Saturday, December 03, 2016


Modern Obsessions

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957), Introduction to The Comedy of Dante Alighieri the Florentine, Cantica II: Purgatory (1955; rpt. Harmondswoth: Penguin Books, 1976), p. 29:
Every generation of readers is liable to fasten upon the poet of another age its own peculiar associative obsessions; and there are nearly always hooks in his work on which such associations can plausibly be hung.



John Betjeman (1906-1984), "Saint Cadoc," second stanza:
Somewhere the tree, the yellowing oak,
Is waiting for the woodman's stroke,
Waits for the chisel saw and plane
To prime it for the earth again
    And in the earth, for me inside,
    The generous oak tree will have died.

Friday, December 02, 2016



H.G. Wells (1866-1946), Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, Book I, Chapter II, §4:
Dimly he perceived the thing that had happened to him — how the great, stupid machine of retail trade had caught his life into its wheels, a vast, irresistible force which he had neither strength of will nor knowledge to escape. This was to be his life until his days should end. No adventures, no glory, no change, no freedom.


The Word Sincere

Essays and Tales, by John Sterling, Collected and Edited, with a Memoir of His Life, by Julius Charles Hare, Vol. I (London: John W. Parker, 1848), p. v (from Hare's "Sketch of the Author's Life"):
He used to relate that, when he was about nine years old, he was much struck by his master's telling him that the word sincere was derived from the practice of filling up flaws in furniture with wax, whence sine cera came to mean pure, not vampt up. This explanation, he said, gave him great pleasure, and abode in his memory, as having first shown him that there is a reason in words as well as in other things: nor was it the worse for this purpose from having been drawn from the practice of Monmouth Street, rather than of the primeval upholsterers of ancient Italy.
The etymology is bogus. See Alfred Ernout and Alfred Meillet, Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Latine. Histoire des Mots, 4th ed. (Paris: Klincksieck, 2001), p. 627, and Michiel de Vaan, Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 565.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


A Toast

Letter by John Sterling, quoted in Essays and Tales, by John Sterling, Collected and Edited, with a Memoir of His Life, by Julius Charles Hare, Vol. I (London: John W. Parker, 1848), pp. ccii-cciii (an anecdote about the Danish sculptor Thorwaldsen):
Did you ever hear the story of his being at a party at Bunsen's, whose house was on the Capitoline Hill, on the site of the Temple of Olympian Jove, and where the conversation, as often under Bunsen's guidance, took a very Christian turn, till Thorwaldsen remarked through the window, commanding a noble prospect of Rome, the modern city, the planet Jupiter in great glory, and filling his glass exclaimed: Well! Here's in honour of the ancient Gods.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


Where to Read the Copa

Tenney Frank (1876-1939), Vergil: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1922), p. 156 (footnote omitted):
The Copa should be read in the arbor of an osteria at Sorrento or Capri to the rhythm of the tarantella where the modern offspring of Vergil's tavern-maid are still plying the arts of song and dance upon the passerby.
Related posts:


Well Known for His Lively Hat-Wear

Wikipedia article on Hartmut Erbse:
The son of a dentist from Thüringen, Erbse studied classical philology in Hamburg, where he was well known for his lively hat-wear and received his doctorate in 1940.


E.C. Marchant

There is no entry for E.C. Marchant (1874-1960) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and so far as I can tell there was no necrology for him in any of the classical periodicals. Thanks very much to Alan Crease, who sent me Marchant's obituary from the Times (June 20, 1960):
Mr. E. C. Marchant, for many years Sub-Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, and a well-known classical scholar, died yesterday at his home at Oxford at the age of 95. He was a man of vigorous mind, unmethodical as an administrator (though with a gift for rapid improvisation), with a lively humour, a shrewd appreciation of human nature, and a devotion to the classics which made him in his day a notable Oxford personality. His keenness of mind remained with him well after his ninetieth birthday.

It was a delight to his friends when visiting the shrunken figure, huddled in shawls, to observe the bright eyes and darting comments which showed how close was the touch he still kept with the affairs of his college and university. Edgar Cardew Marchant was born in 1864, the son of John Marchant, solicitor, and from Christ's Hospital went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge.

He was an assistant master at St. Paul's School from 1887 to 1891, in the great days of Dr. Walker's High Mastership, and after a brief return to Peterhouse with a fellowship he took over in 1894 part of the classical work of the upper eighth at St. Paul's. The single-minded ruthlessness of a regime designed to produce first-class classical scholars was something which, like others subjected to it, he admired without being blinded to its defects. Injuries received in a riding accident forced him to resign in 1899, but he became a fellow of Lincoln in 1901 and was sub-rector from 1907 to 1937, returning again to the sub-rectorship from 1942 to 1947.

