Sunday, August 31, 2014


A Literary Snob

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), "The Social Sense," Complete Short Stories, IV: The Human Element & Other Stories (New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1967), pp. 1432-1439 (at 1437):
I resented somewhat his contemptuous attitude towards English writers unless they were safely dead and buried; but this was only to his credit with the intelligentsia, who are ever ready to believe that there can be no good in what is produced in their own country, and with them his influence was great. On one occasion I told him that one had only to put a commonplace in French for him to mistake it for an epigram and he had thought well enough of the joke to use it as his own in one of his essays. He reserved such praise as he was willing to accord his contemporaries to those who wrote in a foreign tongue.


Time Shall Show Us

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter 15:
Time shall show us. The post of honour and the post of shame, the general's station and the drummer's, a peer's statue in Westminster Abbey and a seaman's hammock in the bosom of the deep, the mitre and the workhouse, the woolsack and the gallows, the throne and the guillotine—the travellers to all are on the great high road; but it has wonderful divergences, and only Time shall show us whither each traveller is bound.


A Mistaken Change of Speaker

Plautus, Casina. The Casket Comedy. Curculio. Epidicus. The Two Menaechmuses. Edited and Translated by Wolfgang de Melo (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011 = Loeb Classical Library, 61), pp. 94-95 (Casina 793-799; images from the actual book):

The English translation indicates a change of speaker to Olympio (OL) at line 794, after Pardalisca exits, but this should be removed and the entire speech (793-797) assigned to Lysidamus (LYS). Olympio doesn't speak here until line 798.

I'm indulging my "inner pedant," described thus by Theodore Dalrymple, "The Money of Fools," Taki's Magazine (August 31, 2014):
The inner pedant in all, or at least in many, of us is that inner creature that takes delight in pointing out the errors of others, not so much because he loves truth as because he likes to advertise his own cleverness and knowledge. But of all the many forms of pride, that in knowledge and cleverness is the most vulgar, because knowledge and cleverness should lead to wisdom and modesty rather than pride. After all, knowledge is always finite, ignorance infinite, and this is true even for the most knowledgeable person in the world.


Saturday, August 30, 2014


A Swarm of Flies and Gnats

Erasmus, Praise of Folly 48 (tr. John Wilson):
In short, if a man like Menippus of old could look down from the moon and behold those innumerable rufflings of mankind, he would think he saw a swarm of flies and gnats quarreling among themselves, fighting, laying traps for one another, snatching, playing, wantoning, growing up, falling, and dying. Nor is it to be believed what stir, what broils, this little creature raises, and yet in how short a time it comes to nothing itself; while sometimes war, other times pestilence, sweeps off many thousands of them together.

in summa si mortalium innumerabiles tumultus, e Luna, quemadmodum Menippus olim, despicias, putes te muscarum, aut culicum videre turbam inter se rixantium, bellantium, insidiantium, rapientium, ludentium, lascivientium, nascentium, cadentium, morientium. neque satis credi potest, quos motus, quas tragoedias ciat tantulum animalculum, tamque mox periturum. nam aliquoties vel levis belli, seu pestilentiae procella, multa simul millia rapit ac dissipat.
The reference is to Lucian's Icaromenippus.

Friday, August 29, 2014



Jean-Antoine de Baïf (1532-1589), "Du Contentement," my translation:
Let someone else, hungry for wealth, toil
in order to sort gold coins into heaps;
let someone else, wasting his years in fruitless worship
of the great (gods of the world), truckle down to them;

but may a tolerable pittance allow
my sweet life to glide by in peaceful leisure;
may a good fire on the hearth always keep me happy,
and may good wine in my cellar never run out;

and may the sweet constraint of a dear mistress
shorten the length of the most irksome nights
and brighten the light of the worst days.

In this way, happy with little, without anyone seeing me
either complain of want or praise greed,
I would neither hope for death nor fear it.
The French, from Poésies choisies de J.-A. de Baïf (Paris: Charpentier, 1874), p. 263:
Qu'un autre se travaille affamé de richesse,
Afin que par monceaux les pièces d'or il trie;
Qu'un autre usant ses ans en vaine idolatrie
Des seigneurs, dieux du monde, au talon face presse;

Mais qu'une pauvreté suportable me laisse
En paisible loisir couler ma douce vie;
Et toujours un bon feu dans le foyer me rie,
Et jamais le bon vin en ma cave ne cesse;

Et que le doux lien d'une maistresse chiere
Des plus facheuses nuits la longueur acourcisse,
Et des plus troubles jours sereine la lumiere.

