Thursday, November 26, 2015


The Search for Truth

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), ‎Waste Books, L 419 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Motto: to desire to discover the truth is meritorious, even if we go astray on the way.

Motto: die Wahrheit finden wollen ist Verdienst, wenn man auch auf dem Wege irrt.


A Good Observation

"LSJ and Aeolica," Farrago (26 October 2015):
[A]n instance of a phenomenon in an Aeolic text does not make that phenomenon Aeolic, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.


Holiday Festivities

Homer, Odyssey 9.5-11 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
For I think there is no occasion accomplished that is more pleasant        5
than when festivity holds sway among all the populace,
and the feasters up and down the houses are sitting in order
and listening to the singer, and beside them the tables are loaded
with bread and meats, and from the mixing bowl the wine steward
draws the wine and carries it about and fills the cups. This        10
seems to my own mind to be the best of occasions.

οὐ γὰρ ἐγώ γέ τί φημι τέλος χαριέστερον εἶναι        5
ἢ ὅτ᾽ ἐυφροσύνη μὲν ἔχῃ κάτα δῆμον ἅπαντα,
δαιτυμόνες δ᾽ ἀνὰ δώματ᾽ ἀκουάζωνται ἀοιδοῦ
ἥμενοι ἑξείης, παρὰ δὲ πλήθωσι τράπεζαι
σίτου καὶ κρειῶν, μέθυ δ᾽ ἐκ κρητῆρος ἀφύσσων
οἰνοχόος φορέῃσι καὶ ἐγχείῃ δεπάεσσι·        10
τοῦτό τί μοι κάλλιστον ἐνὶ φρεσὶν εἴδεται εἶναι.
Alfred Heubeck ad loc.:
'There is no fulfilment (τέλος; cf. P. Ambrose, Glotta, xliii (1965), 38-62, esp. 59-61), which brings greater joy (J. Latacz, Zum Wortfeld "Freude" in der Sprache Homers (Heidelberg, 1966), 100-1) than when ...' Odysseus praises as ideal the situation of a people filled (ἔχῃ κάτα = κατέχῃ) with joy as they listen to a bard while feasting and drinking (μέθυ = οἶνος) to their hearts' content: the joyful, lavish banquet is an outward and visible sign of a stable and peacefully ordered community as exemplified by the Phaeacian utopia.
Plato, party-pooper and spoil-sport, throws a turd into the punch-bowl (κρατήρ) when he quotes Odyssey 9.8-10 and asks (Republic 3.4 = 390 b, tr. Paul Shorey):
Do you think the hearing of that sort of thing will conduce to a young man's temperance or self-control?

δοκεῖ σοι ἐπιτήδειον εἶναι πρὸς ἐγκράτειαν ἑαυτοῦ ἀκούειν νέῳ;

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Ubi Sunt?

The Wanderer, lines 92-110 (tr. Michael Alexander):
Where is that horse now? Where are those men? Where is the hoard-sharer?
Where is the house of the feast? Where is the hall's uproar?
Alas, bright cup! Alas, burnished fighter!
Alas, proud prince! How that time has passed,        95
dark under night's helm, as though it never had been!
There stands in the stead of staunch thanes
a towering wall wrought with worm-shapes;
the earls are off-taken by the ash-spear's point,
— that thirsty weapon. Their Wierd is glorious.        100
Storms break on the stone hillside,
the ground bound by driving sleet,
winter's wrath. Then wanness cometh,
night's shade spreadeth, sendeth from north
the rough hail to harry mankind.        105
In the earth-realm all is crossed;
Wierd's will changeth the world.
Wealth is lent us, friends are lent us,
Man is lent, kin is lent;
All this earth's frame shall stand empty.        110

Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago?    Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu?    Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune!    Eala byrnwiga!
Eala þeodnes þrym!    Hu seo þrag gewat,        95
genap under nihthelm,    swa heo no wære.
Stondeð nu on laste    leofre duguþe
weal wundrum heah,    wyrmlicum fah.
Eorlas fornoman    asca þryþe,
wæpen wælgifru,    wyrd seo mære,        100
ond þas stanhleoþu    stormas cnyssað,
hrið hreosende    hrusan bindeð,
wintres woma,    þonne won cymeð,
nipeð nihtscua,    norþan onsendeð
hreo hæglfare    hæleþum on andan.        105
Eall is earfoðic    eorthan rice,
onwendeth wyrda gesceaft    weoruld under heofonum.
Her bið feoh læne,    her bið freond læne,
her bið mon læne,    her bið mæg læne,
eal þis eorþan gesteal    idel weorþeð!        110


The Future

Pindar, Olympian Odes 12.6-12 (tr. G.S. Conway):
For no man born of earth has ever yet
    Found a trustworthy sign
From heaven above, what future days may bring.
Blind are the eyes of our imagination
Of times to come. How often is man's thought
Thwarted by the event, now disappointing
Expected joy, now when a man has met
    The surge of sorrow's pain,
  In a brief hour of time changing
His bitter grief to profound happiness.

σύμβολον δ᾿ οὔ πώ τις ἐπιχθονίων
πιστὸν ἀμφὶ πράξιος ἐσσομένας εὗρεν θεόθεν,
τῶν δὲ μελλόντων τετύφλωνται φραδαί·
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις παρὰ γνώμαν ἔπεσεν,
ἔμπαλιν μὲν τέρψιος, οἱ δ᾿ ἀνιαραῖς
ἀντικύρσαντες ζάλαις
ἐσλὸν βαθὺ πήματος ἐν μικρῷ πεδάμειψαν χρόνῳ.
There is an error in the Greek text of the Digital Loeb Classical Library edition of this ode, where the nonsensical τέφψιος appears for τέρψιος in line 11 (screen shot taken today):

This error doesn't appear in the printed book.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


The Threefold Way

At the beginning of Thoreau's Cape Cod he quotes, but doesn't translate, the following three Latin sentences:
"Principium erit mirari omnia, etiam tritissima.
Medium est calamo committere visa et utilia.
Finis erit naturam adcuratius delineare, quam alius"
[si possumus.]

                       LINNAEUS DE PEREGRINATIONE.
In English:
The beginning will be to wonder at all things, even the most commonplace ones.
The middle is to commit to writing things seen and useful things.
The end will be to depict nature more carefully than another does
[if we can.]

                      LINNAEUS ON TRAVEL.
The source is Linnaeus' Philosophia Botanica (Stockholm: Godofr. Kiesewetter, 1751), p. 297:


Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

Isaiah Berlin, letter to Norman O. Brown (May 6, 1991):
Never mind, we are both quite old, we shan't live to see the worst, let us cultivate our gardens as best we can — tell me what plants you want from mine, and which you would like to offer me from yours, and we shall remain contented and affectionate.
A graceful variation on a famous phrase from Voltaire's Candide: "Il faut cultiver notre jardin."

Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who has offered me so many plants from his garden.


Out of Town

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Cape Cod, III ("The Plains of Nauset"):
These were the "Plains of Nauset," once covered with wood, where in winter the winds howl and the snow blows right merrily in the face of the traveller. I was glad to have got out of the towns, where I am wont to feel unspeakably mean and disgraced, — to have left behind me for a season the bar-rooms of Massachusetts, where the full-grown are not weaned from savage and filthy habits, — still sucking a cigar. My spirits rose in proportion to the outward dreariness. The towns need to be ventilated. The gods would be pleased to see some pure flames from their altars. They are not to be appeased with cigar-smoke.

Thanks to the generous benefactor who gave me several volumes from the works of Thoreau published by Princeton University Press.

Monday, November 23, 2015



Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), ‎Waste Books, K 172 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
There can hardly be stranger wares in the world than books: printed by people who do not understand them; sold by people who do not understand them; bound, reviewed and read by people who do not understand them; and now even written by people who do not understand them.

