Archive for 2003
a Peculiar Longing
Alexander the Great was shorter than average height, with blond hair and one eye blue, the other brown. His first teacher was a demanding man called Leonidas, like the Spartan king who died at Thermopylae, who searched his student’s room every day, overturning trunks and ruffling linens to be sure Alexander was not in danger […]
It is a peculiar sort of blindness; I’m not sure I can explain it. I cannot call it literal. Because it is not. It is nothing of the sort. What it is, rather, is the a willful refusal to see. Perhaps not a refusal to see—perhaps an elision of what one notices. And I admit, […]
Concerning the Impiety of Andocides
Νῦν οὖν ὑμῖν ἐν ἀνάγκῃ ἐστὶ βουλεύσασθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ· εὖ γὰρ ἐπίστασθε, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, ὅτι οὐχ οἷόν τε ὑμῖν ἐστιν ἅμα τοῖς τε νόμοις τοῖς πατρίοις καὶ ᾿Ανδοκίδῃ χρῆσθαι, ἀλλὰ δυοῖν θάτερον, ἢ τοὺς νόμους ἐξαλειπτέον ἐστιν ἢ ἀπαλλακτέον τοῦ ἀνδρός. Now, indeed, it is necessary for you to make some decision about him, […]
The scene was, necessarily, amusing. The setting—the dining room of New College, Oxford, shadows flickering across wooden panels and stained glass from the candles upon the table, which was set for a three-course dinner. We had by this point moved on to the port and chocolates portion of the feast, a few lingering half-filled glasses […]
Note to Self (4)
11 January 2003.
The house is filling up again—graduate students (myself included) returning for naught week. My neighbor slams her door, rattles her keys, rustles a storm of plastic bags. I do not imagine I seem any quieter to her. And now everything smells of canned beef stroganoff, an odor which, with the interminable rumblings of the kitchen […]
It was very simple once; just a chronicle, a chronological exuberance bogged down in the details. E.g.: 13.01.2003 — Monday — Up late, then to the Bodleian, Gorgias, Blackwell’s (Sylvie & Bruno, £9.99 — cash), coffee, groceries, room, read… &c. But that is not quite right, is it? For who really wants to make of […]
from the Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké…
Spent the morning reading articles on Cicero’s De Oratore, all of which seem to say exactly the same thing: it’s too long by far, and not philosophical enough; in fact, it’s just plain too rhetorical. Which is, apparently, unexpected in a rhetorical treatise. Fun stuff, though, and only two were in German. Afternoon reading What […]
Ivories, Ashmolean. …What makes the man and what The man within that makes: Ask whom he serves or not Serves and what side he takes…. – Gerard Manley Hopkins (‘(On a Piece of Music)’)
An evening mildly out upon the town, following that vaguest of inclinations: civility. The plan had been to step out to the pub on the corner by the house; but peering in the windows at the sodden murmurings of the gray-haired regulars at the bar, we four, young and indecisive, given rather to nights ‘at […]
Reading the Alexiad (or life of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius Comnenus), which was written by his daughter, Anna Comnena, when she was an old woman. She describes everything homerically, from the Odysseus-like Alexius, to his Nausicaa-bride, Irene; and Robert of Lombardy, his foe during the first few books, is obviously nothing more (or less) than […]
For the words and facts of the ancients are as bricks, from which we build the fortresses of our arguments, ever quarreling over the lines of the walls. These walls are torn down and rebuilt with such haste and such fury, that it does not seem strange when they are torn down again, or prove […]
Dusk, rain. I don’t know. Maybe I was expecting something different. It’s possible. Something other than the nights of fog and afternoons of rain, rudely punctuated by dawns and dusks and gloamings serene and unencumbered. Come to think of it, though, no one uses the word ‘gloaming’ anymore; nobody sane, anyway. Certainly not the young […]
Sed Vitae Caesaris
Coin depicting the Emperor Augustus from A Visual Compendium of Roman Emperors. At last reading Ronald Syme’s famous book, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939), a history of the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the principate. It begins slowly, with a grim overview of the career of C. Julius Caesar Octavianus (later […]
an Observation (1)
Oh, elegies are easy, I suppose. It is simple to sing of sorrows, and tumble through agonies towards some great katharsis, as though every strong emotion needs its purge. All happinesses are alike, the knowing novelist intones. But this very violence in ourselves, this need for grief, for rage, for some last word, even to […]
an Observation (2)
Somewhere in his letters to Atticus, Cicero says something to the effect of: I would rather fight with Pompey, and lose, than see him victorious. The death of Pompey signaled the end of the optimate cause, and the beginning of Caesar’s supremacy. Had Pompey won, though, the optimate cause, along with the Republic, would still […]
An Observation (3)
Be suspicious of anyone who claims to be an intellectual. Especially if they say anything to the effect of: ‘I like to think of myself as something of an intellectual…’ Be suspicious of anyone who makes you feel stupid. You probably are stupid, but that’s not the point. The sort of person who makes you […]
Anna Comnena on the character of a good leader…
Sometimes I cannot tell if I am invisible because people think I do not wish to be seen, or because people do not wish to see me. Most times both seem true. The glacial drifting of the swans upon the river. Coasting loose-limbed on an ancient bike, almost Cassius-faced in a green wool coat. Birds […]
Ciceronis Epistulae ad Atticum, edidit D.R. Shackleton Bailey, Cambridge University Press.
