Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Last Words of George Buchanan?

Father Garasse, quoted in The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr. Peter Bayle, 2nd ed., Vol. II (London: Printed for J.J. and P. Knapton..., 1735), p. 181:
I will tell our new Atheists the wretched end of a Man of their Belief and Humour, as to eating and drinking. It was George Buchanan, a perfect Epicure during his Life, and a perfect Atheist at his Death. This Libertine, having spent his Youth in Debauchery at Paris, and at Bourdeaux, more sollicitous after the Ivy of an Alehouse, and the Bush of a Tavern, than after the Laurels of Parnassus, and being called back to Scotland towards the latter part of his Days, to instruct the young Prince, who is at present the Most Serene King of Great Britain, continuing his gluttonous Courses, fell into a Dropsy by drinking, tho' it was said of him by way of banter, that his Distemper was, vino intercute, not aqua intercute. How sick so ever he was, he abstained no more from drinking Bumpers, than when he was in Health, and drank his Wine as pure as he formerly did at Bourdeaux. The Physicians, who visited him by Order of the King their Master, seeing their Patient's Excess, told him plainly and angrily, that he did what he could to destroy himself, and that, in his way of living, he could not hold out above fourteen Days or three Weeks at longest. He desired them to call a Consultation to know how long he might live, in case he abstained from Wine; they did so, and the result was, that he might live five or six Years longer, if he could command himself so long; upon which he made an Answer agreeable to his humour. Get you gone, said he, with your Prescriptions, and your Course of Diet, and know, that I would rather live three Weeks and be drunk every Day, than six Years without drinking Wine; and immediately discharging his Physicians, like a desperate Man, he ordered a hogshead of Graves Wine to be set at his Bed's head, resolving to see the bottom of it before he died, and behaved himself so valiantly, that he emptied it to the Lees, literally fulfilling the Contents of that pretty Epigram of Epigonus concerning a Frog, which, being fallen into a Hogshead of Wine cried out,
                                    φεύ τίνες ὕδωρ
πίνουσι μανίην σώφρονα μαινόμενοι.

Alas! some drink Water, being sober mad.
When he had Death and the Glass between his Lips, the Ministers made him a Visit to settle his Mind, and prepare him to die with some Sentiments of Religion: One of them exhorted him to repeat the Lord's-Prayer; and he opening his Eyes, and looking sternly at the Minister, What is that, said he, that you call the Lord's-Prayer? The Standers by answered, That it was the Pater-noster; and that if he could not say that Prayer, they desired him at least to say some other Christian Prayer, that he might go out of the World like a good Man: As for me, said he, in his undisturbed and perfect Senses, I never knew any other Prayer than this:
Cinthia prima suis miserum me cepit ocellis
  Contactum nullis ante cupidinibus.

I who to Love a Stranger e'er had been,
Cinthia's sparkling Eyes was first enslav'd.
And scarce had he repeated ten or twelve Verses of that Elegy of Propertius, when he expired among the Glasses and Pints; so that it may truly be said of him, purpuream vomit ille animam: and such is commonly the End of all Epicures.
Doubtless an exaggerated and unreliable account, but the description of the unrepentant humanist quoting Propertius on his deathbed is interesting. The French can be found in François Garasse, Doctrine Curieuse des Beaux Esprits de ce Temps (Paris: Sébastien Chappelet, 1623), pp. 748-750.


Erasmus and Petrarch on Homer

Erasmus, letter 131 (to Augustine Vincent; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
I am so enamoured of this author, that even when I cannot understand him, I am refreshed and fed by the very sight of his words.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), pp. 305-306:
Ego quidem ita huius autoris ardeo amore, vt cum intelligere nequeam, aspectu tamen ipso recreer ac pascar.
Petrarch, Epistulae Familiares 18.2.10 (to Nicolas Sygeros, thanking him for the gift of a copy of Homer in Greek; tr. Christopher S. Celenza):
Your Homer is mute to me. Or rather, I am deaf to him. Still, I rejoice even to look at him and often, as I embrace him I say, sighing, 'O Great Man, how ardently would I listen to you!'

