Tuesday, July 22, 2014

 

Images of the Gods

Julian, fragment of a letter to a priest, 294 D (tr. Wilmer Cave Wright):
It follows that he who loves the gods delights to gaze on the images of the gods, and their likenesses, and he feels reverence and shudders with awe of the gods who look at him from the unseen world.

οὐκοῦν καὶ ὅστις φιλόθεος ἡδέως εἰς τὰ τῶν θεῶν ἀγάλματα καὶ τὰς εἰκόνας ἀποβλέπει, σεβόμενος ἅμα καὶ φρίττων ἐξ ἀφανοῦς ὁρῶντας εἰς αὐτὸν τοὺς θεούς.

 

On the Shortness of Time

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922), "On the Shortness of Time," Poetical Works, Vol. I (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1914), p. 87:
If I could live without the thought of death,
Forgetful of time's waste, the soul's decay,
I would not ask for other joy than breath
With light and sound of birds and the sun's ray.
I could sit on untroubled day by day
Watching the grass grow, and the wild flowers range
From blue to yellow and from red to grey
In natural sequence as the seasons change.
I could afford to wait, but for the hurt
Of this dull tick of time which chides my ear.
But now I dare not sit with loins ungirt
And staff unlifted, for death stands too near.
I must be up and doing—ay, each minute.
The grave gives time for rest when we are in it.

 

Man Was Made to Stay at Home

William Hazlitt (1778-1830), "Travelling Abroad," in New Writings by William Hazlitt. Collected by P.P. Howe (New York: Lincoln MacVeagh, The Dial Press, 1925), pp. 9-31 (at 9):
I am one of those who do not think that much is to be gained in point either of temper or understanding by travelling abroad. Give me the true, stubborn, unimpaired John Bull feeling, that keeps fast hold of the good things it fancies in its exclusive possession, nor ever relaxes in its contempt for foreign frippery and finery. What is the use of keeping up an everlasting see-saw in the imagination between brown-stout and vin ordinaire, between long and short waists, between English gravity and French levity? The home-brewed, the home-baked, the home-spun, 'dowlas, filthy dowlas for me!'
Id.:
Man was made to stay at home—(why else are there so many millions born who never dreamt of stirring from it?)—to vegetate, to be rooted to the earth, to cling to his local prejudices, to luxuriate in the follies of his forefathers.
Dowlas, filthy dowlas: William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I, 3.3.68. The Oxford English Dictionary defines dowlas as "A coarse kind of linen."

 

Decline

First three stanzas of a song by Guiraut Riquier (1230?-1292?), tr. Alan R. Press, Anthology of Troubadour Lyric Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1971), pp. 315, 317:
Never more will a man be in this world thanked for well composing fair words and pleasant airs, nor for being eager for esteem, so much is the world come to its decline. For that which used to inspire merit, approval, and praise, I hear blamed as the utmost folly, and that which one used to criticize and blame, I see upheld, and hear it praised by all.

I see those in power bold to take, and see them reluctant to welcome and give; tardy and bashful to speak the truth, and shameless and clever in lying. Loyalty they serve not, nor love, but with deceit they contend among themselves; they have no regard for mercy and are avid of occasion to sin.

Withal it's said that the world is improved, and that it's more valorous than it ever was! And he seems indeed bereft of wit who thinks that, and he far more who says so. For never in the world were knaves and cheats so suffered as now, when the great lords make great wrong, with their help, seem natural right, and when he is most sought after who best knows how to work it.
The Provençal, id., pp. 314, 316:
Ja mais non er hom en est mon grazitz
Per ben trobar belhs digz e plazens sos,
Ni per esser de bon grat enveyos,
Tant es lo muns avengutz deschauzitz.
Quar so que sol dar pretz, grat, e lauzor,
Aug repenre per folhia major;
E so qu'om sol repenre e blasmar
Vey mantener, ez aug per tot lauzar.

De tolre vey los poderos arditz
E.ls vey volpilhs de condutz e de dos;
E de dir ver tardius e vergonhos,
E de mentir frontiers et yssernitz.
E lialtat no servan, ni amor,
Mas ab enjan s'aziran entre lor;
Et a merce no.s volon regardar,
E son cobe d'aizina de peccar.

