Saturday, April 30, 2011
It Heals, It Hurts; It Cures, It Kills
Thou ever youthful god of wine,8 the horse-hoof well: Hippocrene
Whose burnish'd cheeks with rubies shine,
And brows with ivy chaplets crown'd,
We dare thee here to pledge a round!
Thy wanton grapes we do detest; 5
Here's richer juice from barley press'd.
Let not the Muses vainly tell
What virtue's in the horse-hoof well,
That scarce one drop of good blood breeds,
But with mere inspiration feeds; 10
O let them come and taste this beer,
And water henceforth they'll forswear.
If that the Paracelsian crew
The virtues of this liquor knew,
Their endless toils they would give o'er, 15
And never use extractions more.
'Tis medicine; meat for young and old;
Elixir; blood of tortured gold.
It is sublimed; it's calcinate;
'Tis rectified; precipitate; 20
It is Androgena, Sol's wife;
It is the Mercury of life;
It is the quintessence of malt;
And they that drink it want no salt.
It heals, it hurts; it cures, it kills; 25
Men's heads with proclamations fills;
It makes some dumb, and others speak;
Strong vessels hold, and crack'd ones leak;
It makes some rich, and others poor;
It makes, and yet mars many a score. 30
13 Paracelsian crew: alchemists
Labels: nunc est bibendum
Friday, April 29, 2011
A Grotesque Swindle
Another throne has gone down, and I swim in oceans of satisfaction. I wish I might live fifty years longer; I believe I should see the thrones of Europe selling at auction for old iron. I believe I should really see the end of what is surely the grotesquest of all the swindles ever invented by manmonarchy. It is enough to make a graven image laugh, to see apparently rational people, away down here in this wholesome and merciless slaughter-day for shams, still mouthing empty reverence for those moss-backed frauds and scoundrelisms, hereditary kingship and so-called "nobility." It is enough to make the monarchs and nobles themselves laughand in private they do; there can be no question about that.Too bad Twain's prediction didn't come true.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
It is so mild and moist as I saunter along by the wall east of the Hill that I remember, or anticipate, one of those warm rain-storms in the spring, when the earth is just laid bare, the wind is south, and the cladonia lichens are swollen and lusty with moisture, your foot sinking into them and pressing the water out as from a sponge, and the sandy places also are drinking it in. You wander indefinitely in a beaded coat, wet to the skin of your legs, sit on moss-clad rocks and stumps, and hear the lisping of migrating sparrows flitting amid the shrub oaks, sit long at a time, still, and have your thoughts. A rain which is as serene as fair weather, suggesting fairer weather than was ever seen. You could hug the clods that defile you. You feel the fertilizing influence of the rain in your mind. The part of you that is wettest is fullest of life, like the lichens. You discover evidences of immortality not known to divines. You cease to die. You detect some buds and sprouts of life. Every step in the old rye-field is on virgin soil.
And then the rain comes thicker and faster than before, thawing the remaining frost in the ground, detaining the migrating bird; and you turn your back to it, full of serene, contented thought, soothed by the steady dropping on the withered leaves, more at home for being abroad, more comfortable for being wet, sinking at each step deep into the thawing earth, gladly breaking through the gray rotting ice. The dullest sounds seem sweetly modulated by the air. You leave your tracks in fields of spring rye, scaring the fox-colored sparrows along the wood-sides. You cannot go home yet; you stay and sit in the rain. You glide along the distant wood-side, full of joy and expectation, seeing nothing but beauty, hearing nothing but music, as free as the fox-colored sparrow, seeing far ahead, a courageous knight, a great philosopher, not indebted to any academy or college for this expansion, but chiefly to the April rain, which descendeth on all alike; not encouraged by men in your walks, not by the divines nor the professors, and to the lawgiver an outlaw; not encouraged (even) when you are reminded of the government at Washington.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
From Freedom to Slavery
In most band and village societies before the evolution of the state, the average human being enjoyed economic and political freedoms which only a privileged minority enjoy today. Men decided for themselves how long they would work on a particular day, what they would work ator if they would work at all. Women, too, despite their subordination to men, generally set up their own daily schedules and paced themselves on an individual basis. There were few routines. People did what they had to do, but the where and when of it was not laid out by someone else. No executives, foremen, or bosses stood apart, measuring and counting. No one said how many deer or rabbits you had to catch or how many wild yams you had to dig up. A man might decide it was a good day to string his bow, pile on thatch, look for feathers, or lounge about the camp. A woman might decide to look for grubs, collect firewood, plait a basket, or visit her mother. If the cultures of modern band and village peoples can be relied upon to reveal the past, work got done this way for tens of thousands of years. Moreover, wood for the bow, leaves for the thatch, birds for the feathers, logs for the grubs, fiber for the basketall were there for everyone to take. Earth, water, plants, and game were communally owned. Every man and woman held title to an equal share of nature. Neither rent, taxes, nor tribute kept people from doing what they wanted to do.
With the rise of the state all of this was swept away. For the past five or six millennia, nine-tenths of all the people who ever lived did so as peasants or as members of some other servile caste or class. With the rise of the state, ordinary men seeking to use nature's bounty had to get someone else's permission and had to pay for it with taxes, tribute, or extra labor. The weapons and techniques of war and organized aggression were taken away from them and turned over to specialist-soldiers and policemen controlled by military, religious, and civil bureacrats. For the first time there appeared on earth kings, dictators, high priests, emperors, prime ministers, presidents, governors, mayors, generals, admirals, police chiefs, judges, lawyers, and jailers, along with dungeons, jails, penitentiaries, and concentration camps. Under the tutelage of the state, human beings learned for the first time how to bow, grovel, kneel, and kowtow. In many ways the rise of the state was the descent of the world from freedom to slavery.
Wackernagel on Auto-Antonyms
Furthermore, these days we are wont to do more justice again to the theoryearlier discredited by an absurd book by ABEL (1884)according to which the meaning of a word can shift into its exact opposite, so-called 'enantiosemia;5 cf. NÖLDEKE (1910) on 'words with the opposite meaning'. MEILLET points out (1922b: 99) that you can easily fall into using a word that means the opposite of what you want to say: words with opposite meaning are indeed associated with each other, and hence often assimilated to each other formally, too; cf. SCHUCHARDT (1922: 206), with reference to Goethe's statement that 'every word awakes its opposite meaning'.6 It seems that prepositions also furnish examples of this phenomenon. Very recently Dietrich SCHÄFER has shown (1921: 378-81) that in Medieval Latin cis and citra are often used to mean 'beyond'. One might say that this was a misunderstanding based on the imperfect learning of those for whom Latin was not a living language, but Latin of the Middle Ages really cannot be called a dead language. Moreover, we can show that prepositions have this sort of opposite sense even in the earliest period: Gk ὑπό and Lat. sub, for example, mean 'under', but the corresponding comparative and superlative forms Gk ὕπερος (in ὑπέρα 'yard at the top of the sail', ὕπερος 'pestle'): Lat. superus, Gk ὕπατος: Lat. summus mean 'higher' and 'highest', respectively, which is matched by Gk ὑπέρ, Lat. super ('over'). In Germanic there is an opposition even in the positive grade between Gothic uf 'under' and German ob 'on top'. On Lat. sub meaning 'upwards' in compound verbs, see K. MEISTER (1924/5: 32-5). I recently had the experience in a meeting of hearing a certain Herr Niederer (lit. Mr Lower) constantly referred to by someone there as 'Herr Oberer' (lit. Mr Upper)! (See II, 182-3 above on compound verbs; on the confusion of opposite words in child language, see JESPERSEN (1922: 120 [ = 1925: 99]). Note the important monograph of Hans SPERBER (1915) on the semantic evelopment of the preposition über.)In note 5, Abel's birth date is incorrectit should be 1837.
5 On Carl Abel (1827-1906), who lived part of his life in England (cf. Abel 1882, in English), and whose ideas influenced Freud, and the notion of enantiosemy, see Morpurgo Davies (1998: 339), with references to a detailed study by Giulio Lepschy.
6 This is from Goethe's novel Die Wahlverwandschaften (Elective Affinities, 1809), part 2, ch. 4, 'Jedes ausgesprochene Wort erregt den Gegensinn'.
- Carl Abel, Linguistic Essays (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1882)
- Carl Abel, Über den Gegensinn der Urworte (Leipzig: Friedrich, 1884), rpt. in his Sprachwissenschaftliche Abhandlungen (Leipzig: Friedrich, 1885), pp. 313-367; cf. also his Über Gegensinn und Gegenlaut in den Klassischen, Germanischen und Slavischen Sprachen, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Moritz Diesterweg, 1905-1906).
