I struck the board, and cried, “No more;  I will abroad!” 

The Collar by George Herbert.  The opening lines appear as an epigraph to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time For Gifts – alongside the Petronius poem (He that disembarks on distant sands, becomes thereby the greater man.) I included a few days back.  I owe introduction to Herbert to Fermor.

I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away! take heed;
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need
Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
And I replied My Lord.

The house therefore came to be referred to as the Trireme

From Athenaeus’ Learned BanquetersDeipnosophistae 2.37:

Timaeus of Tauromenium (FGrH 566 F 149) reports that there is a house in Acragas referred to as the Trireme for the following reason. Some young men were getting drunk inside; and their drunkenness made them so feverishly crazy that they thought they were sailing on a trireme and had run into a terrible storm at sea. They were so out of their minds that they started throwing all the furniture and bedding out of the house, thinking that they were throwing it into the sea because the pilot was telling them that the ship’s cargo needed to be jettisoned on account of the storm. And even though a crowd began to gather and steal the items being thrown out, the young men continued to act crazily. The next day the city’s chief officials came to the house, and a charge was issued against the young men, who were still seasick; when the magistrates questioned them, they responded that a storm had caused them trouble and forced them to jettison their excess cargo into the sea. When the officials expressed astonishment at their lunacy, one of the young men, who seemed in fact to be older than the others, said: “Triton sirs, I was so afraid, that I had thrown myself under the third course of rowing benchs, since that seemed like the lowest part of the ship, and was lying there.” They therefore forgave them for their craziness, ordered them not to consume any more wine, and let them go; and the young men expressing their gratitude . . . “If,” he said, “we escape this rough sea and reach a harbor, we will set up altars in our fatherland to you, along with the other sea-divinities, as manifest Savior gods, since you revealed yourselves to us at a crucial moment.” The house therefore came to be referred to as the Trireme.

Τίμαιος δὲ ὁ Ταυρομενίτης ἐν Ἀκράγαντι οἰκίαν τινά φησι καλεῖσθαι Τριήρη ἐξ αἰτίας τοιαύτης. νεανίσκους τινὰς ἐν αὐτῇ μεθυσκομένους ἐς τοσοῦτον cἐλθεῖν μανίας ἐκθερμανθέντας ὑπὸ τῆς | μέθης ὡς νομίζειν μὲν ἐπὶ τριήρους πλεῖν, χειμάζεσθαι δὲ χαλεπῶς κατὰ τὴν θάλασσαν· καὶ τοσοῦτον ἔκφρονας γενέσθαι ὡς τὰ ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκίας πάντα σκεύη καὶ στρώματα ῥίπτειν ὡς εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, τὴν ναῦν διὰ τὸν χειμῶνα ἀποφορτίζεσθαι δόξαν αὐτοῖς λέγειν τὸν κυβερνήτην. συναθροιζομένων οὖν πολλῶν καὶ τὰ ῥιπτόμενα διαρπαζόντων οὐδ᾿ ὣς παύεσθαι τῆς μανίας τοὺς νεανίσκους. καὶ τῇ ἐπιούσῃ τῶν ἡμερῶν παραγενομένων τῶν στρατηγῶν ἐπὶ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐγκληθέντες dοἱ | νεανίσκοι ἔτι ναυτιῶντες ἀπεκρίναντο πυνθανομένων τῶν ἀρχόντων ὑπὸ χειμῶνος ἐνοχλούμενοι ἠναγκάσθαι ἀποφορτίσασθαι τῇ θαλάσσῃ τὰ περιττὰ τῶν φορτίων. θαυμαζόντων δὲ τῶν στρατηγῶν τὴν ἔκπληξιν τῶν ἀνδρῶν εἷς τῶν νεανίσκων, καίτοι δοκῶν τῶν ἄλλων πρεσβεύειν κατὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν, “ἐγὼ δ᾿,” ἔφη, “ἄνδρες Τρίτωνες, ὑπὸ τοῦ δέους καταβαλὼν ἐμαυτὸν ὑπὸ τοὺς θαλάμους ὡς ἔνι μάλιστα κατωτάτω ἐκείμην.” συγγνόντες οὖν τῇ αὐτῶν ἐκστάσει ἐπιτιμήσαντες eμὴ πλείονος οἴνου | ἐμφορεῖσθαι ἀφῆκαν. καὶ οἱ χάριν ἔχειν ὁμολογήσαντες <. . .> “ἂν λιμένος,” ἔφη, “τύχωμεν ἀπαλλαγέντες τοσούτου κλύδωνος, Σωτῆρας ὑμᾶς ἐπιφανεῖς μετὰ τῶν θαλασσίων δαιμόνων ἐν τῇ πατρίδι ἱδρυσόμεθα ὡς αἰσίως ἡμῖν ἐπιφανέντας.” ἐντεῦθεν ἡ οἰκία Τριήρης ἐκλήθη.

