Agreeable eye.

an eudæmonistarchives

January 2004

nostalgia (again)

Snow, trees, night

axunesias

Μὴ οὖν προδόται γένησθε ὑμῶν αὐτῶν, γενόμενοι δ’ ὅτι ἐγγύτατα τῇ γνώμῃ τοῦ πάσχειν καὶ ὡς πρὸ παντὸς ἂν ἐτιμήσασθε αὐτοὺς χειρώσασθαι, νῦν ἀνταπόδοτε μὴ μαλακισθέντες πρὸς τὸ παρὸν αὐτίκα μηδὲ τοῦ ἐπικρεμασθέντος ποτὲ δεινοῦ ἀμνημονοῦντες. κολάσατε δὲ ἀξίως τούτους τε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ξυμμάχοις παράδειγμα σαφὲς καταστήσατε, ὃς ἂν ἀφιστῆται, θανάτῳ ζημιωσόμενον. τόδε γὰρ ἢν γνῶσιν, ἧσσον τῶν πολεμίων ἀμελήσαντες τοῖς ὑμετέροις αὐτῶν μαχεῖσθε ξυμμάχοις.

– Thucydides (3.40.7)1

  1. In other words, I changed my mind about writing about Thucydides just now; please see resources at Perseus & elsewhere. []

pseudaphoristica (7)

A fondness for wisdom in the abstract is, of course, perfectly compatible with ignorance of particulars.

mire

Canal.

Crambe repetita (4)

There was an odd smell in the passage, as if the concentrated essence of all the dinners that had been cooked in the kitchen since the house was built, lingered at the top of the kitchen stairs to that hour, and, like the Black Friar in Don Juan, ‘wouldn’t be driven away.’ In particular, there was a sensation of cabbage; as if all the green that had ever been boiled there, were evergreens, and flourished in immortal strength.

– Charles Dickens,
Martin Chuzzlewit,
(2003.132, p. 124)

the very marrow

I’ve reached a point where the OED is of no use, for it cannot tell me why some people call them zucchini and other people call them courgettes, nor can it tell me on earth they were not more popular before the mid-twentieth century. The most it can say is that the young fruit of cucurbita pepo (that curious squash from the Americas) can, according to the bizarre British custom of letting them grow until they are much too large and rather tasteless, be called vegetable marrow,1 which fact, frankly, I did not need to know.

once a zucchini, courgette, now a marrow
Fig. 1

Thankfully, The Oxford Companion to Food is rather more informative: although Italian immigrants carried the notion of cooked zucchini to the US, courgettes appeared on British tables after a rather more formal introduction via a cookbook and, whether it be a cultural prejudice in favor of French food, or a lack of fondness for Italian words, or yet some other factor I will not at present imagine, courgettes they there remain. The Companion entry notes, however:

In the 1920s, when the learned Dr Leclerc was writing, the French still referred to courgettes d’Italie, and it seems clear that it was the Italians who first marketed vegetable marrows in small size; and it is therefore appropriate to choose their name zucchini rather than the French name courgettes as the adopted English name.2

Pragmatics perhaps explains cucurbita pepo’s lack of popularity: if one assumes they are always merely marrows, who would want to eat them?

  1. Defined as follow: ‘(a) the fruit of the avocado, Persea gratissima (obs.) (b) (chiefly Brit.) any of various kinds of squash or gourd which are chiefly the fruits of varieties of Cucurbita pepo, eaten as a vegetable; esp. one of the larger round or cylindrical kinds with green, white, or striped skins and greenish-white or (occas.) yellowish pulpy flesh; (also) the plant producing these, a trailing or sometimes bushlike annual with deep yellow flowers; cf. courgette, zucchini’. []
  2. Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, OUP, 1999, s.v. zucchini (cf. vegetable marrow, squash). []

Citation (15)

I shall say but little at present of their Learning, which for many Ages hath flourished in all its Branches among them: But their Manner of Writing is very peculiar; being neither from the Left to the Right, like the Europeans; nor from the Right to the Left, like the Arabians; nor from up to down, like the Chinese; nor from down to up, like the Cascagians; but aslant from one Corner of the Paper to the other, like Ladies in England.

– Jonathan Swift,
Gulliver’s Travels
(I.vi, ¶2)

cornered

It is a corner, with shadow and light.

de pumilis libellis

…by falsifying him into something monstrously charming and extraordinary they hope to be able to keep him alive forever.

Pär Lagerkvist (2002.47, p. 159)

Owing to my best efforts to keep an open mind and my almost miraculous attempts to overcome my aversion for the word ‘snark’ and most people who use it, the rather too precious Believer did not really seem intellectually bankrupt until I read the following passage in the ‘Idea Share’:

There should be a historical novel written from the point of view of—or at least deeply investigating the life of—a court midget, such as those we see in the paintings of Diego Velásquez (e.g., Maids of Honor).

