Thursday, August 17, 2017

 

Scribal Error

John Jackson (1881-1952), Marginalia Scaenica (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 30 (defending his conjecture εὐνᾶν for ἐοῦσαν at Euripides, Andromache 124):
As for εὐνᾶν, it may be admitted that σ and ν have normally little resemblance; but it must also be admitted that the contour of a character traced by a fallible man, under a flickering light, with a reed pen and evanescent ink upon paper not imperishable, may after the lapse of fifteen centuries be deciphered erroneously, if at all, by a fellow creature working under like handicaps with like materials. The possibility is regrettable, and disconcerting to the friends and enemies alike of conjectural criticism in ancient texts, but it is necessary to remember it.

 

Lover of the Olden Days

Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus 18.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
He was a great imitator of the customs of the men of old and a lover of the early times.

moris etiam maiorum summus imitator fuit antiquitatisque amator.

 

Please Drop Those Subjects

Cicero, Academica 1.1.2 (tr. H. Rackham):
Here there was first a little conversation, and that arising out of my asking whether Rome happened to have been doing anything new; and then Atticus said, "Do pray drop those subjects, about which we can neither ask questions nor hear the answers without distress ... "

hic pauca primo atque ea percontantibus nobis ecquid forte Roma novi; tum Atticus "omitte ista, quae nec percontari nec audire sine molestia possumus, quaeso," inquit ... "
James S. Reid ad loc.:


Reid's translation:
Here we had first a little talk, merely such as sprang out of my question whether he had brought any news from Rome; then Atticus said: "A truce, pray, to the subject, for we cannot help feeling pain when we put questions about it and hear the answers ... "
Reid cites Cicero, Brutus 42.157, on Atticus' tendency to avoid political discussion. See also Cicero, Brutus 3.11 (tr. G.L. Hendrickson):
Here Atticus broke in: "It was precisely our thought in coming, to avoid talk about public affairs ... "

tum Atticus: "eo, inquit, ad te animo venimus, ut de re publica esset silentium ... "

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 

Regret

H.D. Jocelyn, review of Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), in Hermathena, No. 159 (Winter 1995) 53-77 (at 70-71):
We may further regret not being told anything at all about ocular diseases, curative springs (pp. 182-3), Roman debt-collecting (p. 193), the general practice of attributing a vice to a whole community (p. 194), the prophetic mind (p. 205), Pompey's sexual proclivities (p. 210), sexually transmitted diseases (pp. 282-3), the smell of the billy-goat (p. 303), the buggery of the young bride (p. 313), ideas linking the marrow, sweat and semen (p. 421), premature baldness (p. 484).

 

Obesus: An Auto-Antonym

An auto-antonym is a word that can mean the opposite of itself. Latin obesus is such a word, meaning either fat or thin, although the evidence for thin is meagre.

Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, s.v. obedo (from an online version; I don't have the book):
ŏb-ĕdo, ēdi, ēsum, ĕre, to eat, eat away, devour (used only in the part. perf. and P. a.).—Trop.: nec obesa cavamine terra est, AUCT. AETN. 344.—Hence, P. a.: ŏbēsus, a, um.
I. Wasted away, lean, meagre: corpore pectoreque undique obeso, Laev. ap. GELL. 19, 7, 3; and ap. NON. 361, 17: (obesum hic notavimus proprie magis quam usitate dictum pro exili atque gracilento, Gell. ib.: obesum gracile et exile, Non. l.l.).—
II. Mid., that has eaten itself fat; hence, in gen., fat, stout, plump: obesus pinguis quasi ob edendum factus, Paul. ex FEST. p. 188 Müll. (not in Cic.; perh. not ante-Aug.; syn.: opimus, pinguis): corpus neque gracile, neque obesum, CELS. 2, 1; cf. COL. 6, 2, 15: turdus, HOR. Ep. 1, 15, 40: sus, COL. 7, 10, 6: terga, VERG. G. 3, 80: cervix, SUET. Ner. 51.—Sup.: obesissimus venter, PLIN. 11, 37, 79, 200; SUET. Vit. 17; APP. M. 11, p. 263.—Poet.: fauces obesae, swollen, VERG. G. 3, 497.
Félix Gaffiot, Le Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, s.v. obesus:

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Problem Solving

Aristophanes, Clouds 740-745 (Socrates to Strepsiades; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Cut loose your thinking and refine it; examine the problem piece by piece, correctly sorting and investigating ... and if you hit a dead end with one of your ideas, toss it aside and abandon it, then later try putting it in play again with your mind and weigh it up.

                                          σχάσας τὴν φροντίδα        740
λεπτὴν κατὰ μικρὸν περιφρόνει τὰ πράγματα
ὀρθῶς διαιρῶν καὶ σκοπῶν ...
... κἂν ἀπορῇς τι τῶν νοημάτων,
ἀφεὶς ἄπελθε, κᾆτα τῇ γνώμῃ πάλιν
κίνησον αὖθις αὐτὸ καὶ ζυγώθρισον.        745

744 τῇ γνώμῃ Reiske: τὴν γνώμην codd.
W.J. Verdenius, "Notes on Aristophanes' Clouds," Mnemosyne 6.3 (1953) 178-180 (at 179):
740-1 σχάσας τὴν φροντίδα / λεπτὴν κατὰ μικρὸν περιφρόνει τὰ πράγματα: κατὰ μικρόν should not be connected with περιφρόνει, but with σχάσας. Socrates adds κατὰ μικρόν as an explanation of λεπτήν (which could be misunderstood as an apposition): "into small pieces". Cp. Xen. An. VII 3, 22 ἄρτους διέκλα κατὰ μικρόν.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ζυγωθρίζω:
weigh, examine, Ar. Nu. 745, acc. to Sch.: but acc. to Poll. 10.26 from ζύγωθρον (the bar of a door), lock up.
On Socrates' suggestion to cut the problem into small pieces, cf. G. Polya, How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method, 2nd ed. (1957; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 35-36:
If your problem is very complex you may distinguish "great" steps and "small" steps, each great step being composed of several small ones. Check first the great steps, and get down to the smaller ones afterwards....Consider the details of the solution and try to make them as simple as you can; survey more extensive parts of the solution and try to make them shorter; try to see the whole solution at a glance. Try to modify to their advantage smaller or larger parts of the solution, try to improve the whole solution, to make it intuitive, to fit it into your formerly acquired knowledge as naturally as possible. Scrutinize the method that led you to the solution, try to see its point, and try to make use of it for other problems. Scrutinize the result and try to make use of it for other problems.
Cf. also id., pp. 75-85, on "Decomposing and Recombining."

On Socrates' suggestion to lay aside the problem until a later time, cf. Polya, op. cit., pp. 197-198:
Subconscious work. One evening I wished to discuss with a friend a certain author but I could not remember the author's name. I was annoyed, because I remembered fairly well one of his stories. I remembered also some story about the author himself which I wanted to tell; I remembered, in fact, everything except the name. Repeatedly, I tried to recollect that name but all in vain. The next morning, as soon as I thought of the annoyance of the evening before, the name occurred to me without any effort.

