Monday, March 31, 2008
Typographical Errors Lying in Wait
She informed her class that this was a typographcal [sic] error and properly substituted lying for laying.
The Focative Case
Sir Hugh Evans:This passage was not bowdlerized but appears in full in Thomas Bowdler's The Family Shakespeare...In Which Nothing Is Added to the Original Text; But Those Words and Expressions Are Omitted Which Cannot with Propriety Be Read Aloud in a Family (1818).
What is the focative case, William?
Sir Hugh Evans:
Remember, William; focative is caret.
And that's a good root.
Neverthless Eric Partridge, Shakespeare's Bawdy, found obscenities not only in focative (a pun on the f- word), caret (i.e. carrot = membrum virile), and root (membrum virile), but also in O, which he connected with ring and circle (all three to him signifying pudendum muliebre).
Related post: Grammar Is Sexy.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Leonardo da Vinci's Rule
I do not know whether I am singular in my Opinion, but, for my own part, I would rather look upon a Tree in all its Luxuriancy and Diffusion of Boughs and Branches, than when it is thus cut and trimmed into a Mathematical Figure.Trees, in the diffusion of their boughs and branches, obey their own mathematical laws, which various investigators have attempted to discover. One of the chapters in Bernd Heinrich's The Trees in My Forest (New York: Cliff Street Books, 1997) has the title "Tree Geometry and Apical Dominance." Leonardo da Vinci also attempted to discover a mathematical rule that describes the growth of trees. See his Notebooks, Vol. I, Part VIII (Botany for Painters and Elements of Landscape Painting, tr. Jean Paul Richter):
All the branches of a tree at every stage of its height when put together are equal in thickness to the trunk [below them].
All the branches of a water [course] at every stage of its course, if they are of equal rapidity, are equal to the body of the main stream.
Every year when the boughs of a plant [or tree] have made an end of maturing their growth, they will have made, when put together, a thickness equal to that of the main stem; and at every stage of its ramification you will find the thickness of the said main stem; as: i k, g h, e f, c d, a b, will always be equal to each other; unless the tree is pollardif so the rule does not hold good.
Melvin T. Tyree and M.H. Zimmermann, Xylem Structure and the Ascent of Sap, 2nd ed. (Springer, 2002), p. 143, wrote:
Although there is no evidence that Leonardo ever did any measurements to confirm this remarkable observation, botanists are well aware of the approximate correctness of this statement; measurements were made around 1900 to investigate the significance of stem dimensions in satisfying both mechanical and hydraulic demands....Tyree and Zimmermann cite the following earlier studies:
- K. Metzger, "Studien über den Aufbau der Waldbäume und Bestände nach statischen Gesetzen," Mündener Forstliche Hefte 5 (1894) 61-74, 6 (1894) 94-119, 7 (1895) 45-97
- Paul Jaccard, "Eine neue Auffassung über die Ursachen des Dickenwachstums," Naturwissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für Forst- und Landwirtschaft 11 (1913) 241—279
- Paul Jaccard, Nouvelles recherches sur l'accroissement en épaisseur des arbres. Essai d'une théorie physiologique de leur croissance concentrique et excentrique (Lausanne-Genève: Payot, 1919)
- Eduard Rübel, "Experimentelle Untersuchungen über die Beziehungen zwischen Wasserleitungsbahn und Transpirationsverhältnissen bei Helianthus annuus L.," Beihefte zum Botanischen Centralblatt 37 (1920) 1-62
Related post: Tree Geometry: Parallel Lines.
He was known to his contemporaries as the translator of the Latin poet Longus.This is wrong on two counts: 1) Longus wrote in Greek, not Latin, and 2) Longus wrote prose (the romance Daphnis and Chloe), not poetry.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
For Our Happiness and Mirth
Tis spring day roams with flowers
Down every little lane
& the night is hardly night
But a round of happy hours
Yes nights are happy nights
The sky is full of stars
Like worlds in peace they lye
Enjoying one delight
The dew is on the thorn
& the primrose underneath
Just agen the mossy root
Is smiling to the morn
With its little brunny eye
& its yellow rim so pale
& its crimp & curdled leaf
Who can pass its beautys bye
Without a look of love
When we tread the little path
That skirts the woodland side
Who can pass—nor look above
To him who blesses earth
With these messengers of spring
& decorates the fields
For our happiness & mirth
I cannot for I go
In my fancy once again
In the woods & little holts
Where the primrose used to grow
The wood bank seemed so fair
& the hedgrow in the lane
Seemed so sweet that scores of times
Have I wished my cottage there
& felt that lovely mood
As a birthright God had given
To muse in the green woods
& meet the smiles of heaven
& though no culture comes
To the places where they grow
Every spring finds more & more
Till the woods all yellow blooms
The woodmans guessing way
Oft tramples many down
But theres not a blossom missing
When he comes another day
The woods have happy guests
& the birds sing twice as loud
When they see such crowds of blossoms
Underneath their little nests
As beautys for the spring
Their maker sends them forth
That man may have his mirth
& nature laugh & sing
For when roaming where they flower
They seemed to make woods happy
& amid the green light round them
I've spent many a happy hour
But since I used to stray
In their hazel haunts for joy
The world has found the happy spots
& took the charm away
It has tracked the pleasant springs
Like armys on their march
Till dearest spots that used to be
Are nought but common things
Save that their sights employ
Balm gales & sunny blooms
The mind in shaping heavens
As one continued joy
John Clare, Primroses:
I love the rath primroses pale brimstone primroses
That bloom in the thick wood and i' the green closes
I love the primroses whenever they come
Where the blue fly sits pensive and humble bees hum
The pale brimstone primroses come at the spring
Swept over and fann'd by the wild thrushes wing
Bow'd down to the leaf cover'd ground by the bees
Who sing their spring ballads thro bushes and trees
Like patches o' flame i' the Ivy so green
And dark green oak leaves where the Autumn has been
Put on thy straw hat love and russet stuff gown
And see the pale primroses grow up and down
The pale brimstone primroses wild wood primroses
Which maids i' the dark woods make into posies
Put on thy stuff gown love and off let us be
To seek brimstone primroses neath the Oak tree
Spring time is come love primroses bloom fair
The sun o' the morning shines in thy bright hair
The ancient wood shadows are bonny dark green
That throw out like giants the stovens between
While brimstone primroses like patches o' flame
Blaze through the dead leaves making Ivy look tame
I love the rath primrose in hedgerows and closes
Together lets wander to gather primroses
John Clare, The Primrose:
Welcome, pale primrose! starting up between
Dead matted leaves of ash and oak, that strew
The every lawn, the wood, and spinny through,
Mid creeping moss and ivy's darker green;
How much thy presence beautifies the ground!
How sweet thy modest, unaffected pride
Glows on the sunny bank, and wood's warm side!
And where thy fairy flowers in groups are found,
The school-boy roams enchantedly along,
Plucking the fairest with a rude delight;
While the meek shepherd stops his simple song
To gaze a moment on the pleasing sight;
O'erjoyed to see the flowers that truly bring
The welcome news of sweet returning Spring.
Friday, March 28, 2008
There Was an Old Man from Verona
Happy the man who his whole time doth boundLatin original by Claudian:
Within the enclosure of his little ground.
Happy the man whom the same humble place
(The hereditary cottage of his race)
From his first rising infancy has known,
And by degrees sees gently bending down,
With natural propension to that earth
Which both preserved his life, and gave him birth.
Him no false distant lights by fortune set,
Could ever into foolish wanderings get.
He never dangers either saw, or feared,
The dreadful storms at sea he never heard.
He never heard the shrill alarms of war,
Or the worse noises of the lawyers' bar.
No change of consuls marks to him the year,
The change of seasons is his calendar.
The cold and heat winter and summer shows,
Autumn by fruits, and spring by flowers he knows.
He measures time by landmarks, and has found
For the whole day the dial of his ground.
A neighbouring wood born with himself he sees,
And loves his old contemporary trees.
Has only heard of near Verona's name,
And knows it, like the Indies, but by fame.
Does with a like concernment notice take
Of the Red Sea, and of Benacus lake.
Thus health and strength he to a third age enjoys,
And sees a long posterity of boys.
About the spacious world let other roam,
The voyage Life is longest made at home.
