Friday, November 17, 2017


A Blade of Grass

Jules Renard, Journal (July 11, 1898; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
No one will ever stop me from being moved when I look at a field, when I walk up to my knees through oats that spring up behind me. What thought is as fine as this blade of grass?

I don't give a straw for "my country" as a whole: my local country moves me to tears. The German emperor cannot take this blade of grass from me.

Jamais personne ne m'empêchera d'être ému quand je regarde un champ, quand je marche jusqu'aux genoux dans une avoine qui se redresse derrière moi. Quelle pensée est aussi fine que ce brin d'herbe?

Je me moque de la grande patrie: la petite toujours m'impressionne jusqu'aux larmes. L'empereur allemand ne m'ôterait pas ce brin d'herbe.
Related posts:


True Stories

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Under the Greenwood Tree, Part I, Chapter 8:
'Well, now,' said Reuben, with decisive earnestness, 'that sort o' coarse touch that's so upsetting to Ann's feelings is to my mind a recommendation; for it do always prove a story to be true. And for the same reason, I like a story with a bad moral. My sonnies, all true stories have a coarse touch or a bad moral, depend upon't.'


Herodotus by Heart

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
[H]e told another Trinity fellow, T.C. Nicholas, that if all the text of Herodotus were to disappear he could reproduce it by heart.66

66 Howarth, p184.
The reference is to T.E.B. Howarth, Cambridge Between Two Wars (London: Collins, 1978), which I haven't seen.

Related post: Fahrenheit 451.


Statutes of the New Academy

Aldus Manutius, The Greek Classics. Edited and Translated by N.G. Wilson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016 = I Tatti Renaissance library, 70), Appendix V (pp. 288-293) = Statutes of the New Academy, § 1 (at 289):
Whereas many benefits can accrue to people with a serious interest in education from speaking Greek, it has been jointly determined by the three of us, Aldus the Roman, John the Cretan and thirdly myself, Scipione Forteguerri, to pass a law that they should not speak to each other except in Greek. If any of us, whether deliberately or without thinking, talks in another language, forgetting this law or for some other reason, he shall be fined one small coin for each occasion on which he happens to do this. But there shall not be a penalty for solecism, unless someone does that too deliberately.
When enough money from fines has accumulated, it is to be spent on a party (§ 4, p. 291). A very interesting document. I noticed a typographical error on p. 320, where the title mistakenly appears as Statues of the New Academy.

A modern reincarnation of the New Academy is the educational Stammtisch, where only German is spoken.


Thursday, November 16, 2017


A County Motto?

Wikipedia entry for Morrow County, Ohio:
The county motto is "dolorem et dolor liberum" which is Latin for "pain and suffering are free" which was an epigram of the first century BC Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero and a favorite saying of one of the county's founders.
Screen capture:

The words "dolorem et dolor liberum" are all Latin words but make no sense when taken together. The phrase doesn't occur in the works of Cicero, so far as I can tell, or in any other Latin writer. See e.g. H. Merguet, Handlexikon zu Cicero (Leipzig: Dieterich, 1905), s.v. dolor, pp. 212-213.




D.B. Wyndham Lewis (1891-1969), François Villon: A Documented Survey (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1928), p. vii:
the Red-Headed Cerberus, regardant between the Pont Royal and
the Petit-Pont; to the Frothing Vorticist; to the Harpy behind
the Little Grille; to the Bilious but Gaitered Platonic; to
the Surgical, Hairy, yet invisible Troll of the Dieppois; to
the Stout Love-Child of the Pierides who Believes Aquinas
to be a Mineral-Water; to the Bouncing Benthamite of
Bloomsbury who is Unaware of the Medieval; to That
Other, the Cramoisy One; to the Dodging Lutheran
of the Rue de Grenelle; to the Pythoness of Bays-
water; to the Commandant of Infantry who Babbled
of the Grand-Orient; to the Lady with the Hard
Grey Eyes; to the Levantine of London who Did
Not Think Poetry Would Do; to the Military
Character who Sacked the Lot; and to all pratt-
ling Gablers, sycophant Varlets, forlorn Snakes,
blockish Grutnols, fondling Fops, doddi-
pol Joltheads, slutch Calf-Lollies, cods-
head Loobies, jobernol Goosecaps,
grout-head Gnat-Snappers, noddie-
peak Simpletons, Lob-Dotterels,
and ninniehammer

Some of this is borrowed from Urquhart's translation of Rabelais, Book I, Chapter XXV.