Eine seltsamere Ware, als Bücher, gibt es wohl schwerlich in der Welt. Von Leuten gedruckt, die sie nicht verstehen; von Leuten verkauft, die sie nicht verstehen; gebunden, rezensiert und gelesen von Leuten, die sie nicht verstehen; und nun gar geschrieben von Leuten, die sie nicht verstehen.


Live for Today

Philetaerus, fragment 7 (tr. S. Douglas Olson):
Because what, I ask you, should a mortal do
except enjoy his life from one day to the next,
if he's got the wherewithal? This is what you
need to consider when you look at human affairs,
instead of worrying about what's going to happen
tomorrow. It's very strange that money gets stored up
for tomorrow inside one's house.
The same (tr. J.E. Edmonds):
What else should human beings do then, pray,
Than live delightfully from day to day
If they've the wherewithal? Considering
What mortal life is, that's the only thing
We need to count; next day's another tale;
It's futile to store money to go stale.
The Greek:
τί δεῖ γὰρ ὄντα θνητόν, ἱκετεύω, ποεῖν
πλὴν ἡδέως ζῆν τὸν βίον καθ᾿ ἡμέραν,
ἐὰν ἔχῃ τις ὁπόθεν; ἀλλὰ δεῖ σκοπεῖν
τοῦτ᾿ αὐτό, τἀνθρώπει᾿ ὁρῶντα πράγματα,
εἰς αὔριον δὲ <μηδὲ> φροντίζειν ὅ τι
ἔσται· περίεργόν ἐστιν ἀποκεῖσθαι πάνυ
ἕωλον ἔνδον τἀργύριον.
Commentary in Athina Papachrysostomou, Six Comic Poets: A Commentary on Selected Fragments of Middle Comedy (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2008), pp. 224-227.


Words to Live By

Theognis 1047-1048 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
Now let's delight in drink and fine talk.
   What will happen afterwards is up to the gods.
The same (tr. M.L. West):
For now, let's talk of good things, drink, enjoy ourselves:
   what comes afterwards is the gods' affair.
The Greek:
νῦν μὲν πίνοντες τερπώμεθα, καλὰ λέγοντες·
   ἅσσα δ᾿ ἔπειτ᾿ ἔσται, ταῦτα θεοῖσι μέλει.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


A Hermit

Euripides, fragment 421 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
... in a hollow cave, without a lamp, like a beast, alone ...

κοίλοις ἐν ἄντροις ἄλυχνος, ὥστε θήρ, μόνος
According to an ancient biography, Euripides was a part-time cave-dweller. See David Kovacs, Euripidea (Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 6-7:
They say that he fitted out a cave on Salamis opening on the sea and that he passed his days there avoiding the crowd; and that is the reason he takes most of his similes from the sea.

φασὶ δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν Σαλαμῖνι σπήλαιον κατασκευάσαντα ἀναπνοὴν ἔχον εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἐκεῖσε διημερεύειν φεύγοντα τὸν ὄχλον· ὅθεν καὶ ἐκ θαλάσσης λαμβάνει τὰς πλείους τῶν ὁμοιώσεων.
Likewise Aulus Gellius 15.20.5 (tr. Kovacs, pp. 28-29):
Philochorus reports that there is a foul and horrible cave on the island of Salamis, which I have seen, in which Euripides used to write his tragedies.

Philochorus [FGrH 328 F 219] refert in insula Salamine speluncam esse taetram et horridam, quam nos vidimus, in qua Euripides tragoedias scriptitarit.
On ὥστε θήρ, μόνος in the fragment of Euripides cf. Aristotle, Politics 1.1253a29 (tr. H. Rackham):
A man who is incapable of entering into partnership, or who is so self-sufficing that he has no need to do so, is no part of a state, so that he must be either a lower animal or a god.

ὁ δὲ μὴ δυνάμενος κοινωνεῖν ἢ μηδὲν δεόμενος δι' αὐτάρκειαν οὐθὲν μέρος πόλεως, ὥστε ἢ θηρίον ἢ θεός.
What Rackham translates as "a lower animal" is really "a wild beast" (θηρίον). See also Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (Maxims and Arrows 3, tr. Walter Kaufmann):
To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both — a philosopher.

