Friday, October 30, 2015


The Power of Truth

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 26 (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
For the power of truth is incredibly great and of unutterable endurance. We find frequent traces of it again in all, even the most bizarre and absurd, dogmas of different times and countries, often indeed in strange company, curiously mixed up but yet recognizable. It is then like a plant that germinates under a heap of large stones, but yet climbs up towards the light, working itself through with many deviations and windings, disfigured, bleached, stunted in growth—but yet towards the light.

Denn die Gewalt der Wahrheit ist unglaublich groß und von unsäglicher Ausdauer. Wir finden ihre häufigen Spuren wieder in allen, selbst den bizarrsten, ja absurdesten Dogmen verschiedener Zeiten und Länder, zwar oft in sonderbarer Gesellschaft, in wunderlicher Vermischung, aber doch zu erkennen. Sie gleicht sodann einer Pflanze, welche unter einem Haufen großer Steine keimt, aber dennoch zum Lichte heranklimmt, sich durcharbeitend, mit vielen Umwegen und Krümmungen, verunstaltet, verblaßt, verkümmert; aber dennoch zum Lichte.


Reading and Writing

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 84.1-2 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
And reading, I hold, is indispensable—primarily, to keep me from being satisfied with myself alone, and besides, after I have learned what others have found out by their studies, to enable me to pass judgment on their discoveries and reflect upon discoveries that remain to be made. Reading nourishes the mind and refreshes it when it is wearied with study; nevertheless, this refreshment is not obtained without study. We ought not to confine ourselves either to writing or to reading; the one, continuous writing, will cast a gloom over our strength, and exhaust it; the other will make our strength flabby and watery. It is better to have recourse to them alternately, and to blend one with the other, so that the fruits of one's reading may be reduced to concrete form by the pen.

sunt [sc. lectiones] autem, ut existimo, necessariae, primum ne sim me uno contentus; deinde ut, cum ab aliis quaesita cognovero, tum et de inventis iudicem et cogitem de inveniendis. alit lectio ingenium et studio fatigatum, non sine studio tamen, reficit. nec scribere tantum nec tantum legere debemus; altera res contristabit vires et exhauriet, de stilo dico, altera solvet ac diluet. invicem hoc et illo commeandum est et alterum altero temperandum, ut quicquid lectione collectum est, stilus redigat in corpus.


A Scholar

Geoffrey Chaucer, "Prologue," Canterbury Tales, lines 295-298, 301-302, 305, 310 (describing the clerk of Oxenford):
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.


But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and on lernynge he it spente.


Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede.


And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.
In Nevill Coghill's modern version:
                                              By his bed
He preferred having twenty books in red
And black, of Aristotle's philosophy,
To having fine clothes, fiddle or psaltery.


Whatever money from his friends he took
He spent on learning or another book.


His only care was study.


And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.

Thursday, October 29, 2015



Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 78.13 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself that he is.

tam miser est quisque quam credidit.



Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 59 (tr. E.F.J. Payne):
For the rest, I cannot here withhold the statement that optimism, where it is not merely the thoughtless talk of those who harbour nothing but words under their shallow foreheads, seems to me to be not merely an absurd, but also a really wicked, way of thinking, a bitter mockery of the most unspeakable sufferings of mankind.

Uebrigens kann ich hier die Erklärung nicht zurückhalten, daß mir der Optimismus, wo er nicht etwan das gedankenlose Reden Solcher ist, unter deren platten Stirnen nichts als Worte herbergen, nicht bloß als eine absurde, sondern auch als eine wahrhaft ruchlose Denkungsart erscheint, als ein bitterer Hohn über die namenlosen Leiden der Menschheit.


A Very Good Method of Learning a Language

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), "The Human Element," Collected Short Stories, Vol. 2 (New York: Penguin Books, 1992), pp. 314-345 (at 336):
Finding that she could not get on with her history without such a knowledge of Latin as would enable her to read the medieval documents with ease, Betty had set about learning the classical language. She troubled to acquire only the elements of grammar and then started, with a translation by her side, to read the authors that interested her. It is a very good method of learning a language and I have often wondered that it is not used in schools. It saves all the endless turning over of dictionaries and the fumbling search for meaning. After nine months Betty could read Latin as fluently as most of us can read French.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Slow Reading

Petrarch, Familiar Letters 22.2.12-13 (tr. Aldo S. Bernardo):
I have read Virgil, Flaccus, Severinus, Tullius not once but countless times, nor was my reading rushed but leisurely, pondering them as I went with all the powers of my intellect; I ate in the morning what I would digest in the evening, I swallowed as a boy what I would ruminate upon as an older man. I have thoroughly absorbed these writings, implanting them not only in my memory but in my marrow, and they have so become one with my mind that were I never to read them for the remainder of my life, they would cling to me, having taken root in the innermost recesses of my mind.

legi apud Virgilium apud Flaccum apud Severinum apud Tullium; nec semel legi sed milies, nec cucurri sed incubui, et totis ingenii nisibus immoratus sum; mane comedi quod sero digererem, hausi puer quod senior ruminarem. hec se michi tam familiariter ingessere et non modo memorie sed medullis affixa sunt unumque cum ingenio facta sunt meo, ut etsi per omnem vitam amplius non legantur, ipsa quidem hereant, actis in intima animi parte radicibus.


Death Sentence

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 71.15 (the words are put into the mouth of Cato; tr. Richard M. Gummere):
The whole race of man, both that which is and that which is to be, is condemned to die. Of all the cities that at any time have held sway over the world, and of all that have been the splendid ornaments of empires not their own, men shall some day ask where they were, and they shall be swept away by destructions of various kinds; some shall be ruined by wars, others shall be wasted away by inactivity and by the kind of peace which ends in sloth, or by that vice which is fraught with destruction even for mighty dynasties,—luxury. All these fertile plains shall be buried out of sight by a sudden overflowing of the sea, or a slipping of the soil, as it settles to lower levels, shall draw them suddenly into a yawning chasm. Why then should I be angry or feel sorrow, if I precede the general destruction by a tiny interval of time?

omne humanum genus, quodque est quodque erit, morte damnatum est. omnes, quae usquam rerum potiuntur urbes quaeque alienorum imperiorum magna sunt decora, ubi fuerint, aliquando quaeretur et vario exitii genere tollentur; alias destruent bella, alias desidia paxque ad inertiam versa consumet et magnis opibus exitiosa res, luxus. omnes hos fertiles campos repentina maris inundatio abscondet aut in subitam cavernam considentis soli lapsus abducet. quid est ergo quare indigner aut doleam, si exiguo momento publica fata praecedo?



Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 67.2 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
Most of my converse is with books.

cum libellis mihi plurimus sermo est.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Fences and Freedom

Charles Homer Haskins (1870-1937), The Rise of Universities (1923; rpt. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972), pp. 55-56:
Accepting the principle of authority as their starting-point, men did not feel its limitations as we should feel them now. A fence is no obstacle to those who do not desire to go outside, and many barriers that would seem intolerable to a more sceptical age were not felt as barriers by the schoolmen. He is free who feels himself free.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Sit Down and Write

Thomas Carlyle, letter to Jane Baillie Welsh (December 25, 1822):
Sit down and write—something short—but write and write, tho' you could swear it was the most stupid stuff in Nature, till you fairly get to the end. A week after it is finished it will look far better than you expected. The next you write will go on more smoothly and look better still. So likewise with the third and fourth,—in regular progression,—till you will wonder how such difficulties could ever stop you for a moment. Be not too careful for a subject; take the one you feel most interest in and understand best—some description of manners or passions—some picture of a kind of life you are familiar with, and which looks lovely in your eyes: and for a commencement, why should it give you pause? Take the precept of Horace—proripe in medias res; rush forward and fear nothing.


Renaming the Months

Tacitus, Annals 16.13, from Tacitus, The Annals. With an English Translation by John Jackson, Books XIII-XVI (1937; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 353, with the translator's footnotes on p. 352:
The months following April—otherwise known as "Neroneus"1—were renamed, May taking the style of "Claudius," June that of "Germanicus."2

1 XV.74.

2The names were his own—he was "Claudius Nero Caesar Germanicus"—not those of his adoptive father and grandfather. So Commodus, by drawing upon his farrago of titles, was able to construct a year comprising the months:—Amazonius, Invictus, Pius, Felix, Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exuperatorius (D. Cass. LXXII.15; Lampr. Comm. 11 sq.).
There is a misprint in Jackson's footnote 2: for "D.Cass. LXXII.15" read "D.Cass. LXXIII.15". Here is the passage from Dio in Earnest Cary's translation:
Finally, all the months were named after him, so that they were enumerated as follows: Amazonius, Invictus, Felix, Pius, Lucius, Aelius, Aurelius, Commodus, Augustus, Herculeus, Romanus, Exsuperatorius. For he himself assumed these several titles at different times, but "Amazonius" and "Exsuperatorius" he applied constantly to himself, to indicate that in every respect he surpassed absolutely all mankind superlatively; so superlatively mad had the abandoned wretch become.


Sunday, October 25, 2015


No Escape

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 719 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
From heaven-sent ills there's no escape.

θεῶν διδόντων οὐκ ἂν ἐκφύγοις κακά.


Academic Prayers

An excerpt from Thomas Dekker (1572-1632), "A Prayer for a childe before he goeth to his study, or to schoole," Foure Birds of Noahs Arke (London: Printed by H. B[allard] for Nathaniel Butter, 1609), pp. 4-7 (at 6):
Make mee obedient to my Parents: dutiful to my Teachers: louing to my Schoole-fellowes: humble to my superiours; full of reuerence to old men...
Id., from "A Prayer for the two Vniuersities," pp. 39-41 (at 39-40):
O thou insearchable depth of all wisdome, open thou the fountaines of knowledge, and let the streames of it equally run to the two famous Nurseries of learning (the two Vniuersities of this land) Oxford and Cambridge, that from the brests of those two (as it were from the tender nipples of mothers) the youth and Gentry of this land may sucke the milke both of Diuine and Humane Science.