The reader, very likely, remembers some similar experience of his own. And, if he is a passionate problem-solver, he has probably had some similar experience with problems. It often happens that you have no success at all with a problem; you work very hard yet without finding anything. But when you come back to the problem after a night's rest, or a few days' interruption, a bright idea appears and you solve the problem easily. The nature of the problem matters little; a forgotten word, a difficult word from a crossword-puzzle, the beginning of an annoying letter, or the solution of a mathematical problem may occur in this way.

Such happenings give the impression of subconscious work. The fact is that a problem, after prolonged absence, may return into consciousness essentially clarified, much nearer to its solution than it was when it dropped out of consciousness. Who clarified it, who brought it nearer to the solution? Obviously, oneself, working at it subconsciously. It is difficult to give any other answer; although psychologists have discovered the beginnings of another answer which may turn out some day to be more satisfactory.

Whatever may or may not be the merits of the theory of subconscious work, it is certain that there is a limit beyond which we should not force the conscious reflection. There are certain moments in which it is better to leave the problem alone for a while. "Take counsel of your pillow" is an old piece of advice. Allowing an interval of rest to the problem and to ourselves, we may obtain more tomorrow with less effort. "If today will not, tomorrow may" is another old saying. But it is desirable not to set aside a problem to which we wish to come back later without the impression of some achievement; at least some littIe point should be settled, some aspect of the question somewhat elucidated when we quit working.

Only such problems come back improved whose solution we passionately desire, or for which we have worked with great tension; conscious effort and tension seem to be necessary to set the subconscious work going. At any rate, it would be too easy if it were not so; we could solve difficult problems just by sleeping and waiting for a bright idea.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

 

A Gloomy Milestone

Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons (June 24, 1952):
I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone in the progress of mankind.
Winston Churchill, speech to the Royal College of Physicians (July 10, 1951):
It is arguable whether the human race have been gainers by the march of science beyond the steam engine. Electricity opens a field of infinite conveniences to ever greater numbers, but they may well have to pay dearly for them. But anyhow in my thought I stop short of the internal combustion engine which has made the world so much smaller. Still more must we fear the consequences of entrusting a human race so little different from their predecessors of the so-called barbarous ages such awful agencies as the atomic bomb. Give me the horse.
Related posts:

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Monday, August 14, 2017

 

Sad Times

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), "First Dialogue: Certitudes," Philosophical Dialogues and Fragments (tr. Râs Bihârî Mukharjî):
These are sad times. Twenty times a day do we ask ourselves if it is worth while living to be present at the downfall of all that we have loved.

Les temps sont tristes. Vingt fois par jour nous nous demandons s'il vaut la peine de vivre pour assister à la ruine de tout ce que nous avons aimé.

 

Some Insults

Aristophanes, Clouds 398 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson, with his note):
You moron redolent of the Cronia,32 you mooncalf!

32 A festival celebrating Zeus' father Cronus, who symbolized a bygone age.

ὦ μῶρε σὺ καὶ Κρονίων ὄζων καὶ βεκκεσέληνε.
K.J. Dover ad loc.:


Id. 492:
This fellow's ignorant and barbaric!

ἅνθρωπος ἀμαθὴς οὑτοσὶ καὶ βάρβαρος.
Id. 646:
You're a stupid clod.

ὡς ἄγροικος εἶ καὶ δυσμαθής.
ἄγροικος = dwelling in the fields, rustic, boorish; δυσμαθής = slow at learning, dull

Id. 654:
You're a brainless lout!

ἀγρεῖος εἶ καὶ σκαιός.
ἀγρεῖος = of the field, rustic, boorish; σκαιός = lefthanded, awkward, clumsy, stupid

 

Research

William Abbott Oldfather, letter to Levi Robert Lind (April 5, 1939), in William M. Calder III, "'Tripe and Garbage': William Abbott Oldfather on the Limits of Research," Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci: Festschrift Essays for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick, edd. Gareth Schmeling and Jon D. Mikalson (Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1998), pp. 87-93 (at 89-90; footnotes omitted):
[T]he more "research" which I attempt to do, the more I feel doubt about its relative importance in the total scheme of cultural values. Treated as beautiful, stimulating, + meaningful for life and joy, Greek literature, thought and fine art are of transcendent value; but treated as mere materials for scientific research, and by that I mean linguistics, and grammatical statistics, studies of drain-pipes, shoestrings, door knobs, locations, trivial forms of social and political organization, and all the rest of the tripe and garbage that are dignified by the term "research," they seem hardly more important than mineralogy, or comparative anatomy, or even educational statistics—than which what can be more banal? Of course some knowledge of the material setting is useful as background and proportion and emphasis to the appreciation of better things. But I sometimes feel that too much attention to the sauce is apt to lose us the rabbit. When our subject ceases to mean anything important for our daily living, then it will go, and it ought to go, the way of all flesh.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

 

Our Life

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations 7.19.1 (Funeral Oration on his Brother Caesarius; tr. Leo P. McCauley):
Such, brethren, is our life, we whose existence is so transitory. Such is the game we play upon earth: we do not exist and we are born, and being born we are dissolved. We are a fleeting dream, an apparition without substance, the flight of a bird that passes, a ship that leaves no trace upon the sea. We are dust, a vapor, the morning dew, a flower growing but a moment and withering in a moment.

τοιοῦτος ὁ βίος ἡμῶν, ἀδελφοί, τῶν ζώντων πρόσκαιρα· τοιοῦτο τὸ ἐπὶ γῆς παίγνιον· οὐκ ὄντας γενέσθαι, καὶ γενομένους ἀναλυθῆναι. ὄναρ ἐσμὲν οὐχ ἱστάμενον, φάσμα τι μὴ κρατούμενον, πτῆσις ὀρνέου παρερχομένου, ναῦς ἐπὶ θαλάσσης ἴχνος οὐκ ἔχουσα, κόνις, ἀτμίς, ἑωθινὴ δρόσος, ἄνθος καιρῷ φυόμενον καὶ καιρῷ λυόμενον.

 

My Old Hut

A poem by Shihwu (1272–1352), tr. Red Pine:
Paper windows bamboo walls hedge of hibiscus
when guests arrive wormwood soup serves as tea
the poor people I meet are mostly content
rare is the rich man who isn't vain or wasteful
I move my bookstand to read sutras by moonlight
I honor the buddhas with a vase of wild flowers
everyone says Tushita Heaven is fine
but how can it match this old hut of mine

Saturday, August 12, 2017

 

A Dilemma

Alan Cameron, "The Imperial Pontifex," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 103 (2007) 341-384 (at 351-352):
Here we have a classic dilemma. When faced with an anecdote that cannot be true in the form in which we have it, how far are we entitled to modify details to bring it into line with the historical record, and when should we just dismiss it as historically worthless? For example, if a historical character attracts improbable anecdotes illustrating his extravagance, we may feel that we can at any rate accept that he was extravagant; if an otherwise plausible anecdote places him in the wrong place at the wrong time, we may feel entitled to substitute a more appropriate time and place.

