Friday, October 20, 2017

 

The Future, Accurately Predicted

G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News (December 16, 1911):
If I wrote a romance about the future (which Heaven avert!), I should describe a state in which the big shops and businesses had become almost independent kingdoms or clans, the power of the employer over clerks and shopmen enormous; the power of the State over the employer comparatively slight.
G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News (June 9, 1934):
I have not the slightest difficulty in imagining the world of the future taking a turn which would bring back the fact, if not the form, of witch-hunting and slavery and the persecution of heresies.

 

Leave the Rest to Fate

Greek Anthology 11.62 (by Palladas, tr. Tony Harrison):
Death's a debt that everybody owes,
and if you'll last the night out no-one knows.

Learn your lesson then, and thank your stars
for wine and company and all-night bars.

Life careers gravewards at a breakneck rate,
so drink and love, and leave the rest to Fate.

πᾶσι θανεῖν μερόπεσσιν ὀφείλεται, οὐδέ τις ἐστὶν
    αὔριον εἰ ζήσει θνητὸς ἐπιστάμενος.
τοῦτο σαφῶς, ἄνθρωπε, μαθὼν εὔφραινε σεαυτόν,
    λήθην τοῦ θανάτου τὸν Βρόμιον κατέχων.
τέρπεο καὶ Παφίῃ, τὸν ἐφημέριον βίον ἕλκων·
    τἄλλα δὲ πάντα Τύχῃ πράγματα δὸς διέπειν.
R. Kassel, "Dichterspiele," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 42 (1981) 11-20 (at 17, n. 34), regards this as a paraphrase of Euripides, Alcestis 782-789, here in the translation of Moses Hadas and John McLean:
All men have to pay the debt of death,
and there is not a mortal who knows
whether he is going to be alive on the morrow.
The outcome of things that depend on fortune cannot be foreseen;
they can neither be learnt nor discovered by any art.
Hearken to this and learn of me,
cheer up, drink, reckon the days
yours as you live them; the rest belongs to fortune.

βροτοῖς ἅπασι κατθανεῖν ὀφείλεται,
κοὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἐξεπίσταται
τὴν αὔριον μέλλουσαν εἰ βιώσεται·
τὸ τῆς τύχης γὰρ ἀφανὲς οἷ προβήσεται,        785
κἄστ᾿ οὐ διδακτὸν οὐδ᾿ ἁλίσκεται τέχνῃ.
ταῦτ᾿ οὖν ἀκούσας καὶ μαθὼν ἐμοῦ πάρα
εὔφραινε σαυτόν, πῖνε, τὸν καθ᾿ ἡμέραν
βίον λογίζου σόν, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα τῆς τύχης.
The similarity was also noticed by others, e.g. Bruno Lier, "Topica carminum sepulcralium latinorum. Pars II," Philologus 62 (1903) 563-603 (at 582-583).

Related post: Make Thee Merry.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

 

Two Pains

Greek Anthology 12.172 (by Euenus; tr. W.R. Paton):
If to hate is pain and to love is pain, of the two evils
I choose the smart of kind pain.

εἰ μισεῖν πόνος ἐστί, φιλεῖν πόνος, ἐκ δύο λυγρῶν
    αἱροῦμαι χρηστῆς ἕλκος ἔχειν ὀδύνης.
Greek ἕλκος is cognate with Latin ulcus, -eris.

The same, tr. Alistair Elliot:
If hate is painful and if love's a pain,
I'll choose the wound that is not quite in vain.
The same, tr. Daryl Hine:
Since hating's a bore and loving is a bore,
I like the nicer of two boredoms more.

 

People in Greece and Rome

The Way It Wasn't: From the Files of James Laughlin (New York: New Directions, 2006), p. 36 (under the heading "Brown University"):
My students range from tops to, well, what do you think of this little miss, who ended her paper: "We cannot say that Pound's 'Mauberley' is a work of art because he writes about so many people in Greece and Rome who nobody knows anything about any more. Pound could not have written this poem without Froula's guide."
"Froula's guide" = Christine Froula, A Guide to Ezra Pound's Selected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1983)!