Felix, qui propriis aevum transegit in arvis,Finally, here is a prose translation by Maurice Platnauer:
ipsa domus puerum quem videt, ipsa senem;
qui baculo nitens in qua reptavit harena
unius numerat saecula longa casae.
illum non vario traxit fortuna tumultu,
nec bibit ignotas mobilis hospes aquas.
non freta mercator tremuit, non classica miles,
non rauci lites pertulit ille fori.
indocilis rerum, vicinae nescius urbis
adspectu fruitur liberiore poli.
frugibus alternis, non consule computat annum:
autumnum pomis, ver sibi flore notat.
idem condit ager soles idemque reducit,
metiturque suo rusticus orbe diem,
ingentem meminit parvo qui gemine quercum
aequaevumque videt consenuisse nemus,
proxima cui nigris Verona remotior Indis
Benacumque putat litora Rubra lacum.
sed tamen indomitae vires firmisque lacertis
aetas robustum tertia cernit avum.
erret et extremos alter scrutetur Hiberos:
plus habet hic vitae, plus habet ille viae.
Happy he who has passed his whole life mid his own fields, he of whose birth and old age the same house is witness; he whose stick supports his tottering steps o'er the very ground whereon he crawled as a baby and whose memory knows but of one cottage as the scene where so long a life was played out. No turns of fortune vexed him with their sudden storms; he never travelled nor drank the waters of unknown rivers. He was never a trader to fear the seas nor a soldier to dread the trumpet's call; never did he face the noisy wrangles of the courts. Unpractised in affairs, unfamiliar with the neighbouring town, he finds his delight in a freer view of the sky above him. For him the recurring seasons, not the consuls, mark the year: he knows autumn by his fruits and spring by her flowers. From the selfsame fields he watches the sun rise and set, and, at his work, measures the day with his own round of toils. He remembers yon mighty oak an acorn, and sees the plantation, set when he was born, grown old along with him. Neighbouring Verona is, for him, more distant than sun-scorched India; Benacus he accounts as the Red Sea. But his strength is unimpaired and the third generation see in him a sturdy, stout-armed grandsire. Let who will be a wanderer and explore farthest Spain: such may have more of a journey; he of Verona has more of a life.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The house survives to this day. Eric contributes some more information about Willy Lott and coins a new and useful word:
Here are a couple of sources for Willy Lott:
1) "Willy Lott's House is situated on the edge of the river, close to Flatford Mill. It is a principal object in many of Constable's pictures; but the most exact view of it occurs in the one engraved for the 'English Landscape,' with the title of 'A Mill Stream,' and is taken from the front of the mill, the wheel of which occasions the ripple seen on the surface of the water. Willy Lott, its possessor, was born in it; and it is said, has passed more than eighty years without having spent four whole days away from it."
Memoirs of the Life of John Constable Esq. R.A. Composed Chiefly of his Letters by C. R. Leslie, R.A. Second Edition (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1845) p. 49.
2) "William Lott (1761 - 1849) was a farmer who worked the 39 acre Gibeon's Farm. At first he was a tenant farmer. Then in 1825 he bought the farm. He lived in the farmhouse, which has come to be called 'Willy Lott's House'. William Lott remained a bachelor and may have had difficulties learning because his elder brother, John, did his accounts and John Constable's sister Mary, living in Flatford Millhouse, wrote a letter to her brother dated 1 March 1825 saying Mr. Lott 'sometimes shed tears in his old age that he was left untaught by those who had charge of him in his youth'. Willy Lott rarely left the parish and was buried in the local churchyard."
Flatford: Constable Country by Ian St. John (Colchester: Suffolk Walker, 2000) p. 6.
There should really be Lottites as well as Luddites. In curmudgeon iconography Lott and Ludd would be pictured locked in a fraternal embrace like Peter and Paul, the latter trampling on some wrecked piece of machinery while Lott, the more stolid of the two, stands rooted-fast, having no truck with the world beyond his boundary markers. Since travel is increasingly coming to be seen as transgression (with its attendant sinful emissions) perhaps a man whose carbon footprint was no bigger than his muddy boots deserves some belated recognition. The developed world would be a better place with a few more hermit crabs like Willy Lott (say a couple of hundred million).
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.Joseph Wood Krutch, The Twelve Seasons: A Perpetual Calendar for the Country (New York: William Sloan Associates, 1949), pp. 174-175 (March):
A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance if finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.
A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the resolving seasons to her well-insulated roof. Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.
A certain blind man knew that the seasons return even though they did not return for him, and that is more than most who have eyes can boast. They live by the calendar and they know the days of the week. This, they may be able to tell you, is Friday, March 5th. But the fact is merely arbitrary and arithmetical, part of a necessary arrangement for keeping track of their engagementsmost of which they would rather forgetand of their obligationsmost of which are a burden. It implies no awareness of either the stars in their courses or of the natural rhythms which they do not even know they share. Perhaps there is no better symbol than this of our deliberate withdrawal from any life not poverty-stricken so far as the basic emotions are concerned, and perhaps the calendar of the savage with its "Moon of the Hunt" and "Moon of the Rains" is better. Perhaps accuracy is too dearly purchsed as the cost of such dessication.Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Seasons:
From another year which I hope will be based in the countryif not, alas, spent continuously thereI promise myself many advantages. But none of them is more obvious or more inclusive than the privilege of being permitted to be continuously aware that I am indeed alivefor that is a fact which the city makes most people forget, and which can be appreciated only by those whose own souls feel the ebb and flow of vital tides, who build their mansion on an inlet of the sea, not on some landlocked harbor which nowhere communicates with any deeper and vaster body. Only those within whose own consciousness the suns rise and set, the leaves burgeon and wither, can be said to be aware of what living is.
The following notice has been put up everywhere in flaming letters for about six thousand years, according to the chronology of Archbishop Usher, and for a much longer period, if some more recent cosmogonists can be trusted:—
"Walk in, ladies and gentlemen! The wonderful exhibition of the Seasons is about to commence; four shows under one cover; the best ventilated place of entertainment in this or any other system; the stage lighted by solar, lunar, and astral lamps; an efficient police will preserve order. Gentlemanly ushers will introduce all new-comers to their places. Performance in twelve parts. Overture by the feathered choir; after which the white drop curtain will rise, showing the remarkable succession of natural scenery designed and executed solely for this planet,—real forests, meadows, water, earth, skies, etc. At the conclusion of each series of performances the storm-chorus will be given with the whole strength of the wind-instrument orchestra, and the splendid snow scene will be introduced, illuminated by grand flashes of the Aurora Borealis. Admittance free, refreshments furnished, complete suits of proper costume supplied at the door, to be returned on leaving the exhibition."
Such is Nature's programme,—worth attending to, one might think,—yet there are great multitudes who lounge into the show and out of it, after being present at as many as threescore and ten performances in succession, without ever really looking at the scenery, or listening to the music, or observing the chief actors in the great drama....In the mean time those who are really awake to the sights and sounds which the procession of the months offers them find endless entertainment and instruction.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Leaves numerous, in large crowns, 1°-3° long, often 1° wide, strongly nerved, abruptly acute at the apex, thin, entire, their petioles deeply channeled. Root-stock thick, descending, terminating in whorls of fleshy fibers; spathe preceding the leaves, erect, 3'-6' high, 1'-3' in diameter at the base, convolute, firm; purple-brown to greenish-yellow, often mottled, its short scape usually subterranean, spadix about 1' in diameter in flower, greatly enlarging and sometimes 6' in diameter in fruit; mature seeds 4"-6" long.Rather dry reading. Donald Culross Peattie advised would-be writers to write the book they would like to read but could not find anywhere. There is a book I would like to read but cannot find, although I have neither the leisure nor the skill to write it. Its title might be A Flora of the United States and Canada, with Excerpts from Thoreau and Other Writers and Illustrations by Landscape Painters, and the entry for skunk cabbage would have the following excerpts from Thoreau's Journal.