Balance of Power
From The Roman Revolution (1939): The official version of the cause of the War of Actium is quite simple, consistent and suspect—a just war, fought in defence of freedom and peace against a foreign enemy: a degenerate Roman was striving to subvert the liberties of the Roman People, to subjugate Italy and the West under […]
A view (5)
Epicurus, ratae sententiae xxvii
Ὧν ἡ σοφία παρασκευάζεται εἰς τὴν τοῦ ὅλου βίου μακαριότητα πολὺ μέγιστόν ἐστιν ἡ τῆς φιλίας κτῆσις. Of the things wisdom furnishes for bliss throughout life, by far the greatest is the possession of friendship.
‘Without a doubt, this, this is the place to be!’ she cried, throwing wide her arms to embrace the magnanimous hillside replete with trees and grasses and charming little shrubs. Alphonse, somewhat bewildered, looked at her and cleared his throat. ‘Yes, well, if you say so, my dear. But I don’t think young Herbert would […]
History should have a sense of proportion—a human touch, if you please. From a biography of Petrarch (2003.8, p. 51): In Verona, and well before the middle of June, he made his greatest find. He discovered in the library of the cathedral a volume containing the sixteen Books of Cicero’s collection of his letters to […]
Improbable places (3)
the porcelain room.
A view (6)
Part the First
Breakfast that morning consisted of lumpy porridge, dry toast and watery tea. They sat around a large rough table, taking special care not to spill gruel onto the linens. Except for the scrape and click of silverware, they made very little noise. Young Herbert cleared his throat. Everyone stopped eating, their spoons hovering in the […]
From an English rhyming dictionary, with Latin translations, compiled by Peter Levins in 1570 (EETS #27, 1867): In arke An Arke, archa, æ. ye Barke of a trée, cortex, icis, hic. Carke, care, cura, cogitatio. A Clarke, clericus, i. A Larke, alauda, æ, galarita, æ. A Marke, signum, scopus, i. A Parke, damarium, vivarium. A […]
Writ in water
Goethe, ‘Am Flusse’ – Ihr wart ins Wasser eingeschrieben; So fließt denn auch mit ihm davon. You were engraved upon the water; and flow, too, with the water away. Keats’s epitaph, in the Protestant cemetery, at Rome: Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
The letters arrived two weeks apart, sent by two different people; each requires a response, and yet I cannot think how to reply to them. The first letter was a love story; a year ago she’d met a young man, parted as friends, wrote to each other, talked on the telephone, fell in love at […]
Improbable places (4)
across the river.
I was and am an impressionable reader.
Incomplete Associations (Latin)
The prose of Cicero is a ripened plum, the dusky purple austerity concealing a rich and summery sweetness. The lines of Ovid are a silver ring; of Horace, a poet’s faded crown, gone gray and dusty down the centuries. Yet Vergil’s lines are as a shepherd’s staff, for cudgeling foes or correcting friends. The works […]
Reflections on orientalism. And, unrelated: ‘They’re hopelessly vulgar,’ said Mrs. Costello. ‘Whether or no being hopelessly vulgar is being ‘bad’ is a question for the metaphysicians. They’re bad enough to blush for, at any rate; and for this short life that’s quite enough.’ – Henry James, Daisy Miller
As the orchestra is warming up and the actors are completing their pre-show gargling, there is doubtless time for an introduction. Just as every story needs a preface, a truly erudite narrative simply cannot do without an introduction. The introduction gives some pompous literary windbag the chance to rattle on at length about aspects of […]
My prophetic soul
…we defy augury: there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is’t […]
When I contemplate the common lot of mortality, I must acknowledge that I have drawn a high prize in the lottery of life. The far greater part of the globe is overspread with barbarism and slavery; in the civilized world the most numerous class is condemned to ignorance and poverty; and the double fortune of […]
Part the Second
Gazing through the frilly lace curtains at the filigree of frost upon the desiccated vines in the xystus, Muriel frowned slightly. Shaking her head, she turned to Rosemund and said, ‘We leave today, as we planned; they said they’d come this afternoon to fetch us. I suppose we should get out the dust-cloths and pack […]
Not quite, Constantine.
