Saturday, August 19, 2017


Toppled Monuments

Robert Harbison, The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable: In Pursuit of Architectural Meaning (1991; rpt. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), p. 37:
A history of toppled monuments might be the most interesting of all, but very hard to tell, because often a studied effort removes the literary and pictorial traces as well as the masses of rock.


Nullius Addictus Iurare in Verba Magistri

Galen, On Diagnosing and Curing the Affections of the Soul 8 (vol. V, p. 43 Kühn; tr. Paul W. Harkins):
These, I said, were the injunctions I received from my father, and I have observed them up to the present day. I did not proclaim myself a member of any of those sects of which, with all earnestness, I made a careful examination ...

ταύτας, ἔφην ἐγὼ, παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς λαβὼν τὰς ἐντολὰς ἄχρι δεῦρο διαφυλάττω, μήτ' ἀφ' αἱρέσεώς τινος ἐμαυτὸν ἀναγορεύσας· ὧν σπουδῇ πάσῃ ἀκριβῆ τὴν ἐξέτασιν ἔχων ...
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Friday, August 18, 2017


Happy the Man

Joachim Du Bellay (1522-1560), "In uitae quietioris commendationem, ad I. Morellium Eberod.," Poematum Libri Quattuor (Paris: Féderic Morel, 1558), pp. 9-10 (tr. Philip Ford):
Happy is the man who lives content with his family plot,
and is not always greedily after fearful riches.
This man is kept free from countless dangers
by safe repose; he quietly tends his rich fields.
He is not terrified by the nightmares of the stupid mob,        5
nor the stern ferryman or three-headed Dog,
but, with pure hands, approaches the holy altars,
and bends the Gods, favourable to his prayers.
Truly happy is he, then, and to be counted among the
Gods themselves, whom nurturing Wisdom keeps in her        10
soft bosom. Morel, she has raised you up from the idle
mob and, under her guidance, you seek the stars
with upturned gaze. She also enjoins you to seek the
origins of the vast universe and to raise your mind to
behold God. With her aid, you scorn the threats of sky,        15
land and sea, and control everything with your mighty
mind. Yet your concern is not to rest in idle shade,
or to surrender your heart to flabby sloth.
But since you take on all the duties of civil life
and no aspect is neglected in your functions,        20
you arrange your life to trust nothing to fickle
luck, or to let Fate control your affairs,
just like one who, from the safety of the shore,
looks out on a ship tossed about over the Ocean,
or untroubled looks down on flames from on high,        25
or from a cliff on the rush of raging waters.
Add to this sweet children and a modest wife,
and a home that everyone would rejoice to have.
Why recall the luxury and elegance of the furnishings,
your simple way of life, your faultless taste?        30
Dorat himself will admit how open your home is
to the Muses, he who plucks learned songs on his
golden lyre, so that our century rivals ancient times
equally in the Latin and Greek Muses, and grave
Ronsard, protected by a mighty champion,        35
who frees him at last from a long-standing grudge.
In short, your life is such that, though the Gods have
given you all a wise and sane man needs, no one
envies you and, welcomed by high and low,
you can rival mighty kings.        40
Alas, now, in exile, I am driven from my home
shores, totally unable to enjoy so sweet a life.

Foelix, qui patrio uiuit contentus agello,
    Nec timidas captat semper auarus opes.
Hunc, hunc tuta quies ereptum mille periclis
    Detinet; hic tacitus rura beata colit.
Non illum stulti terrent insomnia uulgi,        5
    Nauita nec tristis, tergeminusue Canis:
Sed puris manibus sanctas accedit ad aras,
    Et flectit facileis in sua uota Deos:
Vere igitur foelix, Diis & numerandus in ipsis,
    Quem Sophia in molli detinet alma sinu.        10
Haec te, Morelli, populo subduxit inerti,
    Hac duce sublimi sidera fronte petis.
Haec te eadem immensi causas perquirere mundi
    Iussit, & erecta cernere mente Deum.
Hac fretus caelique minas, terraeque marisque        15
    Despicis, & magno cuncta domas animo.
Nec tamen hoc studium est, uacua requiescere in umbra,
    Tradere uel molli pectora desidiae:
Sed cum cuncta obeas ciuilis munera uitae,
    Nec pars ulla tuo cesset in officio,        20
Sic uitam instituis, dubiae nil credere sorti,
    Fortunam aut rebus praeposuisse tuis.
Non aliter, tuto quam qui de littore puppim
    Iactari toto prospicit Oceano:
Aut flammam e specula securus despicit alta,        25
    Aut cursum e summa rupe furentis aquae.
Huc dulces nati accedunt, coniuxque pudica,
    Et quam quisque sibi gaudeat esse domum.
Qui memorem quam lauta tibi, quam munda supellex,
    Quam cultus simplex, & sine labe decor?        30
Nam tua quam pateat Musis domus, ipse fatetur,
    Qui ferit aurata carmina docta lyra:
Auratus Latiis pariter Graiisque Camoenis
    Nostra aequans priscis secula temporibus,
Ronsardusque grauis, magno qui vindice tutus        35
    A ueteri tandem se asserit inuidia.
Denique sic uita est, ut cum tibi praestiterint Dii,
    Prudenti, & sano quod satis esse potest,
Inuideat nullus, summis sed gratus, & imis
    Aequalis magnis Regibus esse queas.        40
Hei mihi, quod patriis dum nunc agor exul ab oris,
    Tam dulci uita non licet usque frui.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Scribal Error

