Monday, May 21, 2018


A Nun Eating a Banana

Cristina De Stefano, Oriana Fallaci: The Journalist, the Agitator, the Legend, tr. Marina Harss (New York: Other Press, 2017), pp. 30-31:
To prepare for her first Communion, her mother sends her to a convent for a short retreat. Before sending her off, she gives her some chocolate and a banana, an extraordinary luxury. The nuns tell her to leave everything on the altar, as a gift to Jesus. "A little while later I crept into the church to see whether Baby Jesus had eaten the banana and chocolate, but there was nothing left. Not even the banana peel or the chocolate wrapper. This made me suspicious. I left the church, went down a hallway, and there, on the balustrade, was a nun eating my banana."


Worlds Apart

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "Two Races," Complete Verse (New York: Anchor Books, 1989), p. 821:
I seek not what his soul desires.
      He dreads not what my spirit fears.
Our Heavens have shown us separate fires.
      Our dooms have dealt us differing years.

Our daysprings and our timeless dead
      Ordained for us and still control
Lives sundered at the fountain-head,
      And distant, now, as Pole from Pole.

Yet, dwelling thus, these worlds apart,
      When we encounter each is free
To bare that larger, liberal heart
      Our kin and neighbours seldom see.

(Custom and code compared in jest —
      Weakness delivered without shame —
And certain common sins confessed
      Which all men know, and none dare blame.)

E'en so it is, and well content
      It should be so a moment's space,
Each finds the other excellent,
      And — runs to follow his own race!
Related post: Flocking Together.


A God Swears by Himself

Aristophanes, Birds 1614 (Poseidon speaking; tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
By Poseidon, that's a very good point.

νὴ τὸν Ποσειδῶ ταῦτά γέ τοι καλῶς λέγεις.
J. Van Leeuwen in his commentary ad loc. points out that Hermes swears by the gods in Aristophanes, Wealth 1147 (πρὸς θεῶν), and that Jupiter sacrifices to himself in Plautus, Amphitruo 983 (mihi quom sacruficem).


They Laughed Themselves to Death

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, III, 8 (tr. Walter Kaufmann):
For the old gods, after all, things came to an end long ago; and verily, they had a good gay godlike end. They did not end in a "twilight," though this lie is told. Instead: one day they laughed themselves to death. That happened when the most godless word issued from one of the gods themselves — the word: "There is one god. Thou shalt have no other god before me!" An old grim-beard of a god, a jealous one, thus forgot himself. And then all the gods laughed and rocked on their chairs and cried, "Is not just this godlike that there are gods but no God?"

Mit den alten Göttern ging es ja lange schon zu Ende: – und wahrlich, ein gutes fröhliches Götter-Ende hatten sie! Sie »dämmerten« sich nicht zu Tode — das lügt man wohl! Vielmehr: sie haben sich selber einmal zu Tode — gelacht! Das geschah, als das gottloseste Wort von einem Gotte selber ausging — das Wort: »Es ist ein Gott! Du sollst keinen andern Gott haben neben mir!« — ein alter Grimm-Bart von Gott, ein eifersüchtiger, vergaß sich also: — Und alle Götter lachten damals und wackelten auf ihren Stühlen und riefen: »Ist das nicht eben Göttlichkeit, daß es Götter, aber keinen Gott gibt?«
Related posts:

Sunday, May 20, 2018



Christopher Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 123, with note on p. 276:
An American observer, so the story goes, once expressed surprise at the way in which Margaret Thatcher dominated the British cabinet. He was advised to read P.G. Wodehouse on Bertie Wooster and his aunts. Comedy tells. And Dionysius of Syracuse, so another story went, once asked Plato to explain to him the nature of Athenian political life. Plato responded by sending him a work of Aristophanes.1

1 Life of Aristophanes (Proleg. XXVIII 46–9, p. 135 Koster); Riginos 1976: 176-8.
Here is the Greek, followed by Jeffrey Henderson's translation:
φασὶ δὲ καὶ Πλάτωνα Διονυσίῳ τῷ τυράννῳ βουληθέντι μαθεῖν τὴν Ἀθηναίων πολιτείαν πέμψαι τὴν Αριστοφάνους ποίησιν, [τὴν κατὰ Σωκράτους ἐν Νεφέλαις κατηγορίαν,] καὶ συμβουλεῦσαι τὰ δράματα αὐτοῦ ἀσκηθέντα μαθεῖν αὐτῶν πολιτείαν.

