Friday, March 06, 2015


Bygone Days

Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.14.2 (Rufinus Albinus speaking; tr. Robert A. Kaster):
To be sure, we must always revere the days gone by, if we have any sense: those were the generations that produced this dominion of ours with their blood or sweat, and only an abundance of virtues could have made that possible.

vetustas quidem nobis semper, si sapimus, adoranda est. illa quippe saecula sunt quae hoc imperium vel sanguine vel sudore pepererunt, quod non nisi virtutum faceret ubertas.


What Is a Scholar?

Robert Graves (1895-1985), The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, 4th ed. (1997; rpt. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 21:
But, after all, what is a scholar? One who may not break bounds on pain of expulsion from the academy of which he is a member.


I Hate My Bed!

Eric Ormsby, "A Kingdom in Splinters," New Criterion (March, 2015), a review of James Turner, Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014):
When I first met the late Albert Jamme, the renowned epigrapher of Old South Arabian, this Belgian Jesuit startled me by exclaiming at the top of his voice, "I hate my bed!" When I politely suggested that he get a new mattress, he shot back with "No, no! I hate my bed because it keeps me from my texts!"

Thursday, March 05, 2015


Errors Repeat and Multiply in Every Edition

John Evelyn, letter to Edward Hyde (November 27, 1666), in The Letterbooks of John Evelyn, Vol. I: British Museum Add Ms 78298, edd. Douglas D.C. Chambers and David Galbraith (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), pp. 423-426 (at 423-425; footnotes omitted):
The affaire is this: Since the late deplorable Conflagration, in which the stationers have been exceedingly ruin'd, there is like to be an extraordinary penury and scarcity of Classic Authors etc. us'd in our Grammar scholes; so as of necessity they must suddainely be reprinted. My Lord may please to understand, that our Book-Sellers follow their owne judgement in printing the antient Authors according to such Text, as they found extant when first they entred their Copy: Whereas, out of manuscripts collated by the industry of later Critics, those Authors are exceedingly improved. For instance, about 30 yeares since, Justine was corrected by Isaac Vossius in many hundreds of places most material to sense, and Elegancy; and has since ben frequently reprinted in Holland after the purer Copy. But, with us, still according to the old Reading: The like has Florus, Senecas Tragedys and neere all the rest: which have in the meane time been castigated abroad by severall learned hands, which, besides that it makes ours to be rejected, and dishonours our nation; so dos it no lesse detriment to Learning, and to the treasure of the nation in proportion. The Cause of this is, principaly the Stationar driving as hard and cruel a bargain with the Printer as he can; and the Printer taking up any Smatterer in the Tongues, to be the lesse looser; an exactnesse in this no wayes importing the stipulation; by which meanes Errors repeate and multiply in every Edition, and that most notoriously in some most necessary schole-books of Value, which they obtrude upon the Buyer, unlesse men will be at unreasonable rates for forraine Editions.
Id.(at 425):
My Lord, If this Paper find acceptance, I would be bold to add some other farther hints for the Carying it on to some perfection. For beside all I have sayd, there will neede paines in reading, consulting manuscripts and conferences with learned men; good Indexes, apt divisions, Chapters and Verses as the Dutch Variorum, Embellishment of Roman and Italique letters to separate inserted Speeches; especialy in Historians and Sententious Authors, which adds to the use, lustre, choyce of Succinct Notes, as difficult so the profitable, after more terse and profitable Copy, etc.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Always Something To Hope For?

St. Augustine, Letters 213.1 (tr. Roland J. Teske):
In this life we are all subject to death, and the last day of this life is always uncertain for every human being. Yet in infancy one looks forward to childhood, and in childhood one looks forward to adolescence, and in adolescence one looks forward to young adulthood, and in young adulthood one looks forward to maturity, and in maturity one looks forward to old age. Whether it will come is uncertain, and yet one looks forward to it. Old age, however, does not have another age that it looks forward to. It is also uncertain how long one's old age will be; it is certain, nevertheless, that no age remains that will come after old age.

omnes in hac vita mortales sumus et dies huius vitae ultimus omni homini est semper incertus. verum tamen in infantia speratur pueritia et in pueritia speratur adolescentia et in adolescentia speratur iuventus et in iuventute speratur gravitas et in gravitate speratur senectus. utrum contingat incertum est; est tamen, quod speretur. senectus autem aliam aetatem, quam speret, non habet. incertum est enim, ipsa senectus quamdiu sit homini; illud tamen certum est, nullam remanere aetatem quae possit succedere senectuti.


