The Ballad of Hampstead Heath

James Elroy Flecker, The Ballad of Hampstead Heath:

“From Heaven’s Gate to Hampstead Heath
Young Bacchus and his crew
Came tumbling down, and o’er the town
Their bursting trumpets blew.
The silver night was wildly bright,
And madly shone the Moon
To hear a song so clear and strong,
With such a lovely tune.

From London’s houses, huts and flats,
Came busmen, snobs, and Earls,
And ugly men in bowler hats
With charming little girls.

Sir Moses came with eyes of flame,
Judd, who is like a bloater,
The brave Lord Mayor in coach and pair,
King Edward, in his motor.

Far in a rosy mist withdrawn
The God and all his crew,
Silenus pulled by nymphs, a faun,
A satyr drenched in dew,

Smiled as they wept those shining tears
Only Immortals know,
Whose feet are set among the stars,
Above the shifting snow.

And one spake out into the night,
Before they left for ever,
‘Rejoice, rejoice!’ and his great voice
Rolled like a splendid river.

He spake in Greek, which Britons speak
Seldom, and circumspectly;
But Mr. Judd, that man of mud,
Translated it correctly.

And when they heard that happy word,
Policemen leapt and ambled:
The busmen pranced, the maidens danced,
The men in bowlers gambolled.

A wistful Echo stayed behind
To join the mortal dances,
But Mr Judd, with words unkind,
Rejected her advances.

And passing down through London Town
She stopped, for all was lonely,
Attracted by a big brass plate
Inscribed, FOR MEMBERS ONLY.

And so she went to Parliament,
But those ungainly men
Woke up from sleep, and turned about,
And fell asleep again.”

Steven Clark - Dionysus

Ipse dixit: Citation and Authority

A post by the amazing Dr. Hannah Čulík-Baird, known to the twitter-verse as @opietasanimi.

Sententiae has been calling out fake quotations (particularly of Aristotle) for a while now, to the point where a citational typology has been developed. All of these quotations, real or otherwise, really make me wonder: why do we quote so much in the first place?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, incidentally, criticized the citational impulse, wrote: “All minds quote.” (Just to be clear, this one’s real: it appears in Quotation and Originality. And yes, I do realize the irony of quoting an authority in an essay which will, spoiler alert, ask that we don’t do this so much. There will be much irony.)

HCB1

Back to “All minds quote”, then. We’re trained to do it, and there is also something instinctual about it. We want to situate ourselves. We want to be part of an intellectual framework. We want to show we know things!

Citation acknowledges both that we are not alone (others have felt this way, thought this way), and that we didn’t get here alone (others have done work that set the foundation; we stand on their shoulders). Sara Ahmed has written: “Citation is feminist memory. It is how we leave a trail of where we have been and who helped us along the way.” Marika Rose has stressed that citation is a form of “academic currency” which “has value, ascribes value.”

So, I get it. Citationality makes community, and without that community, and citational trust, scholarly work would be impossible. But what about these Aristotle “quotes”? One of the issues here is that some of the Aristotle sayings — the ones which aren’t completely fabricated, anyway — make their way into popular usage because they were excerpted and placed in a different context. “Memory is the scribe of the soul. — Aristotle” – which does, actually, seem to be fake – appears in several 19th century quotation books, either alongside witty phrases on the topic of “memory” attributed to other venerable writers; or as just one in a larger list of sayings attributed to Aristotle. Presenting Aristotle’s words (or not his words) in this way — as short, pithy sayings — removes much of the substance and flattens out the meaning, which will always depend on the context. And by placing pithy phrases in a list like this, the reader no longer views Aristotle as philosopher in the context of his time and intellectual environment, but as Aristotle the timeless authority.

Recently, I’ve been teaching Cicero and my students were considering a passage from De Officiis (1.113) which contains the phrase: id enim maxime quemque decet, quod est cuiusque maxime suum, i.e. something like: “What best suits each man is whatever is most his own.” In class, I remarked flippantly that this is the kind of thing which would appear on a mug in an etsy shop. “What suits us best is what’s most our own. — Cicero.”

