Friday, October 31, 2014


Chapter and Verse

"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books." According to dozens of web pages, Jorge Luis Borges said this. Maybe he did, but I won't believe it until I see it in a book written by him, or in the transcript of an interview given by him. I haven't yet seen a web page that gives a source for this supposed quotation.


First Known When Lost

Colette (1873-1954), For a Flower Album, tr. Roger Senhouse (New York: D. McKay Co., 1959), p. 16:
The more the wonders of the visible world become inaccessible, the more intensely do its curiosities affect us.

Plus les merveilles du monde extérieur nous deviennent inaccessibles, plus les curiosités se font aiguës.

Thursday, October 30, 2014



E.R. Dodds (1893-1979), "The Rediscovery of the Classics," The Irish Statesman 2.42 (April 10, 1920) 346-347, rpt. as "The Classics and Classical Humbug," The Living Age 305 (April, May, June 1920) 607-609:
It is notorious that the hardest books to rediscover are those we have lived with all our lives—the Bible, for instance. In such cases the delicate sensibilities which thrill to the impact of a new experience have been dulled by custom, and the fineness of the aesthetic palate overlaid with a thick coat of inherited sentiment and second-hand judgments. The Odes of Horace and the Psalms of David oppose to our critical appreciation the same barrier as Hamlet—they are too full of 'quotations'. If we would free ourselves from the tyranny of suggestion, neither yielding lip-service to the 'classics' in obedience to other people's formulas nor blindly flouting them to assert an illusory independence, if we would see our literary inheritance steadily and see it whole, we must simplify our vision until it is as intense and naive as the vision of a child or an early explorer or a Renaissance scholar.


The Holy Ghost in a Hat

Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Notebooks, edd. Geoffrey Keynes and Brian Hill (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1951), pp. 97-98:
I was with my Aunt Worsley at the National Gallery once, and we were before Van Eyck's portrait of John Arnolfini and his wife (if the picture is, indeed, this). My Aunt mistook it for an Annunciation, and said, 'Dear, dear, what a funny notion to put the Holy Ghost in a hat.'


The Quill Is My Plough

In his poem "Digging," Seamus Heaney pays tribute to the skill of his father and grandfather in working the soil. The poem ends with the lines:
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, tr. Willard E. Trask (1953; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 313-314, delves deeper into the history of this metaphor:
Isidore further says that the Romans first used an iron stylus for writing on wax tablets and later one of bone. In proof he quotes from a lost comedy by the poet Atta, whose name alone is known to us (Et., VI, 9, 2):
. . . Vertamus vomerem
In cera mucroneque aremus osseo.
That is: "Turn we the ploughshare upon the wax and plow we with a point of bone." Isidore knows too that the "Ancients" made their lines as the ploughman his furrows (Et., VI, 14, 71), that they wrote "furrow-wise."22 The metaphor "ploughshare" for "stylus" (vomer for stilus) occurs, so far as I am aware, nowhere else in Roman literature, but is found in medieval poets. Wherever we encounter it, then, it must stem from Isidore. The basic comparison is of course older. So early as Plato, we find the comparison between the dressing of a field and writing. The Romans seldom used arare as a metaphor for writing. The compound exarare ("plough up") is much more frequent, but seems no longer to be felt as a figurative expression but simply means "to write," "to compose." I do not find the line of writing referred to as a "furrow" before Prudentius (Perist., IX, 52 and IV, 119; Apoth., 596). The two passages quoted from Isidore would seem to have been decisive in inculcating the comparison into the minds of medieval writers and maintaining it as a standard mode of expression. The parchment is the field, the writer knows the art of "cleaving the book-fields" ("bibliales . . . proscindere campos"; Poetae, I, 93, 5). He knows that the Emperor Charles tolerates no "thorn bushes," that is, no scribal errors, as a note in an eighth-century codex informs us (Poetae, I, 89 f.). The metaphor "plough" for "write" passes from medieval Latin literature into the vernacular literatures. In a manuscript of the eighth or ninth century, preserved at Verona (a Mozarabic prayer book), the following notation was discovered in 1924: "Se pareva boves alba pratalia araba et albo versorio teneba et negro semen seminaba";23 that is, "He urged on the oxen, ploughed white fields, held a white plough, and sowed black seed." By altering the forms and order of the words, an attempt was made to turn this into a rhymed quatrain in early Italian and it was given out to be a precious relic of popular pastoral poetry. As a matter of fact it is a scribal adage of erudite origin. The white fields are the pages, the white plough the pen, the black seeds the ink. Our examples from Plato, Isidore, Prudentius, and Carolingian poetry clarify this imagery. Once again the phantom of "popular poetry" has misled scholars. That solitary masterpiece of the declining Middle Ages in Germany, the Ackermann aus Böhmen, which occupied Konrad Burdach for decades, also employs the image of writing as ploughing. Chapter 3 begins: "Ich bins genannt ein ackerman, von vogelwat ist mein pflug." In vogelwat (Vogelkleid, "bird dress") Burdach rightly recognized a "riddling description of the writing quill." But in the word ackerman he insisted upon seeing a reference to a mysticism of the ploughman, and attempted to demonstrate it with a lavish display of erudition. It was Arthur Hübner who found the correct interpretation (Kleine Schriften zur deutschen Philologie [1940], 205 f.): "The quill is my plough—this is a well-known scribal adage." It goes back, I might add, to the Latin Middle Ages.

