Monday, March 19, 2018


Redi in Interiorem Hominem

Umberto Eco (1932-2016), Inventing the Enemy, tr. Richard Dixon (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), p. 132:
Look at that idiot walking along the street, wearing his iPod headphones; he cannot spend an hour on the train reading a newspaper or looking at the countryside, but has to go straight to his mobile phone during the first part of the journey to say "I've just left" and on the second part of the journey to say "I'm just arriving." There are people now who cannot live away from noise. And it is for this reason that restaurants, already noisy places, offer extra noise from a television screen—sometimes two—and music; and if you ask for them to be switched off, people stare at you as if you're mad. This great need for noise is like a drug; it is a way to avoid focusing on what is really important. Redi in interiorem hominem: yes, in the end, the example of Saint Augustine could still provide a good ideal for the world of politics and television.

Chi è l'imbecille che marcia per strada con l'iPod nelle orecchie o che non riesce a stare un'ora in treno leggendosi il giornale o guardando il paesaggio, ma deve immediatamente attivare il telefonino per dire nella prima parte del viaggio: "Sono partito" e nella seconda parte del viaggio: "Sto per arrivare"? Sono ormai persone che non riescono a vivere al di fuori del rumore. Ed è per questo che i ristoranti, già rumorosi di per sé per l'afflusso dei clienti, offrono rumore in più attraverso due televisori accesi, talora, e la musica; e se gli chiedete di spegnere, vi guardano come se foste dei pazzi. Questo bisogno intenso di rumore ha funzione di droga e impedisce di focalizzare ciò che sarebbe veramente fondamentale. Redi in interiorem hominem: sì, alla fine un buon ideale per l'universo della politica di domani e della televisione sarebbe ancora sant'Agostino.


Father to Daughter

Homer, Odyssey 6.68 (Alcinous to Nausicaa; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
Neither the mules do I begrudge you, my child, nor anything else.

οὔτε τοι ἡμιόνων φθονέω, τέκος, οὔτε τευ ἄλλου.
There is no note on this line in J.B. Hainsworth's commentary, but none is needed. Any father with a daughter will immediately understand.



Thomas Babington Macaulay, diary (Naples, November 7, 1838):
While walking about the town, I picked up a little Mass-book, and read for the first time in my life—strange, and almost disgraceful, that it should be so—the service of the Mass from beginning to end. It seemed to me inferior to our Communion service in one most important point. The phraseology of Christianity has in Latin a barbarous air, being altogether later than the age of pure Latinity. But the English language has grown up in Christian times; and the whole vocabulary of Christianity is incorporated with it. The fine passage in the Communion Service: 'Therefore with Angels, and Archangels, and all the company of heaven,' is English of the best and most genuine description. But the answering passage in the Mass: 'Laudant Angeli, adorant dominationes, tremunt potestates, coeli Coelorumque virtutes ac beati Seraphim,' would not merely have appeared barbarous, but would have been utterly unintelligible,—a mere gibberish,—to everyone of the great masters of the Latin tongue, Plautus, Cicero, Caesar, and Catullus. I doubt whether even Claudian would have understood it. I intend to frequent the Romish worship till I come thoroughly to understand this ceremonial.
Related post: The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Friday, March 16, 2018



Homer, Odyssey 4.195-198 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
                                         I count it indeed no blame
to weep for any mortal who has died and met his fate.
This is, to be sure, the only due we pay to miserable mortals,
to cut our hair and to let a tear fall from our cheeks.

                                       νεμεσσῶμαί γε μὲν οὐδὲν
κλαίειν ὅς κε θάνῃσι βροτῶν καὶ πότμον ἐπίσπῃ.
τοῦτό νυ καὶ γέρας οἶον ὀιζυροῖσι βροτοῖσιν,
κείρασθαί τε κόμην βαλέειν τ᾿ ἀπὸ δάκρυ παρειῶν.


Cheerfulness and Joyousness

Coleridge, Table Talk (March 15, 1834):
I take unceasing delight in Chaucer. His manly cheerfulness is especially delicious to me in my old age. How exquisitely tender he is, and yet how perfectly free from the least touch of sickly melancholy or morbid drooping! The sympathy of the poet with the subjects of his poetry is particularly remarkable in Shakspeare and Chaucer; but what the first effects by a strong act of imagination and mental metamorphosis, the last does with out any effort, merely by the inborn kindly joyousness of his nature. How well we seem to know Chaucer! How absolutely nothing do we know of Shakspeare!

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Men of One Country

Coleridge, Table Talk (May 28, 1830):
I, for one, do not call the sod under my feet my country. But language, religion, laws, government, blood,—identity in these makes men of one country.
Related posts:


This Vale of Tears

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 1018-1020 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
No mortal can complete his life unharmed and unpunished throughout —
ah, ah!
Some troubles are here now, some will come later.

οὐδεὶς μερόπων ἀσινῆ βίοτον
διὰ πάντ᾿ ἀτίτης ἂν ἀμείψαι·
ἒ ἔ,
μόχθος δ᾿ ὁ μὲν αὐτίχ᾿, ὁ δ' ἥξει.