Ab tot ditz hom que.l mun es corregitz,
E pus que mais no fo es valoros!
E pareys be de conoyssensa blos
Qui so pessa, e trop pus qui o ditz.
Qu'anc el mon mais tant no foron trachor
Ni falsari sufert, que.l gran senhor
Fan de gran tort, ab elh, bon dreg semblar,
Et es volgutz mais qui.n sap pus obrar.
For more information on this song see Corpus des troubadours. Performances on CD: La Tròba: Anthologie chantée des Troubadours (Troubadours Art Ensemble, dir. Gérard Zuchetto, Tròba Vox label), vol. 5, disc 5, track 9, and The Last of the Troubadours (Martin Best Medieval Ensemble, Naxos label), track 16.

Thanks very much to the generous friend who gave me Anthology of Troubadour Lyric Poetry and many other books.

Monday, July 21, 2014

 

Parts of Speech

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Journals and Papers, tr. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, Vol. 1 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967), p. 14 (I A 126, March, 1836):
All of human life could well be conceived as a great discourse in which different people come to represent the different parts of speech (this might also be applicable to nations in relation to each other). How many people are merely adjectives, interjections, conjunctions, adverbs; how few are nouns, action words, etc.; how many are copulas.

People in relation to each other are like the irregular verbs in various languages—almost all the verbs are irregular.
In Danish:
Hele Msklivet kunde godt lade sig opfatte som en stor Tale, hvor da de forskjellige Msk. komme til at repræsentere de forskjellige Taledele (dette lader sig maaskee ogsaa overføre paa Staterne i Forhold til hverandre). Hvor mange Msk. ere ikke blot Adjectiver, Interjectioner, Conjunctioner, Adverbier, hvor faa ere Subst., Gjerningsord etc., hvor mange ere copula.

Det gaaer med Msk. i Forhold til hverandre, som med de uregelmæssige Verber i adskillige Sprog, alle Verberne ere næsten uregelmæssige.

 

A Certain Void

Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Variety: Second Series, tr. William Aspenwall Bradley (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1938), p. 245:
If a great catastrophe is not announced in the morning, we feel a certain void: "There is nothing in the papers today," we sigh.
In French, from his Oeuvres, I (Paris: Gallimard, 1957), p. 1048:
S'il n'y a point ce matin quelque grand malheur dans le monde, nous nous sentons un certain vide. — « Il n'y a rien aujourd'hui dans les journaux », disent-ils.

 

Reversed Alchemy

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Thayer's Beethoven," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 272-273 (at 272):
Certain authors possess the secret of a kind of reversed alchemy; they know how to turn the richest gold into lead. The most interesting subjects become in their hands so tedious that we can hardly bear to read about them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

 

Subterfuges of Book Buyers

John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), pp. 154-155 (footnotes omitted):
In September 1742 Bach, then aged fifty-seven, bought a de luxe edition of Martin Luther's complete works in seven volumes. According to a little note in his own hand about 'these German and magnificent writings of the late D.[octor] M.[artin] Luther' that had previously belonged to two distinguished theologians, Calov and Mayer, he had paid ten thalers for them. On his shelves he already had fourteen fat folios of Luther's writings, including the Tischreden, plus a Second Quarto volume of his Hauß-Postilla, besides many volumes of sermons, Bible commentaries and devotional writings by other authors, most of whom cited Luther generously. So why the new purchase? Was it just because this was the new Altenburg edition, whereas he already had the Jena version? Bach's working library, estimated to have contained at least 112 different theological and homiletic works, was less like a typical church musician's and more what one might expect to find in the church of a respectably sized town, or that 'many a pastor in Bach's day would have been proud to have owned'. It is slightly odd, too, that the price Bach claimed he had paid for these new volumes appears to have been obliterated and rather clumsily altered to ten thalers from a figure likely to have been twice or even three times as large—in the same month a Leipzig bookseller, Theophil Georg, published a four-volume catalogue of new and old Luther editions which quoted twenty thalers for the Altenburg edition. Was Bach too embarrassed to admit to his wife the full price he had paid—amounting to perhaps half a month's salary?
I confess to similar ruses to conceal from Mrs. Laudator the extent of my book buying, e.g. keeping newly purchased books in the trunk of my car until I can smuggle them into the house undetected.


