful candidate emerged, friends hailed the new doctor with a scatological serenade in dialect: "Dotore, Dotore, Dotore, pal buso del cul. Vaffan cul, vaffan cul." While the chant seems crude and insulting in English translation, the words floated on joy and laughter. Sometimes friends draped a large wreath around the neck of the new doctor.

As the examinations continued in the ensuing days, large handwritten and illustrated posters appeared on the front wall of the Palazzo del Bo to celebrate in verse and picture the accomplishments of new doctors. Signed by many friends, they were both elaborate and funny. The climax came with a placard chronicling the life of a certain "Dottoressa Barbara Pasqueta." The placard was a university version of the pasquinades (pasquinata = Pasqueta) attached to the famous statue in Rome. According to the placard, Dottoressa Pasqueta had enjoyed a life full of extraordinary academic and sexual exploits, all detailed in satirical verses and graphic illustrations. She obtained her degree with a minimum score of thirty-seven out of sixty points.

Sometimes the celebrations honoring the new doctor continued into the evening. One night I watched the festivities for a new laureate in front of the Palazzo. The graduate wore a swimsuit, apron, brown paint on her face, and flowers in her hair, making her into a wood nymph. She first delivered a short peroration on a platform. Friends abruptly ended her speech by putting tape over her mouth and tying her to a post. Upon release she went about the piazza selling vegetables from a basket, as comrades took pictures. Before long the group moved on, possibly to further celebration in home or tavern. Gaudeamus igitur.



Diogenes Laertius 5.21 (tr. R.D. Hicks; he = Aristotle):
Education he declared to be the best provision for old age.

κάλλιστον ἐφόδιον τῷ γήρᾳ τὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγε.

Thursday, October 12, 2023


En Garde

Thucydides 1.69.2 (tr. Jeremy Mynott):
We ought not to be still considering whether we have been wronged but how we should be responding in our defence.

χρῆν γὰρ οὐκ εἰ ἀδικούμεθα ἔτι σκοπεῖν, ἀλλὰ καθ᾽ ὅτι ἀμυνούμεθα.


Dividing Line

Ezra Pound, Make It New (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1939), p. 18:
This difference between what is known, and what is merely faked or surmised has at all times seemed to me worth discovering. Obviously the more limited the field the more detailed can the demarcation become.



Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Collected Works, Vol. 10: History and Politics, tr. Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), p. 114:
History is the most dangerous product evolved from the chemistry of the intellect. Its properties are well known. It causes dreams, it intoxicates whole peoples, gives them false memories, quickens their reflexes, keeps their old wounds open, torments them in their repose, leads them into delusions either of grandeur or persecution, and makes nations bitter, arrogant, insufferable, and vain.

History will justify anything. It teaches precisely nothing, for it contains everything and furnishes examples of everything.

How many books have been written entitled "the lesson of this, the teaching of that"! Nothing could make more absurd reading, after the events that actually followed, instead of the ones the books told us would be the way of the future.

In the present state of the world the danger of letting oneself be seduced by history is greater than it ever was.
The original, from his Œuvres, t. II (Paris: Gallimard, 1962), p. 935:
L’Histoire est le produit le plus dangereux que la chimie de l’intellect ait élaboré. Ses propriétés sont bien connues. Il fait rêver, il enivre les peuples, leur engendre de faux souvenirs, exagère leurs réflexes, entretient leurs vieilles plaies, les tourmente dans leur repos, les conduit au délire des grandeurs ou à celui de la persécution, et rend les nations amères, superbes, insupportables et vaines.

L’Histoire justifie ce que l’on veut. Elle n’enseigne rigoureusement rien, car elle contient tout, et donne des exemples de tout.

Que de livres furent écrits qui se nommaient : « La Leçon de ceci, les Enseignements de cela!… » Rien de plus ridicule à lire après les événements qui ont suivi les événements que ces livres interprétaient dans le sens de l’avenir.

