Thursday, November 23, 2017


Happiness Guaranteed

Jules Renard, Journal (June 23, 1902; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.

Quand je pense à tous les livres qu'il me reste à lire, j'ai la certitude d'être encore heureux.

Charles Emmanuel Biset, Still Life with Books, a Letter and a Tulip

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Deaths and Births

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2.576-580 (tr. W.H.D. Rouse, rev. Martin F. Smith):
With the funeral dirge is mingled the wail that children raise when they first see the borders of light; and no night ever followed day, or dawn followed night, that has not heard mingled with their sickly wailings the lamentations that attend upon death and the black funeral.

                             miscetur funere vagor
quem pueri tollunt visentes luminis oras;
nec nox ulla diem neque noctem aurora secutast
quae non audierit mixtos vagitibus aegris
ploratus mortis comites et funeris atri.


Growing Old

Montaigne, Essays 3.2 (On Repenting; tr. M.A. Screech):
What we call wisdom is the moroseness of our humours and our distaste for things as they are now. But in truth we do not so much give up our vices as change them — for the worse, if you ask me. Apart from silly tottering pride, boring babble, prickly unsociable humours, superstition and a ridiculous concern for wealth when we have lost the use of it, I find that there are more envy and unfairness and malice; age sets more wrinkles on our minds than on our faces. You can find no souls — or very few — which as they grow old do not stink of rankness and of rot.

Nous appellons sagesse, la difficulté de nos humeurs, le desgoust des choses presentes: mais à la verité, nous ne quittons pas tant les vices, comme nous les changeons: et, à mon opinion, en pis. Outre une sotte et caduque fierté, un babil ennuyeux, ces humeurs espineuses et inassociables, et la superstition, et un soin ridicule des richesses, lors que l'usage en est perdu, j'y trouve plus d'envie, d'injustice et de malignité. Elle nous attache plus de rides en l'esprit qu'au visage: et ne se void point d'ames, ou fort rares, qui en vieillissant ne sentent l'aigre et le moisi.


The Voice of Blood

Genesis 4.10:
The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 400-404 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Well, it is certainly the law that when drops of gore flow to the ground, they demand other blood; for slaughter cries out for a Fury who comes from those who perished before to bring further ruin upon ruin.

ἀλλὰ νόμος μὴν φονίας σταγόνας
χυμένας εἰς πέδον ἄλλο προσαιτεῖν
αἷμα· βοᾷ γὰρ λοιγὸς Ἐρινὺν
παρὰ τῶν πρότερον φθιμένων ἄτην
ἑτέραν ἐπάγουσαν ἐπ᾿ ἄτῃ.

400 ἀλλὰ νόμος Turnebus, μὴν West: ἀλλ᾿ ἄνομος μὲν M
402 λοιγὸς Ἐρινὺν Schütz: λοιγὸν ἐρινὺς M
403 πρότερον Portus: προτέρων M

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Fearfully Different

Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (London: Bellew, 1991), p. 98:
They were different, fearfully different, these Greeks, whose voices we could still hear and (at a pinch) understand. What had we in the vast, sprawling suburbs of Sydney with the gardens and the poinsettias and jacarandas, that would deserve their envy rather than their contempt?
Related post: Renaissance Men versus Modern Men.


How to Become a Novelist

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "Sermons in Cats," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 258-269 (at 258):
I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. 'The first thing,' I said, 'is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.'
Jules Renard, Journal (November 17, 1900; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
Writing. The most difficult part is to take hold of the pen, dip it in the ink, and hold it firm over the paper.

Ecrire. Le plus difficile, c'est de prendre la plume, de la tremper dans l'encre et de la tenir ferme au-dessus du papier.


A Pious Prayer

Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 122-123 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
And is this a righteous thing for me to ask of the gods?
How could it not be—to return your enemy evil for evil?