- Anna Morpurgo Davies, in Giulio Lepschy, History of Linguistics, Vol. 4 = Nineteenth-Century Linguistics (London: Longmans, 1998)
- Otto Jespersen, Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (London: Allen & Unwin, 1922)
- A. Meillet, "De quelques fautes," Bulletin de la Société de linguistique de Paris 23 (1922) 98-99
- Karl Meister, "Die Hausschwelle in Sprache und Religion der Römer," Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschafter, Philologisch-historische Klasse 15.3 (1924-1925)
- Theodor Nöldeke, "Wörter mit Gegensinn (Addad)," in his Neue Beiträge zur Semitischen Sprachwissenschaft (Strassburg: Trübner, 1910), pp. 67-108
- Dietrich Schäfer, "Honor, citra, cis im mittelalterlichen Latein," Sitzungsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Berlin, Philologisch-historische Klasse 23 (1921) 372-381
- Hugo Schuchardt, "Sprachliche Beziehungen," Sitzungsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Berlin, Philologisch-historische Klasse 24 (1922) 199-209
- Hans Sperber, Studien zur Bedeutungsentwicklung der Präposition über (Uppsala: K.W. Appelberg, 1915)
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
They Are Unhappy All
Every man has his sorrows; yet each still
Hides under a calm forehead his own ill.
Each pities but himself. Each in his grief
Envies his neighbor: he too seeks relief;
For one man's pain is of no other known:
They hide their sorrows as he hides his own;
And each, with tears and aching heart, can sigh:
All other men are happy, but not I.
They are unhappy all. They, desolate,
Cry against heaven and bid heaven change their fate.
Their fate is changed; they soon, with fresh tears, know
They have but changed one for another woe.
Tout homme a ses douleurs. Mais aux yeux de ses frères
Chacun d'un front serein déguise ses misères.
Chacun ne plaint que soi. Chacun dans son ennui
Envie un autre humain qui se plaint comme lui.
Nul des autres mortels ne mesure les peines,
Qu'ils savent tous cacher comme il cache les siennes;
Et chacun, l'oeil en pleurs, en son coeur douloureux
Se dit: «Excepté moi, tout le monde est heureux.»
Ils sont tous malheureux. Leur prière importune
Crie et demande au ciel de changer leur fortune.
Ils changent; et bientôt, versant de nouveaux pleurs,
Ils trouvent qu'ils n'ont fait que changer de malheurs.
Monday, April 25, 2011
A lady in the State of Ohio sent to me only the other day a volume on American authors; the praise given throughout was of such high pitch that in thanking her I could not forbear saying that for only one or two of the authors named was such a strain of praise admissible, and that we lost all real standard of excellence by praising so uniformly and immoderately. She answered me with charming good temper, that very likely I was quite right, but it was pleasant to her to think that excellence was common and abundant.As others have noted, the Greek poet is probably Simonides (fragment 579 Page), tr. David A. Campbell:
But excellence is not common and abundant; on the contrary, as the Greek poet long ago said, excellence dwells among rocks hardly accessible, and a man must almost wear his heart out before he can reach her. Whoever talks of excellence as common and abundant, is on the way to lose all right standard of excellence. And when the right standard of excellence is lost, it is not likely that much which is excellent will be produced.
There is a tale that Arete (Excellence, Virtue) dwells on unclimbable rocks and (close to the gods?) tends a holy place; she may not be seen by the eyes of all mortals, but only by him on whom distressing sweat comes from within, the one who reaches the peak of manliness.The same, tr. M.L. West:
There is a taleThe same, tr. Francis Turner Palgrave in his Idyls and Songs: 1848-1854 (London: John W. Parker, 1854), p. 36:
that Merit dwells on high rocks, hard to climb
...patrols the holy place.
Not all men's eyes may look upon heronly he
who sheds heart-stinging sweat
and reaches the summit of manly endeavour.
There is a song,The Greek:
That on high rocks, bright, inaccessible,
Girt with the circling dance, her holy throng,
Doth Virtue dwell:—
Nor on that throne
Seen of all human kind: by him alone,
Heart-pierced in soul-corroding toil, and so
To height of perfect Manhood climbing slow:
—By him alone.
ἐστί τις λόγοςThere is similar language in Hesiod, Works and Days 287-292 (tr. H.G. Evelyn-White):
τὰν Ἀρετὰν ναίειν δυσαμβάτοισ' ἐπὶ πέτραις,
ἐγγὺς δέ μιν θεῶν χῶρον ἁγνὸν ἀμφέπειν·
οὐδὲ πάντων βλεφάροισι θνατῶν
ἔσοπτος, ᾧ μὴ δακέθυμος ἱδρὼς
ἵκῃ τ' ἐς ἄκρον ἀνδρείας.
2 ἐγγὺς δέ μιν θεῶν Wakefield, †νῦν δέ μιν θοαν† codd.
Badness can be got easily and in shoals: the road to her is smooth, and she lives very near us. But between us and Goodness the gods have placed the sweat of our brows: long and steep is the path that leads to her, and it is rough at the first; but when a man has reached the top, then is she easy to reach, though before that she was hard.
τὴν μέν τοι κακότητα καὶ ἰλαδὸν ἔστιν ἑλέσθαι
ῥηιδίως· λείη μὲν ὁδός, μάλα δ' ἐγγύθι ναίει·
τῆς δ' ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν
ἀθάνατοι· μακρὸς δὲ καὶ ὄρθιος οἶμος ἐς αὐτὴν
καὶ τρηχὺς τὸ πρῶτον· ἐπὴν δ' εἰς ἄκρον ἵκηται,
ῥηιδίη δὴ ἔπειτα πέλει, χαλεπή περ ἐοῦσα.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I Like It Not
It is the spot I came to seek—Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf, "The 'Earlier, Wilder Image': Early Artists of the American West," in The World of the American West, ed. Gordon Morris Bakken (New York: Routledge, 2011), pp. 183-200 (at 187-189) astutely compares Bryant's poem with an anonymous folk painting, ca. 1850, entitled The Indian's Lament (Columbus Museum of Art, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1967.057). I can't find a good color reproduction of the painting, but here it is from figure 7.5 of Kuebler-Wolf (p. 189):
My father's ancient burial-place,
Ere from these vales, ashamed and weak,
Withdrew our wasted race.
It is the spot—I know it well— 5
Of which our old traditions tell.
For here the upland bank sends out
A ridge toward the river-side;
I know the shaggy hills about,
The meadows smooth and wide, 10
The plains, that, toward the southern sky,
Fenced east and west by mountains lie.
A white man, gazing on the scene,
Would say a lovely spot was here,
And praise the lawns, so fresh and green, 15
Between the hills so sheer.
I like it not—I would the plain
Lay in its tall old groves again.
The sheep are on the slopes around,
The cattle in the meadows feed, 20
And laborers turn the crumbling ground,
Or drop the yellow seed,
And prancing steeds, in trappings gay,
Whirl the bright chariot o'er the way.
Methinks it were a nobler sight 25
To see these vales in woods arrayed,
Their summits in the golden light,
Their trunks in grateful shade,
And herds of deer that bounding go
O'er hills and prostrate trees below. 30
And then to mark the lord of all,
The forest hero, trained to wars,
Quivered and plumed, and lithe and tall,
And seamed with glorious scars,
Walk forth, amid his reign, to dare 35
The wolf, and grapple with the bear.
This bank, in which the dead were laid,
Was sacred when its soil was ours;
Hither the silent Indian maid
Brought wreaths of beads and flowers, 40
And the gray chief and gifted seer
Worshipped the god of thunders here.
But now the wheat is green and high
On clods that hid the warrior's breast,
And scattered in the furrows lie 45
The weapons of his rest;
And there, in the loose sand, is thrown
Of his large arm the mouldering bone.
Ah, little thought the strong and brave
Who bore their lifeless chieftain forth— 50
Or the young wife that weeping gave
Her first-born to the earth,
That the pale race, who waste us now,
Among their bones should guide the plough.
They waste us—ay—like April snow 55
In the warm noon, we shrink away;
And fast they follow, as we go
Toward the setting day—
Till they shall fill the land, and we
Are driven into the Western sea. 60
But I behold a fearful sign,
To which the white men's eyes are blind;
Their race may vanish hence, like mine,
And leave no trace behind,
Save ruins o'er the region spread, 65
And the white stones above the dead.
Before these fields were shorn and tilled,
Full to the brim our rivers flowed;
The melody of waters filled
The fresh and boundless wood; 70
And torrents dashed and rivulets played,
And fountains spouted in the shade.
Those grateful sounds are heard no more,
The springs are silent in the sun;
The rivers, by the blackened shore, 75
With lessening current run;
The realm our tribes are crushed to get
May be a barren desert yet.
Note both the burial place and the tree stumps. Cf. also William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870), The Yemassee. A Romance of Carolina, Vol. I (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1843), p. 102 (Chapter XI):
To one, he painted the growing insolence of the whites, increasing with their increasing strength, almost too great already, for any control or management from them. To another, he described the ancient glories of his nation, rapidly departing in the subservience with which their chiefs acknowledged the influence, and truckled to the desires of the English. To a third he deplored the loss of the noble forests of his forefathers, hewn down by the axe, to make way for the bald fields of the settler; despoiled of game, and leaving the means of life utterly problematical to the hunter. In this way, with a speech accommodated to every feeling and understanding, he went over the town. To all, he dwelt with Indian emphasis upon the sacrilegious appropriation of the old burial-places of the Yemasseeone of which, a huge tumulus upon the edge of the river, lay almost in their sight, and traces of which survive to this day, in melancholy attestation of their past history.