 

Nocturnal Misadventure

Martin L. West (1937-2015), Greek Elegy and Iambus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1974), p. 172 (on [Homer,] Margites, fragment 7 = P.Oxy. 2309):
The verses describe a comic nocturnal misadventure — no doubt of Margites — conceived in a spirit of Hipponactean farce. (Line 3 indeed parallels Hippon. 92.6.) I take the narrative to run as follows. Needing to empty his bladder (1?), he pushes the appropriate organ into a vessel, and finds he is stuck, hand and all (1-5). In this predicament he promptly passes water (6). Now he has another idea. He leaves his bed and rushes out into the night, looking for means to free his hand (7-11). It is pitch dark; he has no torch (12-13). Encountering the unlucky head of some other person, he takes it for a stone, and with one hefty blow he smashes the pot over it (14-17), thus administering at once a painful crack on the pate and a sour douche.

 

Son Criticizes Father's Appearance

Homer, Odyssey 24.248-250 (Odysseus to Laertes; tr. Richmond Lattimore):
But I will also tell you this; do not take it as cause for
anger. You yourself are ill cared for; together with dismal
old age, which is yours, you are squalid and wear foul clothing upon you.

ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δὲ μὴ χόλον ἔνθεο θυμῷ·
αὐτόν σ᾿ οὐκ ἀγαθὴ κομιδὴ ἔχει, ἀλλ᾿ ἅμα γῆρας
λυγρὸν ἔχεις αὐχμεῖς τε κακῶς καὶ ἀεικέα ἕσσαι.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 

Fate of Scholarly Journals

The Way It Wasn't: From the Files of James Laughlin (New York: New Directions, 2006), p. 36:
Do you know Kenneth Burke? We went out there to interview him for the WCW dokuku. 88 and all bent over but what an ouragon of passion for ideas and language. He's lived on the same farm in New Jersey for over 60 years. His daughters made him put in plumbing but he still uses the old privy in summer. Pages from learned journals for bumwad. And I have shat / where that great mind sat.
WCW = William Carlos Williams
dokuku = documentary (see below)
ouragon = hurricane



Dear Mike,

My guess is that "dokuku" is Laughlinese for "documentary". You'll note from his Paris Review interview (1983) that he was involved with the series of documentaries on American poets produced by the New York Center for Visual History:

https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3015/james-laughlin-the-art-of-publishing-no-1-part-2-james-laughlin

At that point they were concerned with Ezra Pound, but the entire series of "Voices & Visions" did eventually air on PBS in 1988. The 13th and last programme was devoted to William Carlos Williams. I've not seen it, though it can be watched online at no charge on the Annenberg Foundation website:

http://www.learner.org/resources/series57.html#

If it includes Laughlin interviewing Kenneth Burke, which (if Burke was 88) must have been in 1985, I'd say the case is closed, and even if not, JL and KB could have been left on the cutting room floor.

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

Related posts:
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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Rum Thing

Peter Brown, "Dialogue With God," New York Review of Books (October 26, 2017), a review of Sarah Ruden's translation of Augustine, Confessions:
He spends a large part of book two (nine entire pages) examining his motives for robbing a pear tree. Modern readers chafe. "Rum thing," wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to Harold Laski in 1921, "to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens."

But Holmes was wrong to be impatient. Only by winnowing every motive that played into that obscure act of small-town vandalism was Augustine able to isolate the very smallest, the most toxic concentrate of all—the chilling possibility that he had acted gratuitously, simply to show that he (like God, and then like Adam) could do whatever he wished. The publishers were right to put on the jacket of this book, which contains a succession of sins, each reduced to chillingly minute proportions, the image of a half-eaten pear.

