Tuesday, April 24, 2018

 

Happy Endings

George Orwell, "Charles Dickens," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 413-460 (at 448):
The ideal to be striven after, then, appears to be something like this: a hundred thousand pounds, a quaint old house with plenty of ivy on it, a sweetly womanly wife, a horde of children, and no work. Everything is safe, soft, peaceful and, above all, domestic. In the moss-grown churchyard down the road are the graves of the loved ones who passed away before the happy ending happened. The servants are comic and feudal, the children prattle round your feet, the old friends sit at your fireside, talking of past days, there is the endless succession of enormous meals, the cold punch and sherry negus, the feather beds and warming-pans, the Christmas parties with charades and blind man's buff; but nothing ever happens, except the yearly childbirth. The curious thing is that it is a genuinely happy picture, or so Dickens is able to make it appear. The thought of that kind of existence is satisfying to him.


From Eric Thomson:
By coincidence, just this afternoon I've been reading some similar sentiments on Dickens from Carlyle.

David Alec Wilson, Carlyle at his Zenith (1848-53) (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, 1927), p. 126:
"Dickens" said Carlyle [to Gavan Duffy], "is a good little fellow, one of the most cheery, innocent natures I have ever encountered, and maintains something of the reporter's independence." But "his theory of life is entirely wrong. He thinks men ought to be buttered up, and the world made soft and accommodating for them, and all sorts of fellows have turkey for Christmas dinner. Commanding and controlling and punishing them he would give up without any misgivings, in order to coax and soothe and delude them into doing right. But it is not in this manner the eternal laws operate but quite otherwise. Dickens has not written anything which will be found of much use in solving the problems of life. But he is worth something; worth a penny to read of an evening before going to bed."

 

Divine Vanity

Homer, Iliad 17.567-568 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
So he spoke, and the goddess, flashing-eyed Athene, rejoiced,
since to her first of all the gods he made his prayer.

ὣς φάτο, γήθησεν δὲ θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη,
ὅττί ῥά οἱ πάμπρωτα θεῶν ἠρήσατο πάντων.
W.E. Gladstone, Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, Vol. II: Olympus: or, The Religion of the Homeric Age (Oxford: At the University Press, 1858), p. 177:
This sentiment may be accounted for in two ways. It may be due to the vulgar vanity of a merely mythological divinity scuffling for precedence. It may be a remnant of the tradition of a wisdom that knew no superior. The former cause would be scarcely suitable even to the deities of invention in Homer. The latter seems wholly in keeping with the character and position of his Minerva.
To my mind, the plain meaning (the former cause) is preferable to Gladstone's allegorizing (the latter cause). See Mark W. Edwards ad loc.:
The comparison editors make to the sentiment of Od. 3.52-3 means little, since there Athene is warmed by Peisistratos' courtesy to the old man she is pretending to be, a different thing from her appreciation here of Menelaos' choice of her godhead to turn to for help in his trouble. The scholia (bT) with more relevance quote Euripides: ἔνεστι γὰρ δὴ κἀν θεῶν γένει τόδε· | τιμώμενοι χαίρουσιν ἀνθρώπων ὕπο (Hipp. 7-8).
W.S. Barrett on Euripides, Hippolytus 7-8:
'The gods too [as well as men] have this trait: they take delight in honour from men.' Similarly Ba. 321 κἀκεῖνοϲ (sc. Dionysos), οἶμαι, τέρπεται τιμώμενοϲ, Al. 53 (Death speaking) τιμαῖϲ κἀμὲ τέρπεϲθαι δόκει.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

 

Holy Water

Robert Parker, Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion (1983; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 19:
'We ourselves fix boundaries to the sanctuaries and precincts of the gods, so that nobody may cross them unless he be pure; and when we enter we sprinkle ourselves, not as defiling ourselves thereby, but to wash away any pollution we may already have contracted .'3 There is abundant evidence from literature, vase paintings, and excavation for these stoups of lustral water sited at the entrance to sanctuaries, for the purification of those who entered. In inventories, they appear as part of a temple's normal furnishing; Hero, in his Pneumatica, tells of a mechanical device that gave forth lustral water at the drop of a coin.4 It is very revealing for Greek conceptions of the sacred that in Athens the agora, civic and political centre of the city, was marked off by similar lustral stoups.