22 In Greek βουστροφηδόν: turning like oxen in ploughing, writing from left to right and from right to left alternately.
23 G. Lazzeri, Antologia dei primi secoli della letteratura italiana (1942), 1 ff.
Related post: The Scholar's Life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Gods Float in the Azure Air

Hugh Kenner (1923-2003), The Pound Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971; rpt. 1974), p. 143:
This passage from the third Canto ought to be a Latin Renaissance poem :
                                        Gods float in the azure air,
Bright gods and Tuscan, back before dew was shed.
Light; and the first light, before ever dew was fallen.
Panisks, and from the oak, dryas,
And from the apple, maelid,
Through all the wood, and the leaves are full of voices,
A-whisper, and the clouds bowe over the lake,
And there are gods upon them,
And in the water, the almond-white swimmers,
The silvery water glazes the upturned nipple,
                                   As Poggio has remarked.
The Panisks, little rural Pans, are from Cicero's De Natura Deorum, the dryas, oak-spirits, passim from the Greek heritage, the maelids from Ibycus, the gods upon the clouds from Poliziano; the lake is Garda, gazed on by Pound from his magical place, Sirmio; and Poggio Bracciolini, papal secretary, observed, A.D. 1451, bathers in a German pool. This is collage, another cubist strategy, and the absence of dew, twice stated, denotes the hazeless light that abolishes planes of distance. Myth, language, poetry, fact, lie disposed in a common reality, and Poggio's remark, cited as one cites in a work of scholarship, is literature and the validation of literature by a living eye, and the sharpening of that eye in turn by other literature: Roman erotic poetry, which taught the papal secretary to see. Its ultimate source is Catullus 54:18—nutricium [sic, read nutricum] tenus exstantes e gurgite cano. Poggio's phrase has not been located.
Cf. Eva Hesse in Carroll F. Terrell, A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound, Vol. I (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 9 (brackets in original):
Not Poggio's exact words but an image easily evoked by a scene he witnessed at the baths in Baden, Switzerland, in the spring of 1416 and recorded in the well-known letter to his friend Niccolò de'Niccoli. Pound's imitation of this letter appeared under the title "Aux étuves de Weisbaden, A.D. 1451" [sic] in the Little Review, July 1917 [rpt. in PD, 98-103], indicating perhaps that he had read the French translation of the original. The ML text runs [Opera Omnia, Basle, 1538], with the ligatures omitted: "Quotidie ter aut quater balnea intrant, maiorem in his diei partem agentes, partim cantando, partim potando, partim choreas exercendo. Psallunt & iam in aquis paululum subsidendo. In quo iocundissimum est videre puellas iam maturas viro, iam plenis nubilas annis, facie splendida ac liberali, in Dearum habitum ac formam psallentes, modicas vestes retrorsum trahunt desuper aquam fluitantes, ut alteram Venerem extimares." ["They (members of both sexes who are privileged by family connections or high favor) go to the pools three or four times daily, dividing their time among singing, drinking, dancing. Even in the water they play an instrument. There is nothing more delighful than to watch the young ladies, some just turning nubile and others in full bloom, with their beautiful faces, frank looks, shaped and draped like the goddess, playing an instrument while leaning back in the water with their shift, which they have pulled back slightly, floating behind them so that they look like a winged Venus."] Like all ML, the text contains various ambiguities. In particular, habitus can alternatively mean "status" or "bearing." Since Pound's figures, however, are not reclining in the water, he may have conflated Poggio's young ladies with the nude Nereids rising up out of the spindrift in Catullus LXIV, 18 [HK, Era, 143]: "viderunt ... mortales oculis nudato corpore Nymphas / nutricum tenus extantes e gurgite cano" [EH].
For extimares (thus in Poggio's Latin) perhaps read existimares.

