Tuesday, September 01, 2015


No Shit

April D. DeConick, "The Great Mystery of Marriage: Sex and Conception in Ancient Valentinian Traditions," Vigiliae Christianae 57 (2003) 307-342 (at 313, quoting Valentinus ap. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata):
"Enduring all things, Jesus was self-controlled (ἐγκρατὴς ἦν); Jesus worked for a divine nature; he ate and drank in a unique way, without excreting his solids. Such was the power of his self-control (ἐγκρατείας) that food was not corrupted within him; for he himself did not experience corruption" (Valentinus, Letter to Agathopus, in Strom. 3.59)23
It appears from this fragment that, like Clement, Valentinus had an inclusive notion of enkrateia. For Valentinus, Jesus was the epitomy [sic] of self-control because his body did not defecate normally. In some way, his enkrateia had worked to physically transform his body so that food did not pass out of him as excrement.

23 Stählin, p. 223.
Id. (at 314-315):
Certainly this view of physiology was influential in the theological discussions about the nature of "perfect" primordial body of Adam and living the life of angels.28 Some sources suggest that this body was understood to be the human body on idle, a body not fueled by indulging the passions, gluttony at the top of the list (cf. Tert., De Ieiunio 5). It was a body that had no need for food or defecation since it was characterized by a passionless state.29

28 For this theme in early monasticism, refer to P. Suso Frank, Angelikos Bios, Beiträge zur Geschichte des alten Mönchtums und des Benediktinerordens 26 (Munich: Aschendorff, 1964); Shaw, Burden, pp. 161-219.

29It is interesting that Dicaearchus refers to Hesiod's golden race when humans were like the gods as a time when no one suffered disease nor defecated because their bodies were always kept pure (Porphyry, De abst. 4.2).
Id. (at 315)
This type of understanding of physiology not only makes Valentinus' statement about Jesus sensible, but also the stories of certain medieval women like the one mentioned by James of Vitry. He refers to a woman recluse who for many years "ate and drank nothing, nor from her mouth nor from any of the other natural organs did anything go out."30 Roger Bacon tells about a woman who
did not eat for twenty years; and she was fat and of good stature, emitting no excretion from her body, as the bishop proved by careful examination. Nor was this miraculous but, rather, a work of nature, for some balance [constellatio] was at that time able to reduce to a state of almost complete equilibrium the elements that were before that in her body; and because their mixture was from their proper nature suitable to a balance not found in other makeups, their alteration happened in her body as it does not in others.31
30 Historia occidentalis, ed., Hinnebusch, pp. 87-88.

31 Opus minus, in Fr. Rogeri Bacon opera quaedam hactenus inedita, J.S. Brewer (ed.), vol. 1 (London: Longman, Green and Roberts, 1859) pp. 373-374.



A Latin Hexameter Consisting of Adjectives in Asyndeton

Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art (London: Nelson, 1964; rpt. Nendeln: Kraus, 1979), p. 193, quotes the beginning of a medieval Latin poem on the planets:
Annis viginti currit bis quinque Saturnus,
et homo, qui nascitur, dum Saturnus dominatur,
audax, urbanus, malus, antiquus, fur, avarus,
perfidus, ignarus, iracundus, nequitiosus.
The fourth line is a hexameter consisting entirely of adjectives in asyndeton. Since the third line contains a noun (fur) mixed in with adjectives, I don't include it in my collecton of examples of this phenomenon:
Other versions of this poem don't seem to include the first or fourth lines. See e.g. Marijke Gumbert-Hepp, Computus Magistri Jacobi: Een schoolboek voor tijdrekenkunde uit 1436 (Hilversum: Verloren, 1987), pp. 170, 172, and Josep Perarnau i Espelt, "Nous autors i textos catalans antics: Pere de Puigdorfila, Fogatges, Guillem Aldomar, Pere Ramon," Arxiu de Textos Catalans Antics 17 (1998) 540-569 (at 569).