A view (7)
a Sunday afternoon in March.
The Nineteenth Part
‘Utopia can never exist, as well we know,’ she said, half-turning at the door to look at him for the last time, ‘and I will never see you again. I am sorry I cannot love you and, for your sake as well as mine, I think it best that we part now. I would not […]
Now I pretend to read. I raise my book, till it almost covers my eyes. But I cannot read in the presence of horse-dealers and plumbers. I have no power to ingratiate myself. I do not admire that man; he does not admire me. Let me at least be honest. Let me denounce this piffling, […]
The Historicity of Peasants
Have been reading Michael Rostovtzeff’s A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C. A Study in Economic History (Madison, WI: 1922), a short book in which the notorious Russian historian gives the Zenon archive his attention. Of course, in 1922 the Zenon archive, with early Ptolemaic documents numbering in the thousands, was bigger […]
Palace of Nestor, Pylos, July 2001
Incomplete Associations (Greek)
The fragments of Sappho flutter like a silken ribbon caught in thorny centuries. Herodotus is the sound of nodding asleep amid the low murmur of unuttered secrets and improbable truths. The dialogues of Plato are a sly glance between clever friends. Thucydides marshals his words, setting them in trim, ordered lines, bristling and iron-edged. The […]
raptores orbis, postquam cuncta vastantibus defuere terrae, mare scrutantur: si locuples hostis est, avari, si pauper, ambitiosi, quos non Oriens, non Occidens satiaverit: soli omnium opes atque inopiam pari adfectu concupiscunt. auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. Ravagers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, […]
Part the Fourth
Elspeth, half-hidden by delphiniums, peered gravely at the butter knife Richard was attempting to spirit away in the interior pocket of his much-worn jacket. ‘That’s wicked, Richard,’ she intoned. At this unexpected remonstrance, he started and the errant butter knife clattered onto the floor. The company looked up. The clock ticked in the hallway. Young […]
A man who gets few letters does not open one lightly. He hefts it for weight, reads the name of the sender on the envelope and the address, looks at the handwriting, and studies the postmark and the date. – Steinbeck (East of Eden, p. 486) I’ve been reading a lot of letters lately; not […]
In a word, my work is digressive, and it is progressive too,—and at the same time. This, Sir, is a very different story from that of the earth’s moving round her axis, in her diurnal rotation, with her progress in her elliptic orbit which brings about the year, and constitutes that variety and vicissitude of […]
the false dichotomy
Something I’ve been thinking about lately, in pictures: Frauenkirche, Dresden, early 1945. Frauenkirche, Dresden, February 1945. Frauenkirche, Dresden, 12 September 2002
It was a strange dream. Of course, it was a strange sleep as well—dozing in the middle of the afternoon over Tristram Shandy and half-a-cup of tepid coffee, only to wake to the first signs of dawn at five in the morning. It was, I say, a strange dream. A restaurant in some unknown country, […]
Influential Books (ii)
of Vices and Virtues
Library, sunlight, nine a.m. Our breach of hospitality went to my conscience a little: but I quickly silenced that monitor by two or three specious reasons, which served to satisfy and reconcile me to myself. The pain which conscience gives the man who has already done wrong, is soon got over. Conscience is a coward, […]
the Third Day
It was the third day, I think—it has been so long, you see, I have almost forgotten. This forgetfulness comes from habit, I suppose—days numbered to the umpteenth power ratcheting one to the next, the turning of the mechanism grown monotonous, something simply there but scarcely noticed. Not like at first, when each day seemed […]
a Record of Consumption
Including: Sterne; Novalis; Keats; too many Brontës; Chopin; R.L. Stevenson; Chekhov; Modigliani; Kafka; etc. Among other things: Vico, The New Science; A.A. Cooper (Earl of Shaftesbury), Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times; Pepys Diary: 1665 (ed. Lantham et al., vol. 6); Dos Passos, U.S.A.; dental floss; shampoo; oat cakes; muesli; rice crackers. Also: tea (whole […]
Two birds, perfectly white, pink-beaked, dark-eyed, pigeons, settled on the ledge outside my window, billing and cooing as birds will in spring. Startled, I stood hunched, half-risen from my seat at the desk, the pages of a book leafing shut; over the point where their shoulders would be my movement caught their eyes, and they […]
Not a lot of sun hazing through the clouds or the drifting petals from the pear tree in the back. The madwoman on the bench talks at the people waiting for the bus, Go’ blessh you, my chil’, Go’ blessh you; one man turns, delivering in pure Oxbridge and God bless you, as he steps […]
