Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

Comedy

Christopher Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 123, with note on p. 276:
An American observer, so the story goes, once expressed surprise at the way in which Margaret Thatcher dominated the British cabinet. He was advised to read P.G. Wodehouse on Bertie Wooster and his aunts. Comedy tells. And Dionysius of Syracuse, so another story went, once asked Plato to explain to him the nature of Athenian political life. Plato responded by sending him a work of Aristophanes.1

1 Life of Aristophanes (Proleg. XXVIII 46–9, p. 135 Koster); Riginos 1976: 176-8.
Here is the Greek, followed by Jeffrey Henderson's translation:
φασὶ δὲ καὶ Πλάτωνα Διονυσίῳ τῷ τυράννῳ βουληθέντι μαθεῖν τὴν Ἀθηναίων πολιτείαν πέμψαι τὴν Αριστοφάνους ποίησιν, [τὴν κατὰ Σωκράτους ἐν Νεφέλαις κατηγορίαν,] καὶ συμβουλεῦσαι τὰ δράματα αὐτοῦ ἀσκηθέντα μαθεῖν αὐτῶν πολιτείαν.

And they say that when Dionysius the tyrant wanted to learn about the polity of the Athenians, Plato sent him the poetry of Ar. [the accusation against Socrates in Clouds] and advised him to study the plays if he would learn their polity.
Riginos = Alice Swift Riginos, Platonica: The Anecdotes Concerning the Life and Writings of Plato (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1976).

Friday, May 18, 2018

 

Battle of the Bulls

Phaedrus 1.30 (tr. Ben Edwin Perry):
Poor folk suffer when the mighty quarrel.
A frog looking out from a marsh upon a combat between two bulls,
exclaimed: "Alas, what great destruction is verging upon us!"
Being asked by another frog why he said this,
since those bulls were contending for the sovereignty of the herd
and, as cattle, lived their lives at a distance from the frogs, he replied:
"Granted that their range is remote from ours, and that their species is different,
nevertheless, whichever of them is driven from the lordship of the meadow, and takes to flight,
will come to the secret recesses of our marsh
and will tread us down and crush us with his hard hoofs.
Thus their fury has something to do with our own safety."

Humiles laborant ubi potentes dissident.
Rana in palude pugnam taurorum intuens,
"Heu, quanta nobis instat pernicies" ait.
interrogata ab alia cur hoc diceret,
de principatu cum illi certarent gregis        5
longeque ab ipsis degerent vitam boves,
"Sit statio separata ac diversum genus;
expulsus regno nemoris qui profugerit
paludis in secreta veniet latibula,
et proculcatas obteret duro pede.        10
ita caput ad nostrum furor illorum pertinet."

Thursday, May 17, 2018

 

The Human Condition

Pascal, Pensées 199 Brunschvicg (tr. H.F. Stewart):
Imagine a number of men in fetters, all condemned to death, and some killed daily in the sight of the rest, and those who are left, reading their own fate in that of their fellows, waiting their turn, looking at each other in gloom and despair. That is a picture of man's state.

Qu'on s'imagine un nombre d'hommes dans les chaisnes, et tous condamnez à la mort, dont les uns estant chaque jour égorgez à la veue des autres, ceux qui restent voyent leur propre condition dans celle de leurs semblables, et, se regardant les uns et les autres avec douleur et sans espérance, attendent à leur tour. C'est l'image de la condition des hommes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

 

Drowning in Filth

George Orwell, Diaries (April 27, 1942):
We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone's thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a "case" with deliberate suppression of his opponent's point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.

 

Promises of the Feathered Gods

Aristophanes, Birds 723-734 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Well then, if you treat us as gods
you'll have the benefit of prophets, muses,
breezes, seasons—winter, mild summer,
stifling heat. And we won't run off and
sit up there preening among the clouds, like Zeus,
but ever at hand we'll bestow on you,
your children, and your children's children
healthy wealthiness, happiness, prosperity, peace,
youth, hilarity, dances, festivities,
and birds' milk.

ἢν οὖν ἡμᾶς νομίσητε θεούς,
ἕξετε χρῆσθαι μάντεσι, μούσαις,
αὔραις, ὥραις, χειμῶνι, θέρει        725
μετρίῳ, πνίγει· κοὐκ ἀποδράντες
καθεδούμεθ᾿ ἄνω σεμνυνόμενοι
παρὰ ταῖς νεφέλαις ὥσπερ χὠ Ζεύς·
ἀλλὰ παρόντες δώσομεν ὑμῖν
αὐτοῖς, παισίν, παίδων παισίν,        730
πλουθυγίειαν, βίον, εἰρήνην,
νεότητα, γέλωτα, χορούς, θαλίας
γάλα τ᾿ ὀρνίθων.
Text and translation from Aristophanes, Birds. Lysistrata. Women at the Thesmophoria. Edited and Translated by Jeffrey Henderson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000 = Loeb Classical Library, 159), pp. 120-121 (the same in the Digital Loeb Classical Library; I split up the English to correspond roughly to the Greek lines). Henderson's "happiness" doesn't appear in the Greek as printed. He has translated a different text from the one he prints. In the Greek, he has adopted Hamaker's deletion of the manuscripts' εὐδαιμονίαν after πλουθυγίειαν, but he has translated the rejected word. The deletion isn't noted in the critical apparatus. It should be, and the translation should match the text.