Panisci (or the singular Paniscus) occurs not only in Cicero, De Natura Deorum (3.17.43, citing Carneades), but also in his De Divinatione (1.13.23 and 2.21.48, both also citing Carneades). Arthur Stanley Pease in his commentary on De Divinatione 1.13.23 cites other examples: Pliny, Natural History 35.144, Suetonius, Life of Tiberius 43, Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 4.61, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 8.2632 and 14.4098, to which add Apuleius, Metamorphoses 6.24. CIL 14.4098 is a 3rd century B.C. mirror from Praeneste, on which Paniscus is spelled Painsscos: see T.P. Wiseman, "The God of the Lupercal," Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995) 1-22 (at 5, with illustration).

The only examples of Πανίσκος in Liddell-Scott-Jones are Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.17.43, and, in the Supplement, "Inscr. Délos 1416Ai51 (ii B.C.)," but Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus 4.61 should also be cited. As a theophoric name Πανίσκος is common in Egypt. On Πανίσκος as the name of a god see Nancy E. Priest, "A List of Gods," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 27 (1977) 193-200 (at 196, 198).

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. panisk, gives examples as early as Ben Jonson, including one (an earlier version of Canto 3) from Pound's Lustra (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1917), p. 185: "Panisks / And oak-girls and the Maelids have all the wood."

As for maelid, see Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. μηλίς, -ίδος: "μηλέα, Ibyc.1; Dor. μᾱλίς Theoc. 8.79." They understand it therefore as simply a fruit tree, apple or quince. Oxford English Dictionary doesn't have an entry for maelid; Pound meant it as a type of nymph. He also uses the word in Canto 79:
Maelid and bassarid among lynxes,
        how many? There are more under the oak trees,
We are here waiting the sun-rise
      and the next sunrise
for three nights amid lynxes For three nights
      of the oak-wood
and the vines are thick in their branches
      no vine lacking flower,
no lynx lacking a flower rope
      no Maelid minus a wine jar
See also Pound's letter to John Quinn (July 4, 1917):
Maelids is correct. They (the nymphs of the apple-trees) are my one bit of personal property in greek mythology. The professed Hellenists have, I believe, let them alone. I scored with them on even the assiduous Aldington, who had translated the greek as "apple-trees".


Friendly Fire Again

Another fictional example of "friendly fire," from Quintus Smyrnaeus, 13.155-156 (on the death of Greeks at night during the sack of Troy; tr. Frederick M. Combellack):
Many a man doubtless hit a comrade with a stone in the confusion and mixed his skull with his brain.

καί πού τις βρεχμόν τε καὶ ἐγκέφαλον συνέχευε
λᾶα βαλὼν ἑτάροιο κατὰ μόθον.
An attempt to avoid inflicting friendly fire, id. 13.165-167:
A great glare rose up through the city, because many of the Greeks held bright flares in their hands, so that they could clearly distinguish friend from foe in the conflict.

αἴγλη δ᾽ ἄσπετος ὦρτο δι᾽ ἄστεος, οὕνεκ᾽ Ἀχαιῶν
πολλοὶ ἔχον χείρεσσι πυρὸς σέλας, ὄφρ᾽ ἀνὰ δῆριν
δυσμενέας τε φίλους τε μάλ᾽ ἀτρεκέως ὁρόωσι.
Related post: Friendly Fire.


