Friday, April 20, 2018
What to Say in Awkward Situations
A rude and scaring note, my friend!What to say when you yourself have broken wind, from Henri de Régnier, Vestigia Flammae: Poèmes (Paris: Mercure de France, 1922), p. 2 ("Stèle," line 5, my translation):
My life around me gives off a pungent smell.
Ma vie autour de moi répand une odeur âcre.
From a friend:
If the Analhusten is a muffled, windy one, the first few lines of Verlaine's poem could also serve:Related post: What to Say When Someone Farts.
Ecoutez la chanson bien douce
Qui ne pleure que pour vous plaire,
Elle est discrète, elle est légère!
Labels: noctes scatologicae
Oh, But That's Old!
In a lending library you see people's real tastes, not their pretended ones, and one thing that strikes you is how completely the "classical" English novelists have dropped out of favour. It is simply useless to put Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Trollope, etc into the ordinary lending library; nobody takes them out. At the mere sight of a nineteenth-century novel people say "Oh, but that's old!" and shy away immediately.
Rivers of Blood
I see wars, horrid wars, the Tiber foamingServius ad loc.:
with much blood.
bella, horrida bella
et Thybrim multo spumantem sanguine cerno.
86. HORRIDA BELLA quae contra hospitem cognatumque suscepta sunt, ut Latinus dicturus est <XII 31> arma impia sumpsi promissam eripui.I.e.:
87. SPVMANTEM SANGVINE CERNO quasi non praedicit, sed videt quod facturus est Turnus, ut <XII 35> recalent nostro Tiberina fluenta sanguine adhuc.
86. SAVAGE WARS which are waged against guest and kindred, as Latinus is going to say <XII 31> I took up unholy weapons, I stole the betrothed.Phlegon of Tralles, Marvels 3 (tr. William Hansen):
87. FOAMING WITH BLOOD I SEE as if she is not prophesying but seeing what Turnus is going to do, as <XII 35> Tiber's streams are still warm with our blood.
At that time, Rome, your harsh sufferings will all be fulfilled.The Greek, from Otto Keller, ed., Rerum Naturalium Scriptores Graeci Minores, Vol. I: Paradoxographi Antigonus, Apollonius, Phlegon, Anonymus Vaticanus (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1877), p. 71:
For a broad host will come that will destroy your entire land,
Make desolate your market-places, waste your cities with fire,
Fill your rivers with blood, fill also Hades,
And bring upon you slavery, piteous, hateful, and obscure.
καὶ τότε σοί, Ῥώμη, χαλέπ' ἄλγεα πάντα τελεῖται.
ἥξει γὰρ στρατὸς εὐρύς, ὅ σου χθόνα πάσαν ὀλέσσει,
χηρώσει δ' ἀγοράς, ἄστη δέ τε πυρπόλα θήσει,
αἴματι δὲ πλήσει ποταμούς, πλήσει δὲ καὶ Ἅιδην,
δουλoσύνην τ' οἰκτρήν, στυγερήν, ἀτέκμαρτον ἐφήσει.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Life or death: small words for large things.
ἢ θανεῖν ἢ ζῆν· ὁ μῦθος οὐ μακρὸς μακρῶν πέρι.
He Made His Mother Cry
With Carlyle—Christianity—age fifteen, spoke to his mother—her horror. 'Did God Almighty come down and make wheelbarrows in a shop?' She lay awake at night for hours praying and weeping bitterly.Cf. Mark 6.3 (KJV):
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.Hat tip: Eric Thomson.
To represent the Virgin's flight into Egypt, a strange holiday was celebrated yearly in many towns during the Middle Ages. The following account2 of the Beauvais celebration is found in a letter of December 18, 1697 from a Canon in Beauvais, Foy de Saint-Hilaire, to M. de Francastel, Assistant Librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris.On animal sounds in Greek and Latin see:
'On the first day after the Octave of the [three] Kings,3 they chose a beautiful young girl, put a child in her hands, and mounted her on an ass which they led in procession from the Cathedral Church to the Church of St Stephen. Placing the ass and his lovely burden in the Sanctuary there on the Gospel side, they sang a solemn mass, whose prose [of the Ass] is in Louvet,4 and whose Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc., end in hin ham [he haw], to the point where in fine missae sacerdos versus ad populum vice "Ite Missa est" ter hinhanabit [he-hawed], populus vero vice "Deo gratias" ter respondavit, "Hinham, Hinham, Hinham".'.52 Dom Paul Denis, Lettres Autographes de la Collection de Troussures (Paris: Champion, 1912), p. 312.