April 4, 1856:
I find many sound cabbages shedding their pollen under Clamshell Hill. They are even more forward generally here than at Well Meadow. Probably two or three only, now dead among the alders at the last place, were earlier. This is simply the earliest flower such a season as this, i. e. when the ground continues covered with snow till very late in the spring. For this plant occupies ground which is the earliest to be laid bare, those great dimples in the snow about a springy place in the meadow, five or ten feet over, where the sun and light have access to the earth a month before it is generally bare. In such localities, then, they will enjoy the advantage over most other plants, for they will not have to contend with abundance of snow, but only with the cold air, which may be no severer than usual. Cowslips and a few other plants sometimes enjoy the same advantage. Sometimes, apparently, the original, now outer, spathe has been frost-bitten and is decayed, and a fresh one is pushing up. I see some of these in full bloom, though the opening to their tents is not more than half an inch wide. They are lapped like tent doors, effectually protected. Methinks most of these hoods open to the south. It is remarkable how completely the spadix is protected from the weather, first by the ample hood, whose walls are distant from it, next by the narrow tent-like doorway, admitting air and light and sun, generally I think on the south side, and also by its pointed top, curved downward protectingly over it. It looks like a monk in his crypt with powdered head. The sides of the doorway are lapped or folded, and one is considerably in advance of the other. It is contrived best to catch the vernal warmth and exclude the winter's cold.October 31, 1857:
If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunk-cabbage buds already advanced toward a new year. Their gravestones are not bespoken yet. Who shall be sexton to them? Is it the winter of their discontent? Do they seem to have lain down to die, despairing of skunk cabbagedom? "Up and at 'em," "Give it to 'em," "Excelsior," "Put it through,"—these are their mottoes. Mortal human creatures must take a little respite in this fall of the year; their spirits do flag a little. There is a little questioning of destiny, and thinking to go like cowards to where the "weary shall be at rest." But not so with the skunk-cabbage. Its withered leaves fall and are transfixed by a rising bud. Winter and death are ignored; the circle of life is complete. Are these false prophets? Is it a lie or a vain boast underneath the skunk-cabbage bud, pushing it upward and lifting the dead leaves with it? They rest with spears advanced; they rest to shoot!My imaginary Flora might also have this description of the skunk cabbage by Charles C. Abbott, Upland and Meadow: A Poaetquissings Chronicle (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886), p. 43:
I say it is good for me to be here, slumping in the mud, a trap covered with withered leaves. See those green cabbage buds lifting the dry leaves in that watery and muddy place. There is no can't nor cant to them. They see over the brow of winter's hill. They see another summer ahead.
Because of its mephitic odor we are apt to shun it, and it is not to be carelessly handled, nor will any become enthusiastic over it; yet the despised skunk-cabbage must be considered in the list of the winter-blooming plants of Poaetquissings. Its purple-tinted, shell-shaped spathe will bear examination, and the ball of flowers it contains will be found in full bloom always in February, and sometimes earlier. However disparagingly this vigorous plant is spoken of -by most of those who know it at all, it is kindly thought of by many naturalists, for it harbors at its roots the earliest salamanders, the pretty Maryland yellowthroat nests in the hollows of its broad leaves, and rare beetles find a congenial home in the shelter it affords.And what about Edwin Way Teale? He wrote a whole chapter (Green Fire) devoted to the skunk cabbage in his Days Without Time, and he also briefly described it in his Circle of the Seasons under the date February 6:
In a dozen places along the swamp trail today, I see skunk cabbage already spearing upward out of the black, partially frozen soil. Each year, its mottled spathes rise as the advance guard of spring. Within theese hoods, the fleshy slowers soon will form. First the flower, then the leafthat is the odd reversal of events in the life of this plant pioneer.Finally, my imaginary Flora would have a copy of this painting of a skunk cabbage by Jasper Francis Cropsey:
Sunday, March 23, 2008
When the subject of the intelligence of the so-called dumb animals comes up, I always remember Bertrand Russell's observation that we have only our own word for it that Man is smarter than the Amoeba. We make the rules. We decide what is smart and what isn't. A scientist plumps a cat down in a laboratory maze and gets out his stop watch and sees how long it takes the creature to find its way out. The cat thinks it is all silly. It doesn't try. Our tests, we say, have shown that a cat has a lamentably low I.Q.Related post: Homo sapiens.
But to get back to the owls. Of course they are wisein their way. So are rats and bats and puppy-dogs and mud-daubers and swallows and starfish. Some creatures look wiser than others. There the owls excel. But anything that has brains enough to work with nature instead of against her, anything that can keep going in a changing world for millions of years, is intelligent enough for all its needs. And this kind of intelligence most of the creatures of the wild world, including the owls, have demonstrated.
The truth is: it is man that is on trial. In comparison with the long endurance of the opossum and the dragonfly, Homo sapiens has been on earth but a short while. He has yet to demonstrate he has the kind of intelligence that will permit him to endure. He has yet to demonstrate that he is not the counterpart of some erratic genius who commits suicide at thirty-five. Nature's I.Q. tests are different from the ones of our devising. They are long and laborious, extending over vast stretches of time and through many successive generations. They, and they alone, will tell whether the wisdom of the dumb, the wisdom that permits a species to endure, is also man's.
Caritas Ex Deo Est
Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow'd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash'd from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The noun delectus in Latin belongs to the fourth declension and therefore has no form delecti. There is also a perfect passive participle delectus, from the verb deligo (choose), and delecti could be a masculine or neuter genitive singular of that participle, or a masculine nominative plural. If the phrase corpus delecti meant anything, it would thus mean "the body of the man who was chosen."
Obviously many people who should know better (such as those who compose questions for tests) don't know the correct spelling of corpus delicti. Others don't have any idea what the expression means, and still others wrongly think it means the corpse in a murder case. Ignorance of the correct meaning caused the downfall of British serial killer John George Haigh, who mistakenly thought that it meant a corpse. Haigh's nom de gore was the Acid Bath Murderer. He reasoned that if he destroyed the dead bodies of his victims in acid, there would be no corpse; if no corpse, no corpus delicti (an error); and if no corpus delicti, no murder conviction.
If Haigh had lived in another time or another place, he might have gotten away with murder. Consider the pronouncement of English jurist Matthew Hale:
I would never convict any person of murder or manslaughter, unless the fact were proven to be done, or at least the body found dead.2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 290 (1678). In 1819 the outcome of a Vermont case seemed to justify Matthew Hale's insistence on the need for a body in a murder conviction. A jury found the Boorn brothers, Jesse and Stephen, guilty of murdering Russell Colvin. Fortunately Colvin turned up alive before the Boorns were executed. 6 American State Trials 73 (J. Lawson ed. 1916).
As might be expected, opponents of the death penalty often cite the Boorn case. I recently noticed a similar situation in an ancient Greek lawsuit (Isocrates, Against Callimachus 52-54, tr. George Norlin):
Cratinus once had a dispute over a farm with the brother-in-law of Callimachus. A personal encounter ensued. Having concealed a female slave, they accused Cratinus of having crushed her head, and asserting that she had died as a result of the wound, they brought suit against him in the court of the Palladium on the charge of murder. Cratinus, learning of their plots, remained quiet for a long time in order that they might not change their plans and concoct another story, but instead might be caught in the very act of committing a crime. When the brother-in-law of Callimachus had made accusation and Callimachus had testified on oath that the woman was actually dead, Cratinus and his friends went to the house where she had been hidden, seized her by force and, bringing her into court, presented her alive to all present. The result was that, in a tribunal of seven hundred judges, after fourteen witnesses had given the same testimony as that of Callimachus, he failed to receive a single vote.Matthew Hale's legacy persisted for many years, and some states actually passed laws requiring a corpse for a homicide conviction, e.g. this statute from Texas (1925 Penal Code § 1204), not repealed until 1974:
No person shall be convicted of any grade of homicide unless the body of the deceased, or portions of it, are found and sufficiently identified to establish the fact of the death of the person charged to have been killed.John George Haigh committed his murders in England between 1944 and 1949. If he had committed them in Texas during those same years, he might have been immune from conviction by reason of the statute just cited.
Nowadays convictions for murder are possible even if the body is never found:
The fact that a murderer may successfully dispose of the body of the victim does not entitle him to an acquittal. That is one form of success for which society has no reward. Production of the body is not a condition precedent to the prosecution for murder.People v. Manson, 139 Cal.Rptr. 275, 298 (App. 2nd Dist. 1977), cert. denied 435 U.S. 953, 98 S.Ct. 1582, 55 L.Ed.2d 803 (1978).
