Archives for March, 2010
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I came across the following bits of interest from H.L. Mencken’s collection of critical essays, Prejudices: First Series. I thought Eric might be interested in his judgment of Edgar Lee Masters, which includes references to ubi sunt poetry and the Greek Anthology:
As for Edgar Lee Masters, for a short season the undisputed Homer of the movement, I believe that he is already extinct. What made the fame of “The Spoon River Anthology” was not chiefly any great show of novelty in it, nor any extraordinary poignancy, nor any grim truthfulness unparalleled, but simply the public notion that it was improper. It fell upon the country at the height of the last sex wave—a wave eternally ebbing and flowing, now high, now low. It was read, not as work of art, but as document; its large circulation was undoubtedly mainly among persons to whom poetry qua poetry was as sour a dose as symphonic music. To such persons, of course, it seemed something new under the sun. They were unacquainted with the verse of George Crabbe; they were quite innocent of E. A. Robinson and Robert Frost; they knew nothing of the Ubi sunt formula; they had never heard of the Greek Anthology.
He was largely railing against ‘the new poets,’ and seemed to have a sort of sympathy for Pound. I stumbled upon these passages looking for the context of a very familiar quotation:
Ezra Pound? The American in headlong flight from America—to England, to Italy, to the Middle Ages, to ancient Greece, to Cathay and points East. Pound, it seems to me, is the most picturesque man in the whole movement—a professor turned fantee, Abelard in grand opera. His knowledge is abysmal; he has it readily on tap; moreover, he has a fine ear, and has written many an excellent verse. But now all the glow and gusto of the bard have been transformed into the rage of the pamphleteer: he drops the lute for the bayonet. One sympathizes with him in his choler. The stupidity he combats is actually almost unbearable. Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. But this business, alas, is fatal to the placid moods and fine other-worldliness of the poet. Pound gives a thrilling show, but—. . . . The remaining stars of the liberation need not detain us. They are the streetboys following the calliope.
He ends with a rhetorical flourish which my AP students should be able to recognize as aposiopesis.
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Two quickies for your consideration:
Christopher Francese reads Horace’s priamel to Maecenas in the latest Latin Poetry Podcast, and Kiichiro Itsumi’s Pindaric Metre: The Other Half finally gets a proper (and a positive) review.
Horace 1.1 is one of the first pieces I can recall really working on to produce a good, literary translation, and Itsumi’s book is still sitting on my meter shelf, waiting for enough time in the schedule to dive in.
Good news all around.
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My Latin IV students are reading Ovid in translation, and this week we’re covering book 5, which is essentially a pastiche of the major genres of epic, moving from a parody of Odysseus and the suitors, to Hesiod’s Helicon, and finally a Homeric hymn.
To give students an idea of the kind of parody they were reading, we talked about some modern parallels in film, but the clearest example was Housman’s Fragment of a Greek Tragedy, as epic and tragedy are the two traditional genres of elevated poetry. The following lines got the biggest laughs:
. . . wherefore seeking whom
Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
To this well-nightingaled vicinity?
My object in inquiring is to know.
. . . . .
CHORUS: Beneath a shining or a rainy Zeus?
ALCMAEON: Mud’s sister, not himself, adorns my shoes.
. . . . .
ALCMAEON: A shepherd’s questioned mouth informed me that–
CHORUS: What? for I know not yet what you will say.
ALCMAEON: Nor will you ever, if you interrupt.
. . . . .
ERIPHYLE: He splits my skull, not in a friendly way,
Once more: he purposes to kill me dead.
CHORUS: I would not be reputed rash, but yet
I doubt if all be gay within the house.
ERIPHYLE: O! O! another stroke! that makes the third.
He stabs me to the heart against my wish.
CHORUS: If that be so, thy state of health is poor;
But thine arithmetic is quite correct.
Now the parody of style is one thing, but the gore! The gore is the thing in Ovid.
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I’m sure others have discovered this already, but all four volumes of James Henry’s life’s labor, the Aeneidea are available on Google Books in multiple editions. If you’re not familiar with James Henry, we’ll first consider him as a scholar, then as a sadly symapthetic figure:
Among Latin scholars in Ireland we note the name of James Henry (1796–1876), the gold medallist of Trinity College, Dublin, who practised as a physician till 1845, when he published a verse translation of Aeneid i and ii. After travelling abroad, he produced in 1853 his ‘Notes of a Twelve Year’ Voyage of Discovery in the First Six Books of the Aeneis.’ His personal knowledge of all the best MSS and editions of Virgil is embodied in the four volumes of his larger work, the Aeneidea (1873–1998), which includes many original and valuable contributions to the interpretation of the text.