 

Your Opponent's Arguments

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), On Liberty, II:
The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary's case with as great, if not still greater, intensity than even his own. What Cicero practised as the means of forensic success requires to be imitated by all who study any subject in order to arrive at the truth. He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty.
Cicero, De Oratore 2.24.102 (tr. H. Rackham):
It is my own practice to take care that every client personally instructs me on his affairs, and that no one else shall be present, so that he may speak the more freely; and to argue his opponent's case to him, so that he may argue his own and openly declare whatever he has thought of his position. Then, when he has departed, in my own person and with perfect impartiality I play three characters, myself, my opponent and the arbitrator.

equidem soleo dare operam, ut de sua quisque re me ipse doceat et ut ne quis alius adsit, quo liberius loquatur, et agere adversarii causam, ut ille agat suam et, quidquid de sua re cogitarit, in medium proferat. itaque cum ille discessit, tres personas unus sustineo summa animi aequitate, meam, adversarii, iudicis.
Id. 3.21.80:
Whereas if there has really ever been a person who was able in Aristotelian fashion to speak on both sides about every subject and by means of knowing Aristotle's rules to reel off two speeches on opposite sides on every case, or in the manner of Arcesilas and Carneades argue against every statement put forward, and who to that method adds the experience and practice in speaking indicated, he would be the one and only true and perfect orator.

sin aliquis exstiterit aliquando qui Aristotelio more de omnibus rebus in utramque sententiam possit dicere et in omni causa duas contrarias orationes praeceptis illius cognitis explicare, aut hoc Arcesilae modo et Carneadis contra omne quod propositum sit disserat, quique ad eam rationem adiungat hunc usum exercitationemque dicendi, is sit verus, is perfectus, is solus orator.

 

Canon

Rudolph Pfeiffer (1889-1979), History of Classical Scholarship from the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 207:
The complete repertories were called πίνακες (indexes); but there was no corresponding Greek or Latin word for the selective lists. In the year A.D. 1768 the term 'canon' was coined for them by David Ruhnken,1 when he wrote: 'Ex magna oratorum copia tamquam in canonem decem dumtaxat rettulerunt' (sc. Aristarchus et Aristophanes Byzantius). Then Ruhnken dropped the cautious 'tamquam' and went on calling all the selective lists 'canones'. His coinage met with worldwide and lasting success, as the term was found to be so convenient; one has the impression that most people who use it believe that this usage is of Greek origin. But κανών2 was never used in this sense, nor would this have been possible. From its frequent use in ethics κανών always retained the meaning of rule or model. Aristophanes' grammatical observations about analogy in declension could be called κανόνες, rules, or a certain author and his style could be described as κανών, a model or exemplar.3 So it was not by the ancient, but it could have been by the Biblical, tradition that the catachrestic use of canon was suggested to Ruhnken. Though the Biblical canon does not mean a list of writers, it does mean a list of books of the Bible accepted by the Christian church as genuine and inspired;4 and this usage was and is current in all the modern languages. The word 'canon' has been intentionally avoided in this chapter on Aristophanes; nevertheless, everyone is at liberty to speak of the Alexandrian canon of the nine lyric poets or the ten orators, since the expression is sanctioned by its age and convenience, and will, I am afraid, never disappear. But if one calls such lists 'canons', one should be aware that this is not the proper significance of the Greek κανών but a modern catachresis that originated in the eighteenth century.

1 D. Ruhnken, 'Historia critica oratorum Graecorum' in his edition of Rutilius Lupus 1768 and often reprinted: Opuscula I2 (1823) 386.
2 H. Oppel, 'Κανών. Zur Bedeutungsgeschichte des Wortes und seiner lateinischen Entsprechungen (regula-norma)' Philologus, Suppl. xxx 4 (1937) passim; on Ruhnken see p. 47. Cf. the review by K. v. Fritz, AJP 60 (1939) 112 ff.
3 See above, p. 202 (declension) and p. 206, n. 2 (Aeschines' λόγοι as κανών).
4 Euseb. hist. eccl. VI 25. 3 τὸν ἐκκλησιαστικὸν φυλάττων κανόνα, μόνα τέσσαρα εἰδέναι εὐαγγέλια μαρτύρεται (sc. Origen) seems to be the earliest evidence of the word for the canon of scripture; Oppel Κανών 70 f. and others refer to a passage of Athanasius, written about A.D. 350, at least twenty-five years after Euseb. hist. eccl., Athanas. 'de decr. Nic. syn.' 18 (Werke, hg. von der Preuß. Akad. d. Wiss. II 1, 1935, p. 15. 20) μὴ ὂν ἐκ τοῦ κανόνος (sc. Hermas).

Friday, August 11, 2017

 

Étroniforme

George Sand, letter to Gustave Flaubert (December 21, 1867; tr. Francis Steegmuller, with his note):
At last, someone who shares my opinion of that political cur. It could only be you, friend of my heart. Etroniforme is a sublime word to classify that vegetable species Merdoïde.1

1. Term coined by Mme Sand: "Of the shit family." A friend suggests a link with cacafuego, listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, which cites a 1696 usage: "A Spanish word signifying Shitefire, and it is used for a bragging, vaporing fellow."

Enfin! voilà donc quelqu'un qui pense comme moi sur le compte de ce goujat politique. Ce ne pouvait être que toi, ami de mon coeur. Étroniformes est le mot sublime qui classe cette espèce de végétaux merdoïdes.
From étron = matière fécale consistante et moulée de l'homme et de quelques animaux (Larousse). Cf. Dutch stront.

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Celebration

According to Google, today is the 44th anniversary of the birth of Hip-Hop, so I'll celebrate the occasion by singing my favorite Hip-Hop song:
Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin', Easter's on its way

Bringin' ev'ry girl and boy
Baskets full of Easter joy
Things to make your Easter bright and gay

He's got jelly beans for Tommy
Colored eggs for sister Sue
There's an orchid for your mommy
And an Easter bonnet too

Oh, here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day

Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin', Easter's on its way

Try to do the things you should
Maybe if you're extra good
He'll roll lots of Easter eggs your way

You'll wake up on Easter mornin'
And you'll know that he was there
When you find those choc'late bunnies
That he's hiding ev'rywhere

Oh, here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day

Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day
There are several good renditions on YouTube.

 

Invitation to Eight Gods

Bernhard Zimmerman, "Structure and Meter," Brill's Companion to the Study of Greek Comedy, ed. Gregory W. Dobrov (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 455-469 (at 458):
The second section of the parabasis, the so-called epirrhematic syzygy, belongs entirely to the chorus. It consists of two metrically identical lyric parts, an ode and antode, that reflect the ancient form of a hymnic call for the gods (hymnos kletikos).
Aristophanes, Clouds 563-574, 595-606 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson, with his notes):
High guardian of the gods,
Zeus the great chieftain,
I invite first to my dance;
and the hugely strong Keeper of the Trident,
wild upheaver
of land and salty sea;48
and our own father of glorious name,
most august Empyrean,49 nourisher of all life;
and the Charioteer, who
covers the plain of earth
with dazzling rays, a mighty deity
among gods and mortals.

[....]