Sunday, August 30, 2015


An Example of Epipompē in Ronsard

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), "Les Daimons," lines 309-316 (tr. Malcolm Quainton and Elizabeth Vinestock):
O Eternal Lord in whom alone resides my faith, for the glory of thy name, by thy grace grant me, grant me this: that I may never encounter in my way these panic terrors, but, O Lord, send these Larvae, these Daemons, these Lares and Lemures far away from Christendom into the lands of the Turks, or upon the heads of those who dare to speak ill of the songs that I set to the music of my new lyre.

Ô Seigneur Eternel en qui seul gist ma foy,
Pour l'honneur de ton nom, de grace donne moy,
Donne moy que jamais je ne trouve en ma voye
Ces paniques terreurs: mais ô Seigneur envoye
Loin de la Chrestienté dans le pays des Turcs
Ces Larves ces Daimons ces Lares et Lemurs,
Ou sur le chef de ceux qui oseront mesdire
Des chansons que j'accorde à ma nouvelle lyre.
Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13/14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location. In these lines by Ronsard we see an example of epipompē.


Mere Philologists

John Churton Collins (1848-1908), The Study of English Literature: A Plea for Its Recognition and Organization at the Universities (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), pp. 65-66 ("it" = philology; footnotes omitted):
As an instrument of culture it ranks—it surely ranks—very low indeed. It certainly contributes nothing to the cultivation of the taste. It as certainly contributes nothing to the education of the emotions. The mind it neither enlarges, stimulates, nor refines. On the contrary, it too often induces or confirms that peculiar woodenness and opacity, that singular coarseness of feeling and purblindness of moral and intellectual vision, which has in all ages been characteristic of mere philologists, and of which we have appalling illustrations in such a work as Bentley's Milton. Nor is this all. Instead of encouraging communion with the nobler manifestations of human energy, with the great deeds of history, or with the masterpieces of art and letters, it tends, as Bacon remarks, to create habits of unintelligent curiosity about trifles. It too often resembles that rustic who, after listening for several hours to Cicero's most brilliant conversation, noticed nothing and remembered nothing but the wart on the great orator's nose.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


All the Things I Shall Not Do

Charles Tomlinson (1927-2015), Selected Poems 1955-1997 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) pp. 221-222:
                 to my wife

I see now all the things I shall not do—
Read the whole of À la Recherche to you,
Learn Greek enough to tackle Sophocles
No longer fog-bound in translatorese.
It's difficult enough to keep in trim
Italian, stop French from going dim,
See that my German doesn't wholly vanish,
Or speaking Tuscan strangulate my Spanish.
So, Sophocles, farewell. I still can pace
On uncertain feet the labyrinths of Horace—
Helped by that crib of Smart's that I once found,
Dusted and bought for far less than one pound.
That was before all selling became dealing
And profit just another word for stealing.
Go south, young man! Yet now I'm far too old
To join the other poets in that fold
Where puffs and prizes 're handled by a clique
Who haunt each other's parties week by week.
Now critics will grow kinder to my verse,
Since they can see the shadow of the hearse
Creeping across my pages. Youth, farewell,
Though not without that retrospective swell
Stretching the sails of age's caravel.
Happy those early days when we supposed
Verse either good or bad, the same as prose.
What culpable innocence, for now we see
The point is poetry's unreadability
Where unintentions couple and produce
Meanings unmeant and monsters on the loose
Less rational than that of Frankenstein
Who wished to be understood. That wish is mine.
I lived for art, as Tosca says, harmed none,
Suffered to see harms casually done;
I lived for you and friendship, made my verse
Out of that daily mutual universe
Surrounding us whichever way we look,
A plenitude to overflow each book.
And so my birthday, brief day, 's come and gone:
What solemn music shall we play it out on?
Not Götterdämmerung—the gods have died
But we remain, so why not take the tide
With Nielsen's Inextinguishable? I think
The January sun about to sink
ls all the Untergang we need tonight.
Short as the day is, yet a lingering light
Tells us the shortest day of all has been,
And leaves us now this dubious in-between,
While the year prepares to make itself anew,
As chrysalises, trees and poets do.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


A Job for Which I'm Qualified

François Rabelais (1494-1553), Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book II, Chapter XXXII (tr. Thomas Urquhart):
Then (after a little further travelling) I fell upon a pretty village (truly I have forgot the name of it) where I was yet merrier than ever, and got some certain money to live by. Can you tell how? by sleeping; for there they hire men by the day to sleep, and they get by it sixpence a day; but they that can snore hard, get at least nine-pence.

