Monday, March 30, 2015


Proceed with Caution

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Allegory of Love (1936; rpt. Oxford University Press, 1951), pp. 173-174:
It is only natural that we, who live in an industrial age, should find difficulties in reading poetry that was written for a scholastic and aristocratic age. We must proceed with caution, lest our thick, rough fingers tear the delicate threads that we are trying to disentangle.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Prayers in Fields or Woods

Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800 (1983; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 215:
Some of the early Protestants were adamant that prayers could be as effectively said in fields or woods as in churches. In 1429 the Lollard Robert Cavell, a clergyman of Bungay, maintained that no honour was due to images, but that trees were of greater vigour and virtue and fitter to be worshipped than stone or dead wood carved in the shape of a man.
Thomas, op. cit., p. 378, n. 16, cites Norman P. Tanner, ed., Heresy Trials in the Diocese of Norwich, 1428-31 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1977), p. 95:
Item quod nullus honor est exhibendus ymaginibus crucifixi, Beate Marie nec alicuius sancti, eo quod arbores crescentes in silvis sunt maioris viriditatis et virtutis et eo cicius adorande quam lapis vel lignum mortuum sculptum ad similitudinem hominis.
Margaret Aston, "William White's Lollard Followers," Catholic Historical Review 68.3 (July, 1982) 469-497 (at 488), compares Fasciculi Zizaniorum Magistri Johannis Wyclif cum Tritico. Ascribed to Thomas Netter of Walden, Provincial of the Carmelite Order in England, and Confessor to King Henry the Fifth, ed. Walter Waddington Shirley (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858), pp. 429-430 (from Examinatio Willelmi Whyte coram Episcopo Norwycensi; September 13, 1428; charge no. XXVI):
Item tibi dicimus, objicimus et articulamur, quod post et contra tuam praedictam abjurationem, tu tenuisti, affirmasti, scripsisti et docuisti, quod non est honor aliquis exhibendus imaginibus Crucifixi, B. Mariae Virginis, aut alicujus sancti. Nam arbores, crescentes in silva sunt majoris virtutis, et vigoris, et expressiorem gerunt similitudinem Dei et imaginem, quam lapis vel lignum mortuum ad similitudinem hominis sculptum; et ideo hujusmodi arbores crescentes magis sunt adorandae orationibus, genuflectionibus, oblationibus, peregrinationibus et luminibus, quam aliquod idolum in ecclesia mortuum.
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A Good Plan

Martin L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), p. 57, n. 9:
It is a good plan to make a translation. Nothing more effectively brings one face to face with the difficulties of the text.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Not Strong Enough

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), The Way We Live Now, chapter I (Alfred Booker speaking):
"Bad; of course it is bad," he said to a young friend who was working with him on his periodical. "Who doubts that? How many very bad things are there that we do! But if we were to attempt to reform all our bad ways at once, we should never do any good thing. I am not strong enough to put the world straight, and I doubt if you are."


Light-Bearing Artemis

Euripides, Iphigenia Among the Taurians 20-21 (Calchas to Agamemnon), tr. David Kovacs, with his note, in Euripides, Trojan Women. Iphigenia Among the Taurians. Ion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 154-155:
                              ὅ τι γὰρ ἐνιαυτὸς τέκοι
κάλλιστον, ηὔξω φωσφόρῳ θύσειν θεᾷ.

You vowed to the light-bearing goddess3 that you would sacrifice the fairest thing the year brought forth.