What Animates a House
Since Tyrannio has arranged my books, the house seems to have acquired a soul.See Andrew R. Dyck, “Mens Addita. Cicero, Ad Atticum 4.8.2,” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 146 (2003) 425.
postea vero quam Tyrannio mihi libros disposuit, mens addita videtur meis aedibus.
Photographs of a friend's house:
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Why Not Me?
Ever to be bravest and pre-eminent above all.James Hayford, Having to Be First:
αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων.
This having to be first
Whenever you compete
Even if you have to cheat
Must be an awful thirst.
Seeing someone must be last,
I reckon why not me;
Call this my gift to the
Friday, April 22, 2011
Can a Mountain Retain Its Beauty?
Mencius said, "The trees of the Niu Mountain were once beautiful. But can the mountain be regarded any longer as beautiful since, being in the borders of a big state, the trees have been hewed down with axes and hatchets? Still with the rest given them by the days and nights and with the nourishment provided them by the rains and the dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth. But then the cattle and the sheep pastured upon them once and again. That is why the mountain looks so bald. When people see that it is bald, they think that there was never any timber on the mountain. Is this the true nature of the mountain? Is there not [also] a heart of humanity and righteousness originally existing in man? The way in which he loses his originally good mind is like the way in which the trees are hewed down with axes and hatchets. As trees are cut down day after day, can a mountain retain its beauty?"Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. IV:3 = Physics and Physical Technology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971; rpt. 2000), p. 244, figure 872 (with caption "Deforestation in the mountains, a picture from the Wang Kung Chung Chhin Le, printed about +1590 (from the album of Chêng Chen-To, 5). The artist, Li Wên, was one of the foremost wood-block illustrators of his time. On the procuration of timber see Yang Lien-Sheng (ii), pp. 38 ff."):
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Not As the Loud Had Spoken
I traversed a dominion
Whose spokesmen spake out strong
Their purpose and opinion
Through pulpit, press, and song.
I scarce had means to note there
A large-eyed few, and dumb,
Who thought not as those thought there
That stirred the heat and hum.
When, grown a Shade, beholding
That land in lifetime trode,
To learn if its unfolding
Fulfilled its clamoured code,
I saw, in web unbroken,
Its history outwrought
Not as the loud had spoken,
But as the mute had thought.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Birth of Tragedy
The gods justified human life by living it themselvesthe only satisfactory theodicy ever invented. To exist in the clear sunlight of such deities was now felt to be the highest good, and the only real grief suffered by Homeric man was inspired by the thought of leaving that sunlight, especially when the departure seemed imminent.X:
So rechtfertigen die Götter das Menschenleben, indem sie es selbst lebendie allein genügende Theodicee! Das Dasein unter dem hellen Sonnenscheine solcher Götter wird als das an sich Erstrebenswerthe empfunden, und der eigentliche Schmerz der homerischen Menschen bezieht sich auf das Abscheiden aus ihm, vor allem auf das baldige Abscheiden.
It is the sure sign of the death of a religion when its mythic presuppositions become systematized, under the severe, rational eyes of an orthodox dogmatism, into a ready sum of historical events, and when people begin timidly defending the veracity of myth but at the same time resist its natural continuancewhen the feeling for myth withers and its place is taken by a religion claiming historical foundations.XV:
Denn dies ist die Art, wie Religionen abzusterben pflegen: wenn nämlich die mythischen Voraussetzungen einer Religion unter den strengen, verstandesmässigen Augen eines rechtgläubigen Dogmatismus als eine fertige Summe von historischen Ereignissen systematisirt werden und man anfängt, ängstlich die Glaubwürdigkeit der Mythen zu vertheidigen, aber gegen jedes natürliche Weiterleben und Weiterwuchern derselben sich zu sträuben, wenn also das Gefühl für den Mythus abstirbt und an seine Stelle der Anspruch der Religion auf historische Grundlagen tritt.
Practically every era of Western civilization has at one time or another tried to liberate itself from the Greeks, in deep dissatisfaction because whatever they themselves achieved, seemingly quite original and sincerely admired, lost color and life when held against the Greek model and shrank to a botched copy, a caricature. Time and again a hearty anger has been felt against that presumptuous little nation which had the nerve to brand, for all time, whatever was not created on its own soil as "barbaric." Who are these people, whose historical splendor was ephemeral, their institutions ridiculously narrow, their mores dubious and sometimes objectionable, who yet pretend to the special place among the nations which genius claims among the crowd? None of the later detractors was fortunate enough to find the cup of hemlock with which such a being could be disposed of once and for all: all the poisons of envy, slander, and rage have proved insufficient to destroy that complacent magnificence.XVIII:
Fast jede Zeit und Bildungsstufe hat einmal sich mit tiefem Missmuthe von den Griechen zu befreien gesucht, weil Angesichts derselben alles Selbstgeleistete, scheinbar völlig Originelle, und recht aufrichtig Bewunderte plötzlich Farbe und Leben zu verlieren schien und zur misslungenen Copie, ja zur Caricatur zusammenschrumpfte. Und so bricht immer von Neuem einmal der herzliche Ingrimm gegen jenes anmaassliche Völkchen hervor das sich erkühnte, alles Nichteinheimische für alle Zeiten als "barbarisch" zu bezeichnen: wer sind jene, fragte man sich, die, obschon sie nur einen ephemeren historischen Glanz, nur lächerlich engbegrenzte Institutionen, nur eine zweifelhafte Tüchtigkeit der Sitte aufzuweisen haben und sogar mit hässlichen Lastern gekennzeichnet sind, doch die Würde und Sonderstellung unter den Völkern in Anspruch nehmen, die dem Genius unter der Masse zukommt? Leider war man nicht so glücklich den Schierlingsbecher zu finden, mit dem ein solches Wesen einfach abgethan werden konnte: denn alles Gift, das Neid, Verläumdung und Ingrimm in sich erzeugten, reichte nicht hin, jene selbstgenugsame Herrlichkeit zu vernichten.
Nothing can be more terrible than a barbaric slave class that has learned to view its existence as an injustice and prepares to avenge not only its wrongs but those of all past generations.XXIII:
Es giebt nichts Furchtbareres als einen barbarischen Sclavenstand, der seine Existenz als ein Unrecht zu betrachten gelernt hat und sich anschickt, nicht nur für sich, sondern für alle Generationen Rache zu nehmen.
Yet every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural, healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture.Id.:
Ohne Mythus aber geht jede Cultur ihrer gesunden schöpferischen Naturkraft verlustig: erst ein mit Mythen umstellter Horizont schliesst eine ganze Culturbewegung zur Einheit ab.
Man today, stripped of myth, stands famished among all his pasts and must dig frantically for roots, be it among the most remote antiquities. What does our great historical hunger signify, our clutching about us of countless other cultures, our consuming desire for knowledge, if not the loss of myth, of a mythic home, the mythic womb? Let us ask ourselves whether our feverish and frightening agitation is anything but the greedy grasping for food of a hungry man.
Und nun steht der mythenlose Mensch, ewig hungernd, unter allen Vergangenheiten und sucht grabend und wühlend nach Wurzeln, sei es dass er auch in den entlegensten Alterthümern nach ihnen graben müsste. Worauf weist das ungeheure historische Bedürfniss der unbefriedigten modernen Cultur, das Umsichsammeln zahlloser anderer Culturen, das verzehrende Erkennenwollen, wenn nicht auf den Verlust des Mythus, auf den Verlust der mythischen Heimat, des mythischen Mutterschoosses? Man frage sich, ob das fieberhafte und so unheimliche Sichregen dieser Cultur etwas Anderes ist als das gierige Zugreifen und Nach-Nahrung-Haschen des Hungernden.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
No single interpretation of any of the odesstill less of the odes as a groupsatisfies anyone but the interpreter. Too many different elements converge. This, of course, is one explanation for their success, as it is for the success of any great work of art. That commonplace is one of those truths of which, as Johnson said, though we may not need to be informed, we need to be reminded. For, while few of us deny it in principle, most of us tend to betray it in practice. To seek relief in particular details is inevitable to a finite being. In reading a poem, in contemplating any work of art, we may genuinely feel the active coalescence of the diverse. But when we come to speak about it, we have to proceed consecutively: one thing has to be mentioned before another; in the process of noticing them individually, we find some considerations striking us more than others, if only because in our own phrasing of them we begin to tap essential concerns within ourselves; and we are led by the momentum of our own cooperating eloquence to narrow our interpretation. (A great work, of course, not only permits but invites that eager subjective response to different parts of it.) Moreover, the existence of previous commentary further specializes our attitude if we feel called upon to contribute our mite. For in the heat of debate, or even in the honest desire to return to the amplitude of the work of art, our recoil from what we consider to be partial, single-minded interpretations encourages us to champion those details that we feel were overlooked, and to contradict or minimize considerations that we might otherwise have wished only to supplement.
A Fresh Set of Annoyances
The whole appears to resolve into this that Man is originally a poor forked creature subject to the same mischances as the beasts of the forest, destined to hardships and disquietude of some kind or other. If he improves by degrees his bodily accommodations and comforts at each stage, at each ascent there are waiting for him a fresh set of annoyances he is mortal, and there is still a heaven with its Stars above his head.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Only What Is Past Is What Is Real
The strong man in its iron still lives on,
Now changed to planet dust who once in wars
On the rough seas and in the flattened fields
Brandished it, at last in vain, at death.