Use Your Noggin

Epicharmus, fragment 250 Kaibel (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Don't get drunk or trust your neighbour; there's the kernel of good sense.

νᾶφε καὶ μέμνασ᾽ ἀπιστεῖν· ἄρθρα ταῦτα τᾶν φρενῶν.
More literally, μέμνασ᾽ ἀπιστεῖν = remember to be mistrustful.

Quoted by Cicero, Letters to Atticus 1.19.8, where the Greek in the Digital Loeb Classical Library has an incorrect accent (grave instead of acute over ἄρθρα):

I think that this is fragment 218 in R. Kassel and C. Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. I: Comoedia Dorica, Mimi, Phlyaces, but the book isn't available to me.



Trust Your Senses

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.699-700 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
For to what shall we appeal? What can we find more certain than the senses themselves, to mark for us truth and falsehood?

quo referemus enim? quid nobis certius ipsis
sensibus esse potest, qui vera ac falsa notemus?
700 qui = quo, referring back to quid.

Related post: Believing One's Own Eyes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Lowbrow and Highbrow

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Foreheads Villainous Low," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 201-210 (at 201-202):
There was a time, not so long ago, when the stupid and uneducated aspired to be thought intelligent and cultured. The current of aspiration has changed its direction. It is not at all uncommon now to find intelligent and cultured people doing their best to feign stupidity and to conceal the fact that they have received an education. Twenty years ago it was still a compliment to say of a man that he was clever, cultivated, interested in the things of the mind. To-day 'highbrow' is a term of contemptuous abuse.
Id. (at 207-208):
A man who is exclusively interested in the things of the mind will be quite happy (in Pascal's phrase) sitting quietly in a room. A man who has no interest in the things of the mind will be bored to death if he has to sit quietly in a room.



Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Human, All Too Human, § 114 (tr. Marion Faber):
What is un-Greek in Christianity. The Greeks did not see the Homeric gods above them as masters and themselves below them as servants, as did the Jews. They saw, as it were, only the reflection of the most successful specimens of their own caste, that is, an ideal, not a contrast to their own nature. They felt related to them, there was a reciprocal interest, a kind of symmachia. Man thinks of himself as noble when he gives himself such gods, and puts himself into a relationship similar to that of the lesser nobility to the higher. Whereas the Italic peoples have a regular peasant religion, with continual fearfulness about evil and capricious powers and tormentors. Where the Olympian gods retreated, there Greek life too grew gloomier and more fearful.

Christianity, on the other hand, crushed and shattered man completely, and submerged him as if in deep mire. Then, all at once, into his feeling of complete confusion, it allowed the light of divine compassion to shine, so that the surprised man, stunned by mercy, let out a cry of rapture, and thought for a moment that he carried all of heaven within him. All psychological inventions of Christianity work toward this sick excess of feeling, toward the deep corruption of head and heart necessary for it. Christianity wants to destroy, shatter, stun, intoxicate: there is only one thing it does not want: moderation, and for this reason, it is in its deepest meaning barbaric, Asiatic, ignoble, un-Greek.

Das Ungriechische im Christenthum.— Die Griechen sahen über sich die homerischen Götter nicht als Herren und sich unter ihnen nicht als Knechte, wie die Juden. Sie sahen gleichsam nur das Spiegelbild der gelungensten Exemplare ihrer eigenen Kaste, also ein Ideal, keinen Gegensatz des eigenen Wesens. Man fühlt sich mit einander verwandt, es besteht ein gegenseitiges Interesse, eine Art Symmachie. Der Mensch denkt vornehm von sich, wenn er sich solche Götter giebt, und stellt sich in ein Verhältniss, wie das des niedrigeren Adels zum höheren ist; während die italischen Völker eine rechte Bauern-Religion haben, mit fortwährender Aengstlichkeit gegen böse und launische Machtinhaber und Quälgeister. Wo die olympischen Götter zurücktraten, da war auch das griechische Leben düsterer und ängstlicher.—