Plautus, Persa 408: Asyndetic, Privative Adjectives

Plautus, Persa 408 (Toxilus is addressing and berating the pimp Dordalus):
impure, inhoneste, iniure, illex


Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Raison d'Être

Jane Austen (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice, chapter LVII (Mr. Bennet speaking):
For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator.


My Utmost Designs

John Evelyn, letter to his uncle William Prettyman (December 2, 1651), in The Letterbooks of John Evelyn, Vol. I: British Museum Add Ms 78298, edd. Douglas D.C. Chambers and David Galbraith (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), pp. 103-104 (at 104):
A Friend, a Booke, and a Garden shall for the future perfectly circumscribe my utmost designes...
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.



Henry de Montherlant (1895-1972), excerpt from Carnet XXI, in his Essais (Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1963), pp. 1034-1035 (from 1931; my translation):
We can detect only the kitsch of our own time. We have trouble imagining what might have appeared in bad taste to someone in the days of Pericles, or Saint Louis. The ubiquity of angels, for example, which delights us in the art of the Middle Ages—wouldn't it have seemed unbearably trite to a sensitive person of that time? And we swoon over ancient terracotta pieces which Verres would have rejected for his concierge's quarters.

La vulgarité ne nous frappe que contemporaine. Nous avons peine à nous représenter ce qui pouvait paraître vulgaire à un homme du temps de Périclès ou du temps de saint Louis. Le leitmotiv des anges, par exemple, qui nous enchante dans l'imagerie du moyen âge, ne fit-il pas l'effet à tel contemporain délicat d'un lieu commun insupportable? Et nous adorons des terres cuites antiques dont Verrès n'eût pas voulu pour la loge de son concierge.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


The Thinker

Plautus, Miles Gloriosus 200-209 (tr. Paul Nixon):
Just look at him, how he stands there with bent brow, considering and cogitating. He's tapping his chest with his fingers. Intends to summon forth his intelligence, I suppose. Aha! Turns away! Rests his left hand on his left thigh, and reckons on the fingers of his right hand. Gives his right thigh a smack! A lusty whack—his plan of action is having a hard birth. Snaps his fingers! He's in distress. Constantly changes his position! Look there, though; he's shaking his head—that idea won't do! He won't take it out half baked, whatever it is, but give it to us done to a turn. Look, though! (as Palaestrio rests his chin on his hand) He's building—supporting his chin with a pillar.

                                                                    illuc sis vide,        200
quem ad modum adstitit, severo fronte curans cogitans.
pectus digitis pultat, cor credo evocaturust foras;
ecce avortit: nixus laevo in femine habet laevam manum,
dextera digitis rationem computat, ferit femur
dexterum. ita vehementer icit: quod agat aegre suppetit.        205
concrepuit digitis: laborat; crebro commutat status,
eccere autem capite nutat: non placet quod repperit.
quidquid est, incoctum non expromet, bene coctum dabit.
ecce autem aedificat: columnam mento suffigit suo.

Auguste Rodin, Le Penseur


Who Has Bitten You?

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin (tr. Eleanor Marx Aveling):
The great affectation of morality which reigns at present would be very laughable, if it were not very tiresome. Every feuilleton becomes a pulpit, every journalist a preacher, and nothing but the tonsure and the little collar is wanting. Rainy weather and homilies are the order of the day; we protect ourselves from the one by not going out except in a carriage, and from the other by reading Pantagruel again with bottle and pipe.

Good heavens! what exasperation! what fury! Who has bitten you? Who has stung you? What the deuce is the matter with you, that you make such an outcry, and what has this poor vice done to you, that he has so much of your ill-will, he who is such a good fellow and so easy-going, and who only asks to amuse himself without annoying other people, if that be possible? Do with vice as Serre did with the gendarme: embrace each other, and let all this come to an end. Believe me, it will do you good.

Cette grande affectation de morale qui règne maintenant serait fort risible, si elle n'était fort ennuyeuse. — Chaque feuilleton devient une chaire; chaque journaliste, un prédicateur; il n'y manque que la tonsure et le petit collet. Le temps est à la pluie et à l'homélie: on se défend de l'une et de l'autre en ne sortant qu'en voiture et en relisant Pantagruel entre sa bouteille et sa pipe.

