Tuesday, September 30, 2014


A New Thing in Religion

A.J. Festugière (1898-1982), Epicurus and His Gods, tr. C.W. Chilton (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 14:
What strikes me as essential is the fact that adhesion to Hellenistic religious sects was the result of a free choice by the individual. Nothing compelled him to betake himself to this or that new deity, Isis, the Syrian Aphrodite, the Phrygian Great Mother, etc.: there was no compulsion because these gods were not bound to any city. He was not drawn by custom to worship them. If he went to them, it was from the impulse of a personal religious conviction, to give satisfaction to a need of his soul. That, in religion, is a new and very remarkable thing.


Common Bonds

Xenophon, Hellenica 2.4.20-21 (Cleocritus speaking, after the Battle of Munychia; tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
Fellow citizens, why do you drive us out of the city? why do you wish to kill us? For we never did you any harm, but we have shared with you in the most solemn rites and sacrifices and the most splendid festivals, we have been companions in the dance and schoolmates and comrades in arms, and we have braved many dangers with you both by land and by sea in defense of the common safety and freedom of us both. [21] In the name of the gods of our fathers and mothers, in the name of our ties of kinship and marriage and comradeship,—for all these many of us share with one another,—cease, out of shame before gods and men, to sin against your fatherland...

ἄνδρες πολῖται, τί ἡμᾶς ἐξελαύνετε; τί ἀποκτεῖναι βούλεσθε; ἡμεῖς γὰρ ὑμᾶς κακὸν μὲν οὐδὲν πώποτε ἐποιήσαμεν, μετεσχήκαμεν δὲ ὑμῖν καὶ ἱερῶν τῶν σεμνοτάτων καὶ θυσιῶν καὶ ἑορτῶν τῶν καλλίστων, καὶ συγχορευταὶ καὶ συμφοιτηταὶ γεγενήμεθα καὶ συστρατιῶται, καὶ πολλὰ μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν κεκινδυνεύκαμεν καὶ κατὰ γῆν καὶ κατὰ θάλατταν ὑπὲρ τῆς κοινῆς ἀμφοτέρων ἡμῶν σωτηρίας τε καὶ ἐλευθερίας. [21] πρὸς θεῶν πατρῴων καὶ μητρῴων καὶ συγγενείας καὶ κηδεστίας καὶ ἑταιρίας, πάντων γὰρ τούτων πολλοὶ κοινωνοῦμεν ἀλλήλοις, αἰδούμενοι καὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους παύσασθε ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τὴν πατρίδα...


Don't Worry About Politics

Horace, Odes 3.8.25-28 (addressed to Maecenas; tr. Niall Rudd):
Don't worry in case the people are in any trouble; you are a private citizen, so try not to be over-anxious; gladly accept the gifts of the present hour, and let serious things go hang.

neglegens ne qua populus laboret
parce privatus nimium cavere,
dona praesentis cape laetus horae et
    linque severa.
R.G.M. Nisbet and Niall Rudd, A Commentary on Horace, Odes, Book III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; rpt. 2007), pp. 131-132 (on line 26):
it would seem curious to the Romans that a private citizen should worry about political problems; cf. Plaut. Pers. 75f. 'sed sumne ego stultus qui rem curo publicam / ubi sint magistratus quos curare oporteat?', Cic. rep. 2.46.
The quotation from Plautus' Persa means "But am I not crazy, worrying about public affairs, when there are officials whose job it is to worry?" Cicero, On the Commonwealth 2.46, says the opposite, that no one is a private citizen when it comes to the safety of the state (in conservanda civium libertate esse privatum neminem).

Nisbet and Rudd, op. cit., p. 228 (introduction to 3.19):
It was a poetic convention to say that guests should concentrate on enjoyment rather than serious preoccupations. Sometimes these were questions of war and politics; cf. 1.26.3ff., 2.11.1, 3.8.17ff,, Theogn. 763f., Anacr. eleg. 2.1ff., Xenophanes, eleg. 1.21ff.
Related posts:

Monday, September 29, 2014


Spurcum Additamentum

M. Zimmerman, ed., Apulei Metamorphoseon Libri XI (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. xxiii:
This addition, traditionally called 'The Spurcum Additamentum', ever since Eduard Fraenkel nicknamed its medieval forger 'Spurcus',49 is found not in F, but in the lower margin of fol. 66r of φ, as well as in the margin of Boccaccio's autograph copy L1 (Laur. 54.32).

49 E. Fraenkel. 1953. 'A Sham Sisenna', Eranos 51, 151-4.
I don't have access to Fraenkel's article. Unless I'm misunderstanding Zimmerman's sentence, she seems to claim that no one ever called the marginal addition to Apuleius, Metamorphoses 10.21, the spurcum additamentum before Fraenkel did so. If that is her meaning, then the statement is incorrect. I don't know who first used the phrase as a description of the marginal addition, but I do know that it can be found well before the date of Fraenkel's article, e.g. in J. van der Vliet, "Codices Apulei Italici," Mnemosyne 23 (1895) 353-359 (at 358: "Continet spurcum illud additamentum libri X"...), and D.S. Robertson, "The Manuscripts of the Metamorphoses of Apuleius. I," Classical Quarterly 18 (1924) 27-42 (at 31).

For a recent discussion of the spurcum additamentum see Robert H.F. Carver, The Protean Ass: The Metamorphoses of Apuleius from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 67-71.

Thanks to Timothy Robertson, who writes:
I wonder if J van de Vliet's phrase 'spurcum illud additamentum' might have been inspired by a similar expression used by an earlier editor of Apuleius, Gustav Friedrich Hildebrand, 'spurcissimum illud fragmentum' ('Oud.(sc. Franz van Oudendorp) ipsi, quamquam spurcissimum illud fragmentum genium Apuleianum satis spirare videatur, valde tamen suspectum est, potissimum quum in Luciano nullum eius extent vestigium'. Hildebrand, G. F., ed. 1842. L. Apuleius: Opera omnia. Reprint Hildesheim, 1968. Leipzig. p. 931). 'Spurcissimi ... loci' can also be found on the same page. 'Spurcitiei' of course occurs within the additamentum itself.


Freedom from Cares

Pseudo-Seneca, Octavia 77-79 (tr. John G. Fitch):
Pitiful one,
what day will free you from such sorrows?

The day that sends me to the Stygian shades.

Quis te tantis solvet curis,
miseranda, dies?

Qui me Stygias mittet ad umbras.


Blind Fortune

Apuleius, Metamorphoses 7.2.4-6 (tr. H.E. Butler):
I groaned at heart, and it was borne in upon me that there was truth in the parable devised by the sages in the good old days of long ago, which asserted that Fortune was blind, nay, eyeless. For ever she heaps her blessings upon the evil and unworthy, and never uses judgement in the choice of her favourites, but rather prefers to dwell with those whom she most should shun, even though she should see them but from afar. Worst of all, she implants in us opinions far from the truth, nay contrary thereto, with the result that the bad man prides himself on a reputation for virtue, while the most innocent of men is lashed with ill report.

medullitus ingemebam, subibatque me non de nihilo veteris priscaeque doctrinae viros finxisse ac pronuntiasse caecam et prorsus exoculatam esse Fortunam, quae semper suas opes ad malos et indignos conferat, nec unquam iudicio quemquam mortalium eligat, immo vero cum is potissimum deversetur quos procul, si videret, fugere deberet; quodque cunctis est extremius, varias opiniones, immo contrarias nobis attribuat, ut et malus boni viri fama glorietur et innocentissimus contra noxio rumore plectatur.

Sunday, September 28, 2014



Frederic W. MacDonald (1842-1928), "A Book-Loving Grandfather," In a Nook with a Book (London: Horace Marshall & Son, 1907), pp. 59-70 (at 64-65):
There is something at once pathetic and inspiring in the thought of a solitary student, in town lodgings or country manse, wrestling with noble but exacting studies for which he has had little previous training, and unhelped by tutors and companions. The "small Latin and less Greek" of self-taught men may be a poor thing compared with an adequately trained and fully equipped scholarship; but they are not always to be despised, even from a scholar's point of view, to say nothing of the moral dignity that belongs to studies pursued with a high aim under great disadvantage.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Pretend to Care

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy (London: Printed for Private Distribution, [1849]), pp. 278-279:
Beside the shame of inferiority, and the love of reputation, curiosity is a passion very favourable to the love of study; and a passion very susceptible of increase by cultivation. Sound travels so many feet in a second; and light travels so many feet in a second. Nothing more probable: but you do not care how light and sound travel. Very likely: but make yourself care; get up, shake yourself well, pretend to care, make believe to care, and very soon you will care, and care so much, that you will sit for hours thinking about light and sound, and be extremely angry with any one who interrupts you in your pursuits; and tolerate no other conversation but about light and sound; and catch yourself plaguing everybody to death who approaches you, with the discussion of these subjects. I am sure that a man ought to read as he would grasp a nettle:—do it lightly, and you get molested; grasp it with all your strength, and you feel none of its asperities. There is nothing so horrible as languid study; when you sit looking at the clock, wishing the time was over, or that somebody would call on you and put you out of your misery. The only way to read with any efficacy, is to read so heartily, that dinnertime comes two hours before you expected it. To sit with your Livy before you, and hear the geese cackling that saved the capitol; and to see with your own eyes the Carthaginian sutlers gathering up the rings of the Roman knights after the battle of Cannae, and heaping them into bushels; and to be so intimately present at the actions you are reading of, that when anybody knocks at the door, it will take you two or three seconds to determine whether you are in your own study, or in the plains of Lombardy, looking at Hannibal's weather-beaten face, and admiring the splendour of his single eye;—this is the only kind of study which is not tiresome; and almost the only kind which is not useless: this is the knowledge which gets into the system, and which a man carries about and uses like his limbs, without perceiving that is it extraneous, weighty, or inconvenient.


