Tuesday, January 31, 2017


The Futility and Pain of Latin Lessons

George Buchanan (1506-1582), Elegies, I (Quam misera sit conditio docentium literas humaniores Lutetiae, i.e., How wretched is the condition of those who teach classics in Paris), lines 29-74, loosely translated by T.D. Robb in George Buchanan: A Memorial, 1506-1906, ed. D.A. Millar (St. Andrews: W.C. Henderson & Son, 1907), pp. 254-256:
What guerdon for it all? Long years and glory?
In no wise does the Muse of song or story
So royally reward. An early death
Is all the comfort that she promiseth.

For sleep's denied. The tired neck may bow,
And on the pillowed elbow droop the brow,
A little sleep may cool your burning sight,
When sudden clamour fills the startled night.
Wildly you wake, unnerved for what dread shock,
And hear the night-watch bellowing "Four o'clock!"
With brazen din he deafens night around,
Warning day's bondmen not to sleep too sound.
Scarce is he silent, scarce your eyelids close,
When "Five o'clock!" shatters your last repose.
Clang goes the bell! The porter—sleepless ass!—
Is ringing scholars to your morning class.

Prompt at the call, and dreadful in the frown
He wears to match his flowing Roman gown,
Behold the master follow forth to school.
He clutches what proclaims a sceptred rule,
And looks as he'd out-tyrannise the Turk;
In the other hand he holds the morning's work,
Virgil perchance,—so great, yet thus so mean.

Now at his desk he eyes the restless scene,
And cracks his cheeks with shouting. Say he wins,
And quiet—most comparative—begins;
He takes his task, unravelling some skein
Of tangled Latin, seeking to make plain
To careless boys the questionable text
That had his midnight vigil so perplext.
He changes this and that, with skill to note
Errors the classic author never wrote,
And vindicates the readings that may be,
From lore long latent in his memory.

He scatters knowledge with a lordly hand;
Things that no former age could understand
Are his attainment; and he casts away
Those treasures of his cornucopia,—
But casts to slothful swine. A steady snore
Comes from the crowd that study on the floor:
And those who seem awake in studious wise
Are knaves that listen only with their eyes.

Some one is truant; another has taken care
To hire some rascal with a specious air
To have him called away. Or, this cold morn,
One has no boots; another's boots are worn
To sandals. In that corner over there,
Some booby blubbers for a mother's care;
Or there is one that lets his fancy roam,
And, 'stead of writing notes, is writing home.

Wherefore the switch is busy, and the sound
Of frequent lamentation floats around;
Tears channel youthful cheeks; and, when 'tis run,
The record of the hour is—Nothing done.

Then comes the call to prayers; after which
Another hour of Latin and the switch.
Then breakfast: but the board is hardly set
When it is borne away. We only whet
Our appetites ere clangs the bell again,
Renewing the futility and pain
Of Latin lessons. When that weird is o'er
Comes dinner, and as breakfast proved before,
'Tis but a snack ere we are called away.
Whither? The tired to sleep, the fresh to play?
No, Latin lends small heed to set of sun,
And we are deep in night ere work is done,—
Such work as 'tis. Why should I court your scorn
Telling the thousand degradations borne
In classes crowded with an adult crew
Too old to birch, yet seeking nothing new,
Nor even come to keep their learning green.
All day the city's nuisance they have been.
Now from the streets dusk-driven, where so well
Ensconce themselves and make a childish hell
As in those rooms where once they suffered woe?
So, foolishly indulged to come and go
At their sweet will, into the class they pour
With clogs that well-nigh clatter through the floor,—
A graceless rabble! Making no pretence
To listen, for their dull indifference
Is God's own blame: they fail in heavenly fire,
As the Phrygian failed when Phoebus charmed his lyre.

Yet they'll complain: "Why are no posters out
To tell us what the lectures are about?"
Or, "This new grammar! Why have you forsook
Old Alexander? Never a better book!
Do you fancy that we bothered with his notes!"
Nay, even neglected Guido has their votes!
So, with a hue and cry for Latin grammar—
The sound old style!—they rush with rowdy clamour
To Montaigu, or whereso they shall find
An atmosphere to suit the idle mind.
The Latin (id., pp. 250-252, line numbers added):
Hinc subitae mortes, et spes praerepta senectae,
   Nec tibi fert Clio, nec tibi Phoebus opem.        30
Si caput in cubitum lassa cervice recumbat,
   Et sopor exiguus lumina fessa premat:
Ecce, vigil subito quartam denuntiat horam,
   Et tonitru horrifico lumina clausa quatit:
Excutit attonito somnos sonus aeris acuti,        35
   Admonet et molli membra levare toro.
Vix siluit, jam quinta sonat; jam janitor urget
   Cymbala, tirones ad sua signa vocans:
Mox sequitur longa metuendus veste magister,
   Ex humero laevo mantica terga premit.        40
Dextera crudeli in pueros armata flagello est:
   Laeva tenet magni forte Maronis opus.
Jam sedet, et longis clamoribus ilia rumpit,
   Excutit implicitos ingenioque locos.
Corrigit, et delet, mutat, vigilata labore        45
   Promit, in obscuro quae latuere diu.
Magna, nec ingeniis aevi explorata prioris,
   Eruit, inventas nec sibi celat opes.
[Ignava incerta stertit plerumque juventus,
   Cogitat aut curae multa priora suae.]        50
Alter abest, petiturque alter, mercede parato
   Qui vocet, et fictos condiat arte dolos.
Ille caret caligis, huic rupta calceus alter
   Pelle hiat: ille dolet, scribit et ille domum.
Hinc virgae, strepitusque sonant, fletuque rigantur        55
   Ora, inter lacrymas transigiturque dies.
Dein nos sacra vocant, dein rursus lectio, rursus
   Verbera: sumendo vix datur hora cibo.
Protinus amota sequitur nova lectio mensa,
   Excipit hanc rursus altera, coena brevis:        60
Surgitur, in seram noctem labor improbus exit,
   Ceu brevis aerumnis hora diurna foret.
Quid memorem interea fastidia mille laborum,
   Quae non ingenua mente ferenda putes?
Ecce tibi erronum plenas ex urbe phalanges,        65
   Terraque ferratis calcibus icta tremit:
Turba ruit, stolidasque legentibus applicat aures,
   Quales Phoebacae Phryx dedit ante lyrae.
Et queritur nullis onerari compita chartis,
   Esse et Alexandrum nullo in honore suum:        70
Nec gravidum pleno turgescere margine librum,
   Neglectumque premi vile Guidonis opus.
Curritur ad montem magno cum murmure acutum,
   Aut alias aedes, sicubi beta sapit.
Other translations include:
Update: For a more literal translation of these lines, by G.E. Davie, see George Buchanan's First Elegy Again.

Related posts:


Gang, Geng, Gong

David Crystal, "From gong to shitter, and closet to the House of Lords: words for a privy," Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 71-83 (at 71):
In the beginning, judging by the words in Old English, it was all about 'going'. A gong (also spelled gang and geng), the root of many derived forms, was a passage, drain, or privy. The Anglo-Saxons had a surprising number of synonyms for privy, but none of them show the imaginative coinages of the kind we so often encounter in Old English literature, where the sea is a 'whale-road' and the sun is a 'sky-candle'. Rather, what we find is a repeated use of gang: a gangpytt ('going-pit'), gangeen ('going-place'), gangseti ('going-seat'), and gangtun ('going-yard'), or an utgang ('outgoing'), forthgang, and earsgang ('arse-going').
Other compounds are gangstol ('going-stool') and gong-thurl ('going-hole'). For a possible occurrence of gangtun see Debby Banham, ed., Monasteriales Indicia: The Anglo-Saxon Sign Language (1991; rpt. Hockwold cum Wilton: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1996), p. 41 (no. 94):
The sign of the latrine is that you put your right hand flat over your belly and by this sign you must ask permission of your superior, if you want to go there.
The Old English (Banham, p. 40, with my apparatus):
[.]yna tunes tacen is þæt þu sete þinne swyþran hand bradlinga ofer þin innoð and þu be þam tacne þe leafe scealt æt þinum ealdre abyddan gyf þe þyder lyst.

[.]yna tunes: initial omitted; Willem S. Logeman, "Zu den Indicia Monasterialia," Englische Studien 12 (1899) 305-307 (at 306) suggested Rynatunes; Nancy P. Stork, "Monastic Sign Language in Anglo-Saxon England: The Monasteriales Indicia from British Library MS Cotton Tiberius A.III," at https://web.archive.org/web/20070623071342/http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/english/Indicia.htm, suggested Gangtunes.



Two New Dialogues by Plato Discovered

Sarah Griffiths, "Are We Closer to Finding Atlantis?" Daily Mail (January 31, 2017):
The origins of the myth of Atlantis lies [sic] solely with Greek philosopher Plato, who referred to the Bronze Age city in two of his dialogues, 'Temaeus' and the 'Critas', in the fourth century BC.
Screen capture:


Monday, January 30, 2017


Carpe Diem

Greek Anthology 10.100, lines 1-4 (by Antiphanes; tr. W.R. Paton):
Brief would be the whole span of life that we wretched men
live, even if grey old age awaited us all,
and briefer yet is the space of our prime. Therefore, while the season is ours,
let all be in plenty, song, love, carousal.

ἀνθρώποις ὀλίγος μὲν ὁ πᾶς χρόνος, ὅν ποτε δειλοὶ
   ζῶμεν, κἢν πολιὸν γῆρας ἅπασι μένῃ·
τῆς δ᾿ ἀκμῆς καὶ μᾶλλον. ὅτ᾿ οὖν χρόνος ὥριος ἡμῖν,
   πάντα χύδην ἔστω, ψαλμός, ἔρως, προπόσεις.


