Monday, September 25, 2017


On the Debit Side

Greek Anthology 10.105 (Simonides; tr. W.R. Paton):
A certain Theodorus rejoices because I am dead. Another shall rejoice at his death. We are all owed to death.

χαίρει τις Θεόδωρος, ἐπεὶ θάνον· ἄλλος ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ
    χαιρήσει. θανάτῳ πάντες ὀφειλόμεθα.
Some put a comma after τις, not after Θεόδωρος, making Theodorus the speaker (i.e., A certain man rejoices because I, Theodorus, am dead...).

Horace, Ars Poetica 63 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
We are doomed to death—we and all things ours.

debemur morti nos nostraque.

debemus cod. Bernensis 363



Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945), Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1943), pp. 6-7:
I am forever with Falkland, true martyr of the Civil War,—one of the very greatest among the great spirits of whom England has ever been so notoriously unworthy,—as he stood facing Hampden and Pym. "Mr. Speaker," he said, "when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change."
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Essais 2.17 (tr. E.J. Trechmann):
According to my way of thinking, in public matters no course of proceeding is so bad, provided it have age and continuity to recommend it, but that it is better than change and uncertainty.

Et pourtant, selon mon humeur, és affaires publiques, il n'est aucun si mauvais train, pourveu qu'il aye de l'aage et de la constance, qui ne vaille mieux que le changement et le remuement.
Many of our laws and customs are barbarous and monstrous; yet, by reason of the difficulty of improving our condition, and the danger of the whole State toppling to pieces, if I could put a spoke into our wheel and stop it at this point, I would do it with a light heart.

De nos loix et usances, il y en a plusieurs barbares et monstrueuses: toutesfois, pour la difficulté de nous mettre en meilleur estat et le danger de ce crollement, si je pouvoy planter une cheville à nostre roue et l'arrester en ce point, je le ferois de bon coeur.
It is very easy to condemn a government for its imperfection, for all mortal things are full of it. It is very easy to generate in a people a contempt for their ancient observances; no man ever attempted it without succeeding. But many have come to grief in their attempt to establish a better state of things in place of what they have destroyed.

Il est bien aisé d'accuser d'imperfection une police, car toutes choses mortelles en sont pleines; il est bien aisé d'engendrer à un peuple le mespris de ses anciennes observances: jamais homme n'entreprint cela qui n'en vint à bout; mais d'y restablir un meilleur estat en la place de celuy qu'on a ruiné, à cecy plusieurs se sont morfondus, de ceux qui l'avoient entreprins.


How Are You? Two Replies

"Examples of Lear's Nonsense Similes," in Edward Lear (1812-1888), The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense, ed. Vivien Noakes (London: Penguin Books, 2002), pp. 461-464 (at 462):
I am in a very unsettled condition, as the oyster said when they poured melted butter all over his back.
Id. (at 463):
I feel better, as the old Lady said after she had brought forth twins.

Sunday, September 24, 2017



Peter Green, "The Humanities Today," Essays in Antiquity (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1960), pp. 1-25 (at 8):
A large number of classicists today might be classified as romantic escapists, impelled to burrow for warmth into the womb of a pre-industrial, non-atomic, unmechanized antiquity.
If I dared to call myself a classicist, I would plead guilty as charged.


More Sunday Reading

Henry James (1843-1916), "Gustave Flaubert," French Poets and Novelists (London: Macmillan and Co., 1878), pp. 252-268 (at 255-256):
It is a book adapted for the reverse of what is called family reading, and yet we remember thinking, the first time we read it, in the heat of our admiration for its power, that it would make the most useful of Sunday-school tracts. In M. Taine's elaborate satire, "The Opinions of M. Graindorge," there is a report of a conversation at a dinner party between an English spinster of didactic habits and a decidedly audacious Frenchman. He begs to recommend to her a work which he has lately been reading and which cannot fail to win the approval of all persons interested in the propagation of virtue. The lady lends a sympathetic ear, and he gives a rapid sketch of the tale—the history of a wicked woman who goes from one abomination to another, until at last the judgment of Heaven descends upon her, and, blighted and blasted, she perishes miserably. The lady grasps her pencil and note-book and begs for the name of the edifying volume, and the gentleman leans across the dinner table and answers with a smile—"'Madame Bovary; or, The Consequences of Misconduct.'" This is a very pretty epigram and it is more than an epigram. It may be very seriously maintained that M. Flaubert's masterpiece is the pearl of "Sunday reading."
Related post: Sunday Reading.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Motto for a School Classroom

Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 8.3 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse):
Read your books, stupid.

stulte, stude.