3 Artemis is called "light-bearing" because she carries torches when she hunts at night. The vow to her was made in the year of Iphigenia's birth.
Poulheria Kyriakou, A Commentary on Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2006), pp. 58-59:
φωσφόρωι: in her capacity as huntress and goddess of marriage, Artemis is bearer of light (= torches), as is Hecate with whom she is often identified. For the identification see FJW on A. Su. 676 and cf. Aretz (1999) 40 n. 91 and Johnston (1999) 211-13. For Hecate φώσφορος see Kannicht on Hl. 569 and Diggle on Pha. 268 (fr. 781.59). For Artemis see e.g. S. OT 206-7, Tr. 214, Farnell 2.458, 573-74 and for her association with light cf. E. Parisinou, The Light of the Gods (London 2000) 46-48, 81-83, 151-56.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. φώσφορος:
II. torch-bearing, epith. of certain deities, esp. of Hecate, E.Hel.569, Ar.Th.858, Fr.594a; φ. θεά (sc. Ἄρτεμις) E.IT21, cf. Call.l.c. [Dian.204]; νὴ τὴν Φωσφόρον Ar.Lys.443, Antiph. 58.6; of Hephaestus, Orph.H.66.3: pl., ἱερεὺς Φωσφόρων Hesperia 4.49 (Athens, ii A. D.).
But cf. M. Platnauer, ed., Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris (1938; rpt. Bristol Classical Press, 1999), p. 61:
φωσφόρῳ = Artemis as the moon-goddess. Cf. E.IA 1570, I ὦ θηροκτόνε, | τὸ λαμπρὸν εἱλίσσουσ᾽ ἐν εὐφρόνῃ φάος; Cic. ND. ii.27.68 Dianam ... et Lunam eandem esse putant <Graeci>. See introduction, p. viii [sic, should be p. ix?].
The parallel from Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 1570-1571, cited by Platnauer, is usually understood as referring to Artemis as moon goddess, e.g. by Kovacs in Euripides, Bacchae. Iphigenia at Aulis. Rhesus (Harvard: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 337 (with his note):
slayer of beasts, who send your bright gleam on its circular path in the night,27...

27 Artemis is being identified with Selene, the moon goddess.
But I wonder if here too Euripides (or his reviser) could be describing Artemis brandishing a torch while hunting at night, i.e.:
slayer of beasts, whirling the gleam of light at night...
In the modern day, at least in some jurisdictions, if Artemis hunted wild beasts at night using a torch, she might be subject to arrest by a game warden for jacklighting. For hunting at night with torches see Eva Parisinou, The Light of the Gods: The Role of Light in Archaic and Classical Greek Culture (London: Duckworth, 2000), pp. 101-105.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Triple Correlative Conjunctions in Alcman

I noticed some examples of triple correlative conjunctions in Alcman.

Fragment 63:
Ναΐδες τε Λαμπάδες τε Θυιάδες τε.
Fragment 96:
ἤδη παρεξεῖ πυάνιόν τε πολτὸν
χίδρον τε λευκὸν κηρίναν τ' ὁπώραν.
For examples of this construction in other authors see


Reading Books More Than Once

Vilhelm Ekelund (1880-1949), The Second Light, tr. Lennart Bruce (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986), p. 38:
Books that you finish with are not books at all. A true book is inexhaustible, like a truly lyrical poem. The real practitioners of the noble art of writing are recognizable because they offer the greatest pleasure on rereading. They are therefore of value only to those who know how to read—a species almost as rare as good authors.

Fritz Wagner, Der Chronist

Related post: Rereading.



Sappho, fragment 1, lines 25-28 (prayer to Aphrodite; tr. David A. Campbell):
Come to me now again and deliver me from oppressive anxieties; fulfil all that my heart longs to fulfil, and you yourself be my fellow-fighter.

ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον· σὺ δ' αὔτα
σύμμαχος ἔσσο.
For a discussion of the entire poem see Anne Pippin Burnett, Three Archaic Poets: Archilochus, Alcaeus, Sappho (London: Duckworth, 1983; rpt. 1988), pp. 243-259. There are misprints in note 80 on p. 257:
For gods as summachoi, aside from the Aeschylean passages already mentioned (note 3), cf. Archil. 108W; Hdt. 8.64 Aesch. Supp. 342, 395; S. OT 274; E. Supp. 630.
Read "note 36" for "note 3" and put a semi-colon after "Hdt. 8.64".

On gods as fellow-fighters see also H.S. Versnel, Coping with the Gods: Wayward Readings in Greek Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2011 = Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 173), note 260 on pp. 93-94.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


From Brevity to Speechlessness

Basil, letter XII (to Olympius; tr. Roy J. Deferrari):
You used to write us little enough, but now you do not write even that little; and if your brevity keeps increasing with the time, it seems likely to become complete speechlessness.

ἔγραφες ἡμῖν πρότερον μὲν ὀλίγα, νῦν δὲ οὐδὲ ὀλίγα· καὶ ἔοικεν ἡ βραχυλογία προϊοῦσα τῷ χρόνῳ παντελὴς γίνεσθαι ἀφωνία.
Note the missing breathing and accent from the first word of the Greek in the digital Loeb Classical Library:

According to Eric Thomson, this error is not in the printed edition.