Messages from Beyond the Grave

Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 1.2-3 (Diogenes and Pollux speaking; tr. H.W. Fowler):
Diog. May I give you another message to those same philosophers?

Pol. Oh, I don't mind; go on.

Diog. Charge them generally to give up playing the fool, quarrelling over metaphysics, tricking each other with horn and crocodile puzzles and teaching people to waste wit on such absurdities.

Pol. Oh, but if I say anything against their wisdom, they will call me an ignorant blockhead.

Diog. Then tell them from me to go to the devil.

Pol. Very well; rely upon me.

Diog. And then, my most obliging of Polluxes, there is this for the rich:—O vain fools, why hoard gold? why all these pains over interest sums and the adding of hundred to hundred, when you must shortly come to us with nothing beyond the dead-penny?

Pol. They shall have their message too.

Diog. Ah, and a word to the handsome and strong; Megillus of Corinth, and Damoxenus the wrestler will do. Inform them that auburn locks, eyes bright or black, rosy cheeks, are as little in fashion here as tense muscles or mighty shoulders; man and man are as like as two peas, tell them, when it comes to bare skull and no beauty.

βούλει καὶ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἐκείνους ἐντείλωμαί τι τοὺς φιλοσόφους;

λέγε· οὐ βαρὺ γὰρ οὐδὲ τοῦτο.

τὸ μὲν ὅλον παύσασθαι αὐτοῖς παρεγγύα ληροῦσι καὶ περὶ τῶν ὅλων ἐρίζουσιν καὶ κέρατα φύουσιν ἀλλήλοις καὶ κροκοδείλους ποιοῦσι καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ἄπορα ἐρωτᾶν διδάσκουσι τὸν νοῦν.

ἀλλὰ ἐμὲ ἀμαθῆ καὶ ἀπαίδευτον εἶναι φάσκουσι κατηγοροῦντα τῆς σοφίας αὐτῶν.

σὺ δὲ οἰμώζειν αὐτοὺς παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ λέγε.

καὶ ταῦτα, ὦ Διόγενες, ἀπαγγελῶ.

τοῖς πλουσίοις δ᾿, ὦ φίλτατον Πολυδεύκιον, ἀπάγγελλε ταῦτα παρ᾿ ἡμῶν· τί, ὦ μάταιοι, τὸν χρυσὸν φυλάττετε; τί δὲ τιμωρεῖσθε ἑαυτοὺς λογιζόμενοι τοὺς τόκους καὶ τάλαντα ἐπὶ ταλάντοις συντιθέντες, οὓς χρὴ ἕνα ὀβολὸν ἔχοντας ἥκειν μετ᾿ ὀλίγον;

εἰρήσεται καὶ ταῦτα πρὸς ἐκείνους.

ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς καλοῖς τε καὶ ἰσχυροῖς λέγε, Μεγίλλῳ τε τῷ Κορινθίῳ καὶ Δαμοξένῳ τῷ παλαιστῇ, ὅτι παρ᾿ ἡμῖν οὔτε ἡ ξανθὴ κόμη οὔτε τὰ χαροπὰ ἢ μέλανα ὄμματα ἢ ἐρύθημα ἐπὶ τοῦ προσώπου ἔτι ἔστιν ἢ νεῦρα εὔτονα ἢ ὦμοι καρτεροί, ἀλλὰ πάντα μία ἡμῖν κόνις, φασί, κρανία γυμνὰ τοῦ κάλλους.
The Greek is fairly straightforward and is made even easier thanks to Evan Hayes and Stephen Nimis, Lucian's Dialogues of the Gods. An Intermediate Greek Reader. Greek Text with Running Vocabulary and Commentary (Oxford: Faenum Publishing, 2015), where this passage appears on pp. 7-9.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


A Pagan's Prayer

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), "La Prière d'un païen" (tr. Francis Scarfe):
Ah, slow not thy flames:
warm my numbed heart,
voluptuousness, tormentor of souls:
O goddess, grant my prayer!

Goddess who, spread through the air,        5
art a torch in our dark cellar,
grant the prayer of a downcast soul
who offers thee a hymn of bronze.

Voluptuousness, be thou ever my queen:
assume the Siren's mask        10
of flesh and velvet,

or pour me thy heavy slumbers
in formless, mystic wine,
O voluptuousness, elastic Shade!
In French (and a bit of Latin):
Ah! ne ralentis pas tes flammes;
Réchauffe mon coeur engourdi,
Volupté, torture des âmes!
Diva! Supplicem exaudi!

Déesse dans l'air répandue,        5
Flamme dans notre souterrain!
Exauce une âme morfondue,
Qui te consacre un chant d'airain.

Volupté, sois toujours ma reine!
Prends le masque d'une sirène        10
Faite de chair et de velours,

Ou verse-moi tes sommeils lourds
Dans le vin informe et mystique,
Volupté, fantôme élastique!


An Ignominious End

From Ian Jackson: ​
You might enjoy learning about the fate of the manuscript of [D.H. Lawrence's] Sea and Sardinia. Frieda Lawrence writes in Not I, but ​the Wind (p. 133):
One day I found the manuscript of 'Sea and Sardinia' in the W.C. at Fontana Vecchia. So I told him: 'But why did you put it there, it's such a pity, it's so nicely written and tidy.' I had then no idea it might have any value, only regretted the evenly written pages having this ignominious end. But no, he had a passion for destroying his own writing.
Related posts:



True God and True Man

Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 16.4 (Diogenes to Heracles; tr. M.D. Macleod):
That's difficult to understand, two Heracleses in a compound, unless you were man and god fused together, like horse and man in a Centaur.

οὐκ ἔστι μαθεῖν τοῦτο ῥᾴδιον, συνθέτους δύο ὄντας Ἡρακλέας, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ ὥσπερ ἱπποκένταυρός τις ἦτε εἰς ἓν συμπεφυκότες ἄνθρωπός τε καὶ θεός.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Hateful Homogeneous World-Oneness

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, chapter V (To Sorgono):
And so they lie about on the seats, play a game, shout, and sleep, and settle their long stocking-caps: and spit. It is wonderful in them that at this time of day they still wear the long stocking-caps as part of their inevitable selves. It is a sign of obstinate and powerful tenacity. They are not going to be broken in upon by world-consciousness. They are not going into the world's common clothes. Coarse, vigorous, determined, they will stick to their own coarse dark stupidity and let the big world find its own way to its own enlightened hell. Their hell is their own hell, they prefer it unenlightened.

And one cannot help wondering whether Sardinia will resist right through. Will the last waves of enlightenment and world-unity break over them and wash away the stocking-caps? Or is the tide of enlightenment and world-unity already receding fast enough?

Certainly a reaction is setting in, away from the old universality, back, away from cosmopolitanism and internationalism. Russia, with her Third International, is at the same time reacting most violently away from all other contact, back, recoiling on herself, into a fierce, unapproachable Russianism. Which motion will conquer? The workman's International, or the centripetal movement into national isolation? Are we going to merge into one grey proletarian homogeneity?—or are we going to swing back into more-or-less isolated, separate, defiant communities?

Probably both. The workman's International movement will finally break the flow towards cosmopolitanism and world-assimilation, and suddenly in a crash the world will fly back into intense separations. The moment has come when America, that extremist in world-assimilation and world-oneness, is reacting into violent egocentricity, a truly Amerindian egocentricity. As sure as fate we are on the brink of American empire.

For myself, I am glad. I am glad that the era of love and oneness is over: hateful homogeneous world-oneness. I am glad that Russia flies back into savage Russianism, Scythism, savagely self-pivoting. I am glad that America is doing the same. I shall be glad when men hate their common, world-alike clothes, when they tear them up and clothe themselves fiercely for distinction, savage distinction, savage distinction against the rest of the creeping world: when America kicks the billy-cock and the collar-and-tie into limbo, and takes to her own national costume: when men fiercely react against looking all alike and being all alike, and betake themselves into vivid clan or nation-distinctions.

The era of love and oneness is over. The era of world-alike should be at an end. The other tide has set in. Men will set their bonnets at one another now, and fight themselves into separation and sharp distinction. The day of peace and oneness is over, the day of the great fight into multifariousness is at hand. Hasten the day, and save us from proletarian homogeneity and khaki all-alikeness. I love my indomitable coarse men from mountain Sardinia, for their stocking-caps and their splendid, animal-bright stupidity. If only the last wave of all-alikeness won't wash those superb crests, those caps, away.


O Curas Hominum!

Dante, Paradiso 11.1-9 (tr. John D. Sinclair, with his note):
O insensate care of mortals,
how defective are those syllogisms
which make thee downward beat thy wings!

One was going after the Laws, and one after the Aphorisms,1
and one following the priesthood,        5
and one to reign by force or by sophisms,

and one to rob, and one to civic business;
one, involved in pleasure of the flesh,
was wearying himself, and one was giving himself to idleness...

1. The Aphorisms of Hippocrates was much used as a medical text-book.

O insensata cura de' mortali,
quanto son difettivi sillogismi
quei che ti fanno in basso batter l'ali!

Chi dietro a iura, e chi ad aforismi
sen giva, e chi seguendo sacerdozio,        5
e chi regnar per forza o per sofismi,

e chi rubare, e chi civil negozio;
chi nel diletto de la carne involto
s'affaticava, e chi si dava a l'ozio...
Commentators compare Dante, Convivio 3.11.10 (tr. Richard Lansing):
Nor should we give the name of true philosopher to anyone who is a friend of wisdom for the sake of utility, as are jurists, physicians, and almost all those belonging to religious orders, who study not in order to gain knowledge but to secure financial rewards or high office; and if anyone were to give them what they seek to gain, they would not persevere in their study.