Das Christenthum dagegen zerdrückte und zerbrach den Menschen vollständig und versenkte ihn wie in tiefen Schlamm: in das Gefühl völliger Verworfenheit liess es dann mit Einem Male den Glanz eines göttlichen Erbarmens hineinleuchten, so dass der Ueberraschte, durch Gnade Betäubte, einen Schrei des Entzückens ausstiess und für einen Augenblick den ganzen Himmel in sich zu tragen glaubte. Auf diesen krankhaften Excess des Gefühls, auf die dazu nöthige tiefe Kopf- und Herz-Corruption wirken alle psychologischen Erfindungen des Christenthums hin: es will vernichten, zerbrechen, betäuben, berauschen, es will nur Eins nicht: das Maass, und desshalb ist es im tiefsten Verstande barbarisch, asiatisch, unvornehm, ungriechisch.


I Came Here to Work

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
Shortly after arriving at Trinity at the start of Michaelmas Term 1930, Powell was found by Henry Jamieson, his fellow Edwardian, sitting on packing cases in his room reading a Greek text. 'Come and have some tea‚' Jamieson said. 'Thank you very much‚' Powell replied, 'but I came here to work.'1

1 Sunday Times, 5 February 1956.


Inscription for a 30th Birthday Card

Jules Renard, Journal (May 29, 1894; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
The thought that I am thirty breaks my heart. A whole dead life behind me. Ahead of me, an opaque stretch in which I see nothing. I feel old, and sad as an old man.

Cette idée que j'ai trente ans me navre. Toute une vie morte derrière moi. Devant, une vie opaque où je ne vois rien. Je me sens vieux, triste comme un vieux.
Related posts:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017



Jules Renard, Journal (April 10, 1889; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
To have a horror of the bourgeois is bourgeois.

L'horreur des bourgeois est bourgeoise.


On the Imitation of Dog

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.404-409 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
For as hounds very often find by their scent the leaf-hidden resting-place of the mountain-ranging quarry, when once they have hit upon certain traces of its path, so will you be able for yourself to see one thing after another in such matters as these, and to penetrate all unseen hiding-places, and draw forth the truth from them.

namque canes ut montivagae persaepe ferai
naribus inveniunt intectas fronde quietes,        405
cum semel institerunt vestigia certa viai,
sic alid ex alio per te tute ipse videre
talibus in rebus poteris caecasque latebras
insinuare omnis et verum protrahere inde.

404 ferai Q corr.: ferare OQ: ferarum O corr.
Related post: How to Read.


Holy Writ

Ezra Pound, letter to Harriet Monroe (July 16, 1922):
Say that I consider the Writings of Confucius, and Ovid's Metamorphoses the only safe guides in religion. This doesn't repudiate 'The G<oodly> F<ere>'. Christ can very well stand as an heroic figure. The hero need not be of wisdom all compounded. Also he is not wholly to blame for the religion that's been foisted on to him. As well blame me for ... for all the bunk in vers libre.

Christianity as practised resumes itself into one commandment dear to all officials, American Y.M.C.A., burocrats, etc., 'Thou shalt attend to thy neighbor's business before attending to thine own.'

In your footnote you ought to point out that I refuse to accept ANY monotheistic taboos whatsoever. That I consider the Metamorphoses a sacred book, and the Hebrew scriptures the record of a barbarian tribe, full of evil.

Monday, November 13, 2017



Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (London: Bellew, 1991), p. 104:
I remember, as sharply as Keats recalled first looking into Chapman's Homer, the moment — it must have been in 1927 — when I opened my first German book. Here was the language I had dreamt of but never knew existed: sharp, hard, strict but with words which were romance in themselves, words in which poetry and music vibrated together.
Powell, The Observer (April 24, 1968):
The happiest and most glorious hours of my life with books have been with German books.



Catullus 46.7-8 (tr. Michael C.J. Putnam):
Now my mind, aquiver, yearns to wander;
now my joyous feet grow strong with eagerness.

iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.

8 vigescunt codd.: virescunt Ellis
Robinson Ellis' conjecture, made in his commentary, p. 131 ("uirescunt, 'feel a new spring,' is a natural conjecture"), doesn't appear in Catullus Online: An Online Repertory of Conjectures on Catullus, which reports
laeti OGR : uiae MS 120 s. XVI : laeto dub. Schwabe 1866 in app.