Dans l’état actuel du monde, le danger de se laisser séduire à l’Histoire est plus grand que jamais il ne fut.


Good Cheer

Beowulf 611-612 (tr. E. Talbot Donaldson):
There was laughter of warriors, voices rang pleasant,
words were cheerful.

Ðær wæs hæleþa hleahtor,    hlyn swynsode,
word wæron wynsume.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023



Augustine, Sermons 31.4 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 194; tr. Edmund Hill):
Is there anyone, after all, who doesn't cry here, along this bad road, seeing that the very infant begins with crying? Certainly when the infant is born it is tumbled out of the cramped confines of the womb into the wide open spaces of this world, it proceeds from darkness into light. And yet as it comes from the dark into the light it is able to cry, it isn't able to laugh. This life is such that when you are enjoying it here, be afraid it may all be deceptive. When you are crying here, pray for release. Trouble passes, trouble comes. People laugh, people cry. Even what people laugh about is a matter for crying. But one man cries over his losses, another cries about his affliction because he has been dumped in jail, another cries because he has lost one of his dear ones who has died.

Quis enim non hic plorat in via ista mala, quando ipse infans inde incipit? Utique infans, quando nascitur, de angustiis uteri in huius mundi latitudinem funditur, de tenebris procedit ad lucem. Et tamen de tenebris veniens ad lucem, plorare potest, ridere non potest. Est enim vita ista, ut quando gaudetur hic, time ne fallat. Quando hic ploratur, roga ut evadas. Et transit tribulatio, et venit tribulatio. Et rident homines, et plorant homines. Et quod rident homines, plorandum est. Sed plorat alius damnum suum, plorat alius pressuram suam quia in carcere est constitutus, plorat alius quod amiserit mortuum aliquem carissimorum suorum.


A Classical Education

Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implicito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 94 (my translation):
The classical humanities educate because they know nothing about the fundamental assumptions of the modern mind.

Las humanidades clásicas educan porque ignoran los postulados básicos de la mente moderna.



John Quincy Adams, Diary (September 30, 1821):
I had hoped that at least one of my Sons would have been ambitious to excel — I find them all three, coming to manhood, with indolent minds — Flinching from study whenever they can, and if not content to hold the 30th and forty-fifth rank in their class, incapable of the exertion necessary for raising them higher. It is bitter disappointment. The blast of mediocrity, is the lightest of the evils, which such characters portend.



Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.6.11 (1384 a 4; tr. J.H. Freese):
Speaking at length about oneself, making false claims, taking the credit for what another has done, these are signs of boastfulness.

τὸ περὶ αὑτοῦ πάντα λέγειν καὶ ἐπαγγέλλεσθαι, καὶ τὸ τἀλλότρια αὑτοῦ φάσκειν· ἀλαζονείας γάρ (sc. σημεῖα).

Tuesday, October 10, 2023


German Practice Sentence

Charles Duff and Paul Stamford, German for Beginners, 2nd ed. (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1960), p. 16:
Welcher Esel kommt da?

Which jackass is coming there?
I can think of many occasions when this sentence would come in handy.


A Doorway

James Hankins, Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2019), p. xviii, with notes on p. 532:
Moreover, learning to read difficult texts and write and speak in Latin was a foundation, or as the humanists would say, a doorway.9 Once you passed through the doorway you would find Livy and Sallust, Cicero and Demosthenes, Plato and Aristotle waiting to engage you in conversation.10 It was the lifelong companionship of the ancients that was supposed to do you good, not the mastery of irregular verbs. Real education did not end with grammar school. It was supposed to go on for your entire life. As Cicero wrote in the Pro Archia—a speech which became a kind of manifesto for humanists—it was supposed to enrich and inform your entire life.11 The concept of institutio for the humanists did not only mean learning to read old books in school. It meant absorbing the moral and intellectual formation human beings needed to live successfully in civilized societies.