Already wildly popular on etsy and elsewhere is Cicero’s “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” which comes from a short letter to Varro from 46 BCE (Ad Fam. 9.4.1). Although, Cicero says si hortum in biblioteca, “if you have a garden in your library,” which Shackleton Bailey, the famous editor of Cicero’s letters, considered “a rather obscure remark.” The editors before him, Tyrell and Purser, wrote: “Cicero may have been fond of flowers, as some commentators say, but why should the garden be in the library…” They go on to suggest that the text may have been hortum cum biliotheca, “a garden with a library”, which would get us closer to the etsy shop pillows and mugs.

But the earlier part of Cicero’s letter to Varro is banter about philosophical gibberish, which may suggest a more specific meaning here, unknown to us (again: context). Some think that the garden in question is a reference to Epicureanism (Epicurus famously had a garden at Athens).

Anyway, it turns out that the phrase from Cicero’s De Officiis (1.113) was in fact also excerpted as gnomic wisdom in the 19th century. In 1889, it was included in Francis Henry King’s “Classical and Foreign Quotations: Law Terms and Maxims, Proverbs, Mottoes, Phrases, and Expressions in French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese. With Translations, References, Explanatory Notes, and Indexes” (!). It is the 2007th quotation:

HCB2

The title page of King’s Classical and Foreign Quotations contains the epigraph: “A Quotation without a reference is like a geological specimen of unknown locality,” attributed (with a page number and everything) to Prof. Skeat i.e. the British philologist Walter William Skeat, who produced An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language.

In the introduction, King quotes Skeat more fully: “I protest, for about the hundredth time, against the slipshod method of quoting a mere author’s name, without any indication of the work of that author in which the alleged quotation may be found. Let us have accurate quotations and exact references, wherever such are to be found. A quotation without reference is like a geological specimen of unknown locality.”

HCB3
Evidently, there was some frustration with the contemporary practice of quoting ancient and modern authors without reference (which is not quite context). A practice which, as the many posts here on Sententiae have shown, is the intellectual precursor to Aristotle’s prominence on pinterest.

HCB4

I’m still bothered by the question of why we quote. It is clear that ancient texts have traditionally been mined for their nuggets of wisdom, and that often this kind of mining disrupts meaning. The idea that there is something universal in ancient texts can make us blind to the things in them which are specifically not universal; the peculiarities, the details which connect to, and are sustained by, the broader cultural environment which produced them. The details which don’t actually make sense out of context. Details in text which refer to parts of a culture which are now lost, even though the text remains.

When we quote “blah blah blah — Aristotle” or “blah blah blah — Cicero”, we present something very flat indeed. The context and the meaning of the text recedes from view, and is replaced, instead, with authority. It reminds me of what James Boswell recorded about Samuel Johnson’s response to the accusation that classical quotation was pedantry: “No, Sir, it is a good thing; there is a community of mind in it. Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.” In this context, quotation is essentially a class signifier. A way for elites to communicate.

There’s a famous passage in Cicero’s De Natura Deorum (1.10) that faces this problem head on. (Again, I’m aware of the irony of citing Cicero as an authority here).

qui autem requirunt quid quaque de re ipsi sentiamus, curiosius id faciunt quam necesse est; non enim tam auctoritatis in disputando quam rationis momenta quaerenda sunt. quin etiam obest plerumque iis qui discere volunt auctoritas eorum qui se docere profitentur; desinunt enim suum iudicium adhibere, id habent ratum quod ab eo quem probant iudicatum vident. nec vero probare soleo id quod de Pythagoreis accepimus, quos ferunt, si quid adfirmarent in disputando, cum ex eis quaereretur quare ita esset, respondere solitos “ipse dixit”; “ipse” autem erat Pythagoras: tantum opinio praeiudicata poterat, ut etiam sine ratione valeret auctoritas.