Degrees of Comparison

Clyde Kenneth Hyder, George Lyman Kittredge: Teacher and Scholar (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1962), p. 67:
Kittredge was also known to recall that sitting behind two men discussing the virtues of a dog had given him a new notion of a grammatical category that might be called "the three degrees of comparison." One of the men thus summarized his conclusions about the dog: "He's a damned good dog! He's a God-damned good dog! But I don't know he's such a hell of a God-damned good dog."
James Knowlson and Elizabeth Knowlson, edd., Beckett Remembering, Remembering Beckett: Uncollected Interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 251:
When he was living in a retirement home during the last few weeks of his life, the hospital he was taken into when he fell gave him a course of injections for vitamin deficiency, called 'Avitaminosis'. As a result alcohol was strictly forbidden. The problem was that Beckett liked his whiskey regularly. 'That must be a bit of a bitch, Sam', I commented sympathetically. Long pause. 'No Jim. It's not a bit of a bitch. It is a bugger of a bastard of a bitch!'—a distinctly 'cool' remark for any 83-year-old to make. He went on: 'I'll make up for it later'.
Hat tip (and sole responsibility): Ian Jackson.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Burial Wishes of Cyril Connolly

Peter Levi (1931-2000), The Hill of Kronos (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1981), p. 168:
Cyril Connolly used to ask for a bottle of Worcester sauce to be buried with him, in case the cooking was not up to scratch in the next world.
Related posts:


Love and Fear

Ovid, Heroides 1.11-12 (Penelope to Ulysses; tr. Grant Showerman, rev. G.P. Goold):
When have I not feared dangers graver than the real? Love is a thing ever filled with fear.

quando ego non timui graviora pericula veris?
    res est solliciti plena timoris amor.
Id. 1.71-72:
But now, what I am to fear I know not—yet none the less I fear all things, distraught, and wide is the field lies open for my cares.

quid timeam, ignoro—timeo tamen omnia demens,
    et patet in curas area lata meas.


S. Servilius

Cicero, Philippics. With an English Translation by Walter C.A. Ker (1926; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995 = Loeb Classical Library, 189), p. 361 (translator's introduction to the eighth Philippic):
Towards the end of January the surviving envoys, L. Piso and L. Philippus (S. Servilius having died), returned from their mission to Antonius.
S. could stand for Sextus or Spurius, although Sex. and Sp. are the usual abbreviations for those praenomina. But the three envoys to Antonius were L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, L. Marcius Philippus, and Ser. Sulpicius Rufus. "S. Servilius" here is a mistake.

There is now a new translation of Cicero's Philippics in the Loeb Classical Library, by D.R. Shackleton Bailey, 2 vols. (2009). In his introduction to the eighth Philippic (vol. II, p. 30), Shackleton Bailey names the envoys correctly.


Monday, October 27, 2014


Live for Today

Carmina Latina Epigraphica 185 = Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 1.1219 (6.24563) = Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae 7976, tr. E. Courtney, Musa Lapidaria (Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1995), p. 49:
Here lie the bones of Prima (slave of?) Pompeia. Fortune pledges many things to many people, but pays up to none. Live for the day and the hour, for nothing is held in perpetuity.

The gift of Salvius and Heros.
The Latin, from Courtney, p. 48:
    PrImae PompeIae ossua heic.
Fortuna spondet multa multIs, praestat nemini.
uIue in dies et horas, nam proprium est nihil.
    Saluius et Heros dant.
In addition to Courtney's commentary (p. 240), see Peter Kruschwitz, "Notizen zu CIL I² 1219," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 133 (2000) 243-247.


Multiple Translations

Paul Barolsky, "Dante's Infernal Fart and the Art of Translation," Arion 22.1 (Spring/Summer 2014) 93-101 (at 93-94):
In a recent review of translations of Dante's Inferno by Clive James and Mary Jo Bang (and of Dan Brown's novel of the same name) the formidable critic and polymath Joan Acocella suggested that there are by her count "something like a hundred English-language translations" of the Divine Comedy. Although I have been collecting English translations of Inferno for the last forty years or so, somewhat haphazardly, I admit, I am far behind her in my reckoning. I have in my collection only about thirty translations and I am ignorant of those I am missing. Even so, I find much to learn from the numerous translations I do have at hand. To overstate a point, I have never met a translation of the Inferno I did not like—for one reason or another.