3 Foy de Saint-Hilaire is emphatic as to dates: 'We must not confuse the holiday of the Ass with the day [other days] when the prose [of the Ass] was sung; for it is certain that this holiday [when the Ass went into St Stephen's] was neither on Christmas day nor on the day of the Circumcision, nor on the [Three] Kings' day, [but on] the first day after the octave of the [Three] Kings.'
4 Pierre Louvet, Histoire et Antiquités du Diocese de Beauvais (Beauvais, 1631-1635), ii.301.
5 In connection with this story, Foy de Saint-Hilaire added: 'See what I heard said by my late father, who had seen the whole Donkey Mass, [of] which [the MS.] was kept in our parish church of St Stephen, and which a clerk of the Curé's ... seized and cruelly burned because of conscientious scruples. His name was Davennes, and I knew him when I was a child.' (Denis, op. cit., 312).
- D. Thomas Benediktson, "Polemius Silvius' Voces varie animancium and related catalogues of animal sounds," Mnemosyne 53 (2000) 71-79
- C.E. Finch, "Suetonius' catalogue of animal sounds in codex Vat. Lat. 6018," American Journal of Philology 90 (1969) 459-463
- Paul Kretschmer, "Συς und andere lautnachahmende Wörter," Glotta 13 (1924) 132-138
- Karl Kunst, "mugire und rugire," Glotta 14 (1925) 109-113
- J.H.H. Schmidt, Handbuch der lateinischen und griechischen Synonymik (Leipzig: Teubner, 1889), pp. 157-162 (Stimmen der Säugetiere) and 162-166 (Stimmen der Vögel, Lurche und Kerfe)
- Bruno Snell, "Das I-Ah des goldenes Esel," Hermes 70 (1935) 355-356
- W.B. Stanford, The Sounds of Greek (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), ch. V (Mimesis in Words), pp. 98-121, esp. 102-103
- Wilhelm Wackernagel, Voces Variae Animantium (diss. Basel, 1867)
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
The City of Brass
Swiftly these pulled down the walls that their fathers had made them—
The impregnable ramparts of old, they razed and relaid them
As playgrounds of pleasure and leisure with limitless entries,
And havens of rest for the wastrels where once walked the sentries;
And because there was need of more pay for the shouters and marchers,
They disbanded in face of their foemen their yeomen and archers.
They ran panting in haste to lay waste and embitter for ever
The wellsprings of Wisdom and Strength which are Faith and Endeavour.
They nosed out and digged up and dragged forth and exposed to derision
All doctrine of purpose and worth and restraint and prevision:
And it ceased, and God granted them all things for which they had striven,
And the heart of a beast in the place of a man's heart was given....
There was no need of a steed nor a lance to pursue them;
It was decreed their own deed, and not chance, should undo them.
The tares they had laughingly sown were ripe to the reaping.
The trust they had leagued to disown was removed from their keeping.
The eaters of other men's bread, the exempted from hardship,
The excusers of impotence fled, abdicating their wardship,
For the hate they had taught through the State brought the State no defender,
And it passed from the roll of the Nations in headlong surrender!
This age makes me so sick that sometimes I am almost impelled to stop at a corner and start calling down curses from Heaven like Jeremiah or Ezra or somebody — "Woe upon thee, O Israel, for thy adulteries with the Egyptians" etc etc.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
A Revelation of Barbarism
Sunday brought me the queerest experience of all — a revelation of barbarism complete. I found a place that was officially described as a church. It was a circus really, but that the worshippers did not know. There were flowers all about the building, which was fitted up with plush and stained oak and much luxury, including twisted brass candlesticks of severest Gothic design. To these things, and a congregation of savages, entered suddenly a wonderful man completely in the confidence of their God, whom he treated colloquially and exploited very much as a newspaper reporter would exploit a foreign potentate. But, unlike the newspaper reporter, he never allowed his listeners to forget that he and not He was the centre of attraction. With a voice of silver and with imagery borrowed from the auction-room, he built up for his hearers a heaven on the lines of the Palmer House (but with all the gilding real gold and all the plate-glass diamond) and set in the centre of it a loud-voiced, argumentative, and very shrewd creation that he called God. One sentence at this point caught my delighted ear. It was apropos of some question of the Judgment Day and ran: "No! I tell you God doesn't do business that way." He was giving them a deity whom they could comprehend, in a gold and jewel heaven in which they could take a natural interest. He interlarded his performance with the slang of the streets, the counter, and the Exchange, and he said that religion ought to enter into daily life. Consequently I presume he introduced it as daily life — his own and the life of his friends.