Join me as well, Phoebus, Lord
of Delos, who dwell on Cynthus'
sheer escarpment of rock;53
and you, blest Maiden, who dwell at Ephesus
in the golden house, where Lydian maidens
greatly revere you;54
and our own native goddess,
wielder of the aegis, guardian of the city;
and he who haunts Parnassus' rock
and glows in the light of pine torches,
eminent among Delphic bacchants,
the reveller Dionysus.

48 I.e. Poseidon.
49 Aether, a scientific entity; cf. 265.
53 I.e. Apollo.
54 I.e. Artemis.

ὑψιμέδοντα μὲν θεῶν
    Ζῆνα τύραννον εἰς χορὸν
    πρῶτα μέγαν κικλήσκω·        565
τόν τε μεγασθενῆ τριαίνης ταμίαν,
    γῆς τε καὶ ἁλμυρᾶς θαλάσσης
    ἄγριον μοχλευτήν·
καὶ μεγαλώνυμον ἡμέτερον πατέρ᾿
    Αἰθέρα σεμνότατον, βιοθρέμμονα πάντων·        570
τόν θ᾿ ἱππονώμαν, ὃς ὑπερ-
    λάμπροις ἀκτῖσιν κατέχει
    γῆς πέδον, μέγας ἐν θεοῖς
    ἐν θνητοῖσί τε δαίμων.

[....]

ἀμφί μοι αὖτε Φοῖβ᾿ ἄναξ        595
    Δήλιε, Κυνθίαν ἔχων
    ὑψικέρατα πέτραν·
ἥ τ᾿ Ἐφέσου μάκαιρα πάγχρυσον ἔχεις
    οἶκον, ἐν ᾧ κόραι σε Λυ-
    δῶν μεγάλως σέβουσιν·        600
ἥ τ᾿ ἐπιχώριος ἡμετέρα θεὸς
    αἰγίδος ἡνίοχος, πολιοῦχος Ἀθάνα·
Παρνασσίαν θ᾿ ὃς κατέχων
    πέτραν σὺν πεύκαις σελαγεῖ
    Βάκχαις Δελφίσιν ἐμπρέπων        605
    κωμαστὴς Διόνυσος.
Athena is explicitly named in the Greek (602). Shouldn't she also be explicitly named in the translation? Two of the unnamed gods are identified by the translator's notes, but not Helios (571-574). See K.J. Dover in his commentary (1968; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 173:
Poseidon, Helios, and Artemis are not named outright in this song, but are identified by their attributes. The names of Athena (604 [sic, read 602]) and Dionysos (606) are delayed until their characterizations are complete, and Zeus and Aither are partially characterized before they are named.
See also Eduard Fraenkel, Beobachtungen zu Aristophanes (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1962), pp. 196-198, and L.P.E. Parker, The Songs of Aristophanes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 194-196.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

 

Assumption of Infallibility

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), On Liberty, II:
But I must be permitted to observe, that it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine (be it what it may) which I call an assumption of infallibility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less, if put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions.

 

Lexicomania

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), "Théophile Gautier," II (tr. P.E. Charvet):
He then asked me, with a curiously suspicious eye, and as though to put me to the test, if I liked reading dictionaries. The question was put with the calm manner he brings to all he says, and in a tone of voice someone else might have adopted to inquire whether I preferred reading travel books or fiction. Fortunately, I had been seized very young with lexicomania, and I saw that my stock had risen as a result of my reply. It was precisely with reference to dictionaries that he added that 'The writer incapable of expressing everything, caught on the wrong foot by an idea, be it never so strange or subtle, never so unexpected, falling like a stone from the moon, was no writer at all'.

Il me demanda ensuite, avec un oeil curieusement méfiant, et comme pour m'éprouver, si j'aimais à lire des dictionnaires. Il me dit cela d'ailleurs comme il dit toute chose, fort tranquillement, et du ton qu'un autre aurait pris pour s'informer si je préférais la lecture des voyages à celle des romans. Par bonheur, j'avais été pris très-jeune de lexicomanie, et je vis que ma réponse me gagnait de l'estime. Ce fut justement à propos des dictionnaires qu'il ajouta «que l'écrivain qui ne savait pas tout dire, celui qu'une idée si étrange, si subtile qu’on la supposât, si imprévue, tombant comme une pierre de la lune, prenait au dépourvu et sans matériel pour lui donner corps, n'était pas un écrivain.»
Related post: Reading the Dictionary.

 

A Greek Verse Inscription

Werner Peek, Griechische Vers-Inschriften, Vol. I: Grab-Epigramme (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955), p. 327, # 1146 (= Inscriptiones Graecae XIV 2002 + Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI 26282; only relevant portions of page shown):


The stone (photograph from Epigraphischen Datenbank):


Text and apparatus adapted by me from Peek (subscript dots for uncertain letters omitted):
                                                      ὅσιον βίον ἀίξοντι·
ἀλλ' ὅτε Μοιράων ὁ τριπλοῦς μίτος ἐξεκενώθ[η]
καὶ λοιπὸν θανάτῳ μετὰ τοῦτο τὸ φῶς μετεβλή[θη],
ψυχὴ μὲν πρὸς Ὄλυμπον ἀνήλλατο, σῶμα δὲ πρὸ[ς γῆν]
καὶ λυθὲν ἐξεπόθη καὶ οὐδὲν ἔχω πλέον ὀστῶ[ν].        5
ὡς οὖν καιρὸν ἔχεις, λοῦσαι, μύρισαι, σπατάλησον
καὶ χάρισαι, δαπάνησον ἅπερ δύνασαι· τίνι τηρεῖς;


M. Septimius Diocles fecit sibi et Iul. Ca — — | fi[liae]

3 μετεβλή[θη] J.L. Ussing, "Om nogle af Fr. Rostgaard efterladte Papirsaftryk af graeske og latinske Indskrifter," Oversigt over det Kongelige Danske videnskabernes selskabs forhandlinger (1866) 202-221 (204-205); μετέβαι[νον] Georg Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex Lapidibus Conlecta (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1878), p. 529, no. 646a
According to Stephan Busch, Versus Balnearum. Die antike Dichtung über Bäder und Baden im römischen Reich (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1999), pp. 530-531 (at 531), the Latin portion of the inscription has been expanded as follows:
M. Septimius Diocles fecit sibi et Iul. Ca[liste coniugi et Sept. Vibiae] fi[liae].
Latin translation of the Greek (lines 2-7) from Ed. Cougny, Epigrammatum Anthologia Palatina cum Planudeis et Appendice Nova Epigrammatum Veterum ex Libris et Marmoribus Ductorum, Vol. III (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1890), p. 207, number 695:
sed ubi parcarum triplum stamen exinanitum est
et postremo ad mortem post hanc lucem transii,
anima quidem ad Olympum exsiluit, corpus autem terra
dissolutum exhaustum est, et nihil habeo praeter ossa.
Dum igitur tempus habes, balneis, unguentis deliciis utere,
et te amabilem-praebe, splendide-vive, quoad potes: cuinam servas?
Unavailable to me:
The epigram isn't in Werner Peek, Griechische Grabgedichte. Griechisch und Deutsch (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1966).