Felix Vallotton, Le Bibliophile

Thanks to the friend who gave me a copy of Gardiner's book, delivered to my house in a plain brown wrapper.

 

Survivors

Conrad Celtis, Epigrams 2.46, tr. Leonard Forster, Selections from Conrad Celtis, 1459-1508 (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1948), p. 35:
What but the fame of your ruin is left, O Rome, of so many Consuls and Caesars? Devouring time does so consume all things, nothing permanent exists in the world. Virtue and books alone survive.
The Latin, id., p. 34:
Quid superest, o Roma, tuae nisi fama ruinae
    De tot consulibus Caesaribusque simul?
Tempus edax sic cuncta vorat nilque exstat in orbe
    Perpetuum, Virtus scriptaque sola manent.
Forster cites this as "Epigr. II.6 ... ed. Hartfelder," but it is numbered II.46 in Fünf Bücher Epigramme von Konrad Celtis, ed. Karl Hartfelder (Berlin: Verlag von S. Calvary & Co., 1881), pp. 32-33.

Cf. id., 5.60 ("Ad mortem," p. 114 Hartfelder, my translation):
You destroy everything, O Death, you seize everything won by toil:
    After death Virtue and books alone survive.

Omnia, mors, perimis, rapis omnia parta labore:
    Post mortem probitas scriptaque sola manent.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

 

The Glory, the Beauty, and the Delight of Nature

John Wilson (1785-1854), aka Christopher North, "Sir Henry Steuart's Theory of Transplantation," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume XXIII, No. CXXXVII (April, 1828) 409-430, partially rpt. as "Trees" in his Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1842), pp. 96-107 (at 96-97):
Trees are indeed the glory, the beauty, and the delight of nature. The man who loves not trees—to look at them—to lie under them—to climb up them, (once more a schoolboy,)—would make no bones of murdering Mrs. Jeffs. In what one imaginable attribute, that it ought to possess, is a tree, pray, deficient? Light, shade, shelter, coolness, freshness, music, all the colours of the rainbow, dew and dreams dropping through their umbrageous twilight at eve or morn,—dropping direct,—soft, sweet, soothing, and restorative, from heaven. Without trees, how, in the name of wonder, could we have had houses, ships, bridges, easy-chairs, or coffins, or almost any single one of the necessaries, conveniences, or comforts of life? Without trees, one man might have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but not another with a wooden ladle.

Tree by itself tree, "such tents the patriarchs loved,"—Ipse nemus,—"the brotherhood of trees,"—the grove, the coppice, the wood, the forest,—dearly, and after a different fashion, do we love you all!—And love you all we shall, while our dim eyes can catch the glimmer, our dull ears the murmur, of the leaves,—or our imagination hear at midnight, the far-off swing of old branches groaning in the tempest. Oh! is not merry also sylvan England? And has not Scotland, too, her old pine forests, blackening up her highland mountains? Are not many of her rivered valleys not unadorned with woods,—her braes beautiful, with their birken shaws?—And does not stately ash or sycamore tower above the kirk-spire, in many a quiet glen, overshadowing the humble house of God, "the dial-stone aged and green," and all the deep-sunk, sinking, or upright array of grave-stones, beneath which
"The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep?"
We have the highest respect for the ghost of Dr. Johnson; yet were we to meet it by moonlight, how should we make it hang its head on the subject of Scottish trees! Look there, you old, blind, blundering blockhead! That pine forest is twenty miles square! Many million trees, there, have at least five hundred arms each, six times as thick as ever your body was, sir, when you were at your very fattest in Bolt Court. As for their trunks—some straight as cathedral pillars—some flung all awry in their strength across cataracts—some without a twig till your eye meets the hawk's nest diminished to a black-bird's, and some overspread, from within a man's height of the mossy sward, with fantastic branches, cone-covered, and green as emerald—what say you, you great, big, lumbering, unwieldy ghost you, to trunks like these? And are not the forests of Scotland the most forgiving that ever were self-sown, to suffer you to flit to and fro, haunting unharmed their ancient umbrage? Yet—Doctor—you were a fine old Tory every inch of you, for all that, my boy—so come glimmering away with you into the gloom after us—don't stumble over the roots—we smell a still at work—and neither you nor I—shadow nor substance (but, prithee, why so wan, good Doctor? Prithee, why so wan?) can be much the worse, eh, of a caulker of Glenlivat?

