Tuesday, August 30, 2016


No Escape

Propertius 3.18.21-28 (tr. H.E. Butler):
And yet hither at last come all, come noble and come base;
bitter is the way, but all must tread it;
all must assuage the triple throat of the baying hound,
and climb the boat of that grim greybeard that waits for all.
Though a man seek to save himself by walls of iron and of brass,        25
yet death shall drag forth his head from its sheltering place.
Beauty saved not Nireus nor might Achilles;
nor was Croesus succoured by wealth born of Pactolus stream.

sed tamen huc omnes, huc primus et ultimus ordo:
    est mala, sed cunctis ista terenda via est.
exoranda canis tria sunt latrantia colla,
    scandenda est torvi publica cumba senis.
ille licet ferro cautus se condat et aere,        25
    mors tamen inclusum protrahit inde caput.
Nirea non facies, non vis exemit Achillem,
    Croesum aut, Pactoli quas parit umor, opes.
Notes explaining the obvious:
the baying hound: Cerberus, the three-headed dog of the underworld
that grim greybeard: Charon, ferryman of the underworld
Nireus: handsomest of the Greeks after Achilles, according to Homer, Iliad 2.673-674
Pactolus: river whose sands were rich in gold

Monday, August 29, 2016


Self-Inflicted Woes

Menander, fragment 844 Kassel-Austin (Poetae Comici Graeci VI.2, p. 400; tr. Maurice Balme):
All living animals are happier
And have more sense than man, far more.
Consider first this donkey here; he's an
Unhappy creature, all agree. But he
Brings none of his misfortunes on himself;
He only has the troubles nature gave.
But we, apart from those we can't avoid,
Provide ourselves with others self-imposed;
We're pained if someone sneezes, angry if
Abused; we see a dream—we're terrified,
And if an owl shrieks loud, we shake with fear.
Our worries, fancies, our ambitions, laws,
These are all evils added to nature's gifts.

ἅπαντα τὰ ζῷ' ἐστὶ μακαριώτερα
καὶ νοῦν ἔχοντα μᾶλλον ἀνθρώπου πολύ.
τὸν ὄνον ὁρᾶν ἔξεστι πρῶτα τουτονί,
οὗτος κακοδαίμων ἐστὶν ὁμολογουμένως.
τούτῳ κακὸν δι' αὑτὸν οὐδὲν γίνεται,        5
ἃ δ' ἡ φύσις δέδωκεν αὐτὰ ταῦτ' ἔχει.
ἡμεῖς δὲ χωρὶς τῶν ἀναγκαίων κακῶν
αὐτοὶ παρ' αὑτῶν ἕτερα προσπορίζομεν.
λυπούμεθ', ἂν πτάρῃ τις· ἂν εἴπῃ κακῶς,
ὀργιζόμεθ'· ἂν ἴδη τις ἐνύπνιον, σφόδρα        10
φοβούμεθ'· ἂν γλαὺξ ἀνακράγῃ, δεδοίκαμεν.
ἀγωνίαι, δόξαι, φιλοτιμίαι, νόμοι,
ἅπαντα ταῦτ' ἐπίθετα τῇ φύσει κακά.
The same, tr. J.M. Edmonds:
All animals are happier than we,
And far more sensible. This you can see
By the donkey here. He's wretched, I admit,
But nature, not himself, 's the cause of it.
We're not content with necessary ill,
But needs must add to it because we will.
Sneezes upset us, insults we repay,
Dreams told alarm us, hooting owls dismay;
Rivalries, reputations, laws, ambitions,
All these are quite gratuitous additions.
Kassel and Austin:

Sunday, August 28, 2016


What Money Can't Buy

Menander, fragment 218 Kassel-Austin (Poetae Comici Graeci VI.2, p. 152; tr. Maurice Balme):
Young man, you think that money can supply
The price not just of daily wants—like bread
And barley, vinegar and olive oil,
But something else more vital. But it can't
Supply the price of immortality,
Not if you should amass that fabled hoard
Of Tantalus. You'll die and leave all this
To someone else.