And they say that when Dionysius the tyrant wanted to learn about the polity of the Athenians, Plato sent him the poetry of Ar. [the accusation against Socrates in Clouds] and advised him to study the plays if he would learn their polity.
Riginos = Alice Swift Riginos, Platonica: The Anecdotes Concerning the Life and Writings of Plato (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1976).

Friday, May 18, 2018


Battle of the Bulls

Phaedrus 1.30 (tr. Ben Edwin Perry):
Poor folk suffer when the mighty quarrel.
A frog looking out from a marsh upon a combat between two bulls,
exclaimed: "Alas, what great destruction is verging upon us!"
Being asked by another frog why he said this,
since those bulls were contending for the sovereignty of the herd
and, as cattle, lived their lives at a distance from the frogs, he replied:
"Granted that their range is remote from ours, and that their species is different,
nevertheless, whichever of them is driven from the lordship of the meadow, and takes to flight,
will come to the secret recesses of our marsh
and will tread us down and crush us with his hard hoofs.
Thus their fury has something to do with our own safety."

Humiles laborant ubi potentes dissident.
Rana in palude pugnam taurorum intuens,
"Heu, quanta nobis instat pernicies" ait.
interrogata ab alia cur hoc diceret,
de principatu cum illi certarent gregis        5
longeque ab ipsis degerent vitam boves,
"Sit statio separata ac diversum genus;
expulsus regno nemoris qui profugerit
paludis in secreta veniet latibula,
et proculcatas obteret duro pede.        10
ita caput ad nostrum furor illorum pertinet."

Thursday, May 17, 2018


The Human Condition

Pascal, Pensées 199 Brunschvicg (tr. H.F. Stewart):
Imagine a number of men in fetters, all condemned to death, and some killed daily in the sight of the rest, and those who are left, reading their own fate in that of their fellows, waiting their turn, looking at each other in gloom and despair. That is a picture of man's state.

Qu'on s'imagine un nombre d'hommes dans les chaisnes, et tous condamnez à la mort, dont les uns estant chaque jour égorgez à la veue des autres, ceux qui restent voyent leur propre condition dans celle de leurs semblables, et, se regardant les uns et les autres avec douleur et sans espérance, attendent à leur tour. C'est l'image de la condition des hommes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Drowning in Filth

George Orwell, Diaries (April 27, 1942):
We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone's thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a "case" with deliberate suppression of his opponent's point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.


Promises of the Feathered Gods

Aristophanes, Birds 723-734 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
Well then, if you treat us as gods
you'll have the benefit of prophets, muses,
breezes, seasons—winter, mild summer,
stifling heat. And we won't run off and
sit up there preening among the clouds, like Zeus,
but ever at hand we'll bestow on you,
your children, and your children's children
healthy wealthiness, happiness, prosperity, peace,
youth, hilarity, dances, festivities,
and birds' milk.