Every man of landed property, that lies fairly out of arm's-length of a town, whether free or copyhold, be its rental above or below forty shillings a-year, should be a planter. Even an old bachelor, who has no right to become the father of a child, is not only free, but in duty bound to plant a tree. Unless his organ of philoprogenitiveness be small indeed, as he looks at the young, tender plants in his own nursery-garden, his heart will yearn towards them with all the longing and instinctive fondness of a father.
On the murder of Betty Jeffs see Annual Register 70 (1828) 308-319. On Samuel Johnson's criticism of the treeless aspect of Scotland, see Papadendrion.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

 

Avoid the Uninitiated Mob

Conrad Celtis, Odes 1.11 ("Ad Sigismundum Fusilium Vratislaviensem" = "To Sigismund Fusilius of Breslau"), lines 21-32, tr. Leonard Forster, Selections from Conrad Celtis, 1459-1508 (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1948), pp. 29, 31:
Disregard the angry clamour of the lying masses; avoid the uninitiated mob, and you will know happiness and the truth that is revealed to few.

Take the great mastiff as an example: beset by the loud yapping of curs, he despises the noise of lesser breeds and goes his way in silence.

On then! Learn the three sacred languages, which will bring you much honour; along with the Hebrew and the Latin tongues the writings of the famous Athenians.
The Latin, id., pp. 28, 30, with apparatus:
Sperne mendacis rabiosa vulgi
Murmura indoctam fugiens catervam
Et datum paucis poteris beatus
        Noscere verum.

Magnus exemplo tibi sit Molossus.        25
Quem premunt vasto fremitu catelli,
Ille sed serpit tacitus minorum
        Murmura temnens.

Perge tres sacras modo nosse linguas,
Quae tibi magnum tribuent honorem,        30
Cum Palestina Latioque claro
        Cecrope scriptam.

28 ridens Pindter
29 ff, Perge tres...stanza lacking Or.
31 Latiamque all texts
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

 

An Apostle of Gloom

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "How the Days Draw In," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 86-90 (at 87):
Some day I shall compile an Oxford Book of Depressing Verse, which shall contain nothing but the most magnificent expressions of melancholy and despair. All the obvious people will be in it and as many of the obscure apostles of gloom as vague and miscellaneous reading shall have made known to me.
Huxley never compiled such a book, unfortunately. One apostle of gloom who might have merited inclusion in it is Leonidas of Tarentum. Here is one of his darker poems (Greek Anthology 7.472, tr. W.R. Paton):
Man, infinite was the time ere thou camest to the light, and infinite will be the time to come in Hades. What is the portion of life that remains to thee, but a pin-prick, or if there be aught tinier than a pin-prick? [5] A little life and a sorrowful is thine; for even that little is not sweet, but more odious than death the enemy. Men built as ye are, of such a frame of bones, do ye lift yourselves up to the air and the clouds? See, man, how little use it is; for at the end of the thread [10] a worm seated on the loosely woven vesture reduces it to a thing like a skeleton leaf, a thing more loathly than a cobweb. Enquire of thyself at the dawn of every day, O man, what thy strength is and learn to lie low, content with a simple life; [15] ever remembering in thy heart, as long as thou dwellest among the living, from what stalks of straw thou art pieced together.
The Greek, from A.S.F. Gow and D.L. Page, The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams, Vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), p. 132 (Leonidas, no. LXXVII):
Μυρίος ἦν, ὤνθρωπε, χρόνος πρὸ τοῦ ἄχρι πρὸς ἠῶ
    ἦλθες, χὠ λοιπὸς μυρίος εἰν Ἀίδῃ.
τίς μοῖρα ζωῆς ὑπολείπεται ἢ ὅσον ὅσσον
    στιγμὴ καὶ στιγμῆς εἴ τι χαμηλότερον;
μικρή σευ ζωὴ τεθλιμμένη, οὐδὲ γὰρ αὐτή        5
    ἡδεῖ᾽ ἀλλ᾽ ἐχθροῦ στυγνοτέρη θανάτου.
ἐκ τοίης ὥνθρωποι ἀπηκριβωμένοι ὀστῶν
    ἁρμονίης †ὕψος τ᾽† ἠέρα καὶ νεφέλας.
ὦνερ, ἴδ᾽ ὡς ἀχρεῖον, ἐπεὶ περὶ νήματος ἄκρον
    εὐλὴ ἀκέρκιστον λῶπος ἐφεζομένη        10
†οἷον τὸ ψαλάθριον ἀπεψιλωμένον οἷον†
    πολλῷ ἀραχναίου στυγνότερον σκελετοῦ.
ἠοῦν ἐξ ἠοῦς ὅσσον σθένος, ὦνερ, ἐρευνῶν
    εἴης ἐν λιτῇ κεκλιμένος βιοτῇ
αἰὲν τοῦτο νόῳ μεμνημένος ἄχρις ὁμιλῇς        15
    ζωοῖς ἐξ οἵης ἡρμόνισαι καλάμης.
Another translation, by Peter Green, in Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 175-176:
Endless, O man, the time that elapsed before you
    Came to the light, and endless time there'll be
In Hades: what share of life remains but a pinprick, or whatever's
    Less than a pinprick? A brief spell
Of affliction is yours, and even that lacks sweetness,
    Is more hateful a foe than death.
Compacted from such a framework of bones, O man, can you, do you
    Still reach out to air and sky? See, man,
How useless your striving: by the half-woven fabric
    A worm sits over the threads, till all
Wears thin as a skeletal leaf, is more abhorrent
    By far than the spider's web.
Search out your strength, O man, at each day's dawning,
    Bow low, be content with a frugal life, in your heart
Always remember, so long as you mingle with the living,
    From what jackstraw you're made.