Né si dee chiamare vero filosofo colui che è amico di sapienza per utilitade, sì come sono li legisti, medici e quasi tutti religiosi, che non per sapere studiano ma per acquistare moneta o dignitade; e chi desse loro quello che acquistare intendono, non sovrastarebbero allo studio.

Friday, January 27, 2017


A Wonderful Abundance of Food

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, chapter III (Cagliari):
This is the meat and poultry and bread market. There are stalls of new, various-shaped bread, brown and bright: there are tiny stalls of marvellous native cakes, which I want to taste, there is a great deal of meat and kid: and there are stalls of cheese, all cheeses, all shapes, all whitenesses, all the cream-colours, on into daffodil yellow. Goat cheese, sheeps cheese, Swiss cheese, Parmegiano, stracchino, caciocavallo, torolone, how many cheeses I don't know the names of! But they cost about the same as in Sicily, eighteen francs, twenty francs, twenty-five francs the kilo. And there is lovely ham—thirty and thirty-five francs the kilo. There is a little fresh butter too—thirty or thirty-two francs the kilo. Most of the butter, however, is tinned in Milan. It costs the same as the fresh. There are splendid piles of salted black olives, and huge bowls of green salted olives. There are chickens and ducks and wild-fowl: at eleven and twelve and fourteen francs a kilo. There is mortadella, the enormous Bologna sausage, thick as a church pillar: 16 francs: and there are various sorts of smaller sausage, salami, to be eaten in slices. A wonderful abundance of food, glowing and shining.


Peasant women, sometimes barefoot, sat in their tight little bodices and voluminous, coloured skirts behind the piles of vegetables, and never have I seen a lovelier show. The intense deep green of spinach seemed to predominate, and out of that came the monuments of curd-white and black-purple cauliflowers: but marvellous cauliflowers, like a flower-show, the purple ones intense as great bunches of violets. From this green, white, and purple massing struck out the vivid rose-scarlet and blue crimson of radishes, large radishes like little turnips, in piles. Then the long, slim, grey-purple buds of artichokes, and dangling clusters of dates, and piles of sugar-dusty white figs and sombre-looking black figs, and bright burnt figs: basketfuls and basketfuls of figs. A few baskets of almonds, and many huge walnuts. Basket-pans of native raisins. Scarlet peppers like trumpets: magnificent fennels, so white and big and succulent: baskets of new potatoes: scaly kohlrabi: wild asparagus in bunches, yellow-budding sparacelli: big, clean-fleshed carrots: feathery salads with white hearts: long, brown-purple onions and then, of course pyramids of big oranges, pyramids of pale apples, and baskets of brilliant shiny mandarini, the little tangerine orange with their green-black leaves. The green and vivid-coloured world of fruit-gleams I have never seen in such splendour as under the market roof at Cagliari: so raw and gorgeous.
Torolone as the name of a cheese seems to occur only in this passage.

Dear Mike,

I suspect that "torolone" is just a compositor's (or a typist's) misreading of "Provolone". Note that none of the cheeses mentioned by Lawrence are obscure, and the transition from caciocavallo to provolone is a natural one. Indeed "Provolone del Monaco" is often called "Caciocavallo del Monaco".

The ductus litterarum? My guess is that Lawrence wrote provolone with a capital P and that the down-stroke and the cross-stroke (perhaps extending beyond the down-stroke) registered, while for the curve of the P the pen lifted or the ink was faint. The R was summary and lost in the shuffle, while (further on) a V and an R are easily confused in handwriting.

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

Thursday, January 26, 2017



D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), "Delight of Being Alone," Complete Poems (Ware: Wordsworth, 2002), p. 504:
I know no greater delight than the sheer delight of being alone.
It makes me realise the delicious pleasure of the moon
that she has in travelling by herself: throughout time,
or the splendid growing of an ash tree
alone, on a hillside in the north, humming in the wind.
Id., "Lone, Lonesome, Loney — O!," p. 538:
When I hear somebody complain of being lonely
or, in American, lonesome
I really wonder and wonder what they mean.

Do they mean they are a great deal alone?

But what is lovelier than to be alone?
escaping the petrol fumes of human conversation
and the exhaust-smell of people
and be alone!

Be alone, and feel the trees silently growing.
Be alone, and see the moonlight outside, white and busy and silent.
Be quite alone, and feel the living cosmos softly rocking,
soothing and restoring and healing.

Soothed, restored and healed
when I am alone with the silent great cosmos
and there is no grating of people with their presences gnawing
at the stillness of the air.


Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Logicians 1.117-118 = Democritus, 55 B 164 Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, 4th ed., vol. II, p. 93 (tr. R.G. Bury):
"For animals," he says, "flock together with animals of a like species, as doves with doves and cranes with cranes, and so too all other irrational animals." And it is the same with things inanimate, as one may see in the case of seeds that are being winnowed and in the case of pebbles along the beaches; for in the one case, by the whirling of the sieve lentils are ranged separately with lentils, barley with barley, and wheat with wheat; and in the other case, owing to the motion of the waves, the oblong pebbles are pushed into the same place as the oblong, and the round as the round, as though the similarity in things had a certain force of attraction for them.

καὶ γὰρ ζῶα, φησίν, ὁμογενέσι ζώοις συναγελάζεται, ὡς περιστεραὶ περιστεραῖς καὶ γέρανοι γεράνοις, καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἀλόγων· ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀψύχων, καθάπερ ὁρᾶν πάρεστιν ἐπί τε τῶν κοσκινευομένων σπερμάτων καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν παρὰ ταῖς κυματωγαῖς ψηφίδων· ὅπου μὲν γὰρ κατὰ τὸν τοῦ κοσκίνου δῖνον διακριτικῶς φακοὶ μετὰ φακῶν τάσσονται καὶ κριθαὶ μετὰ κριθῶν καὶ πυροὶ μετὰ πυρῶν, ὅπου δὲ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ κύματος κίνησιν αἱ μὲν ἐπιμήκεις ψηφῖδες εἰς τὸν αὐτὸν τόπον ταῖς ἐπιμήκεσιν ὠθοῦνται, αἱ δὲ περιφερεῖς ταῖς περιφερέσιν, ὡς ἂν συναγωγόν τι ἐχούσης τῶν πραγμάτων τῆς ἐν τούτοις ὁμοιότητος.
This might be 68 B 164 Diels-Kranz (unavailable to me).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


That Old-Time Religion Again

Lysias 30.18 (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
Now our ancestors, by sacrificing in accordance with the tablets, have handed down to us a city superior in greatness and prosperity to any other in Greece; so that it behoves us to perform the same sacrifices as they did, if for no other reason than that of the success which has resulted from those rites.

οἱ τοίνυν πρόγονοι τὰ ἐκ τῶν κύρβεων θύοντες μεγίστην καὶ εὐδαιμονεστάτην τῶν Ἑλληνίδων τὴν πόλιν παρέδοσαν, ὥστε ἄξιον ἡμῖν τὰς αὐτὰς ἐκείνοις θυσίας ποιεῖσθαι, καὶ εἰ μηδὲν δι᾿ ἄλλο, τῆς τύχης ἕνεκα τῆς ἐξ ἐκείνων τῶν ἱερῶν γεγενημένης.
Related post: That Old-Time Religion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


The Surveillance State

Lucian, Dialogues of the Gods 1.2 (Hermes speaking; tr. M.D. MacLeod):
Hush, Ares. It isn't safe to talk like that, or we may be sorry for our silly chatter.

εὐφήμει. ὦ Ἄρες· οὐ γὰρ ἀσφαλὲς λέγειν τὰ τοιαῦτα, μὴ καί τι κακὸν ἀπολαύσωμεν τῆς φλυαρίας.
Quiet, I tell you. It's dangerous for you to talk like that, and for me to listen.

σιώπα, φημί· οὐ γὰρ ἀσφαλὲς οὔτε σοὶ λέγειν οὔτ᾿ ἐμοὶ ἀκούειν τὰ τοιαῦτα.

Monday, January 23, 2017


Urban Renewal

Robert Garioch (1909-1981), "Edinburgh Sonnet 2," Complete Poetical Works (Edinburgh: MacDonald Publishers, 1983), p. 186:
Be war in special o dour-heidit men
wha for conveniency wad kill delyte,
preivin that black is white and white is black,
expediency exped — but ach! ye ken

their arguments, aye birlin roun an roun:
St George's kirk is unco in the wey,
it's got dry rot, what luck! Wha's gonna pey
to pit it richt? Nae answer? Ding it doun.