Do Not Drag Me Into Another War

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), letter to Countess Grey (February 19, 1823), in A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith. By His Daughter Lady Holland. With a Selection of His Letters, Edited by Mrs. Austin, Vol. II (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855), pp. 235-236:
For God's sake, do not drag me into another war! I am worn down, and worn out, with crusading and defending Europe, and protecting mankind; I must think a little of myself. I am sorry for the Spaniards—I am sorry for the Greeks—I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most detestable tyranny; Bagdad is oppressed—I do not like the present state of the Delta—Thibet is not comfortable. Am I to fight for all these people? The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. Am I to be champion of the Decalogue, and to be eternally raising fleets and armies to make all men good and happy?


The Lemon-Squeezers of Society

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), quoted in A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith. By His Daughter Lady Holland. With a Selection of His Letters, Edited by Mrs. Austin, Vol. I (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855), p. 382:
The Lemon-squeezers of society—people who act on you as a wet blanket, who see a cloud in the sunshine, the nails of the coffin in the ribbons of the bride, predictors of evil, extinguishers of hope; who, where there are two sides, see only the worst—people whose very look curdles the milk, and sets your teeth on edge.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Have the Courage to be Ignorant of a Great Number of Things

Sydney Smith (1771-1845), Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy (London: Printed for Private Distribution, [1849]), pp. 99-100:
If we are to read, it is a very important rule in the conduct of the understanding that we should accustom the mind to keep the best company, by introducing it only to the best books. But there is a sort of vanity some men have, of talking of, and reading, obscure half-forgotten authors, because it passes as a matter of course, that he who quotes authors which are so little read, must be completely and thoroughly acquainted with those authors which are in every man's mouth. For instance, it is very common to quote Shakespeare; but it makes a sort of stare to quote Massinger. I have very little credit for being well acquainted with Virgil; but if I quote Silius Italicus, I may stand some chance of being reckoned a great scholar. In short, whoever wishes to strike out of the great road, and to make a short cut to fame, let him neglect Homer, and Virgil, and Horace, and Ariosto, and Milton, and, instead of these, read and talk of Fracastorius, Sannazarius, Lorenzini, Pastorini, and the thirty-six primary sonneteers of Bettinelli;—let him neglect everything which the suffrage of ages has made venerable and grand, and dig out of their graves a set of decayed scribblers, whom the silent verdict of the public has fairly condemned to everlasting oblivion. If he complain of the injustice with which they have been treated, and call for a new trial with loud and importunate clamour, though I am afraid he will not make much progress in the estimation of men of sense, he will be sure to make some noise in the crowd, and to be dubbed a man of very curious and extraordinary erudition.

Then there is another piece of foppery which is to be cautiously guarded against—the foppery of universality—of knowing all sciences and excelling in all arts—chemistry, mathematics, algebra, dancing, history, reasoning, riding, fencing, Low Dutch, High Dutch, natural philosophy, and enough Spanish to talk about Lope de Vega: in short, the modern precept of education very often is, "Take the Admirable Crichton for your model; I would have you ignorant of nothing!" Now my advice, on the contrary, is, to have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of everything. I would exact of a young man a pledge that he would never read Lope de Vega; he should pawn to me his honour to abstain from Bettinelli, and his thirty-five original sonneteers; and I would exact from him the most rigid securities that I was never to hear anything about that race of penny poets who lived in the reigns of Cosmo and Lorenzo di Medici.
Related post: A Reputation for Profound Learning and Exquisite Taste.


Pleasure in Religious Observance

Plutarch, That Epicurus Actually Makes a Pleasant Life Impossible 21 = Moralia 1101 D-E (tr. Benedict Einarson and Phillip H. De Lacy):
On the other hand the attitude toward God that we find in the ignorant but not greatly wicked majority of mankind contains no doubt along with the sense of reverence and honour an element of tremulous fear (and from this we get our term for superstition); but outweighing this a thousand times is the element of cheerful hope, of exultant joy, and whether in prayer or in thanksgiving of ascribing every furtherance of felicity to the gods. [E] This is proved by the strongest kind of evidence: no visit delights us more than a visit to a temple; no occasion than a holy day; no act or spectacle than what we see and what we do ourselves in matters that involve the gods, whether we celebrate a ritual or take part in a choral dance or attend a sacrifice or ceremony of initiation. For on these occasions our mind is not plunged in anxiety or cowed and depressed, as we should expect it to be in the company of tyrants or dispensers of gruesome punishments. No, wherever it believes and conceives most firmly that the god is present, there more than anywhere else it puts away all feelings of pain, of fear and of worry, and gives itself up so far to pleasure that it indulges in a playful and merry inebriation.

ἡ δὲ τῶν πολλῶν καὶ ἀμαθῶν καὶ οὐ πάνυ μοχθηρῶν διάθεσις πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἔχει μὲν ἀμέλει τῷ σεβομένῳ καὶ τιμῶντι μεμιγμένον τινὰ σφυγμὸν καὶ φόβον, ᾗ καὶ δεισιδαιμονία κέκληται, τούτου δὲ μυριάκις πλεῖόν ἐστὶ καὶ μεῖζον αὐτῇ τὸ εὔελπι καὶ περιχαρὲς καὶ πᾶσαν εὐπραξίας ὄνησιν ὡς ἐκ θεῶν οὖσαν εὐχόμενον καὶ δεχόμενον. [E] δῆλον δὲ τεκμηρίοις τοῖς μεγίστοις· οὔτε γὰρ διατριβαὶ τῶν ἐν ἱεροῖς οὔτε καιροὶ τῶν ἑορτασμῶν οὔτε πράξεις οὔτ᾽ ὄψεις εὐφραίνουσιν ἕτεραι μᾶλλον ὧν ὁρῶμεν ἢ δρῶμεν αὐτοὶ περὶ τοὺς θεούς, ὀργιάζοντες ἢ χορεύοντες ἢ θυσίαις παρόντες ἢ τελεταῖς. οὐ γὰρ ὡς τυράννοις τισὶν ἢ δεινοῖς κολασταῖς ὁμιλοῦσα τηνικαῦτα ἡ ψυχὴ περίλυπός ἐστι καὶ ταπεινὴ καὶ δύσθυμος, ὅπερ εἰκὸς ἦν· ἀλλ᾽ ὅπου μάλιστα δοξάζει καὶ διανοεῖται παρεῖναι τὸν θεόν, ἐκεῖ μάλιστα λύπας καὶ φόβους καὶ τὸ φροντίζειν ἀπωσαμένη τῷ ἡδομένῳ μέχρι μέθης καὶ παιδιᾶς καὶ γέλωτος ἀφίησιν ἑαυτήν.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


In Defence of His Studies

Erasmus, letter 161 (to Antony of Luxembourg; July 18, 1501; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
I am not unaware, that I have pursued a kind of study which some think strange, others endless, others unprofitable, others even impious; so they seem to the crowd of those who are professors of learning. But I am all the more encouraged, as I am sure of two facts, that the best things have never found favour with the crowd, and that this kind of study is most approved by the smallest number, but the most learned.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 370:
Neque vero me clam est, hoc quod sum sequutus studiorum genus aliis alienum, aliis infinitum, aliis infrugiferum, aliis etiam parum pium videri; nempe vulgo omnium qui nunc literas profitentur. At ego tanto magis accendor, cum vtrunque cognitum habeam, neque vulgo vnquam optima placuisse, et hoc studii genus paucissimis quidem, sed tamen eruditissimis, probari maxime.


Greek Books Wanted

Erasmus, letter 160 (to Nicholas Bensrott; July 18, 1501; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
If there is any fresh Greek to be bought, I would rather pawn my coat than not get it.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 368:
Si quid est nouae Graecanitatis, vestem citius oppignerauerimus quam non potiamur.
Related post: Books or Clothes?


The Old and the New

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend, chapter XXVIII (tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter):
For just as little as one understands the new and the young, without being at home in the traditional, just so must love for the old remain ungenuine and sterile if one shut oneself away from the new, which with historical inevitability grows out of it.

Denn so wenig man das Neue und Junge verstehen kann, ohne in der Tradition zu Hause zu sein, so unecht und steril muß die Liebe zum Alten bleiben, wenn man sich dem Neuen verschließt, das mit geschichtlicher Notwendigkeit daraus hervorgegangen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Caesar's Bellum Gallicum

Basil L. Gildersleeve, "An Oxford Scholar," American Journal of Philology 38 (1917) 392-410 (at 402):
'Humdrum' reminds me of the plaint of a German usher. I cannot recall the exact words, but the following echo may serve as an illustration:
Humdrum, humdrum, humdrum, humdrum,
My heart is woe, my brain is numb,
My mental vision's choked with gum.
I never could be made to stom-
ach Caesar's Bellum Gallicum.
But that was long before the new methods that have made Caesar as alive as he was to Cleopatra.
In his Handbook of Latin Literature, H.J. Rose called Caesar "one of the most unsuitable authors for a beginner that could be imagined."