Friday, July 18, 2014

 

Three Imperatives

George Santayana's Marginalia. A Critical Selection, Book One: Abell - Lucretius, ed. John McCormick (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011), p. 262, with note:
Come bién y caga fuerte
y no temas a la muerte1
1 Eat heartily and fiercely shit / and have no fear of death.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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A Happy Spectator

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Chaucer," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 126-139 (at 128):
But there have been few, and, except for Chaucer, no poets of greatness, who have been in love with earth for its own sake, with Nature in the sense of something inevitably material, something that is the opposite of the supernatural. Supreme over everything in this world he sees the natural order, the "law of kind," as he calls it. The teachings of most of the great prophets and poets are simply protests against the law of kind. Chaucer does not protest, he accepts. It is precisely this acceptance that makes him unique among English poets. He does not go to Nature as the symbol of some further spiritual reality; hills, flowers, sea, and clouds are not, for him, transparencies through which the workings of a great soul are visible. No, they are opaque; he likes them for what they are, things pleasant and beautiful, and not the less delicious because they are definitely of the earth earthy. Human beings, in the same way, he takes as he finds, noble and beastish, but, on the whole, wonderfully decent. He has none of that strong ethical bias which is usually to be found in the English mind. He is not horrified by the behaviour of his fellow-beings, and he has no desire to reform them. Their characters, their motives interest him, and he stands looking on at them, a happy spectator.

 

Arboricide Committed by John, a Syrian Monk

Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria, tr. R.M. Price (1985; rpt. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008 = Cistercian Studies Series, 88), p. 152 (XXIII.1, on John):
He is so raised above all human things that he reaps no comfort from them. Clear proof of this I shall provide at once. When some well-meaning person planted an almond-tree right by his bed, which then with time became a tree, providing him with shade and feasting his eyes, he ordered it to be cut down, to stop him enjoying any relief therefrom.

οὕτω δέ ἐστι τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων ἁπάντων ὑπέρτερος ὡς μηδεμίαν ἐκ τούτων καρποῦσθαι παραψυχήν. καὶ τούτου τεκμήριον ἐναργὲς αὐτίκα παρέξομαι. ἐπειδὴ γάρ τις τῶν σπουδαίων ἀμυγδάλην παρ' αὐτὴν ἐφύτευσε τὴν στιβάδα, εἶτα τῷ χρόνῳ δένδρον γενομένη σκιάν τε αὐτῷ παρεῖχε καὶ τὴν ὄψιν εἱστία, ἀποτμηθῆναι ἐκέλευσεν, ἵνα μηδεμιᾶς ἐκεῖθεν ἀπολαύοι ψυχαγωγίας.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

 

Waiting for You

Greek Anthology 7.342 (tr. W.R. Paton):
I am dead, but await thee, and thou too shalt await another. One Hades receives all mortals alike.