τἀργύριον εἶναι, μειράκιόν, σοι φαίνεται
οὐ τῶν ἀναγκαίων καθ' ἡμέραν μόνον
τιμὴν παρασχεῖν δυνατόν, ἄρτων, ἀλφίτων,
ὄξους, ἐλαίου, μείζονος δ' ἄλλου τινός.
ἀθανασίας δ' οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδ' ἂν συναγάγῃς        5
τὰ Ταντάλου τάλαντ᾽ ἐκεῖνα λεγόμενα·
ἀλλ' ἀποθανῇ καὶ ταῦτα καταλείψεις τινί.

7 ταῦτα codd.: πάντα Meineke

Saturday, August 27, 2016


The Shallowest Brain

John Burroughs, journal (November 9, 1916), quoted in James Perrin Warren, John Burroughs and the Place of Nature (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006), p. 15 (footnote omitted):
The magazine writer has a new problem: how to address himself to the moving-picture brain—the brain that does not want to read or think, but only to use its eager shallow eyes, eyes that prefer the shadow and ghosts of things to the things themselves, that rather see the ghosts of people flitting around on the stage, than to see real flesh and blood. How an audible dialogue would tire them! It might compel them to use their minds a little—horrible thought!

For my own part, I am sure I cannot interest this moving-picture brain, and do not want to. It is the shallowest brain that has yet appeared in the world. What is to be the upshot of this craze over this mere wash of reality which the "movies" (horrible word!) offer our young people?


Coordinated Terror Attacks

Sallust, The War with Catiline 43.2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Now it is said that the parts assigned to them were the following: Statilius and Gabinius, with many followers, were to kindle fires at twelve important points in the city all at the same time, in order that in the ensuing confusion access might more easily be had to the consul and the others against whom their plots were directed...

sed ea divisa hoc modo dicebantur: Statilius et Gabinius uti cum magna manu duodecim simul opportuna loca urbis incenderent, quo tumultu facilior aditus ad consulem ceterosque quibus insidiae parabantur fieret...
Plutarch, Life of Cicero 18.3 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
Moreover, they had appointed a hundred men and assigned by lot as many quarters of Rome to each one severally, in order that within a short time many might play the incendiary and the city be everywhere in a blaze. Others, too, were to stop up the aqueducts and kill those who tried to bring water.

ἄνδρας δὲ τάξαντες ἑκατὸν καὶ μέρη τοσαῦτα τῆς Ῥώμης ἕκαστον ἐφ᾿ ἑκάστῳ διεκλήρωσαν, ὡς δι᾿ ὀλίγου πολλῶν ἁψάντων φλέγοιτο πανταχόθεν ἡ πόλις. ἄλλοι δὲ τοὺς ὀχετοὺς ἔμελλον ἐμφράξαντες ἀποσφάττειν τοὺς ὑδρευομένους.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Cheating in Latin Class

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, XI.2 (tr. John E. Woods):
Hanno pulled his Ovid from his satchel, a paperbound book with a marbled cover, and opened it to the verses that were to be memorized for today. No, it was hopeless—a long, regular column of black lines, every fifth one numbered, and with little pencil marks scribbled everywhere, and the lines stared back at him, so obscure and unfamiliar that it was useless to try to learn a few of them. He could barely make out what they meant, let alone recite even a single one by heart. And he could not decipher one line of the passage that followed, which they were supposed to have translated for today.

"What does 'deciderant, patula Jovis arbore, glandes' mean?" he asked in a forlorn voice, turning to Adolf Todtenhaupt, who was busy beside him with the attendance book. "It's all gibberish! They just want to trick us."

"What?" Todtenhaupt asked and went on writing. "The acorns of Jupiter's tree—that's the oak, yes. But I don't really know myself."