1019 ἀτίτης ἂν ἀμείψαι Garvie (ἀτίτης Heimsoeth, ἀμείψαι Bothe): ἄτιμος ἀμείψεται Μ
1020 ἒ ἔ Klausen: ἐς Μ
A.F. Garvie ad loc.:


Morning Prayer

Isaac McCoy (1784-1846), History of Baptist Indian Missions (Washington: William M. Morrison, 1840), p. 359 (on the Osage):
At the opening of day, the devotee retires a little from his camp or company, and utters a prayer aloud. This may or may not have some allusion to a deceased relative or friend. The voice is usually elevated so as to be heard sometimes half a mile, and their words are uttered in a kind of plaintive, piteous tone, accompanied with weeping, either affected or real, I suppose commonly the former. To English ears, the sound is uncouth, and we would denominate it a kind of howling. Their word for God is, Wóh-kon´-da, (Father of Life.) Their prayer runs in some such words as the following: "Wóh-kon´-da, pity me; I am very poor; give me what I need; give me success against mine enemies, that I may avenge the death of my friends. May I be able to take scalps, and to take horses," &c.


The Desert

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Daybreak, Book V, § 491 (excerpt; tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think as I really think; after a time it always seems as though they want to banish me from myself and rob me of my soul — and I grow angry with everybody and fear everybody. I then require the desert, so as to grow good again.

Unter Vielen lebe ich wie Viele und denke nicht wie ich; nach einiger Zeit ist es mir dann immer, als wolle man mich aus mir verbannen und mir die Seele rauben — und ich werde böse auf Jedermann und fürchte Jedermann. Die Wüste thut mir dann noth, um wieder gut zu werden.



David Garnett, Introduction to Anna Wickham, Selected Poems (London: Chatto & Windus, 1971), p. 8:
[S]he told me that she had taken Hall and Knight's Algebra with her and had spent her time in the private asylum working out quadratic equations in order to keep her mind from dwelling on her situation and to overcome her rancour.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Do It Yourself

Bion of Smyrna, fragment V (tr. J.D. Reed):
It is not right, my friend, to have recourse to a craftsman for every purpose,
nor should you for every purpose have need of another.
But rather you yourself craft a syrinx, for it is quite an easy task.

οὐ καλόν, ὦ φίλε, πάντα λόγον ποτὶ τέκτονα φοιτῆν,
μηδ' ἐπὶ πάντ' ἄλλω χρέος ἰσχέμεν· ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτός
τεχνᾶσθαι σύριγγα, πέλει δέ τοι εὐμαρὲς ἔργον.


The Books Were Opened

Revelation 20.11-12 (KJV):
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

καὶ εἶδον θρόνον μέγαν λευκὸν καὶ τὸν καθήμενον ἐπ' αὐτόν, οὗ ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου ἔφυγεν ἡ γῆ καὶ ὁ οὐρανός, καὶ τόπος οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῖς. καὶ εἶδον τοὺς νεκρούς, τοὺς μεγάλους καὶ τοὺς μικρούς, ἑστῶτας ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου, καὶ βιβλία ἠνοίχθησαν· καὶ ἄλλο βιβλίον ἠνοίχθη, ὅ ἐστιν τῆς ζωῆς· καὶ ἐκρίθησαν οἱ νεκροὶ ἐκ τῶν γεγραμμένων ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν.

Jacobello Alberegno, panel from Polyptych of the
Apocalypse (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice)

See Giovanni Bissoli, "L'Apocalisse nell' opera pittorica di Iacobello Alberegno," Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Liber Annuus 30 (1980) 251-254 (at 254).

Hat tip: Andrew Rickard.

Related posts:

Monday, March 12, 2018


The Saddest Pack of Rogues in the World

Alexander Pope, letter to the Earl of Burlingham (August, 1714?):
Pray, Mr. Lintot, (said I,) now you talk of translators, what is your method of managing them? "Sir," (replied he,) "those are the saddest pack of rogues in the world: in a hungry fit, they'll swear they understand all the languages in the universe. I have known one of them take down a Greek book upon my counter and cry, Ah, this is Hebrew, I must read it from the latter end. By G—d, I can never be sure in these fellows, for I neither understand Greek, Latin, French, nor Italian myself. But this is my way: I agree with them for ten shillings per sheet, with a proviso, that I will have their doings corrected by whom I please; so by one or other they are led at last to the true sense of an author; my judgement giving the negative to all my translators."

But how are you secure that those correctors may not impose upon you? "Why I get any civil gentleman (especially any Scotchman) that comes into my shop, to read the original to me in English; by this I know whether my first translator be deficient, and whether my corrector merits his money or not. I'll tell you what happened to me last month: I bargained with S* for a new version of Lucretius to publish against Tonson's; agreeing to pay the author so many shillings at his producing so many lines. He made a great progress in a very short time, and I gave it to the corrector to compare with the Latin; but he went directly to Creech's translation, and found it the same word for word, all but the first page. Now, what d'ye think I did? I arrested the translator for a cheat; nay, and I stopped the corrector's pay too, upon this proof that he had made use of Creech instead of the original!"