The Wealth of Mankind

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), Nobel Lecture, § 5:
In recent times it has been fashionable to talk of the levelling of nations, of the disappearance of different races in the melting-pot of contemporary civilization. I do not agree with this opinion, but its discussion remains another question. Here it is merely fitting to say that the disappearance of nations would have impoverished us no less than if all men had become alike, with one personality and one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colours and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.


Local Food

Gavrila Derzhavin (1743–1816), "To Eugene: Life at Zvanka," stanzas 25-26, tr. Alexander Levitsky:
The crimson ham, green sorrel soup with yolks of gold,
the rose-gold pie, the cheese that's white, the crayfish scarlet,
the caviar, deep amber, black, the pike's stripes bold,
    its feather blue — delight the eyesight.

Delight the eye and joy to every sense impart;
though not with glut or spices brought from foreign harbours,
but with their pure and wholesome Russian heart:
    provisions native, fresh and healthful.
A pike is a fish, and fish don't have feathers, so "its feather blue" puzzled me. I don't know Russian, but I think that перо (the word used here, cognate with Greek πτερόν) can mean either feather or fin. Some suppose that English fin is cognate with Latin penna/pinna (= wing, feather).

The original, for those who do know Russian:
Багряна ветчина, зелены щи с желтком,
Румяно-желт пирог, сыр белый, раки красны,
Что смоль, янтарь — икра, и с голубым пером
Там щука пестрая: прекрасны!

Прекрасны потому, что взор манят мой, вкус;
Но не обилием иль чуждых стран приправой,
А что опрятно всё и представляет Русь:
Припас домашний, свежий, здравый.

Friday, September 22, 2017


Nothing Weaker

Homer, Odyssey 18.130-137 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing
more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters;
for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future
days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring
in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him,
against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit.
For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes
the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.

οὐδὲν ἀκιδνότερον γαῖα τρέφει ἀνθρώποιο,        130
πάντων ὅσσα τε γαῖαν ἔπι πνείει τε καὶ ἕρπει.
οὐ μὲν γάρ ποτέ φησι κακὸν πείσεσθαι ὀπίσσω,
ὄφρ᾿ ἀρετὴν παρέχωσι θεοὶ καὶ γούνατ᾿ ὀρώρῃ·
ἀλλ᾿ ὅτε δὴ καὶ λυγρὰ θεοὶ μάκαρες τελέσωσι,
καὶ τὰ φέρει ἀεκαζόμενος τετληότι θυμῷ·        135
τοῖος γὰρ νόος ἐστὶν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
οἷον ἐπ᾿ ἦμαρ ἄγησι πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.
Joseph Russo ad loc.:


So Much for Mortal Men's Plans

Petronius, Satyricon 115.7-19 (tr. Michael Heseltine, rev. E.H. Warmington):
[7] I suddenly saw a man's body caught in a gentle eddy and carried ashore. [8] I stopped gloomily, and, with moist eyes, proceeded to reflect upon the treachery of the sea. [9] "Maybe," I cried, "there is a wife waiting cheerfully at home for this man in a far-off land, or a son or a father, maybe, who know nothing of this storm; he is sure to have left some one behind whom he kissed before he went. [10] So much for mortal men's plans, and the prayers of high ambition. Look how the man floats." [11] I was still crying over him as a perfect stranger, when a wave turned his face towards the shore without a mark upon it, and I recognized Lichas, but a while ago so fierce and so relentless, now thrown almost under my feet. [12] Then I could restrain my tears no longer; I beat my breast again and again, and cried, "Where is your temper and your hot head now? [13] Behold! you are a prey for fish and savage beasts. An hour ago you boasted the strength of your command, and you have not one plank of your great ship to save you. [14] Now let mortal men go and fill their hearts with proud imaginations. Let misers make arrangements for a thousand years about the gains they win by fraud. [15] Lo! this man but yesterday looked into the accounts of his family property, and even settled in his own mind the very day when he would come home again. Lord, Lord, how far he lies from his consummation! [16] But it is not the waves of the sea alone that thus keep faith with mortal men. The warrior's weapons fail him; another pays his vows to Heaven, and his own house falls and buries him in the act. Another slips from his coach and dashes out his eager soul: the glutton chokes at dinner, the sparing man dies of want. [17] Make a fair reckoning, and you find shipwreck everywhere. You tell me that for those the waters whelm there is no burial. As if it mattered how our perishable flesh comes to its end, by fire or water or the lapse of time! [18] Whatever you may do, all these things achieve the same goal. But beasts will tear the body, you say, as though fire would give it a more kindly welcome! When we are angry with our slaves, we consider burning their heaviest punishment. [19] Then what madness to take such trouble to prevent the grave from leaving aught of us behind!"