Consumers of Culture
It is only through difference that progress has been made. What threatens us right now is probably what we may call overcommunication—that is, the tendency to know exactly in one point of the world what is going on in all other parts of the world. In order for a culture to be really itself and […]
the end of English letters
April 9 : VirginiaWoolf’s The Years and F. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pine to See the Peep Show read at once—what with rain and fairies and walloping bells at Oxford and Missie dying of love for Teacher with a dash of beans and fish with the lower middle class—impress one again with the constipation of English […]
now that’s quality
Having finished reading Randall Jarrell’s first novel, Pictures from an Institution (1954), I now understand why people go ga-ga for Kerouac: general American fiction of the 1950s was rotten. Take offense if you will, but I stand by my statement. When seen against the backdrop of such insipid, feeble prose as Jarrell’s, where flashes of […]
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain Bring round the heart an undescribable feud; So do these wonders a most dizzy pain, That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main— A sun—a shadow of a magnitude. – John Keats (‘On Seeing the Elgin Marbles’) Allow me to sound heartless for […]
Poor, obscure, plain & little
Spring, 8:39 a.m. May 16 : Thinking of modern education (such as Lake Erie) which is to instruct a person how to be unable to survive alone—exact opposite of original purpose. How to get along with the community; how to mask your differences and to whittle off your superior gifts to level down with the […]
Men who have an eye for trouble, men who know that tiny causes have given birth to very great disasters, are full of worry at every unusual event, and, when their troubles are at the zenith, they fear for the outcome and tremble at every harassing rumour. Even if their luck turns, they still cannot […]
about 3 o’clock.
The Diseases and Casualties this Week
London 39 · From the 12 of September to the 19 · 1665 Abortive23 Aged57 Bedridden1 Bleeding1 Cancer1 Childbed39 Chrisomes20 Collick1 Consumption129 Convulsion71 Dropsie31 Drowned 3. one at Stepney, one at St. Katharine near the Tower, and one at St. Margaret Westminster(3) Feaver332 Flox and Small-pox8 Found dead in the street at St. Olave Southwark1 […]
a triolet occasioned by the coming of spring.
Part the Fifth
Zealously denying the accusations, Richard waxed eloquent in his own defense. Words of unimaginable beauty, wit and intelligence poured forth from his rosy lips as he flaunted the erudition acquired by years of wearing navy blue jackets at elegant institutions at the expense of some unnamed patron. The company at the table listened attentively, their […]
T.E. Hulme pontificates…
Terrible learning, Mr. Newman
Correctly,—ah, but what is correctness in this case? This correctness of his is the very rock on which Mr. Newman has split. He is so correct that at last he finds peculiarity everywhere. The true knowledge of Homer becomes at last, in his eyes, a knowledge of Homer’s ‘peculiarities, pleasant and unpleasant.’ Learned men know […]
Notes on not Englishing Homer
῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε· Man, Muse — tell me about that trickster, tossed topsy-turvy since the time he torched Troy’s sacred towers… The main problem with it being (aside from its awfulness ) that the Greek is primarily plosive, while the translation is terribly dental.
Anxiety of Influence (i): Laurence Sterne
in which the author babbles about Tristram Shandy.
It was very weak of Harold Biffen to come so near perishing of hunger as he did in the days when he was completing his novel. But he would have vastly preferred to eat and be satisfied had any method of obtaining food presented itself to him. He did not starve for the pleasure of […]
A dark and stormy night
It is a melancholy thing, which none but those educated at a college can understand, to see the debilitated frames of the aspirants for academical honours; to mark the prime—the verdure—the glory—the life—of life wasted irrevocably away in a labor ineptiarum, which brings no harvest either to others or themselves. For the poet, the philosopher, […]
I remembered the incident because the young man with the gray velvet coat dropped a note card on the bridge, swearing faintly as he chased the wind-driven scrap of knowledge (carefully color-coded in blue and black and red) along the sidewalk, before snatching it at last from the path of an on-coming cyclist. The incident […]
IKB # ?
from Tamburlaine the Great…
An unusual occurence (1)
in which characters from a well-known gothic novel encounter difficulties.