—Sandys iii. 346
Here are the texts, including the early translation and the later critical editions:
- The Eneis (1845)
- Notes of a Twelve Years’ Voyage (1853)
- Aeneidea: Volume 1 (1873)
- Aeneidea: Volume 2 (1878)
- Aeneidea: Volume 3 (1889)
- Aeneidea: Volume 4 (1889)
And now the sad part:
At age 11 he fell in love with the poetry of Virgil and got into the habit of always carrying a copy of the Aeneid in his left breast-pocket. … He married Anne Jane Patton, from Donegal, and had three daughters, only one of whom, Katherine, born 1830, survived infancy.
. . . . .
When his wife died in Tyrol he continued his work with his daughter, who became quite a Virgil expert in her own right, and crossed the Alps seventeen times. After the death of his daughter in 1872 he returned to Dublin and continued his research at Trinity College, Dublin.
The one constant in his life seemed to the poem, as his infant daughters, his wife, and finally his daughter Katherine died. From boyhood to his own final days he had Virgil as his guide. One wonders if he ever saw himself as Dante and sought consolation in verse.
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I’ve read on rogueclassicism of the death of Kenneth Dover, and thought it might be worth sharing what may be the first assessment of his work as a Hellenist in print.
When Kenneth Dover was just 19 (in 1939) Oxford published his winning lines for the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse. His model was a selection of 113 lines from Racine’s Phèdre, and this publication was reviewed very favorably by the great Lionel Pearson (perhaps best known for The Local Historians of Attica, published three years after this review), who wrote that this “Oxford prize version in iambic trimeter is a reminder that the wholesome and fascinating practice of Greek verse composition has not been abandoned by English undergraduates and that their standard is a high one.”
I’d like to quote at length to show the respect the young Dover earned from Pearson, and which he should still command from us now:
The opening scene of the Phèdre introduces a theme entirely strange to the story told by Euripides. Hippolytus, after first giving the excuse that it is high time he departed in search of his absent father, explains to his tutor Theramenes that he must flee from Troezen because he has fallen in love with Aricia, whom he can never marry because of his father’s deadly feud with her brothers, the Pallantidae; and since he has not yet performed any heroic exploits, he dares not face the shame which his love is likely to bring him if he remains behind; the irregular loves of Theseus, he feels, can be excused only in consideration of his benefits to civilization; he himself cannot give that excuse
ὡς ταὐτὸ κείνω πανδίκως φράσαι παθεῖν.
Such argument is in the Euripidean spirit and it is admirably presented in lucid idiomatic Greek.
— CW 33. 5 (1939), p. 52
At 19 Dover was a master of Greek verse in a way that it seems none of us can be today, and in that he seems to have belonged to another time. The scholar he became seems just as out of time, but I suppose great scholars always do.
Reading through his commentaries (e.g., his Theocritus is still the best in my eyes) is an experience unmatched by more modern, chattier, less-definite works. He could be authoritative while being frank about the state of the evidence, cutting through the common mistakes and false suppositions of other editors without condescending. He was, unlike so many, willing to say that a question could not be answered, and both his front matter and notes were tempered by good judgment and attention to the needs of his readers. (Too often today scholars are prone to cram their research into every page, whether the reader needs it or not.)
I’ll be giving some time again to reading through his works and finding inspiration from his example.
Posted by Dennis » 3 Comments »
NB: We have ended our partnership with Zazzle. Please visit our new store, Classical Geek. We hope to have a new mug vendor soon.
Get your drink on from a cup that’s guaranteed to please: Nestor’s Drinking-Cup! Our latest offering is based on the 8th century BCE cup that you can read more about at Wikipedia. I remember working out the inscription as an undergraduate, and it’s always held a special place in my heart. Now I can hold it in my hands. As for the promise of the inscription, we are not liable for failure to find love.
Here’s my version in English:
I’m Nestor’s easy-drinkin’ drinking-cup:
And whoever drinks it up from this drinking-cup,
longing for lovely-crowned Aphrodite will snatch up!
(I left a bit out, I know.)
I agonized over the design, but we finally decided that simple would be best. A classic, uncluttered cup that’s easy to read (as long as you can read archaic Greek!)—it can even be used as a teaching tool. And for another $2 you can upgrade to a 15 oz. mug.