9 Platina writes of grammar in his oration De laudibus bonarum artium, ed. Vairani, 110, "for it contains the stone, the wood and the cement for building the edifice of the humanities." The wider point was already made by Seneca in Epistulae Morales 88.20.

10 A metaphor used by Marsilio Ficino when describing the riches of the Platonic corpus; see Hankins 2003–2004a, 201–202.

11 Cicero, Pro Archia 16: "These studies nurture adolescence, delight old age, embellish good times, offer refuge and solace in bad, are delightful at home and no obstacle in public life, they accompany us through the night-time, when travelling and in the country." For the importance of the Pro Archia in the humanist conception of education, see Chapter 2, page 46.

Monday, October 09, 2023


Well-Crafted Laws

Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.1.7 (1354 a 31; tr. J.H. Freese):
It is proper that laws, properly enacted, should themselves define the issue of all cases as far as possible, and leave as little as possible to the discretion of the judges.

μάλιστα μὲν οὖν προσήκει τοὺς ὀρθῶς κειμένους νόμους, ὅσα ἐνδέχεται, πάντα διορίζειν αὐτούς, καὶ ὅτι ἐλάχιστα καταλείπειν ἐπὶ τοῖς κρίνουσι.
The same (tr. C.D.C. Reeve):
Above all, though, it is fitting for laws that are correctly laid down to define everything themselves, wherever possible, and leave the fewest things up to the jurors.


Diminution of Sensibility

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Collected Works, Vol. 10: History and Politics, tr. Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), p. 110:
To begin with, it is easy to observe in ourselves a diminution, a kind of general clouding over of sensibility. We modems are not very sensitive. Modern man has blunted his senses; he puts up with every kind of noise, as we all know; he puts up with nauseating smells, with violently contrasting or insanely intense lighting; he is subjected to perpetual vibration; he feels the need of brutal stimulants, strident sounds, the strongest drinks, brief and bestial emotions.
The original, from his Œuvres, t. I (Paris: Gallimard, 1957), p. 1037:
J'observe d'abord très facilement qu'il y a chez nous une diminution, une sorte d'obnubilation générale de la sensibilité. Nous autres modernes, nous sommes fort peu sensibles. L'homme moderne a les sens obtus, il supporte le bruit que vous savez, il supporte les odeurs nauséabondes, les éclairages violents et follement intenses ou contrastés; il est soumis à une trépidation perpétuelle; il a besoin d’excitants brutaux, de sons stridents, de boissons infernales, d'émotions brèves et bestiales.



C.S. Lewis, letter to Arthur Greaves (January 9, 1930):
What a glory-hole is the commentary of an old author. One minute you are puzzling out a quotation from a French medieval romance: the next, you are being carried back to Plato: then a scrap of medieval law: then something about geomancy: and manuscripts, and the signs of the Zodiac, and a modern proverb 'reported by Mr Snooks to be common in Derbyshire', and the precession of the equinoxes, and an Arabian optician (born at Balk in 1030), five smoking room stories, the origins of the doctrine of immaculate conception, and why St Cecilia is the patroness of organists. So one is swept from East to West, and from century to century, equally immersed in each oddity as it comes up, and equally sudden in ones flight to the next: like the glimpses (oh how I hate the word vignette) that you get from an express train, when the cart going under the bridge seems to be a little world in itself, until it is replaced—instantaneously—by the horses running away from the line in the next field.
A glory-hole is "a receptacle (as a drawer, room, etc.) in which things are heaped together without any attempt at order or tidiness" (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 1.a).

Sunday, October 08, 2023



Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Collected Works, Vol. 10: History and Politics, tr. Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), p. 83:
We must make up our minds to dabble in examples. While dabbling we sometimes splash up a few drops of light.
The original, from Propos sur l'intelligence (Paris: A l'Enseigne de la Porte étroite, 1926), pp. 45-46:
Il faut se résoudre à patauger dans les exemples. Patauger, quelquefois, c'est aussi faire bondir deux ou trois gouttes de lumière.
Patauger = wade, splash, flounder.



