Thursday, October 27, 2016


Expulsion of Foreigners

Plutarch, Ancient Customs of the Spartans 20 = Moralia 238 E (tr. Frank Cole Babbitt):
Lycurgus also introduced the practice of banning all foreigners from the country, so that these should not filter in and serve to teach the citizens something bad.

καὶ ξενηλασίας δὲ εἰσηγήσατο, ὅπως οἱ παρεισρέοντες μὴ διδάσκαλοι κακοῦ τινος τοῖς πολίταις ὑπάρχωσι.
See Thomas J. Figueira, "Xenēlasia and Social Control in Classical Sparta," Classical Quarterly 53.1 (May, 2003) 44-74.


Agreement and Disagreement

George Santayana, letter to Charles Augustus Strong (September 15, 1939):
Of course, I like agreement, it warms the heart, but I don’t expect it; and I like disagreement too, when it is intelligent and carries a thought further, rather than contradicts it a priori, from a different point of departure. These different points of departure make discussion futile and unpleasant.


A Fresh Look

Goethe, Italian Journey (September 11, 1786; tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer):
The truth is that, in putting my powers of observation to the test, I have found a new interest in life. How far will my scientific and general knowledge take me? Can I learn to look at things with clear, fresh eyes? How much can I take in at a single glance? Can the grooves of old mental habits be effaced?

Die Sache ist, daß ich wieder Interesse an der Welt nehme, meinen Beobachtungsgeist versuche und prüfe, wie weit es mit meinen Wissenschaften und Kenntnissen geht, ob mein Auge licht, rein und hell ist, wieviel ich in der Geschwindigkeit fassen kann, und ob die Falten, die sich in mein Gemüt geschlagen und gedrückt haben, wieder auszutilgen sind.


The American Dream

Edward Abbey, Journals (November 27, 1982), in Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey (Boulder: Johnson Books, 2003), p. 304:
Money means power, not merely wealth. Money gives us power over others—to command their labor, their minds, even their souls. Even their behavior, conduct, attitudes. No wonder money possesses such glittering attraction for those who crave power. If all people were self-reliant—a nation of artisans, craftsmen, hunters, trappers, farmers, ranchers—the rich would have no means to dominate us. Their wealth would be useless.

Cities: The realm of masters and slaves.

Our dream is to escape the hierarchical order: neither to serve nor to rule. The classic American dream. A society of equals.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


A Miracle

Jacques Prévert (1900-1977), "Vous Allez Voir Ce Que Vous Allez Voir," Paroles (Paris: NRF, 1979), p. 178:
Une fille nue nage dans la mer
Un homme barbu marche sur l'eau
Où est la merveille des merveilles
Le miracle annoncé plus haut?
This isn't included in Jacques Prévert, Paroles: Selected Poems. Translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1990 = Pocket Poets Series No. 9). Cf. Gardiner M. Weir, "Which," A Life of Memories: A Collection of Poetry (Frederick: American Star Books, 2014), page number unknown:

There needs to be an accent on Prevert, and the French title should close with a quotation mark, as it opens with one. This is a clever adaptation, whose first couplet reminds me more of Botticelli than Prévert though.

Here is a somewhat more literal version:
A naked girl swims in the sea,
A bearded man walks on the water.
Which is the wonder of wonders,
The miracle proclaimed on high?
The second line of course refers to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:45-53, Matthew 14:22-43, John 6:15-21).

Thanks to friends who went beyond the call of duty in answering questions, offering suggestions, and otherwise providing generous help. Some of them still don't agree with my translation.


Aesthetic Subjectivity

Goethe, Italian Journey, tr. W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (1962; rpt. London: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 10 (from the translators' Introduction):
To Goethe, a man who looks at a beautiful cloud without knowing, or wishing to know, any meteorology, at a landscape without knowing any geology, at a plant without studying its structure and way of growth, at the human body without studying anatomy, is imprisoning himself in that aesthetic subjectivity which he deplored as the besetting sin of the writers of his time.