Back in the 1970s when the Charlottesville Dante Society met regularly to discuss Inferno, we always had with us, in addition to the original, the translations of Sinclair, Singleton, Ciardi, and Sayers. As we pondered the text, we discovered at various junctures that no single translation seemed to suffice, that each of our translators offered us something distinctive. Our understanding of what we were reading was enriched by multiple translations. There were many possibilities.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


A Crash Course in Greek

Lucy Cohen, Some Recollections of Claude Goldsmid Montefiore, 1858-1938 (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1940), pp. 37-38:
He never went to school, but learnt German (which he spoke perfectly) from his sister's governess, and Hebrew from the Reverend Professor Marks, Senior Minister of the Berkeley Street Synagogue, to whose influence he often refers in his letters. The future Sir Philip Magnus was responsible for his general education, which up to seventeen was wholly on the modern side. But it was after this date that a new world opened up to him; in order to matriculate he had to learn Greek, and on Jowett's recommendation Arnold Page, the future Dean of Peterborough, became his tutor. Page was then reading for the Bar and teaching was a new experience to him; and he told me how alarmed he felt at coming into a completely new environment—the only Jew he had known was Leonard Montefiore—but that he was at once put at ease by the family; their kindliness, he said, could not have been greater if they had been Christians. The servants remained until too old to work, and then were pensioned, and he himself met with nothing but consideration and friendliness, and, like Lord Milner, he was struck by the very happy home atmosphere. He had wondered what would be the best approach to teaching a language completely new to his pupil, and he decided that as children were the quickest linguists, he would proceed on the same lines as they did. Accordingly after a day spent on teaching the Greek letters, he began by reciting a few lines of Homer in a sort of sing-song, and getting his pupil to repeat them; this went on for a few weeks, and gradually Claude, with his quick memory, not only learned the sound, but the meaning; and in eight weeks from knowing nothing of Greek he matriculated at the London University thirtieth out of three hundred, a remarkable achievement.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Psalm 118(119):1

Peter Levi (1931-2000), The Hill of Kronos (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1981), pp. 15-16:
We used to translate the psalm Beati immaculati in via at Heythrop as 'Blessed are they that are not spotted on the way out.' I was spotted too often, and for this among other middle-aged delinquencies I was summoned to the Rector's office and told, quite kindly I might say, that my ordination as a priest, which ought to have been that summer, was postponed until I amended my irregularities.


Poison and Vermin

G.W. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), p. 34 (on Ephraem of Edessa, also known as Ephraem the Syrian):
Ephraem, now recognized actually to have known more Greek than once was thought, nonetheless felt free to denounce both the Greeks and their culture. In his Hymns on the Faith he wrote the memorable line, "Blessed is the one who has never tasted the poison of the wisdom of the Greeks."17 Here, as Sebastian Brock has observed, Ephraem is using the exact Syriac equivalent (hekmta d-yawnâyê) of Athanasius's phrase hê sophia tôn Hellênôn ("the wisdom of the Greeks"), which should properly be rendered "pagan wisdom."18 On the other hand, there is little reason to believe that Ephraem could have made (or would have made) the distinction between Greeks as cultural carriers and Greeks as pagans. After all, in another place he wrote, "The accursed dialectic is vermin from the Greeks."19

17. Ephraem De fide, CSCO 154:7.
18. Brock, op. cit. (n. 10 above), p. 19.
19. Ephraem De fide, CSCO 154:268.
Footnotes 17 and 19 refer to Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen De Fide, ed. Edmund Beck (Louvain: Durbecq, 1955 = Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 154-155), which I haven't seen. I also don't have access to Paul S. Russell, "A Note on Ephraem the Syrian and 'The Poison of the Greeks' in Hymns on Faith 2," The Harp 10.3 (1997) 45-54.


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