 

Cause for Rejoicing

Homer, Odyssey 23.47-48 (Eurycleia to Penelope, "him" = Odysseus; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
The sight of him would have warmed your heart with cheer,
all befouled with blood and filth like a lion.

                                          ἰδοῦσά κε θυμὸν ἰάνθης
αἵματι καὶ λύθρῳ πεπαλαγμένον, ὥς τε λέοντα.
λύθρον isn't filth in general but rather "defilement from blood, gore" (Liddell-Scott-Jones).

Alfred Heubeck in his commentary on line 48:
= xxii 402. This line, omitted in many MSS, is considered by a number of editors and critics (among them Ameis-Hentze-Cauer; von der Mühll, Odyssee, col, 761; W. Schadewaldt, op. cit. (Introd.), 15 n. 9) to be a late interpolation, largely on account of its 'unseemliness', which may already have led to its athetesis by the Alexandrian critics (which then influenced the MS tradition). Such purely subjective arguments can, however, lead to false conclusions. Here it must be borne in mind that the speaker is Eurycleia who earlier had herself been moved to jubilation by the sight of the dead suitors (xxii 407 ff.: ἴθυσέν ῥ' όλολύξαι). For the authenticity of the line cf. Stanford, ad loc.; van der Valk, Textual Criticism, 271; G. Scheibner, DLZ lxxxii (1961), col. 622 ('xxiii 48 recalls once again the description of xxii 204 [sic, read 402] ff.').
I'm also reminded of Hector's prayer for his son (Homer, Iliad 6.480-481, tr. Richmond Lattimore):
                                                             ... and let him kill his enemy
and bring home the blooded spoils, and delight the heart of his mother.

                                 φέροι δ᾽ ἔναρα βροτόεντα
κτείνας δήϊον ἄνδρα, χαρείη δὲ φρένα μήτηρ.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 

You Young Puppies!

The Way It Wasn't: From the Files of James Laughlin (New York: New Directions, 2006), p. 86:
Were it not for Dudley Fitts, my English master at Choate, I would never have become a scribbler, nor for that matter a publisher. For it was Fitts, in correspondence with Pound, who arranged for me to study at the "Ezuversity" in Rapallo. And Pound, descrying no talent for poetry, ordained that I become a publisher.

Fitts was a handsome but slightly odd-looking man. He couldn't see much without his horn-rimmed glasses, but that wasn't it. Finally, as I observed him in class, it came to me. His forehead. His brow was higher by three eighths of an inch than that of anyone else in the room. He was indeed a highbrow.

My first brief conversation with him is forever etched, as they say, on the plate of memory. As an underformer I had seen him around, but had never been assigned — we were rotated every two weeks — to his table in the dining hall. One day when I was rushing up the stairs from the mail room and he was coming down wearing the black Dracula cape which he affected, I bumped into him and knocked him half down. The irate gaze of Hermes was fixed upon me and he uttered: "You young puppies who haven't even read Thucydides!" And the God continued on his errand.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

 

How Few Boys Relish Latin and Greek Lessons!