Interpretation of Horace

Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p. 26:
Those kind readers who from time to time feel tempted to supplement a Horatian poem by reading into it what in their opinion the poet has failed to say himself are respectfully but firmly asked to shut this book and never to open it again: it could only disappoint and distress them. My interpretations are, without exception, based on the conviction that Horace, throughout his work, shows himself both determined and able to express everything that is relevant to the understanding and the appreciation of a poem, either by saying it in so many words or by implying it through unambiguous hints.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016



Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "To Count Carlo Pepoli," lines 78-88 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Another, as if determined to escape
unhappy human fate by spending his days
in other lands and climates, wandering the seas and hills,        80
travels the whole globe, and, as he journeys, comes
to every end of the earth that nature opened to man
in the boundless spaces of the universe.
Alas, black care sits on his ship's high prow,        85
and in every climate, under every sky,
where we seek hopelessly for happiness,
sadness lives and reigns.

Altri, quasi a fuggir volto la trista
Umana sorte, in cangiar terre e climi
L'età spendendo, e mari e poggi errando,        80
Tutto l'orbe trascorre, ogni confine
Degli spazi che all'uom negl'infiniti
Campi del tutto la natura aperse,
Peregrinando aggiunge. Ahi ahi, s'asside
Su l'alte prue la negra cura, e sotto        85
Ogni clima, ogni ciel, si chiama indarno
Felicità, vive tristezza e regna.
Lines 84-85 (Ahi ahi, s'asside / Su l'alte prue la negra cura) recall Horace, Odes 3.1.37-40 (tr. Niall Rudd):
But Fear and Foreboding climb as high as the owner; black Anxiety does not quit the bronze-beaked galley, and sits behind the horseman.

sed Timor et Minae
scandunt eodem quo dominus, neque
decedit aerata triremi et
post equitem sedet atra Cura.
Related posts:


Thinking on Your Feet

George Santayana (1863-1952), "The Philosophy of Travel," Virginia Quarterly Review 40.1 (Winter 1964) 1-10 (at 4-5):
[I]nstead of saying that the possession of hands has given man his superiority, it would go much deeper to say that man and all other animals owe their intelligence to their feet. No wonder, then, that a peripatetic philosophy should be the best. Thinking while you sit, or while you kneel with the eyes closed or fixed upon vacancy, the mind lapses into dreams; images of things remote and miscellaneous are merged in the haze of memory, in which facts and fancies roll together almost indistinguishably, and you revert to the vegetative state, voluminous and helpless. Thinking while you walk, on the contrary, keeps you alert; your thoughts, though following some single path through the labyrinth, review real things in their real order; you are keen for discovery, ready for novelties, laughing at every little surprise, even if it is a mishap; you are careful to choose the right road, and if you take the wrong one, you are anxious and able to correct your error. Meantime, the fumes of digestion are dissipated by the fresh air; the head is cleared and kept aloft, where it may survey the scene; attention is stimulated by the novel objects constantly appearing; a thousand hypotheses run to meet them in an amiable competition which the event soon solves without ambiguity; and the scene as a whole is found to change with the changed station of the traveler, revealing to him his separate existence and his always limited scope, together with the distinction (which is all wisdom in a nutshell) between how things look and what they are.
Related post: Walking and Thinking.


Evil Communications Corrupt Good Manners

Euripides, fragment 609 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
A companion who happens to be badly bred trains his companions to be like himself, while a good one makes them good; come then, young men, make sure you seek the company of honourable men.

ὁ γὰρ ξυνὼν κακὸς μὲν ἢν τύχῃ γεγώς,
τοιούσδε τοὺς ξυνόντας ἐκπαιδεύεται,
χρηστοὺς δὲ χρηστός· ἀλλὰ τὰς ὁμιλίας
ἐσθλὰς διώκειν, ὦ νέοι, σπουδάζετε.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Intellectual Slums

George Santayana, letter to Victor Wolfgang von Hagen (November 6, 1934):
I think I should like Quito, and the existence of some superior minds in such a remote and isolated place does not surprise me. If there were more intellectual retreats there would be more intellectual power. The mediocrity of everything in the great world of today is simply appalling. We live in intellectual slums.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Buying and Selling

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), Doctor Thorne, chapter I:
Merchants as such are not the first men among us; though it perhaps be open to a merchant to become one of them. Buying and selling is good and necessary; it is very necessary, and may, possibly, be very good; but it cannot be the noblest work of man; and let us hope that it may not in our time be esteemed the noblest work of an Englishman.
Hat tip: Mrs. Laudator, who has been reading Doctor Thorne aloud to me.