I had completely forgotten about about our other recent mug, which I have to say I think is really attractive: Aeneas and Anchises:
And don’t forget the reverse of this mug:
Why not buy both for the classicist in your life?
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This one is a real treat, but very odd: a work on Google Books listed as Opuscula by A.E. Housman. The truth is that no such work was published, and what we have is a poorly scanned PDF of a collection of Housman’s articles which had been collected by someone at Oxford and bound together.
Here are the contents:
- Emendations Propertianae, JP XVI. 1 ff.
- Note on Emendations Propertianae, JP XVI. 291
- The Manuscripts of Propertius, JP XXI. 101 ff.
- The Manuscripts of Propertius (cont’d.), JP XXI. 161 ff.
- The Manuscripts of Propertius (cont’d.), JP XXII. 84 ff.
- Review: Butler and Barber’s Propertius, CR XLVIII. 136 ff.
- Note’s on Seneca’s Tragedies, CQ XVII. 163 ff.
- The Silvae of Statius, CR XX. 37 ff.
- Notes on the Thebais of Statius, CQ XXVII. 1 ff., 65 ff.
- Notes on Latin Poets (Catullus, Horace, and Ovid), CR IV. 340 ff.
- Remarks on the Vatican Glossary, JP XX. 432 ff.
- Adversaria Orthographica, CR V. 293 ff.
- Greek Nouns in Latin Poetry from Lucretius to Juvenal, JP XXXI. 236 ff.
- Siparum and Supparus, CQ XIII. 149 ff.
- The Latin for Ass, CQ XXIV. 11 ff.
- Vester = tuus, CQ III. 244 ff.
- Prosody and Method, CQ XXI. 1 ff.
- Prosody and Method II: the metrical properties of GN, CQ XXII, 1 ff.
- Praefanda, Hermes LXVI. 402 ff.
- On Certain Corruptions in the Persae of Aeschylus, AJP IX. 317 ff.
- The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, JP XVI. 244 ff.
- On the Aetia of Callimachus, CQ IV. 114 ff.
- Dorotheus of Sidon, CQ II. 47 ff.
- Dorotheus Once More, CQ XVII. 53 ff.
- On the New Fragments of Menander, CQ II. 114
- Sophoclea, JP XX. 25 ff.
- The Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles, AJP XIII. 139 ff.
- The Michigan Astrological Papyrus, CP XXII. 257 ff.
- Abstract of a paper read at the Cambridge Philosophical Society, “Dryden, Poem upon the death of his late highness, Oliver“
Thanks to Kevin for pointing out that the OPVSCVLA seem to have been compiled by Eduard Fraenkel.
Housman, of course, wrote a letter recommending Fraenkel for the Corpus professorship at Oxford, and later defended his appointment in a letter to the Times:
Posted by Dennis » 4 Comments »
I’m always interested to hear from my colleagues, and I have a question for you (though I confess I already have an answer of my own). Have you any thoughts on the order of the declensions?
Oerberg’s Lingua Latina presents the cases in an order that makes all the songs and jingles students use, well, useless.
It’s an order that has a pedigree of its own, and that I’ve seen advocated here and there as an early pedagogical aid. I’ve always used the traditional order of the cases (I call it the American as opposed to the European order when I wean kids off of Oerberg), and I try to ingrain the uses of the cases by making up sentences in familiar vocabulary that use all five:
fēmina ducis mihi dōnum cum grātiā dedit.
This kind of sentence can be used to reinforce the order of the cases and some of the basic meanings of the cases, including the adjectival sense of the genitive and the adverbial sense of the ablative.
The tendency in Latin syntax is toward SOV (subject, object, verb), and while that oversimplifies the issue, simplification is helpful. We can build on that, and show the importance of the first and last positions, but we can also see a tendency to place indirect objects before direct objects, etc.
This is not to mention the importance of the genitive in recognizing noun stems/declension, and building and recognizing forms. Delaying the genitive can cause problems in recognizing stems, especially with the third declension.
So then what’s the pedagogical advantage of teaching the accusative second in the paradigm? You can still teach the nominative and accusative first, but provide students with a blank chart. They’ll see the blanks for the forms they haven’t learned yet, and will know that they’re coming. Still, in the end, they won’t have the culture shock of encountering a world of grammars, songs, and other resources that present the genitive, and not the accusative, second.