In the fragmentary first line, ὅσιον βίον is pious life (accusative), and ἀίξοντι seems to be aorist active participle (dative singular) of ᾄσσω (alt. ἀΐσσω) = shoot, dart, glance (intransitive) or put in motion (transitive). I can extract no sense from ὅσιον βίον as the object of ἀίξοντι.

In line 3 what is the subject of Ussing's supplement μετεβλήθη (3rd person singular aorist indicative passive of μεταβάλλω)? Presumably φῶς, but I take the entire phrase τοῦτο τὸ φῶς to be the object of the preposition μετὰ. The inscription is number 1329 in Luigi Moretti, Inscriptiones Graecae Urbis Romae, vol. III (Rome: Istituto italiano per la storia antica, 1978), p. 184. The book is unavailable to me, but I think he prints μετεβλήθην (1st person) instead of μετεβλήθη (3rd person). The 1st person makes more sense to me.

The first καὶ in line 5 also puzzles me. ψυχὴ μὲν πρὸς Ὄλυμπον ἀνήλλατο (4) should be balanced by σῶμα δὲ πρὸς γῆν / καὶ λυθὲν ἐξεπόθη (4-5), but καὶ seems to get in the way of that.

Here is my tentative translation of all but the first line:
But when the threefold thread of the Fates was spun out
and finally after this light I was thrown over to death,
my soul leaped up to Olympus, but my body to earth
wasted away and was drained, and I have nothing but bones.
So therefore, while you have time, bathe, anoint yourself with perfume, live indulgently,
and gratify yourself, spend all the money you can — for what are you keeping it?

Marcus Septimius Diocles made this for himself and his wife Julia Callista and his daughter Septimia Vibia.
Thanks very much to Ian Jackson for a photocopy of the relevant page of Peek's Griechische Vers-Inschriften.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

 

Asigmatism

Euripides, Children of Heracles. Hippolytus. Andromache. Hecuba. Edited and Translated by David Kovacs (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995 = Loeb Classical Library, 484), pp. 54-55 (Children of Heracles 466-467):
τί γὰρ γέροντος ἀνδρὸς Εὐρυσθεῖ πλέον
θανόντος;


for what profit does Eurytheus have in the death of an old man?
Id., pp. 102-103 (Children of Heracles 969):
χρῆν τόνδε μὴ ζῆν μηδ᾿ ἔτ᾿ εἰσορᾶν φάος.

Eurytheus ought not to live and look any more on the light of the sun.
In both passages read Eurystheus, not Eurytheus. The typographical errors persist in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. In the Greek at line 969 Eurystheus isn't actually named (τόνδε = this one, this fellow).

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Homesickness

Joachim Du Bellay (1522-1560), Les Regrets 19, lines 5-11 (tr. Richard Helgerson):
I wander alone on the Latin shore, longing for France, and longing, too, for my old friends, my richest treasure, and for my pleasant Angevin home.

I miss the woods and the ripening fields, the vines, the gardens, and the meadows turning green through which my river runs...

Je me pourmene seul sur la rive Latine,
La France regretant, & regretant encor
Mes antiques amis, mon plus riche tresor,
Et le plaisant sejour de ma terre Angevine.

Je regrete les bois, & les champs blondissans,
Les vignes, les jardins, & les prez verdissans
Que mon fleuve traverse...
La rive Latine is the bank of the Tiber, and mon fleuve is the Loire.

 

Disfigurement

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), "The Colloquy of Monos and Una," Tales (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845), pp. 100-109 (at 102):
Meantime huge smoking cities arose, innumerable. Green leaves shrank before the hot breath of furnaces. The fair face of Nature was deformed as with the ravages of some loathsome disease.
Related post: Man's Filth.

 

Only My Books

John Buchan (1875-1940), The Island of Sheep, chapter XII:
That library was the pleasantest room in the house, and it was clearly Haraldsen's favourite, for it had the air of a place cherished and lived in. Its builder had chosen to give it a fine plaster ceiling, with heraldic panels between mouldings of Norland symbols. It was lined everywhere with books, books which had the look of being used, and which consequently made that soft tapestry which no collection of august bindings can ever provide. Upstairs the bedrooms were large and airy, with bare oak floors, and not too much furniture, but with all modern comforts.

What struck me especially was that everything was of the best and probably of high value. It seemed queer to be contemplating a siege in a treasure house.

'The treasures were my father's,' said Haraldsen. 'Myself I do not want possessions. Only my books.'

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

 

No More Walks in the Wood

John Hollander (1929-2013), "An Old-Fashioned Song," Tesserae and Other Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), p. 3:
(Nous n'irons plus au bois)

No more walks in the wood:
The trees have all been cut
Down, and where once they stood
Not even a wagon rut
Appears along the path
Low brush is taking over.

No more walks in the wood;
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.
Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.

We and the trees and the way
Back from the fields of play
Lasted as long as we could.
No more walks in the wood.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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The World Has Turned a Sharp Corner Since Then

Thomas Saunders Evans (1816-1889), Latin and Greek Verse. Edited, with Memoir, by the Rev. Joseph Waite (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1893), pp. ii-iii (from Waite's Memoir):
When he was nine years old, he was sent for tuition to an uncle, the Rev. George Evans, Vicar of Ruyton, near Oswestry. He too was a sound scholar, a man of vigorous intellect, and a strict disciplinarian. His nephew was drilled by him into a thorough acquaintance with the Eton Latin and Greek grammars and made to learn by heart a portion of Vergil every day, in the repetition of which he committed a false quantity only at the risk of a flogging. Finding that his uncle was sensitive to an east wind, which as long as it lasted would postpone lessons to a later hour, he tied down the church weathercock so as to point fixedly eastward. The persistent immobility of the vane aroused suspicion, which led not only to a solution of the mystery but to the chastisement of the culprit. This uncle laid the foundations of his scholarship and first introduced him to his favorite Vergil. The impressions left by the two years he spent at Ruyton never faded from his memory and the manner in which he recalled them showed how observant he must have been as a boy. His quaint descriptions of the antique church-services, the high-backed pews, the pictures of Moses and Aaron in the chancel, the old-world congregation, the manners, speech, and rustic costume of the country-people, sounded like some of the best passages of Fielding's novels. He used to say:—'The world has turned a sharp corner since then.'
Id., p. vi:
Mr Evans, before he left the school [Shrewsbury] had filled several manuscript volumes in which Latin and Greek words and idioms are carefully tabulated with their nearest English equivalents. He used to say in his architectural phraseology:—'Words are the bricks of language. With them we must build,'—and he always insisted emphatically on what seems to be very much overlooked, that a copious and exact vocabulary is one of the very first requisites for a scholar.
Id., pp. xii-xiii:
He said modestly at a later date:—'I had no pretensions to scholarship until I reached the age of twenty-seven. It was then I commenced to read and think for myself, carefully analysing the meaning of words and the grammatical structure of the dead languages.'
Id., p. xxv (from a letter of Edward White Benson to Waite):
His perfect simplicity of nature, absence of mind and thoroughness of conviction came out in his first answer to a stranger, who, in reply to some simple observation of his, said 'Ah, I am an Agnostic.' With large bright eyes turned full on him, Evans slowly replied, 'Are you indeed? Is not that a very silly thing to be?'
Id., p. xliv:
He was intolerant of agnosticism, and having been asked in the presence of one who professed that no-creed what 'agnostic' meant, he said:—'The term explains itself. It means an ignoramus.'
Id., p. l:
From some of the Latin poets, whom he otherwise admired, he was repelled by their impurity. He expostulated with a distinguished editor of one of them for not having resorted to expurgation. On receiving the answer that this could not be done 'in justice to the poet,' he rejoined—'In justice to the poet it ought to have been done.'
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

Monday, August 07, 2017

 

Despair at the Current Political Scene

Catullus 52 (tr. Peter Green):
What's left, Catullus? Why not die right here and now?
That pustule Nonius occupies a curule chair,
Vatinius falsely swears by his own consulship.
What's left, Catullus? Why not die right here and now?