Ainsi, content de peu, sans qu'on me vit ny pleindre
De la necessité, ny louer l'avarice,
La mort je ne voudroy ny souhetter ny creindre.
The first couplet recalls the first line of Tibullus 1.1: divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro. The last line recalls the last line of Martial 10.47: summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


A Sad Epicurean

Edward FitzGerald, letter to W.M. Thackeray (November 15, 1852):
Life every day seems a more total failure and mess to me: but it is yet bearable: and I am become a sad Epicurean—just desirous to keep on the windy side of bother and pain.


Remember the Sabbath Day

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter 3:
'Thank Heaven!' said Clennam, when the hour struck, and the bell stopped.

But its sound had revived a long train of miserable Sundays, and the procession would not stop with the bell, but continued to march on. 'Heaven forgive me,' said he, 'and those who trained me. How I have hated this day!'

There was the dreary Sunday of his childhood, when he sat with his hands before him, scared out of his senses by a horrible tract which commenced business with the poor child by asking him in its title, why he was going to Perdition?—a piece of curiosity that he really in a frock and drawers was not in a condition to satisfy—and which, for the further attraction of his infant mind, had a parenthesis in every other line with some such hiccupping reference as 2 Ep. Thess. c. iii. v. 6 & 7. There was the sleepy Sunday of his boyhood, when, like a military deserter, he was marched to chapel by a picquet of teachers three times a day, morally handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willingly have bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce or two of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh. There was the interminable Sunday of his nonage; when his mother, stern of face and unrelenting of heart, would sit all day behind a bible—bound, like her own construction of it, in the hardest, barest, and straitest boards, with one dinted ornament on the cover like the drag of a chain, and a wrathful sprinkling of red upon the edges of the leaves—as if it, of all books! were a fortification against sweetness of temper, natural affection, and gentle intercourse. There was the resentful Sunday of a little later, when he sat glowering and glooming through the tardy length of the day, with a sullen sense of injury in his heart, and no more real knowledge of the beneficent history of the New Testament, than if he had been bred among idolaters. There was a legion of Sundays, all days of unserviceable bitterness and mortification, slowly passing before him.


The Praises of Isis

A Greek inscription from Kyme, tr. Frederick C. Grant, Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953), pp. 131-133 (numbering added by me; brackets as in Grant):
§1 [Demetrius, son of Artemidorus, and Thraseas, the Magnesian from the Maeander, crave the blessing of Isis.
§2 The following was copied from the stele which is in Memphis, where it stands before the temple of Hephaestus:]
§3a I am Isis, the mistress of every land,
§3b and I was taught by Hermes, and
§3c with Hermes I devised letters, both the sacred [hieroglyphs] and the demotic, that all things might not be written with the same [letters].
§4 I gave and ordained laws for men, which no one is able to change.
§5 I am eldest daughter of Kronos.
§6 I am wife and sister of King Osiris.
§7 I am she who findeth fruit for men.
§8 I am mother of King Horus.
§9 I am she that riseth in the Dog Star.
§10 I am she that is called goddess by women.
§11 For me was the city of Bubastis built.
§12 I divided the earth from the heaven.
§13 I showed the paths of the stars.
§14 I ordered the course of the sun and the moon.
§15 I devised business in the sea.
§16 I made strong the right.
§17 I brought together woman and man.
§18 I appointed to women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth month.
§19 I ordained that parents should be loved by children.
§20 I laid punishment upon those disposed without natural affection toward their parents.
§21 I made with my brother Osiris an end to the eating of men.
§22 I revealed mysteries unto men.
§23 I taught [men] to honor images of the gods.
§24 I consecrated the precincts of the gods.
§25 I broke down the governments of tyrants.
§26 I made an end to murders.
§27 I compelled women to be loved by men.
§28 I made the right to be stronger than gold and silver.
§29 I ordained that the true should be thought good.
§30 I devised marriage contracts.
§31 I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages.
§32 I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature.
§33 I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath.
§34 I have delivered the plotter of evil against other men into the hands of the one he plotted against.
§35 I established penalties for those who practice injustice.
§36 I decreed mercy to suppliants.
§37 I protect [or honor] righteous guards.
§38 With me the right prevails.
§39 I am the Queen of rivers and winds and sea.
§40 No one is held in honor without my knowing it.
§41 I am the Queen of war.
§42 I am the Queen of the thunderbolt.
§43 I stir up the sea and I calm it.
§44 I am in the rays of the sun.
§45 I inspect the courses of the sun.
§46 Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end.
§47 With me everything is reasonable.
§48 I set free those in bonds.
§49 I am the Queen of seamanship.
§50 I make navigable unnavigable when it pleases me.
§51 I created the walls of cities.
§52 I am called the Lawgiver [Thesmophoros, a classical epithet of Demeter].
§53 I brought up islands out of the depths into the light.
§54 I am Lord [note masculine form] of rainstorms.
§55 I overcome Fate.
§56 Fate harkens to me.
§57 Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!
I don't understand §54: "I am Lord [note masculine form] of rainstorms." The Greek (see below) has κυρία, a feminine form, translated by Grant as "Queen" elsewhere.