Neither fully fool nor fully wise

The opening three lines of Francois Villon’s Le (Grand) Testament.

En l’an trentiesme de mon eage,
Que toutes mes hontes j’eu beues,
Ne du tout fol, ne du tout sage.

In the thirtieth year of my life,
now that I’ve drunk down all my shames,
neither fully fool nor fully wise.

I turn 32 today and can for the last time round myself down to this over Dante’s nel mezzo of 35.


Rotting away among the Sirens

Epictetus Discourses 2.234 36-41.  An originally Stoic exhortation but one I redirect along the same lines as Robert Burton’s self-conviction of his reading practices – that “like a ranging spaniel, that barks at every bird he sees, leaving his game, I have followed all, saving that which I should.”

What, then, generally takes place? Men act like a traveller on the way to his own country who stops at an excellent inn, and, since the inn pleases him, stays there. Man, you have forgotten your purpose; you were not travelling to this but through it. “But this is a fine inn.” And how many other inns are fine, and how many meadows—yet simply for passing through. But your purpose is the other thing, to return to your country, to relieve the fear of your kinsmen, to do the duties of a citizen yourself, to marry, bring up children, hold the customary offices. For you did not come into the world to select unusually fine places, I ween, but to live and go about your business in the place where you were born and were enrolled as a citizen. Something like this takes place also in the matter which we are considering. Since a man must advance to perfection through the spoken word and such instruction as you receive here, and must purify his own moral purpose and correct the faculty which makes use of external impressions, and since the instruction must necessarily be given by means of certain principles, and in a particular style, and with a certain variety and impressiveness in the form of these principles, some persons are captivated by all these things and stay where they are; one is captivated by style, another by syllogisms, another by arguments with equivocal premisses, another by some other “inn” of that sort, and staying there they rot away as though they were among the Sirens.