Charlotte Square, George Square — baith out o the ark,
Adam's Auld Quad a muckle stane has-been,
Reidbrick's in fashion nou, no mason-wark;

we moderns wad like a cheenge o scene;
clear them awa and bigg a streamlined stark
new electronic brain-washing machine.
Related post: His Plans To Turn Our Country Into Hell.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


A Curse

Maybe it's my imagination, but I sense an increased amount of hatred and rage in the air recently. Perhaps the time is ripe to revert to an ancient method of expressing and channelling such emotions, viz., the curse tablet. A good example can be found in Matthew Dillon and Lynda Garland, Ancient Rome: Social and Historical Documents from the Early Republic to the Death of Augustus, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2015), pp. 146-147 (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum I2 2520, Rome, 1st century B.C.; the translators provide some line numbers in bold type, but I've enclosed the numbers instead in square brackets):
Good and beautiful Proserpina, wife of Pluto, unless I ought to call you Salvia ('Saviour'), may you tear from Plotius health, body, colour, strength, vigour. May you deliver him over to Pluto your husband. May he not be able to avoid this by his own devices. May you deliver him to the fourth-day, the third-day, the every-day fever (i.e., malaria), and may they wrestle and struggle it out with him; may they vanquish and overcome him until they tear away his life. Wherefore [10] I deliver this victim to you Proserpina, unless, Proserpina, I ought to call you Acherousia (i.e., goddess of the underworld). May you send, I pray, someone to summon the three-headed dog to tear out Plotius' heart. Promise that you will give him three victims, dates, dried figs, a black pig, if he should have finished before the month of March. These things, Proserpina Salvia, I will give you when you have gratified my wish. I give you the head of Plotius, (slave) of Avonia, [20] Proserpina Salvia, I give you Plotius' forehead, Proserpina Salvia, I give you Plotius' eyebrows, Proserpina Salvia, I give you Plotius' eyelids, Proserpina Salvia, I give you Plotius' pupils, Proserpina Salvia, I give you Plotius' nostrils, lips, ears, nose, tongue, teeth, so Plotius may not be able to say what pains him; his neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, so he may not be able to help himself in any way; [30] his chest, liver, heart, lungs, so he may not be able to feel what gives him pain; his intestines, stomach, navel, sides, so he may not be able to sleep; his shoulder-blades, so he may not be able to sleep soundly; his testicles, so he may not be able to urinate; his buttocks, anus, thighs, knees, shanks, shins, feet, ankles, soles, toes, nails, so he may not be able to stand by his own strength. Should there have been written, [40] whether great or small, any curse, in whatever way Plotius has properly (i.e., according to the laws of magic) written anything (i.e., against me) and committed it, thus I deliver Plotius to you, and commit him that you may deliver and commit that fellow in the month of February. Damn him!, to hell with him!, damn him utterly! May you commit him, may you hand him over, so he may not be able to see, look on or regard any month further!
Mutatis mutandis, this curse might be suitable for the present day, whatever side of the political, economic, social, or religious divide you're on. Instead of Plotius, substitute the name of someone you hate. I don't think you need to scratch five copies of the curse on lead sheets and wind them around nails. Just try reciting the curse. You might find it therapeutic, if not entirely effective.

Here is the Latin, borrowed from here:
Bona pulchra Proserpina, [P]lut[o]nis uxsor,
seive me Salviam deicere oportet,
eripias salutem, c[orpus, co]lorem, vires, virtutes
Ploti; tradas [Plutoni] viro tuo ni possit cogitationibus
sueis hoc vita[re; tradas] illunc        5
Febri Quartan[a]e, T[ertian]ae, Cottidia[n]ae,
quas [cum illo l]uct[ent, deluctent illunc]
ev[in]cant, [vincant], usq[ue dum animam]
[eiu]s eripia[nt. Quare ha]nc victimam
tibi trad[o, Prose]rpi[na, seiv]e me,        10
Proserpin[a, sei]ve m[e Ach]eruosiam dicere
oportet, <:ut> m[e mittas a]rcessitum canem
tricepitem qui [Ploti] cor eripiat. Polliciarus
illi te daturum t[r]es victimas,
palma[s, ca]rica[s], por[c]um nigrum,        15
hoc sei pe[rfe]cerit [ante mensem]
M[artium. Haec P]r[oserpina Salvia tibi dabo]
cum <:me> compote fe[cer]is. Do tibi cap[ut]
Ploti, Avon[iaes <:mariti>, Pr]oserpina S[alvia];
do tibi fron[tem Plo]ti, Proserpina Salvia;        20
do [ti]b[i] su[percilia] Ploti, Proserpin[a]
Salvia; do [tibi palpebra]s Plo[ti],
Proserpina Sa[lvia; do tibi pupillas]
Ploti, Proser[pina Salvia; do tibi nare]s,
labra, or[iculas, nasu]m, lin[g]uam,        25
dentes P[loti], ni dicere possit
Plotius quid [sibi dole]at, collum, umeros,
bracchia, d[i]git[os, ni po]ssit aliquit
se adiutare, [pe]c[tus, io]cinera, cor,
pulmones, n[i possit] senti[re] quit        30
sibi doleat, [intes]tina, venter, um[bi]licu[m],
latera, [n]i p[oss]it dormire, scapulas,
ni poss[it] s[a]nus dormire, viscum
sacrum, nei possit urinam facere,
natis, anum, [fem]ina, genua,        35
[crura], tibias, pe[des, talos, plantas],
[digito]s, ungis, ni po[ssit s]tare sua
[vi]rt[u]te. Seive [plu]s seive parvum
scrip[tum fuerit], quomodo quicqu[id]
legitim[e scripsit], mandavit, seic        40
ego Ploti(um) ti[bi tr]ado, mando
ut tradas, [mandes me]nse Februari[o]
[e]cillunc mal[e perdat, mal]e exset,
[mal]e disperd[at. Mandes, tra]das ni possit
[ampliu]s ullum [mensem aspic]ere,        45
[videre, contempla]re.
Related post: The Malediction of Bishop Ernulphus.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Happiness and Unhappiness

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 9.20-21 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
He [Epicurus, fragment 474 Usener] says: "Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the whole world." Or, if the following seems to you a more suitable phrase,—for we must try to render the meaning and not the mere words: "A man may rule the world and still be unhappy, if he does not feel that he is supremely happy." In order, however, that you may know that these sentiments are universal, suggested, of course, by Nature, you will find in one of the comic poets this verse [Ribbeck, Comicorum Romanorum ... Fragmenta, 3rd ed., p. 147, no. LXIV]:
Unblest is he who thinks himself unblest.
"si cui," inquit, "sua non videntur amplissima, licet totius mundi dominus sit, tamen miser est." vel si hoc modo tibi melius enuntiari videtur,—id enim agendum est, ut non verbis serviamus, sed sensibus,—: "miser est, qui se non beatissimum iudicat, licet imperet mundo." ut scias autem hos sensus esse communes, natura scilicet dictante, apud poetam comicum invenies:
non est beatus, esse se qui non putat.
Buecheler thought he saw a Greek original behind the comic verse and suggested:
μακάριος οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐχ αὑτῷ δοκεῖ.


The Waters of Decency

The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Complete with exceptions specified in the preface. Translated by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), p. xxiii:
[W]e are occasionally offended by his frankness on subjects to which we are not accustomed to allude; he is not an unclean or a sensual writer, but the waters of decency have risen since his time and submerged some things which were then visible.
Id., p. iii:
In the following list of omissions, italics denote that the piece is marked as spurious both by Dindorf and by Jacobitz. The other omissions are mainly by way of expurgation. In a very few other passages some isolated words and phrases have been excised; but it has not been thought necessary to mark these in the texts by asterisks.

Halcyon; Deorum Dialogi, iv, v, ix, x, xvii, xxii, xxiii; Dialogi Marini, xiii; Vera Historia, I.22, II.19; Alexander, 41, 42; Eunuchus; De Astrologia; Amores; Lucius sive Asinus; Rhetorum Preceptor, 23; Hippias; Adversus Indoctum, 23; Pseudologista; Longaevi; Dialogi Meretricii, v, vi, x; De Syria Dea; Philopatris; Charidemus; Nero; Tragodopodagra; Ocypus; Epigrammata.
As one who loves to dive beneath the waters of decency, I am grateful for this handy list of Lucian's naughty bits. Here is the list with the spurious titles removed:
Deorum Dialogi, iv, v, ix, x, xvii, xxii, xxiii; Dialogi Marini, xiii; Vera Historia, I.22, II.19; Alexander, 41, 42; Eunuchus; Rhetorum Preceptor, 23; Adversus Indoctum, 23; Pseudologista; Dialogi Meretricii, v, vi, x; De Syria Dea; Tragodopodagra; Ocypus; Epigrammata.
The epigrams are conveniently collected by Barry Baldwin, "The Epigrams of Lucian," Phoenix 29.4 (Winter, 1975) 311-335.

Related posts:

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Castration of the Eunuch

I don't own a copy of Terence, The Woman of Andros. The Self-Tormentor. The Eunuch. Edited and Translated by John Barsby (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001 = Loeb Classical Library, 22).

But when I was reading the book in the Digital Loeb Classical Library, I noticed a flaw on pp. 406-409. Page 406 (which should have the Latin of Eunuch, lines 792-805) is blank. Page 408 has the Latin which should be on page 406, as well as its own lines 806-816. Here are screen shots (unfortunately of different sizes, but you can click and then click again to enlarge):



A Plea for Plain English

R[obert] C[awdrey], "To the Reader," A Table Alphabeticall, conteyning and teaching the true writing, and vnderstanding of hard vsuall English wordes... (London: Printed by I.R. for Edmund Weauer, 1604):
Svch as by their place and calling, (but especially Preachers) as haue occasion to speak publiquely before the ignorant people, are to bee admonished, that they neuer affect any strange ynckhorne termes, but labour to speake so as is commonly receiued, and so as the most ignorant may well vnderstand them: neyther seeking to be ouer fine or curious, nor yet liuing ouer carelesse, vsing their speech, as most men doe, & ordering their wits, as the fewest haue done. Some men seek so far for outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mothers language, so that if some of their mothers were aliue, they were not able to tell, or vnderstand what they say, and yet these fine English Clearks, will say they speak in their mother tongue; but one might well charge them, for counterfeyting the Kings English. Also, some far iournied gentlemen, at their returne home, like as they loue to go in forraine apparrell, so they will pouder their talke with ouer-sea language. He that commeth lately out of France, will talk French English, and neuer blush at the matter. Another chops in with English Italianated, and applyeth the Italian phrase to our English speaking, the which is, as if an Orator, that professeth to vtter his minde in plaine Latine, would needs speake Poetrie, & far fetched colours of strange antiquitie. Doth any wise man think, that wit resteth in strange words, or els standeth it not in wholsome matter, and apt declaring of a mans mind? Do we not speak, because we would haue other to vnderstand vs? or is not the tongue giuen for this end, that one might know what another meaneth?
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Near and Dear

Pindar, fragment 52d = Paean 4, lines 32-35 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
What is near home, city and hearth
and kinship, this gives a man something to stay
and love, and the passion for what is far away
belongs to vain fools.