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), "Observations upon the study of the Latin and Greek languages, as a branch of liberal education, with hints of a plan of liberal instruction, without them, accommodated to the present state of society, manners, and government in the United States," Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 21-56 (at 23):
The famous Busby is said to have died of "bad Latin;" that is, the ungrammatical versions of his scholars broke his heart. How few boys relish Latin and Greek lessons! The pleasure they sometimes discover in learning them, is derived either from the tales they read, or from a competition, which awakens a love of honour, and which might be displayed upon a hundred more useful subjects; or it may arise from a desire of gaining the good will of their masters or parents. Where these incentives are wanting, how bitter does the study of languages render that innocent period of life, which seems exclusively intended for happiness! "I wish I had never been born," said a boy of eleven years old, to his mother: "Why, my son?" said his mother. "Because I am born into a world of trouble." "What trouble," said his mother smiling, "have you known, my son?" — "Trouble enough, mamma," said he, "two Latin lessons to get, every day."
Id. (at 24):
The study of some of the Latin and Greek classics is unfavourable to morals and religion. Indelicate amours, and shocking vices both of gods and men, fill many parts of them. Hence an early and dangerous acquaintance with vice; and hence, from an association of ideas, a diminished respect for the unity and perfection of the true God.
Id. (at 34):
Happy will it be for the present and future generations, if an ignorance of the Latin and Greek languages, should banish from modern poetry, those disgraceful invocations of heathen gods, which indicate no less a want of genius, than a want of reverence for the true God.
Id. (at 39):
We occupy a new country. Our principal business should be to explore and apply its resources, all of which press us to enterprize and haste. Under these circumstances, to spend four or five years in learning two dead languages, is to turn our backs upon a gold mine, in order to amuse ourselves in catching butterflies.
Id. (at 43, discussing "the advantages [that] would immediately attend the rejection of the Latin and Greek languages as branches of a liberal education"):
It would be the means of banishing pride from our seminaries of public education. Men are generally most proud of those things that do not contribute to the happiness of themselves, or others. Useful knowledge generally humbles the mind, but learning, like fine clothes, feeds pride, and thereby hardens the human heart.

 

Song of Benediction

Friedrich Solmsen, "Aeschylus: The Eumenides," Hesiod and Aeschylus (1949; rpt. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), pp. 178-224 (at 211-212, footnotes omitted):
The song of benediction is one of the old forms of religious poetry which Aeschylus embodied in his tragedy. Like the hymns, γόοι and θρῆνοι, it is a 'ritual' feature, a reminder to us of the fundamentally religious character of tragedy which to its first great poet was still a vividly felt reality. For the spectators of the original performance the songs and blessings pronounced in such a solemn form and on such a solemn occasion must have carried a strong conviction of fulfillment.

The first stanza promises in general terms 'helpful wavelets of livelihood gushing forth,' a boon which is made specific by the wish that the shining light of the Sun will produce them from the earth. Thus we know to what kind of wealth allusion is made. The next stanza elaborates this source of blessing, announcing absence of anything that may harm the plants, promising prosperity of the flocks and rich gifts from the mines. The Furies also banish from Attic territory sickness and disease that may intercept the youth in their growth to manhood and maturity, and for the maidens in particular they desire that they shall reach their natural goal of marriage. The last stanza alone has a bearing upon the political situation. It promises that civic strife and the slaughter and bloodshed that accompany it will not visit Athens and hopes that the citizens will be united in their loves and hatreds. Evidently it would be utopian, and it would perhaps never occur to Aeschylus, to expect that hatred might altogether be extirpated in the community. Like fear and awe it is a part of the material that the lawgiver or statesman has to fashion, and the best that he can hope to achieve is to give their loves and hatreds identical objects or directions.
D.S. Carne-Ross, "The Beastly House of Atreus," Kenyon Review 3.2 (Spring, 1981) 20-60 (at 54):
Through the words of the Furies' final song of blessing, all that remains of a greater whole, there breathes a note of solemn and yet festive joy as of a Bach chorale.
Aeschylus, Eumenides 902-909 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
CHORUS
So what blessings do you bid me invoke upon this land?
ATHENA
Such as are appropriate to an honourable victory, coming moreover both from the earth, and from the waters of the sea, and from the heavens; and for the gales of wind to come over the land breathing the air of bright sunshine; and for the fruitfulness of the citizens' land and livestock to thrive in abundance, and not to fail with the passage of time; and for the preservation of human seed.

