Posted by Eric » Add Comment »
I received the Duckworth catalog for 2009 in the mail today, and I see that there is a new book on Housman as a classical scholar (as opposed to a study of Housman the poet or Housman’s private life), edited by David Butterfield and Christopher Stray. It is scheduled for publication in the UK in August of this year, and in the US in November. I just did a quick search of their website and couldn’t find anything about it there yet, but thought that, at the very least, Dennis and our 1-2 readers might want to know if they didn’t already.
Posted by Eric » 2 Comments »
In the last paragraph of her column yesterday, Peggy Noonan says the following:
These are the two great issues, the economic crisis and our safety. In the face of them, what strikes one is the weightlessness of the Obama administration, the jumping from issue to issue and venue to venue from day to day. Isaiah Berlin famously suggested a leader is a fox or a hedgehog. The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In political leadership the hedgehog has certain significant advantages, focus and clarity of vision among them. Most presidents are one or the other. So far Mr. Obama seems neither.
I haven’t attempted to track down the Isaiah Berlin reference, but, of course, the idea about the fox and the hedgehog is much older. Remember Archilochus (fr. 201 West)?
πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα.
‘The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one. One good one.’ (Lattimore’s tr.)
Posted by Dennis » 5 Comments »
I’m sure most of us remember the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” which we saw over and over again as children learning to write or to type. But if you’re like me you didn’t know that it’s called a pangram, a name which makes perfect sense once you know it.
I intend to focus on proper pronunciation this week in Latin II and had the novel idea of finding such a sentence in Latin, to have my students memorize it, and to have them recite it back to me individually for a grade.
My search turned up little at first, until I stumbled upon the following by Pedro Madariaga (published as an illustration for handwriting in 1565):
gaza frequens Libycum duxit Karthago triumphum
This has caused those who’ve discussed it online no end of difficulty, and I think I know why. Others want to take Libycum as an accusative singular with triumphum, which leads them to read gaza as an ablative, or to make other unnecessary changes that destroy the meter as well as the sense.
But gaza must be nominative singular, and the progression of thought leads one to read Libycum as a poetic genitive plural (for Libyc(or)um). Read it like this:
gaza frequens Libycum: duxit Karthago triumphum!
At once the ellipsis of est is clear, as is the sense: “The treasury of the Libyans is full: Carthage has led a triumphal procession.”
(Incidentally, variants appear with the forms “libycos … triumphos“, a sort of hyper-correction following the common misreading.)
Following upon this I devised my own, though I’ve omitted K and Y:
heu Zama, quam Scipio celeber dux frangit inique!
“Alas (poor) Zama, whom the famed general Scipio is shattering unequally!”
Here our make-believe poet apostrophizes Zama in his sympathy at the heavy losses on the Carthaginian side. With inique I was aiming at the imbalance in losses between the two sides.
I think I’ll offer both lines to the students, teach them in meter and with proper pronunciation, and give them a choice as to which they recite for credit.