Aristotle, Politics 8.3.2 (1338 b 2; tr. H. Rackham):
To seek for utility everywhere is entirely unsuited to men that are great-souled and free.

τὸ δὲ ζητεῖν πανταχοῦ τὸ χρήσιμον ἥκιστα ἁρμόττει τοῖς μεγαλοψύχοις καὶ τοῖς ἐλευθερίοις.



Trevor Dean and Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2023), p. 126:
Again modern readers must use their historical imagination to think away modern politeness and to summon up a world in which strength and pride expressed themselves directly and brutally. They must think of men like the sixteenth-century nobles at Belluno who used to shout 'Take your hat off, dastard!' and to show their scorn for the multitude by writing 'Labouring plebs' on the walls.


Onward, Scholars!

Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), "The Deceased," Dinner Pieces, tr. David Marsh (Binghamton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1987 = Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 45), pp. 98-125 (at 114):
Onward, scholars! Devote yourselves eagerly, completely, and assiduously to literature! Wear yourselves out with studies! Publish your books! Strive with great and ceaseless efforts, and make sure that perfumers and fishmongers lack no elegant and finely lettered manuscripts for wrapping their salves and sardines!
The Latin, from Leon Battista Alberti, Autobiografia e altre opere latine. A cura di Loredana Chines e Andrea Severi (Milano: Rizzoli, 2012), p. 416:
Pergite, litterati, date operam litteris acrem et, ut facitis, amplam atque assiduam! Conterite studiis vos, edite libros, agite isthac vestra multa et inquieta opera ut facitis, ne eleganter et accurate scripte ad unguentorum et pisciculorum tegmen desint tabernario atque unguentariis charte!

Friday, October 06, 2023


Good Things

Augustine, Sermons 29.5 (Patrologia Latina, vol. XXXVIII, col. 187; tr. Edmund Hill):
How many good things there are that you want, bad man! You're certainly bad. Tell me what you want that isn't good. You want a horse, only a good one; you want a farm, only a good one; you want a house, only a good one; you want a wife, only a good one; you want a shirt, only a good one, boots, only good ones. It's only your soul you want bad! Aren't you being a contradiction in terms, by wanting good things while being bad yourself?

Quanta bona quaeris, homo male? Certe malus es: dic mihi quid velis, nisi bonum? Equum quaeris, nonnisi bonum; fundum quaeris, nonnisi bonum; domum quaeris, nonnisi bonam; uxorem quaeris, nonnisi bonam; tunicam nonnisi bonam, caligam nonnisi bonam: animam solam malam. Nonne tibi ipse es contrarius, qui bona quaeris, cum sis malus?


Law and Order

Aristotle, Politics 7.4.5 (1326 a 29; tr. H. Rackham):
Law is a form of order, and good law must necessarily mean good order.

ὅ τε γὰρ νόμος τάξις τίς ἐστι, καὶ τὴν εὐνομίαν ἀναγκαῖον εὐταξίαν εἶναι.

Thursday, October 05, 2023


Rule by Machine

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Collected Works, Vol. 10: History and Politics, tr. Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962), p. 77:
The machine rules. Human life is rigorously controlled by it, dominated by the terribly precise will of mechanisms. These creatures of man are exacting. They are now reacting on their creators, making them like themselves. They want well-trained humans; they are gradually wiping out the differences between men, fitting them into their own orderly functioning, into the uniformity of their own regimes. They are thus shaping humanity for their own use, almost in their own image.
The original, from Propos sur l'intelligence (Paris: A l'Enseigne de la Porte étroite, 1926), p. 23:
La machine gouverne. La vie humaine est rigoureusement enchaînée par elle, assujettie aux volontés terriblement exactes des mécanismes. Ces créatures des hommes sont exigeantes. Elles réagissent à présent sur leurs créateurs et les façonnent d'après elles. Il leur faut des humains bien dressés; elles en effacent peu à peu les différences et les rendent propres à leur fonctionnement régulier, à l'uniformité de leurs régimes. Elles se font donc une humanité à leur usage, presque à leur image.