Um allein zu leben, muss man ein Thier oder ein Gott sein — sagt Aristoteles. Fehlt der dritte Fall: man muss Beides sein — Philosoph.


Forest Music

Georges Perros (1923-1978), Paper Collage: Selected Aphorisms and Short Prose, tr. John Taylor (London: Seagull Books, 2015), p. 55:
Is it by chance that what's essential in music comes from Central Europe, far from the sea? I don't think so. The sea engenders no echoes. And echoes constitute all of classical music—the forest, Salzburg. You can't imagine either Mozart or Beethoven without a forest. Especially Beethoven. His sonatas run through woods, with sudden clearings, shadowy spots, streams, flights, twilights.

Caspar David Friedrich,
Waldinneres bei Mondschein

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related post: Forest Murmurs.


Beatus Vir

Euripides, Cyclops 495-502 (tr. David Kovacs):
Happy the man who shouts the Bacchic cry, off to the revel, the well-beloved juice of the vine putting the wind in his sails. His arm is around his trusty friend, and he has waiting for him the fresh, young body of his voluptuous mistress upon her bed, and with his locks gleaming with myrrh he says, "Who will open the door for me?"

μάκαρ ὅστις εὐιάζει        495
βοτρύων φίλαισι πηγαῖς
ἐπὶ κῶμον ἐκπετασθεὶς
φίλον ἄνδρ᾿ ὑπαγκαλίζων
ἐπὶ δεμνίοισί τ᾿ ἄνθος
χλιδανᾶς ἔχων ἑταίρας,        500
μυρόχριστον λιπαρὸς βό-
στρυχον, αὐδᾷ δέ· θύραν τίς οἴξει μοι;

495 μάκαρ Hermann: μακάριος L
497 ἐπὶ κῶμον L: ἐπίκωμος Wilamowitz
499 δεμνίοισί τ᾿ ἄνθος Meineke: δεμνίοις τε ξανθὸν L
500 χλιδανᾶς Diggle: χλιδανῆς L
501 μυρόχριστον Musgrave: μυρόχριστος L, λιπαρὸς L: λιπαρὸν Scaliger
I don't have access to Richard Seaford's commentary. Notes to myself:

497 ἐκπετασθεὶς: aorist passive participle of ἐκπετάννυμι = spread out, e.g. of a sail, scatter, here "wholly given up to the revel" (Liddell-Scott-Jones). Eric Thomson (via email) remarks on the nautical turn of phrase, "It reminded me of the idiom 'three sheets to the wind'."

501 μυρόχριστον: a hapax legomenon

502 θύραν: understood sensu obsceno by some, e.g. Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Greek Comedy, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 245, but I think the exclusus amator is just asking the doorkeeper for admittance to the beloved's house. For commands to slaves expressed with the use of an indefinite or interrogative pronoun see Nisbet and Hubbard, commentary on Horace, Odes 2.11.18-20 (where this line from Euripides is cited).

Related posts:

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Exclamation Marks

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), ‎Waste Books, L 147 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Whether the amount of distress in Germany has increased I do not know, but the number of exclamation marks certainly has. Where we formerly had merely! we now have!!!

Ob das Elend in Deutschland zugenommen hat, weiß ich nicht. Die Interpunktion-Zeichen haben gewiß zugenommen. Wo man sonst bloß! setzte, da steht jetzt!!!


The Epigrapher

E.J. Pratt (1882-1964), "The Epigrapher," Complete Poems, I (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), pp. 91-92:
His head was like his lore — antique,
His face was thin and sallow-sick,
With god-like accent he could speak
Of Egypt's reeds or Babylon's brick
Or sheep-skin codes in Arabic.

To justify the ways divine,
He had travelled Southern Asia through —
Gezir down in Palestine,
Lagash, Ur and Eridu,
The banks of Nile and Tigris too.