A lyrical, a scholarly, a fastidious mind might have used seclusion and solitude to perfect its powers. Tennyson asked no better than to live with books in the heart of the country. But the mind of Elizabeth Barrett was lively and secular and satirical. She was no scholar. Books were to her not an end […]
The Fourteenth Part
On the edge of a distant district, down an obscure boulevard, he kept a small studio crammed with charming antiques and valuable paintings. Though he did not much like to talk about it, he was extremely talented both at the exact replication of important pieces of art and the stealthy exchange of his copies for […]
The Resurrected Lavender Plant Monday afternoon after the rain. Gaston, however, was planted in his path on the way to the door. ‘And if she goes again and does the very same?’ ‘The very same— ?’ Waterlow thought. ‘I mean something else as barbarous and as hard to bear.’ ‘Well,’ said Waterlow, ‘you’ll at least […]
The Thirteenth Part
Xanthochroi, svelte from their xerophagy, were uninterested in xenagogical activities. Xeniality was by no means widespread; nor, it should be added, was geniality. Rather, the denizens wandered to and fro, up stairs and down, content to busy themselves only with themselves, giving never a thought to anything else. Thus were they deeply enraptured with their […]
The Fiendish Belly
How good one feels when one is full — how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving […]
The trouble with Shakespeare
The spirit of contrariety indulged in the boy, leads the man into serious quarrels, into brawls, fights, and duels. I have known a most tragic duel to arise from a dispute about a passage of Shakespeare. The parties were friends when they began. One quoted the passage, the other asserted he had misquoted it. Instead […]
In a papyrologist’s dream world, every office would have a recent monograph devoted to it; so would every institution, every tax, every contract type, and so on. Many of these monographs, it must be admitted, are not very interesting to read, and most of them are undoubtedly cited far more often than they are read. […]
From Francis Yates’s The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (p. 202): The years of peaceful life in his native country came to an end for Comenius with the defeat of Frederick at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 which meant, for Bohemia, the suppression of the national religion. The Bohemian Brethren were proscribed. In 1621 the […]
Treasons and Strategems
Towards evening the women harp on the state of Sarah’s roses and the inevitable road works and the delays which make their schedules rather more hectic than less. The details are lost amid the uneven songs of the pigeons, the beat of wings and scrape of claw on slate. The women loiter in front of […]
errare humanum est
I picked up a copy of the book by chance the other day, and started reading it last night. Not that I’ve gotten very far enough to say anything about it, save that it is provoking: Being wrong is also about being displaced, about wandering, dissenting, emigrating, and alienating. The professionalization of the scholar, and, […]
heart of darkness.
political advice from Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis…
one of the oldest jokes in the book
Καππαδόκην ποτ’ ἔχιδνα κακὴ δάκεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὴ // κάτθανε γευσαμένη αἵματος ἰοβόλου. A nasty asp once bit a Cappadocian girl; one taste of her arrow-slinging blood, though, and the snake died. – Demodocus (III; 4 B. & D.) Epigrammata Graeca (ed. Page)
apropos of nothing
mizzling, vbl. n. (var., misling; also ppl. a.) ‘The action of mizzle — the falling of very fine rain; fine rain or drizzle’ — thus the OED. A variety of precipitation called by vulgar persons (such as myself) spitting, on account of its exasperating (nay, provocative) inconsistency: it is neither really rain nor really mist. […]
waiting for the flood
piscium et summa genus haesit ulmo, nota quae sedes fuerat columbis… A family of fishes clings to the utmost elm, once familiar as a seat for the pigeons. – Horace (Odes, 1.2.9–10) A fool might think they were beautiful, their white wings flashing in the sun, their rubid eyes sparkling. They are no longer content […]
It bodes no good to identify with the mother in Sons and Lovers.
inventio, -onis f.