ΧΟΡΟΣ
τί οὖν μ᾿ ἄνωγας τῇδ᾿ ἐφυμνῆσαι χθονί;
ΑΘΗΝΑΙΑ
ὁποῖα νίκης μὴ κακῆς ἐπίσκοπα,
καὶ ταῦτα γῆθεν ἔκ τε ποντίας δρόσου
ἐξ οὐρανοῦ τε· κἀνέμων ἀήματα        905
εὐηλίως πνέοντ᾿ ἐπιστείχειν χθόνα·
καρπόν τε γαίας καὶ βοτῶν ἐπίρρυτον
ἀστοῖσιν εὐθενοῦντα μὴ κάμνειν χρόνῳ·
καὶ τῶν βροτείων σπερμάτων σωτηρίαν.
Id. 922-926:
For which city I pray,
and prophesy with kind intent,
that the bright light of the sun
may cause blessings beneficial to her life
to burst forth in profusion from the earth.

ᾇ τ᾿ ἐγὼ κατεύχομαι
θεσπίσασα πρευμενῶς
ἐπισσύτους βίου τύχας ὀνησίμους
γαίας ἐξαμβρῦσαι        925
φαιδρὸν ἁλίου σέλας.
Id. 938-948:
And may no wind bringing harm to trees —
I declare my own gracious gift —
blow scorching heat that robs plants of their buds:
let that not pass the borders of the land.
Nor let any grievous, crop-destroying
plague come upon them;
may their flocks flourish, and may Pan
rear them to bear twin young
at the appointed time; and may their offspring always
have riches in their soil, and repay
the lucky find granted them by the gods.

δενδροπήμων δὲ μὴ πνέοι βλάβα —
τὰν ἐμὰν χάριν λέγω —
φλογμοὺς ὀμματοστερεῖς φυτῶν,        940
τὸ μὴ περᾶν ὅρον τόπων·
μηδ᾿ ἄκαρπος αἰα-
νὴς ἐφερπέτω νόσος·
μῆλα δ᾿ εὐθενοῦντα Πὰν
ξὺν διπλοῖσιν ἐμβρύοις        945
τρέφοι χρόνῳ τεταγμένῳ· γόνος <δ᾿ ἀεὶ>
πλουτόχθων ἑρμαίαν
δαιμόνων δόσιν τίνοι.
Id. 977-987:
I pray that civil strife,
insatiate of evil,
may never rage in this city;
and may the dust not drink up the dark blood of the citizens
and then, out of lust for revenge,
eagerly welcome the city's ruin
through retaliatory murder;
rather may they give happiness in return for happiness,
resolved to be united in their friendship
and unanimous in their enmity;
for this is a cure for many ills among men.

τὰν δ᾿ ἄπληστον κακῶν
μήποτ᾿ ἐν πόλει στάσιν
τᾷδ᾿ ἐπεύχομαι βρέμειν,
μηδὲ πιοῦσα κόνις μέλαν αἷμα πολιτᾶν        980
δι᾿ ὀργὰν ποινᾶς
ἀντιφόνους ἄτας
ἁρπαλίσαι πόλεως·
χάρματα δ᾿ ἀντιδιδοῖεν
κοινοφιλεῖ διανοίᾳ        985
καὶ στυγεῖν μιᾷ φρενί·
πολλῶν γὰρ τόδ᾿ ἐν βροτοῖς ἄκος.

Monday, October 16, 2017

 

Four-Fold Remedies

The Epicureans had their four-fold remedy, their τετραφάρμακος (tetrapharmakos):
Not to be feared—god,
not to be viewed with apprehension—death;
and on the one hand, the good—easily acquired,
on the other hand, the terrible—easily endured.

ἄφοβον ὁ θεός,
ἀνύποπτον ὁ θάνατος,
καὶ τἀγαθὸν μὲν εὔκτητον,
τὸ δὲ δεινὸν εὐεκκαρτέρητον.
Less spiritual, but still fortifying the inner man, was the dish called tetrapharmacum (Historia Augusta, 1: Life of Hadrian 21.4, tr. David Magie):
As an article of food he was singularly fond of tetrapharmacum, which consisted of pheasant, sow's udders, ham, and pastry.