[7] repente video corpus humanum circumactum levi vertice ad litus deferri. [8] substiti ergo tristis coepique umentibus oculis maris fidem inspicere et [9] 'hunc forsitan' proclamo 'in aliqua parte terrarum secura exspectat uxor, forsitan ignarus tempestatis filius aut pater; utique reliquit aliquem, cui proficiscens osculum dedit. [10] haec sunt consilia mortalium, haec vota magnarum cogitationum. en homo quemadmodum natat.' [11] adhuc tanquam ignotum deflebam, cum inviolatum os fluctus convertit in terram, agnovique terribilem paulo ante et implacabilem Licham pedibus meis paene subiectum. [12] non tenui igitur diutius lacrimas, immo percussi semel iterumque manibus pectus et 'ubi nunc est' inquam 'iracundia tua, ubi impotentia tua? [13] nempe piscibus beluisque expositus es, et qui paulo ante iactabas vires imperii tui, de tam magna nave ne tabulam quidem naufragus habes. [14] ite nunc mortales, et magnis cogitationibus pectora implete. ite cauti, et opes fraudibus captas per mille annos disponite. [15] nempe hic proxima luce patrimonii sui rationes inspexit, nempe diem etiam, quo venturus esset in patriam, animo suo fixit. dii deaeque, quam longe a destinatione sua iacet. [16] sed non sola mortalibus maria hanc fidem praestant. illum bellantem arma decipiunt, illum diis vota reddentem penatium suorum ruina sepelit. ille vehiculo lapsus properantem spiritum excussit, cibus avidum strangulavit, abstinentem frugalitas. [17] si bene calculum ponas, ubique naufragium est. at enim fluctibus obruto non contingit sepultura. tanquam intersit, periturum corpus quae ratio consumat, ignis an fluctus an mora. [18] quicquid feceris, omnia haec eodem ventura sunt. ferae tamen corpus lacerabunt. tanquam melius ignis accipiat; immo hanc poenam gravissimam credimus, ubi servis irascimur. [19] quae ergo dementia est, omnia facere, ne quid de nobis relinquat sepultura?'

[8] umentibus Muncker: nictantibus humentibus in margine edit. Tornaesii (Lyon 1575): viventibus codd.: urentibus Lipsius
[9] pater Buecheler: patrem codd.
[10] magnarum cogitationum del. Fraenkel
[14] per codd.: in Nisbet
[15] fixit Oevering: finxit codd.
[16] e ante vehiculo add. Kraffert
post excussit lacunam ind. Stocker
[17] contingit Goldast: contigit codd.: continget Barth
mora codd.: terra Crusius: aura Buecheler


Pickup Line

Homer, Odyssey 18.248-249 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
                                                               You surpass all women
for beauty and stature and for the mind well balanced within you.

                                          περίεσσι γυναικῶν
εἶδός τε μέγεθός τε ἰδὲ φρένας ἔνδον ἐίσας.
Related posts:

Thursday, September 21, 2017


The Incubus of Research

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), "Interim Report," Present Concerns, ed. Walter Hooper (San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., c1986), pp. 92-99 (at 98-99):
The other evil (in my view) is the incubus of "Research". The system was, I believe, first devised to attract the Americans and to emulate the scientists. But the wisest Americans are themselves already sick of it; as one of them said to me "I guess we got to come to giving every citizen a Ph.D shortly after birth, same as baptism and vaccination." And it is surely clear by now that the needs of the humanities are different from those of the sciences. In science, I gather, a young man fresh from his First in the Tripos can really share in the work of one of his seniors in a way that is useful to himself and even to the subject. But this is not true of the man who has just got his First in English or Modern Languages. Such a man, far from being able or anxious (he is by definition no fool) to add to the sum of human knowledge, wants to acquire a good deal more of the knowledge we already have. He has lately begun to discover how many more things he needs to know in order to follow up his budding interests; that he needs economics, or theology, or philosophy, or archaeology (and always a few more languages). To head him off from these studies, to pinfold him in some small inquiry whose chief claim often is that no one has ever made it before, is cruel and frustrating. It wastes such years as he will never have again; for an old proverb says that "All the speed is in the morning". What keeps the system going is the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult to get an academic job without a "research degree". Can the two ancient universities do anything by combining to break down this bad usage?
I'm reminded of William M. Calder III, "Benedict Einarson," Gnomon 51 (1979) 207-208 (at 207):
He told me aged 25 that I must write nothing until 40 for I would not know enough. Sound advice and true but I should be a schoolteacher today had I followed it.
Hat tip: George Gaiennie.


Read and Reread

Leo Spitzer (1887-1960), "Linguistics and Literary History," Linguistics and Literary History: Essays in Stylistics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948; rpt. 2015), pp. 1-39 (at 27):
[H]ow often, with all the theoretical experience of method accumulated in me over the years, have I stared blankly, quite similar to one of my beginning students, at a page that would not yield its magic. The only way leading out of this state of unproductivity is to read and reread, patiently and confidently, in an endeavor to become, as it were, soaked through and through with the atmosphere of the work. And suddenly one word, one line, stands out, and we realize that, now, a relationship has been established between the poem and us. From this point, I have usually found that, what with other observations adding themselves to the first, and with previous experiences of the circles intervening, and with associations given by previous education building up before me (all of this quickened, in my own case, by a quasi-metaphysical urge toward solution) it does not seem long until the characteristic "click" occurs, which is the indication that detail and whole have found a common denominator — which gives the etymology of the writing. And looking back on this process (whose end, of course, marks only the conclusion of the preliminary stage of analysis), how can we say when exactly it began? (Even the "first step" was preconditioned.) We see, indeed, that to read is to have read, to understand is equivalent to having understood.
Ian Jackson (per litteras), in response to my query about Spitzer's unusual use of the word etymology:
Spitzer's usage certainly seems rare, as he seems to realize by putting the word in quotation marks in the appended footnote (no.19 on p.38), but is consistent with his usage of "etymon" on page 11 ("the common spiritual etymon, the psychological root"). The OED does, however, give one or two citations not linked to words — see 2a (a), where the quotation from 1604 simply says "true expounding" and from 1681, "true explanation of interpretation of a thing". Using the latter gloss, the relevant phrase could be re-written as "detail and whole have found a common denominator — which gives the true interpretation of the writing".

Wednesday, September 20, 2017



Petronius, Satyricon 108.10, text and translation from the Loeb Classical Library edition by Michael Heseltine, rev. E.H Warmington (1969; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 260-261:
Tunc fortissimus Giton ad virilia sua admovit novaculam infestam, minatus se abscisurum tot miseriarum causam...

Then the gallant Giton turned a razor against his genitals and threatened to put an end to our troubles by self-mutilation...
The translation has suffered some mutilation. It omits infestam (= harmful, dangerous, modifying razor), which is Pithoeus' correction for the infertam or insertam of the manuscripts.

There was even more mutilation in Heseltine's original 1922 translation, which cut out genitals (virilia) altogether:
Then the gallant Giton turned a razor on himself and threatened to put an end to our troubles by self-mutilation...


Term of Abuse

Michael Holquist, "Forgetting Our Name, Remembering Our Mother," PMLA 115.7 (December, 2000) 1975-1977 (at 1976):
Philology is widely thought to be dead. Moreover, her corpse, like that of Father Zosima, gives off an unpleasant odor. Her name has become a term of abuse. "Philologist" is what you call the dull boys and girls of the profession.
The American Philological Association, a few years ago, changed its name to The Society for Classical Studies.


