Monday, December 22, 2014



E.B. White (1889-1985), "Coon Tree," The Points of my Compass (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962), pp. 61-75 (at 68-69):
Many of the commonest assumptions, it seems to me, are arbitrary ones: that the new is better than the old, the untried superior to the tried, the complex more advantageous than the simple, the fast quicker than the slow, the big greater than the small, and the world as remodeled by Man the Architect functionally sounder and more agreeable than the world as it was before he changed everything to suit his vogues and his conniptions.


A Child of Nature

Bradford Torrey (1843-1912), "December Out-of-Doors," The Foot-Path Way (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1892), pp. 36-66 (at 40):
It was good, I thought, to see so many people out-of-doors. Most of them had employment in the shops, probably, and on grounds of simple economy, so called, would have been wiser to have stuck to their lasts. But man, after all that civilization has done for him (and against him), remains at heart a child of nature. His ancestors may have been shoemakers for fifty generations, but none the less he feels an impulse now and then to quit his bench and go hunting, though it be only for a mess of clams.



Derwas J. Chitty (1901-1971), The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire (1966; rpt. Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, n.d.), p. 56 (on Epiphanius):
For him, anything he could not understand must surely be heresy.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Where Shall We Hear Better Preaching?

Bradford Torrey (1843-1912), "In Praise of the Weymouth Pine," The Foot-Path Way (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1892), pp. 232-242 (at 232-233):
I could never think it surprising that the ancients worshiped trees; that groves were believed to be the dwelling places of the gods; that Xerxes delighted in the great plane-tree of Lydia; that he decked it with golden ornaments and appointed for it a sentry, one of "the immortal ten thousand." Feelings of this kind are natural; among natural men they seem to have been well-nigh universal. The wonder is that any should be without them. For myself, I cannot recollect the day when I did not regard the Weymouth pine (the white pine I was taught to call it, but now, for reasons of my own, I prefer the English name) with something like reverence. Especially was this true of one,—a tree of stupendous girth and height, under which I played, and up which I climbed till my cap seemed almost to rub against the sky. That pine ought to be standing yet; I would go far to lie in its shadow. But alas! no village Xerxes concerned himself for its safety, and long, long ago it was brought to earth, it and all its fair lesser companions. There is no wisdom in the grave, and it is nothing to them now that I remember them so kindly. Some of them went to the making of boxes, I suppose, some to the kindling of kitchen fires. In like noble spirit did the illustrious Bobo, for the love of roast pig, burn down his father's house.
Id. (at 237-239):
The solitary pine, unhindered, symmetrical, green to its lowermost twig, as it rises out of the meadow or stands a-tiptoe on the rocky ledge, is a thing of beauty, a pleasure to every eye. A pity and a shame that it should not be more common! But the pine forest, dark, spacious, slumberous, musical! Here is something better than beauty, dearer than pleasure. When we enter this cathedral, unless we enter it unworthily, we speak not of such things. Every tree may be imperfect, with half its branches dead for want of room or want of sun, but until the devotee turns critic—an easy step, alas, for half-hearted worshipers—we are conscious of no lack. Magnificence can do without prettiness, and a touch of solemnity is better than any amusement.

Where shall we hear better preaching, more searching comment upon life and death, than in this same cathedral? Verily, the pine is a priest of the true religion. It speaks never of itself, never its own words. Silent it stands till the Spirit breathes upon it. Then all its innumerable leaves awake and speak as they are moved. Then "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Wonderful is human speech,—the work of generations upon generations, each striving to express itself, its feelings, its thoughts, its needs, its sufferings, its joys, its inexpressible desires. Wonderful is human speech, for its complexity, its delicacy, its power. But the pine-tree, under the visitations of the heavenly influence, utters things incommunicable; it whispers to us of things we have never said and never can say,—things that lie deeper than words, deeper than thought. Blessed are our ears if we hear, for the message is not to be understood by every corner, nor, indeed, by any, except at happy moments. In this temple all hearing is given by inspiration, for which reason the pine-tree's language is inarticulate, as Jesus spake in parables.

Ivan Shishkin, Forest Reserve, Pine Grove



G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1917), p. 81:
By all the working and orthodox standards of sanity, Capitalism is insane. I should not say to Mr. Rockefeller "I am a rebel." I should say "I am a respectable man and you are not."