inter cibos unice amavit tetrapharmacum, quod erat de phasiano sumine perna et crustulo.
Cf. Historia Augusta, 2: Life of Aelius 5.4-5 (tr. David Magie):
For it is Verus who is said to have been the inventor of the tetrapharmacum, or rather pentapharmacum, of which Hadrian was thereafter always fond, namely, a mixture of sows' udders, pheasant, peacock, ham in pastry and wild boar. Of this article of food Marius Maximus gives a different account, for he calls it, not pentapharmacum, but tetrapharmacum, as we have ourselves described it in our biography of Hadrian.

nam tetrapharmacum, seu potius pentapharmacum, quo postea semper Hadrianus est usus, ipse dicitur repperisse, hoc est sumen phasianum pavonem pernam crustulatam et aprunam. de quo genere cibi aliter refert Marius Maximus, non pentapharmacum sed tetrapharmacum appellans, ut et nos ipsi in eius vita persecuti sumus.
and Historia Augusta, 18: Life of Severus Alexander 30.6 (tr. David Magie):
And he often partook of Hadrian's tetrapharmacum, which Marius Maximus describes in his work on the life of Hadrian.

ususque est Hadriani tetrapharmaco frequenter, de quo in libris suis Marius Maximus loquitur, cum Hadriani disserit vitam.
In the Digital Loeb Classical Library, this last passage is corrupt (Maximum instead of Maximus), both in the Latin and the English (the printed book is correct):


I haven't seen Ignazio Cazzaniga, "Il tetrapharmacum cibo adrianeo (H.A. Spart., Vit. Hadr. 21, 4, Vit. Ael. 5, 4 e Philod. P. Herc. 1005, IV, 10). Esegesi e critica testuale," in Poesia latina in frammenti (Genoa: Università di Genova, Facoltà di lettere, Istituto di filologia classica e medievale, 1974), pp. 359-366.

Celsus in his treatise on medicine (5.19.9) mentions a plaster made of four ingredients (wax, pitch, resin, and beef suet) "called by the Greeks tetrapharmacon."

A friend of mine calls the Historia Augusta the ancient equivalent of "fake news," but I'm finding it interesting reading, when taken with a grain of salt. I wonder if anyone in modern times has cooked and eaten pheasant, sow's udders, and ham en croûte.

Related post: The Epicurean Tetrapharmakos.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

 

Rottenness

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9.36 (tr. A.S.L. Farquharson):
The rottenness of the matter which underlies everything. Water, dust, bones, stench.

τὸ σαπρὸν τῆς ἑκάστῳ ὑποκειμένης ὕλης· ὕδωρ, κόνις, ὀστάρια, γράσος.

 

Bread and Circuses

Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563), Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (tr. Harry Kurz):
Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.

Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else. The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, "Long live the King!" The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.

Les theatres, les jeus, les farces, les spectacles, les gladiateurs, les bestes estranges, les medailles, les tableaus et autres telles drogueries c'estoient aus peuples anciens les apasts de la servitude, le pris de leur liberté, les outils de la tirannie: ce moien, ceste pratique, ces alleschemens avoient les anciens tirans pour endormir leurs subjects sous le joug. Ainsi les peuples assotis trouvans beaus ces passetemps amusés d'un vain plaisir qui leur passoit devant les yeulx, s'accoustumoient a servir aussi niaisement, mais plus mal que les petits enfans, qui pour voir les luisans images des livres enluminés aprenent a lire.

Les rommains tirans s'adviserent ancore d'un autre point de festoier souvent les dizaines publiques abusant ceste canaille comme il falloit, qui se laisse aller plus qu'a toute autre chose au plaisir de la bouche. Le plus avisé et entendu d'entr'eus n'eust pas quitté son esculée de soupe pour recouvrer la liberté de la republique de Platon. Les tirans faisoient largesse d'un quart de blé, d'un sestier de vin, et d'un sesterce; et lors c'estoit pitié d'ouir crier Vive le roi: les lourdaus ne s'avisoient pas qu'ils ne faisoient que recouvrer une partie du leur, et que cela mesmes qu'ils recouvroient, le tiran ne le leur eust peu donner, si devant il ne l'avoit osté à eus mesmes.