3 Hippoc. Morb. Sacr. 148.55 ff. J., 1.46 G.

4 Cf. SIG3 index s.v. περιρραντήριον; Hero, Spir. 21. Full treatment by Ginouvès, 229-310 (my debt to this learned and comprehensive work is very large). For the earliest perirrhanteria see J. Ducat, BCH 88 (1964), 577-606. On their function cf. Lucian, Sacr. 13, Pollux 1.8.
Fuller references:

Perirrhanterion from Temple of Poseidon (Isthmia Museum)

Greek original of Parker's quotation (Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease 4):
αὐτοί τε ὅρους τοῖσι θεοῖσι τῶν ἱερῶν καὶ τῶν τεμενέων ἀποδείκνυμεν, ὡς ἂν μηδεὶς ὑπερβαίνῃ ἢν μὴ ἁγνεύῃ, ἐσιόντες τε ἡμεῖς περιρραινόμεθα οὐχ ὡς μιαινόμενοι, ἀλλ᾿ εἴ τι καὶ πρότερον ἔχομεν μύσος, τοῦτο ἀφαγνιούμενοι.

 

Disgust

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, 17 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Much about your good people nauseates me; and verily, it is not their evil.

Vieles an euren Guten macht mir Ekel, und wahrlich nicht ihr Böses.

 

Invisibility

George Orwell, "Marrakech," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 387-393 (at 390):
All people who work with their hands are partly invisible, and the more important the work they do, the less visible they are.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

 

The Time for Art and Philosophy Had Passed

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), The Decline of the West, Vol. I: Form and Actuality, tr. Charles Frances Atkinson (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1926), pp. pp. 43-44:
To me, the depths and refinement of mathematical and physical theories are a joy; by comparison, the aesthete and the physiologist are fumblers. I would sooner have the fine mind-begotten forms of a fast steamer, a steel structure, a precision-lathe, the subtlety and elegance of many chemical and optical processes, than all the pickings and stealings of present-day "arts and crafts," architecture and painting included. I prefer one Roman aqueduct to all Roman temples and statues. I love the Colosseum and the giant vault of the Palatine, for they display for me to-day in the brown massiveness of their brick construction the real Rome and the grand practical sense of her engineers, but it is a matter of indifference to me whether the empty and pretentious marblery of the Caesars — their rows of statuary, their friezes, their overloaded architraves — is preserved or not. Glance at some reconstruction of the Imperial Fora — do we not find them the true counterpart of a modern International Exhibition, obtrusive, bulky, empty, a boasting in materials and dimensions wholly alien to Periclean Greece and the Rococo alike, but exactly paralleled in the Egyptian modernism that is displayed in the ruins of Rameses II (1300 B.C.) at Luxor and Karnak? It was not for nothing that the genuine Roman despised the Graeculus histrio, the kind of "artist" and the kind of "philosopher" to be found on the soil of Roman Civilization. The time for art and philosophy had passed; they were exhausted, used up, superfluous, and his instinct for the realities of life told him so. One Roman law weighed more than all the lyrics and school-metaphysics of the time together.

 

Ten Times a Day

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, 13 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
Ten times a day you must laugh and be cheerful.

Zehn Mal musst du lachen am Tage und heiter sein.

 

Mind Your Own Business

Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4.10-12 (NIV):
Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον, καὶ φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς χερσὶν ὑμῶν, καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν, ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε.
Erasmus ad loc., from Paraphrase on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (tr. Mechtilde O'Mara, with her notes):
I will not urge you, therefore, to do13 what you are doing of your own accord, but rather to surpass yourselves in what you are doing at the prompting of the Spirit, as you move forward always to what is better.