Greek Verse Composition

William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917),pp. 69-70:
He did, however, recommend a most interesting treatise — C.G. Cobet's Oratio de arte interpretandi grammatices et critices fundamentis innixa — for which I was very grateful. It contains the famous description of the modern scholars, Qui Graeca carmina pangunt quae neque Graeca sunt neque carmina.
The phrase occurs (with slightly different word order) on p. 46 of Cobet's Oratio (Leiden: W. Hazenberg, 1847), discussing Lucian:
[V]erum res est tam anceps et lubrica bene Graece scribere, ut nemo umquam nec recentiorum, nec veterum, qui antiquiorem sermonem Atticum imitari voluerit, satis sibi ab ridiculis et pudendis erroribus potuerit cavere. Omitto recentiores et aequales nostros, qui carmina Graeca pangunt quae neque Graeca sunt neque carmina.
That is,
But so doubtful and slippery a matter it is to write Greek well, that no one (among either ancients or moderns) who had the desire to imitate the older Attic idiom was ever able to avoid humorous and embarrassing mistakes. I forbear from mentioning those moderns and our contemporaries who compose Greek verse that is neither Greek nor verse.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Differentiae Verborum

William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 60:
When he was Reader in Greek, some guests in the Common Room were anxious to know what was the difference between a Reader and a Professor. "A Reader is a man who reads, and a Professor is a man who professes to read," was the characteristic reply. I once heard C.W. Boase tell this story to Professor Skeat, prefacing it by saying that the proper term for Professor was Praelector. "Which means, I suppose," rejoined Skeat, "a man who lectures before he has read."


A Seductive Speech

Apuleius, Metamorphoses 3.19 (tr. H.E. Butler):
For you with your bright eyes and rosy cheeks, your shining hair, your lips parted for a kiss, your perfumed bosom, have made me, who have ever despised the love of great ladies, your slave and bondsman, and I am content with my chains. Home has lost its charms for me, and I would not now return, for I set your embraces above all else in the world.

scio istud et plane sentio, cum semper alioquin spretorem matronalium amplexuum, sic tuis istis micantibus oculis et rubentibus bucculis et renidentibus crinibus et hiantibus osculis et flagrantibus papillis in servilem modum addictum atque mancipatum teneas volentem: iam denique nec larem requiro nec domuitionem paro et nocte ista nihil antepono.
Related posts:

Monday, September 22, 2014


Visit to a Book Store

Mark Twain (1835-1910) and Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900), The Gilded Age, chapter 36:
"Can I—was there any particular book you wished to see?"

"Have you Taine's England?"

"Beg pardon?"

"Taine's Notes on England."

The young gentleman scratched the side of his nose with a cedar pencil which he took down from its bracket on the side of his head, and reflected a moment:

"Ah—I see," [with a bright smile]—"Train, you mean—not Taine. George Francis Train. No, ma'm we—"

"I mean Taine—if I may take the liberty."

The clerk reflected again—then:

"Taine .... Taine .... Is it hymns?"

"No, it isn't hymns. It is a volume that is making a deal of talk just now, and is very widely known—except among parties who sell it."


Then she asked the clerk for the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table—and was pained to see the admiration her beauty had inspired in him fade out of his face. He said with cold dignity, that cook books were somewhat out of their line, but he would order it if she desired it.


"Have you ever read this, ma'm? I am sure you'll like it. It's by the author of 'The Hooligans of Hackensack.' It is full of love troubles and mysteries and all sorts of such things. The heroine strangles her own mother. Just glance at the title please,—'Gonderil the Vampire, or The Dance of Death.' And here is 'The Jokist's Own Treasury, or, The Phunny Phellow's Bosom Phriend.' The funniest thing!—I've read it four times, ma'm, and I can laugh at the very sight of it yet. And 'Gonderil,'—I assure you it is the most splendid book I ever read. I know you will like these books, ma'm, because I've read them myself and I know what they are."


"Many people would think that what a bookseller—or perhaps his clerk—knows about literature as literature, in contradistinction to its character as merchandise, would hardly, be of much assistance to a person—that is, to an adult, of course—in the selection of food for the mind—except of course wrapping paper, or twine, or wafers, or something like that—but I never feel that way. I feel that whatever service you offer me, you offer with a good heart, and I am as grateful for it as if it were the greatest boon to me. And it is useful to me—it is bound to be so. It cannot be otherwise. If you show me a book which you have read—not skimmed over or merely glanced at, but read—and you tell me that you enjoyed it and that you could read it three or four times, then I know what book I want—"

"Thank you!—th—"

—"to avoid."
This reminds me of the book store I once visited in which Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass was shelved in the botany section.

Francis Donkin Bedford, The Book Shop

From Patrick Kurp:
Reminds me of the time I worked in a bookstore in downtown Cleveland (1975) and copies of a new translation of The Iliad arrived. On the cover was a stylized drawing of the Trojan horse. The assistant manager (a cousin of the owner) told me to shelve it in Equine Science. I was happy to oblige.
From Ian Jackson:
I once found, at Moe's Books here in Berkeley, George MacDonald's copy (attractive bookplate after Wm. Blake) of Thomas Dekker's The Gull's Horn-Book shelved in the Ornithology section.


Forgiveness of Sins

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, chapter XVII ("Spring"):
In a pleasant spring morning all man's sins are forgiven.


Tempted to Convert

Vaughan Cornish, quoted in William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 186:
Referring to a man who had gone over to Rome, Bywater said that he had, generally speaking, a very poor opinion of any one who changed the religion in which he was brought up; 'but,' he added, thoughtfully,' if I had been offered the position of Librarian at the Vatican, I confess I should have been tempted to become a Roman Catholic. I don't know that I should have done it, but I certainly should have been tempted.'
Related post: Prayer for the Pope.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Questions for a Rich Man

Horace, Satires 2.2.103-105 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Why is any worthy man in want, while you are rich? Why are the ancient temples of the gods in ruin? Why, shameless man, do you not measure out something from that great heap for your dear country?

cur eget indignus quisquam, te divite? quare
templa ruunt antiqua deum? cur, improbe, carae
non aliquid patriae tanto emetiris acervo?
The first two definitions of indignus in the Oxford Latin Dictionary (OLD) are:
  1. Not deserving some honour, favour, or sim. specified or implied, unworthy
  2. Not deserving some misfortune, punishment, or sim. specified or implied, guiltless
The OLD cites this passage from Horace to illustrate the second definition.

On the second question, commentators compare Horace, Odes 3.6.1-4 (tr. Niall Rudd):
Though guiltless, you will continue to pay for the sins of your forefathers, Roman, until you repair the crumbling temples and shrines of the gods, and the statues that are begrimed with black smoke.

Delicta maiorum immeritus lues,
Romane, donec templa refeceris
    aedisque labentis deorum et
      foeda nigro simulacra fumo.


Dull Dogs

Ingram Bywater, letter to George Rolleston (November 21, 1879), in William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 88:
Those who care for MSS. per se are usually dull dogs like Cramer—men who through lack of ideas and the interest that quickens drudgery do mechanical work and do even that badly. I have in my time read many Greek and some Latin MSS. (probably more than any man in Oxford except Coxe), and I can tell you that it is not good for the intellect to do much of this kind of work, and that the work is tolerable only when there is a distinct literary end in view. In the course of my studies I may perhaps have the chance of working at MSS. again before I have done with these eyes of mine; but as to the notion of my consenting to read MSS. without this motive, simply as a matter of business, during the whole of hours of day-light, that is an idea which I would not harbour for an instant. If not originally μικρόψυχος, the professional student of MSS. rapidly becomes so.
Cramer is John Antony Cramer (1793-1848), author of Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecarum Oxoniensium and Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis; μικρόψυχος means mean-spirited, small-minded.


Dangers of Over-Specialism

William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 55:
He was also alive to the dangers of over-specialism, and took rather a mischievous pleasure in pointing out the vagaries of an eminent German critic who, having come across a detached line of so familiar a book as the Georgics of Virgil, had taken it for a fragment of a lost writer, and proceeded to emend it on this hypothesis by the light of his inner consciousness.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Catholic Humanism

Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend, chapter II (words of the "friend," Serenus Zeitblom; tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter):
As for my Catholic origin, it did of course mould and influence my inner man. Yet that lifelong impress never resulted in any conflict with my humanistic attitude in general, my love of the "liberal arts" as one used to call them....For my part I feel very truly at home in that golden sphere where one called the Holy Virgin Jovis alma parens.
That is, "nourishing mother of Jupiter." In German:
Was nun meine katholische Herkunft angeht, so hat sie selbstverständlich meinen inneren Menschen gemodelt und beeinflußt, jedoch ohne daß sich aus dieser Lebenstönung je ein Widerspruch zu meiner humanistische Weltanschauung, meiner Liebe zu den ›besten Künsten und Wissenschaften‹, wie man einstmals sägte, ergeben hatte....Meinesteils fühle ich mich recht eigentlich in der goldenen Sphäre beheimatet, in der man die Heilige Jungfrau ›Jovis alma parens‹ nannte.
Related post: Christian Humanism.


Sorrow and Happiness of Book Lovers

Karel Porterman, Emblematic Exhibitions (affixiones) at the Brussels Jesuit College (1630-1685): Study of the Commemorative Manuscripts (Royal Library, Brussels), tr. Anna E.C. Simoni (Brussels: Royal Library; Turnhout: Brepols, 1996), p. 148 (discussing Brussels, Royal Library, MS. 20.331):
In the emblem pair on the happiness and the sorrow of bookworms Rhetor Willem van Langendonck and Poet Klaas de Koninck work even with the same pun. Considering that Liber can mean both book and the bark of a tree, the sadness of the intellectual — the lack of books — is represented by a tree which is having its bark pulled off (91r), fig. 1 The joy — the books — is signalled also by the healthy bark of an oak below which a seated genius is sitting writing (93r). fig. 2
Figures 1-2 (unfortunately not very clear in these scans) are on p. 149:

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


All-Purpose Review

Euripides, Rhesus 39-40 (tr. David Kovacs):
You have said nothing clearly for all your many words.

