Tuesday, October 06, 2015
On the Horrible Danger of Reading
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?
Pindar's attitude towards him [i.e. Bacchylides] recalls that of Swinburne towards some of his own imitators, of whom he wrote: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).
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.
Monday, October 05, 2015
Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
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
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 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.
Whoever is very active when he may be inactive,Related posts:
is a fool, when he may live pleasurably without activity.
ὅστις δὲ πράσσει πολλὰ μὴ πράσσειν παρόν,
μῶρος, παρὸν ζῆν ἡδέως ἀπράγμονα.
- Laziness as a Good Quality
- On Laziness
- To Loaf
- Planet of the Apes
- Ode to Indolence
- The More Idle, the More Deserving
- Work and Leisure
- Praise of Laziness
- Lazy Man's Song
- Exquisite Pregnant Idleness
- How Can I Work?
- Dolce Far Niente
- Weekdays of Unfreedom
- The Dreary Vacuum of Idleness
- Idleness and Business
- Archilochus on the Idle Life
- Futile Work
- Otium Cum Dignitate
At the Gates
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
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.Edward Courtney, The Poems of Petronius (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991), p. 57:
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
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...
Labels: noctes scatologicae
A Town and a Country Life Compared Together
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.Related posts:
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.
- Tired of the Town
- Country Comforts and Town Grievances
- No Relish for the Country
- Life in the Country
- Kick a Tree for Me
- Away from the Roar and the Rattle
- I Don't Like It
- They Call It Enjoyment
- Rome versus Bilbilis
- Aversion from Solitude and Rural Scenes
- The City versus the Country
- Country Mouse and City Mouse
Thursday, October 01, 2015
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.
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.The "talismanic lines" are probably not by Maximilian I (1459-1519). See here for a brief discussion with bibliography.
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,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
Und stürb, waiss nit wann
Muess fahren, waiss nit wohin
Mich wundert, das ich so frelich bin.*
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.
Here in full is the poem attributed to Hadrian:
Animula, vagula, blandulaIn A. O'Brien-Moore's translation:
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos?
O blithe little soul, thou, flitting away,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.
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.
Practically every paragraph of Leigh Fermor's book cries out for annotation and illustration. Here is Dürer's drawing of Maximilian I:
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Pretty Little Girl With a Red Dress On
There stood a girl, in red she was gowned,A poem by Ibn al-Ṣābūnī (13th century; tr. A.J. Arberry):
Her dress if you touched it made a
Like a little rose-tree there she stood —
Her cheeks blown roses
And her mouth a bud.
siquis eam tetigit,
et os eius floruit.
She is coming, coming,Arberry's discussion of Ibn al-Ṣābūnī's poem:
So soft her tread,
A moon in gloaming
As if her glances
My lifeblood shed,
And wiped their lances
In her robe of red.
This is a very short poem, and at first reading perhaps appears very simple; the simplicity is a delusion. Take the phrase 'a moon in gloaming': this conjures up images which only a familiarity with Arab convention can illuminate. The 'moon' is the accepted metaphor for a beautiful face, pale and glowing; the 'gloaming' is a reference to the dark tresses which throw into relief the brilliance of the 'moon'. In the second stanza the poet elaborates the well-loved comparison of the glances of the beloved with spears aimed at the lover's heart; his heart is pierced by them, and her robe is crimsoned with his lifeblood. The poet, using hackneyed themes, has combined and refined them into a new and satisfying synthesis.
A Beautiful Little Book
All these kindnesses were crowned with a dazzling consummation. I had said that my books, after the lost diary, were what I missed most. I ought to have known by now that mention of loss had only one result under this roof ... What books? I had named them; when the time came for farewells, the Baron said: "We can't do much about the others but here's Horace for you." He put a small duodecimo volume in my hand. It was the Odes and Epodes, beautifully printed on thin paper in Amsterdam in the middle of the seventeenth century, bound in hard green leather with gilt lettering. The leather on the spine had faded but the sides were as bright as grass after rain and the little book opened and shut as compactly as a Chinese casket. There were gold edges to the pages and a faded marker of scarlet silk slanted across the long S's of the text and the charming engraved vignettes: cornucopias, lyres, pan-pipes, chaplets of olive and bay and myrtle. Small mezzotints showed the Forum and the Capitol and imaginary Sabine landscapes: Tibur, Lucretilis, the Bandusian spring, Soracte, Venusia ... I made a feint at disclaiming a treasure so far beyond the status of the rough travels ahead. But I had been forestalled, I saw with relief, by an inscription: "To our young friend," etc., on the page opposite an emblematic ex libris with the name of their machiolated Baltic home. Here and there between the pages a skeleton leaf conjured up those lost woods.
This book became a fetish. I noticed, during the next few days, that it filled everyone with feelings of wonder akin to my own. On the second evening — Rosenheim was the first — placed alongside the resolutely broached new diary on the inn-table of Hohenaschau, it immediately made me seem more exalted than the tramp that I actually was. "What a beautiful little book!,"awed voices would say. Horny fingers reverently turned the pages. "Lateinisch? Well, well ..." A spurious aura of scholarship and respectability sprang up.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Friends and Allies
In this imperfect world a man cannot stand by himself, armed against criticism by his own honesty of purpose; we creep together for warmth, ally ourselves for mutual defence with other men whose opinions overlap, but do not coincide, with ours.Cf. his Pastoral Sermons and Occasional Sermons (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002), p. 328:
And even with the friendships we make later in life, founded not on accidental association, but on a real community of tastes and interests, how seldom they last a lifetime, or anything like a lifetime! Destiny shuffles our partners for us; one friend or the other gets a different job, goes to live somewhere else; it may only mean changing from one suburb to another, but how easily we make an excuse of distance! More and more as we grow older, we find that the people we see most of are recent acquaintances, not (perhaps) very congenial to us, but chance has thrown them in our way. And meanwhile the people we used to know so well, for whom we once entertained such warm feelings, are now remembered by a card at Christmas, if we can succeed in finding the address. How good we are at making friends, when we are young; how bad at keeping them! How eagerly, as we grow older, we treasure up the friendships that are left to us, like beasts that creep together for warmth!
A Well-Ordered Life
A well-ordered life, especially where the old are concerned, gives me the same pleasure as the fixed course of the planets. A certain amount of irregularity and excitement is not unsuitable for the young, but their elders should lead a quiet and orderly existence; their time of public activity is over, and ambition only brings them into disrepute.
Me autem ut certus siderum cursus ita vita hominum disposita delectat. Senum praesertim: nam iuvenes confusa adhuc quaedam et quasi turbata non indecent, senibus placida omnia et ordinata conveniunt, quibus industria sera turpis ambitio est.