Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Learning Foreign Languages
– Vladyka, you work with a great amount of literature in various languages. How many foreign languages do you know?I made one small correction (changed "arise" to "arises").
– Several languages to varying degrees. I speak and write fluently in English. I would even think in this language when I studied in England. I speak and read in French when the necessity arises, but not so fluently. I also speak Greek, but not so confidently (I don't have enough practice), although I can read fluently in it. And then in descending order of importance I read but don't speak Italian, Spanish and German. Of the ancient languages I studied Ancient Greek, Syrian and Hebrew.
– How did you learn foreign languages?
– I studied foreign languages using the Gospel. I always began with the Gospel of John. It is the most convenient Gospel for learning words, they are repeated constantly: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the same was in the beginning with God." Experts say that the vocabulary of the Gospel of John is half of that of the other Gospels, although in volume it is no less than the others. This lexical laconicism is connected to the fact that many of the words are repeated.
Why is it convenient to learn language from the Gospels? Because when you read a familiar text which you know practically off by heart, you don't have to look up words in the dictionary, you recognize the words. That's how I learnt Greek. At first I read the Gospel of John, then I read the three other Gospels, then I began to read the Epistles of the apostles, then I began to read the Church Fathers in Greek. Moreover, when I studied Greek, I listened to a tape recording of the Liturgy in Greek. I studied it in the pronunciation which is used by Greeks today.
I studied Syrian in a different way. This was in Oxford, I had an excellent professor, the best specialist in Syrian literature in the world, Sebastian Brock. But he said to me right away: I have no intention of teaching you the language, I'm interested in reading texts. So I began to read the texts of Isaac the Syrian with him, and along the way I read the Gospels in Syrian and used Robinson's textbook to master the basics of grammar and syntax.
The most important thing in languages is, of course, practice. No textbook can be a substitute for practical work with a text.
Cutting Corners on Proofreading
It is provided by law that no man should sew a shoe together or make a cupboard, unless he has been approved by his trade guild; yet these eminent authors, to whose works we owe religion itself, are published to the world by men so ill-educated that they cannot so much as read, so idle that they are not prepared to read over what they print, and so mercenary that they would rather see a good book filled with thousands of mistakes than spend a few paltry gold pieces on hiring someone to supervise the proof-correcting.In Latin:
Curatum est legibus, ne quis consuat calceum, ne quis faciat scrinium, nisi fuerit ab eius opificii sodalitio comprobatus; et tantos autores, quorum monumentis etiam religio debetur, emittunt in vulgus adeo literarum ignari, vt ne legere quidem possint, adeo ignaui, vt nec relegere libeat, quod excuditur, adeo sordidi, vt citius patiantur sex milibus mendarum oppleri bonum librum quam paucis aureolis velint conducere, qui praesit castigationi.For a modern example of cutting corners on proofreading see Michael Hendry, "G or L: Who Can Tell?" Curculio (September 26, 2016).
Last Day of Work
I have left the d———d India House for Ever!"A Chronology of C.P. Cavafy," in C.P. Cavafy, The Collected Poems. Translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou. Greek Text Edited by Anthony Hirst. With an Introduction by Peter Mackridge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. xlv-xlviii (at xlvii, under the year 1922):
Give me great joy.
Cavafy resigns from his office job and proclaims: 'I have been liberated at last from this hateful thing.'
Monday, September 26, 2016
 Hence men undertake wide-ranging travel, and wander over remote shores, and their fickleness, always discontented with the present, gives proof of itself now on land and now on sea. "Now let us head for Campania," they say. And now when soft living palls, "Let us see the wild parts," they say, "let us hunt out the passes of Bruttium and Lucania." And yet amid that wilderness something is missing—something pleasant wherein their pampered eyes may find relief from the lasting squalor of those rugged regions: "Let us head for Tarentum with its famous harbour and its mild winter climate, and a territory rich enough to have a horde of people even in antiquity." Too long have their ears missed the shouts and the din; it delights them by now even to enjoy human blood:  "Let us now turn our course toward the city." They undertake one journey after another and change spectacle for spectacle. As Lucretius [3.1068] says:Related posts:
Thus ever from himself doth each man flee. But what does he gain if he does not escape from himself? He ever follows himself and weighs upon himself as his own most burdensome companion. And so we ought to understand that what we struggle with is the fault, not of the places, but of ourselves; when there is need of endurance, we are weak, and we cannot bear toil or pleasure or ourselves or anything very long. It is this that has driven some men to death, because by often altering their purpose they were always brought back to the same things and had left themselves no room for anything new. They began to be sick of life and the world itself, and from the self-indulgences that wasted them was born the thought: "How long shall I endure the same things?"