Reaction to the Higher Criticism

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), "The Respectable Burgher on 'The Higher Criticism'":
Since Reverend Doctors now declare
That clerks and people must prepare
To doubt if Adam ever were;
To hold the flood a local scare;
To argue, though the stolid stare,
That everything had happened ere
The prophets to its happening sware;
That David was no giant-slayer,
Nor one to call a God-obeyer
In certain details we could spare,
But rather was a debonair
Shrewd bandit, skilled as banjo-player:
That Solomon sang the fleshly Fair,
And gave the Church no thought whate'er;
That Esther with her royal wear,
And Mordecai, the son of Jair,
And Joshua's triumphs, Job's despair,
And Balaam's ass's bitter blare;
Nebuchadnezzar's furnace-flare,
And Daniel and the den affair,
And other stories rich and rare,
Were writ to make old doctrine wear
Something of a romantic air:
That the Nain widow's only heir,
And Lazarus with cadaverous glare
(As done in oils by Piombo's care)
Did not return from Sheol's lair:
That Jael set a fiendish snare,
That Pontius Pilate acted square,
That never a sword cut Malchus' ear
And (but for shame I must forbear)
That ——— did not reappear! ...
—Since thus they hint, nor turn a hair,
All churchgoing will I forswear,
And sit on Sundays in my chair,
And read that moderate man Voltaire.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Some Remnant of the Primitive Man

John Burroughs (1837-1921), Winter Sunshine (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1904), p. 23:
How one lingers about a fire under such circumstances, loath to leave it, poking up the sticks, throwing in the burnt ends, adding another branch and yet another, and looking back as he turns to go to catch one more glimpse of the smoke going up through the trees! I reckon it is some remnant of the primitive man, which we all carry about with us. He has not yet forgotten his wild, free life, his arboreal habitations, and the sweet-bitter times he had in those long-gone ages. With me, he wakes up directly at the smell of smoke, of burning branches in the open air; and all his old love of fire and his dependence upon it, in the camp or the cave, come freshly to mind.


The Golden Mean

Greek Anthology 5.37 (by Rufinus; tr. W.R. Paton):
Take not to your arms a woman who is too slender nor one too stout, but choose the mean between the two. The first has not enough abundance of flesh, and the second has too much. Choose neither deficiency nor excess.

μήτ᾿ ἰσχνὴν λίην περιλάμβανε μήτε παχεῖαν,
    τούτων δ᾿ ἀμφοτέρων τὴν μεσότητα θέλε.
τῇ μὲν γὰρ λείπει σαρκῶν χύσις, ἡ δὲ περισσὴν
    κέκτηται· λεῖπον μὴ θέλε μηδὲ πλέον.
Denys Page in his commentary calls this "the feeblest of Rufinus' epigrams."

I briefly considered λεπτὸν for λεῖπον in the last line, but it was a bad idea—λεῖπον (present participle of λείπω) balances πλέον perfectly and reprises λείπει in the preceding line.


Not Worth Doing?

T.R. Glover (1869-1943), The Influence of Christ in the Ancient World (1929; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 21:
Many things have been done by later men, which the man of Periclean Athens could not have done, but a large proportion of these things they might not have thought worth the doing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014



E.B. White (1899-1985), "Turtle Blood Bank," Writings from the New Yorker 1927-1976 (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), pp. 12-13:
Medical men, it seems, are interested in turtle blood, because turtles don't suffer from arteriosclerosis in old age. The doctors are wondering whether there is some special property of turtle blood that prevents the arteries from hardening. It could be, of course. But there is also the possibility that a turtle's blood vessels stay in nice shape because of the way turtles conduct their lives. Turtles rarely pass up a chance to lay in the sun on a partly submerged log. No two turtles ever lunched together with the idea of promoting anything. No turtle ever went around complaining that there is no profit in book publishing except from the subsidiary rights. Turtles do not work day and night to perfect explosive devices that wipe out Pacific islands and eventually render turtles sterile. Turtles never use the word "implementation" or the phrases "hard core" and "in the last analysis." No turtle ever rang another turtle back on the phone. In the last analysis, a turtle, although lacking knowledge, knows how to live. A turtle, by its admirable habits, gets to the hard core of life. That may be why its arteries are so soft.
Related post: Lessons from Animals.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



The Cynic's Breviary: Maxims and Anecdotes from Nicolas de Chamfort. Selected and Translated by William G. Hutchinson (London: Elkin Mathews, 1902), p. 50:
Duclos was speaking one day of the paradise that everyone imagines for himself in his own way. "Here are the ingredients for yours, Duclos," said Madame de Rochefort; "Wine, bread, and cheese, and the first woman who might come on the scene."
In French:
Duclos parlait un jour du paradis, que chacun se fait à sa manière. Madame de Rochefort lui dit: «Pour vous, Duclos, voici de quoi composer le vôtre: du pain, du vin, du fromage et la première venue.»


