Thursday, February 04, 2016


Christ and Christendom

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "William Penn and Lord Peterborough," Imaginary Conversations (Penn speaking):
The religion of Christ is peace and goodwill. The religion of Christendom is war and ill-will.
Id. (Peterborough speaking):
All the rogues that ever lived have brought little misery upon the world, in comparison with those who had too much zeal.


Bare Bones

Voltaire, letter to Charles Pinot Duclos (August 11, 1760):
A dictionary without quotations is a skeleton.

Un dictionnaire sans citations est un squelette.


The Enemy

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Religio Grammatici. The Religion of a Man of Letters. Presidential Address to the Classical Association, January 8, 1918 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1918), pp. 48-49:
The enemy has no definite name, though in a certain degree we all know him. He who puts always the body before the spirit, the dead before the living, the ἀναγκαῖον before the καλὸν; who makes things only in order to sell them; who has forgotten that there is such a thing as truth, and measures the world by advertisement or by money; who daily defiles the beauty that surrounds him and makes vulgar the tragedy; whose innermost religion is the worship of the lie in his soul. The Philistine, the vulgarian, the great sophist, the passer of base coin for true, he is all about us and, worse, he has his outposts inside us, persecuting our peace, spoiling our sight, confusing our values, making a man's self seem greater than the race and the present thing more important than the eternal. From him and his influence we find our escape by means of the grammata into that calm world of theirs, where stridency and clamour are forgotten in the ancient stillness, where the strong iron is long since rusted, and the rocks of granite broken into dust, but the great things of the human spirit still shine like stars pointing man's way onward to the great triumph or the great tragedy; and even the little things, the beloved and tender and funny and familiar things, beckon across gulfs of death and change with a magic poignancy, the old things that our dead leaders and forefathers loved, viva adhuc et desiderio pulcriora.1

1 "Living still and more beautiful because of our longing."
I can't identify the source of the final Latin quotation.


Brendan's Vision of Hell

Author unknown (Irish, 12th century), excerpt from Life of St. Brendan, tr. Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson (1909-1991), A Celtic Miscellany (London: Penguin Books, 1971), pp. 188-189:
However the Devil revealed the gate of Hell to Brénainn then. And Brénainn beheld that rough murky prison, full of stench, full of flame, full of filth, full of encampments of venomous demons, full of the weeping and shrieking and injury and pitiful cries and great wailings and lamentations and beating together of hands, of the tribes of sinners; and a dismal sorrowful life in kernels of torture, in prisons of fire, in streams of waves of everlasting fire, in a cup of eternal sorrow, in black dark sloughs, in chairs of mighty flame, in profusion of sorrow and death and torment and bonds and irresistible heavy combat, with the terrible yelling of the venomous demons; in the eternally dark, eternally cold, eternally stinking, eternally foul, eternally gloomy, eternally rough, eternally long, eternally melancholy, deadly, baneful, severe, fiery-haired dwelling place of the most hideous depths of Hell, on the slopes of mountains of everlasting fire, without stay, without rest; but troops of demons are dragging them in pitiful, grievous, rigid, fiery, dark, deep, hidden, empty, base, black, idle, filthy, antiquated, old and stinking, everlastingly quarrelsome, everlastingly pugnacious, everlastingly wearisome, everlastingly deadly, everlastingly tearful prisons; sharp, fierce, windy, full of wailing, screaming, complaining, and bitter crying; horrible.

There are curly, cruel, bold, big-headed maggots; and yellow, white, great-jawed monsters; fierce ravening lions; red, black, brown, devilish dragons; mighty treacherous tigers; inky hairy scorpions; red high-soaring hawks; rough sharp-beaked griffins; black hump-backed beetles; sharp snouted flies; bent bony-beaked wasps; heavy iron mallets; ancient old rough flails; sharp swords; red spears; black demons; stinking fires; streams of poison; cats scratching; dogs rending; hounds hunting; demons calling; fetid lakes; great sloughs; dark pits; deep gullies; high mountains; hard crags; a mustering of demons; a filthy camp; torture without cease; a ravenous swarm; frequent conflict; endless fighting; demons torturing; torment in abundance; a sorrowful life.