κάτθανον, ἀλλὰ μένω σε· μενεῖς δέ τε καὶ σὺ τιν᾽ ἄλλον·
    πάντας ὁμῶς θνητοὺς εἷς Ἀίδης δέχεται.

 

A Reputation for Profound Learning and Exquisite Taste

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Conxolus," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 205-209 (at 205):
To know what everybody else knows—that Virgil, for example, wrote the Aeneid, or that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles—is rather boring and undistinguished. If you want to acquire a reputation for learning at a cheap rate, it is best to ignore the dull and stupid knowledge which is everybody's possession and concentrate on something odd and out of the way. Instead of quoting Virgil quote Sidonius Apollinaris, and express loudly your contempt of those who prefer the court poet of Augustus to the panegyrist of Avitus, Majorianus and Anthemius. When the conversation turns on Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights (which of course you have not read) say you infinitely prefer The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. When Donne is praised, pooh-pooh him and tell the praiser that he should read Gongora. At the mention of Raphael, make as though to vomit outright (though you have never been inside the Vatican); the Raphael Mengses at Petersburg, you will say, are the only tolerable paintings. In this way you will get the reputation of a person of profound learning and exquisite taste. Whereas, if you give proof of knowing your Dickens, of having read the Bible, the English classics, Euclid and Horace, nobody will think anything of you at all. You will be just like everybody else.

 

The Proper Disposition of a Student

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Sermon 8, in The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, Vol. 14: Sermons, edd. ‎Jean H. Hagstrum and ‎James Gray (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), p. 90:
Since no man can teach what he has never learned, the value and usefulness of the latter part of life must depend in a great measure upon the proper application of the earlier years; and he that neglects the improvement of his own mind, will never be enabled to instruct others. Light must strike on the body, by which light can be reflected. The disposition therefore, which best befits a young man, about to engage in a life of study, is patience in enquiry; eagerness of knowledge; and willingness to be instructed; a due submission to greater abilities and longer experience; and a ready obedience to those, from whom he is to expect the removal of his ignorance, and the resolution of his doubts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

 

Plutarch on Quietude

Plutarch, fragment 143, tr. F.H. Sandbach:
How wise a thing, it would seem, is quietude! In particular it serves for studying to acquire knowledge and wisdom, by which I do not mean the wisdom of shop and market-place, but that mighty wisdom which makes him that acquires it like to God. Those forms of study that are practised in towns among the crowds of humanity exercise the so-called shrewdness that is really knavery. Hence those who excel in them have been diversified by the needs of city life, like so many fancy products of the culinary art, <and have become ready to do innumerable wrongs> and indeed to perform innumerable dreadful services. But solitude, being wisdom's training-ground, is a good character-builder, and moulds and reforms men's souls. There is nothing to stand in the way of their development, nor are they straightway distorted by collision with many small conventions, as are souls that are confined in towns; living in a pure air and for the most part away from the haunts of men, they grow up erect and sprout their wings, watered by quietude's streams, so smooth and pellucid. Here the mind turns to diviner sorts of learning and sees with a clearer vision. This, surely, is the reason why it was in solitary spots that man founded all those shrines of the gods that have been long established from ancient times, above all those of the Muses, of Pan and the Nymphs, and of Apollo and all gods who are our guides in music; to my mind, they kept the blessings of education away from the dreadful and abominable influences of the towns.