John Jackson (1881-1952), Marginalia Scaenica (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 30 (defending his conjecture εὐνᾶν for ἐοῦσαν at Euripides, Andromache 124):
As for εὐνᾶν, it may be admitted that σ and ν have normally little resemblance; but it must also be admitted that the contour of a character traced by a fallible man, under a flickering light, with a reed pen and evanescent ink upon paper not imperishable, may after the lapse of fifteen centuries be deciphered erroneously, if at all, by a fellow creature working under like handicaps with like materials. The possibility is regrettable, and disconcerting to the friends and enemies alike of conjectural criticism in ancient texts, but it is necessary to remember it.


Lover of the Olden Days

Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus 18.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
He was a great imitator of the customs of the men of old and a lover of the early times.

moris etiam maiorum summus imitator fuit antiquitatisque amator.


Please Drop Those Subjects

Cicero, Academica 1.1.2 (tr. H. Rackham):
Here there was first a little conversation, and that arising out of my asking whether Rome happened to have been doing anything new; and then Atticus said, "Do pray drop those subjects, about which we can neither ask questions nor hear the answers without distress ... "

hic pauca primo atque ea percontantibus nobis ecquid forte Roma novi; tum Atticus "omitte ista, quae nec percontari nec audire sine molestia possumus, quaeso," inquit ... "
James S. Reid ad loc.:

Reid's translation:
Here we had first a little talk, merely such as sprang out of my question whether he had brought any news from Rome; then Atticus said: "A truce, pray, to the subject, for we cannot help feeling pain when we put questions about it and hear the answers ... "
Reid cites Cicero, Brutus 42.157, on Atticus' tendency to avoid political discussion. See also Cicero, Brutus 3.11 (tr. G.L. Hendrickson):
Here Atticus broke in: "It was precisely our thought in coming, to avoid talk about public affairs ... "

tum Atticus: "eo, inquit, ad te animo venimus, ut de re publica esset silentium ... "

Wednesday, August 16, 2017



H.D. Jocelyn, review of Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), in Hermathena, No. 159 (Winter 1995) 53-77 (at 70-71):
We may further regret not being told anything at all about ocular diseases, curative springs (pp. 182-3), Roman debt-collecting (p. 193), the general practice of attributing a vice to a whole community (p. 194), the prophetic mind (p. 205), Pompey's sexual proclivities (p. 210), sexually transmitted diseases (pp. 282-3), the smell of the billy-goat (p. 303), the buggery of the young bride (p. 313), ideas linking the marrow, sweat and semen (p. 421), premature baldness (p. 484).


Obesus: An Auto-Antonym

An auto-antonym is a word that can mean the opposite of itself. Latin obesus is such a word, meaning either fat or thin, although the evidence for thin is meagre.

Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, s.v. obedo (from an online version; I don't have the book):
ŏb-ĕdo, ēdi, ēsum, ĕre, to eat, eat away, devour (used only in the part. perf. and P. a.).—Trop.: nec obesa cavamine terra est, AUCT. AETN. 344.—Hence, P. a.: ŏbēsus, a, um.
I. Wasted away, lean, meagre: corpore pectoreque undique obeso, Laev. ap. GELL. 19, 7, 3; and ap. NON. 361, 17: (obesum hic notavimus proprie magis quam usitate dictum pro exili atque gracilento, Gell. ib.: obesum gracile et exile, Non. l.l.).—
II. Mid., that has eaten itself fat; hence, in gen., fat, stout, plump: obesus pinguis quasi ob edendum factus, Paul. ex FEST. p. 188 Müll. (not in Cic.; perh. not ante-Aug.; syn.: opimus, pinguis): corpus neque gracile, neque obesum, CELS. 2, 1; cf. COL. 6, 2, 15: turdus, HOR. Ep. 1, 15, 40: sus, COL. 7, 10, 6: terga, VERG. G. 3, 80: cervix, SUET. Ner. 51.—Sup.: obesissimus venter, PLIN. 11, 37, 79, 200; SUET. Vit. 17; APP. M. 11, p. 263.—Poet.: fauces obesae, swollen, VERG. G. 3, 497.
Félix Gaffiot, Le Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, s.v. obesus:



Problem Solving

Aristophanes, Clouds 740-745 (Socrates to Strepsiades; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Cut loose your thinking and refine it; examine the problem piece by piece, correctly sorting and investigating ... and if you hit a dead end with one of your ideas, toss it aside and abandon it, then later try putting it in play again with your mind and weigh it up.

