Crambe repetita (21)
Yea, but you will infer that this is actum agere, an unnecessary work, cramben bis coctam apponere, the same again and again in other words. To what purpose? ‘Nothing is omitted that may well be said,’ so thought Lucian in the like theme. How many excellent physcians have written just volumes and elaborate tracts of this subject! No news here; that which I have is stolen from others, Dicitque mihi mea pagina, fur es. If that severe doom of Synesius be true, ‘It is a greater offence to steal dead men’s labours than their clothes,’ what shall become of most writers? I hold up my hand at the bar among others, and am guilty of felony in this kind, habes confitentem reum, I am content to be pressed with rest.
– Robert Burton
(The Anatomy of Melancholy
‘Democritus to the Reader’, p. 22)
We are at last reduced to talking about the weather. I suppose it must happen eventually, when you are learning a language – talking about the weather. It is more than collection of vocabulary and predictions, though; we haven’t anything else to talk about. Daily routines, general likes and dislikes, grammatical particularities, and the answers to any language-related question I can come up in the week’s interval, all have been considered and filed away in the realm of acquired material.1 And so we are talking about the weather in every sense, filling the time with bland inoffensive murmurings. We are both a little bored, and we both wish that we had something else to talk about. It looks, for a moment, as though we might veer onto the equally implacable, unutterable topic of health, but as we are both a bit under the weather, we each take our turn to cough, and discuss the effect of humidity on one’s perception of the cold.
- Though not, I am ashamed to admit, of acquired knowledge or ability. [↩]