To Hell With Grammarians!

The following poems are taken from the Greek Anthology.  Both provide interesting possible origins for the phrase “bookworm”. A google search for the origin of the term is rather disappointing and points to book-eating species. But what if the species were named for scholars?

Philippos, 11.321

“Grammarians, children of hateful Blame, thorn-worms
Book-monsters, whelps of Zenodotus,
Soldiers of Kallimakhos, a man you project like a shield
But do not spare from your tongue,
Hunters of grievous conjunctions who take pleasure
In min or sphin* and in asking if the Cyclops kept dogs,
May you wear out your lives, wretches, muttering over the abuse
Of others. Come sink your arrow in me!”

Γραμματικοὶ Μώμου στυγίου τέκνα, σῆτες ἀκανθῶν,
τελχῖνες βίβλων, Ζηνοδότου σκύλακες,
Καλλιμάχου στρατιῶται, ὃν ὡς ὅπλον ἐκτανύσαντες,
οὐδ’ αὐτοῦ κείνου γλῶσσαν ἀποστρέφετε,
συνδέσμων λυγρῶν θηρήτορες, οἷς τὸ „μὶν” ἢ „σφὶν”
εὔαδε καὶ ζητεῖν, εἰ κύνας εἶχε Κύκλωψ,
τρίβοισθ’ εἰς αἰῶνα κατατρύζοντες ἀλιτροὶ
ἄλλων· ἐς δ’ ἡμᾶς ἰὸν ἀποσβέσατε.

Antiphanes, 11.322

“Useless race of grammarians, digging at the roots of
Someone else’s poetry, luckless worms who walk on thorns,
Perverters of great art, boasting over your Erinna*,
Bitter, parched watchdogs of Kallimakhos,
Rebukes to poets, death’s shade to children learning,
Go to hell, you fleas that secretly bite eloquent men.”

Γραμματικῶν περίεργα γένη, ῥιζωρύχα μούσης
ἀλλοτρίης, ἀτυχεῖς σῆτες ἀκανθοβάται,
τῶν μεγάλων κηλῖδες, ἐπ’ ᾿Ηρίννῃ δὲ κομῶντες,
πικροὶ καὶ ξηροὶ Καλλιμάχου πρόκυνες,
ποιητῶν λῶβαι, παισὶ σκότος ἀρχομένοισιν,
ἔρροιτ’, εὐφώνων λαθροδάκναι κόριες.

*An Alexandrian poet.

 

Philippus, 11.347

“Goodbye, men whose eyes have wandered over the universe,
And you thorn-counting worms of Aristarchus.
What’s it to me to examine which paths the Sun takes
Or whose son Proteus was or who was Pygmalion?
I would know as many works whose texts are clean. But let
The dark inquiry rot away the Mega-Kallimakheis!”

Χαίροιθ’, οἱ περὶ κόσμον ἀεὶ πεπλανηκότες ὄμμα
οἵ τ’ ἀπ’ ᾿Αριστάρχου σῆτες ἀκανθολόγοι.
ποῖ γὰρ ἐμοὶ ζητεῖν, τίνας ἔδραμεν ῞Ηλιος οἴμους
καὶ τίνος ἦν Πρωτεὺς καὶ τίς ὁ Πυγμαλίων;
γινώσκοιμ’, ὅσα λευκὸν ἔχει στίχον· ἡ δὲ μέλαινα
ἱστορίη τήκοι τοὺς Περικαλλιμάχους.

scholar

One thought on “To Hell With Grammarians!

  1. There really is an odd tradition of self-loathing among intellectuals! The current psychological maladies afflicting academia have solid historical/textual attestation!

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