                                πολλὰ γὰρ εἰπὼν
οὐδὲν τρανῶς ἀπέδειξας.
This quotation is suitable for commenting on many a book, sermon, political speech, newspaper editorial, scholarly article, etc.


Reasons for Buying Books

Herbert Warren, quoted in William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 161:
One conversation of his I shall never forget. After the death of Dr. W.H. Thompson, Regius Professor of Greek and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, I bought a fine copy, which had belonged to him, of the edition by Stephanus of Plato, in good condition and handsomely bound. I showed it with some pleasure to Bywater. "Yes," he said, "it is a fine book, and you were right to buy it. There are various reasons for buying books. Some people buy books for the contents, and that is a very vulgar reason; and some people buy books for the binding, and that is a little better and not so vulgar; and others buy books for the printing, and that is really a very good reason; but the real reason for which to buy a book is the margin! Always look at the margin."


There Are Not Too Many of Them

Vaughan Cornish, quoted in William Walrond Jackson, Ingram Bywater: The Memoir of an Oxford Scholar, 1840-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), p. 188:
He did not regard total abstinence as meritorious; indeed he reproved his niece for declining champagne, saying, 'I think you make a mistake, my dear; it is one of the good things of life, and there are not too many of them'.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Going for a Country Walk

Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), Civilisation (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 283:
In the eighteenth century a solitary walker was viewed with almost as much suspicion as he is in Los Angeles today. But the Wordsworths walked continually — De Quincey calculated that by middle age the poet had walked 180,000 miles. Even the unathletic Coleridge walked. They thought nothing of walking sixteen miles after dinner to post a letter. And so, for over a hundred years, going for a country walk was the spiritual as well as the physical exercise of all intellectuals, poets, and philosophers. I am told that in universities the afternoon walk is no longer part of intellectual life. But for a quantity of people walking is still one of the chief escapes from the pressures of the material world, and the countryside where Wordsworth walked, in solitude, is now almost as crowded with pilgrims as Lourdes or Benares.
Related posts:


How to Recognize the Gods

Heliodorus, Aethiopica 3.13 (Calasiris speaking; tr. Moses Hadas):
When gods and divinities visit us and depart from us, Cnemon, they seldom take the form of other creatures but frequently that of humans; this similitude has greater effect on our imaginations. Even if they are not noticed by the profane, they cannot be concealed from the sage. They can be recognized by their eyes, for their gaze is fixed and they never shut their lids, and even better by their gait, for they do not move by alternate steps but by an aerial gliding motion, cutting the air rather than walking through it. That is why the Egyptians join the feet of the gods in their statues and unite them into a single whole. Homer, being an Egyptian and instructed in their sacred lore, knew this and represented it symbolically in his verses, leaving it to those capable of doing so to understand it. Of Athena he says 'Fierce glared her eyes,' of Poseidon, 'Gliding in his gait,' not, as some wrongly hold, 'I easily knew him.'

θεοὶ καὶ δαίμονες, εἶπεν, ὦ Κνήμων, ἐπιφοιτῶντές τε εἰς ἡμᾶς καὶ φοιτῶντες εἰς ἄλλο μὲν ζῶον ἐπ' ἐλάχιστον, εἰς ἀνθρώπους δὲ ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ἑαυτοὺς εἰδοποιοῦσι, τῷ ὁμοίῳ πλέον ἡμᾶς εἰς τὴν φαντασίαν ὑπαγόμενοι. τοὺς μὲν δὴ βεβήλους κἂν διαλάθοιεν, τὴν δὲ σοφοῦ γνῶσιν οὐκ ἂν διαφύγοιεν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τε ὀφθαλμοῖς ἂν γνωσθεῖεν ἀτενὲς δι' ὅλου βλέποντες καὶ τὸ βλέφαρον οὔ ποτε ἐπιμύοντες, καὶ τῷ βαδίσματι πλέον, οὐ κατὰ διάστασιν τοῖν ποδοῖν οὐδὲ μετάθεσιν ἀνυομένῳ, ἀλλὰ κατά τινα ῥύμην ἀέριον καὶ ὁρμὴν ἀπαραπόδιστον τεμνόντων μᾶλλον τὸ περιέχον ἢ διαπορευομένων. διὸ δὴ καὶ τὰ ἀγάλματα τῶν θεῶν Αἰγύπτιοι τὼ πόδε ζευγνύντες καὶ ὥσπερ ἐνοῦντες ἱστᾶσιν. ἃ δὴ καὶ Ὅμηρος εἰδώς, ἅτε Αἰγύπτιος καὶ τἠν ἱερὰν παίδευσιν ἐκδιδαχθείς, συμβολικῶς τοῖς ἔπεσιν ἐναπέθετο, τοῖς δυναμένοις συνιέναι γνωρίζειν καταλιπών, ἐπὶ μὲν τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς "δεινὼ δἐ οἱ ὄσσε φάανθεν" εἰπών, ἐπὶ δὲ τοῦ Ποσειδῶνος τὸ "ἴχνια γὰρ μετόπισθε ποδῶν ἠδὲ κνημάων ῥεἴ' ἔγνων ἀπιόντος," οἶον ῥέοντος ἐν τῇ πορείᾳ. τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι τὸ "ῥεῖ' ἀπιόντος," καὶ οὐχ ὥς τινες ἠπάτηνται, "ῥᾳδίως ἔγνων" ὑπολαμβάνοντες.
Mahābhārata 3.54, tr. J.A.B. van Buitenen, The Mahābhārata. Book 2: The Book of the Assembly Hall. Book 3: The Book of the Forest (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975; rpt. 1981), p. 328:
O Bhārata, the Gods at her summons displayed their ability to wear the marks of divinity. She saw all the Gods without sweat, with unblinking eyes, with spruce garlands, without dust, and standing without touching the ground.
See M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 133.

Related posts:

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Marcantonio Flaminio's Hymn to Pan

Marcantonio Flaminio (1498-1550) hasn't yet appeared in I Tatti Renaissance Library. Some of his poems are translated (completely or partly) by Carol Maddison in her book Marcantonio Flaminio: Poet, Humanist and Reformer (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965). One of the poems partly translated, partly summarized, is a hymn to Pan (pp. 59-65). Maddison has translated lines 6-20, 31-55, 61-65, 76-90, and 111-125 of this hymn. I have translated the remaining lines (1-5, 21-30, 56-60, 66-75, and 91-110) below and combined them with Maddison's translation.
Enough already have I sung of the savage
Battles of kings: come now,
Pierian mother, what god
Will I fittingly sing about,
As I sweetly strum the Aeolian lyre?        5

You, guardian of the woolly
Flock and of the burgeoning woods,
Who love the black back
Of Maenalus and the topmost temples
Of chill Lycaeus?        10

Nymphs, sing of the half-animal son
Of Jove, sing of goat-footed
Pan, the leader of the nimble
Choral dances with the Dryads
In the lofty woods.        15

Hear how the god shatters the loved silence
With his song that wanders in the night.
See, 'Io', he comes,
Shaking the crown of pines
On his wild head.        20

Hasten hither, undefiled
Maidens and pure youths,
But you whose minds are disturbed by
Vicious crimes, stay far
Away from here, you impious ones.        25

May complaints also stay away,
And sorrow mixed with tears:
Here the day should be spent in
Joyful dances, here light song should be
Poured forth with ringing voice.        30

O Pan, father of the Naiads,
With a pack of dogs at your side
You drive the wild lynxes
Through the pathless mountains
And the secret valleys.        35

The father of gods and men
Made you the lord of the woods
From the place where the rosy day rises
To where it sets, drowned in the sea's
Red waves.        40

You give the herds the flowing fountains
They need and the grass they delight in,
You are called the mighty protector
Of sheep, you load their soft fleeces
With glistening wool.        45

The lambs that you once have looked upon,
Holy one, with your pious gaze,
Will not be carried off from the stable
By the enemy wolf nor harmed
By outbreaks of disease.        50

Blessed are the leaves of the groves
Which have heard you singing your songs
On your sweet flute when dewy
Evening brought forth
The sliding stars.        55

Then the all-seeing stars of
Undefiled night shine more clearly;
Then Zephyrus' breezes are silent;
Then the earth decorates the fertile
Meadows with yellow flowers. 60

Not so sweetly sings the swan,
Dying in the water meadow,
Or the nightingale, when spring
Is in flower, lamenting in the deep
Shadows of the wood.        65

Then the wood nymphs, the goddesses,
In the place where rocky shade lies
Along clear fountains,
Dance in rhythm, and with light
Foot strike the ground three times.        70

But you, Pan, lead the dance,
You repeat the songs: everything
Resounds with joyful clapping,
And Echo, dweller in the groves,
Makes a noise in the deep valleys.        75

Soon the wearied bands of Dryads
Sit by the grassy bank
Of the river, where the swaying
Marjoram breathes abroad
Its sweet perfume.        80

And, while they gather apples red
And sweet, or wash their golden
Hair in the cool stream,
They sing at the same time, in
Their clear voices,        85

How Maia's brilliant son
Left the glittering stars
And the high halls of heaven
To pasture the snowy sheep
By the wandering streams,        90