Homerus tuus apud me mutus, imo vero ego apud illum surdus sum. gaudeo tamen vel aspectu solo et sepe illum amplexus ac suspirans dico: 'O magne vir, quam cupide te audirem!'


I Wish That You Knew Greek

Erasmus, letter 129, to James Batt (September 1500; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
I do wish, my dear Batt, that you knew Greek, both because I find Latin literature incomplete without it, and because it would make our intercourse more agreeable, if we took delight in the same studies.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 301:
Verum Graece te scire, mi Batte, percupio, tum quod sine his literas Latinas mancas esse video, tum vt conuictus noster sit iucundior, si omnino iisdem studiis delectabimur.
On the first reason, cf. Eduard Fraenkel, review of E. K. Rand et al., edd., Servianorum in Vergilii Carmina Commentariorum Editionis Harvardianae Volumen II, quod in Aeneidos Libros I et II Explanationes Continet (Lancaster: American Philological Society, 1946), in Journal of Roman Studies 38 (1948) 131-143 and 39 (1949) 145-154 (at 154):
It is a commonplace, and in theory everybody admits its truth, that almost everything in Latin literature can be properly understood only against a large Greek background.

Monday, August 18, 2014


The Death of Robert Henryson

David J. Parkinson, ed., Robert Henryson, The Complete Works (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2010), from the Appendix: Sir Francis Kynaston's Anecdote about the Death of Robert Henryson (footnotes omitted):
Being very old he dyed of a diarrhea or fluxe, of whom there goes this merry though somewhat unsavory tale, that all the phisitians having given him over and he lying drawing his last breath, there came an old woman unto him, who was held a witch, and asked him whether he would be cured, to whom he sayed, "Very willingly." Then quod she, "There is a whikey tree in the lower end of your orchard, and if you will goe and walke but thrice about it, and thrice repeate theis wordes, 'Whikey tree, whikey tree, take away this fluxe from me,' you shall be presently cured." He told her that beside he was extreme faint and weake, it was extreme frost and snow, and that it was impossible for him to go. She told him that unles he did so, it was impossible he should recover. Mr Henderson then lifting upp himselfe and pointing to an oken table that was in the roome, asked her and seied, "Gude dame, I pray ye tell me if it would not do as well if I repeated thrice theis words, 'Oken burd, oken burd, garre me shit a hard turd'?" The woman, seing herselfe derided and scorned, ran out of the house in a great passion; and Mr Henderson within halfe a quarter of an houre departed this life.


Mutton and Salt

James Henry (1798-1876), Poematia (Dresden: C.C. Meinhold & Sons, 1866), p. 30:
"Which was the better poet of the two,
Virgil or Horace?" to his master, once,
Said a precocious, brisk, inquisitive schoolboy:—
"First tell me which is best," replied the master,
"The mutton or the salt?" "Why, both are good,"
Answered the schoolboy, with a watering mouth,
"But of the two, I like the mutton best."
"Right!" said the master; "Scaliger himself
Could scarce have answered better.
My fine lad, Virgil's the mutton, Horace is the salt;
Both good; but, of the two, the mutton best."


A Greek Inscription

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 35 (at Kardamyli, ancient Kardamyle):
In a little room in the schoolhouse was a rose antique funerary slab with a beautifully incised epitaph in Hellenistic characters commemorating the great love and respect that all his contemporaries felt for the deceased, "the Ephebe Sosicles the Lacedaemonian." The inscription ended with a delicate curved loop of knotted and fluttering ribbon.
I find a dozen inscriptions from the Peloponnese mentioning people named Sosicles in the Packard Humanities Institute's Searchable Greek Inscriptions database, but none matching this description.

Otto Frödin and ‎A.W. Persson, Rapport préliminaire sur les fouilles d'Asiné: 1922-1924 (Lund: Gleerups, 1925 = Bulletin de la Societe Royale des Lettres de Lund, 1924-1925, fasc. 2), p. 149 (?), number 23, with plate XIX c, is a "Fragment d'une stèle en marbre rouge" at Kardamylé, but I can't see much more than that in Google Books' snippet view.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Scotia's Ancient Drink

Robert Gilfillan (1798-1850), "Parody," in his Original Songs (Edinburgh: John Anderson, 1831), pp. 143-144 (line numbers added):
(Written when part of the Duty was taken off Whisky, in October, 1823)

Scots wha hae the duties paid;
Scots wham whisky's aft made glad;
Welcome, for the duty's fled,
        And it shall be free!