Nan Dunbar ad loc. (student edition only — I don't have access to the full edition):

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

 

He Never Talks

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Typhoon, chapter I (Jukes talking about Captain MacWhirr):
"Old Sol says he hasn't much conversation. Conversation! O Lord! He never talks. The other day I had been yarning under the bridge with one of the engineers, and he must have heard us. When I came up to take my watch, he steps out of the chart-room and has a good look all round, peeps over at the sidelights, glances at the compass, squints upward at the stars. That's his regular performance. By-and-by he says: 'Was that you talking just now in the port alleyway?' 'Yes, sir.' 'With the third engineer?' 'Yes, sir.' He walks off to starboard, and sits under the dodger on a little campstool of his, and for half an hour perhaps he makes no sound, except that I heard him sneeze once. Then after a while I hear him getting up over there, and he strolls across to port, where I was. 'I can’t understand what you can find to talk about,' says he. 'Two solid hours. I am not blaming you. I see people ashore at it all day long, and then in the evening they sit down and keep at it over the drinks. Must be saying the same things over and over again. I can't understand.'"
Related posts:

 

The Pushy Newcomer

Babrius 135 (tr. Ben Edwin Perry):
A man bought a partridge and let him run around in the house, for he was fond of the creature. Immediately the bird began to clamour loudly in his usual style, went through all the house and ended at the hearth. The wily cat ran up to him and said: "Who are you? Where do you come from?" "I'm a partridge," he replied, "just recently bought." "And I," said the cat, "have been around here a long time. My mother, the mouse-slayer, gave birth to me inside this house. But I keep my mouth shut and sleep by the hearth; why is it that you, who come here lately purchased, as you say, are making yourself so free and crowing so loudly?"

Πέρδικά τις πριάμενος ἐντρέχειν οἴκῳ
ἀφῆκεν· ἡδέως γὰρ εἶχε τοῦ ζῴου.
κἀκεῖνος εὐθὺς κλαγγὸν ἐξ ἔθους ᾄδων
πᾶσαν κατ᾿ αὐλὴν ἄχρι βημάτων ᾔει.
γαλῆ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡπίβουλος ὡρμήθη        5
καὶ πρῶτον εἶπε "τίς μὲν εἶ, πόθεν <δ᾿> ἥκεις;"
ὁ δ᾿ "ἠγόρασμαι" φησί "προσφάτως <πέρδιξ>."
"ἐγὼ χρόνον τοσοῦτον ἐνθαδὶ τρίβω
καὶ μ᾿ ἔνδον ἔτεκεν ἡ μυοκτόνος μήτηρ,
ἀλλ᾿ ἡσυχάζω καὶ πρὸς ἑστίην εὕδω·        10
σὺ δ᾿ ἄρτι πως ὠνητός, ὡς λέγεις, ἥκων
παρρησιάζῃ" φησί "καὶ κατακρώζεις;"

Monday, May 14, 2018

 

Grimani Reliefs

Ewe with lamb:


Lioness with cubs:


Sow with piglets:


From Praeneste, now at Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

 

Anti-Americanism

George Orwell, "London Letter to Partisan Review," 1 January 1942, The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, II: My Country Right or Left, 1940-1943 (1968; rpt. Boston: David R. Godine, 2000), pp. 175-183 (at 177-178):
Up till about 1930 nearly all "cultivated" people loathed the U.S.A., which was regarded as the vulgarizer of England and Europe. The disappearance of this attitude was probably connected with the fall of Latin and Greek from their dominant position as school subjects. The younger intellectuals have no objection to the American language and tend to have a masochistic attitude towards the U.S.A., which they believe to be richer and more powerful than Britain. Of course it is exactly this that excites the jealousy of the ordinary patriotic middle class. I know people who automatically switch off the radio as soon as any American news comes on, and the most banal English film will always get middle-class support because "it's such a relief to get away from those American voices". Americans are supposed to be boastful, bad-mannered and worshippers of money....
"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!"

 

What We Get from Zeus

Homer, Iliad 14.85-87 (Odysseus to Agamemnon; tr. Peter Green):
                                                              [To us] Zeus
has given the task, from youth to old age, of winding
the skein of grim war, till we perish, every last man!

                                                                     Ζεὺς
ἐκ νεότητος ἔδωκε καὶ ἐς γῆρας τολυπεύειν
ἀργαλέους πολέμους, ὄφρα φθιόμεσθα ἕκαστος.

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