Τί οὖν ἐστι τὸ γινόμενον; οἷον εἴ τις ἀπιὼν εἰς τὴν πατρίδα τὴν ἑαυτοῦ καὶ διοδεύων πανδοκεῖον καλὸν ἀρέσαντος αὐτῷ τοῦ πανδοκείου καταμένοι ἐν τῷ πανδοκείῳ. ἄνθρωπε, ἐπελάθου σου τῆς προθέσεως· οὐκ εἰς τοῦτο ὥδευες, ἀλλὰ διὰ τούτου. “ἀλλὰ κομψὸν τοῦτο.” πόσα δ᾿ ἄλλα πανδοκεῖα κομψά, πόσοι δὲ λειμῶνες· ἁπλῶς ὡς δίοδος. τὸ δὲ προκείμενον ἐκεῖνο· εἰς τὴν πατρίδα ἐπανελθεῖν, τοὺς οἰκείους ἀπαλλάξαι δέους, αὐτὸν τὰ τοῦ πολίτου ποιεῖν, γῆμαι, παιδοποιεῖσθαι,ἄρξαι τὰς νομιζομένας ἀρχάς. οὐ γὰρ τοὺς κομψοτέρους ἡμῖν τόπους ἐκλεξόμενος ἐλήλυθας, ἀλλ᾿ ἐν οἷς ἐγένου καὶ ὧν κατατέταξαι πολίτης, ἐν τούτοις ἀναστραφησόμενος. τοιοῦτόν τι καὶ ἐνταῦθά ἐστι τὸ γινόμενον. ἐπεὶ διὰ λόγου καὶ τοιαύτης παραδόσεως ἐλθεῖν ἐπὶ τὸ τέλειον δεῖ καὶ τὴν αὑτοῦ προαίρεσιν ἐκκαθᾶραι καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν χρηστικὴν τῶν φαντασιῶν ὀρθὴν κατασκευάσαι, ἀνάγκη δὲ τὴν παράδοσιν γίνεσθαι διά τινων θεωρημάτων καὶ διὰ λέξεως ποιᾶς καὶ μετά τινος ποικιλίας καὶ δριμύτητος τῶν θεωρημάτων, ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν τινες τούτων ἁλισκόμενοι καταμένουσιν αὐτοῦ, ὁ μὲν ὑπὸ τῆς λέξεως, ὁ δ᾿ ὑπὸ συλλογισμῶν, ὁ δ᾿ ὑπὸ μεταπιπτόντων, ὁ δ᾿ ὑπ᾿ ἄλλου τινὸς τοιούτου πανδοκείου, καὶ προσμείναντες κατασήπονται ὡς παρὰ ταῖς Σειρῆσιν.

To talk philosophy without seeming to do so and by jests to accomplish the same as those who speak seriously

From Plutarch’s Sympotic Questions or Table-Talk (as the Loeb puts it) 613F-614A.  Translation is basically the Loeb, slightly revised.

In just such a manner a philosopher too, when with drinking-companions who are unwilling to listen to his homilies, will change his role, fall in with their mood, and not object to their activity so long as it does not transgress propriety. For he knows that, while men practise oratory only when they talk, they practise philosophy when they are silent, when they jest, even, by Zeus, when they are the butt of jokes and when they make fun of others. Indeed, not only is it true that ‘the worst injustice is to seem just when one is not,’ as Plato says, but also the height of understanding is to talk philosophy without seeming to do so, and by jests to accomplish the same as those who speak seriously. Just as the Maenads in Euripides, without shield and without sword, strike their attackers and wound them with their little thyrsoi, so true philosophers with their jokes and laughter somehow arouse men who are not altogether invulnerable and make them attentive.

οὕτω δὴ καὶ φιλόσοφος ἀνὴρ ἐν συμπόταις μὴ δεχομένοις τοὺς λόγους αὐτοῦ μεταθέμενος ἕψεται καὶ ἀγαπήσει τὴν ἐκείνων διατριβήν, ἐφ᾿ ὅσον μὴ ἐκβαίνει τὸ εὔσχημον, εἰδὼς ὅτι ῥητορεύουσι μὲν ἄνθρωποι διὰ λόγου, φιλοσοφοῦσι δὲ καὶ σιωπῶντες καὶ παίζοντες καὶ νὴ Δία σκωπτόμενοι καὶ σκώπτοντες. οὐ γὰρ μόνον ‘ἀδικίας ἐσχάτης ἐστίν,’ ὥς φησι Πλάτων, ‘μὴ ὄντα δίκαιον εἶναι δοκεῖν,’ ἀλλὰ καὶ συνέσεως ἄκρας φιλοσοφοῦντα μὴ δοκεῖν φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ παίζοντα διαπράττεσθαι τὰ τῶν σπουδαζόντων. ὡς γὰρ αἱ παρ᾿ Εὐριπίδῃ μαινάδες ἄνοπλοι καὶ ἀσίδηροι τοῖς θυρσαρίοις παίουσαι τοὺς ἐπιτιθεμένους τραυματίζουσιν, οὕτω τῶν ἀληθινῶν φιλοσόφων καὶ τὰ σκώμματα καὶ οἱ γέλωτες τοὺς μὴ παντελῶς ἀτρώτους κινοῦσιν ἁμωσγέπως καὶ συνεπιστρέφουσιν.