τὸ δὲ οἴκοθεν ἄστυ κα[ὶ ἑστία
καὶ συγγένει' ἀνδρὶ φ[ερέγγυα
στέρξαι· ματ[αί]ων δ' [ἔπλετ᾿ ἔρως τῶν
ἑκὰς ἐόντων.

32-33 suppl. Wilamowitz, 34 suppl. Housman
My version:
Home town and hearth and kindred—trustworthy things for a man to love; to empty-headed folk belongs a yearning for things that are far off.
Related posts:


Is Barbaros a Barbarian Word?

Edith Hall, Inventing the Barbarian (1989; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 4:
The Greek term barbaros, by the fifth century used both as a noun and an adjective, was ironically oriental in origin, and formed by reduplicative onomatopoeia. Originally it was simply an adjective representing the sound of incomprehensible speech.5

5 See Weidner 1913; Specht 1939, p. 11; Limet 1972, p. 124. There are similar words in several early oriental languages, especially the Babylonian-Sumerian barbaru, 'foreigner'. Pokorny 1959, pp. 91-2, connects the term with numerous Indo-European words designating the meaningless or inarticulate, including the Latin balbutio, and the English baby.
But cf. Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, Vol. I (Paris: Éditions Klincksieck, 1968), p. 165:
On a évoqué sumérien bar-bar «étranger», sém. babyl. barbaru, «étranger»: Weidner, Gl. 4, 1913, 303 sq., Specht, KZ 66, 1939, 11; hypothèse périmée, car. akkad. barbaru signifie toujours «loup» et rien d'autre.
I'm unqualified to judge.



Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), "Another Poem of Gifts" (tr. Alan Dugan):
I want to give thanks to the divine
Labyrinth of causes and effects
For the diversity of beings
That form this singular universe,
For Reason, that will never give up its dream
Of a map of the labyrinth,
For Helen's face and the perseverance of Ulysses,
For love, which lets us see others
As God sees them,
For the solid diamond and the flowing water,
For Algebra, a palace of exact crystals,
For the mystic coins of Angelus Silesius,
For Schopenhauer,
Who perhaps deciphered the universe,
For the blazing of fire,
That no man can look at without an ancient wonder,
For mahogany, cedar, and sandalwood,
For bread and salt,
For the mystery of the rose
That spends all its color and can not see it,
For certain eves and days of 1955,
For the hard riders who, on the plains,
Drive on the cattle and the dawn,
For mornings in Montevideo,
For the art of friendship,
For Socrates' last day,
For the words spoken one twilight
From one cross to another,
For that dream of Islam that embraced
A thousand nights and a night,
For that other dream of Hell,
Of the tower of cleansing fire
And of the celestial spheres,
For Swedenborg,
Who talked with the angels in London streets,
For the secret and immemorial rivers
That converge in me,
For the language that, centuries ago, I spoke in Northumberland,
For the sword and harp of the Saxons,
For the sea, which is a shining desert
And a secret code for things we do not know
And an epitaph for the Norsemen,
For the word music of England,
For the word music of Germany,
For gold, that shines in verses,
For epic winter,
For the title of a book I have not read: Gesta Dei per Francos,
For Verlaine, innocent as the birds,
For crystal prisms and bronze weights,
For the tiger's stripes,
For the high towers of San Francisco and Manhattan Island,
For mornings in Texas,
For that Sevillian who composed the Moral Epistle
And whose name, as he would have wished, we do not know,
For Seneca and Lucan, both of Cordova,
Who, before there was Spanish, had written
All Spanish literature,
For gallant, noble, geometric chess,
For Zeno's tortoise and Royce's map,
For the medicinal smell of eucalyptus trees,
For speech, which can be taken for wisdom,
For forgetfulness, which annuls or modifies the past,
For habits,
Which repeat us and confirm us in our image like a mirror,
For morning, that gives us the illusion of a new beginning,
For night, its darkness and its astronomy,
For the bravery and happiness of others,
For my country, sensed in jasmine flowers
Or in an old sword,
For Whitman and Francis of Assisi, who already wrote this poem,
For the fact that the poem is inexhaustible
And becomes one with the sum of all created things
And will never reach its last verse
And varies according to its writers,
For Frances Haslam, who begged her children's pardon
For dying so slowly,
For the minutes that precede sleep,
For sleep and death,
Those two hidden treasures,
For the intimate gifts I do not mention,
For music, that mysterious form of time.
Frances Haslam was Borges' English grandmother.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Certain Words

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), Sappho und Simonides (Berlin: Weidmann, 1913), p. 247, n. 1 (on the word καιρός, my translation):
It is just such words, with no equivalent in any other language, that teach us not only to understand Greek, but to feel in Greek.

Grade solche Wörter, die in keiner anderen Sprache ein Aequivalent haben, lehren nicht nur griechisch verstehen, sondern griechisch fühlen.


The Greatest Goods

Isocrates, Panathenaicus 7-8 (tr. George Norlin):
For I have had my share of the greatest goods of life—the things which all men would pray the gods to have as their portion: first of all, I have enjoyed health both of body and of soul, not in common degree, but in equal measure with those who have been most blessed in these respects; secondly, I have been in comfortable circumstances, so that I have not lacked for any of the moderate satisfactions nor for those that a sensible man would desire; and, lastly, I have been ranked, not among those who are despised or ignored, but among those whom the most cultivated of the Hellenes will recall and talk about as men of consequence and worth.

ἐγὼ γὰρ μετεσχηκὼς τῶν μεγίστων ἀγαθῶν, ὧν ἅπαντες ἂν εὔξαιντο μεταλαβεῖν, πρῶτον μὲν τῆς περὶ τὸ σῶμα καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ὑγιείας οὐχ ὡς ἔτυχον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐναμίλλως τοῖς μάλιστα περὶ ἑκάτερον τούτων εὐτυχηκόσιν, ἔπειτα τῆς περὶ τὸν βίον εὐπορίας, ὥστε μηδενὸς πώποτ᾿ ἀπορῆσαι τῶν μετρίων μηδ᾿ ὧν ἄνθρωπος ἂν νοῦν ἔχων ἐπιθυμήσειεν, ἔτι τοῦ μὴ τῶν καταβεβλημένων εἷς εἶναι μηδὲ τῶν κατημελημένων, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκείνων περὶ ὧν οἱ χαριέστατοι τῶν Ἑλλήνων καὶ μνησθεῖεν ἂν καὶ διαλεχθεῖεν ὡς σπουδαίων ὄντων.


Holy Crap

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, tr. Joseph Ward Swain (New York: Collier Books, 1961), p. 261, n. 43:
Even the excreta have a religious character. See Preuss, Der Ursprung der Religion und Kunst, especially ch. ii, entitled Der Zauber der Defäkation (Globus, LXXXVI, pp. 325 ff.).
A fuller reference: Konrad Theodor Preuss (1869-1938), "Der Ursprung der Religion und Kunst," Globus. Illustrierte Zeitschrift für Länder- und Völkerkunde 86 (1904) 321-327, 355-363, 375-379, 388-392, and 87 (1905) 333-337, 347-350, 380-384, 394-400, 413-419.

Related posts:


Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Up Above the World So High

A poem by Nishiyama Sōin (1605-1682), tr. Steven D. Carter, Haiku Before Haiku: From the Renga Masters to Bashō (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), p. 138:
So far removed
from our dusty world—
cool moon in the sky.



Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "The Olive Tree," Complete Essays, Vol. IV: 1936-1938 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001), pp. 419-427 (at 422):
The English are Germans who have partially "gone Latin." But for William the Conqueror and the Angevins we should be just another nation of Teutons, speaking some uninteresting dialect of Dutch or Danish. The Normans gave us the English language, that beautifully compounded mixture of French and Saxon; and the English language molded the English mind. By Latin out of German: such is our pedigree. We are essentially mongrels: that is the whole point of us. To be mongrels is our mission. If we would fulfill this mission adequately we must take pains to cultivate our mongrelism. Our Saxon and Celtic flesh requires to be constantly rewedded to the Latin spirit. For the most part the English have always realized this truth and acted upon it. From the time of Chaucer onwards almost all our writers have turned, by a kind of infallible instinct, like swallows, toward the South—toward the phantoms of Greece and Rome, toward the living realities of France and Italy. On the rare occasions when, losing their orientation, they have turned eastward and northward, the results have been deplorable. The works of Carlyle are there, an awful warning, to remind us of what happens when the English forget that their duty is to be mongrels and go whoring, within the bounds of consanguinity, after German gods.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Let Us Cease from Wrath

Prince Shōtoku (574-622), Seventeen-Article Constitution, from Article X, tr. W.G. Aston, Nihongi, Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, Vol. I (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Limited, 1896 = Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, Supplement I), p. 131:
Let us cease from wrath, and refrain from angry looks. Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all men have hearts, and each heart has its own leanings. Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong.


No Common Ground

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Writers and Readers," Complete Essays, Vol. IV: 1936-1938 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001), pp. 5-29 (at 26-27, footnote omitted):
In the past the minds of cultured Europeans were shaped and shored up by the Bible and the Greek and Latin classics. Men's philosophy of life tended to crystallize itself in phrases from the Gospels or the Odes of Horace, from the Iliad or the Psalms. Job and Sappho, Juvenal and the Preacher gave style to their despair, their loves, their indignations, their cynicisms. Experience taught them the wisdom that flowed along verbal channels prepared by Aeschylus and Solomon; and the existence of these verbal channels was itself an invitation to learn wisdom from experience. Today most of us resemble Shakespeare in at least one important respect: we know little Latin and less Greek. Even the Bible is rapidly becoming, if not a closed, at any rate a very rarely opened book. The phrases of the Authorized Version no longer prop and canalize our minds. St. Paul and the Psalmist have gone the way of Virgil and Horace. What authors have taken their place? Whose words support contemporary men and women? The answer is that there exists no single set of authoritative books. The common ground of all the Western cultures has slipped away from under our feet.