A Miserable Fate

Thomas Carlyle, letter to Alexander Carlyle (February 22, 1822):
Nor shall you ever seriously meditate crossing the great Salt Pool to plant yourself in the Yankee-land. That is a miserable fate for any one, at best; never dream of it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Seize the Day

Aeschylus, Persians 840-842 (ghost of Darius speaking; tr. Christopher Collard):
But I wish you elders well, despite the disaster:
give your spirits pleasure day by day,
since wealth is no use to the dead.

ὑμεῖς δέ, πρέσβεις, χαίρετ᾽, ἐν κακοῖς ὅμως
ψυχῇ διδόντες ἡδονὴν καθ᾽ ἡμέραν,
ὡς τοῖς θανοῦσι πλοῦτος οὐδὲν ὠφελεῖ.
David R. Slavitt's rendition bears little resemblance to the Greek:
                                               I leave you only
one word of advice—look to the small pleasures
along the way. Nothing else lasts or matters.
Ambition, power, wealth, and all the rest,
none of us misses down there. But a cold drink
on a hot day? What more can one want?

A pair of asyndetic privative adjectives sighted at Aeschylus, Persians 862: ἀπόνους ἀπαθεῖς.



Starting Latin

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments, chapter VII:
My Father grudged the time, but he felt it a duty to do something to fill up these deficiencies, and we now started Latin, in a little eighteenth-century reading-book, out of which my Grandfather had been taught. It consisted of strings of words, and of grim arrangements of conjunction and declension, presented in a manner appallingly unattractive. I used to be set down in the study, under my Father's eye, to learn a solid page of this compilation, while he wrote or painted. The window would be open in summer, and my seat was close to it. Outside, a bee was shaking the clematis-blossom, or a red-admiral butterfly was opening and shutting his wings on the hot concrete of the verandah, or a blackbird was racing across the lawn. It was almost more than human nature could bear to have to sit holding up to my face the dreary little Latin book, with its sheepskin cover that smelt of mildewed paste.


An Unprofitable Lout

Thomas Carlyle, letter to his mother (December 4, 1822):
This is my birthday: I am now seven and twenty years of age! What an unprofitable lout I am! What have I done in this world to make good my place in it, or reward those that had the trouble of my upbringing? Great part of an ordinary lifetime is gone by: and here am I, poor trifler, still sojourning in Meshech, still dwelling among the tents of Kedar!
Psalm 120.5:
Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!

Friday, October 23, 2015


Grey Spouse of Satan

James Joyce (1882-1941), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Introduction and Notes by Dr Jacqueline Belanger (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, 2001), p. 182 (from chapter 5), with note on p. 235:
Hell, Temple said. I can respect that invention of the grey spouse of Satan.477

477 (p. 182) grey spouse of Satan 'Sin' is named as Satan's daughter and wife in Book II of Milton's Paradise Lost, and their son is Death.
Don Gifford, Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), p. 274:
grey spouse of Satan In Milton's Paradise Lost, book II, Satan encounters his daughter-wife Sin and the son of their incest, Death, at the gates of Hell; she is not described as "grey" but as "fair" above and "foul" below.
It isn't to Milton's Paradise Lost that we should look for an explanation of the phrase "grey spouse of Satan," but to Swinburne's poem "The Monument of Giordano Bruno," lines 15-24, esp. line 16:
Cover thine eyes and weep, O child of hell,        15
    Grey spouse of Satan, Church of name abhorred.
    Weep, withered harlot, with thy weeping lord,
Now none will buy the heaven thou hast to sell
At price of prostituted souls, and swell
    Thy loveless list of lovers. Fire and sword        20
    No more are thine: the steel, the wheel, the cord,
The flames that rose round living limbs, and fell
In lifeless ash and ember, now no more
    Approve thee godlike.
To both Swinburne and Joyce, the "grey spouse of Satan" was the Catholic Church.


Learning by Ear

John E.B. Mayor (1825-1910), The Latin Heptateuch (London: C.J. Clay and Sons, 1889), p. lxiv:
Learn a living tongue out of books alone, and you kill it; send a dead one by way of the ear to the brain, and you give it life.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Regime Change

Phaedrus 1.15.1-2 (tr. Ben Edwin Perry):
A change of sovereignty brings to the poor nothing more than a change in the name of their master.

In principatu commutando civium
nil praeter dominum, non res mutant pauperes.


A Gamut of Odors, While Visiting the Saints

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments, chapter VI:
My Father, ever reflecting on what could be done to confirm my spiritual vocation, to pin me down, as it were, beyond any possibility of escape, bethought him that it would accustom me to what he called 'pastoral work in the Lord's service', if I accompanied Mary Grace on her visits from house to house. If it is remembered that I was only eight and a half when this scheme was carried into practice, it will surprise no one to hear that it was not crowned with success. I disliked extremely this visitation of the poor. I felt shy, I had nothing to say, with difficulty could I understand their soft Devonian patois, and most of all—a signal perhaps of my neurotic condition—I dreaded and loathed the smells of their cottages. One had to run over the whole gamut of odours, some so faint that they embraced the nostril with a fairy kiss, others bluntly gross, of the 'knock- you-down' order; some sweet, with a dreadful sourness; some bitter, with a smack of rancid hair-oil. There were fine manly smells of the pigsty and the open drain, and these prided themselves on being all they seemed to be; but there were also feminine odours, masquerading as you knew not what, in which penny whiffs, vials of balm and opoponax, seemed to have become tainted, vaguely, with the residue of the slop-pail. It was not, I think, that the villagers were particularly dirty, but those were days before the invention of sanitary science, and my poor young nose was morbidly, nay ridiculously sensitive. I often came home from 'visiting the saints' absolutely incapable of eating the milk-sop, with brown sugar strewn over it, which was my evening meal.


The Screaming Fathers

Andrew Lang, The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, Vol. I (London: John C. Nimmo, 1897), p. 25:
There are two prizes, medals, at Glasgow, called The Greek and Latin Blackstones. A student "professes," or takes up, so many Greek or Latin authors, and is closely examined in them viva voce. The professor is examiner, and decides the prize. The competitors take their seats in turn, in a curious antique chair, with an hour-glass in the back, and with a seat of stone. This stone was probably, Mr. Gleig thinks, originally a "symbol of infeftment," accompanying an old charter conveying lands to the College.1

1 The author may be excused for mentioning two incidents of this examination in his own day. In the Latin Blackstone, a student, (not the winner) translated a phrase in Juvenal, "the screaming fathers." "What is the Latin for screaming, Mr. ——?" asked Professor Ramsay. "Squalentes, sir, squalentes patres, the squalling fathers." In the Greek Blackstone Professor Lushington handed his own Aeschylus to a spectator, and examined without book, calling the competitors' attention to such grammatical expressions and turns of phrase as he thought desirable, a singular proof of his great memory.
Cf. Juvenal 8.17: squalentis traducit avos (tr. Susanna Morton Braund: he disgraces his unkempt ancestors).

Related posts:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015



Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments, Epilogue:
[W]hat a charming companion, what a delightful parent, what a courteous and engaging friend my Father would have been, and would pre-eminently have been to me, if it had not been for this stringent piety which ruined it all.

Let me speak plainly. After my long experience, after my patience and forbearance, I have surely the right to protest against the untruth (would that I could apply to it any other word!) that evangelical religion, or any religion in a violent form, is a wholesome or valuable or desirable adjunct to human life. It divides heart from heart. It sets up a vain, chimerical ideal, in the barren pursuit of which all the tender, indulgent affections, all the genial play of life, all the exquisite pleasures and soft resignations of the body, all that enlarges and calms the soul are exchanged for what is harsh and void and negative. It encourages a stern and ignorant spirit of condemnation; it throws altogether out of gear the healthy movement of the conscience; it invents virtues which are sterile and cruel; it invents sins which are no sins at all, but which darken the heaven of innocent joy with futile clouds of remorse. There is something horrible, if we will bring ourselves to face it, in the fanaticism that can do nothing with this pathetic and fugitive existence of ours but treat it as if it were the uncomfortable ante-chamber to a palace which no one has explored and of the plan of which we know absolutely nothing.


Financial Instruments

Seneca, On Benefits 6.10.3 (tr. John W. Basore):
I see there allotments, bonds, and securities—the empty phantoms of ownership, the secret haunts of Avarice devising some means by which she may deceive the mind that delights in empty fancies. For what are these things, what are interest and the account-book and usury, but the names devised for unnatural forms of human greed?

video istic diplomata et syngraphas et cautiones, vacua habendi simulacra, umbracula avaritiae quaedam laborantis, per quae decipiat animum inanium opinione gaudentem. quid enim ista sunt, quid fenus et calendarium et usura, nisi humanae cupiditatis extra naturam quaesita nomina?


Rite of Passage

François Lissarrague, "The Athenian Image of the Foreigner," tr. Antonia Nevill, in Thomas Harrison, ed., Greeks and Barbarians (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 101-124 (at 116):
To become a citizen means assuming all the panoply, as is confirmed by the Cretan rite of passage from the statues of ephebe to adulthood: the young man simultaneously received 'military equipment, an ox, a goblet',51 the sign of his status as a full warrior, participant in sacrifices and the symposium.

51 Strabo, 10.4.21.
For statues read status. Here is the passage from Strabo (= Ephorus, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 70 F 149; tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
The boy is released after receiving as presents a military habit, an ox, and a drinking‑cup (these are the gifts required by law).

ἀφίεται δ᾿ ὁ παῖς, δῶρα λαβὼν στολὴν πολεμικὴν καὶ βοῦν καὶ ποτήριον (ταῦτα μὲν τὰ κατὰ τὸν νόμον δῶρα).