"Just prompt me a little, Todtenhaupt, if I get called on," Hanno begged, shoving the book away.
"Buddenbrook!" Dr. Mantelsack had said. "Buddenbrook." The sound still echoed in the air, and yet Hanno couldn’t quite believe it. There was a buzzing in his ears now. He kept his seat.

"Herr Buddenbrook!" Doctor Mantelsack said, staring at him with bulging, sapphire-blue eyes that sparkled behind his thick glasses. "Would you please be so kind?"

Fine—so it was meant to be. It had to turn out like this. Very differently from what he had expected, but all was lost now. He was resigned to his fate. Would it end in a truly terrible outburst of rage? He stood up and was about to offer some inane, ridiculous excuse, to say he had "forgotten" to memorize the verses—when suddenly he noticed the boy ahead of him holding his book open for him.

The boy ahead of him was Hans Hermann Kilian, a small fellow with brown, greasy hair and broad shoulders. He wanted to be an officer and was so inspired by esprit de corps that he couldn't leave Johann Buddenbrook high and dry, even though he couldn't stand him. He even pointed a finger at the place to begin.

And Hanno stared at the book and began to read. With a faltering voice and pursed brows and lips he read about the Golden Age, which had arisen first, when of their own free will, with no compulsion, no law, men had kept faith and done the right. "There was no fear of punishment," he said in Latin, "no menacing words to be read on tablets of bronze; no suppliant throng to gaze in fear upon its judge’s face...." With an agonized, grim look on his own face, he purposely read badly and disjointedly, intentionally ignored elisions marked in pencil in Kilian’s book, mangled the rhythm, groped for words, and made it look as if he were laboring to recall each one—expecting at any moment that the professor would find him out and pounce on him. The sweet, malicious joy of seeing the book open before him made his skin tingle; but he was totally disgusted with himself, too, and intentionally cheated as badly as possible, hoping that this would make his deception a little less sordid. Then he stopped, and silence reigned in the room—he did not dare look up. The silence was horrible; his lips turned white, he was sure Dr. Mantelsack had seen it all.

At last the professor sighed and said, "Oh, Buddenbrook, si tacuisses. You will excuse my use of the classical informal pronoun. Do you know what you have done? You have dragged beauty through the dust, you have behaved like a Vandal, a barbarian—you, a creature whom the muses have deserted, Buddenbrook, it's written on your face. If I were to ask myself whether you were coughing the whole time or reciting noble verses, I would be inclined to think it was the former. Timm has little developed sense of rhythm, but compared with you he is a genius, a rhapsodist. Be seated, unhappy man. You have studied, I grant. You have learned. I cannot give you a bad grade. You have made the best of your abilities. Although they tell me that you are musical and play the piano, is that right? How can that be? Well, enough, sit down, you've worked hard, it seems—that will do."

He jotted a "satisfactory" in his notebook, and Hanno Buddenbrook sat down.
Petersen translated, casting a glance now and then at the right-hand page in his book, which had nothing to do with the passage. He did this very deftly. He acted as if something about it bothered him, and he passed his hand over it and blew at it as if there were a speck of dust or whatever that annoyed him and needed to be brushed away. And then something ghastly happened.

All of a sudden Dr. Mantelsack shifted his weight violently—and Petersen responded with an equally sudden violent motion. And in the same moment, virtually tumbling head over heels, the professor left his platform and headed directly toward Petersen with long, inexorable strides.

"You have a pony there in your book, a translation," he said, standing beside him now.

"A pony ... no ... I ..." Petersen stammered. He was a handsome lad with a massive wave of blond hair that swept down over his forehead and extraordinarily beautiful blue eyes, which flickered now with fear.

"Do you have a pony in your book?"

"No, sir, no, Dr. Mantelsack. A pony? I most certainly do not have a pony. You are quite mistaken. You are wrong to entertain such suspicions." Petersen spoke in a way that none of the boys ever spoke. In his fear he carefully chose his words, hoping that this would rattle the professor. "I am not cheating," he said in his great distress. "I have always been honest, my whole life long."