And every occult Hebrew tale
He could expound with learned ease,
From Aaron's rod to Jonah's whale.
He had held the skull of Rameses —
The one who died from boils and fleas.

Could tell how — saving Israel's peace —
The mighty Gabriel of the Lord
Put sand within the axle-grease
Of Pharaoh's chariots; and his horde
O'erwhelmed with water, fire and sword.

And he had tried Behistun Rock,
That Persian peak, and nearly clomb it;
His head had suffered from the shock
Of somersaulting from its summit —
Nor had he quite recovered from it.

From that time onward to the end,
His mind had had a touch of gloom;
His hours with jars and coins he'd spend,
And ashes looted from a tomb, —
Within his spare and narrow room.

His day's work done, with the last rune
Of a Hammurabi fragment read,
He took some water spiced with prune
And soda, which imbibed, he said
A Syrian prayer, and went to bed.


And thus he trod life's narrow way, —
   His soul as peaceful as a river —
His understanding heart all day
   Kept faithful to a stagnant liver.

When at last his stomach went by default,
   His graduate students bore him afar
To the East where the Dead Sea waters are,
   And pickled his bones in Eternal Salt.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Love, Not War

Northrop Frye, notebook (October 12, 1932), from Northrop Frye's Uncollected Prose, ed. Robert D. Denham (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015), pp. 51-52 (endnotes omitted; bracketed reference in book):
I shall not attempt to solve the difficult problem of classical education in the public schools. But why not give Latin and Greek a fair trial, if willing to grant that they are magnificent languages. "All the Latin I construe is amo, I love," says Lippo Lippi [Browning, Fra Lippo Lippi, ll. 111-12]. Well, I too started with amo, a very good verb, I thought obviously only a decoy. The next one I learned was neco, I kill, and all the time I spent on Latin grammar from that time forth was spent in laboriously acquiring a language which talked about nothing else in the world but fighting. Every sentence I wrote in Latin or translated, concerned war, and every word I learned had some military context. It does not take a very fanatical pacifist to see that this method deliberately aims at encouraging the idea that Latin is a very dead language, there being few things deader about a language than those words which deal with violent death. If Latin really was a dead language, therefore, it would be of no use. The excuse is, of course, that we read Caesar first in Latin, Xenophon in Greek, but the excuse is a pitifully inadequate one. The method is obviously that of a crabbed pedant bent on killing the language and stamping on the corpse. Catullus and Horace are eternal. Caesar is not only dead but always was, falling stillborn upon publication like any other journal. The next step is Livy, Cicero, Thucydides. Like learning English by starting with the Duke of Marlborough's memoirs, if he wrote any, and proceeding through Pater or Burke or Gibbon. We do not make such an approach to any modern language. We do not start German by learning all about their weapons, their armies, the histories of their wars, even if we still think of them as a race of barbarian Huns, intent on conquering the world by force of arms. If I could respond to them fluently, which I regret to say I cannot, I should regard it as one of my primary accomplishments, but I should see the entire Teutonic race in hell before, etc. I would wade through a barrage of military terminology in order to read the war correspondence of Blücher, Moltke, Gneisenau, or von Kluck. There is a good deal of truth in the famous remark that Caesar was a very inferior writer who wrote for the public schools.
I would delete ", etc." in "I should see the entire Teutonic race in hell before, etc. I would wade through...," so that it reads "I should see the entire Teutonic race in hell before I would wade through..."

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related posts:


A Strange and Enigmatic Breed

Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986), How the World Began: Man in the First Chapters of the Bible, tr. John W. Doberstein (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), p. 4:
What a strange and enigmatic breed we are! Presently we shall be flying in space, but at the same time we are threatening to blow up the base of this voyage into space, namely our own planet. We conquer space and time with our machines, but these machines also appear to be conquering us. We change the face of the earth, but on our own faces are the same old runes of guilt, suffering, and death. Despite everything we have created, we are still the same as the men of old: Cain and Abel, Achilles and Thersites, Siegfried and Hagen.


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