Tuesday, October 20, 2015


A Legacy

François Villon, "The Legacy" ("Le Lais"), lines 65-72 (tr. Galway Kinnell, with his notes):
First in the name of the Father        65
Son and Holy Ghost
And of the glorious Mother
By whose grace no one perishes
I leave my fame God willing
To Master Guillaume Villon        70
Which resounds in honor of his name
Also my tents and my pavilion.

69 fame: The word bruit ("noise" or "renown") may have the secondary meaning of "fart."

70 Guillaume Villon: Guillaume de Villon, Villon's friend and benefactor, chaplain of Saint Benoît-le-Bétourné. In The Testament (857) Villon wills him his library.
The French:
Premierement ou nom du Pere        65
Du Filz et Saint Esperit
Et de sa glorieuse Mere
Par qui grace riens ne perit
Je laisse, de par Dieu, mon bruit
A maistre Guillaume Villon        70
Qui en l'onneur de son nom bruit
Mes tentes et mon pavillon.
Among the books in his library left in The Testament to Guillaume Villon was a book supposedly called "The Tale of the Devil's Fart" ("le Rommant du Pet au Deable," line 858). See Jean-Marie Fritz, "L'Horizon sonore de la poésie de François Villon," in L'hostellerie de pensée: études sur l'art littéraire au Moyen Age offertes à Daniel Poirion par ses anciens élèves (Paris: Presses de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1995), pp. 173-185 (at 175):
Quant au legs initial du Lais à son père, le «bruit» (soit la renommée), le Testament lui substitue le roman du Pet au Deable: léguer son bruit était déjà un cadeau empoisonné, puisque la renommée de Villon en 1456 était loin d'être parfaite (il avait commis un meurtre et participé à un vol), mais le legs du roman fictif du Pet au Deable dans le Testament nous invite rétrospectivement à comprendre le «bruit» du Lais également dans un sens obscène.
For similar legacies see Valerie Allen, On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; rpt. 2010), pp. 74-75.



Old Greek Gods

Edmund Gosse (1849-1928), Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments, chapter XI:
Although ours was perhaps the most cultivated household in the parish, I had never seen so much as a representation of a work of sculpture until I was thirteen. My mother then received from her earlier home certain volumes, among which was a gaudy gift-book of some kind, containing a few steel engravings of statues.

These attracted me violently, and here for the first time I gazed on Apollo with his proud gesture, Venus in her undulations, the kirtled shape of Diana, and Jupiter voluminously bearded. Very little information, and that to me not intelligible, was given in the text, but these were said to be figures of the old Greek gods. I asked my Father to tell me about these 'old Greek gods'. His answer was direct and disconcerting. He said—how I recollect the place and time, early in the morning, as I stood beside the window in our garish breakfast-room—he said that the so-called gods of the Greeks were the shadows cast by the vices of the heathen, and reflected their infamous lives; 'it was for such things as these that God poured down brimstone and fire on the Cities of the Plain, and there is nothing in the legends of these gods, or rather devils, that it is not better for a Christian not to know.' His face blazed white with Puritan fury as he said this—I see him now in my mind's eye, in his violent emotion. You might have thought that he had himself escaped with horror from some Hellenic hippodrome.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Old but Good Advice

Gilgamesh Epic, from tablet iii of the Sippar fragment (tr. Andrew George):
But you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
    enjoy yourself always by day and by night!
Make merry each day,
    dance and play day and night!

Let your clothes be clean,
    let your head be washed, may you bathe in water!
Gaze on the child who holds your hand,
    let your wife enjoy your repeated embrace!


A Visit to Stratford-upon-Avon

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, letter (July 24, 1927; tr. Eric Thomson):
And so after Liverpool the Monster [a term Lampedusa uses for himself] went to Chester, where he spent a delightful day exploring that city, which is so ancient and beautiful that it is a real jewel and which no visitor to England should omit from his itinerary.

Afterwards, Stratford-upon-Avon. What struck him most there was the extraordinary and truly divine enchantment of the countryside, a worthy source of such noble lyrics; in the moonlight he has traversed the woods, along the swollen and yet placid river, expecting at any moment to see lovable elves emerge, joyous sprites like Puck, or adorable huntresses like the deathless Rosalind. He saw nothing of this sort, but silver reflections on the waters, the rustling of squirrels among the leaves, the far-off bleating of sheep; the immortal Shakespearean pastoral was born here and is plain to see. And far out of town, in a hidden nook, he even saw two lovers performing the ultimate rites of love and he was not scandalized, considering how this would have won the benevolent approval of the great William, prone to forgive human weaknesses like all truly exalted and serene spirits. The little town is beautiful too, with many Elizabethan houses, including that New Place, where the poet closed his eyes on the world, whose vision he had transformed. Much peace, much serenity, much light. How different is all that from tragic Ravenna, where his only other kindred spirit was laid to rest. The grave is an ugly affair but moving; the church on the other hand is simply magnificent, Norman, standing proudly on the bank of the gentle river, and with the most agreeable graveyard in front, all in the shade of ancient trees and overgrown with purple wild roses entwining the final crosses.
The Italian, from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Viaggio in Europa: Epistolario 1925-1930 (Milan: Mondadori, 2006), pp. 77-78 (with editorial notes):
Dopo Liverpool adunque, il Mostro si recò a Chester, dove pasò un giorno in letizia grande percorrendo quella città così graziosamente vetusta e tanto ben collocata, che è un vero gioiello e che nessun visitatore dell'Inghilterra dovrebbe omettere dal proprio itinerario.

Dopo, Stratford-on-Avon. Ciò che lo ha più colpito la è stata la estrema e veramente divina dolcezza del paesaggio, degna fonte di così nobili canti; egli ha percorso sotto la luna i boschi che costeggiano il gonfio e pur placido fiume e si aspettava ad ogni momento di veder sbucare amabili folletti, geni ilari come Puck,9 adorabili cacciatrici quale Rosalinda10 immortale. Nulla di questo vide: ma riflessi d'argento sull'acque, fruscii di scoiattoli fra le fronde, lontani belati di armenti; l'inobliabile pastorale shakespeariana nacque qui e si vede; e lontano dal paese, in un ascoso recesso, vide anche due amanti che compivano gli estremi riti d'amore; né si scandalizzò, pensando quanto questo avrebbe ottenuto la benevola approvazione del grande Guglielmo,11 atto a perdonare le debolezze umane come tutti gli spiriti davvero alti e sereni. Anche il paesetto è belo con molte case elisabettiane fra le quali quella New-Place dove il poeta12 chiuse gli occhi al mondo la cui visione egli aveva trasformata. Molta pace, molta serenità e molta luce. Come differente tutto ciò dalla tragica Ravenna dove trove pace l'altro e unico spirito fraterno!13 La tomba bruttina ma commovente; la chiesa invece nella quale si trova, addirittura magnifica, normanna, fiera sulla riva del mite fiume, e preceduta dal più desiderabile dei camposanti tutto ombreggiato da vecchissimi alberi e invaso da rose selvaggie porporine attorcigliate alle definitive croci.

9 Folletto benefico del Midsummer Night's Dream di Shakespeare.
10 Personaggio shakespeariano: la celeste Rosalinda dalla bianca mano, la bela e la casta, di As You Like It.
11 Il filosofo Guglielmo di Occam.
12 William Shakespeare.
13 Dante Alighieri.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who remarks:
The 'great William' of the letter, bizarrely identified by the editor as William of Ockham (footnote 11), is obviously Shakespeare himself. Gulielmi non sunt multiplicandi praeter necessitatem.

It's clear incidentally that Lampedusa is confusing the (demolished) New Place house with the Henley Street birthplace but that's beyond the editor's ken.

There's evidence of the "ultimate rites of love" outdoors in Stratford in 1628:
Item {more} hee sayth that on plimor of assencontlie was noght wth her a gainst the seston wch is the wiffe of on Arter seetens

(He says that one Plimor of Aston Cantlow had sex beside the pond with a woman who is the wife of one Arthur Seetens)
The case was presented to the Churchwardens of Stratford on June 22nd and among those present was Shakespeare's son-in-law, Dr John Hall. See Bridget Cusack, ed., Everyday English 1500-1700: A Reader (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), pp. 297-301.


Die Gedanken Sind Frei

Seneca, On Benefits 3.20.1 (tr. John W. Basore):
It is a mistake for anyone to believe that the condition of slavery penetrates into the whole being of a man. The better part of him is exempt. Only the body is at the mercy and disposition of a master; but the mind is its own master, and is so free and unshackled that not even this prison of the body, in which it is confined, can restrain it from using its own powers, following mighty aims, and escaping into the infinite to keep company with the stars.

errat, si quis existimat servitutem in totum hominem descendere. pars melior eius excepta est. corpora obnoxia sunt et adscripta dominis; mens quidem sui iuris, quae adeo libera et vaga est, ut ne ab hoc quidem carcere, cui inclusa est, teneri queat, quominus impetu suo utatur et ingentia agat et in infinitum comes caelestibus exeat.
Related post: Thoughts are Free.

Sunday, October 18, 2015



August von Platen (1796-1835), Lebensregeln, no. 37 (tr. Lilian Dalbiac):
Observe, listen, be silent. Judge little, question much.

Bemerke, höre, schweige. Urteile wenig, frage viel.


The Books That Never Can Be Mine

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), "Ballade of the Unattainable," Books and Bookmen (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1887), pp. 133-134:
The Books I cannot hope to buy,
Their phantoms round me waltz and wheel,
They pass before the dreaming eye,
Ere Sleep the dreaming eye can seal.
A kind of literary reel
They dance; how fair the bindings shine!
Prose cannot tell them what I feel,—
The Books that never can be mine!