Quid est, Catulle? quid moraris emori?
sella in curuli struma Nonius sedet,
per consulatum peierat Vatinius:
quid est, Catulle? quid moraris emori?
Johannes Vahlen, Opuscula Academica, Pars I (Leipzig: B.G Teubner, 1908), p. 216, compares Euripides, fragment 293 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
I'd gladly die; for it's not worth people's living when they see bad men unjustly privileged.

θνῄσκοιμ᾿ ἄν· οὐ γὰρ ἄξιον λεύσσειν φάος
κακοὺς ὁρῶντας ἐκδίκως τιμωμένους.
I.e. unjustly honored, unjustly holding office.


William Gropper, Politician on the Floor

 

Danse Macabre

John Buchan (1875-1940), The Complete Richard Hannay Stories (Ware: Wordsworth, 2010), p. 649 (from chapter 8 of the novel The Three Hostages; describing a nightclub):
We paid five shillings apiece for a liqueur, found a table and took notice of the show. It seemed to me a wholly rotten and funereal business. A band, looking like monkeys in uniform, pounded out some kind of barbarous jingle, and sad-faced marionettes moved to it. There was no gaiety or devil in that dancing, only a kind of bored perfection. Thin young men with rabbit heads and hair brushed straight back from their brows, who I suppose were professional dancing partners, held close to their breasts women of every shape and age, but all alike in having dead eyes and masks for faces, and the macabre procession moved like automata to the bands' rhythm. I dare say it was all very wonderful, but I was not built by Providence to appreciate it.
Image of the paragraph:


Note the error—bands' for band's. The error is not Buchan's, because Buchan did not write the paragraph as printed. What is printed is a bowdlerization of the original, done silently in the name of political correctness and cultural sensitivity. The "Complete and Unabridged" claim on the back cover of the book is misleading. Here the censor did his job imperfectly and introduced an error in the course of his meddling. God only knows what other liberties were taken with Buchan's text.

Related post: Pollution of the Airwaves.

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Old Age

Po Chü-i (772-846), "Old Age," tr. Arthur Waley, More Translations from the Chinese (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.), p. 61:
(Addressed to Liu Yü-hsi, who was born in the same year)
                                    (A.D. 835)

We are growing old together, you and I;
Let's ask ourselves, what is age like?
The dull eye is closed ere night comes;
The idle head, still uncombed at noon.
Propped on a staff, sometimes a walk abroad;
Or all day sitting with closed doors.
One dares not look in the mirror's polished face;
One cannot read small-letter books.
Deeper and deeper, one's love of old friends;
Fewer and fewer, one's dealings with young men.
One thing only, the pleasure of idle talk,
Is great as ever, when you and I meet.

 

A Fair Hearing

Euripides, Children of Heracles 179-180 (tr. David Kovacs):
Who can decide a plea or judge a speech until he has heard a clear statement from both sides?

τίς ἂν δίκην κρίνειεν ἢ γνοίη λόγον,
πρὶν ἂν παρ' ἀμφοῖν μῦθον ἐκμάθῃ σαφῶς;
Related post: Both Sides of the Story.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

 

Popular Opinions

John Henry Newman (1801-1890), Parochial and Plain Sermons 5.3 (Unreal Words):
Again, there cannot be a more apposite specimen of unreality than the way in which judgments are commonly formed upon important questions by the mass of the community. Opinions are continually given in the world on matters, about which those who offer them are as little qualified to judge as blind men about colours, and that because they have never exercised their minds upon the points in question. This is a day in which all men are obliged to have an opinion on all questions, political, social, and religious, because they have in some way or other an influence upon the decision; yet the multitude are for the most part absolutely without capacity to take their part in it. In saying this, I am far from meaning that this need be so,—I am far from denying that there is such a thing as plain good sense, or (what is better) religious sense, which will see its way through very intricate matters, or that this is in fact sometimes exerted in the community at large on certain great questions; but at the same time this practical sense is so far from existing as regards the vast mass of questions which in this day come before the public, that (as all persons who attempt to gain the influence of the people on their side know well) their opinions must be purchased by interesting their prejudices or fears in their favour;—not by presenting a question in its real and true substance, but by adroitly colouring it, or selecting out of it some particular point which may be exaggerated, and dressed up, and be made the means of working on popular feelings. And thus government and the art of government becomes, as much as popular religion, hollow and unsound.

 

Bats, Ants, Frogs, and Worms

Origen, Against Celsus 4.23 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
After this he continues as usual by laughing at the race of Jews and Christians, comparing them all to a cluster of bats or ants coming out of a nest, or frogs holding council round a marsh or worms assembling in some filthy corner, disagreeing with one another about which of them are the worse sinners.

μετὰ ταῦτα συνήθως ἑαυτῷ γελῶν τὸ Ἰουδαίων καὶ Χριστιανῶν γένος πάντας παραβέβληκε νυκτερίδων ὁρμαθῷ ἢ μύρμηξιν ἐκ καλιᾶς προελθοῦσιν ἢ βατράχοις περὶ τέλμα συνεδρεύουσιν ἢ σκώληξιν ἐν βορβόρου γωνίᾳ ἐκκλησιάζουσι καὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαφερομένοις, τίνες αὐτῶν εἶεν ἁμαρτωλότεροι.
With ἐκκλησιάζουσι, could Celsus be alluding to ἐκκλησία (ecclesia), a word used of the synagogue of the Jews and the church of the Christians? Similarly συνεδρεύουσιν seems to recall συνέδριον (the Jewish Sanhedrin). It would be too far-fetched, however, to conjecture προσελθοῦσιν for προελθοῦσιν and to connect it with προσήλυτος (proselyte, a word derived from προσέρχομαι). As for the sinning contest, Paul declared himself winner (1 Timothy 1.15: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief).