καὶ ταῦτά μοὔστιν εὐσεβῆ θεῶν πάρα;
πῶς δ᾿ οὔ, τὸν ἐχθρόν γ᾿ ἀνταμείβεσθαι κακοῖς;

Monday, November 20, 2017


Result of a Google Search

Title page of original book:


Sunday, November 19, 2017


A Textual Pervert

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
[A.P.] Treweek recalled that 'his scholarly achievements were very strong, but of narrow interest. He found faults in Greek texts where there were none. He couldn't read a page without finding mistakes — so much so that at times he was referred to as a textual pervert.'140

140 Sunday Express, 26 April 1970.


Introduction to Byzantine Thought

Norman H. Baynes, "St. Antony and the Demons," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 40 (December, 1954) 7-10 (at 7):
To become familiar with Byzantine popular thought it is essential to remember that the East Roman Christian knew and believed his New Testament; he read it or heard it read in church; it became a part of his life. Thus for the modern student the most useful introduction to Byzantine thought is perhaps to re-read the New Testament.


Belief in God

Jules Renard, Journal (November 19, 1898; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
God does not believe in our God.

Dieu ne croit pas à notre Dieu.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


The New Worship

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXVIII:
The ruin of the Pagan religion is described by the sophists as a dreadful and amazing prodigy, which covered the earth with darkness, and restored the ancient dominion of chaos and of night. They relate, in solemn and pathetic strains, that the temples were converted into sepulchres, and that the holy places, which had been adorned by the statues of the gods, were basely polluted by the relics of Christian martyrs. "The monks" (a race of filthy animals, to whom Eunapius is tempted to refuse the name of men) "are the authors of the new worship, which, in the place of those deities who are conceived by the understanding, has substituted the meanest and most contemptible slaves. The heads, salted and pickled, of those infamous malefactors, who for the multude of their crimes have suffered a just and ignominious death; their bodies, still marked by the impression of the lash, and the scars of those tortures which were inflicted by the sentence of the magistrate; such" (continues Eunapius) "are the gods which the earth produces in our days; such are the martyrs, the supreme arbitrators of our prayers and petitions to the Deity, whose tombs are now consecrated as the objects of the veneration of the people."
Eunapius, Lives of the Sophists 6.11.6-10 = p. 472 Westermann (tr. Wilmer C. Wright):
Next, into the sacred places they imported monks, as they called them, who were men in appearance but led the lives of swine, and openly did and allowed countless unspeakable crimes. But this they accounted piety, to show contempt for things divine. For in those days every man who wore a black robe and consented to behave in unseemly fashion in public, possessed the power of a tyrant, to such a pitch of virtue had the human race advanced! All this however I have described in my Universal History. They settled these monks at Canobus also, and thus they fettered the human race to the worship of slaves, and those not even honest slaves, instead of the true gods. For they collected the bones and skulls of criminals who had been put to death for numerous crimes, men whom the law courts of the city had condemned to punishment, made them out to be gods, haunted their sepulchres, and thought that they became better by defiling themselves at their graves. "Martyrs" the dead men were called, and "ministers" of a sort, and "ambassadors" from the gods to carry men's prayers,—these slaves in vilest servitude, who had been consumed by stripes and carried on their phantom forms the scars of their villainy. However these are the gods that earth produces!


Following the Crowd

Seneca, On the Happy Life 1.3-4 (tr. John Davie):
Accordingly, the most important point to stress is that we should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go. And yet there is nothing that brings greater trouble on us than the fact that we conform to rumour, thinking that what has won widespread approval is best, and that, as we have so many to follow as good, we live by the principle, not of reason, but of imitation. What follows from this is that men are piled high, one on top of another, as they rush to their ruin.