A place in which there are frosty, bitter, everlastingly fetid, eternal, wide-stretched, agitated, grievous, putrid, deliquescent, burning, bare, rapid, full-fiery streams; hard, rocky, sharp-headed, long, cold, deep, swampy little straits of the sea; bare burning plains; peaked rugged hills; hard verminous ravines; rough thorny moors; black fiery forests; filthy monster-infested roads; congealed stinking-billowed seas; huge iron spikes; black bitter waters; many extraordinary places; a dirty everlastingly-gloomy assembly; bitter wintry winds; frosty everlastingly-falling snow; red fiery blades; base dark faces; swift ravening demons; vast unheard-of tortures.
Original in Whitley Stokes (1830-1909), Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore. Edited with a Translation, Notes and Indices (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1890), pp. 108-109, with his own translation on pp. 254-255.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016


Acts of the Apostles

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Saint Paul, tr. Ingersoll Lockwood (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1869), p. 53 (footnote omitted):
The gayety, the youthfulness of heart, breathed by these evangelical Odysseys were something new, original, and charming. The Acts of the apostles, an expression of this first transport of the Christian conscience, compose a book of joy, of serene ardor. Since the Homeric Poems, no work had been seen full of such fresh sensations. A breeze of morning, an odor of the sea, if I dare express it so, inspiring something joyful and strong, penetrates the whole book, and makes it an excellent compagnon de voyage, the exquisite breviary for him who is searching for ancient remains on the seas of the south.

La gaieté, la jeunesse de cœur que respirent ces odyssées évangéliques furent quelque chose de nouveau, d'original et de charmant. Les Actes des Apôtres, expression de ce premier élan de la conscience chrétienne, sont un livre de joie, d'ardeur sereine. Depuis les poèmes homériques, on n'avait pas vu d'œuvre pleine de sensations aussi fraîches. Une brise matinale, une odeur de mer, si j'ose le dire, inspirant quelque chose d'allègre et de fort, pénètre tout le livre et en fait un excellent compagnon de voyage, le bréviaire exquis de celui qui poursuit des traces antiques sur les mers du Midi.


Stay Longer

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Religio Grammatici. The Religion of a Man of Letters. Presidential Address to the Classical Association, January 8, 1918 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1918), p. 10:
One is tempted to think of the end of "Faust": was not the graving of a thing on brass or stone, was not even the painting of a reindeer in the depths of a palaeolithic cave, a practical, though imperfect, method of saying to the moment, "Verweile doch, Du bist so schön" ("Stay longer, thou art so beautiful")?
Id., pp. 14-15:
Both soul and body are preserved, imperfectly of course, in grammata, or letters; in a long series of marks scratched, daubed, engraved, written, or printed, stretching from the inscribed bone implements and painted rocks of prehistoric man through the great literatures of the world down to this morning's newspaper and the manuscript from which I am reading — marks which have their own history also and their own vast varieties. And "the office of the art grammatikê is so to deal with the grammata as to recover from them all that can be recovered of that which they have saved from oblivion, to reinstate as far as possible the spoken word in its first impressiveness and musicalness."1

1 Rutherford, History of Annotation, p. 12.
Id., p. 45:
The traditio, the handing-down of the intellectual acquisitions of the human race from one generation to another, the constant selection of thoughts and discoveries and feelings and events so precious that they must be made into books, and then of books so precious that they must be copied and re-copied and not allowed to die — the traditio itself is a wonderful and august process, full, no doubt, of abysmal gaps and faults, like all things human, but full also of that strange half-baffled and yet not wholly baffled splendour which marks all the characteristic works of man.


A Scottish Glen

Author unknown (Irish, 14th century?), "Deirdre Remembers a Scottish Glen," tr. Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson (1909-1991), A Celtic Miscellany (London: Penguin Books, 1971), pp. 72-73:
Glen of fruit and fish and pools, its peaked hills of loveliest wheat, it is distressful for me to think of it — glen of bees, of long-horned wild oxen.

Glen of cuckoos and thrushes and blackbirds, precious in its cover to every fox; glen of wild garlic and watercress, of woods, of shamrock and flowers, leafy and twisting-crested.

Sweet are the cries of the brown-backed dappled deer under the oak-wood above the bare hill-tops, gentle hinds that are timid lying hidden in the great-treed glen.

Glen of the rowans with scarlet berries, with fruit fit for every flock of birds; a slumbrous paradise for the badgers in their quiet burrows with their young.