‘Those who seek my personal views on each issue are being unnecessarily inquisitive, for when we engage in argument we must look to the weight of reason rather than authority. Indeed, students who are keen to learn often find the authority of those who claim to be teachers to be an obstacle, for they cease to apply their own judgement and regard as definitive the solution offered by the mentor of whom they approve. I myself tend to disapprove of the alleged practice of the Pythagoreans: the story goes that if they were maintaining some position in argument, and were asked why, they would reply: “The master said so,” the master being Pythagoras. Prior judgement exercised such sway that authority prevailed even when unsupported by reason.’ Translated by P. G. Walsh (2008).

Cicero’s claim here is that over-dependence on the citation of authority is not a healthy intellectual practice. His view is informed by the Academic philosophical stance, which, instead of putting forward positive views rather refined intellectual understanding via refutation and argumentation.

Argumentation is the emphasis. If someone asks you why you think something, you should be able to explain why. In such a context, Cicero derides the members of particular philosophical schools who, from his perspective at least, rely not on argumentation but instead simply invoke authority. The Pythagoreans respond: ipse dixit, “he himself said so.”

Cicero also characterizes Epicurean philosophy as overly dependent on authority. In the De Natura Deorum, the Academic character says to the Epicurean: ista enim a vobis quasi dictata redduntur, quae Epicurus oscitans halucinatus est, “your responses are like your school lessons, gibberish spouted by Epicurus while he fell asleep” (ND 1.72). In the In Pisonem, Cicero takes on the persona of an Epicurean to mock their reverent, citational invocation: ut noster divinus ille dixit Epicurus, “as our divine Epicurus himself said…” (Pis. 59).

In the De Natura Deorum passage, Cicero is aware that an authoritative presence in the classroom can be damaging to student growth if it gives the students the sense that they cannot make their own judgments, but instead must defer to the opinions of their teachers. Cicero rejects the overly inquisitive who want to know what he thinks about the nature of the gods on the grounds that they might run around spouting Cicero dixit – “Cicero said so” – instead of achieving some mastery of the philosophical argumentations contained within this book. But there is artificiality to this that comes from Cicero’s temporary pedagogical stance.

In his political and literary life Cicero, of course, did want to be quoted, because this was a measure of his influence, and his legacy. And, of course, Cicero himself also quoted and invoked authorities all the time: noster Ennius (Arch. 18); noster Plato (Leg. 3.5), etc. etc.

Skeat was frustrated with quotation without reference. But what I want to see is quotation with context. It happens time and again that a nice turn of phrase from an ancient author which sounds fine and maybe somehow inspirational in its disembodied, decontextualized state, turns out to be not so great when you see its original purpose. Quotation basically always changes the nature of the words cited. A quotation takes on a new function in its new context, and it’s worth being aware of that. Sometimes, citation is deliberately designed to change how the original text is viewed.

A Book Replaced By No Other

Libanius, Autobiography 148-149

“Another detail, small, yet not small, is worth adding to these things. For, I will perhaps seem to be pedantic to some of you, but I, bitten deep, know that I feel this way because of a serious matter.

See, I had a copy of Thucydides, with charming and small writing. The whole thing was easy enough to lift that I used to carry it myself with a slave following me and the burden was a delight. I learned enough of the war of the Spartan and Athenians in it to feel what, perhaps, others have felt too. I would never even come near to the same pleasure from another copy of the book.

Because I used to praise this possession too much to too many people and was delighting it more than Polykrates did his ring, I attracted thieves to it, some of whom I caught. But the last one of them started a fire to avoid being caught and so I stopped searching but I could not let go of grief. In fact, every profit I had from Thucydides began to shrink once I found him in different writing with displeasure.”