Let's Drink a Cup of Wine

A poem by Chong Ch'ol (1536-1593), tr. Richard Rutt, The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), no. 239, with translator's note:
Let's drink a cup of wine! And then drink another!
                          Let's pluck flowers and lay them out
                          to count off our endless cups!

Once your body is dead
                          it will be bound in a straw mat
                          and carried away on a jiggy,
                          or sway in a brilliant bier followed
                          by thousands of mourners,
                          but still it will go to the reeds and the rushes,
                          the oaks and the willows,
                          where the sun shines yellow
                          and the moon shines white,
                          where fine rain falls
                          and snowflakes whirl in the wind:
                          and then who will say, "Let's drink a cup!"?

Some monkey will come and chatter on your grave,
                          and what use will regrets be then?

A jiggy (Korean chige) is a wooden carrying-frame, held on the shoulders by straps of straw rope. It places the weight of the load in the center of a man's back, and is the ubiquitous equipment of farmers and laborers.


Worthy Themes

Isocrates, Antidosis 76-77 (tr. George Norlin):
First of all, tell me what eloquence could be more righteous or more just than one which praises our ancestors in a manner worthy of their excellence and of their achievements? Again, what could be more patriotic or more serviceable to Athens than one which shows that by virtue both of our other benefactions and of our exploits in war we have greater claims to the hegemony than the Lacedaemonians? And, finally, what discourse could have a nobler or a greater theme than one which summons the Hellenes to make an expedition against the barbarians and counsels them to be of one mind among themselves?

καὶ πρῶτον μὲν ποῖος γένοιτ᾿ ἂν λόγος ὁσιώτερος ἢ δικαιότερος τοῦ τοὺς προγόνους ἐγκωμιάζοντος ἀξίως τῆς ἀρετῆς τῆς ἐκείνων καὶ τῶν ἔργων τῶν πεπραγμένων αὐτοῖς; ἔπειτα τίς ἂν πολιτικώτερος καὶ μᾶλλον πρέπων τῇ πόλει τοῦ τὴν ἡγεμονίαν ἀποφαίνοντος ἔκ τε τῶν ἄλλων εὐεργεσιῶν καὶ τῶν κινδύνων ἡμετέραν οὖσαν μᾶλλον ἢ Λακεδαιμονίων; ἔτι δὲ τίς ἂν περὶ καλλιόνων καὶ μειζόνων πραγμάτων τοῦ τοὺς Ἕλληνας ἐπί τε τὴν τῶν βαρβάρων στρατείαν παρακαλοῦντος καὶ περὶ τῆς πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὁμονοίας συμβουλεύοντος;

Monday, January 16, 2017


Drowning in Filth

George Orwell, Diaries (April 27, 1942):
We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone's thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a "case" with deliberate suppression of his opponent's point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.


A Bad Habit

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Writers and Readers," Complete Essays, Vol. IV: 1936-1938 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001), pp. 5-29 (at 5-6):
To a considerable extent reading has become, for almost all of us, an addiction, like cigarette-smoking. We read, most of the time, not because we wish to instruct ourselves, not because we long to have our feelings touched and our imagination fired, but because reading is one of our bad habits, because we suffer when we have time to spare and no printed matter with which to plug the void. Deprived of their newspaper or a novel, reading-addicts will fall back on cookery books, on the literature that is wrapped round bottles and patent medicines, on those instructions for keeping the contents crisp which are printed on the outside of boxes of breakfast cereals. On anything.
Related posts:

Sunday, January 15, 2017



Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), "To Urbanus," lines 17-20 (tr. Niall Rudd):
No page is more welcome to the Muses than that which knows how to combine grave and gay, and to refresh the weary mind with helpful trifles.

Non ulla Musis pagina gratior
Quam quae severis ludicra iungere
    Novit, fatigatamque nugis
        Utilibus recreare mentem.


The Coral Reefs of Scholarship

Michael King (1945-2004), Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 218 (Eric = Eric McCormick [1906-1995], at the 41st International PEN Conference in London in 1976):
Of everything that occurred that week, however, I was most moved by a remark Eric made in the course of our evening at Westminster. The function of the scholar, he said then, was analogous to that of the coral organism. One lays down one's own skeleton on the heap of bones left by others, who by so doing have built up a patterned structure. One also does it for the benefit of later comers, who will in turn lay their remains on yours. It is the inclusive effect of this accretion that creates meaning, Eric said, not the individual contribution. I cannot think of any metaphor which better describes the organic growth of culture and scholarship; nor of one which is more indicative of Eric's own monumental patience, humility and achievements as a writer and scholar.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


In Bed

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), "Translation of Lines by Benserade," Poems (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964; rpt. 1975), p. 293:
In bed we laugh, in bed we cry,
And born in bed, in bed we die;
The near approach a bed may shew
Of human bliss to human woe.
French original:
Théâtre des ris et des pleurs
Lit! où je nais, et où je meurs,
Tu nous fais voir comment voisins
Sont nos plaisirs et chagrins.

Friday, January 13, 2017


Student's Lament

E.E. Cummings (1894-1962), "Ballad of the Scholar's Lament," Complete Poems (New York: Liveright, 1991), p. 851:
When I have struggled through three hundred years
    Of Roman history, and hastened o'er
Some French play—(though I have my private fears
    Of flunking sorely when I take the floor
In class),—when I have steeped my soul in gore
    And Greek, and figured over half a ream
With Algebra, which I do (not) adore,
    How shall I manage to compose a theme?

It's well enough to talk of poor and peers,
    And munch the golden apples' shiny core,
And lay a lot of heroes on their biers;—
    While the great Alec, knocking down a score,
Takes out his handkerchief, boohoo-ing, "More!"—
    But harshly I awaken from my dream,
To find a new,—er,—privilege,—in store:
    How shall I manage to compose a theme?

After I've swallowed prophecies of seers,
    And trailed Aeneas from the Trojan shore,
Learned how Achilles, after many jeers,
    On piggy Agamemnon got to sore,
And heard how Hercules, Esq., tore
    Around, and swept and dusted with a stream,
There's one last duty,—let's not call it bore,—
    How shall I manage to compose a theme?


Of what avail is all my mighty lore?
    I beat my breast, I tear my hair, I scream:
"Behold, I have a Herculean chore.
    How shall I manage to compose a theme?"


Serpent's Tooth

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1857), "L'Avertisseur," tr. Francis Scarfe:
Every man worthy of the name has, in his heart, a yellow Serpent, set there as on a throne, and which, if he says 'I will!' replies: 'No.'

Plunge your eyes into the unmoving eyes of satyresses and nixies, and the Tooth says: 'Think of your duty!'

Whether you make children or plant trees, or polish verses, or sculpt marbles, the Tooth says: 'Will you be alive, this night?'

Whatever he undertakes or hopes, man never lives a moment without enduring the insufferable Viper's warning.
In French:
Tout homme digne de ce nom
A dans le coeur un Serpent jaune,
Installé comme sur un trône,
Qui, s'il dit: «Je veux,» répond: «Non!»

Plonge tes yeux dans les yeux fixes
Des Satyresses ou des Nixes,
La Dent dit: «Pense à ton devoir!»

Fais des enfants, plante des arbres,
Polis des vers, sculpte des marbres,
La Dent dit: «Vivras-tu ce soir?»

Quoi qu'il ébauche ou qu'il espère,
L'homme ne vit pas un moment
Sans subir l'avertissement
De l'insupportable Vipère.



Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), Fatras (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), p. 121:
Mangez sur l'herbe
Un jour ou l'autre
L'herbe mangera sur vous
Picnic on the grass
Hurry up
One of these days
The grass will picnic on you

Édouard Manet, Déjeuner sur l'herbe

Thanks to Ian Jackson for help.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


In Praise of Dogs

Columella, On Agriculture 7.12.1 (tr. E.S. Forster and Edward H. Heffner):
For what human being more clearly or so vociferously gives warning of the presence of a wild beast or of a thief as does the dog by its barking? What servant is more attached to his master than is a dog? What companion more faithful? What guardian more incorruptible? What more wakeful night-watchman can be found? Lastly, what more steadfast avenger or defender? To buy and keep a dog ought, therefore, to be among the first things which a farmer does, because it is the guardian of the farm, its produce, the household and the cattle.

Nam quis hominum clarius aut tanta vociferatione bestiam vel furem praedicat, quam iste latratu? quis famulus amantior domini? quis fidelior comes? quis custos incorruptior? quis excubitor inveniri potest vigilantior? quis denique ultor aut vindex constantior? Quare vel in primis hoc animal mercari tuerique debet agricola, quod et villam et fructus familiamque et pecora custodit.


Teacher's Lament

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), "Last Lesson of the Afternoon," Complete Poems (Ware: Wordsworth, 2002), p. 40:
When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?
How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart,
My pack of unruly hounds! I cannot start
Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
I can haul them and urge them no more.

No longer now can I endure the brunt
Of the books that lie out on the desks; a full threescore
Of several insults of blotted pages, and scrawl
Of slovenly work that they have offered me.
I am sick, and what on earth is the good of it all?
What good to them or me, I cannot see!

                                            So, shall I take
My last dear fuel of life to heap on my soul
And kindle my will to a flame that shall consume
Their dross of indifference; and take the toll
Of their insults in punishment? — I will not! —

I will not waste my soul and my strength for this.
What do I care for all that they do amiss!
What is the point of this teaching of mine, and of this
Learning of theirs? It all goes down the same abyss.