During all these years he worked tirelessly, particularly on Xenophon (of whose works he edited the Oxford Classical Text), on Thucydides, and on his teaching. He examined frequently in the public schools where he made the first contacts with some of his ablest pupils. In 1914 he married Miss Ethel Winifred Mallet, and moving out of college he began to develop the interest in gardening that was to become his chief hobby in later life. He sometimes took a despondent view of classical studies when he saw the decline from those standards that had been reached at St. Paul's in the last decade of the nineteenth century. But he battled vigorously in their cause, and his teaching had an accuracy, lucidity, and simplicity which made it a model of its kind.

His temperament was mercurial, but company infallibly revived him and he had a buoyancy and vivacity which made him an entertaining companion. And beneath his gaiety there was a true human understanding and a practical sympathy to which his pupils owed much. One of his gifts was an alto voice which made him in great demand for many years at concerts at school or college, and a telegram received from Wells Cathedral Choir on his ninetieth birthday gave him special pleasure.


Are You Serious?

Homer, Iliad 12.233-234 (Hector to Polydamas; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
But if you are really saying this in earnest,
then indeed the gods themselves have surely destroyed your senses...

εἰ δ᾿ ἐτεὸν δὴ τοῦτον ἀπὸ σπουδῆς ἀγορεύεις,
ἐξ ἄρα δή τοι ἔπειτα θεοὶ φρένας ὤλεσαν αὐτοί...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Cleansing the City

Aristophanes, Lysistrata 574-578 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Imagine the polis as a fleece just shorn. First, put it in a bath and wash out all the sheep dung; spread it on a bed and beat out the riff-raff with a stick, and pluck out the thorns; as for those who clump and knot themselves together to snag government positions, card them out and pluck off their heads.

πρῶτον μὲν ἐχρῆν, ὥσπερ πόκον, ἐν βαλανείῳ
ἐκπλύναντας τὴν οἰσπώτην ἐκ τῆς πόλεως, ἐπὶ κλίνης        575
ἐκραβδίζειν τοὺς μοχθηροὺς καὶ τοὺς τριβόλους ἀπολέξαι,
καὶ τούς γε συνισταμένους τούτους καὶ τοὺς πιλοῦντας ἑαυτοὺς
ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀρχαῖσι διαξῆναι καὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς ἀποτῖλαι.


In You

Dante, Purgatorio 16.82-83 (tr. Thomas Okey):
Therefore, if the world to-day goeth astray,
in you is the cause, in you be it sought...

Però, se 'l mondo presente disvia,
in voi è la cagione, in voi si cheggia...
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, I.4 (tr. Thomas P. Whitney):
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


A Time-Dishonoured Process

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, ed. R.D. Dawe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 4 (from the editor's Introduction):
But is conventional piety manifest in Oedipus Rex? The question is not one to be solved one way or the other by the time-dishonoured process of selectively accumulating quotations with which to bolster one's case.


Defense of Manuscript Readings

E.G. Stanley, "Unideal Principles of Editing Old English Verse," Proceedings of the British Academy 70 (1984) 231-273 (at 273):
We should feel happiest as editors when we have demonstrated that a manuscript reading, spurned and excised by previous editors, deserves to stand in the text. A Rettung is worth more than a palmary emendation.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Missing Epithets

Homer, Iliad 24.1-2 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt, in the Loeb Classical Library):
Then was the assembly broken up, and the men scattered, each man to go to his own ship.

Λῦτο δ᾿ ἀγών, λαοὶ δὲ θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας ἕκαστοι
ἐσκίδναντ᾿ ἰέναι.
In the first line the translation omits θοὰς (swift), modifying νῆας (ships).

Homer, Iliad 24.178-180 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt, in the Loeb Classical Library):
A herald may attend you, an older man, to guide the mules and the light-running wagon, and to carry back to the city the dead, him whom Achilles slew.

κῆρύξ τίς τοι ἕποιτο γεραίτερος, ὅς κ᾿ ἰθύνοι
ἡμιόνους καὶ ἄμαξαν ἐύτροχον, ἠδὲ καὶ αὖτις
νεκρὸν ἄγοι προτὶ ἄστυ, τὸν ἔκτανε δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
In line 180 the translation omits δῖος (goodly, noble), modifying Ἀχιλλεύς (Achilles).

The epithets were missing in Murray's original translation, and they are still missing in Wyatt's revision.


Sunday, November 27, 2016


Cries of Woe

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 261:
The Greek poet who portrays people in distress has a considerable range of cries of woe that he can put into their mouths, as the translator of a tragedy finds to his embarrassment: his petty stock of Ohs and Ahs and Alases is soon overdrawn.


Difference of Opinion

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Notes on Virginia, Query XVII:
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves.


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