There frisk Editions rare and shy,
Morocco clad from head to heel;
Shakspearian quartos; Comedy
As first she flashed from Richard Steele;
And quaint De Foe on Mrs. Veal;
And, lord of landing net and line,
Old Izaak with his fishing creel,—
The Books that never can be mine!

Incunables! for you I sigh,
Black letter, at thy founts I kneel,
Old tales of Perrault's nursery,
For you I'd go without a meal!
For Books wherein did Aldus deal
And rare Galliot du Pré I pine.
The watches of the night reveal
The Books that never can be mine!


Prince, bear a hopeless Bard's appeal;
Reverse the rules of Mine and Thine;
Make it legitimate to steal
The Books that never can be mine!

Ronald Searle, Anatomy of an Antiquarian Bookseller
(click on image to enlarge)

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


Friendly Fire Yet Again

Seneca, On Benefits 4.34.2 (tr. John W. Basore):
For the same thing may happen in battle, and my hand, deceived by some mistake, may direct my weapon against a comrade, and spare an enemy as though he were a friend; but this will happen but rarely, and from no fault of my own, for my intention is to smite the enemy, and to defend my countryman.

sic enim in proelio potest accidere, ut telum meum in commilitonem manus dirigat aliquo errore decepta et hosti tamquam meo parcam; sed hoc et raro accidet et non vitio meo, cuius propositum est hostem ferire, civem defendere.
Related posts:

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Fountain of Youth

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), from West-östlicher Divan, IX: Das Schenkenbuch (tr. J. Whaley):
Drunken, all must to this incline!
Youth is drunkenness less the wine;
Age may its youth in drinking renew,
Wonderful virtue so to do.
Dear life for cares enough will care,
And vines will all our cares repair.
The same (tr. Martin Bidney):
Drunk is what all of us ought to be!
Youth's being drunk without wine, you see?
If age can drink itself back to youth,
That's wonder-virtue, too, in truth.
Dear life brings worry all the time—
A worry-breaker is the vine.
The same (tr. David Luke):
We must all be drunk! Youth is wineless drunkenness and old age that drinks itself young again is marvellous virtue. Life, bless it, takes care to supply us with cares; and the caster-out of cares is the vine.
The German:
Trunken müssen wir alle sein!
Jugend ist Trunkenheit ohne Wein;
Trinkt sich das Alter wieder zu Jugend,
So ist es wundervolle Tugend.
Für Sorgen sorgt das liebe Leben,
Und Sorgenbrecher sind die Reben.


One Laugh More Before We Die

William Cowper, letter to Lady Hesketh (June 27, 1788):
For the sake of a longer visit, my dearest Coz, I can be well content to wait. The country, this country at least, is pleasant at all times, and when winter is come, or near at hand, we shall have the better chance for being snug. I know your passion for retirement indeed, or for what we call deedy retirement, and the F——s intending to return to Bath with their mother, when her visit at the Hall is over, you will then find here exactly the retirement in question. I have made in the orchard the best winter-walk in all the parish, sheltered from the east, and from the north-east, and open to the sun, except at his rising, all the day. Then we will have Homer and Don Quixote: and then we will have saunter and chat, and one laugh more before we die. Our Orchard is alive with creatures of all kinds; poultry of every denomination swarms in it, and pigs, the drollest in the world!

Friday, October 16, 2015


A Topsy-Turvy World

Plato, Republic 8.14 (562e-563b; tr. Paul Shorey):
"Just what do we mean by that?" he said.

"Why," I said, "the father habitually tries to resemble the child and is afraid of his sons, and the son likens himself to the father and feels no awe or fear of his parents, so that he may be forsooth a free man. And the resident alien feels himself equal to the citizen and the citizen to him, and the foreigner likewise."

"Yes, these things do happen," he said.

"They do," said I, "and such other trifles as these. The teacher in such case fears and fawns upon the pupils, and the pupils pay no heed to the teacher or to their overseers either. And in general the young ape their elders and vie with them in speech and action, while the old, accommodating themselves to the young, are full of pleasantry and graciousness, imitating the young for fear they may be thought disagreeable and authoritative."

πῶς, ἦ δ' ὅς, τὸ τοιοῦτον λέγομεν;

οἷον, ἔφην, πατέρα μὲν ἐθίζεσθαι παιδὶ ὅμοιον γίγνεσθαι καὶ φοβεῖσθαι τοὺς ὑεῖς, ὑὸν δὲ πατρί, καὶ μήτε αἰσχύνεσθαι μήτε δεδιέναι τοὺς γονέας, ἵνα δὴ ἐλεύθερος ᾖ· μέτοικον δὲ ἀστῷ καὶ ἀστὸν μετοίκῳ ἐξισοῦσθαι, καὶ ξένον ὡσαύτως.

γίγνεται γὰρ οὕτως, ἔφη.

ταῦτά τε, ἦν δ' ἐγώ, καὶ σμικρὰ τοιάδε ἄλλα γίγνεται· διδάσκαλός τε ἐν τῷ τοιούτῳ φοιτητὰς φοβεῖται καὶ θωπεύει, φοιτηταί τε διδασκάλων ὀλιγωροῦσιν, οὕτω δὲ καὶ παιδαγωγῶν· καὶ ὅλως οἱ μὲν νέοι πρεσβυτέροις ἀπεικάζονται καὶ διαμιλλῶνται καὶ ἐν λόγοις καὶ ἐν ἔργοις, οἱ δὲ γέροντες συγκαθιέντες τοῖς νέοις εὐτραπελίας τε καὶ χαριεντισμοῦ ἐμπίμπλανται, μιμούμενοι τοὺς νέους, ἵνα δὴ μὴ δοκῶσιν ἀηδεῖς εἶναι μηδὲ δεσποτικοί.

In Plato's Republic I also noticed a series of asyndetic privative adjectives at 9.6 (580a): ἀπίστῳ, ἀδίκῳ, ἀφίλῳ, ἀνοσίῳ. And here is another example, from Seneca, On the Firmness of the Wise Man 5.4: inviolabilis, immota, inconcussa.


Thursday, October 15, 2015



Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.21 (tr. C.R. Haines):
A little while and thou wilt have forgotten everything, a little while and everything will have forgotten thee.

ἐγγὺς μὲν ἡ σὴ περὶ πάντων λήθη· ἐγγὺς δὲ ἡ πάντων περὶ σοῦ λήθη.


Vox Dei

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957), Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries (1950; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 363-364 (footnotes omitted):
But what lends an added touch of horror to the Camisard murders is that they were done not merely in the name of religion but under the direct influence of a religious inspiration. The cynical brutality of governments in crushing out revolt, the mean and hateful revenges taken by an oppressed people, may shock our sense of humanity; but the motives of them are too easily credible, too much akin to the baser instincts in our our own nature, to make us feel the full force of Lucretius' Tantum relligio. It is when good men, or what seem to be good men, interpose on the side of barbarism, and preach against clemency as something in itself hateful to God, that we begin to despair of the weak vessels we human creatures are. Such are our feelings when we read of the Covenanting minister whose sermon on the Amalekites led to the massacre of the prisoners at Philiphaugh. Such are our feelings when the Camisard prophets override the wishes of their military leaders by insisting that women and children must be put to the sword with the rest. Yet these men, to all appearances, were men of conscience; la Rivière, a pupil of Vivens, justified the massacres when he stood his trial, on the ground that St. Paul told the Corinthians to take away the wicked from among them. That is the worst of it; the ultrasupernaturalist faced with a moral problem believes that the solution is given to him directly by the voice of God, and from that arbitrament there is no appeal.


The Evidence of Bookshelves

Karen Baston, "Alan Rodger's Library: Introduction," in Karen Baston and Ernest Metzger. The Roman Law Library of Alan Ferguson Rodger, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, with a bibliography of his works (Glasgow: Traditio Iuris Romani, 2012), pp. 7-18 (at 16-17, footnotes omitted):
In his essay 'Savigny on the Strand', Rodger revealed his penchant for studying bookshelves to glean information about their owners' interests from them. Bookshelves provided evidence for nothing less than
the apparent failure of universities to win over most of their graduates to any lifelong interest in the academic aspects of the subjects which they study. The physical signs of this failure are often to be seen on the bookshelves of the homes which you visit — the tell-tale unchanging cluster of French or German novels which were once the set texts for a modern languages graduate, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight peeping forlornly out from the growing thicket of Edna O'Briens and Muriel Sparks on the shelves of someone who long ago did a course on English Language.
Graduates of law were not free of this fault of literature students:
In the same way the office of many a lawyer contains a small cluster of ageing or obsolete textbooks which would allow a legal archaeologist to determine fairly precisely when the occupant graduated and thereby released himself from the painful obligation to purchase legal texts.
The same certainly could not be said of Rodger. His bookshelves combined the texts of his university years with the latest publications on Roman law. His lifelong interest was clear to see from the moment a visitor entered his home and saw the well-stocked bookshelves in his hallway.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


A Suspected Book Thief

M.A. Buchanan, "Book Collecting," University of Toronto Monthly 31 (January 1931) 177-187 (at 183-184):
[Bartolomé José] Gallardo [1776-1852], in a nation of bibliographers, is the greatest of them all. It may be doubted indeed whether he has anywhere had his peer. He was interested in books largely for their contents which he transcribed accurately. His bibliophilism was vehement, his character irascible, his tongue and pen sharp. In consequence, he made many enemies for himself, and this may explain away the charges of book thieving laid against him. At any rate he has been the subject of an interesting sonnet and some anecdotes. The sonnet is by Estébanez Calderon and reads as follows:
Ha! cacus, cuckoo, bibliopirate, bat,
Pincer of volumes, filcher, magpie, rook,
Out of my papers get your sneaking crook,
You ferret, bookworm, borer, moth, and rat!
Weasel with sabre-claws, librivorous cat,
Loader of treasures with your crane and hook,
Algiers of libraries, galley of the book,
My shelves are shores that you depopulate.
Your belt can stow an archive: for a tie
You wear a Gladstone bag; your pockets hide
A Vatican, and never look awry.
A thirsty sponge you are; and if the wide
Atlantic were one sea of books, you'd sop
It dry within an hour, nor spill a drop.
                      —Trans. S.G. Morley, Sat. Rev., March, 1927.
The Colombina Library in Seville, the famous collection made by Christopher Columbus' bookloving son, Ferdinand, had a very rare manuscript cancionero, which Gallardo coveted. Gallardo, who used to study there, wrote marginal notes on the manuscript, and then spread the insinuation that the manuscript had been stolen from him and bought by the Colombina Library. The naive but honest librarian examined the copy, was convinced by Gallardo's marks of ownership and handed over to him the precious work.