Friday, October 21, 2016



The Essential Aldo Leopold: Quotations and Commentaries, edd. Curt Meine and Richard L. Knight (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), p. 41:
A gadget industry pads the bumps against nature-in-the-raw; woodcraft becomes the art of using gadgets.
Id., pp. 42-43:
The recreationist arrives in the wilds draped and festooned with gadgets, each tending to destroy the contrast value of his vacation. I am not such a purist as to disdain all of them, but I do claim that the presence or absence of gadget inhibitions is a delicate test of any man's outdoor education. Most tourists have no gadget inhibitions whatever.
Id., p. 43:
Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto-trunk, and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage.


Earthly Paradise

[Lactantius,] Phoenix 15-24 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
Hither no bloodless Diseases come, no sickly Eld,        15
nor cruel Death nor desperate Fear
nor nameless Crime nor maddened Lust for wealth
or Wrath or Frenzy afire with the love of murder;
bitter Grief is absent and Beggary beset with rags
and sleepless Cares and violent Hunger.        20
No tempest raveth there nor savage force of wind:
nor does the hoar-frost shroud the ground in chilly damp.
Above the plains no cloud stretches its fleece,
nor falleth from on high the stormy moisture of rain.

non huc exsangues Morbi, non aegra Senectus        15
   nec Mors crudelis nec Metus asper adest
nec Scelus infandum nec opum vesana Cupido
   aut Ira aut ardens caedis amore Furor;
Luctus acerbus abest et Egestas obsita pannis
   et Curae insomnes et violenta Fames.        20
non ibi tempestas nec vis furit horrida venti
   nec gelido terram rore pruina tegit;
nulla super campos tendit sua vellera nubes
   nec cadit ex alto turbidus umor aquae.

Thursday, October 20, 2016



Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), "The Evening of Holiday," lines 33-39 (tr. Jonathan Galassi):
Where is the clamor of those ancient peoples?
Where is the renown
of our famed ancestors, and the great empire
of their Rome, her armies,
and the din she made on land and sea?
Everything is peace and quiet now,
the world is calm, and speaks no more of them.

                                   Or dov'è il suono
Di que' popoli antichi? or dov'è il grido
De' nostri avi famosi, e il grande impero
Di quella Roma, e l'armi, e il fragorio
Che n'andò per la terra e l'oceano?
Tutto è pace e silenzio, e tutto posa
Il mondo, e più di lor non si ragiona.
The same, tr. Geoffrey L. Bickersteth:
                                                   Where is now
The noise of those old nations? Where is now
The fame of our great ancestors, the might
of that imperial Rome, the arms, the clash
Wherewith the round earth and the ocean rang?
All is repose and silence, and all hushed
The world is; and of them we speak no more.


Survivor's Guilt

Aeschylus, Persians 915-917 (Xerxes speaking; tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Would to Zeus that the fate of death
had covered me over too
together with the men who are departed!

εἴθ᾿ ὄφελε, Ζεῦ, κἀμὲ μετ᾿ ἀνδρῶν
τῶν οἰχομένων
θανάτου κατὰ μοῖρα καλύψαι.
Euripides, Suppliant Women 769 (Adrastus speaking; tr. David Kovacs):
Ah me! How much better for me to have died with them!

οἴμοι· πόσῳ σφιν συνθανεῖν ἂν ἤθελον.
Id. 821 (Adrastus speaking again):
Would that the Cadmean ranks had felled me in the dust!

εἴθε με Καδμείων ἔναρον στίχες ἐν κονίαισιν.


The Punisher

Aeschylus, Persians 827-828 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Zeus, I tell you, stands over all as a chastiser of pride that boasts itself to excess, calling it to stern account.

Ζεύς τοι κολαστὴς τῶν ὑπερκόμπων ἄγαν
φρονημάτων ἔπεστιν, εὔθυνος βαρύς.
Euripides, Children of Heracles 387-388 (tr. David Kovacs):
But Zeus, you may be sure, is the punisher of thoughts that are too high and mighty.

                                 ἀλλά τοι φρονημάτων
ὁ Ζεὺς κολαστὴς τῶν ἄγαν ὑπερφρόνων.


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