However, you should take care that your tranquillity be not disturbed by idlers and busybodies, but that each person look after his own business. If anyone does not have sufficient means, let him provide for himself with his own hands resources both to support himself and to share with others in need, just as we have instructed you previously also.14 In this way you will be able to behave with dignity towards those who are outsiders to the profession of faith in Christ, for to beg for alms among them,15 or to act shamelessly on account of need would bring dishonour on your profession. Instead of this, let each person provide for himself with his own hands so that there be no need. And there will easily be enough for the one who is content with a little.16

13 to do what you are doing of your own accord] First in 1532; previously, 'to do of your own accord what you are doing'

14 Although the paraphrase here apparently follows the biblical text of 4:11 in referring to instruction during Paul's earlier visit to the Thessalonians, the injunction is also found elsewhere in the Epistles. Cf 1 Cor 4:12 and Eph 4:28. For Paul's own example, see 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8–12; and Acts 18:3, 20:34.

15 Erasmus' 1516 annotation on 4:11 (ut vestrum negotium agatis) betrays hostility to the mendicants: 'He [Paul] dissuades them from seeking what belongs to others, and from idleness to which many, even then [in Paul's day], were inclined under the pretext of religion. Now the world is crammed full of this sort of fellow.' In a 1535 addition, Erasmus goes on with biting sarcasm to implicate monks in the charge of mendacity. For Erasmus on beggars, see CWE 50 26 n5. Theophylact Expos in 1 Thess (on 4:12) PG 124 1309d also criticizes Christians who live by begging.

16 To be content with a little is praised also by Horace Satires 2.2.110.
On minding one's own business cf. Euripides, fragment 903 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
I would be foolish if I took care of my neighbours' business.

ἄφρων ἂν εἴην εἰ τρέφοιν τὰ τῶν πέλας.
Greek words for busybody include ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος, ἀλλοτριοπράγμων, and πολυπράγμων. See Jeannine K. Brown, "Just a Busybody? A Look at the Greco-Roman Topos of Meddling for Defining ἀλλοτριοεπίσκοπος in 1 Peter 4:15," Journal of Biblical Literature 125 (2006) 549-568, and Isaac Barrow, Sermon XXI (On Quietness, and Doing Our Own Business). The world would be better off if more people obeyed the Biblical injunction πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια.

Friday, April 20, 2018

 

What to Say in Awkward Situations

What to say when someone has broken wind loudly, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Night-Scene: A Dramatic Fragment," line 36:
A rude and scaring note, my friend!
What to say when you yourself have broken wind, from Henri de Régnier, Vestigia Flammae: Poèmes (Paris: Mercure de France, 1922), p. 2 ("Stèle," line 5, my translation):
My life around me gives off a pungent smell.

Ma vie autour de moi répand une odeur âcre.


From a friend:
If the Analhusten is a muffled, windy one, the first few lines of Verlaine's poem could also serve:
Ecoutez la chanson bien douce
Qui ne pleure que pour vous plaire,
Elle est discrète, elle est légère!
Related post: What to Say When Someone Farts.

Labels:


 

Oh, But That's Old!

George Orwell, "Bookshop Memories," The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, I: An Age Like This, 1920-1940 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968), pp. 242-246 (at 245):
In a lending library you see people's real tastes, not their pretended ones, and one thing that strikes you is how completely the "classical" English novelists have dropped out of favour. It is simply useless to put Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Trollope, etc into the ordinary lending library; nobody takes them out. At the mere sight of a nineteenth-century novel people say "Oh, but that's old!" and shy away immediately.

 

Rivers of Blood

Vergil, Aeneid 6.86-87 (the Sibyl speaking; tr. Allen Mandelbaum):
I see wars, horrid wars, the Tiber foaming
with much blood.