Then I escaped before the blessing, desiring no benediction at such hands.
Dislike of the Classics
So I continued with Greek and Latin, becoming progressively disillusioned, and it was not until my final term, when I had twice failed scholarships at Oxford, that I moved to the history side. By that time my dislike of the classics had become so strong that I have never opened a Greek or Latin book since, and I, who once read these languages almost as easily as I did English, now have difficulty in understanding any but the simplest words and phrases. Sometimes, now that I am old, it occurs to me that it might be an amusing exercise to revive my knowledge of, at any rate, Greek by going through Homer or Sophocles with a dictionary or a crib, but I do not suppose that I ever will.Hat tip: Eric Thomson.
Monday, April 16, 2018
At about eight in the morning we all had a shave in the Trafalgar Square fountains, and I spent most of the day reading Eugénie Grandet, which was the only book I had brought with me. The sight of a French book produced the usual remarks — "Ah, French? That'll be something pretty warm, eh?" etc. Evidently most English people have no idea that there are French books which are not pornographic.Related post: To Students of French.
I discovered how wretched we modern men appear when compared with the Greeks and Romans even merely in the matter of a serious understanding of the tasks of education.
Ich fand, wie elend wir modernen Menschen uns gegen Griechen und Römer ausnehmen, selbst nur in Hinsicht auf das Ernst- und Streng-Verstehen der Erziehungsaufgaben.
Aeschylus? Aeschylus? Was this not the man who fought at Marathon and Salamis against the forces of the East? The poet who first articulated the antithesis of Hellene and barbarian, and posited the all-round inferiority of the latter to the former? Pioneer of the most quintessentially and autonomously Greek of literary forms, Attic tragedy? Is even he now to be found prey to these insidious oriental influences that seem to reach everywhere?Id., pp. 557-558:
Let us start from the famous invocation in the Supplices,Related posts:
ἄναξ ἀνάκτων, μακάρωνUnprecedented and indeed almost unparalleled in Greek, this is an absolutely clear imitation of divine titles current in the Near East. Not only were deities addressed there with individual expressions such as 'lord of lords', 'king of kings', 'god of gods'; it was common for two or three such phrases to be juxtaposed, as in the Aeschylean passage. Thus an Akkadian-Hittite bilingual has the combination 'mistress of mistresses, goddess of goddesses'. Enlil is addressed in Assyrian prayers as 'lord of lords, king of kings'. On a stele of Nabonidus at Harran, Sin is called 'Enlil of the gods, king of kings, lord of lords'. Similarly in the Old Testament: 'For Yahweh your god is the god of gods and lord of lords'; 'the god of gods ... the lord of lords'. There are also Egyptian parallels.26 It is to be noted that according to Semitic idiom 'king of kings' or 'god of gods' does not mean a king who rules over kings or a god whom other gods worship, but (like 'song of songs') the most kingly among kings, the most divine among deities. By coupling ἄναξ ἀνάκτων with the superlative phrases μακάρων μακάρτατε and τελέων τελειότατον κράτος, Aeschylus implies that he understands it in the same way.27
μακάρτατε καὶ τελέων
τελειότατον κράτος, ὄλβιε Ζεῦ.
Lord of lords, most blessed of the blessed ones and most powerful of powers, felicitous Zeus.
26 Supp. 524-6; CTH 312 (E. Reiner and H.G. Güterbock, JCS 21, 1967, 257); KAR 68 (Seux, 272, cf. 274; Foster, 562, cf. 564); W. Röllig, ZA 56, 1964, 221 ii 20 (ΑΝΕT 562 f.; Foster, 757); cf. Tallqvist (1938), 12, 42, 237; Deut. 10.17, Ps. 136.2 f., cf. 84.8(7), Dan. 8.25; J. Gwyn Griffiths, Classical Philology 48, 1953, 145-54 = his Atlantis and Egypt, With Other Selected Essays, Cardiff 1991, 252-65. See further Friis Johansen-Whittle, (as ch. 9, n. 25), ii.408-10.
27 Cf. Gesenius-Kautzsch (as ch. 5, n. 140), 452 (§ 133h): Johansen-Whittle, loc. cit.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Keep It to Yourself
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, s.v. κατά, sense II.1.c: "ἔχειν τι καθ' ἑαυτόν keep someth. to oneself".
σὺ πίστιν ἣν ἔχεις κατὰ σεαυτὸν ἔχε ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ.