Mon doux Jésus! quel déchaînement! quelle furie! — Qui vous a mordu? qui vous a piqué? que diable avez-vous donc pour crier si haut, et que vous a fait ce pauvre vice pour lui en tant vouloir, lui qui est si bon homme, si facile à vivre, et qui ne demande qu'à s'amuser lui-même et à ne pas ennuyer les autres, si faire se peut? — Agissez avec le vice comme Serre avec le gendarme: embrassez-vous, et que tout cela finisse. — Croyez-m'en, vous vous en trouverez bien.

Monday, March 02, 2015


In the Time That's Left

Plautus, Mercator 547-554 (tr. Paul Nixon):
Only a short space of life is left me, I'll sweeten it with pleasure and wine and love. Why, my age is just the proper season to have my fling. When you're young and your blood's fresh, that's the time to settle down to making your fortune; and then at last when you're old, why, that's the time to take your ease and enjoy your love affairs while you can. For then each day of life is clear profit.

decurso spatio breve quod vitae relicuomst
voluptate, vino et amore delectavero.
nam hanc se bene habere aetatem nimiost aequius.
adulescens quom sis, tum quom est sanguis integer,        550
rei tuae quaerundae convenit operam dare;
demum igitur quom sis iam senex, tum in otium
te conloces, dum potes ames: id iam lucrumst
quod vivis.
Related post: Proper Pursuits for an Old Man.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Agrarian Man and Industrial Man

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995), Nations and Nationalism, 2nd ed. (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006), p. 50:
Agrarian man can be compared with a natural species which can survive in the natural environment. Industrial man can be compared with an artificially produced or bred species which can no longer breathe effectively in the nature-given atmosphere, but can only function effectively and survive in a new, specially blended and artificially sustained air or medium. Hence he lives in specially bounded and constructed units, a kind of giant aquarium or breathing chamber.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


On Laziness

Bai Juyi (772-846), "On Laziness," tr. Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping:
When offices are open I'm too lazy to apply for office.
And though I have lands I'm too lazy to farm them.
My roof leaks but I'm too lazy to fix it
and I'm too lazy to patch my gown when it splits.
I'm too lazy to pour my wine into my cup;
it's like my cup is always empty.
I'm too lazy to play my lute;
it's as if it has no strings.
My family says the steamed rice is all eaten;
I want some but am too lazy to hull it.
I receive letters from relatives and friends
I want to read, but am too lazy to slit them open.
I heard about Qi Shuye
who spent all his life in laziness,
but he played the lute and smelted iron.
Compared with me, he isn't lazy at all!
Related posts:


Down with Everything Philological

Roberta Frank, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Philologist," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 96 (1997) 486-513 (at 487):
Depressed, we seem agreed on only one thing, that we are living in a bustling, brash, brazen present that does not quite know what to make of us. And never did. At the end of William L'Isle's "Preface" to A Saxon Treatise concerning the Old and New Testament (1623), a rather plaintive King Alfred looks down from heaven and laments that his countrymen can no longer be bothered to read his Old English writings or language: "That all should be lost, all forgot, all grow out of knowledge and remembrance," he mourns, "what negligence, what ingratitude is this?"4 Links untended snap, the lineaments of the past whirl away and vanish. "Down with antiquities," Bacon had written in 1620, "and citations or supporting evidence from texts; ... down with everything philological."5

4. "The Complaint of a Saxon King," par. 20 in "Preface" to A Saxon Treatise concerning the Old and New Testament. Written about ... (700 yeares agoe) by Aelfricus Abbas (London, 1623). The book was reissued with a different title page as Divers Ancient Monuments in the Saxon Tongue. Written seven hundred yeares agoe shewing that both in the Old and New Testament, the Lords Prayer and the Creede, were then used in the Mother Tongue ... (London, 1638). See Rosemund Tuve, "Ancients, Moderns, and Saxons," English Literary History, 6 (1939), 165-90.

5. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, Parasceve ad historiam naturalem et experimentalem, aphorism 3; Works, ed. T. Fowler (London: Reeves, 1879), II, 505.



Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Journal GH, p. [74] (August–September, 1847):
Patriotism is balderdash. Our side, our state, our town, is boyish enough. But it is true that every foot of soil has its proper quality, that the grape on either side of the same fence has its own flavor, and so every acre on the globe, every group of people, every point of climate has its own moral meaning whereof it is the symbol. For such a patriotism let us stand.
Related posts:


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