                                      bella, horrida bella
et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno.
Servius ad loc.:
86. HORRIDA BELLA quae contra hospitem cognatumque suscepta sunt, ut Latinus dicturus est <XII 31> arma impia sumpsi promissam eripui.
87. SPVMANTEM SANGVINE CERNO quasi non praedicit, sed videt quod facturus est Turnus, ut <XII 35> recalent nostro Tiberina fluenta sanguine adhuc.
I.e.:
86. SAVAGE WARS which are waged against guest and kindred, as Latinus is going to say <XII 31> I took up unholy weapons, I stole the betrothed.
87. FOAMING WITH BLOOD I SEE as if she is not prophesying but seeing what Turnus is going to do, as <XII 35> Tiber's streams are still warm with our blood.
Phlegon of Tralles, Marvels 3 (tr. William Hansen):
At that time, Rome, your harsh sufferings will all be fulfilled.
For a broad host will come that will destroy your entire land,
Make desolate your market-places, waste your cities with fire,
Fill your rivers with blood, fill also Hades,
And bring upon you slavery, piteous, hateful, and obscure.
The Greek, from Otto Keller, ed., Rerum Naturalium Scriptores Graeci Minores, Vol. I: Paradoxographi Antigonus, Apollonius, Phlegon, Anonymus Vaticanus (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1877), p. 71:
καὶ τότε σοί, Ῥώμη, χαλέπ' ἄλγεα πάντα τελεῖται.
ἥξει γὰρ στρατὸς εὐρύς, ὅ σου χθόνα πάσαν ὀλέσσει,
χηρώσει δ' ἀγοράς, ἄστη δέ τε πυρπόλα θήσει,
αἴματι δὲ πλήσει ποταμούς, πλήσει δὲ καὶ Ἅιδην,
δουλoσύνην τ' οἰκτρήν, στυγερήν, ἀτέκμαρτον ἐφήσει.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

 

Small Words

Euripides, Orestes 758 (tr. David Kovacs):
Life or death: small words for large things.

ἢ θανεῖν ἢ ζῆν· ὁ μῦθος οὐ μακρὸς μακρῶν πέρι.

 

He Made His Mother Cry

William Allingham, diary (January 12, 1877):
With Carlyle—Christianity—age fifteen, spoke to his mother—her horror. 'Did God Almighty come down and make wheelbarrows in a shop?' She lay awake at night for hours praying and weeping bitterly.
Cf. Mark 6.3 (KJV):
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

 

Hinham

Henry Copley Greene, "The Song of the Ass," Speculum 6.4 (October, 1931) 534-549 (at 534):
To represent the Virgin's flight into Egypt, a strange holiday was celebrated yearly in many towns during the Middle Ages. The following account2 of the Beauvais celebration is found in a letter of December 18, 1697 from a Canon in Beauvais, Foy de Saint-Hilaire, to M. de Francastel, Assistant Librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris.
'On the first day after the Octave of the [three] Kings,3 they chose a beautiful young girl, put a child in her hands, and mounted her on an ass which they led in procession from the Cathedral Church to the Church of St Stephen. Placing the ass and his lovely burden in the Sanctuary there on the Gospel side, they sang a solemn mass, whose prose [of the Ass] is in Louvet,4 and whose Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc., end in hin ham [he haw], to the point where in fine missae sacerdos versus ad populum vice "Ite Missa est" ter hinhanabit [he-hawed], populus vero vice "Deo gratias" ter respondavit, "Hinham, Hinham, Hinham".'.5
2 Dom Paul Denis, Lettres Autographes de la Collection de Troussures (Paris: Champion, 1912), p. 312.

3 Foy de Saint-Hilaire is emphatic as to dates: 'We must not confuse the holiday of the Ass with the day [other days] when the prose [of the Ass] was sung; for it is certain that this holiday [when the Ass went into St Stephen's] was neither on Christmas day nor on the day of the Circumcision, nor on the [Three] Kings' day, [but on] the first day after the octave of the [Three] Kings.'