Related post: A Puddle of Mere Slime.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

 

Nature

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), "The Painter of Modern Life," XI (tr. P.E. Charvet; I changed "natures teaches" to "nature teaches"):
Most wrong ideas about beauty derive from the false notion the eighteenth century had about ethics. In those days, Nature was taken as a basis, source and prototype of all possible forms of good and beauty. The rejection of original sin is in no small measure responsible for the general blindness of those days. If, however, we are prepared merely to consult the facts that stare us in the face, the experience of all ages, and the Gazette des Tribunaux, we can see at once that nature teaches nothing or nearly nothing; in other words, it compels man to sleep, drink, eat and to protect himself as best he can against the inclemencies of the weather. It is nature too that drives man to kill his fellow-man, to eat him, to imprison and torture him; for as soon as we move from the order of necessities and needs to that of luxury and pleasures, we see that nature can do nothing but counsel crime. It is this so-called infallible nature that has produced parricide and cannibalism, and a thousand other abominations, which modesty and nice feeling alike prevent our mentioning. It is philosophy (I am referring to the right kind), it is religion that enjoins upon us to succour our poor and enfeebled parents. Nature (which is nothing but the inner voice of self-interest) tells us to knock them on the head. Review, analyse everything that is natural, all the actions and desires of absolutely natural man: you will find nothing that is not horrible. Everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation. Crime, which the human animal took a fancy to in his mother's womb, is by origin natural. Virtue, on the other hand, is artificial, supernatural, since in every age and nation gods and prophets have been necessary to teach it to bestialized humanity, and since man by himself would have been powerless to discover it. Evil is done without effort, naturally, it is the working of fate; good is always the product of an art.

La plupart des erreurs relatives au beau naissent de la fausse conception du XVIIIe siècle relative à la morale. La nature fut prise dans ce temps-là comme base, source et type de tout bien et de tout beau possibles. La négation du péché originel ne fut pas pour peu de chose dans l'aveuglement général de cette époque. Si toutefois nous consentons à en référer simplement au fait visible, à l’expérience de tous les âges et à la Gazette des Tribunaux, nous verrons que la nature n'enseigne rien, ou presque rien, c'est-à-dire qu'elle contraint l'homme à dormir, à boire, à manger, et à se garantir, tant bien que mal, contre les hostilités de l'atmosphère. C'est elle aussi qui pousse l'homme à tuer son semblable, à le manger, à le séquestrer, à le torturer; car, sitôt que nous sortons de l'ordre des nécessités et des besoins pour entrer dans celui du luxe et des plaisirs, nous voyons que la nature ne peut conseiller que le crime. C'est cette infaillible nature qui a créé le parricide et l'anthropophagie, et mille autres abominations que la pudeur et la délicatesse nous empêchent de nommer. C'est la philosophie (je parle de la bonne), c'est la religion qui nous ordonne de nourrir des parents pauvres et infirmes. La nature (qui n'est pas autre chose que la voix de notre intérêt) nous commande de les assommer. Passez en revue, analysez tout ce qui est naturel, toutes les actions et les désirs du pur homme naturel, vous ne trouverez rien que d'affreux. Tout ce qui est beau et noble est le résultat de la raison et du calcul. Le crime, dont l'animal humain a puisé le goût dans le ventre de sa mère, est originellement naturel. La vertu, au contraire, est artificielle, surnaturelle, puisqu'il a fallu, dans tous les temps et chez toutes les nations, des dieux et des prophètes pour l'enseigner à l'humanité animalisée, et que l'homme, seul, eût été impuissant à la découvrir. Le mal se fait sans effort, naturellement, par fatalité; le bien est toujours le produit d'un art.

Friday, August 04, 2017

 

Indifference to Money

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), "My Mental Development," Basic Writings (London: Routledge, 2009), pp. 9-22 (at 10; on his grandmother):
She had that indifference to money which is only possible to those who have always had enough of it.

 

The Tongue

Hesiod, Works and Days 719-721 (tr. M.L. West):
The tongue's best treasure among men is when it is sparing, and its greatest charm is when it goes in measure. If you speak ill, you may well hear greater yourself.

γλώσσης τοι θησαυρὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἄριστος
φειδωλῆς, πλείστη δὲ χάρις κατὰ μέτρον ἰούσης·
εἰ δὲ κακὸν εἴπῃς, τάχα κ᾿ αὐτὸς μεῖζον ἀκούσαις.

 

A Precious Thing

John Buchan (1875-1940), Mr. Standfast (Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton Limited, 1919), p. 9:
I climbed through great beech-woods, which seemed in the twilight like some green place far below the sea, and then over a short stretch of hill pasture to the rim of the vale. All about me were little fields enclosed with walls of grey stone and full of dim sheep. Below were dusky woods around what I took to be Fosse Manor, for the great Roman Fosse Way, straight as an arrow, passed over the hills to the south and skirted its grounds. I could see the stream slipping among its water-meadows and could hear the splash of the weir. A tiny village settled in a crook of the hill, and its church-tower sounded seven with a curiously sweet chime. Otherwise there was no noise but the twitter of small birds and the night wind in the tops of the beeches.

In that moment I had a kind of revelation. I had a vision of what I had been fighting for, what we all were fighting for. It was peace, deep and holy and ancient, peace older than the oldest wars, peace which would endure when all our swords were hammered into ploughshares. It was more; for in that hour England first took hold of me. Before my country had been South Africa, and when I thought of home it had been the wide sun-steeped spaces of the veld or some scented glen of the Berg. But now I realised that I had a new home. I understood what a precious thing this little England was, how old and kindly and comforting, how wholly worth striving for. The freedom of an acre of her soil was cheaply bought by the blood of the best of us.

 

Village Affairs

Poem by Wang Wei (701-761), tr. David Hinton:
You just came from my old village
so you know all about village affairs.

When you left, outside my window,
was it in bloom—that winter plum?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

 

The Firm Foundation of Unyielding Despair

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), Philosophical Essays (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910), pp. 60-61:
That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.

 

Ancient Custom is the Best

Porphyry, On Abstinence from Animal Food 2.18.3 (tr. Glenn W. Most):
... and thus Hesiod [fragment 322 Merkelbach-West], praising the custom of ancient sacrifices, quite rightly said,
howsoever the city performs sacrifice, ancient custom is the best.
... καὶ τὸν Ἡσίοδον οὖν εἰκότως τὸν τῶν ἀρχαίων θυσιῶν νόμον ἐπαινοῦντα εἰπεῖν·
ὥς κε πόλις ῥέζῃσι, νόμος δ' ἀρχαῖος ἄριστος.
My watchword: νόμος δ' ἀρχαῖος ἄριστος.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

 

Nonsense

John Buchan (1875-1940), Greenmantle (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, ©1916), p. 228:
"The world, as I see it, has become too easy and cushioned. Men have forgotten their manhood in soft speech, and they have imagined that the rules of their smug civilisation were the laws of the universe....When mankind is smothered with shams and phrases and painted idols a wind blows out of the wilds to cleanse and simplify life. The world needs space and fresh air. The civilisation we have boasted of is a toy-shop and a blind alley, and I hanker for open country."

This confounded nonsense was well received.