 Inde peregrinationes suscipiuntur vagae et invia litora pererrantur et modo mari se modo terra experitur semper praesentibus infesta levitas. "Nunc Campaniam petamus." Iam delicata fastidio sunt: "Inculta videantur, Bruttios et Lucaniae saltus persequamur." Aliquid tamen inter deserta amoeni requiritur, in quo luxuriosi oculi longo locorum horrentium squalore releventur: "Tarentum petatur laudatusque portus et hiberna caeli mitioris et regio vel antiquae satis opulenta turbae." Nimis diu a plausu et fragore aures vacaverunt, iuvat iam et humano sanguine frui:  "Iam flectamus cursum ad urbem." Aliud ex alio iter suscipitur et spectacula spectaculis mutantur. Ut ait Lucretius:
Hoc se quisque modo semper fugit. Sed quid prodest, si non effugit? Sequitur se ipse et urget gravissimus comes. Itaque scire debemus non locorum vitium esse quo laboramus, sed nostrum; infirmi sumus ad omne tolerandum, nec laboris patientes nec voluptatis nec nostri nec ullius rei diutius. Hoc quosdam egit ad mortem, quod proposita saepe mutando in eadem revolvebantur et non reliquerant novitati locum. Fastidio esse illis coepit vita et ipse mundus, et subît illud tabidarum deliciarum: "Quousque eadem?"
- Difficult to Escape from Oneself (Gottfried Benn)
- Travel (Basil, Augustine)
- No Escape from Oneself (Seneca)
- Escape from Oneself (C.P. Cavafy)
- Crossing the Seas (Henry David Thoreau)
- From Dan to Beersheba (Horace, Montaigne, Sterne)
- Travel (Lucretius, Horace, Seneca)
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Preparation for Study
He is berating himself for rising as late as five o'clock — "A quinta (heu quam sero) surreximus." "Got up at five (gosh, how late!)." I have translated this into colloquial modern idiom in order to reflect the extraordinarily easy, free immediacy of Casaubon's Latin. He writes of books as though they were friends or acquaintances. This may momentarily confuse the unprepared reader. Casaubon keeps referring to time given to "Basilius." At last one realises that Basilius is a long-dead author (he is reading Hieronymus Froben's 1598 edition — 698 close-packed folio pages). One sentence sticks in the memory: "Dein pro more pexo capillo museum ingressi," "Then I combed my hair in the usual way and went into my study." Why does Casaubon, the least narcissistic of men, record in his diary that he combed his hair? One wonders for a moment if there is a strain of ritual in this careful preparation of his person before engaging in the wholly private activity of study. Machiavelli famously tells posterity that he put on his court robes before passing into the world of the ancients and reading for four hours, alone.28 Keats told his brother George on 17 September 1819 in a letter how he would brush his hair, put on a clean shirt, and "in fact adonize as I were going out" before sitting down to write poetry.29For the endnotes (not visible in Google Books) I'm indebted to Ian Jackson, who adds, "And let us not forget that Haydn put on his best wig and formal garb before sitting down to compose." I'm also reminded of the Spartans' habit of combing their hair before battle (Herodotus 7.209.3: νόμος γάρ σφι ἔχων οὕτω ἐστί· ἐπεὰν μέλλωσι κινδυνεύειν τῇ ψυχῇ, τότε τὰς κεφαλὰς κοσμέονται).
28. Letter to Francesco Vettori, 10 December 1513, in The Literary Works of Machiavelli, trans. J.R. Hale (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 139.
29. The Letters of John Keats, 1814-1821, ed. H.E. Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), 2:186.
An Italian Custom
I have been faithful in my honest liaison with Countess Guiccioli — and can assure you that She has never cost me directly or indirectly a sixpence — indeed the circumstances of herself and family render this no merit. — I never offered her but one present — a broach of brilliants — and she sent it back to me with her own hair in it (I shall not say of what part but that is an Italian custom) and a note to say she was not in the habit of receiving presents of that value — but hoped I would not consider her sending it back as an affront — nor the value diminished by the enclosure.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Munching to the Glory of God
He drove us through the town to the ruins of Heracleia, the Roman city which lay a mile or so beyond it on the Via Egnatia, the Roman road that ran from the Adriatic through Albania to Salonika and Constantinople. Its excavations are at a stage that can interest only dogs and archaeologists, and my husband and I went and sat for a few minutes in the Orthodox cemetery, which straggles over the hillside near by. I have a deep attachment to this cemetery, for it was here that I realized Macedonia to be the bridge between our age and the past. I saw a peasant woman sitting on a grave under the trees with a dish of wheat and milk on her lap, the sunlight dappling the white kerchief on her head. Another peasant woman came by, who must have been from another village, for her dress was different. I think they were total strangers. They greeted each other, and the woman with the dish held it out to the new-comer and gave her a spoon, and she took some sups of it. To me it was an enchantment; for when St Monica came to Milan over fifteen hundred years ago, to be with her gifted and difficult son, St Augustine, she went to eat her food on the Christian graves and was hurt because the sexton reproved her for offering sups to other people on the same errand, as she had been wont to do in Africa. That protocol-loving saint, Ambrose, had forbidden the practice because it was too like picnicking for his type of mind. To see these women gently munching to the glory of God was like finding that I could walk into the past as into another room.I owe the reference to James J. O'Donnell, Augustine: A New Biography (New York: Ecco, 2005), p. 355, n. 265.