Friday, March 21, 2008
Let Pallas dwell by herself in the cities she has built; but let my chief delight be the woods!Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.675 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
Pallas, quas condidit arces,
ipsa colat; nobis placeant ante omnia silvae.
I am devoted to the woods...Baltasar Gracián, Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia, § 74 (tr. Christopher Maurer):
sum nemorum studiosus...
The wildest animals inhabit cities.Alexander Pope, Pastorals: Summer, 59-60:
En lo más poblado están las fieras verdaderas.
See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending Gods have found Elysium here.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
To Be Happy At Home
The great end of prudence is to give cheerfulness to those hours, which splendour cannot gild, and acclamation cannot exhilarate; those soft intervals of unbended amusement, in which a man shrinks to his natural dimensions, and throws aside the ornaments or disguises, which he feels in privacy to be useless incumbrances, and to lose all effect when they become familiar. To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.Whether or not John Clare ever read these words, I think he would have agreed that "to be happy at home" is the acme of bliss. Certainly his poem Home Happiness, published in The Rural Muse (London: Whittaker & Co., 1835), pp. 108-110, paints an attractive picture of domestic happiness, especially with its homely details, such as the cat cleaning her face with her foot and Clare's children making houses of cards:
Like a thing of the desert, alone in its glee,But when Clare wrote these lines, he was living in a rented cottage in Northborough, and his dream was to have a cottage of his own. In Proposals for Building a Cottage, Clare gives precise directions to the imaginary builder:
I make a small home seem an empire to me;
Like a bird in the forest, whose world is its nest,
My home is my all, and the centre of rest.
Let Ambition stretch over the world at a stride,
Let the restless go rolling away with the tide,
I look on life's pleasures as follies at best,
And, like sunset, feel calm when I'm going to rest.
I sit by the fire, in the dark winter's night,
While the cat cleans her face with her foot in delight,
And the winds all a-cold, with rude clatter and din
Shake the windows, like robbers who want to come in;
Or else, from the cold to be hid and away,
By the bright burning fire see my children at play,
Making houses of cards, or a coach of a chair,
While I sit enjoying their happiness there.
I walk round the orchard on sweet summer eves,
And rub the perfume from the black-currant leaves,
Which, like the geranium, when touched, leave a smell
That lad's-love and sweet-briar can hardly excel.
I watch the plants grow, all begemmed with the shower,
That glitters like pearls in a sun-shiny hour;
And hear the pert robin just whistle a tune,
To cheer the lone hedger when labour is done.
Joys come like the grass in the fields springing there,
Without the mere toil of attention or care;
They come of themselves, like a star in the sky,
And the brighter they shine when the cloud passes by.
I wish but for little, and find it all there,
Where peace gives its faith to the home of the hare,
Who would else, overcome by her fears, run away
From the shade of the flower and the breeze of the day.
0 the out-of-door blessings of leisure for me!
Health, riches, and joy! — it includes them all three.
There Peace comes to me — I have faith in her smile —
She's my playmate in leisure, my comfort in toil;
There the short pasture-grass hides the lark on its nest,
Though scarcely so high as the grasshopper's breast;
And there its moss-ball hides the wild honey-bee,
And there joy in plenty grows riches for me.
Far away from the world, its delusions and snares —
Whose words are but breath, and its breathing but cares, —
Where trouble's sown thick as the dews of the morn,
One can scarce set a foot without meeting a thorn —
There are some view the world as a lightly thrown ball,
There are some look on cities like stones in a wall —
Nothing more. There are others, Ambition's proud heirs,
Of whom I have neither the courage nor cares.
So I sit on my bench, or enjoy in the shade
My toil as a pasture, while using the spade;
My fancy is free in her pleasure to stray,
Making voyages round the whole world in a day.
I gather home-comforts where cares never grew,
Like manna, the heavens rain down with the dew,
Till I see the tired hedger bend wearily by,
Then like a tired bird to my corner I fly.
Beside a runnel build my shedClare's The Wish is too long to quote, but it repeats some of the details mentioned in Proposals for Building a Cottage, such as the bookcase (lines 45-56):
Wi' stubbles coverd oer
Let broad oaks oer its chimney spread
And grass plats grace the door
The door may open wi a string
So that it closes tight
And locks woud be wanted things
To keep out thieves at night
A little garden not too fine
Inclosed wi painted pails
And wood bines round the cot to twine
Pind to the wall wi nails
Let hazels grow and spindling sedge
Bent bowering over head
Dig old mans beard from woodland hedge
To twine a summer shade
Beside the threshold sods provide
And build a summer seat
Plant sweet briar bushes by its side
And flowers that smelleth sweet
I love the sparrows ways to watch
Upon the cotters sheds
So here and there pull out the thatch
As they may hide their heads
And as the sweeping swallows stop
Their flights along the green
Leave holes within the chimney top
To paste their nest between
Stick shelves and cupboards round the hut
In all the holes and nooks
Nor in the corner fail to put
A cubboard for the books
Along the floor some sand Ill sift
To make it fit to live in
And then Ill thank ye for the gift
As something worth the giving
Near the fireside close fitted in the wallI've never read most of the authors Clare mentions. Scott I assume is Sir Walter Scott, and Burn might be Robert Burns. "Rural Bloomfield" is Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823), author of The Farmer's Boy (1800), and Hurn is David Hurn, author of Rural Rhymes (1813). Dermody is the Irish poet Thomas Dermody (1775-1802), whose works were posthumously published as The Harp of Erin. MacNiel is Hector McNiel (1746-1818), a Scots poet. Templeman may be James Templeman, who published three volumes of verse between 1808 and 1810. The only one of these in my bookcase is Burns.
I'de have a nice made cubboard not too small
Each shelf in breadth so uniformly pland
That books in eightvo size or more might stand
For this one use I'd have the cubboard made
Where none but choisest authors should be laid,
Such as Dermody Scott Macniel and Burn
With rural Bloomfield Templeman and Hurn
These are the authors that can boast the power
Of giving raptures in a leisure hour,
And tho I read some of them every night
Their songs near fail of adding fresh delight.
In lines 205-213 of The Wish, Clare imagines how he would spend his day if his wish of a cottage of his own were to come true:
All I would do should be to view my groundsAbraham Cowley also wrote a poem called The Wish, and the two poets shared many of the same desires (a cottage, a garden, "lettered ease", etc.). But in one important point they differed. Cowley wanted a solitude à deux:
And every morning take my daily rounds
To see that all was right and keep secure the bounds:
With trifling in the garden now and then
Which finds employment for the greatest men.
Each coming day the labour should renew
And this is all the labour I would do,
The other hours I'd spend in letterd ease
To read or study just as that might please.
How happy here should ISo, too, Keats in his Ode to Solitude wanted a companion and thought it must be
And one dear She live, and embracing die!
She who is all the world, and can exclude
In deserts solitude.
Almost the highest bliss of human kind,But Clare in The Wish (lines 214-219) imagined that he would be happier without a wife:
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
This is the way my plan of life should beOn this disputed point, I cast my vote with Cowley and Keats against Clare.
Unmaried Happy in Contentment free.
For he that's pester'd with a noisey wife
Can neer enjoy that quietnes of life
That does to life belong—Therefore I'd ne'er
Let Hymen's torch within my cot appear.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Observations at the Gym
William Cubitt invented the treadmill as a punishment for prisoners. Sydney Smith, "Cruel Treatment of Untried Prisoners," Edinburgh Review (1824), attacked the practice of forcing prisoners awaiting trial to work on the treadmill, grinding flour:
A prisoner may be a tailor, a watchmaker, a bookbinder, a printer, totally unaccustomed to any such species of labour. Such a man may be cast into jail at the end of August, and not tried till the March following, is it no punishment to such a man to walk up hill like a turnspit dog, in an infamous machiine, for six months? and yet there are gentlemen who suppose that the common people do not consider this as punishment!—that the gayest and most joyous of human beings is a treader, untried by a jury of his countrymen, in the fifth month of lifting up the leg, and striving against the law of gravity, supported by the glorious information which he receives from the turnkey, that he has all the time been grinding flour on the other side of the wall!Elsewhere in the essay Smith calls the treadmill the "rack and wheel of Cubitt," its inventor.