According to another story, the keepers of the Chapter Library of the cathedral of Toledo became weary of watching Gallardo while working in their library, and as there were no other readers, decided to lock him up in the library each morning and examine him upon leaving in the afternoon. This method worked very well, until one day it was discovered that books were being thrown from a window and picked up by a boy who carried them to Gallardo's lodgings. According to Puigblanch, Gallardo was denied access to English private collections because of suspicions which he aroused. Gallardo, this unfriendly critic explained, believed that English libraries were rich in old Spanish books because Drake had carried them off in the sixteenth century, and felt justified in restoring them to his native land. Drake sacked Spanish cities like Cadiz and took away valuable loot, but one would like to have better evidence of his bibliophilism.
The original sonnet, from Poesías de D.S. Estébanez Calderón (El Solitario) (Madrid: A. Pérez Dubrull, 1888), p. 335:

                                  DE S. M.

Caco, cuco, faquín, biblio-pirata;
Tenaza de los libros, chuzo, púa;
De papeles, aparte lo ganzúa,
Hurón, carcoma, polilleja, rata.
    Uñilargo, garduño, garrapata,
Para sacar los libros cabria, grúa;
Argel de bibliotecas, gran falúa,
Armada en corso, haciendo cala y cata.
    Empapas un archivo en la bragueta;
Un Simancas te cabe en el bolsillo;
Te pones por corbata una maleta.
    Juegas del dos, del cinco y por tresillo;
Y al fin te beberás como una sopa,
Llenas de libros, África y Europa.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


A Love-Hate Relationship

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), "Hypochonder" (tr. David Luke):
Devil take the human race! It's enough to drive one crazy! I keep making such firm resolutions to stop seeing people altogether and consign the whole people to God and itself and the Devil! And then I only have to catch sight of a human face and I love it again.
The same (tr. John Frederick Nims):
The devil take the human race!
Enough to drive you crazy!
Time and again I swear to God
I'm finished! through! with people.
They're God's affair. Their own affair.
Especially the devil's.
But then I see a human face
And — back in love with people.
The German:
Der Teufel hol das Menschengeschlecht!
Man möchte rasend werden!
Da nehm ich mir so eifrig vor:
Will niemand weiter sehen,
Will all das Volk Gott und sich selbst
Und dem Teufel überlassen!
Und kaum seh ich ein Menschengesicht,
So hab ichs wieder lieb.


You're Not the Only One

Euripides, Alcestis 417-418 (tr. David Kovacs):
For you are not the first or last of mortals
to lose a noble wife.

οὐ γάρ τι πρῶτος οὐδὲ λοίσθιος βροτῶν
γυναικὸς ἐσθλῆς ἤμπλακες.
Euripides, Andromache 1041-1042 (tr. David Kovacs):
                                Not on you alone
or on your kin have cruel griefs fallen.

                                             οὐχὶ σοὶ μόνᾳ
δύσφρονες ἐπέπεσον, οὐ φίλοισι, λῦπαι.
Euripides, Helen 464 (tr. David Kovacs):
Many people have troubles: you are not the only one.

πολλοὶ κακῶς πράσσουσιν, οὐ σὺ δὴ μόνος.
Euripides, Hippolytus 834-835 (tr. David Kovacs):
My lord, it is not upon you alone that these ills have come:
you have lost a trusty wife, but so have many others.

οὐ σοὶ τάδ᾿, ὦναξ, ἦλθε δὴ μόνῳ κακά,
πολλῶν μετ᾿ ἄλλων δ᾿ ὤλεσας κεδνὸν λέχος.
Euripides, Medea 1017 (tr. David Kovacs):
You are not the only woman to be separated from her children.

οὔτοι μόνη σὺ σῶν ἀπεζύγης τέκνων.

Monday, October 12, 2015


A Prediction

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957), Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries (1950; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 358:
An earlier Huguenot commentator, Dumoulin, had foreseen the downfall of the Catholic Church in A.D. 2015.1

1 Brueys, op. cit. i.59.
David Augustin de Brueys (1641-1723), Histoire du fanatisme de notre tems, I (Utrecht: Henry-Corneille Le Febvre, 1737), p. 60 (not p. 59):
C'est la pensée de M. Dumoulin, dit-il dans un autre endroit, il veut que l'Antichristianisme ne doive finir qu'en l'an 2015.
Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713), L'accomplissement des prophéties ou la délivrance prochaine de l'Église, I (Rotterdam: Abraham Acher, 1686), p. 71:
Car il [Monsieur du Moulin] veut que l'antichristianisme ne doive finir que l'an 2015.
Pierre du Moulin (1568–1658), Accomplissement des prophéties (Genève: Pierre Aubert, 1624), p. 215:
Comme ainsi soit donc que le S. Esprit en tout ce chapitre parle de la succession & establishment de ceste Hierarchie Romaine en la place de l'Empire Romain, & que nous ayons monstré que le Pape a commencé à fonder son Empire temporel en l'an du Seigneur 755, si vous y adioustez ces mille deux cens soixante ans de la duree de cet Empire Hierarchique, il est nécessaire qu'il dure iusques à l'an du Seigneur deux mille & quinze...
Wikipedia wrongly attributes the prediction to Charles Dumoulin (1500-1566), citing Knox.


The Use of Letters

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter IX (footnote omitted):
The Germans, in the age of Tacitus, were unacquainted with the use of letters; and the use of letters is the principal circumstance that distinguishes a civilised people from a herd of savages, incapable of knowledge or reflection. Without that artificial help the human memory soon dissipates or corrupts the ideas entrusted to her charge; and the nobler faculties of the mind, no longer supplied with models or with materials, gradually forget their powers: the judgment becomes feeble and lethargic, the imagination languid or irregular. Fully to apprehend this important truth, let us attempt, in an improved society, to calculate the immense distance between the man of learning and the illiterate peasant. The former, by reading and reflection, multiplies his own experience, and lives in distant ages and remote countries; whilst the latter, rooted to a single spot, and confined to a few years of existence, surpasses but very little his fellow-labourer the ox in the exercise of his mental faculties. The same and even a greater difference will be found between nations than between individuals; and we may safely pronounce, that without some species of writing no people has ever preserved the faithful annals of their history, ever made any considerable progress in the abstract sciences, or ever possessed, in any tolerable degree of perfection, the useful and agreeable arts of life.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Happy the Man

Seneca, Agamemnon 103-104 (tr. John G. Fitch):
Lucky the man content with the lot
of average folk...

felix mediae quisquis turbae
sorte quietus...
R.J. Tarrant ad loc.:
For quietus cf., e.g., Lucr. 5.1129f. ut satius multo iam sit parere quietum | quam regere imperio res uelle et regna tenere. For media turba compare Thy. 533f. liceat in media mihi | latere turba, also medium uulgus in Ov. Met. 7.432, Sen. Pha. 212, media plebs Ov. Met. 5.207. The thought is paralleled in Anth. Lat. 433.7 Riese pars ego sim plebis, 407.9, Tranq. 10.6.
Related post: Recipes for Happiness.


A Greek Play Every Weekend

C.S. Lewis, diary (March 1, 1924):
I spent most of the morning in the kitchen cutting up turnips and peeling onions for D, and then went for an hour's walk in the fields. After lunch and jobs I took Euripides from his shelf for the first time this many a day, with some idea of reading a Greek play every week end (when I am not writing) so as to keep up my Greek. I began the Heracleidae. Coming back to Greek tragedy after so long an absence I was greatly impressed with its stiffness and rumness and also thought the choruses strangely prosaic. The effort to represent a scuffle between Iolaus and the Herald is intolerably languid. After the first shock, however, I enjoyed it.
Id. (March 4, 1924):
After breakfast I walked into town. I went to the library in College and looked up in Paley three passages in the Heracleidae that had baffled me. Paley emended one of them and "supplied" words and sentences to the other two. How easy it is to translate anything on these terms!

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Many Afflictions

Euripides, fragment 645b (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Alas, alas: old age has many afflictions!