But Dr. Mantelsack was all too certain of the painful truth. "Give me your book," he said icily.

Petersen clung to his book. He raised both hands in the air, and although he was half tongue-tied now, he continued to exclaim, "Please believe me, sir. There is nothing in my book, Dr. Mantelsack. I don't have a pony. I haven't cheated. I've always been honest."

"Give me the book," the professor repeated and stamped one foot.

Petersen went limp, his face turned gray.

"All right," he said, handing over the book, "here it is. Yes, there's a pony in it. You can see for yourself, there it is. But I wasn't using it," he suddenly shouted to the whole room.

Dr. Mantelsack, however, ignored this absurd lie, which was born of desperation alone. He pulled out the "pony," looked at it as if he had some putrid piece of garbage in his hand, slipped it into his pocket, and disdainfully tossed Petersen's Ovid back on his desk. "The class attendance book," he said in a hollow voice.

Adolf Todtenhaupt dutifully brought the class attendance book to him, and Petersen was given a demerit for attempted cheating, which would have devastating repercussions for a long time to come. It sealed his doom—he would be held back at Easter. "You are a discredit to this class," Dr. Mantelsack said and then returned to his professorial chair.

Petersen sat down, a ruined man. They all saw his neighbor edge away from him. And they all regarded him with a mixture of disgust, pity, and horror. He had fallen, and was now left alone, utterly abandoned—because he had been caught.


A Child Prodigy

John Evelyn, Diary (January 27, 1658), in Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1870), pp. 255-257:
After six fits of a quartan ague with which it pleased God to visite him, died my deare son Richard, to our inexpressible griefe and affliction, 5 yeares and 3 days old onely, but at that tender age a prodigy for witt and understanding; for beauty of body a very angel; for endowment of mind of incredible and rare hopes. To give onely a little taste of some of them, and thereby glory to God, who out of the mouths of babes and infants does sometimes perfect his praises: at 2 yeares and halfe old he could perfectly reade any of the English, Latine, French, or Gottic letters, pronouncing the three first languages exactly. He had before the 5th yeare, or in that yeare, not onely skill to reade most written hands, but to decline all the nouns, conjugate the verbs regular, and most of the irregular; learn'd out Puerilis, got by heart almost the entire vocabularie of Latine and French primitives and words, could make congruous syntax, turne English into Latine, and vice versa, construe and prove what he read, and did the government and use of relatives, verbs, substantives, elipses, and many figures and tropes, and made a considerable progress in Comenius's Janua; began himselfe to write legibly, and had a stronge passion for Greeke. The number of verses he could recite was prodigious, and what he remember'd of the parts of playes; which he would also act; and when seeing a Plautus in one's hand, he ask'd what booke it was, and being told it was comedy, and too difficult for him, he wept for sorrow. Strange was his apt and ingenious application of fables and morals, for he had read Aesop; he had a wonderful disposition to mathematics, having by heart divers propositions of Euclid that were read to him in play, and he would make lines and demonstrate them. As to his piety, astonishing were his applications of Scripture upon occasion, and his sense of God; he had learn'd all his Catechisme early, and understood the historical part of the Bible and New Testament to a wonder, how Christ came to redeeme mankind, and how, comprehending these necessarys himselfe, his godfathers were discharg'd of their promise. These and the like illuminations far exceeded his age and experience, considering the prettinesse of his addresse and behaviour, cannot but leave impressions in me at the memory of him. When one told him how many dayes a Quaker had fasted, he replied that was no wonder, for Christ had said man should not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. He would of himselfe select the most pathetic psalms, and chapters out of Job, to reade to his mayde during his sicknesse, telling her when she pitied him that all God's children must suffer affliction. He declaim'd against the vanities of the world before he had seene any. Often he would desire those who came to see him to pray by him, and a yeare before he fell sick, to kneel and pray with him alone in some corner. How thankfully would he receive admonition, how soon be reconciled! how indifferent, yet continualy chereful! He would give grave advice to his brother John, beare with his impertinencies, and say he was but a child. If he had heard of or saw any new thing, he was unquiet till he was told how it was made; he brought to us all such difficulties as he found in books, to be expounded. He had learn'd by heart divers sentences in Latin and Greeke, which on occasion he would produce even to wonder. He was all life, all prettinesse, far from morose, sullen, or childish in any thing he said or did. The last time he had ben at church (which was at Greenwich), I ask'd him, according to costome, what he remembered of the sermon: two good things, father, said he, bonum gratia and bonum gloria, with a just account of what the preacher said. The day before he died he cal'd to me, and in a more serious manner than usual told me that for all I loved him so dearly I should give my house, land, and all my fine things, to his brother Jack, he should have none of them; the next morning, when he found himself ill, and that I persuaded him to keepe his hands in bed, he demanded whether he might pray to God with his hands unjoyn'd; and a little after, whilst in greate agonie, whether he should not offend God by using his holy name so often calling for ease. What shall I say of his frequent pathetical ejaculations utter'd of himselfe; Sweete Jesus save me, deliver me, pardon my sinns, let thine angels receive me! So early knowledge, so much piety and perfection! But thus God having dress'd up a Saint fit for himselfe, would not longer permit him with us, unworthy of the future fruites of this incomparable hopefull blossome. Such a child I never saw: for such a child I blesse God in whose bosome he is! May I and mine become as this little child, who now follows the child Jesus that Lamb of God in a white robe whithersoever he goes; Even so, Lord Jesus, Fiat voluntas tua! Thou gavest him to us, Thou hast taken him from us, blessed be the name of the Lord! That I had any thing acceptable to Thee was from thy grace alone, since from me he had nothing but sin, but that Thou hast pardon'd! blessed be my God for ever, amen!