                                          σχάσας τὴν φροντίδα        740
λεπτὴν κατὰ μικρὸν περιφρόνει τὰ πράγματα
ὀρθῶς διαιρῶν καὶ σκοπῶν ...
... κἂν ἀπορῇς τι τῶν νοημάτων,
ἀφεὶς ἄπελθε, κᾆτα τῇ γνώμῃ πάλιν
κίνησον αὖθις αὐτὸ καὶ ζυγώθρισον.        745

744 τῇ γνώμῃ Reiske: τὴν γνώμην codd.
W.J. Verdenius, "Notes on Aristophanes' Clouds," Mnemosyne 6.3 (1953) 178-180 (at 179):
740-1 σχάσας τὴν φροντίδα / λεπτὴν κατὰ μικρὸν περιφρόνει τὰ πράγματα: κατὰ μικρόν should not be connected with περιφρόνει, but with σχάσας. Socrates adds κατὰ μικρόν as an explanation of λεπτήν (which could be misunderstood as an apposition): "into small pieces". Cp. Xen. An. VII 3, 22 ἄρτους διέκλα κατὰ μικρόν.
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ζυγωθρίζω:
weigh, examine, Ar. Nu. 745, acc. to Sch.: but acc. to Poll. 10.26 from ζύγωθρον (the bar of a door), lock up.
On Socrates' suggestion to cut the problem into small pieces, cf. G. Polya, How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method, 2nd ed. (1957; rpt. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 35-36:
If your problem is very complex you may distinguish "great" steps and "small" steps, each great step being composed of several small ones. Check first the great steps, and get down to the smaller ones afterwards....Consider the details of the solution and try to make them as simple as you can; survey more extensive parts of the solution and try to make them shorter; try to see the whole solution at a glance. Try to modify to their advantage smaller or larger parts of the solution, try to improve the whole solution, to make it intuitive, to fit it into your formerly acquired knowledge as naturally as possible. Scrutinize the method that led you to the solution, try to see its point, and try to make use of it for other problems. Scrutinize the result and try to make use of it for other problems.
Cf. also id., pp. 75-85, on "Decomposing and Recombining."

On Socrates' suggestion to lay aside the problem until a later time, cf. Polya, op. cit., pp. 197-198:
Subconscious work. One evening I wished to discuss with a friend a certain author but I could not remember the author's name. I was annoyed, because I remembered fairly well one of his stories. I remembered also some story about the author himself which I wanted to tell; I remembered, in fact, everything except the name. Repeatedly, I tried to recollect that name but all in vain. The next morning, as soon as I thought of the annoyance of the evening before, the name occurred to me without any effort.

The reader, very likely, remembers some similar experience of his own. And, if he is a passionate problem-solver, he has probably had some similar experience with problems. It often happens that you have no success at all with a problem; you work very hard yet without finding anything. But when you come back to the problem after a night's rest, or a few days' interruption, a bright idea appears and you solve the problem easily. The nature of the problem matters little; a forgotten word, a difficult word from a crossword-puzzle, the beginning of an annoying letter, or the solution of a mathematical problem may occur in this way.

Such happenings give the impression of subconscious work. The fact is that a problem, after prolonged absence, may return into consciousness essentially clarified, much nearer to its solution than it was when it dropped out of consciousness. Who clarified it, who brought it nearer to the solution? Obviously, oneself, working at it subconsciously. It is difficult to give any other answer; although psychologists have discovered the beginnings of another answer which may turn out some day to be more satisfactory.

Whatever may or may not be the merits of the theory of subconscious work, it is certain that there is a limit beyond which we should not force the conscious reflection. There are certain moments in which it is better to leave the problem alone for a while. "Take counsel of your pillow" is an old piece of advice. Allowing an interval of rest to the problem and to ourselves, we may obtain more tomorrow with less effort. "If today will not, tomorrow may" is another old saying. But it is desirable not to set aside a problem to which we wish to come back later without the impression of some achievement; at least some littIe point should be settled, some aspect of the question somewhat elucidated when we quit working.