What does it matter to me, if they can write
A description of a dog, or if they can't?
What is the point? To us both, it is all my aunt!
And yet I'm supposed to care, with all my might.

I do not, and will not; they won't and they don't; and that's all!
I shall keep my strength for myself; they can keep theirs as well.
Why should we beat our heads against the wall
Of each other? I shall sit and wait for the bell.
Related posts:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


A Rare Word in Rabelais

In the prologue to Rabelais' 4th book, the word merdigues occurs. Here is the entry for the word in Edmond Huguet, Dictionnaire de la langue française du seizième siècle, vol. 5 (Paris: Didier, 1961), p. 213:
Merdigues, juron. Mère de Dieu. — Soubriant du bout du nez dict. Merdigues, ceste cy estoit mienne. RABELAIS, IV. Prologue. — Marmes, Merdigues. Juremens de gens villageoys en Touraine, ID. Briefve Declar. (III, 197).
There seems to be a misprint in Huguet, where the word appears as merdignes (corrected by me to merdigues in the transcription above):

"Briefve Declar." in Huguet's entry is a reference to Briefve declaration d'aulcunes dictions plus obscures contenües on quatriesme livre des faicts et dicts Heroïcques de Pantagruel, published with the Quart Livre in 1552.

M.A. Screech translates merdigues as "Mudder of God," W.F. Smith as "By'r Lakin" (i.e. by our ladykin, an Elizabethan oath). See also Oeuvres de François Rabelais: édition critique publiée sous la direction de Abel Lefranc, Tome sixième: Le Quart Livre, Chapitres I-XVII (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1955), p. 57 (note 248):
Par la mère de Dieu. "Jurement de gens villageoys en Touraine", Br. Déclar. Amplification de par la Merdé, cf. 1. I, ch. XIII, n. 55, Sainéan, II, 338.
But J.M. Cohen translates merdigues as "God's turds," Donald M. Frame as "Turd of God" with the note:
"Merdigues," euphemism for "Mère de Dieu" but with the sound that we show in our translation.
Likewise Marie-Luce Demonet, "Pantagrueline humanism and Rabelaisian fiction," in The Cambridge Companion to Rabelais, ed. John O'Brien (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 73-92 (at 87), explains the word as "turd of God."

The "index verborum" in the edition of Gargantua edited by Ruth Calder, M.A. Screech, and V.L. Saulnier, for the "Textes littéraires français" series (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1970), p. 405, glosses "Mer Dé, par la" as:
imprécation, par la merci de Dieu; avec équivoque (merde).
The same editors, on p. 91, note 99, gloss "par la mer Dé" in Gargantua, Chapter 12, line 99, as:
Forme variante populaire de l'imprécation Par la merci Dieu, qui tombe bien à propos dans un contexte fécal.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who provided most of the information above.

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The Sole Test of a Translation

Herbert Read, review of the Fowler brothers' translation of Lucian, New Age (November 3, 1921):
The translation is so perfect that one is never aware that it is a translation: it reads like the work of an original genius—which, assuming a sufficient accuracy, is the sole test of a translation.
I owe the quotation to Jenny McMorris, The Warden of English: The Life of H.W. Fowler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001; rpt. 2002), p. 56, with note on p. 221.



Shahid of Balkh, "On the Ruins of Tus," tr. A.V. Williams Jackson, From Constantinople to the Home of Omar Khayyam (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1911), p. 278:
Last night by ruined Tus I chanced to go,
An owl sat perched where once the cock did crow.
I asked, "What message from this waste bring'st Thou?"
It said, "The message is, Woe, woe, all's woe!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Inscription for a House

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), "Insula Sancti Kennethi," lines 21-22:
Quo vagor ulterius? quod ubique requiritur hic est;
    Hic secura quies, hic et honestus amor.
Translated by Niall Rudd:
Why should I wander any further? All that is required anywhere is here; here is serene repose, and here is honourable love.

Isaak Levitan, Sunny Day

Related post: Small Houses.

Monday, January 09, 2017



Joshua Katz, "The Name Game," The Daily Princetonian (April 12, 2010):
What you must never do is call me Dr. Katz. Yes, I hold a doctorate. Yes, there are many universities in the country at which Doctor is in fact the preferred appellation for faculty. And no, it's not a snob thing. (Not so long ago, it was considered vulgar to have a Ph.D., and students and teachers routinely addressed each other as Mister. Of course even now a very few very special people are so brilliant that they reach the academy's highest tower without having a regular doctorate: Peter Brown and Joyce Carol Oates come to mind.) The problem, in short, is that Dr. Katz makes me sound like your psychiatrist. Which I am not.
When I attended the University of Virginia, long ago, "students and teachers routinely addressed each other as Mister" (or "Miss" or "Mrs."). There was also a professor there who had reached "the academy's highest tower without having a regular doctorate"—Roger Shattuck (1923-2005).

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Persicos Odi, Puer, Apparatus

A poem by Han Ho (1543–1605), aka Han Seok-bong, tr. Richard Rutt, The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), no. 162:
You need not spread that straw mat:
               can I not sit on fallen leaves?
Nor light that pinewood torch:
               the moon is up that sank last night.
Don't argue, boy, the wine may be sour,
               and served with weeds, but pour it.
The same, tr. Graeme Wilson, "Modern Translations of Sijo," Korea Journal 10.1 (January 1970) 33:
Lad, don't bother to bring out mats,
These fallen leaves are fine.

Don't go messing about with torches:
The moon that lent its shine
All last night is scarcely likely
This night to decline.

But grudge me not a dish of mountain-
Greens and a wipe of wine.
This reminds me of Horace, Odes 1.38.


A Lifetime of Books

A poem by Yi Hwang (1501–1570), aka T'oegye, tr. Richard Rutt, The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), no. 177:
Back at the High Cloud Terrace
               my study is cool and quiet.
A lifetime of books
               has meant delights without end.
What words can I find to describe
               these pleasures ever fresh?

Sunday, January 08, 2017


Methods of Attaining Greatness

Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Jonathan Wild, IV.15:
He laid down several maxims as the certain methods of attaining greatness, to which, in his own pursuit of it, he constantly adhered. As —

1. Never to do more mischief to another than was necessary to the effecting his purpose; for that mischief was too precious a thing to be thrown away.

2. To know no distinction of men from affection; but to sacrifice all with equal readiness to his interest.

3. Never to communicate more of an affair than was necessary to the person who was to execute it.

4. Not to trust him who hath deceived you, nor who knows he hath been deceived by you.

5. To forgive no enemy; but to be cautious and often dilatory in revenge.

6. To shun poverty and distress, and to ally himself as close as possible to power and riches.

7. To maintain a constant gravity in his countenance and behaviour, and to affect wisdom on all occasions.

8. To foment eternal jealousies in his gang, one of another.

9. Never to reward any one equal to his merit; but always to insinuate that the reward was above it.

10. That all men were knaves or fools, and much the greater number a composition of both.

11. That a good name, like money, must be parted with, or at least greatly risqued, in order to bring the owner any advantage.

12. That virtues, like precious stones, were easily counterfeited; that the counterfeits in both cases adorned the wearer equally, and that very few had knowledge or discernment sufficient to distinguish the counterfeit jewel from the real.

13. That many men were undone by not going deep enough in roguery; as in gaming any man may be a loser who doth not play the whole game.

14. That men proclaim their own virtues, as shopkeepers expose their goods, in order to profit by them.

15. That the heart was the proper seat of hatred, and the countenance of affection and friendship.
Related post: Parodies of the Decalogue.


All the Political, Commercial, and Fashionable News

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Martin Chuzzlewit, chapter XVI:
Some trifling excitement prevailed upon the very brink and margin of the land of liberty; for an alderman had been elected the day before; and Party Feeling naturally running rather high on such an exciting occasion, the friends of the disappointed candidate had found it necessary to assert the great principles of Purity of Election and Freedom of Opinion by breaking a few legs and arms, and furthermore pursuing one obnoxious gentleman through the streets with the design of slitting his nose. These good-humoured little outbursts of the popular fancy were not in themselves sufficiently remarkable to create any great stir, after the lapse of a whole night; but they found fresh life and notoriety in the breath of the news-boys, who not only proclaimed them with shrill yells in all the highways and byeways of the town, upon the wharves and among the shipping, but on the deck and down in the cabins of the steamboat; which, before she touched the shore, was boarded and overrun by a legion of those young citizens.

"Here's this morning's New York Sewer!" cried one. "Here's this morning's New York Stabber! Here's the New York Family Spy! Here's the New York Private Listener! Here's the New York Peeper! Here's the New York Plunderer! Here's the New York Keyhole Reporter! Here's the New York Rowdy Journal! Here's all the New York papers! Here's full particulars of the patriotic locofoco movement yesterday, in which the Whigs was so chawed up; and the last Alabama gouging case; and the interesting Arkansas dooel with Bowie knifes; and all the Political, Commercial, and Fashionable News. Here they are! Here they are! Here's the papers, here's the papers!"

"Here's the Sewer!" cried another. "Here's the New York Sewer! Here's some of the twelfth thousand of to-day's Sewer, with the best account of the markets, and all the shipping news, and four whole columns of country correspondence, and a full account of the Ball at Mrs. White's last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled; with the Sewer's own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies that was there! Here's the Sewer! Here's some of the twelfth thousand of the New York Sewer! Here's the Sewer's exposure of the Wall-Street Gang, and the Sewer's exposure of the Washington Gang, and the Sewer's exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at a great expense, by his own nurse. Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York Sewer, in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be shown up, and all their names printed! Here's the Sewer's article upon the Judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the Sewer's tribute to the independent jury that didn't convict him, and the Sewer's account of what they might have expected if they had! Here's the Sewer, here's the Sewer! Here's the wide-awake Sewer; always on the look-out; the leading Journal of the United States, now in its twelfth thousand, and still a printing off. Here's the New York Sewer!"