Where the Cyllenian rock
Copiously waters the shade-bringing peak
With dark springs
And always supplies pleasing
Grass to the roaming flock.        95

Here the god, reclining on the
Soft bosom of golden-haired Dryope,
Prefers the leaf-bearing grove
To heaven, overcome (alas) by
Love's too violent wound.        100

But Dryope, happy after her
Nine-month-long sickness,
Brought forth from her womb a hoped-for
Burden. Scarcely had the boy breathed
The divine air of heaven        105

When the Dryads took flight, and his frightened
Mother took flight, for up to the waist
The baby was a foul-smelling goat,
And two horns stood out
On his red forehead.        110

Then his father carried him hidden
In a white fleece and came
To the threshold of mighty Jove.
Straightaway the ruler of boundless
Olympus laughed.        115

The gods above laughed, but Venus
Held the boy to her bosom and fed
Her gaze on the lovable monstrosity
And bestowed her treasured kisses
On his swollen brow.        120

Hail, ruler of the Naiads,
Hail, and drive away weeping
Disease and wretched famine
To the most distant homes of the Arabs
And the fierce Turks.        125
The Latin, from Hieronymi Fracastorii, et Marci Antonii Flaminii Carmina (Venice: Remondi, 1759), pp. 120-122 (line numbers added):
Jam satis cecini fera
Regum praelia: nunc age,
Mater Pieri, quem Deum,
Quem dulci Aeoliae fidis
Plectro rite canemus?        5

An te, lanigeri gregis
Silvarumque virentium
Custos, cui nigra Moenali
Terga, cui gelidi placent
Summa templa Lycaei?        10

Nymphae, semiferam Jovis
Prolem dicite, dicite
Pana capripedem, leves
Suetum cum Dryadis choros
Silvis ducere in altis.        15

En ut grata silentia
Cantu noctivago Deus
Rumpit; cernite, io, venit,
En venit capitis feri
Serta pinea quassans.        20

Huc concurrite, virgines
Intactae, & pueri integri:
At quibus scelera impia
Mentem sollicitant, procul
Hinc abeste, profani.        25

Absint & querimoniae,
Et mixtus lacrimis dolor:
Hic laetis choreis dies
Ducenda, hic leve tinnula
Carmen voce sonandum.        30

O Pan Najadum pater,
Qui per devia montium
Valliumque reconditarum
Agrestes agitas, canum
Cinctus agmine, lyncas:        35

Te divum, atque hominum sator
Silvarum dominum dedit
Esse, qua roseus dies
Surgit, quaque cadens rubris
Ponti mergitur undis.        40

Tu fontes liquidos gregi, &
Laeta pabula sufficis:
Tu custos ovium potens
Dictus, mollia candidis
Exples vellera lanis.        45

Quos tu, sancte, pio semel
Agnos lumine videris,
Illos nec stabulis lupus
Infestus rapiet, mala
Nec contagia laedent.        50

Felices nemorum comae,
Quae te, cum vaga roscidus
Vesper sidera protulit,
Dulci carmina fistula
Audivere canentem.        55

Tunc purae melius nitent
Noctis conscia sidera:
Tunc aurae Zephyri tacent:
Tunc laetas croceis humus
Spargit floribus herbas.        60

Non tam dulce sonat cadens
Udo in gramine cycnus, aut
Veris tempore floridi
Ales sub silvae querens
Densis Daulias umbris.        65

Ergo Hamadryades deae,
Limpidis ubi procubat
Umbra saxea fontibus,
Ludunt in numerum, & levi
Campos ter pede pulsant.        70

Tu vero choream regens,
Cantus ingeminas: sonant
Laetis omnia plausibus,
Et cultrix nemorum gemit
Imis vallibus Echo.        75

Mox fessa Dryadum agmina
Propter gramineam sedent
Ripam fluminis, hic ubi
Dulcem mollis amaracus
Late spirat odorem.        80

Et dum suave rubentia
Carpunt mala, vel aureos
Crines frigidulis aquis
Immergunt, liquida simul
Voce carmina dicunt.        85

Ut fulgentia sidera
Et magnas superum domos
Linquens, ad vaga flumina
Paverit niveas oves
Majae clara propago,        90

Qua Cyllenia verticem
Rupes umbriferum nigris
Late fontibus irrigat,
Et gratas pecori vago
Semper sufficit herbas.        95

Hic flavae Dryopes sinu
In molli recubans Deus
Caelo frondiferum nemus
Praefert, heu nimium gravi
Victus vulnere amoris.        100

At felix Dryope, novem
Post fastidia mensium,
Optatum ex utero dedit
Pondus. Vix puer hauserat
Dias aetheris oras,        105

Fugerunt Dryades, parens
Fugit territa, nam inguinum
Tenus hircus olens erat
Infans, binaque flammea
Stabant cornua fronte.        110

Tunc illum genitor ferens
Albis pellibus abditum,
Ad magni solium Jovis
Venit: nec mora, risit im-
mensi rector Olympi:        115

Riserunt superi: at Venus
In sinu puerum tenens,
Visus pascit amabili
Monstro, grataque turgidae
Libat oscula fronti.        120

Salve o Naiadum potens,
Salve, & hinc lacrimabiles
Morbos, et miseram famem in
Extremas Arabum domos,
Et feros age Turcas.        125

Thanks to Karl Maurer for the following observations:
I seem to see two slight errors in the Latin (15, 31), and a few in Maddison's English (none in yours):
15 'cum Dryadis' can hardly be right. Perhaps Flaminio wrote 'Dryasin' (used twice in Propertius). By itself 'Dryadis' could mean 'of Dryas' (Martial 9.61.14) but 'cum' is plainly the preposition, so we need an ablative.
14-15 'suetum ... ducere' means not 'the leader of' but e.g. 'who likes to lead'.
31 'Najadum' is unmetrical; it should be 'Naïadum'...
32 'at your side' wrecks the image; it should be 'all around you' (I myself would rather do it literally and say 'surrounded by your pack of dogs').
78 'hic' ( = hîc) should not be just ignored, for it tells us that the poet himself is there.
79 'mollis' — why 'swaying'?! It means perhaps 'delicate'; I’d translate it predicatively and say e.g. 'where marjoram delicately emits far and wide its sweet scent'.
113 'solium' not 'threshold' but 'throne'.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


The Modern World

Gustave Flaubert, letter to Mlle. Leroyer de Chantepie (March 18, 1857; tr. Francis Steegmuller):
I feel the need of leaving the modern world: my pen has been dipped in it too long, and I am as weary of portraying it as I am disgusted by the sight of it.

J'éprouve le besoin de sortir du monde moderne, où ma plume s'est trop trempée et qui d'ailleurs me fatigue autant à reproduire qu'il me dégoûte à voir.


The Whole Lot

Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), Civilisation (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 320:
Balzac, with his prodigious understanding of human motives, scorns conventional values, defies fashionable opinion, as Beethoven did, and should inspire us to defy all those forces that threaten to impair our humanity: lies, tanks, tear gas, ideologies, opinion polls, mechanisation, planners, computers — the whole lot.



Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), Civilisation (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), pp. 346-347:
At this point I reveal myself in my true colours, as a stick-in-the-mud. I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must still try to learn from history. History is ourselves. I also hold one or two beliefs that are more difficult to put shortly. For example, I believe in courtesy, the ritual by which we avoid hurting other people's feelings by satisfying our own egos. And I think we should remember that we are part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature. All living things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, I believe in the God-given genius of certain individuals, and I value a society that makes their existence possible.
Related post: Mencken's Creed.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Bread and Wine

Euripides, Bacchae 274-283 (Tiresias speaking to Pentheus; tr. Moses Hadas and John McLean):
Mankind, young man, has two chief blessings: goddess Demeter—the earth, that is; call her whichever name you will—who sustains men with solid food, and this son of Semele, who came later and matched her gift. He invented the liquid draught of the grape and introduced it to mortals. When they get their fill of the flowing grape, it stops their grief. It gives them sleep and forgetfulness of daily sorrows. There is no other medicine for trouble.

                                          δύο γάρ, ὦ νεανία,
τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ἐν ἀνθρώποισι· Δημήτηρ θεά—        275
Γῆ δ᾽ ἐστίν, ὄνομα δ᾽ ὁπότερον βούλῃ κάλει·
αὕτη μὲν ἐν ξηροῖσιν ἐκτρέφει βροτούς·
ὃς δ᾽ ἦλθ᾽ ἔπειτ᾽, ἀντίπαλον ὁ Σεμέλης γόνος
βότρυος ὑγρὸν πῶμ᾽ ηὗρε κἀσηνέγκατο
θνητοῖς, ὃ παύει τοὺς ταλαιπώρους βροτοὺς        280
λύπης, ὅταν πλησθῶσιν ἀμπέλου ῥοῆς,
ὕπνον τε λήθην τῶν καθ᾽ ἡμέραν κακῶν
δίδωσιν, οὐδ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἄλλο φάρμακον πόνων.

278 ἔπειτ᾽, ἀντίπαλον Housman: ἐπὶ τἀντίπαλον LP

Thursday, September 11, 2014


A Plausible End

Richard Fortey, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind (New York: Vintage Books, 2012), pp. 299-300:
For some reason I am reminded of another animal that is too numerous, that seems to guzzle everything immoderately and may finish up turning on his fellows. D.H. Lawrence nailed him thus (although inspired by rabbits rather than roaches):
There are too many people on earth
insipid, unsalted, rabbity, endlessly hopping.
They nibble the face of the earth to a desert.