City Walls

Trevor Dean and Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2023), pp. 110-111 (notes omitted):
Second only to the palace were the walls, another great source of pride. Giovanni Villani devotes two chapters to the Florentine walls which were being constructed in the 1320s. Most communes had officials entrusted with the upkeep of the walls — Pisa's 'captains of the walls' figure in the 1162 statutes. A good deal of legislation was devoted to the walls and in particular to the attempt — always destined to frustration — to keep them entirely clear of private and public buildings. Compulsory work by the population played a big part in the construction and maintenance of walls. In some cities each region had the obligation of providing labour for its own section of the walls and its gateway.

Wall-building campaigns represented a huge commitment of money and effort. The necessary land could sometimes be acquired only slowly and with difficulty, in the face of resistance from local landowners. Some wall circuits were built quickly – for example, the first medieval circuit at Florence (1173-75); others much more slowly, such as the second circuit at Bologna (1250-1370). Often the walls were a very expensive item in the commune's budget. Florence's second medieval circle (mentioned above, p. 24) cost about 6,000 L a year in the first years of the fourteenth century, and in 1324 nearly 20,000 L was spent on it in five months, which represented roughly a quarter of the commune's total expenditure. The site, appearance and function of walls and gates combined the functional, the aesthetic and the symbolic. Walls had defensive functions against siege and attack, but also served to control daily movement into and out of the city and to act as points of taxation for goods. Aesthetically, the materials and design could give external impressions of solidity and antiquity. At Lucca, for example, the exterior faces were built with large stone blocks of similar size, while the interior faces were of brick, and the round gate towers have been said to recall those of ancient Rome. The profile of walls and gates then also projected urban power into the countryside and beyond. At Lucca, again, most of the towers were on the south and west sides, towards the city's main enemy, Pisa.
Related posts:

Wednesday, October 04, 2023


The Governing Class

Aristotle, Politics 4.13.8 (1297 b 9; tr. H. Rackham):
For it does not always happen that those who are in the governing class are gentlemen.

οὐ γὰρ ἀεὶ συμβαίνει χαρίεντας εἶναι τοὺς μετέχοντας τοῦ πολιτεύματος.
χαρίεντας = "men of education" (W.L. Newman on 1267 a 1).


Our Daily Bread

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Propos sur l'intelligence (Paris: A l'Enseigne de la Porte étroite, 1926), p. 30 (my translation):
Happenings themselves are required as nourishment. If there isn't some great misfortune in the world this morning, we feel a certain emptiness. — "There's nothing in the papers today," people say.

Les événements eux-mêmes sont demandés comme une nourriture. S'il n'y a point ce matin quelque grand malheur dans le monde, nous nous sentons un certain vide. — « Il n'y a rien aujourd'hui dans les journaux », disent-ils.


An Extra Zero

Barbara Reynolds (1914-2015), Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man (Emeryville: Shoemaker Hoard, 2006), p. 14, with note on p. 424:
The chronicler Giovanni Villani48 records that the population in his day was about 900,000, not counting the religious orders of monks and nuns in monasteries and convents.

48. c.1280–1348.
For 900,000 read 90,000.

From Eric Thomson:
The American Shoemaker Hoard edition must have unwittingly inflated the numbers (does 'decimate' have an antonym?). Perhaps shoemakers have their gremlins as well as their elves. All kosher in my I.B.Tauris copy anyway.


Tuesday, October 03, 2023


Three Mental Sicknesses

Barbara Reynolds (1914-2015), Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man (Emeryville: Shoemaker Hoard, 2006), pp. 86-87, with notes on p. 431:
He has observed an evil disposition of the soul attended by three terrible kinds of sickness of the mind. The first of these is a boastfulness that leads people to believe that they know everything and to affirm as certain things that are not. Cicero condemns such people in the first book of his De Officiis (‘On Duties’), as does St Thomas Aquinas in Contra Gentiles (‘Against the Gentiles’):
[T]here are many who by their natural dispositions are so presumptuous as to believe that they can gauge everything by their intellect, believing everything true that seems to them true, and false everything that does not.15
Such people never attain to learning, believing they are already sufficiently instructed; they never ask questions, they never listen, they never desire to be questioned, and if they are, they reply before the question is concluded and their answer is wrong.