To be used for transportation, either of individuals, groups, or objects; insofar as the invention will reduce the friction of locomotion, speed and ease of travel will be increased — as, for instance, in the displacement of heavy objects from one point to another for the purpose of pleasure or profit. Also, productive elements: spinning, […]
He was good-natured, inoffensive, and weak; and if he was not an incomparable citizen, he was, at least, an excellent vegetable. (2003.85, p. 94)
The truth is, unless a man can get the prestige and income of a Don and write donnish books, it’s hardly worth while for him to make a Greek and Latin machine of himself and be able to spin you out pages of the Greek dramatists at any verse you’ll give him as a cue. […]
A view (8)
‘I am strong!’ he cried. It is true. Ford has no right to be strong, but he is. He never did his dumb-bells or played in his school fifteen. But the muscles came. He thinks they came while he was reading Pindar. – E. M. Forster, ‘Other Kingdom’ (2003.93, p. 68)
general principles • moral turpitude • progressive non-action • radical self-sufficiency • righteous indignation • pompous twit
The Twentieth Part
Philosophically speaking, one can wander up and down a great many stairs in a train station without ever finding the lavatory…
You might consider trying to duplicate your institution’s colors in the flower and candles, unless they are something like pomegranate and puce. Columbia’s blue and white lend themselves very well to table decorations, especially in the spring when the little blue irises are available, and have been known to bring a tear to the eye […]
I have the misfortune to own a first edition of Trees and other Poems by one Joyce Kilmer; it has filled many a dull hour with indignant mirth and there the matter might have ended, had it not been for the following stanza in ‘Old Poets’: For these young flippertigibbets A-rhyming their hours away They […]
After reading Adam Bede and Paul Clifford I think it’s safe to say that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a really good book.
Part the Sixth
Heroically, Elspeth persevered, as her Aunt Maude had always encouraged her to do. (This was the same Aunt Maude who had fallen in love with a dead Russian novelist and, whenever the radio happened to play Rachmaninov, would shake her head sadly, saying with a gentle smile, ‘oh… the Russians,’ before wandering to the kitchen […]
An Errant Academic
I mentioned Seth Lerer’s Error and the Academic Self more than a month ago and, having finally finished reading it, there are a few more comments I would like to make. To begin, though, with a summary: errô, errare, erravi, erratus – to wander, to go astray, to err. The record of scholarship, particularly of […]
a glimpse in the mirror.
Hours of Idleness
I will not advance, by the rules of romance, To humour a whimsical fair; Though a smile may delight, yet a frown won’t affright, Or drive me to dreadful despair. While my blood is thus warm I ne’er shall reform, To mix in the Platonists’ school; Of this I am sure, was my passion so […]
Through all the varied lawns the grass once green again is brown, the summer dulling even as does winter. I am a winter creature myself, and these warm days, clear skies and noisome jocundities cause me to ache for a long nap ’til sweet reason returns with the fall; the merest mention of aestivation, however, […]
From a review (via A&L Daily) of a biography of Hans-Georg Gadamer (of whom I am as ignorant as a newborn): Was Gadamer really like Socrates? Or did he lack the courage that made the Greek drink poison rather than submit to the mob? Uh, Mr. Reviewer, sir? Socrates drinking the poison? Uh, that was […]
Theodor Mommsen Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf Erwin Rohde Friedrich Nietzsche
A view (9)
Mine heart began to weep within my breast, silently, very bitterly: but the crowds which came in and the crowds which went out were ignorant of my grief. To the genuinely aggrieved, there is nothing more distracting (and consoling) than the knowledge that he is keeping his grievance to himself. – Don Tarquinio, chapter iii, […]
I think not so, my lord
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree. These statistics on accidents are extremely fascinating; they prove that the British public can use practically anything in this world to hurt themselves with. It is understandable that there are an estimated 55 accidents a year from putty, while toothpaste accounts for 73. However, it is […]
at the circumlocution office
How to evade the tendency to view an individual life as somehow symbolic or representative of the lives of an entire group of people (or subculture); for instance: repressed homosexuality (‘abnormal sexual desires’) the root of all Corvo’s problems according to
on the origins of regret.