Vain, even death itself. Here is the man
Who white and feral out of Norway came
Urged forward by an epic destiny;
His sword is now his image and his name.
In spite of long death and his exile,
The inhuman hand clutches the iron still.
And I am shade within a shade before him
Whose shade is here. I am a single instant
And the instant ashes and not diamond,
And only what is past is what is real.
En su hierro perdura el hombre fuerte,
Hoy polvo de planeta, que en las guerras
De ásperos mares y arrasadas tierras
Lo esgrimió, vano al fin, contra la muerte.
Vana también la muerte. Aquí está el hombre
Blanco y feral que de Noruega vino,
Urgido por el épico destino;
Su espada es hoy su imagen y su nombre.
Pese a la larga muerte y su destierro,
La mano atroz sigue oprimiendo el hierro
Y soy sombra en la sombra ante el guerrero
Cuya sombra está aquí. Soy un instante
Y el instante ceniza, no diamante,
Y sólo lo pasado es verdadero.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Dedications of Trees to Gods
The elms, and these lofty willows, and the holy spreading plane, and the springs, and these shepherds' cups that cure fell thirst, are dedicate to Pan.Catullus, fragment 1 (tr. Leonard C. Smithers):
Αἱ πτελέαι τῷ Πανὶ καὶ αἱ τανυμήκεες αὗται
ἰτέαι, ἥ θ'ἱερὰ κἀμφιλαφὴς πλάτανος
χαἱ λιβάδες καὶ ταῦτα βοτηρικὰ Πανὶ κύπελλα
ἄγκειται δίψης φάρμακ' ἀλεξίκακα.
This grove I dedicate and consecrate to thee, Priapus, who hast thy home at Lampsacus, and eke thy woodlands, Priapus; for thee especially in its cities worships the coast of the Hellespont, richer in oysters than all other shores.Horace, Odes 3.22 (a hymn to Diana, tr. Niall Rudd):
Hunc lucum tibi dedico consecroque, Priape,
qua domus tua Lampsaci est quaque <silva>, Priape,
nam te praecipue in suis urbibus colit ora
Hellespontia ceteris ostreosior oris.
Virgin who guard the mountains and the woods, who when thrice invoked give ear to young women in labour and rescue them from death, three-formed Goddess, let the pine that overhangs my villa be yours, so that at the end of every year I may joyfully present it with the blood of a young boar practising its sidelong slash.Vergil, Aeneid 7.59-63 (tr. H Rushton Fairclough):
Montium custos nemorumque Virgo,
quae laborantis utero puellas
ter vocata audis adimisque leto,
imminens villae tua pinus esto,
quam per exactos ego laetus annos
verris obliquum meditantis ictum
In the midst of the palace in the high inner courts, stood a laurel of sacred leafage, preserved in awe through many years which lord Latinus himself, 'twas said, found and dedicated to Phoebus, when he built his first towers; and from it he gave his settlers their name Laurentes.Pliny, Natural History 12.2.3 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
laurus erat tecti medio in penetralibus altis
sacra comam multosque metu servata per annos,
quam pater inventam, primas cum conderet arces,
ipse ferebatur Phoebo sacrasse Latinus,
Laurentisque ab ea nomen posuisse colonis.
The trees formed the first temples of the gods, and even at the present day, the country people, preserving in all their simplicity their ancient rites, consecrate the finest among their trees to some divinity; indeed, we feel ourselves inspired to adoration, not less by the sacred groves and their very stillness, than by the statues of the gods, resplendent as they are with gold and ivory.Titus Pomponius Victor (2nd century A.D.), in Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum XII.103, tr. Frank Frost Abbott in The Common People of Ancient Rome: Studies of Roman Life and Literature (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), p. 104:
haec fuere numinum templa, priscoque ritu simplicia rura etiam nunc deo praecellentem arborem dicant. nec magis auro fulgentia atque ebore simulacra quam lucos et in iis silentia ipsa adoramus.
Silvanus, half-enclosed in the sacred ash-tree,Abbott's comments (pp. 104-105):
guardian mighty art thou of this pleasaunce in the heights.
To thee we consecrate in verse these thanks,
because across the fields and Alpine tops,
and through thy guests in sweetly smelling groves,
while justice I dispense and the concerns of Caesar serve,
with thy protecting care thou guidest us.
Bring me and mine to Rome once more,
and grant that we may till Italian fields with thee as guardian.
In guerdon therefor will I give a thousand mighty trees.
Silvane sacra semicluse fraxino
et huius alti summe custos hortuli,
tibi hasce grates dedicamus musicas,
quod nos per arva perque montis Alpicos
tuique luci suave olentis hospites,
dum ius guberno remque fungor Caesarum,
tuo favore prosperanti sospitas.
tu me meosque reduces Romam sistito
daque Itala rura te colamus praeside:
ego iam dicabo mille magnas arbores.
It is a pretty picture. This deputy of Caesar has finished his long and perilous journeys through the wilds of the North in the performance of his duties. His face is now turned toward Italy, and his thoughts are fixed on Rome. In this "little garden spot," as he calls it, in the mountains he pours out his gratitude to the forest-god, who has carried him safely through dangers and brought him thus far on his homeward way, and he vows a thousand trees to his protector. It is too bad that we do not know how the vow was to be paid not by cutting down the trees, we feel sure. One line of Victor's little poem is worth quoting in the original. He thanks Silvanus for conducting him in safety "through the mountain heights, and through Tuique luci suave olentis hospites." Who are the hospites? The wild beasts of the forests, we suppose. Now hospites may, of course, mean either "guests" or "hosts," and it is a pretty conceit of Victor's to think of the wolves and bears as the guests of the forest-god, as we have ventured to render the phrase in the translation given above. Or, are they Victor's hosts, whose characters have been so changed by Silvanus that Victor has had friendly help rather than fierce attacks from them?I owe all of the ancient citations above to R.G.M. Nisbet and Niall Rudd, A Commentary on Horace: Odes, Book III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 255-256 (introduction to Odes 3.22). On p. 257 Nisbet and Rudd offer this suggestion to modern readers of the ode:
By using his imagination an urban rationalist can still recapture something of the feeling for rural cults, the communion with the spirits of the wild, a sense of the sanctity of trees, and the significance of an annual blood-sacrifice in gratitude for the sanctity of life.
A Latin Auto-Antonym: Vegrandis
Saturday, April 16, 2011
The Open Door
The larger gain in this reading was simply that a door was openedthat its opening was sensed so powerfully that henceforth the open door, the open window, became a haunting metaphor to Keats. For it brought the vital discovery (though there might be a few years before he realized it) that we are not completely the creatures of the environment in which we are placedthat we need not be imprisoned by the room where we are, by the stock responses we pick up from those about us, but that there are openings to something more spacious through the large written record of the past that we call literature.
A Capital Offence
To anything they have started to cultivate they give divine status, especially to trees, violating which constitutes a capital offence.Cf. Diodorus Siculus 2.36.6-7 (tr. W.A. Oldfather):
deos putant, quidquid colere coeperunt, arbores maxime, quas violare capital est.
 Furthermore, the customs of the Indians contribute towards there never being any lack of food among them; for whereas in the case of all the rest of mankind their enemies ravage the land and cause it to remain uncultivated, yet among the Indians the workers of the soil are let alone as sacred and inviolable, and such of them as labour near the battle-lines have no feeling of the dangers.  For although both parties to the war kill one another in their hostilities, yet they leave uninjured those who are engaged in tilling the soil, considering that they are the common benefactors of all, nor do they burn the lands of their opponents or cut down their orchards.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Was it really here, in this tiled roomHat tip: Eric Thomson.
In this tower that Montaigne wrote?
I hope that it was so. Never was there
A place better for recalling, I would say
For being benign and wise, for loving
In words. I see him back a chair
Across these tiles, and stand and stretch, and then
Descend this newel stair, and going
Slowly as if arthritically outside.
He looks down, with feeling he sees again
How exceedingly sweet is this meadowed
Small valley below and how half-reddening
Vines in such a light cast straight
Black bars of shadow in row after row.
The Foundation of All Greek Scholarship
You have evidently read a good deal and far more than most people of your age. The advice that I should give you is to master Monro's Homeric Grammar and Roby's large Latin Syntax (vol. ii). It is a great thing to be sure of your Homer and with that I should join a careful study of Sophocles and Thucydides say 3 plays and Bks I-iii. Isocrates is in some ways the most important person in the 4th. century Gk. Lit. A mastery of Sandys' Panegyricus and of the Areopagiticus you will find really helpful. Translate also some of the de pace of Isocrates against some of the Olynthiacs. The foundation of all Greek scholarship is the knowledge of Homer and you can hardly do too much work at it. If you can, read Lehrs' Aristarchus and Wolf's Prolegomena through. In Latin I attach great importance to a knowledge of Plautus and Cicero’s letters to Atticus. Lucretius will I hope be one of your books for Moderations. Don't exhaust him now. Plautus can be read best with brief annotations and I advise you to get hold of Lindsay's notes on his grammar and syntax.Related posts:
It is very important to have some subject of your own to work on hereafter. Thus Greek or Roman inscriptions. I think you would find the former very useful. Cauer or Dittenberger's Sylloge, or the little Teubner vol. of extracts. Or in Roman literature a study of the relation of Virgil and Horace to the great masters of prose style. For my own part I think Wilkins' de Oratore or Sandys’ Orator are simply admirable preparations for the Hertford Scholarship.