 

Another Bundle of Contradictions

Historia Augusta, 6: Life of Avidius Cassius 3.4 (tr. David Magie):
Such was his character, then, that sometimes he seemed stern and savage, sometimes mild and gentle, often devout and again scornful of sacred things, addicted to drink and also temperate, a lover of eating yet able to endure hunger, a devotee of Venus and a lover of chastity.

fuit his moribus, ut nonnumquam trux et asper videretur, aliquando mitis et lenis, saepe religiosus, alias contemptor sacrorum, avidus vini item abstinens, cibi adpetens et inediae patiens, Veneris cupidus et castitatis amator.
See Thomas Wiedemann, "The Figure of Catiline in the Historia Augusta," Classical Quarterly 29.2 (1979) 479-484 (esp. 482-483), who remarks (at 480, footnotes omitted):
Men who were not straightforwardly black or white were rather a problem for educated Romans. Popular moral philosophy assumed that a man's character (physis, natura) never normally changed: the Lives of Plutarch are perhaps the most obvious expression of this widespread attitude. But this was not just a philosophical postulate. During their years at school, Romans had not merely read through with their grammaticus innumerable character-sketches in historians and orators which were little more than lists of either good or bad qualities; they had formally learnt at the rhetorician's school the framework into which any conceivable person would have to be fitted if he was going to be mentioned in a speech, either positively or negatively. We can see this (for example) from Cicero's summary of the 'laudandi vituperandique rationes' in the Partitiones Oratoriae, or Quintilian's scheme 'de laude ac vituperatione'.

After this kind of education, any figure who combined positive and negative qualities was bound to be a problem...
Related post: A Bundle of Contradictions.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

 

The Great and the Good, Doing What No One Else Can Do for Them

Thanks to a friend (or enabler, as the case may be) for sending me this photograph of a shop display in Barcelona:


Caganers — they're not just for Christmas. The title of this post comes from Cervantes, Don Quixote 1.21 (lo que otro no pudiera hacer por el). Here is the entire passage, one of my favorites, in John Ormsby's translation:
Just then, whether it was the cold of the morning that was now approaching, or that he had eaten something laxative at supper, or that it was only natural (as is most likely), Sancho felt a desire to do what no one could do for him; but so great was the fear that had penetrated his heart, he dared not separate himself from his master by as much as the black of his nail; to escape doing what he wanted was, however, also impossible; so what he did for peace's sake was to remove his right hand, which held the back of the saddle, and with it to untie gently and silently the running string which alone held up his breeches, so that on loosening it they at once fell down round his feet like fetters; he then raised his shirt as well as he could and bared his hind quarters, no slim ones. But, this accomplished, which he fancied was all he had to do to get out of this terrible strait and embarrassment, another still greater difficulty presented itself, for it seemed to him impossible to relieve himself without making some noise, and he ground his teeth and squeezed his shoulders together, holding his breath as much as he could; but in spite of his precautions he was unlucky enough after all to make a little noise, very different from that which was causing him so much fear.

Don Quixote, hearing it, said, "What noise is that, Sancho?"

"I don't know, senor," said he; "it must be something new, for adventures and misadventures never begin with a trifle." Once more he tried his luck, and succeeded so well, that without any further noise or disturbance he found himself relieved of the burden that had given him so much discomfort. But as Don Quixote's sense of smell was as acute as his hearing, and as Sancho was so closely linked with him that the fumes rose almost in a straight line, it could not be but that some should reach his nose, and as soon as they did he came to its relief by compressing it between his fingers, saying in a rather snuffing tone, "Sancho, it strikes me thou art in great fear."

"I am," answered Sancho; "but how does your worship perceive it now more than ever?"

"Because just now thou smellest stronger than ever, and not of ambergris," answered Don Quixote.

"Very likely," said Sancho, "but that's not my fault, but your worship's, for leading me about at unseasonable hours and at such unwonted paces."