Glen of the blue-eyed vigorous hawks, glen abounding in every harvest, glen of the ridged and pointed peaks, glen of blackberries and sloes and apples.

Glen of the sleek brown round-faced otters that are pleasant and active in fishing; many are the white-winged stately swans, and salmon breeding along the rocky brink.

Glen of the tangled branching yews, dewy glen with level lawn of kine; chalk-white starry sunny glen, glen of graceful pearl-like high-bred women.
Original in Thomas F. O'Rahilly (1883-1953), ed., Measgra Dánta: Miscellaneous Irish Poems, Part II (Dublin and Cork: Cork University Press, 1927), pp. 122-123 (with notes on pp. 195-196), also available here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Little Gods

Horace, Odes 3.23 (tr. David West):
If when the moon is being born you lift your hands
upturned towards the sky, rustic Phidyle,
  if you placate the Lares with incense,
    this year's grain, and a greedy pig,

your vine will be fertile and not feel the wind        5
which brings disease from Africa, nor will your crop know
  the blight of mildew nor your lovely suckling beasts
    a time of danger when the year bears fruit.

The sacrificial victim feeding
on snowy Algidus among oak and ilex        10
  or fattening in the Alban grasslands,
    will stain the axes of priests

with blood from its neck. There is no call for you
to ply your little gods with great killings
  of yearlings. Just crown them        15
    with rosemary or brittle sprigs of myrtle.

If your empty hand touches the altar, it is
more persuasive for offering no costly victim,
  and appeases angry Penates
    with consecrated grain and crackling salt.        20

Caelo supinas si tuleris manus
nascente Luna, rustica Phidyle,
  si ture placaris et horna
    fruge Lares avidaque porca,

nec pestilentem sentiet Africum        5
fecunda vitis nec sterilem seges
  robiginem aut dulces alumni
    pomifero grave tempus anno.

nam quae nivali pascitur Algido
devota quercus inter et ilices        10
  aut crescit Albanis in herbis
    victima, pontificum securis

cervice tinguet: te nihil attinet
temptare multa caede bidentium
  parvos coronantem marino        15
    rore deos fragilique myrto.

immunis aram si tetigit manus,
non sumptuosa blandior hostia,
  mollivit aversos Penatis
    farre pio et saliente mica.        20

William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), Phidyle

Boy praying with upturned hands
(Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Antikensammlung)

Lararium (Pompeii, House of the Vettii)



Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Saint Paul, tr. Ingersoll Lockwood (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1869), p. 126 (footnote omitted):
He saw the only perfect things which have ever existed, which ever will exist: the Propylaea, that noble masterpiece; the Parthenon, which destroys all other grandeur except its own; the temple of wingless Victory, worthy of the battles which it consecrated; the Erechtheum, prodigy of elegance and finesse; the Errhephores, those divine young girls of so graceful a carriage. He saw all that, and his faith was not shaken. He did not startle. The prejudices of the iconoclastic Jew, insensible to plastic beauties, blinded him. He regarded these incomparable images as idols. "His spirit," says his biographer, "was stirred within him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." Ah! beautiful and chaste images, true gods and true goddesses, tremble!—here is one who will raise the hammer against you. The fatal word has been pronounced,—ye are idols.

Il vit les seules choses parfaites qui aient jamais existé, qui existeront jamais, les Propylées, ce chef-d'œuvre de noblesse, le Parthénon, qui écrase toute autre grandeur que la sienne, le temple de la Victoire sans ailes, digne des batailles qu'il consacra, l'Érechthéum, prodige d'élégance et de finesse, les Errhéphores, ces divines jeunes filles, au port si plein de grâce; il vit tout cela, et sa foi ne fut pas ébranlée; il ne tressaillit pas. Les préjugés du juif iconoclaste, insensible aux beautés plastiques, l'aveuglèrent; il prit ces incomparables images pour des idoles: «Son esprit, dit son biographe, s'aigrissait en lui-même, quand il voyait la ville remplie d'idoles.» Ah! belles et chastes images, vrais dieux et vraies déesses, tremblez; voici celui qui lèvera contre vous le marteau. Le mot fatal est prononcé: vous êtes des idoles.
Errhephores, i.e. Arrēphoroi (ἀρρηφόροι), the girls who carried the symbols of Athena Polias in procession:


You Don't Need a Weatherman

Solon, fragment 9 (tr. M.L. West):
As from the cloudbank comes the storm of snow or hail,
    and thunder follows from the lightning flash,
exalted men portend the city's death: the folk
    in innocence fall slave to tyranny.
Raise them too high, and it's not easy afterwards        5
    to hold them. Now's the time to read the signs.
Or, somewhat more literally:
From a cloud comes force of snow or hail,
    and thunder is produced from bright lightning;
from powerful men comes a city's destruction, and through stupidity
    citizens have fallen into bondage to a tyrant.
If someone is raised up too high, it isn't easy to restrain him        5
    afterwards, but right now you need to ponder all that is good.
The Greek:
ἐκ νεφέλης πέλεται χιόνος μένος ἠδὲ χαλάζης,
    βροντὴ δ᾿ ἐκ λαμπρῆς γίγνεται ἀστεροπῆς·
ἀνδρῶν δ᾿ ἐκ μεγάλων πόλις ὄλλυται, ἐς δὲ μονάρχου
    δῆμος ἀϊδρίῃ δουλοσύνην ἔπεσεν.
λίην δ᾿ ἐξάραντ᾿ <οὐ> ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι κατασχεῖν        5
    ὕστερον, ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη χρή <καλὰ> πάντα νοεῖν.

3 ἐς plerique: ἐκ Diodorus Siculus 9.20.2; μονάρχου plerique: τυράννου Diodorus Siculus 19.1.4
5 οὐ add. Dindorf
6 καλὰ add. West: περὶ Dindorf: τινα Sintenis: τάδε Passow
See Maria Noussia-Fantuzzi, Solon the Athenian, the Poetic Fragments (Leiden; Brill, 2010), pp. 309-318.

Monday, February 01, 2016


Mother Earth

Homeric Hymn 30.1-16 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, modified by me):
I will sing of well-founded Earth, mother of all,
eldest of all beings. She feeds all creatures that are in the world,
all that go upon the goodly land and in the sea,
and all that fly: all these are fed of her store.
Through you men are blessed in their children and in their harvests,        5
O queen, and to you it belongs to give means of life and to take it away
from mortal men. Happy is the man whom you in your heart
delight to honor! He has all things abundantly:
his fruitful land is laden with corn, his pastures
thrive with cattle, and his house is filled with good things.        10
Such men with good order in their cities of fair women
hold sway: great riches and wealth follow them:
their sons exult with ever-fresh delight,
and their daughters in flower-laden bands merrily
play and skip over the soft flowers of the field.        15
Thus is it with those whom you honor, O holy goddess, bountiful spirit.

Γαῖαν παμμήτειραν ἀείσομαι, ἠϋθέμεθλον,
πρεσβίστην, ἣ φέρβει ἐπὶ χθονὶ πάνθ᾿ ὁπόσ᾿ ἐστίν,
ἠμὲν ὅσα χθόνα δῖαν ἐπέρχεται ἠδ᾿ ὅσα πόντον
ἠδ᾿ ὅσα πωτῶνται, τὰ δὲ φέρβεται ἐκ σέθεν ὄλβου.
ἐκ σέο δ᾿ εὔπαιδές τε καὶ εὔκαρποι τελέθουσι,        5
πότνια, σεῦ δ᾿ ἔχεται δοῦναι βίον ἠδ᾿ ἀφελέσθαι
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν· ὃ δ᾿ ὄλβιος, ὅν κε σὺ θυμῷ
πρόφρων τιμήσῃς· τῷ τ᾿ ἄφθονα πάντα πάρεστι.
βρίθει μέν σφιν ἄρουρα φερέσβιος ἠδὲ κατ᾿ ἀγρούς
κτήνεσιν εὐθηνεῖ, οἶκος δ᾿ ἐμπίμπλαται ἐσθλῶν·        10
αὐτοὶ δ᾿ εὐνομίῃσι πόλιν κάτα καλλιγύναικα
κοιρανέουσ᾿, ὄλβος δὲ πολὺς καὶ πλοῦτος ὀπηδεῖ·
παῖδες δ᾿ εὐφροσύνῃ νεοθηλέϊ κυδιόωσι,
παρθενικαί τε χοροῖς πολυανθέσιν εὔφρονι θυμῷ
παίζουσαι σκαίρουσι κατ᾿ ἄνθεα μαλθακὰ ποίης,        15
οὕς κε σὺ τιμήσῃς, σεμνὴ θεά, ἄφθονε δαῖμον.
I don't have access to the commentary of Allen, Halliday, and Sikes. A couple of notes to myself:

2: cf. Sophocles, Philoctetes 391, who calls Mother Earth παμβῶτι.
6-7: cf. Pseudo-Homer, Epigrams 7 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Queen Earth, all bounteous, giver of honey-hearted wealth,
how kindly, it seems, you are to some,
and how intractable and rough for those with whom you are angry.