Culture-Fans and Erudition-Snobs

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "And Wanton Optics Roll the Melting Eye," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 32-42 (at 37-38):
What readers has the Divine Comedy now? A few poets, a few lovers of poetry, a few strayed cross-word puzzlers, and, for the rest, a diminishing band of culture-fans and erudition-snobs. These last feel as triumphantly superior in their exclusive learning as would the social snob if, alone of all his acquaintance, he had met the Prince of Wales, or could speak of Mr. Michael Arlen by his pet name.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Asyndeton Filling Hexameters: Bernard of Cluny, De Contemptu Mundi, Book I

In Book I of Bernard of Cluny, De Contemptu Mundi, I noticed the following hexameters consisting entirely of words in asyndeton:
55 pulchra, citissima, fortia, libera, deliciosa
118 inresolubilis, invariabilis, intemerata
312 provehit, excitat, auget, identitat, efficit, unit
364 frigore, grandine, carne, libidine, morte, timore
529 lumina, tempora, frons, labra, pectora, viscera, mammae
658 dilaniabitur, excruciabitur, arripietur
772 irreparabilis, irrevocabilis, officiosus
789 pulcher, amabilis, irreparabilis, unicus, aptus
878 dat, rapit, it, fremit, opprimitur, premit, uritur, urit
1017 seditionibus, illuvionibus, igne, procellis
1018 lite, libidine, fraude, gravedine, sanguine, bellis
I don't have access to Ronald E. Pepin, ed. and tr., Scorn for the World: Bernard of Cluny's De Contemptu Mundi (East Lansing: Colleagues Press, 1991), so the line numbers above come from an online version. I haven't yet read Books II and III (please don't send supplements). For similar lines in Greek and Latin poetry see:



Clemenceau: The Events of His Life as Told by Himself to His Former Secretary Jean Martet. Translated by Milton Waldman (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930), pp. 195-196:
The revolutionary of that model is generally a failure who hasn't been able to succeed in anything within the ordinary framework of Society by the normal and legal means which it has established, so he tells himself that by dragging Society into the mud, he will be able to profit from the resulting mess. He is quite a pretentious being, with a very high idea of himself, who, on beginning life, expected to reach the top immediately, at one stroke, thanks to his abilities, his eloquence and various other things of that kind. He perceived presently that, as far as the top is concerned, he is no more than the tram conductor or the street-sweeper. He concludes from this that there is no justice, or, if there is, it doesn't favour him—like everything else. They're fools, but fools who haven't much more courage than the bourgeois—and, good God! that's little enough.

It's ideas that give a man courage, and your revolutionaries are as gifted with ideas as my boot. They have spite, bitterness—but that doesn't get one very far. I saw them during the war; I have talked with them and tried to find something in them; it was pathetic.


Homer's Interpreter Nods

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Tragedy and the Whole Truth," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 3-18 (at 3-4):
There were six of them, the best and bravest of the hero's companions. Turning back from his post in the bows, Odysseus was in time to see them lifted, struggling, into the air, to hear their screams, the desperate repetition of his own name. The survivors could only look on, helplessly, while Scylla 'at the mouth of her cave devoured them, still screaming, still stretching out their hands to me in the frightful struggle.' And Odysseus adds that it was the most dreadful and lamentable sight he ever saw in all his 'explorings of the passes of the sea.' We can believe it; Homer's brief description (the too poetical simile is a later interpolation) convinces us.

Later, the danger passed, Odysseus and his men went ashore for the night, and, on the Sicilian beach, prepared their supper—prepared it, says Homer, 'expertly.' The Twelfth Book of the Odyssey concludes with these words: 'When they had satisfied their thirst and hunger, they thought of their dear companions and wept, and in the midst of their tears sleep came gently upon them.'
The Twelfth Book of the Odyssey does not conclude with those words. Those words (plus others — Huxley has abridged the quotation) occur at Odyssey 12.308-312, and the book has 453 lines in all.

Update from Joel Eidsath:
A strange error, as the quotations appear to be Huxley's own translation.

The essay was published twice in Spring 1931, once in the Virginia Quarterly, and a shorter version in The Spectator.