In composn. I recommend nothing but (1) translation from different styles side by side e.g. Livy's III book and Cicero's Catilines, which from time to time put back; (2) a good deal of repetition; (3) try and visualize and make practical all you translate; (4) never show up a copy without translating all through, taking the words as if you were 12 years old.
P.S. Write to me in June and ask me to send you the subject for the Gaisford Greek Prizes and Latin Essay.
- Reading List (John Cheke)
- Another Reading List (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- Reading List (Thomas Jefferson)
- Light Reading (Thomas Babington Macaulay)
- The Indispensables (George Gissing)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Clodius' Death as Punishment for Arboricide
That result was brought about, O judges, not by human wisdom, nor even by any moderate degree of care on the part of the immortal gods. In truth, those very holy places themselves which beheld that monster fall, appear to have been moved themselves, and to have asserted their rights over him.Cicero's Latin:
I implore you, I call you to witness—you, I say, O you Alban hills and groves, and you, O you altars of the Albans, now overthrown, but nevertheless partners of and equals in honour with the sacred rites of the Roman people,—you, whom that man with headlong insanity, having cut down and destroyed the most holy groves, had overwhelmed with his insane masses of buildings; it was your power then that prevailed, it was the divinity of your altars, the religious reverence due to you, and which he had profaned by every sort of wickedness, that prevailed; and you, too, O sacred Jupiter of Latium, whose lakes and groves and boundaries he had constantly polluted with every sort of abominable wickedness and debauchery, you at last from your high and holy mountain, opened your eyes for the purpose of punishing him; it is to you, to all of you, that those punishments, late indeed, but still just and well deserved, have been made an atonement for his wickedness.
non est humano consilio, ne mediocri quidem, iudices, deorum immortalium cura res illa perfecta. regiones mehercule ipsae, quae illam beluam cadere viderunt, commosse se videntur et ius in illo suum retinuisse.
vos enim iam, Albani tumuli atque luci, vos, inquam, imploro atque testor, vosque, Albanorum obrutae arae, sacrorum populi Romani sociae et aequales, quas ille praeceps amentia caesis prostratisque sanctissimis lucis substructionum insanis molibus oppresserat; vestrae tum religiones viguerunt, vestra vis valuit, quam ille omni scelere polluerat; tuque ex tuo edito monte Latiari, sancte Iuppiter, cuius ille lacus, nemora finesque saepe omni nefario stupro et scelere macularat, aliquando ad eum puniendum oculos aperuisti; vobis illae, vobis vestro in conspectu serae, sed iustae tamen et debitae poenae solutae sunt.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
At Last I Have Found Myself
From my youth up I never liked the city.More translations of this exquisite poem in earlier blog posts:
I never forgot the mountains where I was born.
The world caught me and harnessed me
And drove me through dust, thirty years away from home.
Migratory birds return to the same tree.
Fish find their way back to the pools where they were hatched.
I have been over the whole country,
And have come back at last to the garden of my childhood.
My farm is only ten acres.
The farm house has eight or nine rooms.
Elms and willows shade the back garden.
Peach trees stand by the front door.
The village is out of sight.
You can hear dogs bark in the alleys,
And cocks crow in the mulberry trees.
When you come through the gate into the court
You will find no dust or mess.
Peace and quiet live in every room.
I am content to live here the rest of my life.
At last I have found myself.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Not Sabbath but Morning Reading
But in Homer and Chaucer there is more of the innocence and serenity of youth than in the more modern and moral poets. The Iliad is not Sabbath but morning reading, and men cling to this old song, because they still have moments of unbaptized and uncommitted life, which give them an appetite for more. To the innocent there are neither cherubim nor angels. At rare intervals we rise above the necessity of virtue into an unchangeable morning light, in which we have only to live right on and breathe the ambrosial air. The Iliad represents no creed nor opinion, and we read it with a rare sense of freedom and irresponsibility, as if we trod on native ground, and were autochthones of the soil.
On Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip
Peace my hearts blab, be ever dumb,Related posts: Grosse Seelen Dulden Still; Hiding Troubles; Nietzsche on Emotional Incontinence; Buckled Lips; Emotional Incontinence; Euripidea; Hostile Laughter; Hostile Laughter in Euripides' Medea; Icy Laughter; Notes to Myself; On Concealing One's Misfortunes; Quotations about Complaints.
Sorrowes speak loud without a tongue:
And my perplexed thoughts forbear
To breath your selves in any ear:
Tis scarce a true or manly grief
Which gaddes abroad to find relief.
Was ever stomack that lackt meat
Nourisht by what another eat?
Can I bestow it, or will woe
Forsake me when I bid it goe?
Then Ile believe a wounded breast
May heal by shrift, and purchase rest.
But if imparting it I do
Not ease my self, but trouble two,
'Tis better I alone possess
My treasure of unhappiness:
Engrossing that which is my own
No longer then it is unknown.
If silence be a kind of death,
He kindles grief who gives it breath;
But let it rak't in embers lye,
On thine own hearth 'twill quickly dye;
And spight of fate, that very wombe
Which carries it, shall prove its tombe.
Monday, April 11, 2011
A Dangerous and a Dreadful Weapon
The generality of mankind is wholly and absolutely governed by words and names; without; nay, for the most part, even against the knowledge men have of things. The multitude, or common rout, like a drove of sheep, or an herd of oxen, may be managed by any noise, or cry, which their drivers shall accustom them to.
And, he who will set up for a skilful manager of the rabble, so long as they have but ears to hear, needs never inquire, whether they have any understanding whereby to judge; but with two or three popular, empty words, such as popery and superstition, right of the subject, liberty of conscience, Lord Jesus Christ well tuned and humoured; may whistle them backwards and forwards, upwards and downwards, till he is weary; and get up upon their backs when he is so.
As for the meaning of the word itself, that may shift for itself; and, as for the sense and reason of it, that has little or nothing to do here; only let it sound full and round, and chime right to the humour, which is at present agog, (just as a big, long, rattling name is said to command even adoration from a Spaniard,) and, no doubt, with this powerful, senseless engine the rabble-driver shall be able to carry all before him, or to draw all after him, as he pleases. For, a plausible, insignificant word, in the mouth of an expert demagogue, is a dangerous and a dreadful weapon.
A Tree in the Villa of Manilius Vopiscus
Why now should I wonder at connecting structures or those distanced in separate stories? Why at the tree preserved in the dwelling's midst, rising through ceilings and doorways to emerge in the open, sure to suffer the cruel axe under any other master? But now it may be that some little Nymph or Hamadryad owes you unbroken years, to you unknown.
Quid nunc iungentia mirer
aut quid partitis distantia tecta trichoris?
quid te, quae mediis servata penatibus arbor
tecta per et postes liquidas emergis in auras,
quo non sub domino saevas passura bipennes?
et nunc ignaro forsan vel lubrica Nais
vel non abruptos tibi demet Hamadryas annos.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
A Weary Interlude
What is th' Existence of Mans life?
But open war, or slumber'd strife.
Where sickness to his sense presents
The combat of the Elements:
And never feels a perfect Peace
Till deaths cold hand signs his release.
It is a storm where the hot blood
Out-vies in rage the boyling flood;
And each loud Passion of the mind
Is like a furious gust of wind,
Which beats his Bark with many a Wave
Till he casts Anchor in the Grave.
It is a flower which buds and growes,
And withers as the leaves disclose;
Whose spring and fall faint seasons keep,
Like fits of waking before sleep:
Then shrinks into that fatal mold
Where its first being was enroll'd.
It is a dream, whose seeming truth
Is moraliz'd in age and youth:
Where all the comforts he can share
As wandring as his fancies are;
Till in a mist of dark decay
The dreamer vanish quite away.
It is a Diall, which points out
The Sun-set as it moves about:
And shadowes out in lines of night
The subtile stages of times flight,
Till all obscuring earth hath laid
The body in perpetual shade.
It is a weary enterlude
Which doth short joyes, long woes include.
The World the Stage, the Prologue tears,
The Acts vain hope, and vary'd fears:
The Scene shuts up with loss of breath,
And leaves no Epilogue but Death.
Saturday, April 09, 2011
A Hundred Years Hence
Let us drink and be merry, dance, joke, and rejoice,5 down with your dust: see Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. dust, n.1, sense 6: "slang. Money, cash; esp. in phr. down with the (†your) dust."
With claret and sherry, theorbo and voice!
The changeable world to our joy is unjust,
All treasure's uncertain,
Then down with your dust! 5
In frolics dispose your pounds, shillings, and pence,
For we shall be nothing a hundred years hence.