"Then go back three or four, my friend," said Don Quixote, all the time with his fingers to his nose; "and for the future pay more attention to thy person and to what thou owest to mine; for it is my great familiarity with thee that has bred this contempt."

"I'll bet," replied Sancho, "that your worship thinks I have done something I ought not with my person."

"It makes it worse to stir it, friend Sancho," returned Don Quixote.

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Death-Bed Decorum

George Santayana (1863-1952), "Death-Bed Manners," Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (London: Constable and Company Ltd., 1922), pp. 90-92 (at 91-92):
No summoning of priests, no great concourse of friends and relations, no loud grief, no passionate embraces and poignant farewells; no endless confabulations in the antechamber, no gossip about the symptoms, the remedies, or the doctors' quarrels and blunders; no breathless enumeration of distinguished visitors, letters, and telegrams; no tearful reconciliation of old family feuds nor whisperings about the division of the property.

Instead, either silence and closed doors, if there is real sorrow, or more commonly only a little physical weariness in the mourners, a little sigh or glance at one another, as if to say: We are simply waiting for events; the doctors and nurses are attending to everything, and no doubt, when the end comes, it will be for the best.

In the departing soul, too, probably dulness and indifference. No repentance, no anxiety, no definite hopes or desires either for this life or for the next. Perhaps old memories returning, old loves automatically reviving; possibly a vision, by anticipation, of some reunion in the other world: but how pale, how ghostly, how impotent this death-dream is!

I seem to overhear the last words, the last thoughts of a mother: "Dear children, you know I love you. Provision has been made. I should be of little use to you any longer. How pleasant to look out of that window into the park! Be sure they don't forget to give Pup some meat with his dog-biscuit." It is all very simple, very much repressed, the pattering echo of daily words.

Death, it is felt, is not important. What matters is the part we have played in the world, or may still play there by our influence. We are not going to a melodramatic Last Judgement. We are shrinking into ourselves, into the seed we came from, into a long winter's sleep. Perhaps in another springtime we may revive and come again to the light somewhere, among those sweet flowers, those dear ones we have lost. That is God's secret. We have tried to do right here. If there is any Beyond, we shall try to do right there also.
Related post: My Bed of Death.

 

IQ Contest

Toluse Olorunnipa, "Trump Suggests He'd Beat Tillerson in an IQ Test," Bloomberg (October 10, 2017):
President Donald Trump defended his intelligence after reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a "moron."

"I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests," Trump said in an interview with Forbes Magazine published Tuesday. "And I can tell you who is going to win."
Historia Augusta, 1: Life of Hadrian 15.10-13 (tr. David Magie):
[10] And although he was very deft at prose and at verse and very accomplished in all the arts, yet he used to subject the teachers of these arts, as though more learned than they, to ridicule, scorn, and humiliation. [11] With these very professors and philosophers he often debated by means of pamphlets or poems issued by both sides in turn. [12] And once Favorinus, when he had yielded to Hadrian's criticism of a word which he had used, raised a merry laugh among his friends. For when they reproached him for having done wrong in yielding to Hadrian in the matter of a word used by reputable authors, [13] he replied: "You are urging a wrong course, my friends, when you do not suffer me to regard as the most learned of men the one who has thirty legions".

[10] et quamvis esset oratione et versu promptissimus et in omnibus artibus peritissimus, tamen professores omnium artium semper ut doctior risit contempsit obtrivit. [11] cum his ipsis professoribus et philosophis libris vel carminibus invicem editis saepe certavit. [12] et Favorinus quidem, cum verbum eius quondam ab Hadriano reprehensum esset, atque ille cessisset, arguentibus amicis, quod male cederet Hadriano de verbo quod idonei auctores usurpassent, risum iucundissimum movit. [13] ait enim: 'non recte suadetis, familiares, qui non patimini me illum doctiorem omnibus credere, qui habet triginta legiones.'

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