In my opinion he was suffocated by the women and maids that tended him, and cover'd him too hot with blankets as he lay in a cradle, near an excessive hot fire in a close roome. I suffer'd him to be open'd, when they found that he was what is vulgarly call'd liver-growne. I caused his body to be coffin'd in lead and reposited on the 30th at 8 o'clock that night in the church of Deptford accompanied with divers of my relations and neighbours, among whom I distributed rings with this motto, Dominus abstulit; intending, God willing, to have him transported with my owne body to be interr'd in our dormitory in Wotton church, in my dear native county Surrey, and to lay my bones and mingle my dust with my fathers, if God be gracious to me and make me as fit for Him as this blessed child was. The Lord Jesus sanctify this and all other my afflictions, Amen!

Here ends the joy of my life, and for which I go even mourning to the grave.
Hat tip: James J. O'Donnell.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


A Recluse

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, VIII.7 (tr. John E. Woods):
Quite a distance out of town—not far from the first village, in fact—was a little farmstead, a tiny, almost worthless piece of property that didn't even have a name. If you stopped to look inside the gate, the first thing you noticed was a manure pile, then several chickens, a doghouse, and, finally, a wretched cottagelike building with a low-hanging red roof. This was the manor house, the residence of Kai's father, Count Eberhard Mölln.

He was an eccentric, whom people seldom saw—a recluse who had forsaken the world for this little farm, where he bred chickens and dogs and grew vegetables: a tall, bald man who wore top boots and a green frieze jacket and sported a huge grizzled beard worthy of a troll. He always had a riding crop in his hand, although he did not own a single horse, and there was a monocle clamped in one eye, under a bushy brow. Apart from him and his son, there was no longer a single Count Mölln to be found anywhere in the country. The various branches of this once rich, powerful, and proud family had withered, died, and rotted away, and little Kai had only one aunt who was still alive—and his father was not on speaking terms with her. She published novels, written under a bizarre pseudonym, in various family magazines. What people remembered about Count Eberhard was that, shortly after he had moved onto the farm out beyond the Burg Gate, a sign appeared on the low front door warning salesmen, beggars, or anyone else making inquiries not to bother him; the sign read: "Here lives Count Mölln, all alone. He needs nothing, buys nothing, and has nothing to give away."