The second sickness he has observed is caused by a natural dejection of the mind, which leads people to deny the possibility that anything can be known, by themselves or by others. They never enquire or reason or heed what others say. Such people, Aristotle said, were not qualified to be students of moral philosophy, for they live in ignorance like beasts and despair of all learning.

The third sickness is a kind of levity or superficiality of mind which leads people to pass all bounds in their reasoning, leaping to a conclusion before they have framed a syllogism, flying off to another conclusion, believing they are arguing most subtly when they do not start from any principle. With those who deny first principles, as Aristotle said, it is useless to argue. Among them are many uneducated people who do not know their A B C and yet would dispute about geometry, astrology and physics.16

15. St Thomas’s words are: Totam Naturam divinam se reputant suo intellectu posse metiri (‘They consider that all Nature can be measured by their intellect’).

16. There is a delightful glimpse of such a person in E.M. Forster’s short story, ‘Other Kingdom’: ‘“Surely” — said Miss Beaumont. She had been learning Latin for not quite a fortnight, but she would have corrected the Regius Professor.’


Three Poems by Agathias Scholasticus

Greek Anthology 9.642 (by Agathias Scholasticus, Εἰς σωτήρια ἐν Σμύρνῃ ἐν προαστείῳ = "On a Latrine in the Suburbs of Smyrna"; tr. W.R. Paton):
All the extravagance of mortals and their expensive dishes excreted here have lost their previous charm. The pheasants and fishes, and the mixtures pounded in the mortar, and all that variety of kickshaws, become here dung. The belly rids itself of all that the ravenous gullet took in, and at length a man sees that in the pride of his foolish heart he spent so much gold on nothing but dust.

Πᾶν τὸ βροτῶν σπατάλημα, καὶ ἡ πολύολβος ἐδωδὴ
    ἐνθάδε κρινομένη τὴν πρὶν ὄλεσσε χάριν.
οἱ γὰρ φασιανοί τε καὶ ἰχθύες, αἵ θ᾿ ὑπὲρ ἴγδιν
    τρίψιες, ἥ τε τόση βρωματομιξαπάτη
γίνεται ἐνθάδε κόπρος· ἀποσσεύει δ᾿ ἄρα γαστὴρ        5
    ὁππόσα πειναλέη δέξατο λαυκανίη.
ὀψὲ δὲ γινώσκει τις, ὅτ᾿ ἄφρονα μῆτιν ἀείρων
    χρυσοῦ τοσσατίου τὴν κόνιν ἐπρίατο.
Id. 9.643:
Why do you moan with the headache and groan bitterly for the heaviness you feel all over, and keep on smacking your belly, thinking to force out the work of your jaws? You would never have had all this trouble and labour if you had not largely exceeded yourself at table. When you are lying there guzzling you have a high opinion of yourself, and delight your palate with the viands, deeming that happiness. But here you are in distress, and your belly only gets many smacks to pay for the sins of your gullet.