The Spectator version is more accurate "The story in the XIIth Book of the Odyssey ends with these words..." That is, the story of Charybdis and Scylla ended with those words, not the XIIth book of the Odyssey.

The Spectator version appears to be a trimmed version of the first, no doubt prepared by Huxley himself. Perhaps Huxley's error was pointed out to him immediately after publication of the first version. Or perhaps the Spectator version is Huxley's original statement. Another vexing textual question in Homeric scholarship.


Saturday, November 11, 2017


Golden Rule

Historia Augusta, 18: Life of Severus Alexander 51.7-8 (tr. David Magie):
He used often to exclaim what he had heard from someone, either a Jew or a Christian, and always remembered, and he also had it announced by a herald whenever he was disciplining anyone, "What you do not wish that a man should do to you, do not do to him." And so highly did he value this sentiment that he had it written up in the Palace and in public buildings.

clamabatque saepius, quod a quibusdam sive Iudaeis sive Christianis audierat et tenebat, idque per praeconem, cum aliquem emendaret, dici iubebat, "quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris." quam sententiam usque adeo dilexit ut et in Palatio et in publicis operibus praescribi iuberet.

praescribi Hermann Peter: perscribi
Mentioned by Albrecht Dihle, Die Goldene Regel: Eine Einführung in die Geschichte der antiken und frühchristlichen Vulgärethik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962), p. 10.


Wretched Man, Why Are You Proud?

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud misc. 111, f. 65 = Carleton Brown, Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, number 133:
Wrecche mon wy artou proud,
þat art of herth I-maked?
hydyr ne browtestou no schroud,
bot pore þou come & naked.
Wen þi soule is faren out,
þi body with erthe y-raked,
þat body þat was so ronk and loud,
Of alle men is i-hated.
In Basil Cottle's translation:
Wretched man, why are you proud,
you who are made of earth?
You brought no garment here,
but came poor and naked.
When your soul has gone out,
and your body is covered over with earth,
that body that was so confident and loud-mouthed
is hated by all men.


The Acquisition of an Old Book is its Rebirth

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), "Unpacking my Library," Selected Writings, Vol. 2, Part 2: 1931-1934 (1999; rpt. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2005) pp. 486-493 (at 486; tr. Harry Zohn; endnotes omitted throughout)
I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with wood dust, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood—certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation—which these books arouse in a genuine collector.
Id. (at 486-487):
Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, which suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order? You have all heard of people whom the loss of their books has turned into invalids, or of those who in order to acquire books became criminals. These are the very areas in which any order is nothing more than a hovering above the abyss. "The only exact knowledge there is," said Anatole France, "is the knowledge of the date of publication and the format of books." And indeed, if there is a counterpart to the confusion of a library, it is the order of its catalogue.

Thus, the life of a collector manifests a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order.
Id. (at 487):
Habent sua fata libelli. These words may have been intended as a general statement about books. So books like The Divine Comedy, Spinoza's Ethics, and The Origin of Species have their fates. A collector, however, interprets this Latin saying differently. For him, not only books but also copies of books have their fates. And in this sense, the most important fate of a copy is its encounter with him, with his own collection. I am not exaggerating when I say that to a true collector the acquisition of an old book is its rebirth.
Id. (at 492):
Now I am on the last half-emptied crate, and it is way past midnight. Other thoughts fill me than the ones I am talking about—not thoughts but images, memories. Memories of the cities in which I found so many things: Riga, Naples, Munich, Danzig, Moscow, Florence, Basel, Paris; memories of Rosenthal's sumptuous rooms in Munich, of the Danzig Stockturm, where the late Hans Rhaue was domiciled, of Süssengut's musty book cellar in North Berlin; memories of the rooms where these books had been housed, of my student's den in Munich, of my room in Bern, of the solitude of lseltwald on the Lake of Brienz, and finally of my boyhood room, the former location of only four or five of the several thousand volumes that are piled up around me. O bliss of the collector, bliss of the man of leisure! No one has had less expected of him and no one has had a greater sense of well-being than the man who has been able to carry on his disreputable existence in the guise of Spitzweg's "Bookworm." For inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector—and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be—ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to things. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected before you one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones; and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting.

Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885), The Bookworm

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who remarked, "Melancholy to think of the final dwelling the author disappeared inside, in Portbou in Catalonia, far from his books."


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