There are other translations in Stanley M. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985 = Translated Documents of Greece and Rome, 3), pp. 146-148, and Mary Beard et al., Religions of Rome, Vol. 2: A Sourcebook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; rpt. 2003), pp. 297-298.

The inscription was first published in A. Salač, "Inscriptions de Kymé d'Éolide, de Phocée de Tralles et de quelques autres villes d'Asie Mineure," Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique 51 (1927) 374-400 (at 378-383). I don't have access to Helmut Engelmann, ed., Die Inschriften von Kyme (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 1976 = Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien, 5), where the inscription is number 41. Here is the Greek from The Packard Humanities Institute, Searchable Greek Inscriptions (material in curly brackets omitted):
§1 Δημήτριος Ἀρτεμιδώρου ὁ καὶ Θρασέας Μάγνη[ς] ἀπὸ Μαιάνδρου Ἴσιδι εὐχήν·
§2 τάδε ἐγράφηι ἐκ τῆς στήλης τῆς ἐν Μέμφει, ἥτις ἕστηκεν πρὸς τῷ Ἡφαιστιήωι·
§3a Εἶσις ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ τύραννος πάσης χώρας·
§3b καὶ ἐπαιδεύθην ὑπ[ὸ] Ἑρμοῦ καὶ
§3c γράμματα εὗρον μετὰ Ἑρμοῦ, τά τε ἱερὰ καὶ τὰ δημόσια γράμματα, ἵνα μὴ ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς πάντα γράφηται.
§4 ἐγὼ νόμους ἀνθρώποις ἐθέμην, καὶ ἐνομοθέτησα ἃ οὐθεὶς δύναται μεταθεῖναι.
§5 ἐγώ εἰμι Κρόνου θυγάτηρ πρεσβυτάτηι.
§6 ἐγώ εἰμι γ[υ]νὴ καὶ ἀδελφὴ Ὀσείριδος βασιλέως.
§7 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ καρπὸν ἀνθρώποις εὑροῦσα.
§8 ἐγώ εἰμι μήτηρ Ὥρου βασιλέως.
§9 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἐν τῷ τοῦ Κυνὸς ἄστρῳ ἐπιτέλλουσα.
§10 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ παρὰ γυναιξὶ θεὸς καλουμένη.
§11 ἐμοὶ Βούβαστος πόλις ᾠκοδομήθη.
§12 ἐγὼ ἐχώρισα γῆν ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ.
§13 ἐγὼ ἄστρων ὁδοὺς ἔδειξα.
§14 ἐγὼ ἡλίου καὶ σελήνη[ς] πορέαν συνεταξάμην.
§15 ἐγὼ θαλάσσια ἔργα εὗρον.
§16 ἐγὼ τὸ δίκαιον ἰσχυρὸν ἐποίησα.
§17 ἐγὼ γυναῖκα καὶ ἄνδρα συνήγαγον.
§18 ἐγὼ γυναικὶ δεκαμηνιαῖον βρέφος εἰς φῶς ἐξενεγκεῖν ἔταξα.
§19 ἐγὼ ὑπὸ τέκνου γονεῖς ἐνομοθέτησα φιλοστοργῖσθαι.
§20 ἐγὼ τοῖς ἀστόργ<ω>ς γονεῦσιν διακειμένοις τειμω<ρ>ίαν ἐπέθηκα.
§21 ἐγὼ μετὰ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ Ὀσίριδος τὰς ἀνθρωποφαγίας ἔπαυσα.
§22 ἐγὼ μυήσεις ἀνθρώποις ἐπέδε[ι]ξα.
§23 ἐγὼ ἀγάλματα θεῶν τειμᾶν ἐδίδαξα.
§24 ἐγὼ τεμένη θεῶν ἱδρυσάμην.
§25 ἐγὼ τυράννων ἀρχὰς κατέλυσα.
§26 ἐγὼ φόνους ἔπαυσα.
§27 ἐγὼ στέργεσθαι γυναῖκας ὑπὸ ἀνδρῶν ἠνάγκασα.
§28 ἐγὼ τὸ δίκαιον ἰσχυρότερον χρυσίου καὶ ἀργυρίου ἐποίησα.
§29 ἐγὼ τὸ ἀληθὲς καλὸν ἐνομο[θέ]τησα νομίζε[σ]θαι.
§30 ἐγὼ συνγραφὰς γαμικὰς εὗρον.