Puis trouvay une petite bourgade à la devallée (j'ay oublié son nom), où je feiz encore meilleure chere que jamais, et gaignay quelque peu d'argent pour vivre. Sçavez-vous comment? A dormir, car l'on loue les gens à journée pour dormir, et gaignent cinq et six solz par jour; mais ceux qui ronflent bien fort gaignent bien sept solx et demy.

Friday, August 28, 2015



Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Little Dorrit, Book I, Chapter XXV:
In the first place, they were vaguely persuaded that every foreigner had a knife about him; in the second, they held it to be a sound constitutional national axiom that he ought to go home to his own country. They never thought of inquiring how many of their own countrymen would be returned upon their hands from divers parts of the world, if the principle were generally recognised; they considered it practically and peculiarly British. In the third place, they had a notion that it was a sort of Divine visitation upon a foreigner that he was not an Englishman, and that all kinds of calamities happened to his country because it did things that England did not, and did not do things that England did.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Holy, Holy, Holy

Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), Griechischer Frühling (Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag, 1908), pp. 84-85 (tr. W. A. Oldfather, slightly altered):
Why are we afraid and despise as trivial to sing of our native landscapes, mountains, rivers, and valleys, yes, even to mention their names except in poetical images? Because all these things, which, as being Nature, have been regarded as works of the devil for a thousand years, have never truly been reconsecrated. But here gods and demigods wedded with every white mountain-peak, every vale and valley, every tree and shrub, every river and spring, have made everything holy. Holy was all that is above and on and in the earth. And round about her the sea was likewise holy. And so complete was this hallowing, that the lateborn, millennia too late, the barbarian still today — and even in a railway coach — is permeated in profoundest wise therewith.

You must look for trees where trees grow; for gods not in a godless land, on godless ground. Here gods and heroes are products of the soil.

Warum scheuen wir uns und erachten für trivial, unsere heimischen Gegenden, Berge, Flüsse, Täler zu besingen, ja, ihre Namen nur zu erwähnen in Gebilden der Poesie? Weil alle diese Dinge, die als Natur jahrtausendelang für teuflisch erklärt, nie wahrhaft wieder geheiligt worden sind. Hier aber haben Götter und Halbgötter, mit jedem weißen Berggipfel, jedem Tal und Tälchen, jedem Baum und Bäumchen, jedem Fluß und Quell vermählt, alles geheiligt. Geheiligt war das, was über der Erde, auf ihr und in ihr ist. Und rings um sie her, das Meer, war geheiligt. Und so vollkommen war diese Heiligung, daß der Spätgeborene, um Jahrtausende Verspätete, daß der Barbar noch heut — und sogar in einem Bahncoupe — von ihr im tiefsten Wesen durchdrungen wird.

Man muß die Bäume dort suchen, wo sie wachsen, die Götter nicht in einem gottlosen Lande, auf einem gottlosen Boden. Hier aber sind Götter und Helden Landesprodukte.


Wine and Song

Horace, Epodes 13.17-18 (Chiron to Achilles; tr. Niall Rudd, with his note):
Lighten all your woes with wine and song,22 those sweet assuagers of horrid despair.

22 In Iliad 9.186ff. Achilles in his tent is found singing to the lyre; he greets his visitors with wine.

omne malum vino cantuque levato,
    deformis aegrimoniae dulcibus alloquiis.
Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (1957; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 65, called the 13th Epode "a perfect poem."


Petitionary Prayer in the Chapel of Ease

Dear Mike,

This would be my inscription for a privy, from the lost Pervigilium Cloacinae:
Cras cacet qui nunquam bene cacavit; quique cacavit cras cacet.
The version in the Pervigilium Veneris doesn't quite have the same ... well, assonance let's say.