A visceral testimony to Homer’s influence

From Aelian’s Historical Miscellany 13.22 (or however you want to render Ποικίλη Ἱστορία).

Ptolemy Philopator, building a temple to Homer, erected a beautiful statue of him and in a circle around it placed all the cities who claim Homer as their own.

The painter Galaton depicted Homer vomiting and the other poets gathering up his vomit.

 Πτολεμαῖος ὁ Φιλοπάτωρ κατασκευάσας Ὁμήρῳ νεών, αὐτὸν μὲν καλῶς ἐκάθισε, κύκλῳ δὲ τὰς πόλεις περιέστησε τοῦ ἀγάλματος, ὅσαι ἀντιποιοῦνται τοῦ Ὁμήρου.

Γαλάτων δὲ ὁ ζωγράφος ἔγραψε τὸν μὲν Ὅμηρον αὐτὸν ἐμοῦντα, τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους ποιητὰς τὰ ἐμημεσμένα ἀρυομένους.

This Ptolemy, Ptolemy IV, ruled Egypt in the final two decades of the third century BC.  Galaton is otherwise unknown.

Hoc opus, hic labor est

What is certainly one of the Aeneid’s best known passages (6.129ish),

Trojan, son of Anchises, easy is the descent to Avernus:
night and day do the doors of black Dis lay open;
but to retrace your step and escape to the upper air,
this is the task, this the labor

Tros Anchisiade, facilis descensus Averno:
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
hoc opus, hic labor est.

Which, with consistent temperamental flippancy, I cannot read without recalling Ovid’s corrupting echo in Ars Amatoria 1.453:

But what you haven’t given, seem always on the cusp of giving:
In this way a barren field has often deceived its owner:
In this way the gambler – so that he won’t lose – does not leave off losing
and often the dice call back his greedy hands.
This is the the task, this the labor – to get her to bed without a preceding gift;
And so that what she’s given won’t have been given for nothing she’ll keep on giving.

At quod non dederis, semper videare daturus:
Sic dominum sterilis saepe fefellit ager:
Sic, ne perdiderit, non cessat perdere lusor,
Et revocat cupidas alea saepe manus.
Hoc opus, hic labor est, primo sine munere iungi;
Ne dederit gratis quae dedit, usque dabit.

Some metaphors of divine travel in Homer and Apollonius

Homer’s original at Iliad 15.78-83.  The first translation is the new Peter Green – which I was curious to glance through.  He seems rather to miss the core of the image in failing to translate the νόος (mind) of the νόος ἀνέρος – or does he separate it to a few lines later?  The second is the Loeb by A.T. Murray.

So he spoke, and Hērē, white-armed goddess, did not disobey him,
but went from the mountains of Ida to lofty Olympos.
Like a man who’s travelled to many countries, who
hurries about, reflects, “How I wish I was here, or there”,
whose sharp mind speeds its way through a mass of desires,
so rapidly in her eagerness flew the lady Hērē

So he spoke, and the goddess, white-armed Hera, failed not to obey, but went from the mountains of Ida to high Olympus. And just as swiftly darts the mind of a man who has traveled over far lands and thinks in his cunning mind, “Would I were here, or there,” and many are the wishes he conceives, so swiftly sped on the queenly Hera in her eagerness;