Πότνια Γῆ πάνδωρε, δότειρα μελίφρονος ὄλβου,
ὡς ἄρα δὴ τοῖς μὲν φωτῶν εὔοχθος ἐτύχθης,
τοῖσι δὲ δύσβωλος καὶ τρηχεῖ᾿, οἷς ἐχολώθης.
Related post: Precatio Terrae.


Escape from Prison

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Religio Grammatici. The Religion of a Man of Letters. Presidential Address to the Classical Association, January 8, 1918 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1918), pp. 6-8:
Man is imprisoned in the external present; and what we call a man's religion is, to a great extent, the thing that offers him a secret and permanent means of escape from that prison, a breaking of the prison walls which leaves him standing, of course, still in the present, but in a present so enlarged and enfranchised that it is become, not a prison, but a free world. Religion, even in the narrow sense, is always looking for Soteria, for escape, for some salvation from the terror to come, or some deliverance from the body of this death.

And men find it, of course, in a thousand ways, with different degrees of ease and of certainty. I am not wishing to praise my talisman at the expense of other talismans. Some find it in theology; some in art, in human affection, in the anodyne of constant work, in that permanent exercise of the inquiring intellect which is commonly called the search for truth; some find it in carefully cultivated illusions of one sort or another, in passionate faiths and undying pugnacities; some, I believe, find a substitute by simply rejoicing in their prison, and living furiously, for good or ill, in the actual moment.

And a scholar, I think, secures his freedom by keeping hold always of the past, and treasuring up the best out of the past, so that in a present that may be angry or sordid he can call back memories of calm or of high passion, in a present that requires resignation or courage he can call back the spirit with which brave men long ago faced the same evils. He draws out of the past high thoughts and great emotions; he also draws the strength that comes from communion or brotherhood.
Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides,
And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old,
come back to comfort another blind poet in his affliction. The Psalms, turned into strange languages, their original meaning often lost, live on as a real influence in human life, a strong and almost always an ennobling influence. I know the figures in the tradition may be unreal, their words may be misinterpreted, but the communion is quite a real fact. And the student, as he realizes it, feels himself one of a long line of torch-bearers. He attains that which is the most compelling desire of every human being, a work in life which it is worth living for, and which is not cut short by the accident of his own death.
Id., pp. 20-22:
First, we may say, the chains of the mind are not broken by any form of ignorance. The chains of the mind are broken by understanding. And so far as men are unduly enslaved by the past, it is by understanding the past that they may hope to be freed. But, secondly, it is never really the past — the true past — that enslaves us; it is always the present. It is not the conventions of the seventeenth or eighteenth century that now make men conventional. It is the conventions of our own age, though, of course, I would not deny that in any age there are always fragments of the uncomprehended past still floating like dead things pretending to be alive. What one always needs for freedom is some sort of escape from the thing that now holds him. A man who is the slave of theories must get outside them and see facts; a man who is the slave of his own desires and prejudices must widen the range of his experience and imagination. But the thing that enslaves us most, narrows the range of our thought, cramps our capacities, and lowers our standards, is the mere present — the present that is all round us, accepted and taken for granted, as we in London accept the grit in the air and the dirt on our hands and faces. The material present, the thing that is omnipotent over us, not because it is either good or evil, but just because it happens to be here, is the great jailer and imprisoner of man's mind; and the only true method of escape from him is the contemplation of things that are not present. Of the future? Yes; but you cannot study the future. You can only make conjectures about it, and the conjectures will not be much good unless you have in some way studied other places and other ages. There has been hardly any great forward movement of humanity which did not draw inspiration from the knowledge or the idealization of the past.