§31 ἐγὼ διαλέκτους Ἕλλησι καὶ βαρβάροις ἔταξα.
§32 ἐγὼ τὸ καλὸν καὶ αἰσχρὸ[ν] διαγεινώσκεσθαι ὑπὸ τῆς Φύσεως ἐποίησα.
§33 ἐγὼ ὅρκου φοβερώτερον οὐθὲν ἐποίησα.
§34 ἐγὼ τὸν ἀδίκως ἐπιβουλεύοντα ἄλλοις ὑποχείριον τῷ ἐπιβου[λ]ευομένῳ παρέδωκα.
§35 ἐγὼ τοῖς ἄδικα πράσσουσιν τειμωρίαν ἐπιτίθημι.
§36 ἐγὼ ἱκέτας ἐλεᾶν ἐνομοθ[έ]τησα.
§37 ἐγὼ τοὺς δικαίως ἀμυνομένους τειμῶ.
§38 πὰρ' ἐμοὶ τὸ δίκαιον ἰσχύει.
§39 ἐγὼ ποταμῶν καὶ ἀνέμων [κ]αὶ θαλάσσης εἰμὶ κυρία.
§40 οὐθεὶς δοξάζεται ἄνευ τῆς ἐμῆς γνώμης.
§41 ἐγώ εἰμι πολέμου κυρία.
§42 ἐγὼ κεραυνοῦ κυρία εἰμί.
§43 ἐγὼ πραΰνω καὶ κυμαίνω θάλασσαν.
§44 ἐγὼ ἐν ταῖς τοῦ ἡλίου αὐγαῖς εἰμί.
§45 ἐγὼ παρεδρεύω τῇ τοῦ ἡλίου πορείᾳ.
§46 ὃ ἂν ἐμοὶ δόξῃ, τοῦτο καὶ τελεῖτα[ι].
§47 ἐμοὶ πάντ' ἐπείκει.
§48 ἐγὼ τοὺς ἐν δεσμοῖς λύωι.
§49 ἐγὼ ναυτιλίας εἰμὶ κυρία.
§50 ἐγὼ τὰ πλωτὰ ἄπλωτα ποι[ῶ ὅ]ταν ἐμοὶ δόξῃ.
§51 ἐγὼ περιβόλους πόλεων ἔκτισα.
§52 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ Θεσμοφόρος καλουμένη.
§53 ἐγὼ ν<ή>σσους ἐγ β[υθ]ῶν εἰς φῶ<ς> ἀνήγαγον.
§54 ἐγὼ ὄμβρων εἰμὶ κυρία.
§55 ἐγὼ τὸ ἱμαρμένον νικῶ.
§56 ἐμοῦ τὸ εἱμαρμένον ἀκούει.
§57 χαῖρε Αἴγυπτε θρέψασά με.
The bibliography is voluminous. I've looked at the following:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


In Praise of Money

Libanius, Declamations 33.52-54 (tr. D.A. Russell, with his notes; a miser is speaking):
[52] What, in heaven's name, is not in money and through money? Does not money found cities, create kingdoms, raise trophies, make marriages, attract friends and cure disease? Money discovered arts, led men to sail the sea and work the land, to practise speech and to honour parents. With money we help our friends and grieve our enemies, build ships, construct statues, make sacrifices and offer splendid dedications. [53] The hero who is rich has more splendour, the general who is rich has more honour, the ambassador who is rich has more prestige. Wealth makes the orator wiser, gives the prosecutor credibility, and wins the defendant an acquittal. It is wealth, I am persuaded, that makes the poets possessed by the Muses, because they have filled their epics and their lyrics with hymns to wealth, giving him virtue and glory as an appendage, and calling him 'widely strong'.12 Quite right, too: he gives foreigners citizenship, he conceals the disgrace of birth, he gives fame to the obscure and the repute of wisdom to the foolish. Indeed, he leaves everything else behind in strength. Some have given him priority over kinship, and wealth has outstripped the necessary ties of nature. [54] But why do I speak of humans? The all-powerful gods love gold, and of gold is Zeus's floor made.13 They enjoy thank-offerings, and, if these are lacking, they demand them more vigorously than creditors.