The Power of Prayer

James Sutherland, ed., The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 311 (number 426, excerpt):
Dean Inge was delighted by an angry letter he had received from a lady who disagreed with one of his articles.

'I am praying nightly for your death,' she wrote. 'It may interest you to know that in two other cases I have had great success.'

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Poor Devils

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Daybreak, Book III, § 177 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
O you poor devils in the great cities of world politics, you gifted young men tormented by ambition who consider it your duty to pass some comment on everything that happens and there is always something happening!

Oh, ihr armen Schelme in den grossen Städten der Weltpolitik, ihr jungen, begabten, vom Ehrgeiz gemarterten Männer, welche es für ihre Pflicht halten, zu allen Begebenheiten—es begiebt sich immer Etwas—ihr Wort zu sagen!


Dealing with Sorrow

Ovid, Tristia 5.7.39-40 (my translation):
I occupy my mind with studies, and I trick my sorrows, and I try to cheat my cares.

detineo studiis animum falloque dolores,
    experior curis et dare verba meis.


The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Thomas Babington Macaulay, diary (October 28, 1838):
The day began to break as we descended into Marseilles. It was Sunday; but the town seemed only so much the gayer. I looked hard for churches, but for a long time I saw none. At last I heard bells, and the noise guided me to a chapel, mean inside, and mean outside, but crowded as Simeon's church used to be crowded at Cambridge. The Mass was nearly over. I stayed to the end, wondering that so many reasonable beings could come together to see a man bow, drink, bow again, wipe a cup, wrap up a napkin, spread his arms, and gesticulate with his hands; and to hear a low muttering which they could not understand, interrupted by the occasional jingling of a bell.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


A River Remembered

A sonnet by Luís de Camões (1525?-1580), tr. William Baer:
Sweet, clear waters of the Mondego, sweet, kind,
and restful river of my memories,
where once misleading hopes whirled in the breeze,
misguiding me, and leaving me blind.
And now, I've gone away, sweet distant stream,
but, still, your memory overtakes me yet,
and never lets me change, or ever forget:
that the further away I am, the closer I seem.
Yes, the Fates have caused my soul to disappear
into remote and distant lands, to roam
within these seas and winds, both strange and new,
and yet, my soul, thinking of you, even here,
flies upon the wings of my sweet dreams of home
into your lovely waters and bathes in you.

Doces águas e claras do Mondego,
doce repouso de minha lembrança,
onde a comprida e pérfida esperança
longo tempo após si me trouxe cego:
de vós me aparto; mas, porém, não nego
que inda a memória longa, que me alcança,
me não deixa de vós fazer mudança;
mas quanto mais me alongo, mais me achego.
Bem pudera Fortuna este instrumento
d'alma levar por terra nova e estranha,
oferecido ao mar remoto e vento;
mas alma, que de cá vos acompanha,
nas asas do ligeiro pensamento,
para vós, águas, voa, e em vós se banha.
Related post: Leaving Home.


The Style of St. Augustine

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (December 18, 1837):
I have read Augustin's Confessions. The book is not without interest; but he expresses himself in the style of a field-preacher.


Zombie Apocalypse

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 886 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
The dead are killing the living, I tell you!

τὸν ζῶντα καίνειν τοὺς τεθνηκότας λέγω.
In other words, "They're coming to get you, Barbara!"


Learning German

Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Macvey Napier (November 26, 1836):
In little more than a year I shall be embarking for England, and I have determined to employ the four months of my voyage in mastering the German language. I should be much obliged to you to send me out, as early as you can, so that they may be certain to arrive in time, the best grammar, and the best dictionary, that can be procured; a German Bible; Schiller's works; Goethe's works; and Niebuhr's "History," both in the original and in the translation. My way of learning a language is always to begin with the Bible, which I can read without a dictionary. After a few days passed in this way, I am master of all the common particles, the common rules of syntax, and a pretty large vocabulary. Then I fall on some good classical work. It was in this way that I learned both Spanish and Portuguese, and I shall try the same course with German.
Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (March 8, 1837):
I intend to learn German on my voyage home, and I have indented largely, (to use our Indian official term,) for the requisite books. People tell me that it is a hard language; but I cannot easily believe that there is a language which I cannot master in four months, by working ten hours a day. I promise myself very great delight and information from German literature; and, over and above, I feel a sort of presentiment, a kind of admonition of the Deity, which assures me that the final cause of my existence—the end for which I was sent into this vale of tears,—was to make game of certain Germans. The first thing to be done in obedience to this heavenly call is to learn German; and then I may perhaps try, as Milton says,—
"Frangere Saxonicas Britonum sub Marte phalanges."
Macaulay, letter to Thomas Flower Ellis (December 18, 1837):
I intend to make myself a good German scholar by the time of my arrival in England. I have already, at leisure moments, broken the ice. I have read about half of the New Testament in Luther's translation; and am now getting rapidly, for a beginner, through Schiller's History of the Thirty Years' War. My German library consists of all Goethe's works, all Schiller's works, Muller's History of Switzerland, some of Tieck, some of Lessing, and other works of less fame. I hope to despatch them all on my way home.


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