Our "endlessly hopping" species is squeezing everything. The extinction event that is happening right now is the first one in history that is the responsibility of a single species. There's no meteorite this time, no exceptional volcanic eruptions, no "Snowball Earth," just us, prospering at the expense of other species. We have not nibbled the face of the Earth to a desert yet, but if our human numbers go on growing it looks like a plausible end.
Related post: Homo sapiens.


Euripides, Bacchae 188-189, and John Milton

Euripides, Bacchae 188-189 (tr. F.A. Paley in his omnibus commentary on Euripides, Vol. II, p. 409):
We gladly forget that we are old.
The Greek, with slightly truncated apparatus, from John Edwin Sandys, ed., The Bacchae of Euripides, with Critical and Explanatory Notes, and with Numerous Illustrations from Works of Ancient Art (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1880), p. 12:
                        ἐπιλελήσμεθ' ἡδέως
γέροντες ὄντες.

188. ἡδέων PC: ἡδέως (1) Miltonus, (2) Barnesius, (3) Brunckius: Miltoni nostri coniecturam omnes editores in textum receperunt.
Miltonus noster is of course the English poet John Milton. Sandys comments (id., pp. 124-125):
The manuscript reading is ἡδέων, and the sense thus given, 'we in our old age have forgotten our pleasures,' 'are not alive to the pleasures still open to us,' does not tally with the reply of Teiresias, 'Then you feel as I do, I too feel young again and shall essay the dance.' Hence all editors now accept the emendation ἡδέως, due in the first instance to Milton. The same easy alteration afterwards occurred, possibly independently, to Barnes (ed. Cambridge, 1694) and to Brunck (ed. Strasburg, 1780). The former says 'mendam hic nemo ante est suspicatus'; the latter 'mirum est id non adsecutos fuisse viros doctissimos...nostra emendatione nihil certius.' But Dobree is perhaps not entirely justified in his severe epigram: 'palmariam emendationem ἡδέως Miltono surripuit Barnesius, Barnesio Brunckius' (Kidd's Miscellaneous tracts p. 224). Milton's emendations were known to Dr Joddrell whose 'illustrations of the Ion and Bacchae' appeared in 1781 (II p. 335n and 572) and all of them were printed in the Museum Criticum in 1814. They were written in the margin of his copy of the edition of Euripides printed by Paul Stephens at Geneva in 1602, 2 vols. 4to. now in the possession of William Wyman Vaughan, Esq., of Upton Castle, Pembroke. Milton bought it in 1634, the very year in which he wrote the Comus, which was acted at Michaelmas of that year, and shews in several points special familiarity with this and other plays of Euripides (cf. esp. Comus 297—301 with Iph. T. 264—274, and notes on 235 and 317 infra).
On Milton's copy of Euripides (now in the Bodleian Library, pressmarks Don. d. 27 and 28) see:
I don't know if anyone else has ever noticed an interesting feature of this emendation, namely that Milton hereby restored an idiomatic Greek grammatical construction, the nominative participle with a verb of perception (or, as here, lack of perception). On this construction see Raphael Kühner and Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, 3. Aufl., Teil 2, Bd. 2 (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1890), p. 70 (§ 484, A. 1, No. 11), and Guy L. Cooper, III (after K.W. Krüger), Attic Greek Prose Syntax, Vol. I (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), pp. 825-826 (§ 56.7.5). Pindar, Olympian Odes 10.3, has the same construction with the same main verb: ὀφείλων ἐπιλέλαθα = I forgot that I owed.

Milton famously attempted to introduce this typically Greek construction into English, at Paradise Lost 9.791-794:
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating Death: Satiate at length,
And hight'nd as with Wine, jocond and boon,
Thus to her self she pleasingly began.
At line 792 "knew not eating Death" means "knew not that she ate Death" (of Eve eating the apple).

Related posts:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


A Page is Enough

André Gide, Journals (January 5, 1922; tr. Justin O'Brien):
My good days of work are those I begin by reading an ancient author, one of those that are called "classics." A page is enough; a half-page, if only I read it in the proper state of mind. It is not so much a lesson one must seek in them as the tone, and that sort of being out of one's element which sets the present effort in proper proportion, without divesting the moment of any of its urgency. And this is the way I like to end my day too.

Mes bonnes journées de travail sont celles que je commence par la lecture d'un ancien auteur, de ceux que l’on appelle «classiques». Une page y suffit; une demi-page, si seulement je la lis dans la disposition d'esprit qui convient. Ce n’est point tant un enseignement qu'il y faut chercher, que le ton, et cette sorte de dépaysement qui proportionne l'effort présent, sans rien ôter à l'instant de son urgence. Et c'est ainsi que j'aime achever également ma journée.
Cf. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Notas, 210 (tr. Michael Hendry):
The reading of Homer every morning, with the serenity, the tranquillity, the deep sensation of moral and physical well-being which it instills in us, is the best provision to endure the vulgarities of the day.

La lectura matutina de Homero, con la serenidad, el sosiego, la honda sensación de bienestar moral y físico, de salud perfecta, que nos infunde, es el mejor viático para soportar las vulgaridades del díia.


Like Grass After Hail

André Gide, Journals (February 9, 1907; on Paul Valéry; tr. Justin O'Brien):
He also says: "Who is concerned today with the Greeks? I am convinced that what we still call 'dead languages' today will fall into putrefaction. It is already impossible to understand the emotions of Homer's heroes. Etc.... etc...."

After such remarks my thoughts take longer to rise up again than grass does after hail.
In French:
Il dit aussi: «Qu'est-ce qui s'occupe aujourd'hui des Grecs? Je suis convaincu que ce que nous appelons encore aujourd'hui «langues mortes» va tomber en putréfaction. Il est impossible désormais de comprendre les sentiments des héros d'Homère. Etc...., etc....»

Mes pensées, après des propos de ce genre, mettent à se redresser plus longtemps que les herbes après la grêle.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


A Doorkeeper in the House of Philology

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924), Hellas and Hesperia (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1909), pp. 44-45:
It is true that the scholar of to-day, like the scientific man of to-day, must be a specialist. A great teacher, one to whose living presence I owe a great deal, one whom I love to recall in his flashing prime, has said: Enthusiasm abides only in specialization. Rightly interpreted, I believe in this also. A man who simply raves about the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome is one for whom the real lover of antiquity has little respect. A man who exhausts his English vocabulary in extolling a Greek orator and mistranslates the passages that he selects for especial comment is worse than the infidel who does not believe in Greek. It is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of philology than to dwell in the tents of the rhetorician.
Related post: Specialists versus Generalists.


Tetas de Pinedo

George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984), Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal (1934; rpt. New York: Time Incorporated, 1965), p. 260 (brackets in original):
Our first stop was at the Tetas de Pinedo. [Preparing a lecture once in Buenos Aires a refined friend urged me to call them the "Mamelones," that being a more elegant word, but tetas they are to the local people, tetas they are on the official maps, and so tetas they shall be in my work.] These are two large rounded hills, standing near each other and rising above the coastal plain with an appearance, as the name implies, extraordinarily like two gargantuan breasts.
Related posts:


Rich and Poor

Herodes, Cercidas, and the Greek Choliambic Poets (Except Callimachus and Babrius) (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1929), p. 233 ("Cercidea," lines 22-26, tr. A.D. Knox):
Embrace yourself heartily when you have anything: then the world is full of friends for you: but if you are poor even your mother will hate you. For if you are rich even the gods will love you: if you have nothing, not even your relatives will love you.
The Greek (id., p. 232):
                        πολλὰ σαυτὸν ἀσπάζου 22
ἐπὴν ἔχῃς τι· πάντα σοι φίλων πλήρη· 23
πένητα δ' ὄντα χἠ τεκοῦσα μισήσει· 25
πλουτοῦντα γάρ σε χοἰ θεοὶ φιλήσουσι, 24
ἐὰν <δὲ> μὴ ἔχῃς μηδέν, οὐδὲ κηδεσταί. 26

Monday, September 08, 2014


Not Epictetus, But Epicurus

Gustave Flaubert, letter to George Sand (October 28-29, 1872), tr. Francis Steegmuller, The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1857-1880 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 199-200:
Every time I've undertaken to lead an active life I've been burned. So — enough is enough! "Conceal your life," says Epictetus. My entire ambition now is to avoid trouble. And by doing so I'm certain to avoid causing any to others, which is saying much.
The French:
Toutes les fois que je me suis livré à l'action, il m'en a cuit. Donc, assez! assez! «Cache ta vie», maxime d'Epictète. Toute mon ambition maintenant est de fuir les embêtements, et je suis certain par là de n'en pas causer aux autres, ce qui est beaucoup.
Steegmuller has no note on the reference to Epictetus. The quotation is actually from Epicurus, fragment 551 Usener: λάθε βιώσας, on which see Geert Roskam, Live Unnoticed (Λάθε βιώσας): On the Vicissitudes of an Epicurean Doctrine (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

Related post: Flaubert and the Study of Greek.

Sunday, September 07, 2014


An Indecency Among Intellectuals

Maxime DuCamp (1822-1894), Souvenirs littéraires, Vol. I (Paris: Hachette, 1892), p. 291, tr. Francis Steegmuller, The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1857-1880 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 153:
One day Flaubert arrived at my house furious and vociferous. He told me he had just walked out of one of those dinners with his friends because they had been talking politics—an indecency among intellectuals.
The French:
Un lundi soir, Flaubert arriva chez moi, furieux et rugissant. Il me raconta qu'il venait de quitter le diner où ses amis étaient rassemblés, parce que l'on y parlait politique et que c'était indécent pour des gens d'esprit.