Now's the time and now's the hour;        5
See the shades of evening lour;
See the streams of toddy pour—
        Pledge it three-times-three!

Wha wad be a brandy slave?
Wha wad shilpit claret lave?        10
Wha of rum wad ever rave?
        When the whisky's free!

Wha for Scotia's ancient drink,
Will fill a bicker to the brink!
Scotsmen wake or Scotsmen wink,        15
        Aquavitae aye for me!

By taxation's woes and pains!
By the smuggler's ill-got gains!
We shall raise our wildest strains,
        For it shall be free!        20

Lay the big gin bottle low!
In the fire the port wine throw!
Let the tide of whisky flow!
        Like liberty, aye free!
10 shilpit: "Of liquor: Insipid, weak, thin" (Oxford English Dictionary)
14 bicker: "'A bowl or dish for containing liquor, properly one made of wood" (Jamieson's definition, quoted in Oxford English Dictionary)

The song is a parody of Burns' "Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled...." Gilfillan is my namesake.


Wilderness Were Paradise Enow

A family member died, and Mrs. Laudator was in charge of funeral and burial arrangements. Limited by available space on the gravestone, she chose "Wilderness Were Paradise Enow" to be the epitaph. This was perfect for the deceased, a nature lover and bird watcher, fond of books and poetry, skeptical about the prospect of an afterlife.

The funeral director, who also served as liaison between the family and veterans' cemetery officials, considered the proposed inscription to be incorrect. She didn't recognize "enow" as an English word, and she thought "were" was erroneously plural with a singular subject.

Mrs. Laudator gave the funeral director a little lesson on English vocabulary, grammar, and literary history.


Goat-Footed Nymphs?

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 23:
These empty peaks, according to Homer, were the haunt of Artemis and of three goat-footed nymphs who would engage lonely travellers in a country dance and lead them up unsuspectingly to the precipice where they tripped them up and sent them spinning down the gulf....
I can't find this anywhere in Homer. And are nymphs ever goat-footed?

Cf. Homer, Odyssey 6.102-109 (describing Nausicaa; tr. A.T. Murray and George E. Dimock):
And even as Artemis, the archer, roves over the mountains, along the ridges of lofty Taygetus or Erymanthus, joying in the pursuit of boars and swift deers, and the wood nymphs, daughters of Zeus who bears the aegis, share her sport, and Leto is glad at heart—high above them all Artemis holds her head and brows, and easily may she be known, though all are beautiful—so amid her handmaids shone the unwed maiden.

οἵη δ᾽ Ἄρτεμις εἶσι κατ᾽ οὔρεα ἰοχέαιρα,
ἢ κατὰ Τηΰγετον περιμήκετον ἢ Ἐρύμανθον,
τερπομένη κάπροισι καὶ ὠκείῃς ἐλάφοισι·
τῇ δέ θ᾽ ἅμα νύμφαι, κοῦραι Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο,        105
ἀγρονόμοι παίζουσι, γέγηθε δέ τε φρένα Λητώ·
πασάων δ᾽ ὑπὲρ ἥ γε κάρη ἔχει ἠδὲ μέτωπα,
ῥεῖά τ᾽ ἀριγνώτη πέλεται, καλαὶ δέ τε πᾶσαι·
ὣς ἥ γ᾽ ἀμφιπόλοισι μετέπρεπε παρθένος ἀδμής.
Cf. also Homeric Hymn 19.1-14 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Muse, tell me about Pan, the dear son of Hermes, with his goat's feet and two horns—a lover of merry noise. Through wooded glades he wanders with dancing nymphs who foot it on some sheer cliff's edge, calling upon Pan, the shepherd-god, long-haired, unkempt. He has every snowy crest and the mountain peaks and rocky crests for his domain; hither and thither he goes through the close thickets, now lured by soft streams, and now he presses on amongst towering crags and climbs up to the highest peak that overlooks the flocks. Often he courses through the glistening high mountains, and often on the shouldered hills he speeds along slaying wild beasts, this keen-eyed god.