φεῦ φεῦ, τὸ γῆρας ὡς ἔχει πολλὰς νόσους.
Or, taking it as it comes, "Alas, alas, old age, how [it] has many sicknesses!" This is a nice, simple sentence for the Greek beginner. Cognates with English are easy to see:


Original and Derivative Authorities

Arnaldo Momigliano (1908-1987), "Ancient History and the Antiquarian," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13.3/4 (1950) 285-315 (at 286):
The whole modern method of historical research is founded upon the distinction between original and derivative authorities. By original authorities we mean either statements by eye-witnesses, or documents, and other material remains, that are contemporary with the events which they attest. By derivative authorities we mean historians or chroniclers who relate and discuss events which they have not witnessed but which they have heard of or inferred directly or indirectly from original authorities. We praise original authorities—or sources—for being reliable, but we praise non-contemporary historians—or derivative authorities—for displaying sound judgment in the interpretation and evaluation of the original sources.
Id. (at 302-303, footnote omitted):
The extraordinary story of Père Hardouin can be understood only in this context. He is notoriously a pathological case. Starting from the study of numismatics, he found contradictions between coins and literary texts and slowly reached the conclusion that all the ancient texts (except Cicero, Virgil's Georgics, Horace's Satires and Epistles and his beloved Pliny the Elder) had been forged by a gang of Italians in the late fourteenth century. He even identified the leader of the gang: Severus Archontius, who absentmindedly left his trace in a passage of the Historia Augusta (Firmus Sat., 2, 1) as a numismatist. Hardouin carried the contemporary bias for non-literary evidence and the contemporary suspicion of literary evidence well beyond the verge of madness. But his contemporaries did not laugh. They answered at length. La Croze wrote a whole volume against Hardouin (1708). Dom Tassin and Dom Toustain justified their big Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique (1750-65) by asserting inter alia that it would make it impossible for a new Hardouin to repeat his exploits. The discovery of the falsification of the whole of St. Augustine and of the Divina Commedia were, as is well known, among the details of Hardouin's discoveries.
On Hardouin see Anthony Grafton, "Jean Hardouin: The Antiquary as Pariah," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 62 (1999) 241-267.


De Natura Crepituum

Nugae Venales, sive Thesaurus Ridendi et Jocandi ad Gravissimos Severissimosque Viros, Patres Melancholicorum Conscriptos (1720), pp. 4-5:
Quotuplices sunt crepitus ventris?

R. Sunt multiplices. Tormentarii horrendos edunt sonitus, domicellae crepitus suos premunt intra nates, exilesque sonos emittunt; crepitus apothecariorum nihil aliud redolent, quam vinum aromatites vel anisum conditum: aromatarii nil nisi zingiber in podice habent; procuratores articulant suos crepitus, sicuti causam alicujus processus; advocati (quos auri sacra fames exagitat) nil nisi aurum tonant in suas braccas: experiemini, & proculdubio invenietis aliquid merdae.
Id., p. 8:
Crepitus ventris estne corporale quid?

R. Ita, probatur sic: 1. Ratio corporis organici consistit in subtilitate sensuum. Atqui nihil aeque sensibile est ac crepitus. Ergo crepitus est corpus organicum. 2. Ecce alia ratio deprompta ex profunditate meae braccae: Ea omnia quae constant ex quatuor elementis sunt corporea. Sed crepitus sunt compositi ex quatuor elementis. Ergo (Minorem probo.) quia crepitus sunt sicci, humidi, frigidi & calidi, fac periculum victo dabis manus. Quam pulcrum est philosophiae operam dedisse! ubique enim locorum nobis adjumento est. 3. Quae suas habent dimensiones, longitudinem, latitudinem & profunditatem corporea sunt. Ergo crepitus sunt corporei. Quia quidam crepitus magni, quidam longi, quidam breves, quidam curti, quidam obliqui, quidam largi, secundum magnitudinem foraminis.
Id., p. 9:
Crepitus ventris estne spiritualis?

R. Ita, probatur sic: 1. Quae invisibilia sunt, spiritualia sunt. Atqui crepitus sunt invisibiles. Ergo spirituales sunt: minorem probo, dum vos oro ut insignem crepitum emittatis, mihique indicatis cujus coloris sit, vel metimini mihi ulnam unam, sicuti metiri solet pannus, & vobis, ut in concursu, lampada tradam. 2. Quae habent agilitatem, ut nullus hominum possit eorum ictus evitare, sunt spiritualia. Sed tales sunt crepitus. Ergo, &c. His adde, etiamsi crepitus proveniunt ex spelunca, & nascantur sine visu, sicuti talpae, attamen non sunt palpabiles, sicuti tenebrae Aegyptiorum. Ergo, &c. 3. Fides ex auditu est. Crepitus sunt ex auditu & odoratu. Ergo crepitus spirituales sunt.
Id., p. 11:
Quid est crepitus?

R. Crepitus est flatus ventris, quem natura provida sanitatis tuendae causa per podicem ejicit: materia ejus existens paululum crassa. Haec est definitio essentialis & quidditativa, constat enim ex genere, quod est flatus, & differentia, quae est ventris, nisi velis nos aeque per os ac per podicem pedere.
Id., pp. 13-14:
Crepitus ventris estne bonus?

R. Ita, probatur sic: 1. Illud censetur esse bonum, quod utile, jucundum & honestum est. Cicer. 1. officior. Atqui tales sunt crepitus. Ergo, &c. Minorem probo: utiles sunt crepitus: quia qui animose pedit prolongat vitam suam juxta proverbium vulgare; utilitas crepitus inde quoque apparet, quod omnes fere artes ex eo originem suam duxerunt. Musica ex crepitu orta est, quia tota pendet ex varietate sonorum: sicuti non inveniuntur duo nasi per omnia similes, ita vix ac ne vix quidem duo crepitus ejusdem soni, sed quot peditores, tot soni. Antiqui praedicebant pluviosum aut serenum tempus ex tono & sono suorum crepituum, Ecce Astrologia. Germani, quia crepitus emittunt, tamquam ex profunda aliqua spelunca, hinc bombardae & tormenta bellica inventa; Galli, hinc confecere pilam lusoriam, quam follem appellant. Nautae artem navigandi, inde didicerunt, ut uno vento ad contraria loca navigare possint, hac consideratione moti, quod crepitus collimet ad pedes & feriat nares: Galenus, Hippocrates, Avicenna, Rases &c. multa secreta quoad medicinam, inde auferunt. 2. Crepitus est jucundum quid; quia cantat nascendo, & nascitur cantando. Imo quod plus est, unus crepitus clare editus omnes sodales etiam omnino melancholicos, ad risum concitat. Imprimis crepitus canis aulae delectabilis est, quippe qui veniam pedendi largitur Domicellis omnibus horis, dummodo dicant, abigite canem, quia pepedit. 3. Crepitus est honestum quid: quia utilitatem adfert maximam, & hominem vivificat, unde quidam ex retento crepitu obierunt. Hinc Caesar quidam Romanus edicto permisit, ut cuilibet crepitum clare emittere liceret etiam in ipso convivio.
I changed the punctuation and the numbering in a few places. I also corrected domicella (nominative singular) to domicellae (nominative plural = damsels) on p. 4, because the verbs premunt and emittunt are plural.

Google's translation tool turns this into gibberish, as it does almost anything written in Latin. Please don't send me your translations. Although I'm too lazy to translate it myself, I do understand it. As I told my sister a few days ago, I have only two skills, both unmarketable—I can read Latin, and I can sight sing.


Friday, October 09, 2015


What Have I To Do with Books?

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), The Last of the Mohicans, chapter XII (David Gamut and Natty Bumppo speaking):
"Name chapter and verse; in which of the holy books do you find language to support you?"

"Book!" repeated Hawk-eye, with singular and ill-concealed disdain; "do you take me for a whimpering boy, at the apron string of one of your old gals; and this good rifle on my knee for the feather of a goose's wing, my ox's horn for a bottle of ink, and my leathern pouch for a cross-barred handkercher to carry my dinner? Book! what have such as I, who am a warrior of the wilderness, though a man without a cross, to do with books!"
"Without a cross" = with no admixture of Indian blood.


Knowledge of Greek and Interest in Patristics

Darwell Stone, letter to Frederick W. Langton (December 4, 1937, in F.L. Cross, Darwell Stone: Churchman and Counsellor (Westminster: Dacre Press, 1943), pp. 337-338 (at 338):
Thank you for what you say about the Lexicon of Patristic Greek. There is not much prospect of my finishing it, but perhaps I may leave for some one else the materials for the whole work and a piece ready for the press and at the most a bit printed, so I can hardly look forward to giving effect to your suggestion that I should put it into Latin eventually: perhaps it ought to have been in Latin from the first, as the chief interest in it is from abroad, and, though most foreign scholars read English after a fashion, Latin is easier to them. I remember once saying to Rawlinson, the present Bishop of Derby, when he was a don at Christ Church, that by the time that the Lexicon is finished there would be no one in England who knew Greek and no one who cared what the fathers thought; and he replied that this would not matter a bit because there would still be people in Germany who knew Greek and were interested in the fathers. Probably he was right about Germany, and let us hope that I was wrong about England.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Thursday, October 08, 2015


The Ideal Reader

Anthony Grafton, "Is the History of Reading a Marginal Enterprise? Guillaume Budé and His Books," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 91.2 (June 1997) 139-157 (at 156):
The ideal reader, as portrayed by Jan Amos Comenius in his Orbis pictus, did not sit back in an armchair with a book in his lap. He sat upright, strenuously attentive, at a desk, and copied extracts from what he read into notebooks.
Joh. Amos Comenii Orbis Sensualium Pictus. Hoc est Omnium Principalium in Mundo Rerum, et in Vita Actionum, Pictura & Nomenclatura. Joh. Amos Comenius's Visible World, or, A Nomenclature, and Pictures of All the Chief Things That are in the World, and of Men's Employments Therein ... Translated into English by Charles Hoole (New York: T. & J. Swords, 1810), pp. 139-140 (click on image to enlarge):


A Good and Useful Lesson

Kenneth J. Dover (1920-2010), "Fathers, Sons and Forgiveness," Illinois Classical Studies 16.1/2 (Spring/Fall 1991) 173-182 (at 180, n. 15):
Χρηστός is often translated (even by people who should know better) "useful," for which the Greek is χρήσιμος; χρηστός is in fact the most general Attic word for "good," and the translation "useful" is appropriate only in such phrases as χρηστὰ διδάσκειν, χρηστὰ παραινεῖν, because a useful lesson or useful advice is the same as a good lesson or good advice.