Comfort One Another
Whenever you see me despondent,
you must cure the grim derangement of my mind
and encourage me. And when you are groaning,
I must stand by you and offer friendly admonition.
Aid like this is proper for kin to offer.
ὅταν δὲ τἄμ᾿ ἀθυμήσαντ᾿ ἴδῃς,
σύ μου τὸ δεινὸν καὶ διαφθαρὲν φρενῶν
ἴσχναινε παραμυθοῦ θ᾿· ὅταν δὲ σὺ στένῃς,
ἡμᾶς παρόντας χρή σε νουθετεῖν φίλα·
ἐπικουρίαι γὰρ αἵδε τοῖς φίλοις καλαί.
The Stranger Within the Gates
Under the shop lights in front of the sweet-meat and ghee seller's booths, the press and din of words is thickest. Faces of dogs, swine, weazles and goats, all the more hideous for being set on human bodies, and lighted with human intelligence, gather in front of the ring of lamp-light, where they may be studied for half an hour at a stretch. Pathans, Afreedees, Logas, Kohistanis, Turkomans, and a hundred other varieties of the turbulent Afghan race, are gathered in the vast human menagerie between the Gate and the Ghar Khutri. As an Englishman passes, they will turn to scowl upon him, and in many cases to spit fluently on the ground after he has passed. One burly big-paunched ruffian, with a shaven head and a neck creased and dimpled with rolls of fat, is specially zealous in this religious rite — contenting himself with no perfunctory performance, but with a whole-souled expectoration, that must be as refreshing to his comrades, as it is disgusting to the European, sir.Id. (at 85):
The rancorous expectoration of our red-bearded friend — still on the culvert — as he performs his devoirs for the fourth time in the track of the on-going kafir may mean anything you please. A wanderer from the hills takes this opportunity of expressing his contempt for a whole nation — not even the long suffering missionary could credit him with influenza: or again neither security to life and goods, law, order, discipline, or the best blood of England wasted on their care, reconcile the calibans of the city of evil countenances to the white stranger within their gates.
Dislike of the New Testament
I do not like the "New Testament," that should be plain; I find it almost disturbing that my taste in regard to this most highly esteemed and overestimated work should be so singular (I have the taste of two millennia against me): but there it is! "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise"2—I have the courage of my bad taste. The Old Testament—that is something else again: all honor to the Old Testament! I find in it great human beings, a heroic landscape, and something of the very rarest quality in the world, the incomparable naïveté of the strong heart; what is more, I find a people. In the New one, on the other hand, I find nothing but petty sectarianism, mere rococo of the soul, mere involutions, nooks, queer things, the air of the conventicle, not to forget an occasional whiff of bucolic mawkishness that belongs to the epoch (and to the Roman province) and is not so much Jewish as Hellenistic. Humility and self-importance cheek-by-jowl; a garrulousness of feeling that almost stupefies; impassioned vehemence, not passion; embarrassing gesticulation; it is plain that there is no trace of good breeding. How can one make such a fuss about one's little lapses as these pious little men do! Who gives a damn? Certainly not God. Finally, they even want "the crown of eternal life," these little provincial people; but for what? to what purpose? Presumption can go no further. An "immortal" Peter: who could stand him? Their ambition is laughable: people of that sort regurgitating their most private affairs, their stupidities, sorrows, and petty worries, as if the Heart of Being were obliged to concern itself with them; they never grow tired of involving God himself in even the pettiest troubles they have got themselves into. And the appalling taste of this perpetual familiarity with God! This Jewish and not merely Jewish obtrusiveness of pawing and nuzzling God!