Long before Cubitt invented the treadmill in its modern form, the ancient Greeks and Romans punished slaves by making them grind corn. For example, in Lysias 1.18, the defendant Eratosthenes mentions how he threatened his servant girl with a choice between two punishments, to be whipped or to be put to work at a mill, and in Terence, Phormio 249, the slave Geta lists as punishments grinding in the mill, getting a whipping, and wearing fetters.
Another thing you might observe at the gym is the presence of tattoos on some of those exercising. The passages collected by C.P. Jones, "Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity," Journal of Roman Studies 77 (1987) 139-155, reveal that three classes of persons wore tattoos in ancient times barbarians, slaves, and prisoners.
According to Xenophon, Anabasis 5.4.32 (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
And when the Greeks, as they proceeded, were among the friendly Mossynoecians, they would exhibit to them fattened children of the wealthy inhabitants, who had been nourished on boiled nuts and were soft and white to an extraordinary degree, and pretty nearly equal in length and breadth, with their backs adorned with many colors and their fore parts all tattooed with flower patterns.Xenophon goes on to say about the Mossynoecians (5.4.34):
They were set down by the Greeks as the most uncivilized [barbarotatous] people whose country they traversed, the furthest removed from Greek customs.Seneca, On Anger 3.3.6, lists cruelties inflicted on slaves by angry masters and includes "writings on foreheads" (inscriptiones frontium), i.e. tattoos.
Plato, Laws 9.854 D (tr. A.E. Taylor), prescribes tattoos as one of the penalties for the crime of sacrilege:
Whosoever shall be taken in sacrilege, shall, if slave or alien, have his misfortune branded on hands and forehead, be scourged with such number of stripes as the court shall think proper, and cast forth naked beyond the borders.It's curious how at the gym one can observe people, in their pastimes and their adornments, voluntarily adopting practices that used to be visited on prisoners as punishments.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Leopardi and Solitary Dining
According to Fanny Burney, Dr. Johnson invented the word unclubable to describe Sir John Hawkins:
He said that Sir John and he once belonged to the same club, but that as he ate no supper after the first night of his admission, he desired to be excused paying his share.Johnson objected to Hawkins' penny-pinching, cheese-paring meanness in refusing to eat with the other members of the club. Rather than contribute his share toward the common meal, Hawkins preferred to eat alone, like the ancient Greek μονοφάγος. For the Greeks, solitary dining (μονοφαγία) was the distinguishing mark of the unsociable, the unclubable man.
"And was he excused?"
"O yes; for no man is angry at another for being inferior to himself! We all scorned him, and admitted his plea. For my part I was such a fool as to pay my share for wine, though I never tasted any. But Sir John was a most unclubable man!"
Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone 4183 (Bologna, July 6, 1826), wrote:
Eating alone, τὸ μονοφαγεῖν, was disgraceful according to the Greeks and Romans, and was considered uncivilized, and the designation of μονοφάγος was given to someone as an insult, similar to that of τοιχώρυχος, that is, of thief. See Casaubon on Athenaeus, Book 2, Chapter 8, and the Addenda on that passage. I would have deserved this opprobrium according to the ancients.I wonder whether Leopardi ate alone out of choice, because he wanted to, or whether he did so out of necessity, because others didn't want to eat with him. There is a sad story that, many years after Leopardi died, someone asked Fanny Targioni Tozzetti why she had never returned Leopardi's love for her. She answered, "Mia cara, puzzava" ("My dear, he stank").
Il mangiar soli, τὸ μονοφαγεῖν, era infame presso i greci e i latini, e stimato inhumanum, e il titolo di μονοφάγος si dava ad alcuno per vituperio, come quello di τοιχώρυχος, cioè di ladro. V. Casaub. ad Athenae. l.2. c.8. e gli Addenda a quel luogo. Io avrei meritata quest'infamia presso gli antichi.
- A Most Unclubable Man?
- Join Nothing
- Solitary Eating
- Eating By My Lonesome
- More On Eating Alone
- Philoxenus and Other Solitary Eaters
Too Much Pickedness Is Not Manly
Soldiers cited many reasons for his appeal. Some appreciated his films and fighting ability Norris is a martial arts guru, and many of his films have military themes.Ben Jonson, Explorata; or Discoveries, CXI (De mollibus et effoeminatis):
Others said the masculine and plainly dressed actor was an antidote to the preening and moisturised metrosexual male.
There is nothing valiant or solid to be hoped for from such as are always kempt and perfumed, and every day smell of the tailor; the exceedingly curious, that are wholly in mending such an imperfection in the face, in taking away the morphew in the neck, or bleaching their hands at midnight, gumming and bridling their beards, or making the waist small, binding it with hoops, while the mind runs at waste: too much pickedness is not manly.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wolf, Drey, Chevron
Tom Wessels, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England (Woodstock: Countryman Press, 1997; rpt. 1999), p. 42, discusses an etching by Brian D. Cohen that illustrates the text:
The squat, wide-spreading growth form of the two large trees that abut the wall tell us something importantthat they did not grow up to reach the canopy of a forest, but rather grew into open space. Trees growing in close proximity to other trees put their energy into racing toward the canopy to garner their share of limited sunlight. Trees growing in the open extend outward. This strategy accomplishes two things: It allows the tree to maximize the sunlight it can capture and to usurp space from future competitors. Only trees growing in the open have the wide-spreading form displayed in the etching. Some people refer to the large white pine on the right and the sugar maple on the left as wolf trees, for like a wolf, these open-grown trees often stand alone.The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), recognizes this as one of the meanings of wolf (definition 4, "= wolf tree, sense 11e below") and gives the following citations:
1949 Q. Jrnl. Forestry XLIII. 127 Most props containing large knots have been prepared from quick-grown heavily branched trees such as wolves. 1966 Times 21 Apr. 16/7 Douglas fir plantations nearly always have some undesirable wolves which have to be cut out.Under heading 11e the OED defines wolf tree as "a tree that is occupying more space than has been allowed for it, so restricting the growth of its neighbours."
Wessels (p. 47) says he prefers the term pasture tree, "as they were often left to provide shade for the animals" when land was cleared. Later, when farms were abandoned and reverted to woods, these wide-spreading shade trees survived as anomalies among their new, more upstanding neighbors.
A city park where I often walk used to be a farm (Crosby Farm Park), and I'll be on the lookout for wolf trees there from now on.
I first encountered the word drey in Michael A. Steele and John L. Koprowski, North American Tree Squirrels (Washington: Smithsonian Books, 2001), pp. 27-28:
Other, than food, few other resources are more important to squirrels than the nest. Leaf nests (or dreys) and natural hollows are especially critical for survival of nestlings (Barkalow and Soots 1965a; Burger 1969), protection against predators (J. Moore 1957), and shelter from adverse weather conditions (Baumgartner 1939b; Nixon, Havera, and Hansen 1984).OED, s.v. dray, drey, cites among other users of the word Gilbert White, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789): "A boy has taken three little young squirrels in their nest, or drey as it is called in these parts." Walter W. Skeat, Notes on English Etymology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), p. 75, adds some examples from English poetry: Michael Drayton, The Quest of Cynthia ("The nimble Squirrell noting here / Her mossy Dray that makes"), William Browne, Britannia's Pastorals 1.5.715-716 ("Whilst he, from tree to tree, from spray to spray, / Gets to the wood, and hides him in his dray"), and William Cowper, A Fable ("Climbed like a squirrel to its dray").
In winter, when trees are bare, it's easy to see a drey, which looks like a ball of leaves. My next-door neighbor has one in the tree in front of her house.
Charles C. Abbott, Upland and Meadow: A Poaetquissings Chronicle (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886), pp. 331-332, records some interesting observations on dreys, although he doesn't use the word:
The rapidity with which the gray squirrels make their nests of dead leaves and twigs is something marvellous. In a single night the work is often done, unless they subsequently add a little finer material for the lining. To-day I saw a large, globular leaf-nest near the top of a tall oak, which I know was not there yesterday. I was then examining every twig of this same tree for a little warbler, that eluded all my efforts, and I could not have overlooked so prominent a mass of leaves as this nest. No one squirrel could have done this work. It is the result of joint labors of three or four, and, unless they can work in darkness, must have been, even then, accomplished rapidly. How they secure these leaves against winter's winds is not clear, but they are always intact at the close of the season. To be sure, the twigs are not dead and brittle when gathered, but this does not explain altogether how they interweave them so that few, if any, become dislodged.
