πεδίον τὸ Ἀλήϊον οἶος ἀλᾶτο

From Glaucon’s retelling of his grandfather Bellerophon’s life in Iliad 6.150-210:

ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ καὶ κεῖνος ἀπήχθετο πᾶσι θεοῖσιν,
ἤτοι ὃ κὰπ πεδίον τὸ Ἀλήϊον οἶος ἀλᾶτο
ὃν θυμὸν κατέδων, πάτον ἀνθρώπων ἀλεείνων

But when even that one became hateful to all the gods,
Then he wandered over the Aleian plane alone
devouring his own spirit, shunning the path of men.


This is the locus classicus for histories of depression and melancholy in the western heritage, but I’ve never before noticed the wordplay between Ἀλήϊον and ἀλάομαι – and likely also  ἀλεείνω in the following line (which Diomedes echoes in his response as well).  A small but curious Homeric flourish that could maybe be tied to a conception of wandering – being away from home and social support networks – as an activity only voluntarily undertaken by someone unstable.  Which then bleeds to the question of whether the Iliadic and Odyssean traditions are directly or indirectly in dialogue here – the Iliad expressing a traditional view the Odyssey later works to overwrite.  On that point I’m most curious about the diction of the final line, especially the opening ὃν θυμὸν κατέδων which has for me the feel of an Odyssean refrain, especially the thematic metaphor of κατέδων.

Contemple de nouvelles bâtisses aux moindres élans de ton âme

From the opening section of Marcel Schwob’s Le Livre de Monelle:

Le désir même du nouveau n’est que l’appétence de l’âme qui souhaite se former.

Et les âmes rejettent les formes anciennes ainsi que les serpents leurs anciennes peaux.

Et les patients collecteurs d’anciennes peaux de serpent attristent les jeunes serpents parce qu’ils ont un pouvoir magique sur eux.

Car celui qui possède les anciennes peaux de serpent empêche les jeunes serpents de se transformer.

Voilà pourquoi les serpents dépouillent leur corps dans le conduit vert d’un fourré profond; et une fois l’an les jeunes se réunissent en cercle pour brûler les anciennes peaux.

Sois donc semblable aux saisons destructrices et formatrices.

Bâtis ta maison toi-même et brûle-la toi-même.

Ne jette pas de décombres derrière toi; que chacun se serve de ses propres ruines.

Ne construis point dans la nuit passée. Laisse tes bâtisses s’enfuir à la dérive.

Contemple de nouvelles bâtisses aux moindres élans de ton âme.

Pour tout désir nouveau fais des dieux nouveaux.

The very desire for the new is only the hunger of the soul seeking to form itself anew.

And souls throw off the old forms as serpents their old skins.

And the patient collectors of old serpent skins sadden the young serpents because they have a magical power over them.

For he who possesses the old skins prevents the young serpents from transforming themselves.

Here is why serpents shed their skins in the green trench of a deep thicket. And once a year the young gather in a circle to burn their old skins.

Be therefore like the seasons of destruction and formation.

Build your house yourself and burn it down yourself.

Do not throw debris behind you.  Let each make use of his own ruins.

Do not build in the night that has passed.  Let your buildings escape adrift.

Contemplate new buildings at the slightest impulses of your soul.

For every new desire create new gods.

The more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask

From Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

“And you never asked about the—place with the door?” said Mr.

“No, sir: I had a delicacy,” was the reply. “I feel very strongly about putting questions; it partakes too much of the style of the day of judgment. You start a question, and it’s like starting a stone. You sit quietly on the top of a hill; and away the stone goes, starting others; and presently some bland old bird (the last you would have thought of) is knocked on the head in his own back-garden and the family have to change their name. No, sir, I make it a rule of mine: the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask.”

“A very good rule, too,” said the lawyer.

Of all our joys, this must be the deepest

From David Hintons’ translation of Li Po – The Selected Poems of Li Po:

It’s April in Ch’ang-an, these thousand
blossoms making a brocade of daylight.