Vilhelm Ekelund (1880-1949), The Second Light, tr. Lennart Bruce (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986), pp. 57-58:
How trees know how to mourn! The dryad in the city's wilderness of brick and mortar, between the sparkle of streetcar cables and the roar of cars, is not the same peaceful creature as in the woods or countryside. Ovid would have depicted the spirits of criminals as condemned to languish in these crowns wilting at the height of summer, and the poets of the Greek Anthology would have made them whine in impressionistic epigrams. Trees are creatures that thrive among good people; the crowd looks down on them and finds it ridiculous to enjoy such things. Trees may well be the happiest and most beautiful beings of the creation, and evoke strong feelings when they are humiliated and outraged. A tree speaks to you of superior piety and bliss; your mind is refreshed and soothed when approaching its genius, looking at it with your inner vision. How many trees were guardian spirits, and teachers for the children who grew up under their protection and never forgot the whisper of their branches.


Scholia Aristophanica

William G. Rutherford (1853-1907), A Chapter in the History of Annotation: Being the Scholia Aristophanica, Vol. III (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1905), pp. 387-388:
There are many allusions in the plays which even the earliest of commentators could only annotate by guesses, and as century followed century the number of obscurities augmented. The old learning would seem to have been inaccessible at first hand to the men who compiled the marginal commentaries; and if it had been accessible, it is doubtful if they could have appreciated it at its proper value or used it to any good purpose. It is clear that as represented in the hypomnemata, mostly anonymous, and in the lexica and other books consulted by them, that learning had assumed a most corrupt and fragmentary form. But with this vast subject it is impossible to deal in a sketch of the methods of scholiasts such as this is. There is no presumption, however, in recording the opinion that in ἱστοριῶν ἀπόδοσις the scholiasts to Aristophanes are so rarely to be trusted that everything they provide of substantial interpretative value might be packed into a score or two of pages. On the other side of the account have to be set an encumbering mass of falsehoods and misleading statements due to the improvisation or the charlatanry or the guileless ignorance of scholiasts, and a great deal of nonsense and nastiness generated from silly and undisciplined minds. There is no reason why rubbish should be treated as erudition merely because it is preserved in a brown Greek manuscript, and rubbish undoubtedly the bulk of ἱστοριῶν ἀπόδοσις is that appears in the scholia. If judged without prejudice it is just the sort of thing that the spirit of comedy exists to make fun of.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Ancient and Modern Poets

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), Euripides and His Age (London: Williams & Norgate, 1913), pp. 102-103:
It is strange to reflect on the gulf that lies between the life of an ancient poet and his modern descendants. Our poets and men of letters mostly live either by writing or by investments eked out by writing. They are professional writers and readers and, as a rule, nothing else. It is comparatively rare for any one of them to face daily dangers, to stand against men who mean to kill him and beside men for whom he is ready to die, to be kept a couple of days fasting, or even to work in the sweat of his body for the food he eats. If such things happen by accident to one of us we cherish them as priceless "copy," or we even go out of our way to compass the experience artificially.

But an ancient poet was living hard, working, thinking, fighting, suffering, through most of the years that we are writing about life. He took part in the political assembly, in the Council, in the jury-courts; he worked at his own farm or business; and every year he was liable to be sent on long military expeditions abroad or to be summoned at a day's notice to defend the frontier at home. It is out of a life like this, a life of crowded reality and work, that Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripides found leisure to write their tragedies; one writing 90, one 127, and the third 92!



B.L. Gildersleeve, "Brief Mention," American Journal of Philology 34 (1913) 362-371 (at 370):
[B]ibliographies are not always honest. Books are cited as authorities which have not even been opened...

Sunday, March 22, 2015


The Prison of the Zeitgeist

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Allegory of Love (1936; rpt. Oxford University Press, 1951), pp. 89-90 (footnote omitted):
Hence, over all the really fine qualities of these poets, lies the loathsome trail of the rhetorician—the infuriating derangement of every sentence from its natural order, the fantastic choice of vocabulary, the anadiplosis, the sententia, and the amplificatio. They are all terribly obedient to the rhetor's precept varius sis et tamen idem. Their reader must have endless patience and dig deep if he is to find the real merits that lie buried beneath the 'curious terms', the 'fresh colours', the 'sugared rhetoric', and all the other tasteless foolery which corrupts the 'literary' Latin of the time, as it was later to corrupt the vernacular. Yet the task is worth attempting; for surely to be indulgent to mere fashion in other periods, and merciless to it in our own, is the first step we can make out of the prison of the Zeitgeist?


Keeping the Sabbath

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), "My Sabbath":
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I'm going, all along.
Hat tip: Jane Mallison.

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