No: to search the past is not to go into prison. It is to escape out of prison, because it compels us to compare the ways of our own age with other ways.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Sunday Morning

Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 222 (June 3, 1888; ellipsis in original; Anodos was a pseudonym of the author):
Anodos had in his early youth a great liking for sermons. Not that he ever understood or remembered them, but the taste of them was sweet to his palate. It is not so now. He left Church this morning especially to avoid one. Outside the birds held Morningsong, and the wind that bloweth where it listeth preached out of St. John's Gospel, 'Thou canst not tell whence it cometh.' It might have been crisping the waves, ruffling the heather, scattering the powdery snow upon some distant Alp, before it folded its great wings, and fluttered peacefully down into that London Churchyard. .... I incline to think that it is not three people who make a congregation, but one. Alone, I am a host in myself; oppressed on every side by masses of yawning fellow-Christians, how can I be devout? (I am not.) Even if they are not yawning, what is the feverish excitement of a crowd hanging on the rhetoric of the local Vicar to the quiet Apocalypse of a solitary person under the sky among trees? 'The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth His handiwork.' After all, even a Cathedral declares the glory of Man.
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Religio Grammatici

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Saint Paul, tr. Ingersoll Lockwood (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1869), p. 139:
The pedagogue is the least convertible of men; for he has a religion of his own, namely, his routine, faith in his old authors, and taste for his literary exercises. This contents him, and extinguishes in him every other need.

Le pédagogue est le moins convertissable des hommes; car il a une religion à lui, qui est sa routine, la foi en ses vieux auteurs, le goût de ses exercices littéraires; cela le contente et éteint chez lui tout autre besoin.
Id., p. 144:
When we have well studied what constitutes in our day the character of a cultivated Hellene, we see that he has very little Christianity about him. He is Christian in form, as a Persian is Mussulman, but at bottom he is "Hellenist." His religion is the adoration of the ancient Greek genius. He pardons every heresy to the philhellene, to him who admires his past. He is much less the disciple of Jesus and St. Paul than of Plutarch and Julian.

Quand on a bien étudié ce qui fait de nos jours le fond d'un Hellène cultivé, on voit qu'il y a chez lui très-peu de christianisme: il est chrétien de forme, comme un Persan est musulman; mais au fond il est «helléniste». Sa religion, c'est l'adoration de l'ancien génie grec. Il pardonne toute hérésie au philhellène, à celui qui admire son passé; il est bien moins disciple de Jésus et de saint Paul que de Plutarque et de Julien.

Saturday, January 30, 2016


Greek Pleasures

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), Saint Paul, tr. Ingersoll Lockwood (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1869), pp. 140-141 (footnote omitted):
If, as it may be sustained, anticipation of death is the most important feature of Christianity, and of the modern religious sentiment, then the Greek race is the least religious of races. It is a superficial race, looking upon life as a thing without aught of supernatural or after-plan. Such a simplicity of conception results in a great measure from the climate, from the purity of the air, from the wonderful joy that one breathes in, but still more from the instincts of the Hellenic race, adorably idealistic. A nothing, a tree, a flower, a lizard, a tortoise, giving rise to the recollection of a thousand metamorphoses sung by the poets; a thread of water; a little hollow in the rock, which they term a nymph's cave; a well with a cup on the curb-stone; a strait of the sea, so narrow that the butterflies cross it and still navigable for the largest vessels, as at Poros; orange-trees, cypresses, of which the shade extends upon the sea; a little forest of pines in the midst of rocks;—are sufficient in Greece to produce the contentment awakened by beauty. Walking in the gardens at night, listening to the locusts, sitting in the moonlight while playing the flute, going to the mountain for water and taking with them a little roll of bread, a fish, and a cyathus of wine, which is drunk while singing; in family festivities, hanging a crown of leaves over their door, or going with flowers in their hats; on public fête days, carrying the thyrsus ornamented with leaves; passing whole days in dancing, playing with tame goats,—such are Greek pleasures, the pleasures of a race, poor, economical, eternally young, inhabiting a beautiful country, finding their fortune in themselves and in the gifts which the gods have made them. The pastoral, after the manner of Theocritus, was a reality in Hellenic countries. Greece always took pleasure in this little species of fine and pleasing poetry, one of the most characteristic of her literature, the mirror of her own life; almost everywhere else, foolish and fictitious. Good-humor, joy at living, are things preeminently Greek. This race is always twenty years old. For them, indulgere genio is not the dull intoxication of the Englishman, the gross diversion of the Frenchman. It is simply thinking that nature is good, and that one can and should yield to it. In fact, nature, for the Greek, is a counsellor in matters of elegance, a mistress teaching rectitude and virtue. "Concupiscence," that idea that nature leads us to do wrong, is nonsense to him.