We'll sport and be free with Moll, Betty, and Dolly,
Have oysters and lobsters to cure melancholy:
Fish-dinners will make a man spring like a flea, 10
Dame Venus, love's lady,
Was born of the sea:
With her and with Bacchus we'll tickle the sense,
For we shall be past it a hundred years hence.
Your most beautiful bride who with garlands is crown'd 15
And kills with each glance as she treads on the ground.
Whose lightness and brightness doth shine in such splendour
That none but the stars
Are thought fit to attend her,
Though now she be pleasant and sweet to the sense, 20
Will be damnable mouldy a hundred years hence.
Then why should we turmoil in cares and in fears,
Turn all our tranquill'ty to sighs and to tears?
Let's eat, drink, and play till the worms do corrupt us,
'Tis certain, Post mortem 25
For health, wealth and beauty, wit, learning and sense,
Must all come to nothing a hundred years hence.
25-26 Post mortem / nulla voluptas: after death, no pleasure.
Friday, April 08, 2011
Commercial Advertisements on TV
Is any deaf? Is any blind?2 bound or loose behind: suffering from constipation or diarrhea
Is any bound or loose behind?
Is any foul that would be fair?
Would any lady change her hair?
Does any dream? Does any walk, 5
Or in his sleep affrighted talk?
I come to cure whate'er you feel,
Within, without, from head to heel.
Be drums or rattles in thy head?
Are not thy brains well-tempered? 10
Does Eolus thy stomach gnaw?
Or breed there vermin in thy maw?
Dost thou desire and cannot please?
Lo, here the best cantharides!
I come to cure whate'er you feel, 15
Within, without, from head to heel.
Even all diseases that arise
From all disposed crudities;
From too much study, too much pain,
From laziness and from a strain; 20
From any humour doing harm,
Be it dry, or moist, or cold or warm.
Then come to me, whate'er you feel,
Within, without, from head to heel.
Of lazy gout, I cure the rich, 25
I rid the beggar of the itch,
I fleam avoid both thick and thin,
I dislocated joints put in,
I can old age to youth restore
And do a thousand wonders more. 30
Then come to me whate'er you feel,
Within, without, from head to heel.
11 Eolus: god of winds, i.e. gas
14 cantharides: medicine to promote sexual arousal
26 fleam: phlegm
Related post: Panacea.
Back to Arcady
There is something classic about the study of the little world that is made up by our first spring flowersall those which bloom not later than April. They are delightfully easy to learn, in case you do not already know them, for there are so few of them that any local manual of the spring flowers will swiftly make you friends for life with them. Happy are those who this year, for the first time, go wood wandering to find them, who first crack open the new manual, smelling of fresh ink, and rejoice in the little new pocket lens. And many, many are the feet that have trod that way before, the boy Linnaeus, the young Asa Gray, the child prodigies like Rafinesque and Haller, the wearied great scholars seeking rest and distraction, like Jacob Grimm and John Stuart Mill.
So great names lend their luster to this innocent delight. But the classicism of the earliest wildflowers derives also from the fact that they fall into a few families, the lily, pink, buttercup, crucifer, rose, violet, umbellifer, heath and composite families, whose unmistakable ear-marks are as decisive as the national traits of Greeks, Persians, Hindus, Englishmen and Norsemen. Characteristic of the northern hemisphere, these give us blossoms that turn up to us the dainty face upon the delicate stalk. They mean to us all that is brave and fresh and frail in the name of spring. Summer flowers distract us with well upon a hundred families, with a strong tropical element; autumnal flowers are confined almost wholly to the tall rank composites. But something in the spring flora, perfect in its simplicity and unity, carries us back to Arcady.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
The Devouring Grasp of Progress
Other multifarious consequences of man's industrial mood of conquest over Nature have manifested themselves in all directions. The mongrel suburb has destroyed the particularity of division between town and country, in which each, living side by side, was true to itself. The oak, the beech, the lime and the elm, which shared their individualities between human tradition and natural nobility, are being replaced by the monotony of disciplined conifers, as standarized as the commercial mentality which has ordained them. The harsh lines of the quarry obliterate the green rollers of the downs. The motor road, inhuman, unnatural and altogether relentless, drives like a ram through the countryside with as much regard for its forms and design as a hot poker drawn over a carpet. Its great scars across the face of England lead us towards what Professor G.M. Trevelyan calls 'the mechanized landscape of the future.' The old roads, often buttressed with primrosed banks, and so truly modelled to the country qualities on either side of them, give way to these great tar tracks with their concrete borders, rows of equidistant trees, metal vomit of petrol stations and bellowing advertisements. The builder riots through the land like a skin disease, spilling scarlet hutments all over Salisbury Plain, making fungus pleasure towns sprout over the turf solitudes of the downs, putting up red brick in the stone countries. The old woods are grubbed up Harewood Forest, the scene of W.H. Hudson's romance, Dead Man's Plack, disappeared during the War and the starveling wire fence evolves in the march of civilization from the hedge with all its prodigalities of life, colour, form and line. It is a melancholy and ironic reflection that the wide distribution for the first time in history of a real love for the country should correspond with a period in which enlightened bodies like the National Trust have to wrest inches of untouched England from the devouring grasp of Progress.Hat tip: Eric Thomson.
Yet as the horde of speculators, company promoters, advertisement agents, country-house builders, bungaloiders, signposters, petrol-pumpers, river-polluters and all the motley caterers of profit and pleasure erupts in lava streams over the land, it should be possible to detect some method or guiding principle in the madness.
Let me take some particular examples of the way Englishmen are dealing with England and try to gather from them where or what is the heart of the malady. The street outside my house is planted with lime-trees. Every year, therefore, the servants of the Urban District assemble with the abhorrèd shears and proceed to cut down their twigging to the very bone. When the trees are leafless, they look like the next morning after a concentrated air-bombardment upon my particular street the night before. When a starveling leafage bashfully appears, these forlorn trees only lack plate-glass in front of them to resemble a shop-window exhibition of a more than usually nauseous decorated wallpaper. Since the last thing that would ever occur to my local government would be to plant wayfaring trees, hawthorns, rowans or other arborescent diminutives, it is local government itself which makes the Town Planning Act the dead letter Professor Abercrombie admits it to be. Or take the Forestry Commission. This worthy body is setting an example of industry by turning the unique Breckland of southwest Norfolk into a parade ground for conifers, equidistant, each the spit of its brother and all of them set out in standardized rows as though the voice of Nature had just bawled 'Attention!' The Commission is going to do the same for the New Forest. In its zeal for making profitable citizens of natural heaths and woodlands, this Government institution has an eye for pitching on the only two landscapes of their kind left over from the unkempt England of the past. And the Brighton Town Council that has made itself recently notorious its Tories, Liberals and Labour men combined to plot part of the English downland near the Devil's Dyke under a dirt-track for bet-upon and bellowing motorcyclists. This unabashedly dissolute scheme for ravaging the downs, for making a profit out of them by pandering to mob excitements, was the plan of a local authority who no doubt take the utmost moral pride in defending Brighton from any breaches in decorum.
An Open Mind
[A]n open mind, to be sure, should be open at both ends, like the foodpipe, and have a capacity for excretion as well as intake.Update: Thanks to Dave Lull for drawing my attention to a different view, that of J.V. Cunningham, Epigrams: A Journal, #30:
This Humanist whom no beliefs constrained
Grew so broad-minded he was scatter-brained.
Self-Sufficiency in Food
Martial makes fun of the habit of rich people boasting about the products they obtain from their estates. It must have been a widespread practice, in view of how persistently Martial satirizes the situation; cf. 3.47, 3.58, 10.94, 13.12 (cf. also 13.107). Cf. Ov. Ars 2.265-266: rure suburbano poteris dicere missa, / illa vel in Sacra sint licet empta via, Tac. Ann. 4.59, Plin. Epist. 4.30.3, Plin. Nat. 12.5.9-10, Varro Rust. 1.59.2.
The desire to demonstrate an abundance of agricultural products stems from the common ambition in antiquity to be self-sufficient regarding food; cf. E. Fraenkel, Aeschylus. Agamemnon (Oxford 1974) (= 1950) 435 ad A. A. 961. Cf. Plaut. Bacch. 648: ut domo sumeret neu foris quaereret, Petron. 38.1 (with Smith 83): nec est quod putes illum quicquam emere, omnia domi nascuntur. Wealthy Romans also took great pride in presenting products from their own country properties at banquets; cf. Hor. Sat. 2.2.118-122: ac mihi seu longum post tempus venerat hospes, / seu operum vacuo gratus conviva per imbrem / vicinus, bene erat non piscibus urbe petitis, / sed pullo atque haedo; tum pensilis uva secundas / et nux ornabat mensas cum duplice ficu. On this subject, see J.M. Frayn, Subsistence Farming in Roman Italy (London 1979).
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
"Der (x, y, z) soil ganz ordentliche Philologie machen" was a comment he frequently made, which reflected his opinion that many literary studies on modern lines led to no worthwhile results and that the author would in his own interest and for the good of scholarship do better to improve his technical equipment. 'Ordentliche Philologie' would be an edition based on independent research about the Mss or a thorough commentary. On a good number of literary essays which he showed to the Graeca his comments were ironical; others, he seemed to think, were hardly worth an ironical remark.Related post: Advice to the Young.