Who can bear spring’s lonely sorrows, who face it without wine? It’s the only way.

Success or failure, life long or short:
our fate’s given by Changemaker at birth.

But a single cup evens out life and death, our ten thousand concerns unfathomed,

and once I’m drunk, all heaven and earth vanish, leaving me suddenly alone in bed,

forgetting that person I am even exists.
Of all our joys, this must be the deepest.

The cuddliest of the Homeric hapax legomena.

From Iliad 5.405-409. Autenrieth gives παππάζω as ‘say papa, call one father.’ It is – threatening context aside – the cuddliest of the Homeric hapax legomena.

But the grey-eyed goddess Athena sets this one [Diomedes] upon you: the fool, nor does the son of Tydeus know this in his heart that not at all long-lived is he who fights with immortals, nor ever do his children at his knees call him papa when he has come home from war and dread strife.

The sole reasonable part in a ridiculous age

From a May 21, 1760 letter of Voltaire’s to d’Alembert:

Mon cher philosophe, somme totale la philosophie de Démocrite est la seule bonne. Le seul parti raisonnable dans un siècle ridicule, c’est de rire de tout….

My dear philosopher, the sum total of Democritus’ philosophy is the sole good. The sole reasonable part in a ridiculous age is to laugh at everything.

La tournée de l’archevêque

From Guy de Maupassant’s Mon Oncle Sosthene in his collection Les Soeurs Rondoli. I much appreciate how many drinking idioms I’ve learned from his stories – even if, as here, I often can’t find that they’re anything but a phrase of his own invention.

À six heures on se mit à table. À dix heures on mangeait encore et nous avions bu, à cinq, dix huit bouteilles de vin fin, plus quatre de champagne. Alors mon oncle proposa ce qu’il appelait la « tournée de l’archevêque ». On plaçait en ligne, devant soi, six petits verres qu’on remplissait avec des liqueurs différentes ; puis il les fallait vider coup sur coup pendant qu’un des assistants comptait jusqu’à vingt. C’était stupide ; mais mon oncle Sosthène trouvait cela « de circonstance ».

At six we sat down at the table. At ten we were still eating and we had drunk – between the five of us – eighteen bottles of wine and four more of champagne. Then my uncle proposed what he termed the ‘ tournée de l’archevêque.’ You were to place in a row in front of you six small glasses that you then filled with different liqueurs; then you had to empty them one after the other while one of the attendees counted to twenty. It was stupid but my uncle Sosthenes found it ‘in the spirit’.

I want to say ‘tournée de l’archevêque’ is a pun – building ‘the archbishop’s round (of drinks)’ off a more technical term for an archbishop’s itinerary of visits around his diocese (or whatever his province is termed) – ‘the archbishop’s tour.’

“Ass!” he exclaimed, “I’ll stop your kicking”

The basis for Walter Shandy’s Ass – from St. Jerome’s Life of Hilarion (5th paragraph):

[Satan] therefore tickled his senses and, as is his wont, lighted in his maturing body the fires of lust. This mere beginner in Christ’s school was forced to think of what he knew not, and to revolve whole trains of thought concerning that of which he had no experience. Angry with himself and beating his bosom (as if with the blow of his hand he could shut out his thoughts) “Ass!” he exclaimed, “I’ll stop your kicking, I will not feed you with barley, but with chaff. I will weaken you with hunger and thirst, I will lade you with heavy burdens, I will drive you through heat and cold, that you may think more of food than wantonness.”

Titillabat itaque sensus eius, et pubescenti corpori solita voluptatum incendia suggerebat. Cogebatur tirunculus Christi cogitare quod nesciebat, et eius rei animo pompam volvere, cuius experimenta non noverat. Iratus itaque sibi, et pectus pugnis verberans (quasi cogitationes caede manus posset excludere): Ergo, inquit, aselle, faciam, ut non calcitres: nec te hordeo alam, sed paleis. Fame te conficiam et siti: gravi onerabo pendere, per aestus indagabo et frigora, ut cibum potius quam lasciviam cogites.