Apropos of petitionary prayer in the chapel of ease, see Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), pp. 113-114 (footnotes omitted):
In the toilet of the Suburban Baths [Pompeii], the nail holes in the plaster are visible on each side of the painted garland. Very likely, real flowers were at least occasionally hung there there both to honor the goddess and perhaps also to diminish the powerful smells from the toilet drains. Fortuna is not only in the central position of the toilet decoration (as she is in others), but in the toilet of the Suburban Baths she looks directly at the toilet users, as they must have looked at her, and it appears she was actually worshipped in these settings. An altar is present, if only painted; there are garlands (painted but there is evidence of fresh garlands, with the nail holes); and a sacrificial fire is represented in the paintings as well. Perhaps toilet users could ask Fortuna for a satisfactory bowel movement, the favor of finding no blood in one's stool, the favor of escaping the toilet unharmed.
Unharmed in the nether regions by explosions of trapped methane, or Aelian and Pliny the Elder's octopus in the sewer* or, less fancifully, rats and insects (p. 114).

Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

* Camilla Asplund Ingemark, "The Octopus in the Sewers: An Ancient Legend Analogue," Journal of Folklore Research 45.2 (May-August, 2008) 145-170.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The Old Order Passeth Away

Tertullian, To the Nations 10.4-7 (tr. Peter Holmes):
4. For when I look through your life and customs, lo, what do I discover but the old order of things corrupted, nay, destroyed by you? Of the laws I have already said, that you are daily supplanting them with novel decrees and statutes. 5. As to everything else in your manner of life, how great are the changes you have made from your ancestors—in your style, your dress, your equipage, your very food, and even in your speech; for the old-fashioned you banish, as if it were offensive to you! 6. Everywhere, in your public pursuits and private duties, antiquity is repealed; all the authority of your forefathers your own authority has superseded. 7. To be sure, you are for ever praising old customs; but this is only to your greater discredit, for you nevertheless persistently reject them.

4. Ecce enim per omnia vitae ac disciplinae corruptam, immo deletam in vobis antiquitatem recognosco. De legibus quidem iam supra dictum est, quod eas novis de die consultis constitutisque obruistis. 5. De reliqua vero conversationis humanae dispositione palam subiacet, quantum a maioribus mutaveritis, cultu habitu apparatu, ipsoque victu ipsoque sermone; nam pristinum ut rancidum relegatis. 6. Exclusa ubique antiquitas, in negotiis, in officiis: totam auctoritatem maiorum vestra auctoritas deiecit. 7. Sane, quod vobis magis probro est, laudatis semper vetustates et nihilominus recusatis. Qua perversitate tan<...> maiorum apud vos permanere probari debuerunt, cum ea, quae probatis, recusetis?


Inscription for a Privy

Robert Graves (1895-1985), I, Claudius, chapter 33:
Soft but cohesive let my offerings flow,
Not roughly swift, nor impudently slow.



What Would We Not Give?

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1913), pp. 19-20:
Some of us, at least, have often wished that it were possible to live for a season in the beautiful vanished world of Greek culture. Inspired by our first acquaintance with the charm of Greek art and thought, this wish comes to us even before we are capable of imagining the true conditions of the antique civilization. If the wish could be realized, we should certainly find it impossible to accommodate ourselves to those conditions,—not so much because of the difficulty of learning the environment, as because of the much greater difficulty of feeling just as people used to feel some thirty centuries ago. In spite of all that has been done for Greek studies since the Renaissance, we are still unable to understand many aspects of the old Greek life: no modern mind can really feel, for example, those sentiments and emotions to which the great tragedy of Oedipus made appeal. Nevertheless we are much in advance of our forefathers of the eighteenth century, as regards the knowledge of Greek civilization. In the time of the French revolution, it was thought possible to reestablish in France the conditions of a Greek republic, and to educate children according to the system of Sparta. To-day we are well aware that no mind developed by modern civilization could find happiness under any of those socialistic despotisms which existed in all the cities of the ancient world before the Roman conquest. We could no more mingle with the old Greek life, if it were resurrected for us,—no more become a part of it,—than we could change our mental identities. But how much would we not give for the delight of beholding it,—for the joy of attending one festival in Corinth, or of witnessing the Pan-Hellenic games?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


An Interesting Mistake

Arturo Pérez-Reverte, The Dumas Club, tr. Sonia Soto (London: Vintage Books, 2003), p. 127:
"We'd feel no horror at profaning a religion to which we were indifferent. It would be like an atheist blaspheming. Absurd."