Withdrawal from the Contemporary World
In short, since leaving Paris, Des Esseintes was removing himself further and further from reality, especially from the contemporary world which he held in an ever growing detestation. This hatred had inevitably reacted on his literary and artistic tastes, and he would have as little as possible to do with paintings and books whose limited subjects dealt with modern life.
Enfin, depuis son départ de Paris, il s'éloignait, de plus en plus, de la réalité et surtout du monde contemporain qu'il tenait en une croissante horreur; cette haine avait forcément agi sur ses goûts littéraires et artistiques, et il se détournait le plus possible des tableaux et des livres dont les sujets délimités se reléguaient dans la vie moderne.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
An Anecdote about Euclid
Some one who had begun to read geometry with Euclid, when he had learnt the first theorem, asked Euclid, "What shall I get by learning these things?" Euclid called his slave and said, "Give him threepence, since he must make gain out of what he learns."
Παρ' Εὐκλείδη τις ὰρξάμενος γεωμετρεῖν ὡς τὸ πρῶτον θεώρημα ἔμαθεν, ἤρετο τὸν Εὐκλείδην, "τί δέ μοι πλέον ἔσται ταῦτα μανθάνοντι;" καὶ ὁ Εὐκλείδης τὸν παῖδα καλέσας, "δός," ἔφη, "αὐτῷ τριώβολον, ἐπειδὴ δεῖ αὐτῷ ἐξ ὧν μανθάνει κερδαίνειν."
Conducive to Expectoration
He would thrust his Head out of his Chamber-Window every Morning, and after having gaped for fresh Air about half an Hour, repeat fifty Verses as loud as he could bawl them for the Benefit of his Lungs; to which End he generally took them out of Homer; the Greek Tongue, especially in that Author, being more deep and sonorous, and more conducive to Expectoration, than any other.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Spare Him Not, Devil
One lamentable error we certainly have committed, are committing, and, so far as appears, will ever commit. We massacre every town tree that comes in a mason's way; never sacrificing mortar to foliage. Stark [William Stark, architect, 1770-1814] raised his voice against this atrocity, but in vain. I do not know a single instance in which the square and the line have been compelled to accommodate themselves to stems and branches. To a considerable extent this is a consequence of our climate, which needs sun and not shade. But there are many situations, especially in a town, where shade is grateful, and many where, without interfering with comfort, foliage, besides its natural beauty, combines well with buildings. And there was no Scotch city more strikingly graced by individual trees and by groups of them than Edinburgh, since I knew it, used to be. How well the ridge of the old town was set off by a bank of elms that ran along the front of James' Court, and stretched eastward over the ground now partly occupied by the Bank of Scotland. Some very respectable trees might have been spared to grace the Episcopal Chapel of St. Paul in York Place. There was one large tree near its east end which was so well placed that some people conjectured it was on its account that the Chapel was set down there. I was at a consultation in John Clerk's house, hard by, when that tree was cut. On hearing that it was actually down we ran out, and well did John curse the Huns. The old aristocratic gardens of the Canongate were crowded with trees, and with good ones. There were several on the Calton Hill: seven, not ill grown, on its very summit. And all Leith Walk and Lauriston, including the ground round Heriot's Hospital, was fully set with wood. A group was felled about the year 1826 which stood to the west of St. John's Chapel, on the opposite side of the Lothian Road, and formed a beautiful termination of all the streets which join near that point. One half of the trees, at the least, might have been spared, not only without injuring, but with the effect of greatly adorning, the buildings for which they have been sacrificed. Moray Place, in the same way, might have been richly decorated with old and respectable trees. But they were all murdered, on the usual pretence of adjusting levels and removing obstructions. It was with the greatest difficulty that Sir Patrick Walker, the superior of the ground, succeeded in rescuing the row in front of Coates Crescent from the unhallowed axes of the very vassals. It cost him years of what was called obstinacy. I tried to save a very picturesque group, some of which waved over the wall at the west end of the jail on the Calton Hill. I succeeded with two trees; but in about four years they also disappeared. It only required a very little consideration and arrangement to have left the whole of these trees and many others standing without abating a single building. But the sad truth is that the extinction of foliage, and the unbroken display of their bright free-stone, is of itself a first object with both our masons and their employers. The wooded gardens that we have recently acquired are not inconsistent with this statement. There was no competition between them and building. It is our horror of the direct combination of trees with masonry, and our incapacity to effect it, that I complain of. No apology is thought necessary for murdering a tree; many for preserving it.Circuit Journeys by the Late Lord Cockburn, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1889), p. 279 (West Circuit, Autumn 1845):
A few years ago (not twenty-five) the left bank of the River Leven was covered, for about five miles from the junction of the stream with the loch, and high up, with very fine old birch. The whole of this wood was sold by the meanest man I was ever acquainted with, for about £80. The purchaser, finding it too expensive to cut and carry away the trees, left them standing, but all peeled; and there are still thousands of them not yet rotted away, but standing dead and grey. Can there be any doubt that the rich brute who could allow five miles of wood, the ornament of a district, to be destroyed for £80, is now suffering for this in a hotter world? Spare him not, Devil. Give him his own faggots.Id., p. 284 (West Circuit, Autumn 1845):
So I have seen Loch Etive. There are few things in this country better worth seeing.Id., p. 300 (North Circuit, September 1846):
From the Bunaw ferry it runs about fourteen or fifteen miles up the country, is nearly straight, and from one mile to three wide. The boatmen said that for about seven miles up, on the right side, there was, since they remembered, a profusion of birch, which the Bunaw furnaces had cleared away. Whether this be correct or not, there is scarcely one observable stem or leaf there now. No country can be more utterly woodless. There is some tolerable wood for about a mile next the ferry on the west side, and a sprinkling on the same side, very near the top. But these, though aided by a few foliaged ravines, are too insignificant to affect the general character of the valley, which may be described as utterly bare.
Montrose's side of the loch is still bare. It was cut, or rather grubbed out, I don't remember how long ago, but certainly after the publication of the poem [Lady of the Lake]; for I remember Scott, in his indignation, threatening to save the trees, and to disgrace their owner, by getting up a penny subscription, and paying the £200 (this, I believe, was the sum) for which they were to be sold. But we observed one of the very finest weeping birches, on the right-hand side of the road going towards Loch Katrine, which we were told that Lady Willoughby had given five guineas to save. I trust, and have no reason to doubt, that she has in store the treasure of many as good deeds.Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who also supplied the notes in square brackets.
Pity and Piety
ME. pite OF. pité (mod. pitié): L. pietās, -tāt- PIETY. In later L. pietās acquired the sense of compassion, kindness; OF. pite and piete had both senses, but were subsequently differentiated, and this was reflected in the corr. Eng. forms as now used.The sense "compassion, kindness" can also be seen in earlier Latin, according to Nisbet and Rudd in their commentary on Horace, Odes 3.21.4 (pia testa):
The adjective here means, not 'devout' (which does not suit a deity), but 'kindly', 'loving', 'caring' (qualities that reciprocate human devotion). For this rare usage cf. Virg. Aen. 2.536 'di, si qua est caelo pietas quae talia curet' with Austin's note, 4.382 with Pease, 5.688 f. (addressed to Jupiter) 'si quid pietas antiqua labores / respicit humanos', Martial II.3.9 'cum pia reddiderint Augustum numina terris', Weinstock 249 (citing Oscan material), RE 20.1.1180, Encicl. virg. 4.95. This is the meaning of pie Jesu, and pietas in this sense has given rise to the English 'pity'.
Sunday, April 03, 2011
Rats and Mice, Begone!
ExorcismCf. Geoponica 13.5 (tr. James George Frazer):
I cast out you noxious vermin, by God the Father almighty, by Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, and by the Holy Spirit. May you speedily be banished from our land and fields, lingering here no longer, but passing on to places where you can do no harm. In the name of the almighty God and the entire heavenly court, as well as in the name of the holy Church of God, we pronounce a curse on you, that wherever you go you may be cursed, decreasing from day to day until you are obliterated. Let no remnant of you remain anywhere, except what might be necessary for the welfare and use of mankind. Be pleased to grant our request, you who are coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.
The places infested are sprinkled with holy water.
Take a sheet of paper and write on it as follows:—"I adjure you, ye mice here present, that ye neither injure me, nor suffer another mouse to do so. I give you yonder field" (here you specify the field, perhaps a neighbour's) "but if I ever catch you here again, by the mother of the gods, I will rend you in seven pieces"; write this and stick the paper on an unhewn stone in the field before sunrise, taking care to keep the written side uppermost.Otto Weinreich discusses this "Mäuseexorzismus der Geoponika" in his Ausgewählte Schriften III (Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner, 1979), pp. 43-45.
Both it and the exorcism from the Rituale Romanum (at least the part about "lingering here no longer, but passing on to places where you can do no harm") are examples of epipompē, a method of getting rid of evil not by destroying it but by sending it somewhere else.
Hat tip: Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf.