  1. Τούτοις ἄξιον ἐκεῖνο προσθεῖναι σμικρόν τε καὶ οὐ σμικρόν· ὑμῶν μὲν γὰρ ἴσως τῳ μικρολογεῖσθαι δόξω, δηχθεὶς δὲ αὐτὸς τὴν ψυχὴν οἶδα καὶ ἐπὶ μεγάλῳ τοῦτο παθών. ἦν μοι ἡ Θουκυδίδου συγγραφή, γράμματα μὲν ἐν μικρότητι χαρίεντα, τὸ δὲ σύμπαν οὕτω ῥᾴδιον φέρειν ὥστ᾿ αὐτὸς ἔφερον παιδὸς ἀκολουθοῦντος καὶ τὸ φορτίον τέρψις ἦν. ἐν τούτῳ τὸν πόλεμον τῶν Πελοποννησίων καὶ Ἀθηναίων μαθὼν ἐπεπόνθειν ὅπερ ἴσως ἤδη τις καὶ ἕτερος· οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἐξ ἑτέρας βίβλου ταῦτ᾿ ἂν αὖθις ἐπῆλθον πρὸς ἡδονήν.
  2. ἐπαινῶν δὴ πολλὰ καὶ πρὸς πολλοὺς τὸ κτῆμα καὶ εὐφραινόμενος μᾶλλον ἢ Πολυκράτης τῷ δακτυλίῳ κλέπτας αὐτῷ τοῖς ἐπαίνοις ἐπῆγον, ὧν τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους εὐθὺς ᾕρουν, ὁ δέ γε τελευταῖος πῦρ1ἀνῆψε τοῦ μὴ ἁλῶναι, καὶ οὕτω δὴ τοῦ ζητεῖν μὲν ἐπεπαύμην, τὸ μὴ λυπεῖσθαι δὲ οὐκ εἶχον. ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ κέρδος μοι τὸ παρὰ τοῦ Θουκυδίδου μέγα ἂν γενόμενον μεῖον ἤρχετο διὰ τὸ σὺν ἀηδίᾳ γράμμασιν ἑτέροις ὁμιλεῖν.

 

Image result for codex of thucydides
Alas, not Libanius’ text:

This tale reminds me of the box-Iliad:

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 26.4

“When a small box was brought to him—which seem more valuable than the rest of the possessions and baggage they had taken from Dareios, [Alexander] asked his friends what thing seem especially worthy of being put in it. Although many of them made many suggestions, Alexander said that he would keep the Iliad safe by placing it inside. Not a few of the most credible sources claim this.

If, as the Alexandrians say is true—since they believe Herakleides—Homer was no lazy or unprofitable travel companion…”

Κιβωτίου δέ τινος αὐτῷ προσενεχθέντος, οὗ πολυτελέστερον οὐδὲν ἐφάνη τοῖς τὰ Δαρείου χρήματα καὶ τὰς ἀποσκευὰς παραλαμβάνουσιν, ἠρώτα τοὺς φίλους, ὅ τι δοκοίη μάλιστα τῶν ἀξίων σπουδῆς εἰς αὐτὸ καταθέσθαι. πολλὰ δὲ πολλῶν λεγόντων, αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν ᾿Ιλιάδα φρουρήσειν ἐνταῦθα καταθέμενος· καὶ ταῦτα μὲνοὐκ ὀλίγοι τῶν ἀξιοπίστων μεμαρτυρήκασιν. εἰ δ’, ὅπερ ᾿Αλεξανδρεῖς λέγουσιν ῾Ηρακλείδῃ (fr. 140 W.) πιστεύοντες, ἀληθές ἐστιν, οὔκουν [οὐκ] ἀργὸς οὐδ’ ἀσύμβολος αὐτῷ συστρατεύειν ἔοικεν ῞Ομηρος.

This passage refers to an earlier moment in the Life. Coincidentally, I also sleep the same way…

8.4

“[Alexander] was also naturally a lover of language, a lover of learning, and a lover of reading. Because he believed that the Iliad was a guidebook for military excellence—and called it that too—he took a copy of it which had been edited by Aristotle which they used to refer to as “Iliad-in-a-Box”. He always kept it with his dagger beneath his pillow—as Onêsikritos tells us.