Better to Learn Late

Erasmus, letter 149 (to Antony of Bergen; March 16?, 1501; tr. Francis Morgan Nichols):
For I have by a lucky chance got some Greek works, which I am stealthily transcribing night and day. It may be asked why I am so pleased with the example of Cato the Censor, as to be learning Greek at my age. I answer, Reverend Father, that if I had had this mind when a boy, or rather if the times had been more favourable to me, I should have been the happiest man in the world. As it is, I am determined that it is better to learn late than to be without the knowledge which it is of the utmost importance to possess. We had a taste of this learning a long time ago, but it was only with the tip of the tongue, as they say; and having lately dipped deeper into it, we see, what we have often read in the most weighty authors, that Latin erudition, however ample, is crippled and imperfect without Greek. We have in Latin at best some small streams and turbid pools, while they have the clearest springs and rivers flowing with gold.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1992), p. 352:
Nam Graeca quaedam forte fortuna sum nactus, in quibus furtim transcribendis et pernox sum et perdius. Roget quis, quid ita me Catonis censorii delectet exemplum vt hoc aetatis libeat Graecari. Si quidem puero mihi, pater optime, aut haec mens fuisset, aut non defuissent potius mihi témpora, longe felicissimus essem. Nunc ita statuo, satius esse vel serius discere quam nescire quae cum primis oportet tenere. Delibauimus et olim has literas, sed summis duntaxat (vti aiunt) labiis; at nuper paulo altius ingressi, videmus id quod saepenumero apud grauissimos autores legimus, Latinam eruditionem, quamuis impendiosam, citra Graecismum mancam esse ac dimidiatam. Apud nos enim riuuli vix quidam sunt et lacunulae lutulentae; apud illos fontes purissimi et flumina aurum voluentia.



Translating Demosthenes

Benjamin Jowett, letter to Evelyn Abbott (July 24, 1881), in Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1897), p. 204:
It is certainly true that we cannot expect to translate fairly one of the world's masterpieces without writing the translation five or six times over. A translation of Demosthenes must be the work of many years, perhaps of ten years. Every sentence has to be studied by itself and in connexion with other sentences.

The first point is clearness; then (2) idiom (which means the use of familiar language); then (3) the avoidance of tautology (the Greek, even Demosthenes, has far more tautology than English); then (4) accuracy, which is clearness in small things, especially in relatives and antecedents, and in giving the right relation to clauses. There are two characteristics of Demosthenes, dignity and rapidity, and it is very hard to combine them.

The slight personification of the Greeks arising out of the genders always strikes me as one of the greatest difficulties in translation. You cannot attribute any living or lifelike action to 'it' or 'its,' and hence a great deal of transposition becomes necessary. Weak constructions must be avoided, e.g. the infinitive after the substantive, unless it has passed into an idiom, which is sufficient to sanction almost any construction. The participle for the substantive should very rarely be used. The sensitiveness of the English language to tautology is really exquisite; it excludes 'to' 'to,' in the same sentence, or the demonstrative 'this' 'this,' which is common enough in Greek.

The true test of translation is not a good phrase as a boy at school supposes, or a good sentence as some Cambridge men imagine (if the particles are duly represented), but an equable and harmonious paragraph, or rather a harmonious whole. English is much simpler than Greek, and therefore the English translation has to be simplified, and complex relations often omitted. Greek is latitudinal (μέν, δέ, &c.) and longitudinal (γάρ, οὖν, &c.). But English is neither. There is much less subordination and much more co-ordination.

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Is Learning of Any Use?

Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1897), pp. 132-133:
Yet there was nothing of which he spoke with so much bitterness as useless learning. 'How I hate learning!' he exclaimed. 'How sad it is to see a man who is learned and nothing else, incapable of making any use of his knowledge!' 'Is learning of any use?' he asks himself in one of his note-books; and the answer is: 'Men are often or always unable to use it. It keeps men quiet, it clogs their efforts, it is creditable, it gratifies curiosity, but, for progress or mental improvement, learning without thought or imagination is worse than useless.' To him knowledge was a means and not an end. He read at odd moments, 'picking the brains' of a book just as he picked the brains of any one who had special knowledge of a subject. He was sensible too of the burden which the accumulated knowledge of the past imposes on the present, and would point out how scholars, in their dread of ignorance, become so weighted with learning that they lose their elasticity and freedom of thought, their sense of the proportion and value of facts.


Jowett on Euripides

Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1897), p. 68:
Jowett remained at Munich for the greater part of July [1875], occupying his leisure hours in reading Euripides. When he returned to Oxford at the end of the month, he was overflowing with Euripides and his faults; for that he had any merits he would never allow. 'I have been reading Euripides again,' he said,'and I think even less of him than I did: he is immoral when he is irreligious, and when he is religious he is more immoral still.' Pages of his note-books are filled with depreciative criticisms of the poet. 'Monotonous, insipid, feeble, immoral; endless commonplace—sophisticated and affected in expression, as well as in thought—undignified and exaggerated—Homer and other tragedians mixed with puerilities.'


What to Read

Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, Vol. I (London: John Murray, 1897), p. 264:
His method was to read the great writers over and over again; 'One gets to know them in this way far better than in reading about them. I have read Sophocles hundreds of times.'
Hugh E.P. Platt, Byways in the Classics (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1905), p. 146:
So I will end this little book, ut vineta egomet caedam mea, with a piece of advice which the first Lord Selborne gave to the late H.M. Wilkins, and Wilkins passed on to me,—we were all Scholars of Trinity, Oxford. It is this: READ THE CLASSICS RATHER THAN BOOKS ABOUT THE CLASSICS.

Friday, September 05, 2014


Your Brain's a Morass

Lysippus, fragment 7, tr. Lionel Casson (1914-2009) in Travel in the Ancient World (1974; rpt. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), p. 85:
If you've never seen Athens, your brain's a morass;
if you've seen it and weren't entranced, you're an ass;
if you left without regrets, your head's solid brass!
The Greek:
εἰ μὴ τεθέασαι τὰς Ἀθήνας, στέλεχος εἶ·
εἰ δὲ τεθέασαι μὴ τεθήρευσαι δ', ὄνος·
εἰ δ' εὐαρεστῶν ἀποτρέχεις, κανθήλιος.
I'm in the first category.


The Holy Land

Martin P. Nilsson (1874-1967), Greek Piety, tr. H.J. Rose (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), p. 9:
We make a spot holy by putting a sanctuary there; but in antiquity, the holiness belonged to the place itself, and a sanctuary was erected there because the spot was holy. Zeus was surnamed after the mountains about whose summits he gathered his clouds, Artemis and other deities often after well-known sanctuaries. In addition, there were the countless swarms of godlings and semi-divine beings who often were worshipped only in a single spot. The Nymphs, who were much worshipped, particularly by women, had their cults in caves and beside springs. River-gods, whose popularity is made plain by the river-names which form part of personal names, as Kephisodotos, 'gift of the river Kephisos', had their places of worship at the river whose name the god bore. Purely topographical also was the penetration of human life by religion in ancient times, to a degree which we can hardly picture aright to ourselves. True, in modern Greece the little chapels in which, at most, Mass is said once a year are amazingly numerous; in some places every family has its chapel. But in ancient Greece the holy places were more numerous still. What Strabo says of the country at the mouth of the river Alpheios is true to some extent of all Greece.
All the region is full of shrines of Artemis, Aphrodite and the Nymphs, in groves full of flowers ... there are also many shrines of Hermes on the roads and of Poseidon on the sea-shore.
It was hardly possible to take a step outdoors without stumbling on a holy spot, a chapel, a sacred precinct, or at least a herm (pillar with a head of Hermes atop). An ancient writer said with but slight exaggeration that gods were more numerous than human beings.
Strabo 8.3.12 (tr. H.L. Jones):
The whole country is full of temples of Artemis, Aphroditê, and the Nymphs, being situated in sacred precincts that are generally full of flowers because of the abundance of water. And there are also numerous shrines of Hermes on the road-sides, and temples of Poseidon on the capes.

μεστὴ δ᾽ ἐστὶν ἡ γῆ πᾶσα ἀρτεμισίων τε καὶ ἀφροδισίων καὶ νυμφαίων ἐν ἄλσεσιν ἀνθέων πλέῳς τὸ πολὺ διὰ τὴν εὐυδρίαν, συχνὰ δὲ καὶ ἑρμεῖα ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς, ποσείδια δ᾽ ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀκταῖς.

Thursday, September 04, 2014


The Myth of Arcadia

Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), Civilisation (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), pp. 113-114 (with illustration in color, instead of in black and white):
Then, in the first years of the sixteenth century, the Venetian painter Giorgione transformed this happy contact with nature into something more openly sensual. The ladies who, in the Gothic gardens, had been protected by voluminous draperies, are now naked; and, as a result, his Fête Champêtre [77] opens a new chapter in European art. Giorgione was, indeed, one of the inspired, unpredictable innovators who disturb the course of history; and in this picture he has illustrated one of the comforting illusions of civilised man, the myth of Arcadia which had been popularised some twenty years earlier by the poet Sannazaro. Of course, it's only a myth. Country life isn't at all like this, and even on a picnic ants attack the sandwiches and wasps buzz round the wine-glasses. But the pastoral fallacy had inspired Theocritus and Virgil, and had not been unknown in the Middle Ages. Giorgione has seen how fundamentally pagan it is. The pleasant contrast of sun and shade, the flapping leaves, the sound of water trickling from a well, mixed with the sound of a lute, all these are sensual pleasures, and require for their fulfilment the forms and rhythms of antique sculpture. This arcadia is as much a tribute to antiquity as were the republican virtues of the Florentine humanists, and as much a part of the rediscovery of man: but in his sensual rather than his intellectual nature.