A Peculiar Vitality and Freshness

Hugh Lloyd-Jones (1922-2009), Greek in a Cold Climate (Savage, Md.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1991), p. 230 (footnote omitted):
But the best reason of all for engaging in Greek studies is that, once the initial drudgery is over — and even that, in the hands of an inspiring teacher like my old headmaster J.T. Christie, can be a pleasure — Greek literature and art have a peculiar vitality and freshness. Greek and Latin are most inappropriately described as 'dead languages', for much that is written in them has a good deal more life in it than most of what was printed in the yellow press this morning. Greek poetry, philosophy and history are concerned not with the ephemeral problems of the moment but with the basic problems that must confront all human beings; that is why Goethe saw in them an antidote against the dreary naturalism and tedious piling up of detail that marked much writing in his time and marks still more in ours. The old-fashioned notion that we study the Greeks in order to acquire 'values' not otherwise to be obtained has rightly been abandoned; what matters to us is not so much the answers these writers gave to the questions which they raised as the way in which they raised the questions.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


On the Horrible Danger of Reading

The only translation I can find of Voltaire's pamphlet De l'horrible danger de la lecture comes from The Tatler. A Daily Journal of Literature and the Stage, Vol. 2, No. 221 (Thursday, May 19, 1831) 883. I've slightly revised the translation and interspersed the French, paragraph by paragraph:
Joussouf-Chéribi, by the grace of God Mufti of the Holy Ottoman Empire, light of lights, elect among the elect, to all the faithful who shall see these presents, folly and benediction.

Nous Joussouf-Chéribi, par la grâce de Dieu mouphti du Saint-Empire ottoman, lumière des lumières, élu entre les élus, à tous les fidèles qui ces présentes verront, sottise et bénédiction.

Whereas Saïd-Effendi, heretofore Ambassador of the Sublime Porte to a little state, called Frankrom, situated between Spain and Italy, has introduced among us the pernicious use of printing; we, having consulted on this novelty our venerable brethren the cadis and imams of the imperial city of Stamboul, and more especially, the fakirs known for their zeal against all mental advancement, it has seemed good unto Mahomet and to us to condemn, proscribe, and anathematize the said infernal invention of printing, for the causes hereunto annexed.

Comme ainsi soit que Saïd-Effendi, ci-devant ambassadeur de la Sublime-Porte vers un petit État nommé Frankrom, situé entre l'Espagne et l'Italie, a rapporté parmi nous le pernicieux usage de l'imprimerie, ayant consulté sur cette nouveauté nos vénérables frères les cadis et imans de la ville impériale de Stamboul, et surtout les fakirs connus par leur zèle contre l'esprit, il a semblé bon à Mahomet et à nous de condamner, proscrire, anathématiser ladite infernale invention de l'imprimerie, pour les causes ci-dessous énoncées.

lst. This facility of communicating thoughts, evidently tends to the dissipation of ignorance, which is the guardian and safe-guard of well-regulated states.

1° Cette facilité de communiquer ses pensées tend évidemment à dissiper l'ignorance, qui est la gardienne et la sauvegarde des États bien policés.

2nd. It is to be feared that among the books brought from the West, there may be some which treat of agriculture, and the means of perfecting the mechanic arts, which works may at length, in opposition to the will of God, awaken the intellect of our cultivators and manufacturers, excite them to industry, increase their possessions, and, in the end, inspire them with some elevation of mind, some interest in the public good, sentiments directly in opposition to sound doctrine.

2° Il est à craindre que, parmi les livres apportés d'Occident, il ne s'en trouve quelques-uns sur l'agriculture et sur les moyens de perfectionner les arts mécaniques, lesquels ouvrages pourraient à la longue, ce qu'à Dieu ne plaise, réveiller le génie de nos cultivateurs et de nos manufacturiers, exciter leur industrie, augmenter leurs richesses, et leur inspirer un jour quelque élévation d’âme, quelque amour du bien public, sentiments absolument opposés à la saine doctrine.

3rd. It may happen, in the course of time, that we may have books of history freed from the marvels which now keep the nation in a happy state of stupidity. The authors of these books may have the imprudence to do justice to good and bad actions, and to recommend equity and the love of one's country, which is visibly contrary to our rights.

3° Il arriverait à la fin que nous aurions des livres d'histoire dégagés du merveilleux qui entretient la nation dans une heureuse stupidité. On aurait dans ces livres l'imprudence de rendre justice aux bonnes et aux mauvaises actions, et de recommander l'équité et l'amour de la patrie, ce qui est visiblement contraire aux droits de notre place.

4th. It may be that some miserable philosophers, under the specious but criminal pretence of enlightening and improving mankind, may come to instruct us in dangerous virtues, with which the people ought never to have any acquaintance.

4° Il se pourrait, dans la suite des temps, que de misérables philosophes, sous le prétexte spécieux, mais punissable, d'éclairer les hommes et de les rendre meilleurs, viendraient nous enseigner des vertus dangereuses dont le peuple ne doit jamais avoir de connaissance.

5th. They may, by increasing the people's respect for God, and scandalously asserting in print that His power is the same in all places, diminish the number of pilgrims to Mecca, to the great detriment of the salvation of souls.

5° Ils pourraient, en augmentant le respect qu'ils ont pour Dieu, et en imprimant scandaleusement qu'il remplit tout de sa présence, diminuer le nombre des pèlerins de la Mecque, au grand détriment du salut des âmes.

6th. It would undoubtedly come to pass, that by reading those authors from the West who have treated of contagious disorders, and of the manner of preventing them, we should be so unfortunate as to be freed from the plague; which would be manifestly flying in the face of Providence.

6° Il arriverait sans doute qu'à force de lire les auteurs occidentaux qui ont traité des maladies contagieuses, et de la manière de les prévenir, nous serions assez malheureux pour nous garantir de la peste, ce qui serait un attentat énorme contre les ordres de la Providence.

For these and other reasons, for the edification of the faithful, and the benefit of their souls, we forbid them ever to read any book, upon pain of eternal damnation; and lest they should be overcome by the diabolical temptation to gain knowledge, we forbid all fathers and mothers to teach their children to read. And, to prevent any opposition to this our ordinance, we expressly forbid them to think; under the same penalties. We enjoin all the believers to denounce to our tribunal, whomsoever shall have been heard to utter four connected phrases, expressive of a clear and distinct meaning. We ordain that, in conversation, no terms shall be used, but those which mean nothing, according to the ancient and long established usage of the Sublime Porte.

A ces causes et autres, pour l'édification des fidèles et pour le bien de leurs âmes, nous leur défendons de jamais lire aucun livre, sous peine de damnation éternelle. Et, de peur que la tentation diabolique ne leur prenne de s'instruire, nous défendons aux pères et aux mères d'enseigner à lire à leurs enfants. Et, pour prévenir toute contravention à notre ordonnance, nous leur défendons expressément de penser, sous les mêmes peines; enjoignons à tous les vrais croyants de dénoncer à notre officialité quiconque aurait prononcé quatre phrases liées ensemble, desquelles on pourrait inférer un sens clair et net. Ordonnons que dans toutes les conversations on ait à se servir de termes qui ne signifient rien, selon l'ancien usage de la Sublime-Porte.

And, to prevent the entrance of any contraband thought into the sacred imperial city, we especially charge the first physician of his Highness (born in a marsh in the South-west; which said physician having already killed four august members of the Ottoman family, is more interested than any other person in preventing the introduction of knowledge into the country), and empower him, by these presents, to seize every idea that shall present itself, whether in writing or by word of mouth, at the gates of the city, and to bring before us the said idea, bound hand and foot, that we may inflict upon it such chastisement as may seem good unto us.

Et pour empêcher qu'il n'entre quelque pensée en contrebande dans la sacrée ville impériale, commettons spécialement le premier médecin de Sa Hautesse, né dans un marais de l'Occident septentrional; lequel médecin, ayant déjà tué quatre personnes augustes de la famille ottomane, est intéressé plus que personne à prévenir toute introduction de connaissances dans le pays; lui donnons pouvoir, par ces présentes, de faire saisir toute idée qui se présenterait par écrit ou de bouche aux portes de la ville, et nous amener ladite idée pieds et poings liés, pour lui être infligé par nous tel châtiment qu'il nous plaira.

Given in our Palace of Stupidity, on the seventh of the month of Muharem, in the year 1143 of the Hegira.

Donné dans notre palais de la stupidité, le 7 de la lune de Muharem, l'an 1143 de l'hégire.


Verses by Swinburne?

C.M. Bowra (1898-1971), "Pindar, Pythian II," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 48 (1937) 1-28 (at 16-17):
Pindar's attitude towards him [i.e. Bacchylides] recalls that of Swinburne towards some of his own imitators, of whom he wrote:
They strut like jays in my lendings,
    They chatter and screech; I sing.
They mimic my phrases and endings,
    And rum Old Testament ring.
But the lyrical cry isn't in it,
And the high gods spot in a minute
    That it isn't the genuine thing.
These lines aren't by Swinburne. Rather they are from a parody of Swinburne written by H.D. Traill (1842-1900), "The Poets in Symposium," in the World newspaper (Christmas 1882). See Urbanus Sylvan [i.e. Henry Charles Beeching (1859-1919)], "Conferences on Books and Men, XII," Cornhill Magazine 8 (1900) 549-557 (at 550).

Monday, October 05, 2015


Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Euripides, fragment 195 (from Antiope; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
The earth gives birth to all things, and takes them back again.

ἅπαντα τίκτει χθὼν πάλιν τε λαμβάνει.