When there were no other books in -and, he sent to Harpalos for some more. Then Harpalus sent him Philistos’ books along with some tragedies of Euripides, Sophokles and Aeschylus and the dithyrambs of Telestes and Philoxenos.”

ἦν δὲ καὶ φύσει φιλόλογος καὶ φιλομαθὴς καὶ φιλαναγνώστης, καὶ τὴν μὲν  ᾿Ιλιάδα τῆς πολεμικῆς ἀρετῆς ἐφόδιον καὶ νομίζων καὶ ὀνομάζων, ἔλαβε μὲν ᾿Αριστοτέλους διορθώσαντος ἣν ἐκ τοῦ νάρθηκος καλοῦσιν, εἶχε δ’ ἀεὶ μετὰ τοῦ ἐγχειριδίου κειμένην ὑπὸ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον, ὡς ᾿Ονησίκριτος ἱστόρηκε (FGrH 134 F 38)· τῶν δ’ ἄλλων βιβλίων οὐκ εὐπορῶν ἐν τοῖς ἄνω τόποις, ῞Αρπαλον ἐκέλευσε πέμψαι, κἀκεῖνος ἔπεμψεν αὐτῷ τάς τε Φιλίστου βίβλους καὶ τῶν Εὐριπίδου καὶ Σοφοκλέους καὶ Αἰσχύλου τραγῳδιῶν συχνάς, καὶ Τελέστου καὶ Φιλοξένου διθυράμβους.

 

A Model Friend Request for Readers; A Somewhat Awkward Dating Profile

Dio Chrysostom, 18.21

 “I would like it, if it were also pleasing to you, for us to meet at some time and then, spending time with ancient writers and talking about them, be useful to one another.”

βουλοίμην δ᾿ ἄν, εἴ σοι κεχαρισμένον εἴη, καὶ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ ποτε ἡμᾶς γενέσθαι, ἵνα καὶ ἐντυγχάνοντες τοῖς παλαιοῖς καὶ διαλεγόμενοι περὶ αὐτῶν χρήσιμοί τι γενοίμεθα.

Image result for Ancient Greek and Roman Reading fresco

[I actually find this sentiment a little sweet and completely relatable]

A Display of Hairudition

Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.19

“In the fourth book of the Aeneid, describing the death of Dido, Vergil says that a lock of her hair was cut away in these verses:

Proserpina had not yet cut away the tawny lock from her and condemned her head to Stygian Orcus.

Then Iris, sent by Juno, cut away Dido’s hair and brought it to Orcus. Vergil has not contrived this story out of nothing, as that otherwise very learned man Cornutus supposes when he adds this commentary to the verse:

Whence came this story that hair must be taken away from the dying is unknown; but Vergil is accustomed to invent things now and then in the old poetic fashion, as he did with the golden bough.

Thus writes Cornutus. But I am ashamed that such a great man, though steeped in Greek literature, did not know that most remarkable play of Euripides, the Alcestis. For in that play, Orcus is brought onto the scene bearing a sword to cut the hair of Alcestis, and he speaks thus:

This woman then will go to the home of Hades.
I proceed to her, so that I may begin the rite with my sword.
For one is sacred to the god below ground
Once this blade has consecrated the hair of their head.

So it is clear, I think, whom Vergil followed in introducing the part about cutting the hair. But the Greeks mean by ἁγνίσαι to consecrate to the gods, whence your poet says in the character of Iris,

Ordered by Juno, I bear this sacred hair to Dis, and loose you from your body.

Related image
Henry Fuseli, “Dido”

 

In libro quarto in describenda Elissae morte ait quod ei crinis abscisus esset his versibus:

Nondum illi flavum Proserpina vertice crinem
Abstulerat, Stygioque caput damnaverat Orco.