Textual Criticism as Dentistry
If we are to believe that these lines were in fact inserted after Sophocles' death by some later actor, producer, or editor, we must face the consequences. And they are grave. Aristotle, the greatest scientific and scholarly intellect of the century after Sophocles, the most influential literary critic there has ever been, the head of a research school which busied itself among many other things with the history of tragedy, saw clearly the difficulties posed by the speech, and called the sentiment 'improbable' (ἄπιστον) and so demanding an explanation by the poet, but it never for a moment occurred to him that the lines might be an interpolation. If they are, then we are forced to conclude that already, in Aristotle's time, the text of the Antigone was so fundamentally corrupt in a crucial passage that there was no criterion, no record, no tradition by which it could be corrected. Such a supposition deals a mortal blow to our confidence in the general soundness of the tragic texts. If that is possible, anything is, and we cannot object to those who would delete and transpose right and left. We must even give our late and reluctant blessing to the shade of August Nauck, who, acting on a principle somewhat like that of the English provincial dentist—"If you won't miss it, why not have it out?" —gave the ungrateful world a text of Euripides some four hundred lines shorter than any it had seen before.
Friday, September 23, 2016
Call to Revolution
Pray, what man with the spirit of a man can endure that our tyrants should abound in riches, to squander in building upon the sea and in levelling mountains, while we lack the means to buy the bare necessities of life? That they should join their palaces by twos or even more, while we have nowhere a hearthstone? They amass paintings, statuary and chased vases, tear down new structures and erect others, in short misuse and torment their wealth in every way; yet, with the utmost extravagance, they cannot get the upper hand of their riches. But we have destitution at home, debt without, present misery and a still more hopeless future; in short, what have we left, save only the wretched breath of life? Awake then! Lo, here, here before your eyes, is the freedom for which you have often longed, and with it riches, honour, and glory; Fortune offers all these things as prizes to the victors.
etenim quis mortalium, cui virile ingenium est, tolerare potest, illis divitias superare, quas profundant in extruendo mari et montibus coaequandis, nobis rem familiarem etiam ad necessaria deesse? illos binas aut amplius domos continuare, nobis larem familiarem nusquam ullum esse? cum tabulas, signa, toreumata emunt, nova diruunt, alia aedificant, postremo omnibus modis pecuniam trahunt, vexant, tamen summa lubidine divitias suas vincere nequeunt. at nobis est domi inopia, foris aes alienum, mala res, spes multo asperior; denique quid reliqui habemus praeter miseram animam? quin igitur expergiscimini? en illa illa quam saepe optastis libertas, praeterea divitiae, decus, gloria in oculis sita sunt. Fortuna omnia ea victoribus praemia posuit.
The Sabines earned universal commendation as a people of hardy mountaineers, plain and parsimonious, austere and god-fearing, tenaciously attached to the ancient ways. Some will have it that Sabines were prone to mysticism.6 That notion can do little harm if it be added that they also had a tendency to emigration, liked money, and were good with donkeys.
6 E. Bolaffi, Sallustio e la sua fortuna nei secoli (1949), 23: "quella terra di montanari ... proclivi al misticismo." Also ib. 75.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
An Extravagant Horror of Feminine Society
The ascetic movement as a whole suffered from an extravagant horror of feminine society, illustrated by the ascetic cry 'Approach a fiery furnace rather than a young woman!'4 Cassian did not escape this monomania.5 But a sojourn of several years in the cities of Constantinople and Rome had perhaps restored to him a certain balance, for we owe to him a diverting tale of justice. Walking in the desert, Abbot Paul met a woman and turned to run for home as though she were a dragon. This retreat being judged over-prudent by the Almighty, Paul was punished by an attack of paralysis which could not be treated by male hands, and forced his transfer to a convent where thoroughly feminine virgins nursed him until he died.6John Cassian, The Conferences. Translated and Annotated by Boniface Ramsey (New York: Newman Press, 1997), pp. 265-266 (7.26.3-5):