Τί στενάχεις κεφαλὴν κεκακωμένος; ἐς τί δὲ πικρὰ
    οἰμώζεις, μελέων πάγχυ βαρυνομένων;
ἐς τί δὲ γαστέρα σεῖο ῥαπίσμασιν ἀμφιπατάσσεις,
    ἐκθλίψαι δοκέων μάστακος ἐργασίην;
μόχθων τοσσατίων οὔ σοι χρέος, εἰ παρὰ δαιτὶ        5
    μὴ τοῦ ἀναγκαίου πουλὺ παρεξετάθης.
ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ μὲν στιβάδος φρονέεις μέγα, καὶ στόμα τέρπεις
    βρώμασιν, εὐτυχίην κεῖνα λογιζόμενος·
ἐνθάδε δ᾿ ἀσχάλλεις· μούνη δ᾿ ἀλιτήματα λαιμοῦ
    ἡ γαστὴρ τίνει πολλάκι τυπτομένη.       10
Id. 9.644:
Blest are you, long-suffering labourer! You have only to put up, all your life, with the pains of hoeing and poverty. Simple are your meals, and you sleep in the woods, after satisfying your throat’s vast thirst for water. Yet you are perfectly sound, and sitting here for a few moments lighten your belly. You don't rub down the lower part of your spine, or beat your thighs, but you get rid of the burden naturally. They are in evil case, the rich and those who associate with them, whom feasting pleases more than sound health.

Εὖγε μάκαρ τλήθυμε γεωπόνε· σοὶ βίος αἰεὶ
    μίμνειν καὶ σκαπάνης ἄλγεα καὶ πενίης·
λιτὰ δέ σοι καὶ δεῖπνα, καὶ ἐν ξυλόχοισι καθεύδεις,
    ὕδατος ἐμπλήσας λαιμὸν ἀμετροπότην.
ἔμπης ἀρτίπος ἐσσί, καὶ ἐνθάδε βαιὰ καθεσθεὶς        5
    αὐτίκα γαστέρα σὴν θῆκας ἐλαφροτάτην·
οὐδὲ καταψήχεις ἱερὴν ῥάχιν, οὐδέ τι μηροὺς
    τύπτεις, αὐτομάτως φόρτον ἀρωσάμενος.
τλήμονες οἱ πλουτοῦντες ἰδ᾿ οἱ κείνοισι συνόντες
    οἷς πλέον ἀρτεμίης εὔαδεν εἰλαπίνη.        10
See Ronald C. McCail, "The Erotic and Ascetic Poetry of Agathias Scholasticus," Byzantion 41 (1971) 205-267 (at 227-232).


Monday, October 02, 2023



Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994), Sucesivos Escolios a un Texto Implicito (Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2005), p. 91 (my translation):
Modern man thinks he lives amidst a diversity of opinions, when that which dominates today is a stifling unanimity.

El moderno cree vivir en un pluralismo de opiniones, cuando lo que hoy impera es una unanimidad asfixiante.


A Secret Society

John Jay Chapman (1862-1933), Memories and Milestones (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1915), p. 184:
Every generation is a secret society, and has incommunicable enthusiasms, tastes and interests which are a mystery both to its predecessors and to posterity.


Blaming God

Augustine, Sermons 25A.1 (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, vol. 41, p. 341; tr. Edmund Hill):
In this world the prosperity of evil men is the pit for sinners. People are habitually upset by this, and often religious people too, people who wouldn't dream of blaming the Lord and yet wonder to themselves why bad people are so often successful. And such people are supremely upset when they themselves are beset by miseries and disasters though they are well aware that they live better lives than the others. They see evil people prevailing successfully all along the line in all their business which is admittedly earthly and temporal, but is still good. And they sigh in their miseries, and can scarcely restrain their thoughts from blaming God.

In isto enim saeculo felicitas malorum fovea est peccatorum. Solent autem hinc moveri homines, et plerumque religiosi, et qui non audent reprehendere Dominum, tamen mirari apud semetipsos, quare sint mali plerumque felices. Et maxime hii moventur, qui cum se melius vivere noverint, miseriis et calamitatibus aguntur. Ipsi enim vident malos in omnibus, licet terrenis et temporalibus, tamen bonis omni felicitate pollere. Et suspirant in miseriis suis, et vix a reprehensione Dei sua corda refrenant.