Wherefore, I beckoned to Gioffredo to take the ankles: but I myself took the hollow armpits; and terribly the head waggled between. In this manner we flung the dead slave from the balcony: but, after we had heard the splash of his fall in Tiber, we returned, expecting new events. (chapter xii) ‘Terribly the head […]
Shoot the messenger
These characters, which now are wet and glossy, will become invisible when they are dried, being of the same colour as the substance on which We write. Such is the nature of this magic, that neither sweat nor water will affect it. – Don Tarquinio (xiii)
poena sine fine
After reading Donna Wilson’s Ransom, Revenge, and Heroic Identity in the ‘Iliad’ (based on the dissertation she prepared for the University of Texas, Austin) the largest question I have for the author concerns her relationship with her father. Her discussion of the character of reparation in the Iliad emphasizes the role of the father in […]
The Most Illustrious Purpled Person will choose to hear the rogue’s confession of his crime. – Don Tarquinio, chapter xvii It is a hot, and it is summer, and there is soymilk and milk made of almonds, and there is also water purchased in blue plastic containers, and I too sometimes think there should be […]
of doubtful origin
The hipster (who aspires to archeologist street-cred because she worked one summer at Petra) was talking about a scandal involving the Met Museum, a fracas she had heard about while working as a law clerk in New York. An eccentric gentleman had, it seems, written a book pointing out that many of the ancient artifacts in said museum ‘have no provenience’ and that the trustees, curators, & co. were, if not actually hushing the matter up, at least not proclaiming this ‘truth’ in large letters on billboards for the edification of the public…
The night of the hottest day ever.
the cunning Manager.
Dogs aren’t allowed on the trail without a leash, both to prevent them from harassing other hikers and to keep the dogs themselves out of trouble. In places the sound of the river rises up the gravel slope, and thirsty dogs rush down for a drink and cannot reascend; should the owner go down to […]
by way of explanation.
Indians fishing at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, 1950 (dammed 1957). ODOT Historical Travel Photos
William J. Faubion House Zigzag, OR (built ca. 1908) [June 2002]
It is a long story and a sad story, not yet complete and not entirely knowable – mainly about the past and how to deal with it. For lack of evidence, I’ll skip the beginning, though the middle is hearsay and the end has not yet arrived. Starting, then, in media res: the old man […]
William J. Faubion House Zigzag, OR (built ca. 1908) [August 2003]
Game was plentiful and at times a drove of elk could be seen on Hunchback mountain which at that time was bare of timber. Food consisted of fresh meat they could kill, beans, bacon, potatoes and dried fruit. Together they cut all trees in the valley, mostly alder. One year late in August, they set […]
Report from the Jungle
It was a war of each against all, and the devil take the hindmost. You did not give feasts to other people, you waited for them to give feasts to you. You went about with your soul full of suspicion and hatred; you understood that you were environed by hostile powers that were trying to […]
‘could it be J— H— herself?’
Jane Ellen Harrison, 1850–1928 Independent lecturer in London, later a fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, Jane Harrison was author of (among other things): Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Relgion (1903) and Themis: a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (1912). She is also one of the few women mentioned in the who’s […]
European historians peek at colonialism: After the discovery of America the civilized nations of Europe vied with one another in sending out expeditions and forming settlements there; and the new settlers when located amidst barbarians recognized their common character and common interests as Europeans more strongly than they had done in their former home. So […]
All overgrown by cunning moss, All interspersed with weed, The little cage of ‘Currer Bell’ In quiet ‘Haworth’ laid. The Bird — observing others When frosts too sharp became Retire to other latitudes – Quietly did the same – But differed in returning – Since Yorkshire hills are green – Yet not in all the […]
Loud plaid trousers are not so much an abomination as a gross error in judgment; one must be wary of persons who wear such things. Also — Emily Dickinson deconstructs: Finding is the first Act The second, loss, Third, Expedition for the ‘Golden Fleece’ Fourth, no Discovery – Fifth, no Crew – Finally, no Golden […]
By way of explanation. I wake up at five-thirty, tumble downstairs to make coffee, which I drink while translating my daily five-hundred lines of the Odyssey (looking out, like Matthew Arnold with the Greek Anthology, all the words I do not know). After attending to the merely corporeal, I go the library, climbing the stairs […]
An unusual occurence (2)
Dr. Livingstone, I presume.
It takes an odd sort of mind to give the title ‘A Gallery of Pigeons’ to a slender volume of light verse, especially if it includes a poem called ‘A Tragedy’ which contains the word ‘plop’ (more than once). So it was with some surprise I found a passage I almost liked in Marzials’ aforementioned […]
Dickinson is not known to have met with the new and exciting novels by American women that dominated the market in the 1850s, many of them patterned after The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner: perhaps they were secured out by Amherst’s tastemakers. Whatever the explanation, most of the women’s books that crossed Dickinson’s path […]
Church Way, Iffley.