A chevron is something shaped like an upside-down V. The OED doesn't mention a specialized meaning of the word that I found in Charles Fergus, Trees of New England: A Natural History (Guilford: Globe Pequot Press, 2005), p. 46:
On the white trunks of paper birch, dark triangular markings, called chevrons, show where branches have died and fallen off. The closely related gray birch, B. populifolia, has whitish bark as well, but its bark is tight and nonpeeling and usually displays a greater number of large black chevrons at the bases of the self-pruned branches.The word chevron in this sense also occurs in Richard M. DeGraaf and Paul E. Sendak, Native and Naturalized Trees of New England and Adjacent Canada: A Field Guide (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2006), pp. 95-96, in their description of the gray birch. Sue Sweeney, Great Americans: Birches (The Winter View), The Monday Garden 152 (Feb. 20, 2005), uses the term several times and has good photographs showing chevrons on birch trees in Stamford, Connecticut.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I laid aside all thoughts of sport, as soon as I perceived a tree of prodigious thickness, which drew my whole attention... I extended my arms, as wide as I possibly could, thirteen times, before I embraced its circumference; and for greater exactness, I measured it round with packthread, and found it to be sixty-five feet.Henry Hitchings, Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), aka Dr Johnson's Dictionary: The Extraordinary Story of the Book that Defined the World, p. 60:
Besides, there were more immediately analgesic rewards to be had from visiting the Strahans' home. In the courtyard stood a lime tree which Johnson, in moments of abstraction, liked to hug.When Walt Whitman hugged trees, it was more like a bear hug than a tender embrace (Spring OverturesRecreations, from Specimen Days):
A solitary and pleasant sundown hour at the pond, exercising arms, chest, my whole body, by a tough oak sapling thick as my wrist, twelve feet highpulling and pushing, inspiring the good air. After I wrestle with the tree awhile, I can feel its young sap and virtue welling up out of the ground and tingling through me from crown to toe, like health's wine.See also Whitman's The Oak and I, from the same book:
I write this, 11 A.M., shelter'd under a dense oak by the bank, where I have taken refuge from a sudden rain. I came down here, (we had sulky drizzles all the morning, but an hour ago a lull,) for the before-mention'd daily and simple exercise I am fond ofto pull on that young hickory sapling out thereto sway and yield to its tough-limber upright stemhaply to get into my old sinews some of its elastic fibre and clear sap. I stand on the turf and take these health-pulls moderately and at intervals for nearly an hour, inhaling great draughts of fresh air. Wandering by the creek, I have three or four naturally favorable spots where I restbesides a chair I lug with me and use for more deliberate occasions. At other spots convenient I have selected, besides the hickory just named, strong and limber boughs of beech or holly, in easy-reaching distance, for my natural gymnasia, for arms, chest, trunk-muscles. I can soon feel the sap and sinew rising through me, like mercury to heat. I hold on boughs or slender trees caressingly there in the sun and shade, wrestle with their innocent stalwartnessand know the virtue thereof passes from them into me. (Or may-be we interchangemay-be the trees are more aware of it all than I ever thought.)
The cock is crowing,The poem wasn't really written in March, but on April 16, 1802. On that day Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her Journal:
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!
Like an army defeated
The Snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The Ploughboy is whoopinganonanon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!
When we came to the foot of Brothers water, I left William sitting on the bridge & went along the path on the right side of the Lake through the woodI was delighted with what I sawthe water under the boughs of the bare old trees, the simplicity of the mountains & the exquisite beauty of the path. There was one grey cottage. I repeated the Glowworm as I walked alongI hung over the gate, & thought I could have stayed for ever. When I returned I found William writing a poem descriptive of the sights & sounds we saw and heard. There was the gentle flowing of the stream, the glittering lively lake, green fields without a living creature to be seen on them, behind us, a flat pasture with 42 cattle feeding; to our left, the road leading to the hamlet, no smoke there, the sun shone on the bare roofs. The people were at work ploughing, harrowing & sowingLasses spreading dung, a dogs barking now & then, cocks crowing, birds twittering, the snow in patches at the top of the highest hills, yellow palms, purple and green twigs on the Birches, ashes with their glittering stems quite bare. The hawthorn a bright green with black stems under, the oak & the moss of the oaks glossy....William finished his poem before we got to the foot of Kirkstone. There were hundreds of cattle in the vale. There we ate our dinner. The walk up Kirkstone was very interesting. The Becks among the Rocks were all aliveWm shewed me the little mossy streamlet which he had before loved when he saw its bright green track in the snow. The view above Ambleside, very beautiful. There we sate & looked down on the green vale. We watched the Crows at a little distance from us become white as silver as they flew in the sunshine, & when they went still farther they looked like shapes of water passing over the green fields.
Friday, March 14, 2008
If peradventure, Reader, it has been thy lot to waste the golden years of thy lifethy shining youthin the irksome confinement of an office; to have thy prison days prolonged through middle age down to decrepitude and silver hairs, without hope of release or respite; to have lived to forget that there are such things as holidays, or to remember them but as the prerogatives of childhood; then, and then only, will you be able to appreciate my deliverance.Lamb was well aware that work does not cease when one leaves the office. Even the subconscious part of the brain is hard at work on office tasks during time off:
Independently of the rigours of attendance, I have ever been haunted with a sense (perhaps a mere caprice) of incapacity for business. This, during my latter years, had increased to such a degree, that it was visible in all the lines of my countenance. My health and my good spirits flagged. I had perpetually a dread of some crisis, to which I should be found unequal. Besides my daylight servitude, I served over again all night in my sleep, and would awake with terrors of imaginary false entries, errors in my accounts, and the like. I was fifty years of age, and no prospect of emancipation presented itself. I had grown to my desk, as it were; and the wood had entered into my soul.But emancipation was at hand for Lamb:
My fellows in the office would sometimes rally me upon the trouble legible in my countenance; but I did not know that it had raised the suspicions of any of my employers, when, on the 5th of last month, a day ever to be remembered by me, L, the junior partner in the firm, calling me on one side, directly taxed me with my bad looks, and frankly inquired the cause of them. So taxed, I honestly made confession of my infirmity, and added that I was afraid I should eventually be obliged to resign his service. He spoke some words of course to hearten me, and there the matter rested. A whole week I remained labouring under the impression that I had acted imprudently in my disclosure; that I had foolishly given a handle against myself, and had been anticipating my own dismissal. A week passed in this manner, the most anxious one, I verily believe, in my whole life, when on the evening of the 12th of April, just as I was about quitting my desk to go home (it might be about eight o'clock) I received an awful summons to attend the presence of the whole assembled firm in the formidable back parlour. I thought, now my time is surely come, I have done for myself, I am going to be told that they have no longer occasion for me. L, I could see, smiled at the terror I was in, which was a little relief to me,when to my utter astonishment B, the eldest partner, began a formal harangue to me on the length of my services, my very meritorious conduct during the whole of the time (the deuce, thought I, how did he find out that? I protest I never had the confidence to think as much). He went on to descant on the expediency of retiring at a certain time of life (how my heart panted!) and asking me a few questions as to the amount of my own property, of which I have a little, ended with a proposal, to which his three partners nodded a grave assent, that I should accept from the house, which I had served so well, a pension for life to the amount of two-thirds of my accustomed salarya magnificent offer! I do not know what I answered between surprise and gratitude, but it was understood that I accepted their proposal, and I was told that I was free from that hour to leave their service. I stammered out a bow, and at just ten minutes after eight I went homefor ever.Ever since I first read Lamb's The Superannuated Man, I have diligently tried this ruse. I go about the office with "trouble legible in my countenance" and "bad looks." All in vain, alas. No partner in the firm has ever offered me "a pension for life to the amount of two-thirds of my accustomed salary."