ἀμφί μοι Ἑρμείαο φίλον γόνον ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα,
αἰγιπόδην, δικέρωτα, φιλόκροτον, ὅστ᾽ ἀνὰ πίση
δενδρήεντ᾽ ἄμυδις φοιτᾷ χορογηθέσι νύμφαις,
αἵ τε κατ᾽ αἰγίλιπος πέτρης στείβουσι κάρηνα
Πᾶν᾽ ἀνακεκλόμεναι, νόμιον θεόν, ἀγλαέθειρον,        5
αὐχμήενθ᾽, ὃς πάντα λόφον νιφόεντα λέλογχε
καὶ κορυφὰς ὀρέων καὶ πετρήεντα κάρηνα.
φοιτᾷ δ᾽ ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα διὰ ῥωπήια πυκνά,
ἄλλοτε μὲν ῥείθροισιν ἐφελκόμενος μαλακοῖσιν,
ἄλλοτε δ᾽ αὖ πέτρῃσιν ἐν ἠλιβάτοισι διοιχνεῖ,        10
ἀκροτάτην κορυφὴν μηλοσκόπον εἰσαναβαίνων.
πολλάκι δ᾽ ἀργινόεντα διέδραμεν οὔρεα μακρά,
πολλάκι δ᾽ ἐν κνημοῖσι διήλασε θῆρας ἐναίρων,
ὀξέα δερκόμενος.
In later classical literature, on Crete, Amaltheia sometimes appears as a nymph, sometimes as a goat: see Jennifer Larson, Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 317, n. 224.

I wonder if Fermor may have conflated Odyssey 6.102-109 with some modern folk tale. See John Cuthbert Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), p. 133:
Only in one particular is the beauty of the Nereids ever thought to be marred; in some localities they are said to have the feet of goats or of asses2; as for instance the three Nereids who are believed to dance together without pause on the heights of Taÿgetus. But this is a somewhat rare and local trait, and must have been transferred to them, it would seem, from Pan and his attendant satyrs, with whom of old they were wont to consort; in general they are held to be of beauty unblemished.

2 Cf. Bern. Schmidt, Das Volksleben, p. 105.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


A Beneficent Providence

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Silence is Golden," Complete Essays, Vol. II: 1926-1929 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 19-24 (at 20):
A beneficent providence has dimmed my powers of sight, so that, at a distance of more than four or five yards, I am blissfully unaware of the full horror of the average human countenance.
Cf. Walter Raleigh (1861-1922), "Wishes of an Elderly Man Wished at a Garden Party, June 1914," lines 1-2:
I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face.


Bank Bailouts, Corporate Welfare, Etc.

Terence, Phormio 41-42 (tr. John Barsby):
How unfair life is, when the have-nots are expected to contribute all the time to the haves!

quam inique comparatumst, ii qui minus habent
ut semper aliquid addant ditioribus!

Friday, August 15, 2014



Euripides, fragment 903 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
I would be foolish if I took care of my neighbours' business.

ἄφρων ἂν εἴην εἰ τρέφοιν τὰ τῶν πέλας.
In Greek, a busybody could be described as πολυπράγμων. A nation, as well as an individual, can be πολυπράγμων. Cf. ἀλλοτριοπράγμων and also ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος, which the Bible bids us not to be (1 Peter 4:15). See Jeannine K. Brown, "Just a Busybody? A Look at the Greco-Roman Topos of Meddling for Defining ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος in 1 Peter 4:15," Journal of Biblical Literature 125 (2006) 549-568.



Horace, Epistles 1.16.67-68 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
A man has lost his weapons, has quitted his post with Virtue, who is ever busied and lost in making money.

perdidit arma, locum virtutis deseruit, qui
semper in augenda festinat et obruitur re.
Roland Mayer, ed., Horace, Epistles, Book I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), ad loc., p. 229:
68 semper: a crucial qualification, emphatically placed; increase of wealth is not absolutely bad (7.71; H. took pride in it himself at S. 2.6.6 si neque maiorem feci ratione mala rem). But a pursuit of gain so unremitting as to overwhelm (obruitur) is slavish. The warping of a sense of proportion in any pursuit is condemned (6.15-16).