Only such problems come back improved whose solution we passionately desire, or for which we have worked with great tension; conscious effort and tension seem to be necessary to set the subconscious work going. At any rate, it would be too easy if it were not so; we could solve difficult problems just by sleeping and waiting for a bright idea.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


A Gloomy Milestone

Winston Churchill, speech to the House of Commons (June 24, 1952):
I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone in the progress of mankind.
Winston Churchill, speech to the Royal College of Physicians (July 10, 1951):
It is arguable whether the human race have been gainers by the march of science beyond the steam engine. Electricity opens a field of infinite conveniences to ever greater numbers, but they may well have to pay dearly for them. But anyhow in my thought I stop short of the internal combustion engine which has made the world so much smaller. Still more must we fear the consequences of entrusting a human race so little different from their predecessors of the so-called barbarous ages such awful agencies as the atomic bomb. Give me the horse.
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Monday, August 14, 2017


Sad Times

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), "First Dialogue: Certitudes," Philosophical Dialogues and Fragments (tr. Râs Bihârî Mukharjî):
These are sad times. Twenty times a day do we ask ourselves if it is worth while living to be present at the downfall of all that we have loved.

Les temps sont tristes. Vingt fois par jour nous nous demandons s'il vaut la peine de vivre pour assister à la ruine de tout ce que nous avons aimé.


Some Insults

Aristophanes, Clouds 398 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson, with his note):
You moron redolent of the Cronia,32 you mooncalf!

32 A festival celebrating Zeus' father Cronus, who symbolized a bygone age.

ὦ μῶρε σὺ καὶ Κρονίων ὄζων καὶ βεκκεσέληνε.
K.J. Dover ad loc.:

Id. 492:
This fellow's ignorant and barbaric!

ἅνθρωπος ἀμαθὴς οὑτοσὶ καὶ βάρβαρος.
Id. 646:
You're a stupid clod.

ὡς ἄγροικος εἶ καὶ δυσμαθής.
ἄγροικος = dwelling in the fields, rustic, boorish; δυσμαθής = slow at learning, dull

Id. 654:
You're a brainless lout!

ἀγρεῖος εἶ καὶ σκαιός.
ἀγρεῖος = of the field, rustic, boorish; σκαιός = lefthanded, awkward, clumsy, stupid



William Abbott Oldfather, letter to Levi Robert Lind (April 5, 1939), in William M. Calder III, "'Tripe and Garbage': William Abbott Oldfather on the Limits of Research," Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci: Festschrift Essays for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick, edd. Gareth Schmeling and Jon D. Mikalson (Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1998), pp. 87-93 (at 89-90; footnotes omitted):
[T]he more "research" which I attempt to do, the more I feel doubt about its relative importance in the total scheme of cultural values. Treated as beautiful, stimulating, + meaningful for life and joy, Greek literature, thought and fine art are of transcendent value; but treated as mere materials for scientific research, and by that I mean linguistics, and grammatical statistics, studies of drain-pipes, shoestrings, door knobs, locations, trivial forms of social and political organization, and all the rest of the tripe and garbage that are dignified by the term "research," they seem hardly more important than mineralogy, or comparative anatomy, or even educational statistics—than which what can be more banal? Of course some knowledge of the material setting is useful as background and proportion and emphasis to the appreciation of better things. But I sometimes feel that too much attention to the sauce is apt to lose us the rabbit. When our subject ceases to mean anything important for our daily living, then it will go, and it ought to go, the way of all flesh.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Our Life

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations 7.19.1 (Funeral Oration on his Brother Caesarius; tr. Leo P. McCauley):
Such, brethren, is our life, we whose existence is so transitory. Such is the game we play upon earth: we do not exist and we are born, and being born we are dissolved. We are a fleeting dream, an apparition without substance, the flight of a bird that passes, a ship that leaves no trace upon the sea. We are dust, a vapor, the morning dew, a flower growing but a moment and withering in a moment.

τοιοῦτος ὁ βίος ἡμῶν, ἀδελφοί, τῶν ζώντων πρόσκαιρα· τοιοῦτο τὸ ἐπὶ γῆς παίγνιον· οὐκ ὄντας γενέσθαι, καὶ γενομένους ἀναλυθῆναι. ὄναρ ἐσμὲν οὐχ ἱστάμενον, φάσμα τι μὴ κρατούμενον, πτῆσις ὀρνέου παρερχομένου, ναῦς ἐπὶ θαλάσσης ἴχνος οὐκ ἔχουσα, κόνις, ἀτμίς, ἑωθινὴ δρόσος, ἄνθος καιρῷ φυόμενον καὶ καιρῷ λυόμενον.


My Old Hut

A poem by Shihwu (1272–1352), tr. Red Pine:
Paper windows bamboo walls hedge of hibiscus
when guests arrive wormwood soup serves as tea
the poor people I meet are mostly content
rare is the rich man who isn't vain or wasteful
I move my bookstand to read sutras by moonlight
I honor the buddhas with a vase of wild flowers
everyone says Tushita Heaven is fine
but how can it match this old hut of mine


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