Practice versus Preaching

Lucian, Menippus 5 (tr. A.M. Harmon):
But there was something else, far more unreasonable than that. I found, upon observing these same people, that their practice directly opposed their preaching. For instance, I perceived that those who recommended scorning money clove to it tooth and nail, bickered about interest, taught for pay, and underwent everything for the sake of money; and that those who were for rejecting public opinion aimed at that very thing not only in all that they did, but in all that they said. Also that while almost all of them inveighed against pleasure, they privately devoted themselves to that alone.

πολλῷ δὲ τούτων ἐκεῖνο ἀλογώτερον· τοὺς γὰρ αὐτοὺς τούτους εὕρισκον ἐπιτηρῶν ἐναντιώτατα τοῖς αὑτῶν λόγοις ἐπιτηδεύοντας. τοὺς γοῦν καταφρονεῖν παραινοῦντας χρημάτων ἑώρων ἀπρὶξ ἐχομένους αὐτῶν καὶ περὶ τόκων διαφερομένους καὶ ἐπὶ μισθῷ παιδεύοντας καὶ πάντα ἕνεκα τούτων ὑπομένοντας, τούς τε τὴν δόξαν ἀποβαλλομένους αὐτῆς ταύτης χάριν τὰ πάντα καὶ πράττοντας καὶ λέγοντας, ἡδονῆς τε αὖ σχεδὸν ἅπαντας κατηγοροῦντας, ἰδίᾳ δὲ μόνῃ ταύτῃ προσηρτημένους.



Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (New York: New Directions, ©1970), p. 55:
Properly, we shd. read for power. Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one's hand.

To read and be conscious of the act of reading is for some men (the writer among them) to suffer. I loathe the operation. My eyes are geared for the horizon. Nevertheless I do read for days on end when I have caught the scent of a trail. And I, like any other tired business man, read also when I am "sunk", when I am too exhausted to use my mind to any good purpose or derive any exhilaration or pleasure from using it.

Sunday, October 01, 2023



John Morley, On Compromise (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1921), p. 139:
You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.


Pride in the City's Appearance

Trevor Dean and Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2023), pp. 103-104, with notes on p. 123:
To the proud citizens of a major commune, their city's outward aspect was an important element in its prestige. It was in this spirit that the Sienese decided to have a public meadow within the city because:
Among those matters to which the men who undertake the city’s government should turn their attention, its beauty is the most important. One of the chief beauties of a pleasant city is the possession of a meadow or open place for the delight and joy of both citizens and strangers, and the cities and some towns of Tuscany, as well as some other honourable cities, are honourably supplied with such meadows and open places.1
The element of pride in the city's appearance, and above all of a competitive determination to outshine their neighbours, was particularly strong among the Sienese, though the trait is to be found everywhere. The immensely ambitious cathedral which the Sienese began in the fourteenth century was a retort to the cathedral begun by the Florentines in 1296. Their Palazzo Pubblico, which was being built at the same time, was another attempt to show that Siena could build more impressively than its northern neighbour. The Sienese councillors decided, when discussing this building, that:
It is a matter of honour for each city that its rulers and officials should occupy beautiful and honourable buildings, both for the sake of the commune itself and because strangers often go to visit them on business. This is a matter of great importance for the prestige (qualitatem) of the city.2
A particular subject of pride to the Sienese (and rightly so, every visitor to the city will surely agree) was their Piazza, the Campo. Hopeful plans were formed as early as the thirteenth century for keeping the appearance of this piazza uniform by insisting that all the houses looking on to it should have the same type of window. And in 1346 the chronicler Agnolo di Tura proudly recorded:
on 30 December they finished paving the campo of Siena in stone, and it is considered the most beautiful square, with the most beautiful and abundant fountain and the most handsome and noble houses and workshops around it of any square in Italy.3
1 Document cited by Braunfels, Mittelalterliche Stadtbaukunst in der Toskana, p. 208n.
2 G. Milanesi, Documenti per la storia dell'arte senese (Siena, 1854), I, p. 180.
3 RIS, n.s., XV, VI, p. 550.
Siena, Palazzo Pubblico:

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