By the way, did you know that, according to Google, Dickens wrote another work with a similar title (screen shot captured today)?

I thought I had read all of Dickens' novels, but I see that one remains to be read — Martin Chugglewit.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


First-Class Authors

M.A. Screech, "Homage to Rabelais," London Review of Books 6.17 (September 20, 1984):
But not everybody likes Rabelais. Young Calvin did. The later Calvin did not. Nor did the Council of Trent — where the French were a tiny minority. Rabelais's Christian comedy was too much for Pius IV. His Index Tridentinus (1564) casts Rabelais among the 'forbidden authors of the first class'. He was ranked with Luther and Calvin. (Erasmus was in a different category.) Later he was joined by Montaigne, Pascal, Balzac and others, until the silly enterprise was laughed out of existence. To read, without prior permission, a 'first-class' author entailed excommunication.



Robert Garioch (1909-1981), "Refusal to Admire the Large and Complicated Works of Man," Complete Poetical Works (Edinburgh: MacDonald Publishers, 1983), p. 191:
The pyramids are not a botched-up job
for all their size; it is a greater pain
to see these monstrous piles of human accuracy
than to have in mind the whole mineral desert.

And oh! the intolerable great mass,
accurate to a thousandth of an inch,
of the thousand-foot, meaningless, Eiffel Tower;
the infinite Seine is easier to contemplate.

Do not mistake me. If I have to travel,
I make use of the precision of great ships,
but without admiration; I avoid this
by pondering the illimitable Ocean.

Centuries of subtle intellects
have filled libraries with exegesis
too huge altogether; it is more feasible
to fathom the works of Almighty God.
Related posts:

Friday, January 06, 2017


Superintendant of All Things Public and Private

Aristophanes, Wealth 901-908 (Cario and Informer speaking; tr. Benjamin Bickley Rogers):
CAR. What, YOU a virtuous patriot? INF. No man more so.
CAR. Come then, I'll ask you—Answer me. INF. Well. CAR. Are you
A farmer? INF. Do you take me for a fool?
CAR. A merchant? INF. Aye, I feign so, on occasion.
CAR. Have you learned any trade? INF. No, none by Zeus.        905
CAR. Then how and whence do you earn your livelihood?
INF. All public matters and all private too
Are in my charge. CAR. How so? INF. 'Tis I WHO WILL.

ΔΙΚ. σὺ φιλόπολις καὶ χρηστός; ΣΥΚ. ὡς οὐδείς γ᾿ ἀνήρ.
ΔΙΚ. καὶ μὴν ἐπερωτηθεὶς ἀπόκριναί μοι. ΣΥΚ. τὸ τί;
ΔΙΚ. γεωργὸς εἶ; ΣΥΚ. μελαγχολᾶν μ᾿ οὕτως οἴει;
ΔΙΚ. ἀλλ᾿ ἔμπορος; ΣΥΚ. ναί, σκήπτομαί γ᾿, ὅταν τύχω.
ΔΙΚ. τί δαί; τέχνην τιν᾿ ἔμαθες; ΣΥΚ. οὐ μὰ τὸν Δία.        905
ΔΙΚ. πῶς οὖν διέζης ἢ πόθεν μηδὲν ποιῶν;
ΣΥΚ. τῶν τῆς πόλεώς εἰμ᾿ ἐπιμελητὴς πραγμάτων
καὶ τῶν ἰδίων πάντων. ΔΙΚ. σύ; τί μαθών; ΣΥΚ. βούλομαι.


Cause of Evils

Thucydides 3.82.8 (tr. C.F. Smith):
The cause of all these evils was the desire to rule which greed and ambition inspire, and also, springing from them, that ardour which belongs to men who once have become engaged in factious rivalry.

πάντων δ᾿ αὐτῶν αἴτιον ἀρχὴ ἡ διὰ πλεονεξίαν καὶ φιλοτιμίαν, ἐκ δ᾿ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐς τὸ φιλονικεῖν καθισταμένων τὸ πρόθυμον.
Madvig, Adversaria Critica, vol. I, p. 317:

Simon Hornblower ad loc.:
There is no need to emend the text so as to eliminate αἴτιον—an emendation which would necessitate (i) taking ἀρχή, 'love of power' in its other sense, 'cause',and (ii) taking αἴτιον, another word for 'cause', as a gloss on ἀρχή.

Thursday, January 05, 2017


Differentiae Verborum

Isocrates, On the Peace 91 (tr. George Norlin):
But, heedless of these lessons, those who came after them desired, not to rule but to dominate—words which are thought to have the same meaning, although between them there is the utmost difference. For it is the duty of those who rule to make their subjects happier through their care for their welfare, whereas it is a habit of those who dominate to provide pleasures for themselves through the labours and hardships of others.

Ὧν ἀμελήσαντες οἱ γενόμενοι μετ᾿ ἐκείνους οὐκ ἄρχειν ἀλλὰ τυραννεῖν ἐπεθύμησαν, ἃ δοκεῖ μὲν τὴν αὐτὴν ἔχειν δύναμιν, πλεῖστον δ᾿ ἀλλήλων κεχώρισται· τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἀρχόντων ἔργον ἐστὶ τοὺς ἀρχομένους ταῖς αὑτῶν ἐπιμελείαις ποιεῖν εὐδαιμονεστέρους, τοῖς δὲ τυράννοις ἔθος καθέστηκε τοῖς τῶν ἄλλων πόνοις καὶ κακοῖς αὑτοῖς ἡδονὰς παρασκευάζειν.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017


A Cordial to the Spirits

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "On Wit and Humour," Lectures on the Comic Writers (discussing Rabelais):
I cannot help thinking of him here, sitting in his easy chair, with an eye languid with excess of mirth, his lip quivering with a new-born conceit, and wiping his beard after a well-seasoned jest, with his pen held carelessly in his hand, his wine-flagons, and his books of law, of school divinity, and physic before him, which were his jest-books, whence he drew endless stores of absurdity; laughing at the world and enjoying it by turns, and making the world laugh with him again, for the last three hundred years, at his teeming wit and its own prolific follies. Even to those who have never read his works, the name of Rabelais is a cordial to the spirits, and the mention of it cannot consist with gravity or spleen!

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902), Lisant Rabelais



Joseph Wechsberg (1907-1983), Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), pp. 87-88:
In the happier prewar days, when food and drink were far more important to the citizens of Prague than the speeches of their political leaders, the social standing of a man was often determined by the sausage shop he patronized and the kind of hot sausage he ate there. A sausage eater never switched allegiance.

There were two main varieties of hot sausage: the lean ones, either short or long, called párky, which looked somewhat like frankfurters and wieners and always came in pairs; and the fat, short ones, called either vuršty (woorshty, after the German word Wurst), klobásy, or taliány, which were sold in strings, like pearls. Taliány ("Italians") were white and very fat, larded with pieces of bacon and garlic. Klobásy were somewhat bigger, fatter even, and thick-skinned.

The most popular hot sausages of all were the vuršty. They were juicy and less fattish, the feminine species of the hot-sausage family and were mostly eaten by men. Vuršty were two and three-quarters inches long; you ate them with the skin. To leave the thin skin of a vuršta on the plate was like putting water into vintage wine in a Burgundy wine cellar. The quality of the vuršty was tested by sticking in the fork. If the vuršty were fresh and properly made, the juice would spout into the eater's face. Vuršty-eaters recognized one another by the fat-stains on their ties and lapels. They wore them proudly, like campaign ribbons.


Two Types of States

Isocrates, On the Peace 89 (tr. George Norlin):
And yet we must not count that state happy which without discrimination recruits from all parts of the world a large number of citizens but rather that state which more than all others preserves the stock of those who in the beginning founded it.

καίτοι χρὴ πόλιν μὲν εὐδαιμονίζειν μὴ τὴν ἐξ ἁπάντων ἀνθρώπων εἰκῇ πολλοὺς πολίτας ἀθροίζουσαν, ἀλλὰ τὴν τὸ γένος τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς τὴν πόλιν οἰκισάντων μᾶλλον τῶν ἄλλων διασώζουσαν.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017


The Agrarian Mind

Wendell Berry, "The Whole Horse," The Art of the Commonplace (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2002), pp. 236-248 (at 239):
An agrarian economy rises up from the fields, woods, and streams — from the complex of soils, slopes, weathers, connections, influences, and exchanges that we mean when we speak, for example, of the local community or the local watershed. The agrarian mind is therefore not regional or national, let alone global, but local. It must know on intimate terms the local plants and animals and local soils; it must know local possibilities and impossibilities, opportunities and hazards. It depends and insists on knowing very particular local histories and biographies.

Because a mind so placed meets again and again the necessity for work to be good, the agrarian mind is less interested in abstract quantities than in particular qualities. It feels threatened and sickened when it hears people and creatures and places spoken of as labor, management, capital, and raw material. It is not at all impressed by the industrial legendry of gross national products, or of the numbers sold and dollars earned by gigantic corporations. It is interested — and forever fascinated — by questions leading toward the accomplishment of good work: What is the best location for a particular building or fence? What is the best way to plow this field? What is the best course for a skid road in this woodland? Should this tree be cut or spared? What are the best breeds and types of livestock for this farm? — questions which cannot be answered in the abstract, and which yearn not toward quantity but toward elegance. Agrarianism can never become abstract because it has to be practiced in order to exist.
If I were President-Elect of the United States, I would ask Wendell Berry to be Agriculture Secretary.

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