Deinde Iris a Iunone missa abscidit ei crinem et ad Orcum refert. Hanc Virgilius non de nihilo fabulam fingit, sicut vir alias doctissimus Cornutus existimat, qui annotationem eiusmodi adposuit his versibus: Unde haec historia, ut crinis auferendus sit morientibus, ignoratur: sed adsuevit poetico more aliqua fingere, ut de aureo ramo. Haec Cornutus. Sed me pudet quod tantus vir, Graecarum etiam doctissimus litterarum, ignoravit Euripidis nobilissimam fabulam Alcestim. In hac enim fabula in scenam Orcus inducitur gladium gestans quo crinem abscidat Alcestidis, et sic loquitur,

ἡ δ᾽ οὖν γυνὴ κάτεισιν εἰς Ἅιδου δόμους.
στείχω δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ αὐτὴν ὡς κατάρξωμαι ξίφει:
ἱερὸς γὰρ οὗτος τῶν κατὰ χθονὸς θεῶν
ὅτου τόδ᾽ ἔγχος κρατὸς ἁγνίσῃ τρίχα.

Proditum est, ut opinor, quem secutus Virgilius fabulam abscidendi crinis induxerit: ἁγνίσαι autem Graece dicunt dis consecrare, unde poeta vester ait ex Iridis persona:

— Hunc ego Diti
Sacrum iussa fero, teque isto corpore solvo.

“A Beacon of Love or Hate”: An Epigram

Greek Anthology, 12.156, Anyonymous

“Just like a spring storm, Diodoros,
My love is decided by an uncertain sea.
Sometimes you show pouring rain, but at others
You are clear, and you pour a soft smile from your eyes.

So I, like the shipwrecked on the swell,
Measure out the blind waves as I spin,
Drawn here and there by the great storm.

But you, shine me a beacon of love or even hate
So I can know by which wave we should swim.”

Εἰαρινῷ χειμῶνι πανείκελος, ὦ Διόδωρε,
οὑμὸς ἔρως, ἀσαφεῖ κρινόμενος πελάγει·
καὶ ποτὲ μὲν φαίνεις πολὺν ὑετόν, ἄλλοτε δ᾿ αὖτε
εὔδιος, ἁβρὰ γελῶν δ᾿ ὄμμασιν ἐκκέχυσαι.
τυφλὰ δ᾿, ὅπως ναυηγὸς ἐν οἴδματι, κύματα μετρῶν
δινεῦμαι, μεγάλῳ χείματι πλαζόμενος.
ἀλλά μοι ἢ φιλίης ἔκθες σκοπὸν ἢ πάλι μίσους,
ὡς εἰδῶ ποτέρῳ κύματι νηχόμεθα.

Related image
Tristan and Iseult at Longy

 

A Measure of Wine for Madness or Pain

Two fragments from Euenus

Anth. Pal. 11.49 Εὐήνου 

“The best measure of Bacchus is not too much
Nor too little
For this he is the cause of pain or madness.
He is happy to be mixed fourth with three Nymphs—
Then he is most prepared for the bedroom.
But if he puffs too much, he turns away from loves
And dips into sleep, the next-door neighbor of death.”

Βάκχου μέτρον ἄριστον ὃ μὴ πολὺ μηδ᾿
ἐλάχιστον·
ἔστι γὰρ ἢ λύπης αἴτιος ἢ μανίης.
χαίρει κιρνάμενος δὲ τρισὶν Νύμφαισι τέταρτος·
τῆμος καὶ θαλάμοις ἐστὶν ἑτοιμότατος.
εἰ δὲ πολὺς πνεύσειεν, ἀπέστραπται μὲν ἔρωτας,
βαπτίζει δ᾿ ὕπνῳ, γείτονι τοῦ θανάτου.

5 Stob. 3.20.2 Εὐήνου

“Anger often eclipses humans’ hidden mind.
This is much worse than madness.”

πολλάκις ἀνθρώπων ὀργὴ νόον ἐξεκάλυψεν
κρυπτόμενον· μανίης πουλὺ χερειότερον.

Nouvelle acquisition latine 1673, fol. 76v, Marchand de vin. Tacuinum sanitatis, Milano or Pavie (Italy), 1390-1400.