Near-Death Experience

Emilio Segrè (1905-1989), A Mind Always in Motion: The Autobiography of Emilio Segrè (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 121-122:
While at Civitavecchia, in the deep of night, I received a telephone call with the news that my father, who was at Tivoli with my mother, had been taken gravely ill. Shortly thereafter Bindo Rimini arrived by car and took me to Tivoli, where I found my mother, Riccardo Rimini, and Marco. My father was in a coma, and according to Riccardo, an excellent doctor whom we all trusted, there was little hope of his surviving. A few hours passed, and the situation was unchanged. Somehow rumors of my father's state spread, and people from the paper mill and city authorities made discreet, concerned inquiries. Somebody even started thinking about funeral arrangements.

No signs of improvement appeared. In the afternoon, the patient, still in a coma, passed a lot of wind, and then loudly and clearly spoke some famous lines from Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (my translation):
The raucous sound of the Tartarean bugle
Calls the inhabitants of the eternal shadows.
My mother, who was at her husband's bedside, almost fainted. We all rushed in, and to everybody's amazement, my father regained consciousness. In a few hours he was greatly improved. For about a week he slightly dragged one leg in walking, but soon he totally recovered, without visible trace of what had happened in either body or mind. We had been terribly scared. My father's comment was: "Now I know what there is in the beyond: nothing."
Tasso in the Italian (Canto IV, 3:1-2):
Chiama gli abitator de l'ombre eterne
il rauco suon de la tartarea tromba.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related post: Death Knell.



Joy Over the Captured Worm

Friedrich Nietzsche, letter to Erwin Rohde (November 20, 1868; tr. Christopher Middleton):
To see again from close at hand the seething brood of the philologists of our time, and every day having to observe all their moleish pullulating, the baggy cheeks and the blind eyes, their joy at capturing worms and their indifference to the true problems, the urgent problems of life — not only the young ones doing it, but also the old, full-grown ones — all this makes me see more and more clearly that the two of us, if this is to be our only means of remaining true to the spirit in us, shall not go our way in life without a variety of offenses and intrigues.

Jetzt wo ich wieder das wimmelnde Philologengezücht unserer Tage aus der Nähe sehe, wo ich das ganze Maulwurfstreiben, die vollen Backentaschen und die blinden Augen, die Freude ob des erbeuteten Wurms und die Gleichgültigkeit gegen die wahren, ja aufdringlichen Probleme des Lebens täglich beobachten muß und nicht nur an der jungen Brut, sondern an den ausgewachsenen Alten: da kommt es mir immer begreiflicher vor, daß wir beide, falls wir nur sonst unserm Genius treu bleiben, nicht ohne mannichfache Anstöße und Quertreibereien unsern Lebensweg gehen werden.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Wise Counsel

Persius 5.151 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with her note):
Enjoy yourself,35 let's grab our pleasures.

35 Lit. "give your Genius (i.e. appetites) free play."

indulge genio, carpamus dulcia.
R.A. Harvey ad loc.:

As preserved in Montpellier, Bibliothèque universitaire de médecine, ms. 125 (9th century, aka Codex Pithoeanus), fol. 11r (click twice with Chrome browser to enlarge):


Aversion to Bird Song

Obituary of Francis Jacox (1825-1897), in The Eagle: A Magazine Supported by Members of St. John's College 20 (1898) 90-91 (at 90):
He was of somewhat eccentric habits, living almost altogether by himself and avoiding those who lived with him. Latterly his household consisted of but one old housekeeper who often did not see him for days, leaving his meals outside his study or bedroom door. Oddly enough although otherwise fond of country life he detested the song and sounds of birds. He kept a long pole in his bedroom with which he used to frighten away the starlings, which gathered about the eaves and gutters of his cottage, by protruding it through the open window as he lay in bed in the morning.
In the same magazine, there are some verses "Ad Poetas Aquilinos" by "The Wollerer's Ghost" (pp. 22-24), with the following good advice:
At least avoid one subject: 'tis the curse
Of modern, and especially minor verse,—
Yourself: pray don't indecently expose
Your naked soul, with all its passion-throes,
Its chance abrasions, and its foolish fears,
Its whines, its wrigglings, and its sloppy tears.
If passion's pains press potent on your chest,
Sing of your supper: we'll infer the rest.

Then be more private; show not every eye
Your heart's uncouth ill-oiled machinery.
'A human document'? Come, take the hint:
It doesn't follow that it's fit to print.
Joel Eidsath (per litteras) thinks that Robert Henry Forster (1867-1923) wrote these verses, and I think he's right.


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