Corso agreed.

"I know what you mean. It's Julian the Apostate crying, 'You have defeated me, Galileo.'"

"I'm not familiar with that quotation."
The original Spanish:
—Jamás experimentaríamos horror profanando una religión que nos causara indiferencia; sería blasfemar sin un dios dándose por aludido. Absurdo.

Corso no tuvo problema en mostrarse de acuerdo.

—Sé a qué se refiere. Es el Me has vencido, Galileo de Juliano el Apóstata.

—Desconozco esa cita.
In the English translation Galileo should be Galilean, i.e. Jesus of Galilee. In Spanish Galileo can mean (I think) not only the astronomer Galileo Galilei, but also Galilean, of Galilee.

See the account of the death of Julian the Apostate in Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 3.25.6-7 (tr. Blomfield Jackson):
Some say that he was wounded by an invisible being, others by one of the Nomads who were called Ishmaelites; others by a trooper who could not endure the pains of famine in the wilderness. But whether it were man or angel who plied the steel, without doubt the doer of the deed was the minister of the will of God. It is related that when Julian had received the wound, he filled his hand with blood, flung it into the air and cried, You have won, O Galilean. Thus he gave utterance at once to a confession of the victory and to a blasphemy. So infatuated was he.
Here is the Greek, from Theodoret, Kirchengeschichte, ed. Léon Parmentier (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1911), pp. 204-205:
ἀλλ' οἱ μέν τινα τῶν ἀοράτων ταύτην ἐπενηνοχέναι φασίν, οἱ δὲ τῶν νομάδων ἕνα τῶν Ισμαηλιτὥν καλουμένων, ἄλλοι δὲ στρατιώτην τὸν λιμὸν καὶ τὴν ἔρημον δυσχεράναντα. ἀλλ εἴτε ἄνθρωπος εἴτε ἄγγελος ὦσε τὸ ξίφος, δῆλον ὡς τοῦτο δέδρακε τοῦ θείου νεύματος γενόμενος ὑπουργός. ἐκεῖνον δέ γέ φασι δεξάμενον τὴν πληγὴν εὐθὺς πλῆσαι τὴν χεῖρα τοῦ αἵματος καὶ τοῦτο ῥίψαι εἰς τὸν ἀέρα καὶ φάναι· νενίκηκας Γαλιλαῖἑ, καὶ κατὰ ταὐτὸν τήν τε νίκην ὁμολογῆσαι καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν τολμῆσαι· οὕτως ἐμβρόντητος ἦν.
Latin translation from Patrologia Graeca, vol. 82, col. 1119:
Sunt qui ab invisibili quopiam incussum dicant, alii ab uno e nomadibus, quos Ismaelitas vocant: alii a milite famis et solitudinis molestias non ferente. Verum sive homo, sive angelus ferrum impulit, certum est, quisquis fuit, divinae voluntatis ministrum fuisse. Ferunt porro illum vulnere accepto implesse manum sanguine, et hoc in aerem projecto dixisse: Vicisti, Galilaee; simulque et victoriam confessum esse, et blasphemiam, adeo vecors erat, evomuisse.
The phrase is probably better known in its Latin form (Vicisti, Galilaee), used as the motto of Swinburne's "Hymn to Proserpine."

A friend writes:
An egregious blunder and anachronism. What are gal(i)ley proofs for? Proofreader where else but to the galleys and a ducking-chair in the Sea of Galilee for the translator.

"You have defeated me, Galileo." © Vatican.

Jose L. Campos suggests that a more accurate translation of the beginning of the quotation from The Dumas Club would be:
We would never feel horror profaning a religion that is indifferent for us. It would be like blaspheming without a god that could feel the sting. Absurd.



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