12. Pindar, Pythians 5.1.
13. Iliad 4.2.
The Greek, which I am too lazy to transcribe, can be found at and

Related posts:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Easy to Forget

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (London: John Murray, 1958; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2006), p. 271:
It is easy to forget that the Parthenon and Delphi and Olympia were painted ox-blood and deep blue and ochre, and that the hosts of polychrome, black-eyed and staring statuary bristled with gold ornaments. The insides of the temples were obscure and mysterious and black smoke darkened the giant chryselephantine statues. They were curtained in purple and dripping with honey and wine and glistening with oil and blood, while the reek of carrion and burning meat filled the batlike gloom.


I Tell You This, My Friend

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter 11:
'Hold there, you and your philanthropy,' cried the smiling landlady, nodding her head more than ever. 'Listen then. I am a woman, I. I know nothing of philosophical philanthropy. But I know what I have seen, and what I have looked in the face, in this world here, where I find myself. And I tell you this, my friend, that there are people (men and women both, unfortunately) who have no good in them—none. That there are people whom it is necessary to detest without compromise. That there are people who must be dealt with as enemies of the human race. That there are people who have no human heart, and who must be crushed like savage beasts and cleared out of the way.'

Monday, August 25, 2014


Soon Enough

Seneca, Hercules Furens 861-874 (tr. John G. Fitch):
All around is turbid emptiness, unlovely darkness,
the sullen colour of night, the lethargy
of a silent world, and empty clouds.
Late may old age carry us there!
No one comes too late to that from which,
once come, he never can return.
What is the good of hurrying harsh fate?
All this crowd that wanders the great earth
will join the shades and set sail
on lifeless Cocytus. For you grows all
that the rising and setting sun beholds;
be lenient, since we must come;
we are groomed for you, o Death.
You can be slow, we hasten of ourselves.
The hour that first gives life, erodes it.

stat chaos densum tenebraeque turpes
et color noctis malus ac silentis
otium mundi vacuaeque nubes.
sera nos illo referat senectus!
nemo ad id sero venit, unde numquam,
cum semel venit, potuit reverti;
quid iuvat durum properare fatum?
omnis haec magnis vaga turba terris
ibit ad manes facietque inerti
vela Cocyto. tibi crescit omne,
et quod occasus videt et quod ortus:
parce venturis; tibi, Mors, paramur.
sis licet segnis, properamus ipsi;
prima quae vitam dedit hora, carpit.


Tree-Felling in Statius' Achilleid

Statius, Achilleid 1.426-429 (Greeks prepare to invade Troy; tr. J.H. Mozley):
Nowhere are the shady haunts of old: Othrys is lesser grown, lofty Taygetus sinks low, the shorn hills see the light of day. Now the whole forest is afloat: oaks are hewn to make a fleet, the woods are diminished for oars.

nusquam umbrae veteres: minor Othrys et ardua sidunt
Taygeta, exuti viderunt aera montes.
iam natat omne nemus: caeduntur robora classi,
silva minor remis.
Id., 2.60-65 (Paris abducts Helen; tr. J.H. Mozley):
He cuts down the Phrygian groves, the secret haunts of the turret-crowned mother, and flings down pines that fear to fall to earth, and borne o'er the sea to Achaean lands he plunders the marriage-chamber of his host the son of Atreus—ah! shame and pity on proud Europe!—and exulting in Helen puts to sea and brings home to Pergamum the spoils of Argos.

ille Phrygas lucos, matris penetralia caedit
turrigerae veritasque solo procumbere pinus
praecipitat terrasque freto delatus Achaeas
hospitis Atridae—pudet heu miseretque potentis
Europae!—spoliat thalamos, Helenaque superbus
navigat et captos ad Pergama devehit Argos.

61 veritasque P: vetitasque ω
The "turret-crowned mother" is Cybele (Magna Mater), represented thus in statuary and on coins.



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