4 Nilus, De Octo Spir. 5.
5 Coll. XIX.16.5. Cf. the story of Paphnutius in Coll. XV.10.
6 Coll. VII.26.
3. Here, then, Abba Paul had made such progress in purity of heart in the stillness and silence of the desert that he did not even permit himself to look at a woman's clothing, much less on a woman's face. For when a woman from nearby chanced to meet him on his way to the cell of a certain elder, along with Abba Archebius who was from the same desert, he, distressed at encountering her, ran back to his own monastery in greater haste than a person would use to flee from a lion or an immense dragon, forgoing the duty of the pious visit that he had set out upon. The situation was such that he was not even prevailed upon by the shouts and pleas of the aforesaid Abba Archebius, who was calling him back so that they might stay on the road that they had started out on in order to ask the elder what they had planned.Id., pp. 280-281 (note on 7.26.3):
4. Although this was done with zeal for chastity and ardor for purity, nonetheless because it was not done according to knowledge and because the observance of discipline and the measure of appropriate strictness were excessive (for he believed that not merely familiarity with women, which really is harmful, but even the very form of that sex was to be abominated) he immediately suffered such a seizure that his whole body was paralyzed and none of its members could perform any of their functions. For not only his feet and hands but even the mechanism of his tongue, by which speech is formed, were affected, and his very ears lost their sense of hearing. The result was that nothing remained of his humanity apart from an immobile and senseless shape.
5. To such a state was he reduced that men's care was in no way sufficient to minister to his sickness, and only womanly attention was of use to him. For when he was brought to a cenobium of holy virgins, food and drink, which he was unable even to beckon for, was produced for him with feminine graciousness, all his needs of nature were satisfied, and this same care was at his disposal for nearly four years—that is, until the end of his life.
Flight from women is spoken of in Inst. 11.18, where the famous advice is offered: "A monk must always flee from women and bishops." Such a sentiment is a commonplace in ascetical literature. Cf. Ps.-Clement, 4.2 de virg., passim; Evagrius, Prac. 96; Apophthegmata patrum, de abbate Marco 3; ibid., de abbate Poemene 76; ibid., de abbate Sisoe 3; Hist monach. in Aegypto 1.4ff., 1.36; Regnault 71, N459; John Moschus, Pratum spirituale 88 (the story of a monk's grave that rejects a female corpse), 217. 7.26.4ff. represents a criticism of the exaggerations that often accompanied this flight, as does Verba seniorum 4.62: "A monk met some handmaidens of God on a certain road. Upon seeing them he left the path. But their superior said: 'If you were a perfect monk, you would not have looked at us in such a way as to know that we were women.'" For a study that seeks to show a more accepting attitude toward women in ancient monasticism cf. Louis Leloir, "La femme et les Pères du désert," Collectanea Cisterciensia 39 (1977): 149-159. On the possibility of heterosexual friendships within the context of monasticism cf. Rosemary Rader, Breaking Boundaries: Male/Female Friendship in Early Christian Communities (New York, 1983), 72-85.
Meanwhile let Peace attend the fields. White Peace in the beginning
led ploughing oxen under the curved yoke.
Peace fed the vines and stored the juices of the grape
for sons to draw wine from their fathers' casks.
In peacetime hoe & ploughshare shine while rust in the dark attacks
the soldier's cruel weapons.
Home from the sacred grove the farmer far from sober
drives wife and children in the wagon.
interea pax arva colat. pax candida primum 45
duxit araturos sub iuga curva boves;
pax aluit vites et sucos condidit uvae,
funderet ut nato testa paterna merum;
pace bidens vomerque nitent, at tristia duri
militis in tenebris occupat arma situs, 50
rusticus e lucoque vehit, male sobrius ipse,
uxorem plaustro progeniemque domum.
51 ante hunc versum lacunam statuit Moritz Haupt (Opuscula, vol. III, pp. 40-41)
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Facts Not Necessary
One wonders why some later Massilian monk did not compose a life of Cassian. In such enterprises a knowledge of the facts was not considered an invariable prerequisite.
Language as No Barrier
Dorothy Whitelock (p. 244):
[W]hen I once gave as a reason for unfamiliarity with a book the fact that it was in Danish, his only reply was 'I don't think you will find Danish very difficult.'Q.D. Leavis (p. 248):
He was himself a linguistic genius, and as his students used to complain, he apparently thought that everyone is born with a knowledge of runes, Celtic languages and Old High German; but when his attention was drawn to this misunderstanding, he was always very patient and considerate.Glyn Daniel (p. 252):
His main teaching was based extensively on non-archaeological sources: we read Tacitus and Bede, Procopius and St Germanus, the Mabinogion and the Flateyjarbök. He showed us that we were not just archaeologists but general students of antiquity and ancient history. He himself was primarily a linguist, and an historical and linguistic scholar; he mildly expected us to read everything from Greek and German and Gothic, from Beowulf to Cyndellan. Like another great scholar but in the strict field of archaeology, Vere Gordon Childe, he regarded language as no barrier. Both these great men thought their students ought to have no difficulty in all the main Indo-European languages.Hat tip: Ian Jackson.