Kind Hearts and True Lovers Lie Close

Nicholas Breton (1545-1626), "October," Fantasticks (London: Printed for Francis Williams, 1626):
It is now October, and the lofty windes make bare the trees of their leaues, while the hogs in the Woods grow fat with the falne Acorns: the forward Deere begin to goe to rut, and the barren Doe groweth good meat: the Basket-makers now gather their rods, and the fishers lay their leapes in the deepe: the loade horses goe apace to the Mill, and the Meal-market is seldome without people: the Hare on the hill makes the Greyhound a faire course, & the Foxe in the woods cals the Hounds to a full cry: the multitude of people raiseth the price of wares, and the smoothe tongue will sell much: the Saylor now bestirreth his stumps, while the Merchant liueth in feare of the weather: the great feasts are now at hand for the City, but the poore must not beg for feare of the stockes: a fire and a paire of Cards keepe the ghests in the Ordinary, and Tobacco is held very precious for the Rhewme: The Coaches now begin to rattle in the Street: but the cry of the poore is vnpleasing to the rich: Muffes and Cuffes are now in request, and the shuttel-Cocke with the Battel-doore is a pretty house exercise: Tennis and Baloune are sports of some charge, and a quicke bandy is the Court-keepers commodity: dancing and fencing are now in some vse, and kind hearts and true Louers lye close, to keepe off cold: the Titmouse now keepes in the hollow tree; and the black bird sits close in the bottome of a hedge: In briefe, for the little pleasure I find in it, I thus conclude of it: I hold it a Messenger of ill newes, and a second seruice to a cold dinner. Farewell.

Sunday, October 04, 2015


A Disadvantage

Bernard Knox (1914-2010), The Oldest Dead White European Males and Other Reflections on the Classics (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993), p. 73:
A love for and knowledge of literature and the arts is of little practical advantage in the modern world and may even, by raising suspicion that its owner considers himself, in Gaisford's phrase, "elevated above the vulgar herd," turn out to be an actual disadvantage.


A Fool

Euripides, fragment 193 (from Antiope; probably Amphion speaking; tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
Whoever is very active when he may be inactive,
is a fool, when he may live pleasurably without activity.

ὅστις δὲ πράσσει πολλὰ μὴ πράσσειν παρόν,
μῶρος, παρὸν ζῆν ἡδέως ἀπράγμονα.
Related posts:


At the Gates

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), A Time of Gifts (1977; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2005), p. 230:
And suppose the Sultan, with half the east at heel, had pitched his tents outside Calais? A few years before, the Dutch had burnt a flotilla of men-of-war at Chatham. Might St. Paul's, only half re-built, have ended with minarets instead of its two bell-towers and a different emblem twinkling on the dome? The muezzin's wail over Ludgate Hill?
Today migrants from the Middle East are pitching their tents outside Calais, and the muezzin's wail can be heard at the East London Mosque on Whitechapel Road, just a couple of miles from Ludgate Hill. To paraphrase Juvenal, "Iam pridem Syrus in Thamesin defluxit Orontes."

Friday, October 02, 2015


A Poetical Comparison

Petronius, poem no. 10 (tr. Michael Heseltine, rev. E.H. Warmington):
So, too, the body will shut in the belly's wind, which, when it labours to come forth again from its deep dungeon, prises forth a way by sharp blows: and there is no end to the cold shiver which rules the cramped frame, till a warm sweat bedews and loosens the body.

Sic et membra solent auras includere ventris,
quae penitus mersae cum rursus abire laborant,
verberibus rimantur iter; nec desinit ante
frigidus, adstrictis qui regnat in ossibus, horror
quam tepidus laxo manavit corpore sudor.

1 ventris Riese: ventis V
4 frigidus, adstrictis Reiske: et frigidus strictis V
Edward Courtney, The Poems of Petronius (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991), p. 57:
The point of the poem is the comparison of flatulence to a volcanic eruption, the cause of which (as of earthquakes) was usually thought to be subterranean currents of air...



A Town and a Country Life Compared Together

Of Wisdom. Three Books. Written Originally in French, by the Sieur de Charron. With an Account of the Author. Made English by George Stanhope, 3rd ed., Vol. II (London: J. Walthoe, 1729), pp. 552-554 (I.lxvi = "A Town and a Country Life compared together," divided into shorter paragraphs by me):
This is a Comparison very easie for any Man who is a true Lover of Wisdom, to make; for almost all the Advantages lie on one side. The Pleasures and Conveniences both of Body and Mind, Liberty, Contemplation, Innocence, Health, and Delight. In the Country a Man's Mind is free and easie; discharg'd, and at his own Disposal: But in the City the Persons of Friends and Acquaintance, one's own and other People's Business, foolish Quarrels, ceremonious Visits, impertinent Discourse, and a Thousand other Fopperies and Diversions steal away the greatest part of our Time, and leave no Leisure for better and more necessary Employment.

What infinite Perplexities, Avocations, Distractions of the Mind, and, which is worst of all, what abominable Debaucheries, and Depravation of Manners does such a Life expose Men to? Great Towns are but a larger sort of Prisons to the Soul, like Cages to Birds, or Pounds to Beasts. This Celestial Fire within us will not endure to be shut up, it requires Air to brighten and make it burn clear; which made Columella say, that a Country Life is Cousin-German to Wisdom: for a Man's Thoughts cannot be idle; and when they are set loose from the World, they will range and expatiate freely in noble and profitable Meditations. But how shall a Man hope to command his Thoughts, or pretend to call them his Own, in the midst of all the Clutter, and Business, the Amusements, nay the Confusions of the Town?

A Country Life is infinitely more plain, and innocent, and disposed to Purity and Virtue. In Cities Vice assembles in Troops; the very Commonness of it makes it unobserv'd; it hardens and reconciles us to the Practice, Example, and Custom; and the meeting with it at every Turn, makes the thing familiar; and thus the Disease seizes us strongly and presently, and we are gone all on the sudden, by living in the midst of the Infection. Whereas in the Country, those Things are seen or heard with Abhorrence and Amazement, which the Town sees and does every Day without Remorse or Concern.

As for Pleasure and Health, the clear Air, the Warmth and Brightness of the Sun, not polluted with the Sultry Gleams, and loathsome Stenches of the Town; the Springs and Waters, the Flowers and Groves, and, in short, All Nature is free, and easie, and gay; The Earth unlocks her Treasures, refreshes us with her Fruits, feasts every Sense, and gives us such Entertainment, as Cities know nothing of, in the stifling press of Houses; so that to live there, is to shut one's self up, and be banish'd from the World. Besides all this, a Country Retirement is more active and fit for Exercise; and this creates an Appetite, preserves and restores Health and Vigour, hardens the Body, and makes it lusty and strong.

The greatest Commendation of the Town is, Convenience for Business and Profit. It is indeed the Seat of Trade and private Gain, and therefore fit to be the Darling of Merchants and Artificers: And it is the Place accommodated to Publick Administrations; but this latter but a very small part of Mankind are call'd to, or capable of. And History tells us, that heretofore excellent Persons were fetch'd out of the Country, to undertake Affairs of the greatest Importance; and as soon as they had finish'd these, they retir'd again with wonderful Delight, and made the Town not a Matter of Choice, but Necessity and Constraint: This was the short Scene of Labour and Business to them; but the Country was the Seat of their Pleasure, and more constant Residence.
Related posts:

Thursday, October 01, 2015



Florus 4 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
So Apollo and then Bacchus are fire-bringers, I opine:
Both the gods are flame-created; in their birth the fires take part.
Both confer their heat for guerdon, by the sunbeam or the vine;
One dispels the long night's darkness, one the darkness of the heart.

Sic Apollo, deinde Liber sic videtur ignifer:
ambo sunt flammis creati prosatique ex ignibus;
ambo de donis calorem, vite et radio, conferunt;
noctis hic rumpit tenebras, hic tenebras pectoris.

3 donis Schrader: comis codd.


Imperial Verses?

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), A Time of Gifts (1977; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2005), pp. 232-233:
Prompted by my recent preoccupations, perhaps, the conversation veered to Charles V's grandfather, the first Maximilian: The Last of the Knights, as he was called, half-landsknecht, and, until you looked more carefully at Dürer's drawing, half playing-card monarch. Someone was describing how he used to escape from the business of the Empire now and then by retiring to a remote castle in the Tyrolese or Styrian forests. Scorning muskets and crossbows and armed only with a long spear, he would set out for days after stag and wild boar. It was during one of these holidays that he composed a four-line poem, and inscribed it with chalk, or in lampblack, on the walls of the castle cellar. It was still there, the speaker said.


I must have asked him to write it out, for here it is, transcribed inside the cover of a diary I began a fortnight later — frayed and battered now — with the old Austrian spelling painstakingly intact. There was something talismanic about these lines, I thought:
Leb, waiss nit wie lang,
Und stürb, waiss nit wann
Muess fahren, waiss nit wohin
Mich wundert, das ich so frelich bin.*
They have a more hopeful drift than the comparable five lines by an earlier Caesar, especially the last line. I preferred Maximilian's end to Hadrian's desolating
Nec ut soles dabis jocos.
* Live, don't know how long,
And die, don't know when;
Must go, know not where;
I am astonished I am so cheerful.

Stop press! I've just discovered that the castle is called Schloss Tratzberg. It is near Jenbach, still standing, and not very far from Innsbruck.
The "talismanic lines" are probably not by Maximilian I (1459-1519). See here for a brief discussion with bibliography.

Here in full is the poem attributed to Hadrian:
Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos?
In A. O'Brien-Moore's translation:
O blithe little soul, thou, flitting away,
Guest and comrade of this my clay,
Whither now goest thou, to what place
Bare and ghastly and without grace?
Nor, as thy wont was, joke and play.
Doubt has been cast on Hadrian's authorship of this poem. See, e.g., Timothy D. Barnes, "Hadrian's Farewell to Life," Classical Quarterly 18.2 (Nov., 1968) 384-386. Alan Cameron, "Poetae Novelli," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 84 (1980) 127-175 (at 167-172), defends the attribution to Hadrian.

Practically every paragraph of Leigh Fermor's book cries out for annotation and illustration. Here is Dürer's drawing of Maximilian I:

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?