Trough and Trove

James Bamford, "The Most Wanted Man in the World," Wired (August 2014), chapter 2:
Some have even raised doubts about whether the infamous revelation that the NSA was tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, long attributed to Snowden, came from his trough.
Is trough here a mistake for trove, i.e. treasure-trove? A prescriptivist might say yes, a descriptivist no. One can find printed examples of treasure-trough as far back as the nineteenth century, although dictionaries don't seem to recognize the phrase. Trough and trove are etymologically unrelated. The issue is complicated by the fact that trough can mean container or box. In my opinion, Bamford committed a solecism. If I had written such a sentence, I'd want an editor to correct it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Three Mosaics

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 11 (at Sparta):
We followed him down some steps under an improvised roof. With a tilt of his wrist, he emptied a pitcher on a grey blur of dusty floor. The water fell in a great black star, and, as it expanded to the edges, shapes defined themselves, colours came to life and delightful scenes emerged. Orpheus in a Phrygian-cap fingered his lyre in the heart of a spellbound menagerie of rabbits, lions, leopards, stags, serpents and tortoises. Then, as effeminate and as soft as Antinous, Achilles swam to the surface among the women of Scyros. Next door another splash spread further enchantments: Europa—lovely, Canova-like, with champagne-bottle shoulders and a wasp waist, heavy-thighed, callipygous and long-legged—sat side-saddle on the back of a fine bull breasting the foam to Crete.

"How pleased Zeus is to have her on his back," the man observed. "See, he's smiling to himself."
These mosaics are numbers 45 (Achilles) and 46 (Orpheus, Europa) in the catalogue of S.E. Waywell, "Roman Mosaics in Greece," American Journal of Archaeology 83 (1979) 293-321 (at 302, with plate 51, figures 39, 41, and 42), from which I've borrowed the following illustrations (in Leigh Fermor's order, i.e. Orpheus, Achilles, Europa, but in a grey blur, alas, without colors):

I haven't seen Odile Wattel-Decroizant and Ilona Jesnick, "The Mosaics of the House of Mourabas in Sparta: Orpheus and Europa," Journal of the British Archaeological Association 144 (1991) 92–106.

Thanks very much to the kind reader who gave me a copy of Mani, from my Amazon wish list.


Motto for a Superhero

Euripides, fragment 692 (from the satyr play Syleus, describing Hercules; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Just towards those who are just, but to those who are bad, the greatest of all their enemies on earth.

τοῖς μὲν δικαίοις ἔνδικος, τοῖς δ' αὖ κακοῖς
πάντων μέγιστος πολέμιος κατὰ χθόνα.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Don't Scowl

Horace, Epistles 1.18.94-95 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Take the cloud from your brow; shyness oft gets the look of secrecy, silence of sour temper.

deme supercilio nubem: plerumque modestus
occupat obscuri speciem, taciturnus acerbi.
Margaret B. Fergusson, "Quo Sensu Credis et Ore? A Study of Facial Expression in Greek and Latin Literature," Greece & Rome, Vol. 9, No. 26 (Feb., 1940) 102-116 (at 104, on the eyebrows):
In Greek and Latin, to draw them together is to frown—ὀφρῦς ἀνασπᾶν, συνέλκειν, frontem contrahere: to become calm and cheerful again is λύειν, μεθιέναι τὰς ὀφρῦς. In the Lysistrata τοξοποιεῖν τὰς ὀφρῦς is to arch them in superciliousness. A clouded brow is quite literally in Euripides στυγνὸν ὀφρύων νέφος: Horace has deme supercilio nubem.


Pity the Poor Interjection

Smaragdus, Liber in partibus Donati 15.1-2 (tr. Willard R. Trask):
Sad is the lot of the interjection, for of all the parts of speech it has the lowest place. There is none to praise it.

Partibus inferior iacet interiectio cunctis,
    Ultima namque sedet et sine laude manet.


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