77 Giorgione, Fête Champêtre


The Passion for Naming Things

George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984), Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal (1934; rpt. New York: Time Incorporated, 1965), pp. 155-156:
The passion for naming things is an odd human trait. It is strange that men always feel so much more at ease when they have put appellations on the things around them and that a wild, new region almost seems familiar and subdued once enough names have been used on it, even though in fact it is not changed in the slightest. Or, on second thought, it is perhaps not really strange. The urge to name must be as old as the human race, as old as speech which is one of the really fundamental characteristics by which we rise above the brutes, and thus a basic and essential part of the human spirit or soul. The naming fallacy is common enough even in science. Many a scientist claims to have explained some phenomenon, when in truth all he has done is to give it a name.
Related posts:


A Prayer for Deliverance from Plague

Carol Maddison, Marcantonio Flaminio: Poet, Humanist and Reformer (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), pp. 38-39:
As soon as Flaminio had recovered from his illness he and Sauli went to Rome, in January, 1522,3 to be there for the coronation of the new pope. The plague was raging, the Tiber in flood, the cardinals had fled, paganism had come to life—an ox was crowned with flowers and sacrificed in the Colosseum—and Rome was full of warring factions.4 Flaminio describes these conditions in a poem to Apollo found in a manuscript which had belonged to his nephew, Gabriele Flaminio, and which was published by the eighteenth-century editor of the joint edition of Flaminio's and Fracastoro's poems.5 The poem can be dated from the reference to the siege of Rhodes. It is illustrative of the spirit of the times that Flaminio addresses his prayer, 'That he free us from the plague' to Apollo, the author of the famous epidemic among the Greek forces at Troy, rather than to the Archangel Michael whose statue stands on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo, sheathing his sword, in commemoration of the vision of St. Gregory the Great during the Roman plague of A.D. 590.

3 Longolio, fol. 274r-276r.
4 Cantù, I, p. 512.
5G. Fracastoro and M.A. Flaminio, Carmina (Verona, 1747), p. 180.
Hunc tibi, Phoebe pater, lunata fronte juvencum,
    Tibris qua undoso largius amne fluit,
Alcimedon jactata alte post terga securi
    Mactat, et in sacros porrigit exta focos.
Tu si saevitum est satis, et si caedis abunde,
    Poenarum exsolvit si tibi Roma satis,
Illuviem hanc expelle, inimicaque tela retunde,
    Et melius Turcas mitte perire feros,
Qui cinxisse Rhodon perstant nunc fortibus armis
    Dilectam, et cives perdere classe tuos.
I corrected undose in the second line to undoso, and Ey in the eighth line to Et.

This poem interests me because it is a good example of epipompē. Flaminio prays that the plague not simply disappear, but that it be sent away to a specific place, against a specific target. So far as I know, the poem hasn't been translated, so here is my rough version:
For you, Father Phoebus, here where the Tiber flows more copiously with billowy stream, Alcimedon sacrifices this horned bullock, with axe buried deep from behind, and he spreads the entrails on the holy fires. If your rage has been sufficiently vented, if there has been enough slaughter, if Rome has adequately paid penalties to you, drive out this filthy plague, blunt your hostile missiles, and cause the savage Turks to perish instead, who now persist in surrounding your beloved Rhodes with powerful weapons and in destroying your citizens with their fleet.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Walter Pater's Renaissance

Here are some excerpts from Walter Pater (1839-1894), The Renaissance (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919).

Pp. 19-20 (from "Two Early French Stories"):
One of the strongest characteristics of that outbreak of the reason and the imagination, of that assertion of the liberty of the heart, in the middle age, which I have termed a medieval Renaissance, was its antinomianism, its spirit of rebellion and revolt against the moral and religious ideas of the time. In their search after the pleasures of the senses and the imagination, in their care for beauty, in their worship of the body, people were impelled beyond the bounds of the Christian ideal; and their love became sometimes a strange idolatry, a strange rival religion. It was the return of that ancient Venus, not dead, but only hidden for a time in the caves of the Venusberg, of those old pagan gods still going to and fro on the earth, under all sorts of disguises.
P. 40 (from "Pico della Mirandola"):
For the essence of humanism is that belief of which he seems never to have doubted, that nothing which has ever interested living men and women can wholly lose its vitality—no language they have spoken, nor oracle beside which they have hushed their voices, no dream which has once been entertained by actual human minds, nothing about which they have ever been passionate, or expended time and zeal.
Pp. 166-167 (from "Winckelmann"):
Religions, as they grow by natural laws out of man's life, are modified by whatever modifies his life. They brighten under a bright sky, they become liberal as the social range widens, they grow intense and shrill in the clefts of human life, where the spirit is narrow and confined, and the stars are visible at noonday; and a fine analysis of these differences is one of the gravest functions of religious criticism. Still, the broad foundation, in mere human nature, of all religions as they exist for the greatest number, is a universal pagan sentiment, a paganism which existed before the Greek religion, and has lingered far onward into the Christian world, ineradicable, like some persistent vegetable growth, because its seed is an element of the very soil out of which it springs.

This pagan sentiment measures the sadness with which the human mind is filled, whenever its thoughts wander far from what is here, and now. It is beset by notions of irresistible natural powers, for the most part ranged against man, but the secret also of his fortune, making the earth golden and the grape fiery for him. He makes gods in his own image, gods smiling and flower-crowned, or bleeding by some sad fatality, to console him by their wounds, never closed from generation to generation. It is with a rush of home-sickness that the thought of death presents itself. He would remain at home for ever on the earth if he could. As it loses its colour and the senses fail, he clings ever closer to it; but since the mouldering of bones and flesh must go on to the end, he is careful for charms and talismans, which may chance to have some friendly power in them, when the inevitable shipwreck comes. Such sentiment is a part of the eternal basis of all religions, modified indeed by changes of time and place, but indestructible, because its root is so deep in the earth of man's nature.
P. 197 (from "Conclusion"):
To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch. What we have to do is to be for ever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy of Comte, or of Hegel, or of our own.
Pp. 198-199 (from "Conclusion"):
Well! we are all condamnés, as Victor Hugo says: we are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve—les hommes sont tous condamnés à mort avec des sursis indéfinis: we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among "the children of this world," in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion—that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake.

W.B. Yeats, The Trembling of the Veil (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1922), p. 20 (on Oscar Wilde):
That first night he praised Walter Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance: "It is my golden book; I never travel anywhere without it; but it is the very flower of decadence: the last trumpet should have sounded the moment it was written."

Tuesday, September 02, 2014



Cicero, De Oratore 2.74.299 (tr. E.W. Sutton and H. Rackham):
For instance, we are told that the famous Athenian Themistocles was endowed with wisdom and genius on a scale quite surpassing belief, and it is said that a certain learned and highly accomplished person went to him and offered to impart to him the science of mnemonics, which was then being introduced for the first time; and that when Themistocles asked what precise result that science was capable of achieving, the professor asserted that it would enable him to remember everything; and Themistocles replied that he would be doing him a greater kindness if he taught him to forget what he wanted than if he taught him to remember.

ita apud Graecos fertur incredibili quadam magnitudine consilii atque ingenii Atheniensis ille fuisse Themistocles; ad quem quidam doctus homo atque in primis eruditus accessisse dicitur eique artem memoriae, quae tum primum proferebatur, pollicitus esse se traditurum; cum ille quaesisset quidnam illa ars efficere posset, dixisse illum doctorem, ut omnia meminisset; et ei Themistoclem respondisse gratius sibi illum esse facturum, si se oblivisci quae vellet quam si meminisse docuisset.
Related post: Remembering and Forgetting.


A Lazy Lot

Vincent J. Rosivach, "Sources of Some Errors in Catullan Commentaries," Transactions of the American Philological Association 108 (1978) 203-216 (at 216, footnote omitted):
There is a rather obvious lesson to be drawn from all this Quellenforschung, that we philologists are more than occasionally an incestuous and lazy lot, too ready to rely on our predecessors' commentaries instead of checking their sources ourselves. It would be folly to ignore the work of earlier scholars, but it is equally wrong to accept that work uncritically as, particularly in the case of minor details, we too often do.
Related posts:

Monday, September 01, 2014



Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), "The Two Voices," lines 331-333:
A life of nothings, nothing-worth,
From that first nothing ere his birth
To that last nothing under earth!


Fossil Hunting

George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984), Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal (1934; rpt. New York: Time Incorporated, 1965), p. 82:
Fossil hunting is far the most fascinating of all sports. I speak for myself, although I do not see how any true sportsman could fail to agree with me if he had tried bone digging. It has some danger, enough to give it zest and probably about as much as in the average modern engineered big-game hunt, and the danger is wholly to the hunter. It has uncertainty and excitement and all the thrills of gambling with none of its vicious features. The hunter never knows what his bag may be, perhaps nothing, perhaps a creature never before seen by human eyes. Over the next hill may lie a great discovery! It requires knowledge, skill, and some degree of hardihood. And its results are so much more important, more worth while, and more enduring than those of any other sport! The fossil hunter does not kill; he resurrects. And the result of his sport is to add to the sum of human pleasure and to the treasures of human knowledge.

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