ὣς ἔφατ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ἀπίθησε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη,
βῆ δ᾽ ἐξ Ἰδαίων ὀρέων ἐς μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον.
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἂν ἀΐξῃ νόος ἀνέρος, ὅς τ᾽ ἐπὶ πολλὴν
γαῖαν ἐληλουθὼς φρεσὶ πευκαλίμῃσι νοήσῃ
ἔνθ᾽ εἴην ἢ ἔνθα, μενοινήῃσί τε πολλά,
ὣς κραιπνῶς μεμαυῖα διέπτατο πότνια Ἥρη:

And Apollonius’s reworking in Argonautica 2.541-48, in the Loeb translation of William Race

And as when a man roams from his homeland—as we suffering humans often must wander—and no land is distant but all routes are visible, and he thinks of his own home, and pictures at once the way by sea and land, and in his swift thoughts seeks now one place, now another with his eyes—so quickly did Zeus’ daughter spring down and plant her feet on the inhospitable Thynian shore.

ὡς δ᾽ ὅτε τις πάτρηθεν ἀλώμενος, οἷά τε πολλὰ
πλαζόμεθ᾽ ἄνθρωποι τετληότες, οὐδέ τις αἶα
τηλουρός, πᾶσαι δὲ κατόψιοί εἰσι κέλευθοι,
σφωιτέρους δ᾽ ἐνόησε δόμους, ἄμυδις δὲ κέλευθος
ὑγρή τε τραφερή τ᾽ ἰνδάλλεται, ἄλλοτε δ᾽ ἄλλῃ
ὀξέα πορφύρων ἐπιμαίεται ὀφθαλμοῖσιν:
ὧς ἄρα καρπαλίμως κούρη Διὸς ἀίξασα
θῆκεν ἐπ᾽ ἀξείνοιο πόδας Θυνηίδος ἀκτῆς.

Do you want to know, Duthier, what sort of place Rome is?

From Joachim du Bellay’s Les Regrets (no. 82).  The poem itself is standard Horace/Persius/Juvenal satire remade but came to mind today when a colleague sent – together with some accusatory innuendo – the below pictures of our library’s copy of the David Slavitt ‘translation’ of the collection.  I had forgotten but several years ago I was looking this up for some reason and got so enraged at his facing translation that I defaced several pages with my own spur of the moment versions.  I remain convinced I was in the right, if only to warn any future readers.  But I also enjoy the pure absurdity of it.

First is the Richard Helgerson translation:

Do you want to know, Duthier, what sort of place Rome is?  Rome is a public scaffold for all the world, a stage, a theater, where nothing is lacking that men can do.

Here we see the game of Fortune and how her hand keeps us turning, now down, now up.  Here everyone shows himself and cannot, however cunning he may be, prevent the populace from calling him what he is.

Here rumor spreads quickly, whether false or true.  Here courtiers make love and pay court.  Here ambition and trickery about.

Here freedom makes the lowborn man bold.  Here idleness makes the good man vicious.  Here the base porter holds forth on worldly affairs.

Now the original:

Veuls-tu sçavoir (Duthier) quelle chose c’est Rome?
Rome est de tout le monde un publique eschafault,
Une scene, un theatre, auquel rien ne default
De ce qui peult tomber es actions de l’homme.
Icy se void le jeu de la Fortune, et comme
Sa main nous fait tourner ores bas, ores haut:
Icy chacun se monstre, et ne peult, tant soit caut,
Faire que tel qu’il est, le peuple ne le nomme.
Icy du faulx et vray la messagere court,
Icy les courtisans font l’amour et la court,
Icy l’ambition, et la finesse abonde:
Icy la liberté fait l’humble audacieux,
Icy l’oysiveté rend le bon vicieux,
Icy le vil faquin discourt des faicts du monde.

Now the absurdity:

Let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way

From ch.5 of Moby Dick – Ishmael’s morning-after response to what he terms the  innkeeper’s ‘skylarking … in the matter of my bedfellow.’

However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.

Which accords nicely with Mr. Bennet’s lovely “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?” from ch.57 of Pride and Prejudice.