William Cory (1823-1892), quoted in Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), pp. 328-329:
I must say I like books which set young men above old. They are so much better. Goodness begins to decline after 25—cleverness after 30; at 40 or 50 the clouds of vanity gather.


A Spurious Auto-Antonym

P.G.W. Glare, "Liddell-Scott-Jones: Then and Now," Hyperboreus 3.2 (1997) 205–217 (at 211-212):
A more complicated example can be found in the entry under συγχωρέω. The opening definition is come together, meet; the second is get out of the way, make way, which would appear to be the exact opposite of the first. Although there is an old joke which says that in Arabic every word means itself, its opposite, a name of God, and a part of a camel, this is a ludicrous exaggeration, and is no more true of Greek than it is of Arabic. The first example quoted under the second sense comes from Aristophanes Wasps 1516; it runs:
φέρε νυν ἡμεῖς αὐτοῖς ὀλίγον ξυγχωρήσωμεν ἅπαντες,
ἵν᾽ ἐφ᾽ ἡσυχίας ἡμῶν πρόσθεν βεμβικίζωσιν ἑαυτοῖς.
One of the characters is certainly telling the others to get out of the way so that the chorus can proceed with its dance; what he actually says is: "Let us all get together in a group (so as to leave room, etc.)". The writer of the article has translated what he supposed to be the sense of the passage, without considering whether the word could possibly have the meaning he assigns to it. He then goes on give way, yield, defer to. These translations again express the general drift of the passages cited to support them, but it would be more accurate to say agree with, fall in with; the dictionary user would then have a much clearer idea of how one sense leads into the other.
Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 44:
[I]t used to be said that every Sanskrit word means itself, its opposite, a name of god, and a position in sexual intercourse.†

† This was said at Harvard, when I was there in the sixties, and it seems to have been based on another Orientalist joke sometimes ascribed to Sir Hamilton A.R. Gibb of Oxford and Harvard, that every Arabic word has its primary meaning, then its opposite, then something to do with a camel, and last, something obscene.


Friday, January 29, 2016


Proliferation of Books

Gathered Leaves from the Prose of Mary E. Coleridge, with a Memoir by Edith Sichel (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1910), p. 268:
I am so glad you have not got any books. Never, O! never, begin to have any! If you do, they all marry each other, and increase at the rate of half a library per annum. Then, when you have lived in the house forty-five years they have all got grand-children, and there is no room in the house for anything else whatever.


Manual Labor

Thaddeus Zielinski (1859-1944), The Religion of Ancient Greece, tr. George Rapall Noyes (1926; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers Inc., 1975), pp. 38-39:
Some one once ventured to assert that the ancient Greeks despised and scorned physical work, and ever since that time this absurd statement has been wandering unchecked through the pages of manuals and compendiums that derive their material at second hand or at tenth hand. Of course, this allegation must have had some basis. It was founded on the opinion of the aristocratic writer Plato and of a few others concerning the injurious effect on man's mental processes of artisan labour, which chains him to the workshop and at the same time directs his thoughts exclusively towards gain. But, to say nothing of the fact that Plato and his fellow-writers are not speaking of all physical labour, and in particular not of labour in the fields, what warrant have we to make Plato's words representative of the view of Greece as a whole? Why not oppose to them the Homeric Odysseus, who appeals with equal pride to his endurance at the time of harvest and to his deeds in war?—Odysseus, who with his own hands made himself his marriage bed and the boat that saved him! Why should we not mention Hesiod, who dedicated to his heedless brother Perses his Works and Days, with their guiding thought, 'To work, foolish Perses', and with the famous verse:
Now work is no disgrace, sloth is disgrace (verse 311).
Hesiod's famous verse in Greek:
ἔργον δ' οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ' ὄνειδος.


What Will You Do When You Retire?

Frank Kermode (1919-2010), Not Entitled: A Memoir (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), pp. 164-165 (Golding = William Golding):
Another thing comes to mind as typical of Golding: he once asked me whether I was keeping up my Greek. When I admitted I wasn't, he asked, "But what will you do when you retire if you can't read Homer?" Greek was basic know-how. Having it, you could see how Homer worked, and also Achilles. That's where I fall down.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


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