Prisoners in Bangladesh pleading for their lives in a news photograph from the London Daily Express, 20.xii.1971.
on my desk
Book marks Books Alternatives to Athens Henry Auden’s Greek Prose Phrase Book (ca. 1949 — ‘It is similar to Meissner, but with the difference that it is not so elaborate and does not profess to contain everything, its object being rather to stimulate a boy’s own activity and suggest that he should add more phrases […]
A view (10)
the emphasis was helped
Menas: These three world-sharers, these competitors, Are in thy vessel: let me cut the cable; And, when we are put off, fall to their throats: All there is thine. Pompey: Ah, this thou shouldst have done, And not have spoke on’t! In me ’tis villany; In thee’t had been good service. Thou must know, ’Tis […]
Talk of religion, it is odds you have infidel, blasphemer, atheist, or schismatic, thundered in your ears; touch upon your politics, you will be in luck if you are only charged with a tendency to treason. – Richard Porson, from the Orgies of Bacchus (1797) qtd. 2003.145, p. 47.
Crambe repetita (1)
Hipponax, fr. 104.
Began reading The Mask of Socrates: the Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, and was struck by the following passage: The earliest portrait of the philosopher originated about ten to twenty years after his death and shows him in the guise of Silenus. In flouting the High Classical standard of beauty so blatantly, this face […]
a well lerned gentylwoman
Margaret More Roper (Holbein, ca. 1535, Met.) Erasmus wrote many epistels to her, and dedicated his commentaries on certaine hymnes of Prudentius to this gentlewomen, and calleth her the flower of all learned matrones of England. Nor was she meanlie learned. She compounded in Greeke and latyn both verse and prose, and that most eloquentlie. […]
Tangier has been mentioned in history for three thousand years. And it was a town, though a queer one, when Hercules, clad in his lion skin, landed here, four thousand years ago. In these streets he met Anitus, the king of the country, and brained him with his club, which was the fashion among gentlemen […]
Crambe repetita (2)
Ananias, fr. 4.
Powell’s promises to tell me when these books come back in stock: Indexing Books by Ruth Canedy Cross Travels in Arabia Deserta, 2 volumes, by C. M. Doughty Garland of Philip, 2 Volumes, by A. S. F. Gow Book of Trances by Güneli Gün On the Road to Baghdad by Güneli Gün Alpha and Omega […]
A view (11)
blue and orange.
I feel sick
It began with the pulp of a pumpkin which was kept in a cookpot atop the dishwasher on Halloween. Why it was kept, I know not. After a week, however, even I knew it stank. Indeed, to the very heavens. The future eminent medievalist concurred, declaring she felt nauseated. Once the windows were opened and […]
hopefully, time won’t tell.
Although the new A. S. Byatt collection Little Black Book of Stories is something of a disappointment because three of the five stories have been published before, the last paragraph in the book book almost makes up for it: Finally, this book is dedicated to my German translator and to my Italian translators, all good […]
…eritis sicut diis scientes bonum et malum… malum punicum vel punica fides?
notions and scruples.
Into my heart an air that kills From yon far country blows: What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those? That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again. (from […]
grave & weatherworn
Scaliger was far from untouched by the religious troubles of his day, but the way they bedevilled the scholarship of the sixteenth century is more starkly illustrated in the case of his friend and younger contemporary Casaubon. Born in Geneva of refugee Protestant parents, obliged to learn his Greek hiding in a cave in the […]
… or, an introduction to the history of classical scholarship The imminent schollrs of the 6/10 century — including the fatuous Scaliwag who eateded Easelbus, and the imperspicuous Käseböh who collected Athenians and fatted xviii chiliads — are now seldom dead but by kabbalists.
A view (12)
the character of a historian.
One of the strangest footnotes I have ever written: On the knee as a seat of power, see Deonna (1939); on the knee as a gathering place for seminal fluids, see Onians (1951): p. 173–86. This lends credence to the theory that one channels the powers beyond when writing, because really, I don’t think I […]
On the whole we may conclude that Casaubon had strained his narrow means in this one direction of expense. Pinched everywhere else, he spent all he could save on books. Book-buying was to him not the indulgence of a taste or a passion, it was the acquisition of tools. While mere bibliomania is insatiable, the […]
Swan, Cherwell, fog.
Crambe repetita (3)
Anatomy of Melancholy, I.2.ii.1.
‘La Casa Monte’, ca. 1914 Faubion House, ca. 2003
Now although this elegant ordination of vegetables, hath found coincidence or imitation in sundry works of Art, yet is it not also destitute of naturall examples, and, though overlooked by all, was elegantly observable, in severall works of nature. – from the Garden of Cyrus I dreamt I was made to sit an examination on […]
A view (13)
kitchen window, snow.