Come, then, with showers; I love thy cloudy face
Gilded with splendour of the sunbeam thro'
The heedless glory of thy locks. I know
The arch, sweet languor of thy fleeting grace,
The windy lovebeams of thy dwelling-place,
Thy dim dells where in azure bluebells blow,
The brimming rivers where thy lightnings go
Harmless and full and swift from race to race.
Thou takest all young hearts captive with thine eyes;
At rumour of thee the tongues of children ring
Louder than bees; the golden poplars rise
Like trumps of peace; and birds, on homeward wing,
Fly mocking echoes shrill along the skies,
Above the waves' grave diapasoning.
Saturday, April 02, 2011
There is nothing which we receive with so much Reluctance as Advice. We look upon the Man who gives it us as offering an Affront to our Understanding, and treating us like Children or Ideots. We consider the Instruction as an implicit Censure, and the Zeal which any one shews for our Good on such an Occasion, as a piece of Presumption or Impertinence. The Truth of it is, the Person who pretends to advise, does, in that Particular, exercise a Superiority over us, and can have no other Reason for it, but that, in comparing us with himself, he thinks us defective either in our Conduct or our Understanding.
Jacob Balde on Abdalonymus
The Kitchen-gardener of Royal Blood.
Commendation of a Frugal Life & a Quiet Heart.
In homage to the right worthy
when he quit the Forum and aspired to sacred Leisure.
I dine by custom in a bailiff's garden.The Latin original:
What more need I? Not even Juppiter
in Libya's arid horn possesses more.
My wealth? What is enough. Me chicory,
endive, and tender leaves of mallows sate
not one whit less agreeably than Phasis
with a choice pheasant sates a Persian king.
From the earth's grassy breast a brooklet darts
that as I curve my hand in a live cup
slips sweetly babbling past my idleness.
This tree beneath which lazily I lie
I once entrusted to the tepid West winds,
a seedling of the field; and from its birth
I measure the fixed periods of my life.
I do not calculate my time by gazing
at Arab stars, at Babylonian numbers:
but faithful Ceres signals with her fruits
each added year, and over incised marks
a boxwood claw points to the flying hour.
Nature is fruitful. Every day that passes
shines with unsullied sunlight. Gentle Sleep
steps into huts of rustics and breathes round them;
it creeps less often into Tyrian cities.
Peace and sweet Quiet ramble in the fields.
I'm happy not to know a chieftain's worries.
In this soil multiplies a sappy root
of peace continual. May unlucky purple
clothe other men; my only happiness,
though my ancestors were Sidonian kings,
is to live humbly in a private station.
I say things not unknown! My poverty
owns a far greater kingdom. Wealthiest,
that king who puts aside demeaning fear
and though he owns but little, covets less,
and counts it gain. I sip no Caecuban
but sip no poison proffered in jewelled cups.
I do not bed beneath ten snowy fleeces
nor lie awake sad; do not terrify
nor myself tremble. From a throne fate thunders!
A humbler willow, safe from lightning, offers
an earthen house inviolate and intact.
Things highest tremble and the steepest heads
more often plummet under their own weight,
as do the poppy-heads I am now reaping.
Not me, don’t pull me from the flowers I planted,
Chieftains of Pella. Let me age and die here,
where as a youth I lived. Leave me to hack
these acres happily with the hoes I love.
Regii Sanguinis Olitor.
Commendatio frugalis vitae et quieti animi
In gratiam Cl. Viri
ex negotiorum foro ad sacrum otium aspirantis
Horto me solitus pascere villici,If this taste has given you an appetite for more of Jacob Balde's poetry, you can find Professor Maurer's translations of other odes here.
Ultra quid cupiam? plus neque Iuppiter
In cornu Libyae possidet aridae.
Tota est summa 'satis'. Me cichorea, me
Malvarum foliis addita mollibus,
Haud paullo satiant gratius intyba,
Quam lautis avibus Phasis Achaemenem.
Hic fons gramineo labitur ubere
Et cum viva manu tempero pocula
Iucundo residem murmure praeterit.
Hanc, sub qua recubo languidus arbore,
Commisi tepidis ipse Favoniis,
Parvum semen agri: cuius origine
Vitae certa meae tempora metior.
Non stellis Arabum nec Babyloniis
Intentus numeris computo secula:
Adiectum toties frugibus indicat
Annum fida Ceres: horaque buxea
In quascumque notas forfice tonsilis.
Natura fruimur. Quotquot eunt dies
Puro sole micant. Somnus agrestium
Lenis sponte casas intrat et affluit.
Irrepit Tyriis parcior urbibus.
Pax et blanda quies rura perambulat.
Quid sit cura Ducis, nescio laetius.
Isto continui pullulat otii
Radix alma solo. Purpura vestiat
Infelix alios: me iuvet unice,
Quamvis Sidoniis Regibus editum,
Privatis tenuem vivere censibus.
Haud ignota loquor. Pauperies mei
Regnum maius habet. Ditior omnibus
Rex est, degeneres qui posuit metus:
Qui cum possideat pauca, cupit minus,
Apponitque lucro. Non bibo Caecubum,
Nec porrecta scyphis toxica gemmeis.
Non subter niveis velleribus cubo;
Nec moestus vigilo. Terreo neminem,
A nullis pavidus. De solio tonat
Fatum. Tuta salix fulminis, integram
Sedem praebet humi, nec violabilem.
Semper celsa tremunt: et capita ardua
Toto praecipitant saepius impetu,
Ut nunc summa meto colla papaverum.
Ne me, ne genitis vellite floribus,
Pellaei proceres. Hic moriar senex,
Hic vixi iuvenis. Linquite iugera
Gaudentem placitis findere sarculis.
Friday, April 01, 2011
The Romany Rye
What had been the profit of the tongues which I had learnt? had they ever assisted me in the day of hunger? No, no! it appeared to me that I had always misspent my time...Chapter XVI (letter from Isopel Berners):
The world can bully, and is fond, provided it sees a man in a kind of difficulty, of getting about him, calling him coarse names, and even going so far as to hustle him: but the world, like all bullies, carries a white feather in its tail, and no sooner sees the man taking off his coat, and offering to fight its best, than it scatters here and there, and is always civil to him afterwards.Chapter XXI:
When he had finished speaking, he led me behind his house, and showed me his little domain. It consisted of about two acres in admirable cultivation; a small portion of it formed a kitchen garden, while the rest was sown with four kinds of grain, wheat, barley, peas, and beans. The air was full of ambrosial sweets, resembling those proceeding from an orange grove; a place which though I had never seen at that time, I since have. In the garden was the habitation of the bees, a long box, supported upon three oaken stumps. It was full of small round glass windows, and appeared to be divided into a great many compartments, much resembling drawers placed sideways. He told me that, as one compartment was filled, the bees left it for another; so that, whenever he wanted honey, he could procure some without injury to the insects. Through the little round windows I could see several of the bees at work; hundreds were going in and out of the doors; hundreds were buzzing about on the flowers, the woodbines, and beans. As I looked around on the well-cultivated field, the garden, and the bees, I thought I had never before seen so rural and peaceful a scene.Chapter XXIII (presumably mocking the soporific power of Wordsworth's poetry):
I took the volume, and glanced over the contents. It was written in blank verse, and appeared to abound in descriptions of scenery; there was much mention of mountains, valleys, streams, and waterfalls, harebells and daffodils. These descriptions were interspersed with dialogues, which, though they proceeded from the mouths of pedlars and rustics, were of the most edifying description; mostly on subjects moral or metaphysical, and couched in the most gentlemanly and unexceptionable language, without the slightest mixture of vulgarity, coarseness, or piebald grammar. Such appeared to me to be the contents of the book; but before I could form a very clear idea of them, I found myself nodding, and a surprising desire to sleep coming over me.Chapter XXX:
Youth is the only season for enjoyment, and the first twenty-five years of one's life are worth all the rest of the longest life of man, even though those five-and-twenty be spent in penury and contempt, and the rest in the possession of wealth, honours, respectability, ay, and many of them in strength and health...Id.:
What a beautiful country is England! People run abroad to see beautiful countries, and leave their own behind unknown, unnoticedtheir own the most beautiful!Chapter XLII:
"Well, some are born to be hanged, and some are not; and many of those who are not hanged are much worse than those who are."Chapter XLIV:
Here I stood, looking vacantly on what was going on, musing on the strange infatuation of my species, who judge of a person's words, not from their intrinsic merit, but from the opiniongenerally an erroneous onewhich they have formed of the person.Appendix, Chapter III:
Now what is the case with nine out of ten amongst those of the English who study foreign languages? No sooner have they picked up a smattering of this or that speech than they begin to abuse their own country, and everything connected with it, more especially its language. This is particularly the case with those who call themselves German students. It is said, and the writer believes with truth, that when a woman falls in love with a particularly ugly fellow, she squeezes him with ten times more zest than she would a handsome one, if captivated by him. So it is with these German students; no sooner have they taken German in hand than there is nothing like German. Oh, the dear delightful German! How proud I am that it is now my own, and that its divine literature is within my reach! And all this whilst mumbling the most uncouth speech, and crunching the most crabbed literature in Europe.Appendix, chapter VIII (on the temperance movement):
Let the reader note particularly the purpose to which this cry has been turned in America; the land, indeed, par excellence, of humbug and humbug cries.