Dort nämlich, weit draußen, unfern des ersten Dorfes, war irgendwo ein kleines Gehöft, ein winziges, fast wertloses Anwesen, das überhaupt keinen Namen hatte. Man gewann, blickte man hin, den Eindruck eines Mithaufens, einer Anzahl Hühner, einer Hundehütte und eines armseligen, katenartigen Gebäudes, mit tief hinunterreichendem, rotem Dache. Dies war das Herrenhaus, und dort wohnte Kais Vater, Eberhard Graf Mölln.

Er war ein Sonderling, den selten Jemand zu sehen bekam, und der, beschäftigt mit Hühner-, Hundeund Gemüsezucht, abgeschieden von aller Welt auf seinem kleinen Gehöfte hauste: ein großer Mann mit Stulpenstiefeln, einer grünen Friesjoppe, kahlem Kopfe, einem ungeheuren ergrauten Rübezahl-Barte, einer Reitpeitsche in der Hand, obgleich er durchaus kein Pferd besaß, und einem unter der buschigen Braue ins Auge geklemmten Monocle. Es gab, außer ihm und seinem Sohne, weit und breit keinen Grafen Mölln mehr im Lande. Die einzelnen Zweige der ehemals reichen, mächtigen und stolzen Familie waren nach und nach verdorrt, abgestorben und vermodert, und nur eine Tante des kleinen Kai, mit der sein Vater aber nicht in Korrespondenz stand, war noch am Leben. Sie veröffentlichte unter einem abenteuerlichen Pseudonym Romane in Familienblättern. – Was den Grafen Eberhard betraf, so erinnerte man sich, daß er, um sich vor allen Störungen durch Anfragen, Angebote und Bettelei zu schützen, während längerer Zeit, nachdem er das Anwesen vorm Burgthore bezogen, ein Schild an seiner niedrigen Hausthür geführt hatte, auf dem zu lesen gewesen: „Hier wohnt Graf Mölln ganz allein, braucht nichts, kauft nichts und hat nichts zu verschenken.“
Count Mölln's sign is not unlike a couple of signs which Mrs. Laudator thinks would be suitable for me:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


An Unidentified Quotation in Erasmus' Adages

Erasmus, Adages I i 1 to I v 100, translated by Margaret Mann Phillips, annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 99 (on I i 48 Tota erras via):
There is also that familiar saying: 'They run well but not on the right road.'

familiar saying] This is mentioned again in III i 84, but has not yet been identified.
The Latin:
celebre habetur et illud apophthegma, Bene currunt, sed extra viam: Καλώς μὲν τρέχουσιν, άλλ' έκτός τής όδού.
Erasmus, Adages II vii 1 to III iii 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), pp. 214-215 (on III i 84 Frustra currit), with note on p. 386:
Also the familiar remark2 once made by someone: 'They run, but not on the right road,' when a man toils industriously, but on no settled plan which can tell him in advance which path to follow and how far.

2 remark] I i 48; the source has not been traced.
The Latin:
Celebratur et illud cuiuspiam ἀπόφθεγμα: Τρέχουσιν ἔξω τῆς ὁδοῦ, id est Currunt extra viam, vbi quis sedulo quidem molitur, sed nulla certa ratione, quae praemonstret, quid quatenusque sequendum sit.
I wonder if Erasmus was thinking of Augustine, Sermons 141.4 (on John's Gospel 14.6; Patrologia Latina 38, col. 777; tr. R.G. MacMullen):
For sometimes even those who walk well, run outside the way. Thus you will find men living well, and not Christians. They run well; but they run not in the way. The more they run, the more they go astray; because they are out of the Way.

aliquando enim ipsi bene ambulantes, praeter viam currunt. invenies quippe homines bene viventes, et non Christianos. bene currunt; sed in via non currunt. quanto plus currunt, plus errant; quia a via recedunt.


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