He Can Endure No Noise

Ben Jonson (1572-1637), Epicoene, or The Silent Woman, Act I, Scene 1:
TRUEWIT. I met that stiffe peece of Formalitie, his Vncle, yesterday, with a huge Turbant of Night-Caps on his head, buckled over his eares.
CLERIMONT. O, that's his custome when he walkes abroad. Hee can endure no noyse, man.
TRUEWIT. How do's he for the Bells?
CLERIMONT. O, i' the Queenes time, he was woont to goe out of Towne euery Saturday at ten a clocke, or on Holy-day-eues. But now, by reason of the sicknesse, the perpetuitie of ringing has made him deuise a roome, with double walles, and treble seelings; the windores close shut, and calk'd: and there he liues by Candle-light. Hee turn'd away a man last weeke, for hauing a paire of new Shooes, that creak'd.
Related posts:


Amber and Spice

Anne Wilkinson (1910-1961), "Amber and Spice," from "Notes on Robert Burton's 'The Anatomy of Melancholy'," in The First Five Years: A Selection from The Tamarack Review, ed. Robert Weaver (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1962), pp. 58-62 (at 58):
If the brain be cool and moist,
Amber and spice, amber and spice.
But should the brain be hot and dry
Amber and spice will your wits away.
A friend suggested to me that Wilkinson's notes could use their own notes. The source of this poem is Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. II, Sect. IV, Mem. I, Subs. IV:
Amber and Spice will make a hot brain mad, good for cold and moist.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Epitaph of Quintus Aelius Apollonius

Année Épigraphique 1947, 31 (tr. E. Courtney):
To a man is given life that is slippery, shaky, fleeting, fragile, good or bad, treacherous, hanging on a slender thread through a variety of chances with no clearly-marked finishing-post. Live to the full, mortal, while the Fates grant you time, whether the country embraces you or cities or a military camp or the sea. Love the flowers of Venus, pluck the benign gifts of Ceres and the generous gifts of Bacchus and the viscous gifts of Athena; cultivate a serene life, calm because of your clear conscience. Speedily a boy and a youth, speedily a man and then worn out by old age, you will be like this in the tomb, with no memory of the honours of men alive on earth.

Lubrica quassa levis fragilis bona vel mala fallax
Vita data est homini, non certo limite cretae,
Per varios casus tenuato stamine pende(n)s.
Vivito, mortalis, dum dant tibi tempora Parc(a)e,
Seu te rura tenent, urbes seu castra vel (a)equor.        5
Flores ama Veneris, Cereris bona munera carpe
Et Nysii larga et pinguia dona Minervae;
Candida(m) vita(m) cole iustissima mente serenus.
Iam puer et iu(v)enis, iam vir et fessus ab annis,
Talis eris tumulo superumque oblitus honores.        10
The epitaph is an acrostic (Lupus fecit). The gifts of Ceres, Bacchus, and Athena (lines 6-7) are bread, wine, and olive oil.

Some bibliography:

Sunday, December 14, 2014


The History of Nonsense

Saul Lieberman, quoted in Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 150, n. 376:
Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship.
Sometimes attributed to others.


A Hexameter Consisting of Nouns in Asyndeton

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 5.7781 = Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 735 = Carmina Latina Epigraphica 893, line 5:
cives tecta forum portus commercia portas
If portus is construed as accusative plural (with E. Courtney, Musa Lapidaria, p. 258) rather than as genitive singular depending on commercia (with F. Bücheler, Anthologia Latina sive Poesis Latinae Supplementum, Pars Posterior, Fasciculus II, p. 413), then this is a hexameter consisting entirely of nouns in asyndeton. For other examples in Latin and Greek see:


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