4 Pierre Louvet, Histoire et Antiquités du Diocese de Beauvais (Beauvais, 1631-1635), ii.301.

5 In connection with this story, Foy de Saint-Hilaire added: 'See what I heard said by my late father, who had seen the whole Donkey Mass, [of] which [the MS.] was kept in our parish church of St Stephen, and which a clerk of the Curé's ... seized and cruelly burned because of conscientious scruples. His name was Davennes, and I knew him when I was a child.' (Denis, op. cit., 312).
On animal sounds in Greek and Latin see:
Hat tip: Jim O'Donnell.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

 

The City of Brass

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The City of Brass," The Years Between (London, Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1919), pp. 148-155 (excerpts):
Swiftly these pulled down the walls that their fathers had made them—
The impregnable ramparts of old, they razed and relaid them
As playgrounds of pleasure and leisure with limitless entries,
And havens of rest for the wastrels where once walked the sentries;
And because there was need of more pay for the shouters and marchers,
They disbanded in face of their foemen their yeomen and archers.

[....]

They ran panting in haste to lay waste and embitter for ever
The wellsprings of Wisdom and Strength which are Faith and Endeavour.
They nosed out and digged up and dragged forth and exposed to derision
All doctrine of purpose and worth and restraint and prevision:
And it ceased, and God granted them all things for which they had striven,
And the heart of a beast in the place of a man's heart was given....

[....]

There was no need of a steed nor a lance to pursue them;
It was decreed their own deed, and not chance, should undo them.
The tares they had laughingly sown were ripe to the reaping.
The trust they had leagued to disown was removed from their keeping.
The eaters of other men's bread, the exempted from hardship,
The excusers of impotence fled, abdicating their wardship,
For the hate they had taught through the State brought the State no defender,
And it passed from the roll of the Nations in headlong surrender!

 

This Age

George Orwell, letter to Brenda Salkeld (early September? 1934):
This age makes me so sick that sometimes I am almost impelled to stop at a corner and start calling down curses from Heaven like Jeremiah or Ezra or somebody — "Woe upon thee, O Israel, for thy adulteries with the Egyptians" etc etc.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

 

A Revelation of Barbarism

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), From Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel, XXXV (How I Struck Chicago, and How Chicago Struck Me):
Sunday brought me the queerest experience of all — a revelation of barbarism complete. I found a place that was officially described as a church. It was a circus really, but that the worshippers did not know. There were flowers all about the building, which was fitted up with plush and stained oak and much luxury, including twisted brass candlesticks of severest Gothic design. To these things, and a congregation of savages, entered suddenly a wonderful man completely in the confidence of their God, whom he treated colloquially and exploited very much as a newspaper reporter would exploit a foreign potentate. But, unlike the newspaper reporter, he never allowed his listeners to forget that he and not He was the centre of attraction. With a voice of silver and with imagery borrowed from the auction-room, he built up for his hearers a heaven on the lines of the Palmer House (but with all the gilding real gold and all the plate-glass diamond) and set in the centre of it a loud-voiced, argumentative, and very shrewd creation that he called God. One sentence at this point caught my delighted ear. It was apropos of some question of the Judgment Day and ran: "No! I tell you God doesn't do business that way." He was giving them a deity whom they could comprehend, in a gold and jewel heaven in which they could take a natural interest. He interlarded his performance with the slang of the streets, the counter, and the Exchange, and he said that religion ought to enter into daily life. Consequently I presume he introduced it as daily life — his own and the life of his friends.

Then I escaped before the blessing, desiring no benediction at such hands.

 

Dislike of the Classics

Michael Meyer (1921-2000), Not Prince Hamlet: Literary and Theatrical Memoirs (London: Martin Secker & Warburg, 1989) p. 21:
So I continued with Greek and Latin, becoming progressively disillusioned, and it was not until my final term, when I had twice failed scholarships at Oxford, that I moved to the history side. By that time my dislike of the classics had become so strong that I have never opened a Greek or Latin book since, and I, who once read these languages almost as easily as I did English, now have difficulty in understanding any but the simplest words and phrases. Sometimes, now that I am old, it occurs to me that it might be an amusing exercise to revive my knowledge of, at any rate, Greek by going through Homer or Sophocles with a dictionary or a crib, but I do not suppose that I ever will.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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