Fortunately for readers everywhere,1 it’s been done; the author won the Nobel Prize (for literature, even—tho’ for a different novel). Apparently it was a good idea.2

  1. Readers who might otherwise have to read yet another bright young twit’s novel, an act which might tend to increase their, um, ‘snarkiness’. []
  2. Which is not to say, of course, that the no-doubt charming folks (I suppress a shudder in writing that word) at The Believer are ignorent of The Dwarf – for, as I understand it, any fool off the street may write in with ideas (many of which are probably good) but it seems to me that if the point is to get more people to appreciate the literature already available (including works written by the aforementioned good folks) a footnote or some mild parenthetical statement might have been appropriate and, dare I say, laudable. []

inquiry (8)

These people have excellent sculptors and professional designers. Their pipes, tomahawks, sticks, spoons carved out of horn, etc., embellish our ethnographic collections.

– Marcel Mauss
(2004.11, p. 43f.)

when in Rome

διόπερ οἱ μὲν ἄνδρες τὰ τείχη προκατελάμβανον καὶ τοὺς πρὸ τῆς πόλεως εὐκαίρους τόπους, αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες περιπορευόμεναι τοὺς ναοὺς ἱκέτευον τοὺς θεούς, πλύνουσαι ταῖς κόμαις τὰ τῶν ἱερῶν ἐδάφη· τοῦτο γὰρ αὐταῖς ἔθος ἐστὶ ποιεῖν, ὅταν τις ὁλοσχερὴς τὴν πατρίδα καταλαμβάνῃ κίνδυνος.

– Polybius (9.6.3–4)

ploratus mulierum non ex priuatis solum domibus exaudiebatur, sed undique matronae in publicum effusae circa deum delubra discurrunt crinibus passis aras uerrentes, nixae genibus, supinas manus ad caelum ac deos tendentes orantesque ut urbem Romanam e manibus hostium eriperent matresque Romanas et liberos paruos inuiolatos seruarent.

– Livy (26.9.7)1

  1. For those interested in Roman history, the LacusCurtius site is a good start, and has numerous ancient texts (in Latin mostly) as well as an eclectic collection of reference articles. []

birds, for the

fulica atra
‘blissfully easy to identify’

ciceronian

χρύσειοι <δ’> ἐρέβινθοι ἐπ’ ἀϊόνων ἐφύοντο1
and golden chickpeas were growing on the banks

– Sappho (Voigt fr. 143)
trans. Anne Carson.

I once sat through a lecture wherein the speaker claimed that the presence of an imperfect verb was sufficient to prove the presence of a narrative. Though that notion seems a bit silly to me, I have no real opinion on the matter, just as I have no opinion about Carson’s translation of this fragment (not that there’s any real room for error, mind). I simply like that it mentions chickpeas.2

  1. The Vintage text prints χρύςειοι; this form of sigma (ς) is used only at the end of words. Perhaps the designer intended a lunate sigma (which looks like a ‘c’)? []
  2. Just like the jacket blurb claims! ‘Carson’s translation illuminates Sappho’s reflections on love, desire, marriage, exile, cushions, bees, old age, shame, time, chickpeas, and many other aspects of the human situation’. It’s good to know chickpeas are to be considered an ‘aspect of the human situation’. Incidentally, I’m not quite sure why she doesn’t bracket the <and> (≈ <δ’>) in order to get into the ‘authentic’ spirit of thing; because it would not be ‘an aesthetic gesture toward the papyrological event’ (p. xi), but rather a real effort toward accurate textual translation that might actually inform the reader about which parts of the text are secure and which are not, I guess it&’s okay she didn’t. []

nêpioi

There are people who do not love their lives,
for they ride bicycles on ice-covered pavement
without a helmet.

colonoscopy

As the abandonment of periodic arrangement really makes the colon useless, it would be well (though of course any one who still writes in formal periods should retain his rights over it) if ordinary writers would give it up altogether except in special uses, independent of its quantitative value, to which it is being more and more applied by common consent.

The King’s English, p. 271f.

I am momentarily obsessed with colons: they displease me – especially when used where a semicolon would suffice.

Perhaps the first sentence gave you pause. You would prefer it if I capitalized the first letter after the colon? You would not be alone. What’s that to me? I have no style. Other people have it in abundance, though, and are now serving colons in every third sentence.1

I was going to pun on prose having guts and bowels and things, but I have, out of consideration for your delicate sensibilities, decided not to do so.

  1. Don’t mistake me, TMFTML’s colon usage is quite correct; but I ask you: is it really necessary? []

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