ἢν οὖν ἡμᾶς νομίσητε θεούς,
ἕξετε χρῆσθαι μάντεσι, μούσαις,
αὔραις, ὥραις, χειμῶνι, θέρει        725
μετρίῳ, πνίγει· κοὐκ ἀποδράντες
καθεδούμεθ᾿ ἄνω σεμνυνόμενοι
παρὰ ταῖς νεφέλαις ὥσπερ χὠ Ζεύς·
ἀλλὰ παρόντες δώσομεν ὑμῖν
αὐτοῖς, παισίν, παίδων παισίν,        730
πλουθυγίειαν, βίον, εἰρήνην,
νεότητα, γέλωτα, χορούς, θαλίας
γάλα τ᾿ ὀρνίθων.
Text and translation from Aristophanes, Birds. Lysistrata. Women at the Thesmophoria. Edited and Translated by Jeffrey Henderson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000 = Loeb Classical Library, 159), pp. 120-121 (the same in the Digital Loeb Classical Library; I split up the English to correspond roughly to the Greek lines). Henderson's "happiness" doesn't appear in the Greek as printed. He has translated a different text from the one he prints. In the Greek, he has adopted Hamaker's deletion of the manuscripts' εὐδαιμονίαν after πλουθυγίειαν, but he has translated the rejected word. The deletion isn't noted in the critical apparatus. It should be, and the translation should match the text.

Nan Dunbar ad loc. (student edition only — I don't have access to the full edition):


Tuesday, May 15, 2018


He Never Talks

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Typhoon, chapter I (Jukes talking about Captain MacWhirr):
"Old Sol says he hasn't much conversation. Conversation! O Lord! He never talks. The other day I had been yarning under the bridge with one of the engineers, and he must have heard us. When I came up to take my watch, he steps out of the chart-room and has a good look all round, peeps over at the sidelights, glances at the compass, squints upward at the stars. That's his regular performance. By-and-by he says: 'Was that you talking just now in the port alleyway?' 'Yes, sir.' 'With the third engineer?' 'Yes, sir.' He walks off to starboard, and sits under the dodger on a little campstool of his, and for half an hour perhaps he makes no sound, except that I heard him sneeze once. Then after a while I hear him getting up over there, and he strolls across to port, where I was. 'I can’t understand what you can find to talk about,' says he. 'Two solid hours. I am not blaming you. I see people ashore at it all day long, and then in the evening they sit down and keep at it over the drinks. Must be saying the same things over and over again. I can't understand.'"
Related posts:


The Pushy Newcomer

Babrius 135 (tr. Ben Edwin Perry):
A man bought a partridge and let him run around in the house, for he was fond of the creature. Immediately the bird began to clamour loudly in his usual style, went through all the house and ended at the hearth. The wily cat ran up to him and said: "Who are you? Where do you come from?" "I'm a partridge," he replied, "just recently bought." "And I," said the cat, "have been around here a long time. My mother, the mouse-slayer, gave birth to me inside this house. But I keep my mouth shut and sleep by the hearth; why is it that you, who come here lately purchased, as you say, are making yourself so free and crowing so loudly?"

Πέρδικά τις πριάμενος ἐντρέχειν οἴκῳ
ἀφῆκεν· ἡδέως γὰρ εἶχε τοῦ ζῴου.
κἀκεῖνος εὐθὺς κλαγγὸν ἐξ ἔθους ᾄδων
πᾶσαν κατ᾿ αὐλὴν ἄχρι βημάτων ᾔει.
γαλῆ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡπίβουλος ὡρμήθη        5
καὶ πρῶτον εἶπε "τίς μὲν εἶ, πόθεν <δ᾿> ἥκεις;"
ὁ δ᾿ "ἠγόρασμαι" φησί "προσφάτως <πέρδιξ>."
"ἐγὼ χρόνον τοσοῦτον ἐνθαδὶ τρίβω
καὶ μ᾿ ἔνδον ἔτεκεν ἡ μυοκτόνος μήτηρ,
ἀλλ᾿ ἡσυχάζω καὶ πρὸς ἑστίην εὕδω·        10
σὺ δ᾿ ἄρτι πως ὠνητός, ὡς λέγεις, ἥκων
παρρησιάζῃ" φησί "καὶ κατακρώζεις;"

Monday, May 14, 2018


Grimani Reliefs

Ewe with lamb:

Lioness with cubs:

Sow with piglets:

From Praeneste, now at Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.


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