2 Luther's famous words at the Diet of Worms.
Ich liebe das "neue Testament" nicht, man erräth es bereits; es beunruhigt mich beinahe, mit meinem Geschmack in Betreff dieses geschätztesten, überschätztesten Schriftwerks dermaassen allein zu stehn (der Geschmack zweier Jahrtausende ist gegen mich): aber, was hilft es! "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders,"—ich habe den Muth zu meinem schlechten Geschmack. Das alte Testament—ja das ist ganz etwas Anderes: alle Achtung vor dem alten Testament! In ihm finde ich grosse Menschen, eine heroische Landschaft und Etwas vom Allerseltensten auf Erden, die unvergleichliche Naivität des starken Herzens; mehr noch, ich finde ein Volk. Im neuen dagegen lauter kleine Sekten-Wirthschaft, lauter Rokoko der Seele, lauter Verschnörkeltes, Winkliges, Wunderliches, lauter Conventikel-Luft, nicht zu vergessen einen gelegentlichen Hauch bukolischer Süsslichkeit, welcher der Epoche (und der römischen Provinz) angehört und nicht sowohl jüdisch als hellenistisch ist. Demuth und Wichtigthuerei dicht nebeneinander; eine Geschwätzigkeit des Gefühls, die fast betäubt; Leidenschaftlichkeit, keine Leidenschaft; peinliches Gebärdenspiel; hier hat ersichtlich jede gute Erziehung gefehlt. Wie darf man von seinen kleinen Untugenden so viel Wesens machen, wie es diese frommen Männlein thun! Kein Hahn kräht danach; geschweige denn Gott. Zuletzt wollen sie gar noch "die Krone des ewigen Lebens" haben, alle diese kleinen Leute der Provinz: wozu doch? wofür doch? man kann die Unbescheidenheit nicht weiter treiben. Ein "unsterblicher" Petrus: wer hielte den aus! Sie haben einen Ehrgeiz, der lachen macht: das käut sein Persönlichstes, seine Dummheiten, Traurigkeiten und Eckensteher-Sorgen vor, als ob das An-sich-der-Dinge verpflichtet sei, sich darum zu kümmern; das wird nicht müde, Gott selber in den kleinsten Jammer hinein zu wickeln, in dem sie drin stecken. Und dieses beständige Auf-du-und-du mit Gott des schlechtesten Geschmacks! Diese jüdische, nicht bloss jüdische Zudringlichkeit gegen Gott mit Maul und Tatze!
One Mind Less, One World Less
And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.
It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming — all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned — reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone — one mind less, one world less.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
O goddess, be pleased to rear our young, and to grant success to the Fathers' edicts on the yoking together of men and women and on the marriage law for raising a new crop of children...Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 374:
diva, producas subolem, patrumque
prosperes decreta super iugandis
feminis prolisque novae feraci
But, seriously, without idealizing the past, should we not try to understand that not everything that to us sounds dry or technical or downright prosaic must necessarily have sounded so to an Athenian or a Roman? Could we not consider the possibility that a subject which we shy at when when we meet it in the daily paper may, to many contemporaries of Augustus, despite all their sophistication, still have seemed dignified enough for serious poetry? But even if we keep to our own primary reaction, unaffected by any thought of historical relativity, even then we ought to find it easy to respond to the feeling in this particular stanza. For the legislation which is the theme of these lines is not concerned with technicalities of private or public law but goes straight to the roots of the life of human society. I, for one, am not ashamed to confess that I am moved when I picture these handsome children, who represent Rome's finest youth, singing to the goddess diva, producas subolem, patrumque prosperes decreta .... Here they are, radiant, grateful for the unique distinction that has come to them, and aware that, while they are singing and praying, the eyes and ears of the men and women of Rome and of thousands of boys and girls are upon them, and that they are singing and praying for them all. Will they not wish that in a future saeculum there will again be Roman children, many Roman children, to be as happy as they and the others are now, and is it not fitting for them to implore Heaven's favour for the decrees of the Fathers (what a blessing for a poet if the constitutional life of his nation knows such a term)?
A Most Disgraceful Malady
He had an unbridled tongue, a most disgraceful malady.
ἀκόλαστον ἔσχε γλῶσσαν, αἰσχίστην νόσον.
Thanks to a friend, who sent me this photograph of some books on the subject (from his personal library):
Literacy in the Old Sense
Literacy, in the old sense, was learned primarily from Latin, from concentrating slowly and often painfully on the way words are put together. Nunc et latentis. Someone, in the genitive, now hiding. Proditor. Something, modifying the subject, not yet stated, which betrays or conceals. Intimo. (In?) the innermost. Gratus. The something that reveals is charming. Puellae. A girl's. So a girl is hiding. Risus. A girl's laugh, revealing where she is hiding. Ab angulo. From the corner—the shadows at the edge of the evening piazza. And suddenly, from this dense linguistic medium, a picture stands out sharp and clear:
Nunc et latentis proditor intimoNo English poem needs to be read quite as hard as these lines of Horace. The sheer difficulty of construing has I think a positive value. English attracts a lot of people who are not, as we say, strongly motivated; they want a light rinse of humane letters and suppose that the English department is the least disagreeable place to get it. The briefest exposure to Horace would send these people packing. And there is something else. No doubt the student did not always profit from the old philological grind, but one thing it did impress upon him. It forced him, at however crude a level, to be conscious of the phenomenon of language.
gratus puellae risus ab angulo.