Just as it happens that in a great crowd of humanity that is crushed together, when the people jostle against each other, no one falls without dragging someone else down with him, and the ones in front bring destruction on the ones behind, so you may see the same thing happening throughout all of life. No one who goes astray affects himself alone, but rather will be the cause and instigator of someone else going astray; it is harmful to attach oneself to the people in front, and, so long as each one of us prefers to trust someone else's judgement rather than relying on his own, we never exercise judgement in our lives but constantly resort to trust, and a mistake that has been passed down from one hand to another takes us over and spins our ruin. It is the example of others that destroys us: we will regain our health, if only we distance ourselves from the crowd.

nihil ergo magis praestandum est, quam ne pecorum ritu sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non quo eundum est, sed quo itur. atqui nulla res nos maioribus malis implicat, quam quod ad rumorem componimur, optima rati ea, quae magno adsensu recepta sunt, quodque exempla nobis multa sunt, nec ad rationem sed ad similitudinem vivimus. inde ista tanta coacervatio aliorum super alios ruentium.

quod in strage hominum magna evenit, cum ipse se populus premit — nemo ita cadit, ut non et alium in se adtrahat, primique exitio sequentibus sunt —, hoc in omni vita accidere videas licet. nemo sibi tantummodo errat, sed alieni erroris et causa et auctor est; nocet enim applicari antecedentibus et, dum unusquisque mavult credere quam iudicare, numquam de vita iudicatur, semper creditur versatque nos et praecipitat traditus per manus error. alienis perimus exemplis; sanabimur, separemur modo a coetu.

Friday, November 17, 2017


A Blade of Grass

Jules Renard, Journal (July 11, 1898; tr. Louise Bogan and Elizabeth Roget):
No one will ever stop me from being moved when I look at a field, when I walk up to my knees through oats that spring up behind me. What thought is as fine as this blade of grass?

I don't give a straw for "my country" as a whole: my local country moves me to tears. The German emperor cannot take this blade of grass from me.

Jamais personne ne m'empêchera d'être ému quand je regarde un champ, quand je marche jusqu'aux genoux dans une avoine qui se redresse derrière moi. Quelle pensée est aussi fine que ce brin d'herbe?

Je me moque de la grande patrie: la petite toujours m'impressionne jusqu'aux larmes. L'empereur allemand ne m'ôterait pas ce brin d'herbe.
Related posts:


True Stories

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), Under the Greenwood Tree, Part I, Chapter 8:
'Well, now,' said Reuben, with decisive earnestness, 'that sort o' coarse touch that's so upsetting to Ann's feelings is to my mind a recommendation; for it do always prove a story to be true. And for the same reason, I like a story with a bad moral. My sonnies, all true stories have a coarse touch or a bad moral, depend upon't.'


Herodotus by Heart

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Faber & Faber, 2014), chapter 2 (page number unknown):
[H]e told another Trinity fellow, T.C. Nicholas, that if all the text of Herodotus were to disappear he could reproduce it by heart.66

66 Howarth, p184.
The reference is to T.E.B. Howarth, Cambridge Between Two Wars (London: Collins, 1978), which I haven't seen.

Related post: Fahrenheit 451.


Statutes of the New Academy

Aldus Manutius, The Greek Classics. Edited and Translated by N.G. Wilson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016 = I Tatti Renaissance library, 70), Appendix V (pp. 288-293) = Statutes of the New Academy, § 1 (at 289):
Whereas many benefits can accrue to people with a serious interest in education from speaking Greek, it has been jointly determined by the three of us, Aldus the Roman, John the Cretan and thirdly myself, Scipione Forteguerri, to pass a law that they should not speak to each other except in Greek. If any of us, whether deliberately or without thinking, talks in another language, forgetting this law or for some other reason, he shall be fined one small coin for each occasion on which he happens to do this. But there shall not be a penalty for solecism, unless someone does that too deliberately.
When enough money from fines has accumulated, it is to be spent on a party (§ 4, p. 291). A very interesting document. I noticed a typographical error on p. 320, where the title mistakenly appears as Statues of the New Academy.

A modern reincarnation of the New Academy is the educational Stammtisch, where only German is spoken.



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