Gore Vidal, At Home: Essays 1982-1988 (New York: Random House, 1990), p. 51, told a delightful anecdote about Tennessee Williams:
Years later, when confronted with the fact that he had been born in 1911 not 1914, he said, serenely, "I do not choose to count as part of my life the three years that I spent working for a shoe company."Lamb said something similar in The Superannuated Man:
I have indeed lived nominally fifty years, but deduct out of them the hours which I have lived to other people, and not to myself, and you will find me still a young fellow. For that is the only true Time, which a man can properly call his own, that which he has all to himself; the rest, though in some sense he may be said to live it, is other people's time, not his. The remnant of my poor days, long or short, is at least multiplied for me three-fold. My ten next years, if I stretch so far, will be as long as any preceding thirty. 'Tis a fair rule-of-three sum.In a famous passage of his poem De Rerum Natura, Lucretius described the schadenfreudian pleasure of watching a ship foundering at sea from the safety of shore. This is the "Lucretian pleasure" that Lamb enjoyed in his retirement:
It is Lucretian pleasure to behold the poor drudges, whom I have left behind in the world, carking and caring; like horses in a mill, drudging on in the same eternal roundand what is it all for? A man can never have too much Time to himself, nor too little to do. Had I a little son, I would christen him NOTHING-TO-DO; he should do nothing. Man, I verily believe, is out of his element as long as he is operative. I am altogether for the life contemplative. Will no kindly earthquake come and swallow up those accursed cotton mills? Take me that lumber of a desk there, and bowl it downAs low as to the fiends.I am no longer ******, clerk to the Firm of &c. I am Retired Leisure. I am to be met with in trim gardens. I am already come to be known by my vacant face and careless gesture, perambulating at no fixed pace, nor with any settled purpose. I walk about; not to and from. They tell me, a certain cum dignitate air, that has been buried so long with my other good parts, has begun to shoot forth in my person. I grow into gentility perceptibly. When I take up a newspaper, it is to read the state of the opera. Opus operatum est. I have done all that I came into this world to do. I have worked task work, and have the rest of the day to myself.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The Highways of the Gods
I am going to brag as lustily as I can on behalf of the pedestrian, and show how all the shining angels second and accompany the man who goes afoot, while all the dark spirits are ever looking out for a chance to ride.
When I see the discomforts that able-bodied American men will put up with rather than go a mile or half a mile on foot, the abuses they will tolerate and encourage, crowding the street car on a little fall in the temperature or the appearance of an inch or two of snow, packing up to overflowing, dangling to the straps, treading on each other's toes, breathing each other's breaths, crushing the women and children, hanging by tooth and nail to a square inch of the platform, imperiling their limbs and killing the horses, — I think the commonest tramp in the street has good reason to felicitate himself on his rare privilege of going afoot. Indeed, a race that neglects or despises this primitive gift, that fears the touch of the soil, that has no footpaths, no community of ownership in the land which they imply, that warns off the walker as a trespasser, that knows no way but the highway, the carriage-way, that forgets the stile, the foot-bridge, that even ignores the rights of the pedestrian in the public road, providing no escape for him but in the ditch or up the bank, is in a fair way to far more serious degeneracy.
Shakespeare makes the chief qualification of the walker a merry heart: —"Jog on, jog on, the footpath way,The human body is a steed that goes freest and longest under a light rider, and the lightest of all riders is a cheerful heart. Your sad, or morose, or embittered, or preoccupied heart settles heavily into the saddle, and the poor beast, the body, breaks down the first mile. Indeed, the heaviest thing in the world is a heavy heart. Next to that, the most burdensome to the walker is a heart not in perfect sympathy and accord with the body, — a reluctant or unwilling heart. The horse and rider must not only both be willing to go the same way, but the rider must lead the way and infuse his own lightness and eagerness into the steed. Herein is no doubt our trouble, and one reason of the decay of the noble art in this country. We are unwilling walkers. We are not innocent and simple-hearted enough to enjoy a walk. We have fallen from that state of grace which capacity to enjoy a walk implies. It cannot be said that as a people we are so positively sad, or morose, or melancholic as that we are vacant of that sportiveness and surplusage of animal spirits that characterized our ancestors, and that springs from full and harmonious life, — a sound heart in accord with a sound body. A man must invest himself near at hand and in common things, and be content with a steady and moderate return, if he would know the blessedness of a cheerful heart and the sweetness of a walk over the round earth. This is a lesson the American has yet to learn, — capability of amusement on a low key. He expects rapid and extraordinary returns. He would make the very elemental laws pay usury. He has nothing to invest in a walk; it is too slow, too cheap. We crave the astonishing, the exciting, the far away, and do not know the highways of the gods when we see them, — always a sign of the decay of the faith and simplicity of man.
And merrily hent the stile-a;
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a."
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
What a mortification, the grievous distance between an American and a German scholar! America had never known, not only what a Greek scholar was, but even the process by which a man became one. At Harvard, they thought they knew how to work, heirs of the Puritans as they were, but it was plain enough that, beside these Germans, they cared for nothing but their own convenience. They were more indolent than the English scholars. They thought two years sufficient to make a Grecian, and here was little Dissen of Göttingen who had spent no less than eighteen years, at sixteen hours a day, on Greek and nothing but Greek, and who said that even now he could not read Aeschylus without a dictionary. It all depended on what one meant by "knowing." No one who had ever seen a German could ever again call a man a scholar unless he was willing to follow Eichhorn's program: 5 A.M. to 9 P.M., with half-hour intervals for meals.Arthur Darby Nock, St. Paul (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938), p. 236:
A great classical scholar, Eduard Norden, has remarked, 'Paul is a great writer whom I, at least, understand only with very great difficulty.'D.S. Colman, Greece & Rome 7 (1960) 72:
Sometimes I am reduced to shame and despair by my own endless ignorance of the classical languages, but then I am comforted by reading a passage in the Life of Bishop Christopher Wordsworth which tells how the Bishop, when a young man at Cambridge, was told by a friend that 'the late Professor Dobree had nearly given up reading Sophocles, as there were scarcely ten lines together where he did not meet with some impediment.'
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Until thy feet have trod the Road
Advise not wayside folk,
Nor till thy back has borne the Load
Break in upon the broke.
Chase not with undesired largesse
Of sympathy the heart
Which, knowing her own bitterness,
Presumes to dwell apart.
Employ not that glad hand to raise
The God-forgotten head
To Heaven and all the neighbours' gaze
Cover thy mouth instead.
The quivering chin, the bitten lip,
The cold and sweating brow,
Later may yearn for fellowship
Not now, you ass, not now!
Time, not thy ne'er so timely speech,
Life, not thy views thereon,
Shall furnish or deny to each
Or, if impelled to interfere,
Exhort, uplift, advise,
Lend not a base, betraying ear
To all the victim's cries.
Only the Lord can understand
When those first pangs begin,
How much is reflex action and
How much is really sin.
E'en from good words thyself refrain,
And tremblingly admit
There is no anodyne for pain
Except the shock of it.
So, when thine own dark hour shall fall,
Unchallenged canst thou say:
'I never worried you at all,
For God's sake go away!'
Monday, March 10, 2008
Pills to Purge Melancholy
Dear Lady Georgiana,
Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done—so I feel for you. Here are my prescriptions.
1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours,—Sydney Smith
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Patulae Recubans Sub Tegmine Fagi
The description of a road, which your coach wheels have so often honoured, it would be needless to give you; suffice it that I arrived safe at my uncle's, who is a great hunter in imagination; his dogs take up every chair in the house, so I am forced to stand at this present writing: and, though the gout forbids him galloping after them in the field, yet he continues still to regale his ears and nose with their comfortable noise and stink. He holds me mighty cheap, I perceive, for walking when I should ride, and reading when I should hunt.It would have been fitting if Gray had read there under the "venerable beeches" the first Eclogue of Virgil, which contains the words patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi ("reclining beneath the shade of a spreading beech tree").
My comfort amidst all this is, that I have, at the distance of half a mile, through a green lane, a forest (the vulgar call it a common) all my own, at least as good as so, for I spy no human thing in it but myself. It is a little chaos of mountains and precipices; mountains, it is true, that do not ascend much above the clouds, nor are the declivities quite so amazing as Dover cliff; but just such hills as people, who love their necks as well as I do, may venture to climb, and craggs that give the eye as much pleasure as if they were more dangerous: both vale and hill are covered with most venerable beeches, and other very reverend vegetables, that, like most other ancient people, are always dreaming out their old stories to the winds,And as they bow their hoary tops relate,At the foot of one of these squats me I, (Il penseroso) and there grow to the trunk for a whole morning. The timorous hare and sportive squirrel gambol around me like Adam in Paradise, before he had an Eve; but I think he did not use to read Virgil, as I commonly do there.