σοφὸν ἔοικε χρῆμα τὸ τῆς ἡσυχίας πρός τ' ἄλλα καὶ εῖς ἐπιστήμης καὶ φρονήσεως μελέτην· λέγω δὲ οὐ τὴν καπηλικὴν καὶ ἀγοραίαν, ἀλλὰ τὴν μεγάλην, ἥτις ἐξομοιοῖ θεῷ τὀν αὐτὴν ἀναλαβόντα. αἱ μὲν γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι καὶ τοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὄχλοις γιγνόμεναι μελέται γυμνάζουσι τὴν λεγομένην δριμύτητα, πανουργίαν οὖσαν· ὥστε τοὺς ἐν αὐταἰς ἄκρους οἷον ὐπὸ μαγείρων τῶν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι χρειῶν διαπεποικιλμένους πόσα δ' οὐχὶ ** πόσα δ' οὐχὶ καὶ διακονήματα δεινὰ ἐργάζεσθαι· ἡ δ' ἐρημία, σοφίας οὖσα γυμνάσιον, ἠθοποιὸς ἀγαθὴ καὶ πλάττει καὶ μετευθύνει τῶν ἀνδρῶν τὰς ψυχάς. οὐδὲν γὰρ αὐταῖς ἐμπόδιόν ἐστι τῆς αὐξήσεως, οὐδὲ πρὸς πολλὰ καὶ μικρὰ νόμιμα προσπταίουσαι κάμπτονται εὐθύ, καθάπερ αἱ ταῖς πόλεσιν ἐναπειλημμέναι ψυχαί· ἀλλ' ἐν ἀέρι καθαρῷ καὶ τὰ πολλὰ ἔξω διαιτώμεναι τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀνίασιν ὀρθαὶ καὶ πτεροφυοῦσιν, ἀρδόμεναι τῷ διαυγωτάτῳ τε καὶ λειοτάτῳ ῥεύματι τῆς ἡσυχίας, ἐν ᾧ τά τε μαθήματα τοῦ νοῦ θεοειδέστερα καὶ καθαρώτερον ὁρᾷ. διὰ τοῦτό τοι καὶ τῶν θεῶν τὰ ἷερά, ὅσα ἐκ τοῦ ἀρχαίου πάλαι νενόμισται, τοῖς ἐρημοτάτοις χωρίοις ἐνίδρυσαν οἱ πρῶτοι, μάλιστα δὲ Μουσῶν τε καὶ Πανὸς καὶ Νυμφῶν καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ ὅσοι μουσικῆς ἡγεμόνες θεοί, διακρίναντες, ὡς οἷμαι, τὰ παιδείας καλὰ τῶν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι δεινῶν τε καὶ μιαρῶν τινῶν.
Sandbach's introductory note on this fragment:
F. Wilhelm, Rh. Mus. lxxiii (1924), pp. 466 ff., translates into German and accumulates a mass of illustrative material. He notes that the question of retirement from city life was in the air in the latter part of the first century A.D., as is shown by the discussions of Seneca, Epist. lxviii, Epictetus, iv.4, Dio Chrysostom, xx, Quintilian, x.3.32 ff., Tacitus, Dialogus, 12 f.
The reference is to Friedrich Wilhelm, "Plutarchos ΠΕΡΙ ΗΣΥΧΙΑΣ (Stob. IV 16, 18 p. 398 f. H.)," Rheinisches Museum 73.4 (1924) 466-482.

 

One of Humanity's Chronic Weaknesses

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Bacon's Symbolism," Complete Essays, Vol. I: 1920-1925 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), pp. 26-28 (at 26):
All things are profoundly symbolical to those who are ready to believe they are. Men have no tails; neither have guinea-pigs. Death's-heads appear to grin ironically. The stars of heaven fall into patterns of strange and dubious significance; the Great Bear is also a plough, a wain, and a dipper. In the Bestiaries the leopard is made the symbol of Christ because of his habit of sleeping in his den and only waking up after three days, when he exhales a breath so piercingly sweet that all living creatures are drawn towards him and so become his prey. In some Bestiaries the lion also symbolizes the founder of our religion; in others both lion and leopard stand for the devil. All is profoundly mysterious in symbology, and the art of parable and allegory is hard to learn, because there are so many masters, each interpreting the same phenomenon in his own way. Stones will preach as many sermons as there are Jaqueses to contemplate them; the running brooks contain a whole Bodleian. To see the world in terms of symbolism is one of humanity's chronic weaknesses. One must be immensely sophisticated to believe that things are what they seem to be—opaque objects, interesting in themselves and for themselves, and not transparent windows through which to gaze on further and more significant realities beyond.

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