 

A Youthful Dream

K.J. McKay, "Stawell, Florence Melian (1869-1936)," Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 12 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 1990):
Her mother recalled her youthful, passionate plea: 'I would rather read Homer in the original than anything else in the world'.
She did read Homer in Greek and went on to write Homer & the Iliad: An Essay to Determine the Scope and Character of the Original Poem (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1909).

 

A Misleading Appearance

Euripides, Children of Heracles 130-131 (tr. David Kovacs):
The clothing he wears and the arrangement of his garments are Greek, yet his deeds are those of a barbarian.

καὶ μὴν στολήν γ' Ἕλληνα καὶ ῥυθμὸν πέπλων
ἔχει, τὰ δ' ἔργα βαρβάρου χερὸς τάδε.
Erasmus, Praise of Folly 17:
An ape is always an ape, even if it's dressed in purple.

Simia semper est simia, etiam si purpura vestiatur.
Cf. C.S. Lewis' phrase "trousered ape."

 

Swallowing the Pill

A.C. Pearson (1861-1935), Verbal Scholarship and the Growth of Some Abstract Terms. An Inaugural Lecture Delivered on 3 March 1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), pp. 7-8:
Some ten years ago I had occasion to consult him [Henry Jackson] on a grammatical heresy which was simmering in my mind; and eventually at his request I sent him the MS of what I had prepared. He was not at all convinced, but sent me an argued reply to which I made answer as best I could, and there followed rejoinder and surrejoinder, rebutter and surrebutter, until I became ashamed of the strain I was putting on his patience.

Such, I suppose, are the discussions which an enlightened modernism deprecates as useless pedantry, although I have never been able to understand how it is possible to value the whole and to neglect the parts, or to learn a language without a knowledge of its grammar. I am old enough to have learnt Greek Accidence at a time when respect for paradigms was driven home by the cane (not that anyone knew or cared what a paradigm was—only it was just as well to be able to repeat it). This was perhaps an offence against the humanities, but I don't know that it did us much harm. Certainly our teachers did not try to conceal the ordinance of Zeus that learning is a painful process1. Not that I would resuscitate the old system in all its rigour, even if I could; so long as the pill is really swallowed I don't so much object to the sugar coating, but I should like to make sure.

1 Aesch. Ag. 177 τὸν πάθει μάθος θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
Id., pp. 13-14:
It is often pressed upon us that we waste our time in overscrupulous attention to minutiae, whereas if our object is to render intelligible an ancient author to modern readers, we can attain our purpose by using a good translation. The fallacy lies in forgetting that a little first-hand knowledge is worth any amount of cram and that the use of a modern equivalent may give an entirely misleading picture of what the original really means. Moritz Haupt's "do not translate: translation is the death of understanding" is amply justified. This saying is often quoted, but his two other rules are not so well known: (2) Use no technical terms of grammar. This was a protest against the use of such terms as zeugma, ellipse, and so forth without a sufficient analysis of the particular passage. (3) Understand your author not logically but psychologically, that is, remember his times and circumstances. A Greek writer did not think precisely as a Roman, still less as a modern Englishman. Every nation has its nuances of thought as well as of language, in which latter these nuances have their being.
Id., pp. 17-18:
For all these reasons the task of adequately interpreting a Greek classic requires a good deal of patient research. Even the names of simple material things such as τράπεζα and χείρ have associations which are by no means identical with those of table and hand. How much greater the confusion of thought if we equate democracy with δημοκρατία, the one resting on the principle of representation and the other requiring that all the citizens should take an active share in administration as well as in policy. It would be still more vain to expect that ethical concepts, which were being gradually developed out of the medley of primitive thought, should correspond with the items of our well-established vocabulary.
Id., p. 48:
There are plenty of people to-day who regard verbal scholarship as a luxury for which we cannot afford time. We must read widely, we are told, and ignore if we can the difficulties of the text. We must refrain from exploring niceties of expression and beware of a pedantic insistence upon accuracy. We must make it our business to cultivate and instil literary appreciation even at the cost of banishing grammar to another planet. Such a programme would be far from satisfactory, even if its aims were possible of achievement. Wide reading is well enough so long as it does not neglect the spirit of the maxim non multa legere sed multum. But if we value clearness of thought we cannot acquiesce in slovenliness of language. Thought and speech are inextricably interwoven and the intensive study of words is necessary for correct thinking.
Id., pp. 49-50:
When we call to mind the habitual inaccuracy of speech to which we are all liable; the disastrous consequences of wilful or unconscious exaggeration, and the scarcely smaller havoc wrought by timid or scornful ironies; the insincerities and evasions which spring from ambiguity and vagueness; the painful inefficiencies of those who have never learnt to express themselves at all; and above all the tragical misunderstandings of another's words which sear the hearts and embitter the friendships of honest men, then indeed we become aware of the value of clear and accurate speech. Just as language is the direct channel which conveys to another the workings of the inner man; so the more effective that instrument, the more intimately do we share the feelings, motives, and meditations of the speaker or writer. That Greek is eminently such an instrument few will deny. But those who study the monuments of Greek literature must seek to understand them not loosely or vaguely, not catching at the general drift of a passage and leaving the details to take care of themselves, but delving, searching and pondering until the truth is laid bare. That is the only method: for there are no short cuts.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

 

Paraphrase versus Quotation

Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, tr. Pierre Des Maizeaux (from the Preface to the first edition):
And because many frauds are committed in the citations of authors, and those who honestly abridge a passage, do not always express the whole force of it, it is incredible how much judicious persons are grown mistrustful. I may justly say, that it is a sort of rashness on a thousand occasions, to believe what is attributed to authors when their own words are not quoted.

Et parce qu'il s'est commis beaucoup de supercheries dans les Citations des Auteurs, & que ceux qui abrègent de bonne foi un Passage n'en savent pas conserver toujours toute la force, on ne sauroit croire combien les personnes judicieuses sont devenues défiantes. Je puis dire avec raison que c'est une espece de témérité en mille rencontres, que de croire ce qu'on attribue aux Auteurs, lorsqu'on ne rapporte pas leurs propres paroles.

 

Left Out at Pentecost

John Buchan (1875-1940), Greenmantle (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, ©1916), p. 40:
"What about language?" I asked. "You're all right, Sandy?"

"I know German fairly well; and I can pass anywhere as a Turk. The first will do for eavesdropping and the second for ordinary business."

"And you?" I asked Blenkiron.

"I was left out at Pentecost," he said. "I regret to confess I have no gift of tongues."

 

Artemis and Her Conquering Bow

Euripides, Hippolytus 1451 (tr. David Kovacs):
The conquering bow of Artemis be my witness!

τὴν τοξόδαμνον Ἄρτεμιν μαρτύρομαι.
The translator knows exactly what the Greek says, better than I could ever hope to, but the translation puzzles my over-literal mind. I ask myself, Can an inanimate object bear witness?

Philip Vellacott's translation is similar:
I swear it by the conquering bow of Artemis.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. μαρτύρομαι: "call to witness, invoke, c. acc. pers., ... esp. of the gods," citing this line.

David Grene's translation seems to me closer to the Greek:
So help me Artemis of the conquering bow!
But I myself would opt for a straightforward literal translation:
I call to witness Artemis of the conquering bow.

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