In murm'ring sound, the dark decrees of Fate;
While visions, as poetic eyes avow,
Cling to each leaf, and swarm on every bough.
Adam could not of course have read Virgil in Paradise. That would be an anachronism. But did he read any books in Paradise? Faith doesn't reveal the answer, so we must have recourse to reason. I think there were books in Paradise, and here is my syllogism:
Adam lacked nothing he needed in Paradise.Quod erat demonstrandum.
Books are necessities of life.
Therefore, there were books in Paradise.
Gray's letter also interests me because of the possible etymological connection among books, beeches, and Buckinghamshire. Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of North American Trees (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007), p. 162, explains the link between book and beech:
And on the beech was written, probably, the first page of European literature. For, it is said the earliest Sanskrit characters were carved on strips of beech bark; the custom of inscribing the temptingly smooth boles of Beeches came to Europe with the Indo-European people who entered the continent from Asia. Indeed, our word "book" comes from the Anglo-Saxon boc, meaning a letter or character, which in turn derives from the Anglo-Saxon beece, for Beech.The connection between beech and Buckinghamshire is less certain. Some books say that the Buck- in Buckingham comes from Anglo-Saxon bóc, but Isaac Taylor, Names and Their Histories (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1896), p. 77, dissents:
Buckingham, the county town of BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, is called Buccingaham in the Saxon Chronicle. This name is usually said to mean the -ham of the men of the beech forest (A.S. bóc, 'a beech '). But in this case the A.S. name would have been Bócingaham, and therefore, the name of Buckingham must be referred to the family or clan of the Buccings, who took their name from an ancestor, called Bucca, the Buck, or whose totem was a buck. (A.S. bucca or buc, 'a he-goat.')I am unqualified to judge on the matter.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
[I]s there any yoked creature without its private opinions?Chapter 6:
I wish her joy of her hair shirt.Chapter 6:
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, 'Oh, nothing!' Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurtsnot to hurt others.Chapter 12 (reminds me of a passage in The Mill on the Floss):
Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the grasses were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew; the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for the burdock; the huddled roofs and ricks of the homestead without a traceable way of approach; the gray gate and fences against the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel, its old, old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations of light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life, and see larger, but not more beautiful. These are the things that make the gamut of joy in landscape to midland-bred soulsthe things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart standing between their father's knees while he drove leisurely.Chapter 12 (cf. what Dr. Johnson said on the subject):
'I did not mean to quarrel,' said Rosamond, putting on her hat.Chapter 12:
'Quarrel? Nonsense; we have not quarrelled. If one is not to get into a rage sometimes, what is the good of being friends?'
The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.Chapter 13:
'Oh, I am not angry, except with the ways of the world.'Chapter 13:
'Might, could, wouldthey are contemptible auxiliaries.'Chapter 16:
[N]one but the ancients can be always classical.Chapter 16:
'But I have noticed that one always believes one's own town to be more stupid than any other.'Chapter 17:
'I don't translate my own convenience into other people's duties.'Chapter 20:
The fact is unalterable, that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship, may, when seen in the continuity of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same.Chapter 21:
[V]ery little achievement is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings.Chapter 22:
'The best piety is to enjoywhen you can. You are doing the most then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet. And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delightin art or in anything else.'Chapter 24 (on the custom of storing fruit in attics):
Fred liked it too, knowing it by heart even to the attic which smelt deliciously of apples and quinces...Chapter 25:
'But selfish people always think their own discomfort of more importance than anything else in the world.'Chapter 28:
'Does anybody read Aquinas?'Chapter 32:
'I have just been reading a portion at the commencement of Anne of Jeersteen. It commences well.' (Things never began with Mr. Borthrop Trumbull: they always commenced, both in private life and on his handbills.)Chapter 37 (a reminiscence of Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 4.31.67):
'I have had the gratification of meeting my former acquaintance, Dr. Spanning, to-day, and of being praised by one who is himself a worthy recipient of praise.'Chapter 38:
'What a character for anybody with decent connections to show himself in!one of those newspaper fellows!'Chapter 38:
'I do wish people would behave like gentlemen,' said the good baronet, feeling that this was a simple and comprehensive programme for social well-being.Chapter 42:
Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.Chapter 45 (note to Barack Obama):
'[N]othing is more offensive than this ostentation of reform, where there is no real amelioration.'Chapter 46:
'You go against rottenness, and there is nothing more thoroughly rotten than making people believe that society can be cured by a political hocus-pocus.'Chapter 56 (a good rant by Timothy Cooper):
'But come, you didn't mean any harm. Somebody told you the railroad was a bad thing. That was a lie. It may do a bit of harm here and there, to this and to that; and so does the sun in heaven. But the railway's a good thing.'Chapter 56:
'Aw! good for the big folks to make money out on,' said old Timothy Cooper, who had stayed behind turning his hay while the others had been gone on their spree;'I'n seen lots o' things turn up sin' I war a young unthe war an' the peace, and the canells, an' the oald King George, an' the Regen', an' the new King George, an' the new un as has got a new ne-amean' it's been all aloike to the poor mon. What's the canells been t' him? They'n brought him neyther me-at nor be-acon, nor wage to lay by, if he didn't save it wi' clemmin' his own inside. Times ha' got wusser for him sin' I war a young un. An' so it'll be wi' the railroads. They'll on'y leave the poor mon furder behind. But them are fools as meddle, and so I told the chaps here. This is the big folks's world, this is. But yo're for the big folks, Muster Garth, yo are.'
Timothy was a wiry old laborer, of a type lingering in those timeswho had his savings in a stocking-foot, lived in a lone cottage, and was not to be wrought on by any oratory, having as little of the feudal spirit, and believing as little, as if he had not been totally unacquainted with the Age of Reason and the Rights of Man.
'The lad loves Mary, and a true love for a good woman is a great thing, Susan. It shapes many a rough fellow.'Chapter 57:
'Yes, young people are usually blind to everything but their own wishes, and seldom imagine how much those wishes cost others,' said Mrs. Garth.Chapter 63:
...Lydgate shrank, as from a burn, from the utterance of any word about his private affairs.Chapter 63:
'It is a pity she is not better-looking.'Chapter 72:
'I cannot say that,' said Mrs. Farebrother, decisively. 'I like her countenance. We must not always ask for beauty, when a good God has seen fit to make an excellent young woman without it.'
'I believe that people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.'Chapter 72:
'What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?'Chapter 74:
There is a forsaking which still sits at the same board and lies on the same couch with the forsaken soul, withering it the more by unloving proximity.Chapter 83 (more erotic than many an explicitly sexual passage):
It was never known which lips were the first to move towards the other lips; but they kissed tremblingly, and then they moved apart.Chapter 85:
'Oh, dear, because I have always loved him. I should never like scolding any one else so well; and that is a point to be thought of in a husband.'Finale:
But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Some of the following descriptions of the pedant Edward Casaubon remind me of myself.
...a dried bookworm towards fifty...Chapter 6:
'As to his blood, I suppose the family quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant.'Chapter 8:
'He has got no good red blood in his body,' said Sir James.Chapter 15:
'No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all semicolons and parentheses,' said Mrs. Cadwallader.
A liberal education had of course left him free to read the indecent passages in the school classics...Chapter 21:
...this dried-up pedant, this elaborator of small explanations about as important as the surplus stock of false antiquities kept in a vendor's back chamber...Chapter 29:
It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering selfnever to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.Chapter 42:
On this point, as on all others, he shrank from pity; and if the suspicion of being pitied for anything in his lot surmised or known in spite of himself was embittering, the idea of calling forth a show of compassion by frankly admitting an alarm or a sorrow was necessarily intolerable to him.
Finally, here are a couple of unintended double-entendres.
'You will never care any more about my one-eyed giant, Loo,' said Fred at the end.Chapter 74:
'And with all her faults, few women are better. From a girl she had the neatest ways, and was always good-hearted, and as open as the day. You might look into her drawers when you wouldalways the same.'