26 July 2016

The Worm Hole

Joseph Kaspar Sattler (1867-1931), "Der Wurmstich," Ein moderner Totentanz  (Berlin: J.A. Stargardt, 1912), p. 9:

21 July 2016

Translations Must Be Attempted

Arthur Jerome Eddy, Delight, the Soul of Art (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1902), pp. 35-36:
Translations must be attempted; they have their uses, but their value must not be over-estimated. In scientific, historical, and philosophical works their value is in proportion to the faithfulness with which they translate the exact language and intention of the original; and there are literal translations of poems, the sole aim of which is to render as exactly and literally as possible the words and meanings of the originals, but such translations are not in themselves works of art. The translator may delight in what he is so ploddingly and accurately and conscientiously accomplishing, but he delights not in either the thought or the manner of expressing the thought. There are, however, translations which are works of art, translations in which the translator delighted in both the thought and its expression, in which his own individuality is given full play. Such a translation is Fitzgerald's rendering of the "Rubaiyat" of Omar Khayyam. That Khayyam lived at Nishapur in the beginning of the twelfth century is known; that he was a tent-maker and an astronomer is also known; but what he really believed no man knows, and whether he belonged to this sect or that sect no man can tell; according to some, his poems contain mystic allusions to the Deity; according to others, he meant simply what he said and sang, the Epicurean philosophy, eat, drink, for to-morrow ye die. But what the Persian tent-maker really thought was of less importance to Fitzgerald than his own reflections suggested by the original. The original appealed to him; he accepted the old tent-maker at his word, and took delight in rendering in his own manner the original as he understood it; and yet with his translation he took infinite pains. He himself said, "I suppose very few people have ever taken such pains in translation as I have, though certainly not to be literal."

Edmund Dulac's illustration for quatrain XII of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
(New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909)

15 July 2016

He Laughed to See Men Scramble for Dirty Silver

Jeremy Taylor, "The Epicure's Feast," Selections From the Works of Jeremy Taylor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1865), pp. 93-95:
Maximus Tyrius considers concerning the felicity of Diogenes, a poor Sinopean, having not so much nobility as to be born in the better parts of Greece: but he saw that he was compelled by no tyrant to speak or do ignobly; he had no fields to till, and therefore took no care to buy cattle, and to hire servants; he was not distracted when a rent-day came, and feared not when the wise Greeks played the fool and fought who should be lord of that field that lay between Thebes and Athens; he laughed to see men scramble for dirty silver, and spend ten thousand Attic talents for the getting the revenues of two hundred philippics; he went with his staff and bag into the camp of the Phocenses, and the soldiers reverenced his person and despised his poverty, and it was truce with him whosoever had wars; and the diadem of kings and the purple of the emperors, the mitre of high priests and the divining-staff of soothsayers, were things of envy and ambition, the purchase of danger, and the rewards of a mighty passion; and men entered into them by trouble and extreme difficulty, and dwelt under them as a man under a falling roof, or as Damocles under the tyrant's sword, sleeping like a condemned man; and let there be what pleasure men can dream of in such broken slumbers, yet the fear of waking from this illusion, and parting from this fantastic pleasure, is a pain and torment which the imaginary felicity cannot pay for.

All our trouble is from within us; and if a dish of lettuce and a clear fountain can cool all my heats, so that I shall have neither thirst nor pride, lust nor revenge, envy nor ambition, I am lodged in the bosom of felicity; and, indeed, no men sleep so soundly as they that lay their head upon nature's lap. For a single dish, and a clean chalice lifted from the springs, can cure my hunger and thirst; but the meat of Ahasuerus's feast cannot satisfy my ambition and my pride. He, therefore, that hath the fewest desires and the most quiet passions, whose wants are soon provided for, and whose possessions cannot be disturbed with violent fears, he that dwells next door to satisfaction, and can carry his needs and lay them down where he pleases, — this man is the happy man; and this is not to be done in great designs and swelling fortunes.

12 July 2016

Napoleon's Reading Habits

Louis-Étienne Saint-Denis, Napoleon: From the Tuileries to St. Helena, tr. Frank Hunter Potter (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922), pp. 188-189:
The Emperor was infinitely fond of reading. The Greek and Roman historians were often in his hands, especially Plutarch. He could appreciate this excellent author more than anyone else. Therefore The Lives of Illustrious Men always appeared on the shelves of his campaign libraries. He often read Rollin. The history of the middle ages, modern history, and particular histories occupied him only casually. The only religious book which he had was the Bible. He liked to read over in it the chapters which he had heard read in the ruins of the ancient cities of Syria. They painted for him the customs of those countries and the patriarchal life of the desert. It was, he said, a faithful picture of what he had seen with his own eyes. Every time that he read Homer it was with a new admiration. No one, in his view, had known what was truly beautiful and great better than this author; consequently he often took him up again and read him from the first page to the last.
Id., p. 190:
If the Emperor had in his hands a book which interested him he would never lay it down till he knew it thoroughly. He read with his thumb, as the Abbé de Pradt said, yet nothing of its contents escaped him, and he knew it so well that long afterward he could make a detailed analysis of it, and even cite textually, so to speak, the passages which had struck him the most. If he heard anything spoken of with which he was not familiar, or of which he knew nothing, he would have all the books in his library in which it might possibly be treated of brought to him at once. He was not satisfied with a superficial knowledge; he went into the matter as deeply as possible. This was the way in which he proceeded to enlighten himself and to furnish his mind.
I've done a cursory search on Gallica, but haven't been able to find the original Souvenirs.

7 July 2016

Anonymous and Impersonal Serfdom

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, in Human, All Too Human; Part II, tr. Paul V. Cohn (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1924), p. 310:
§220 REACTION AGAINST THE CIVILISATION OF MACHINERY. The machine, itself a product of the highest mental powers, sets in motion hardly any but the lower, unthinking forces of the men who serve it. True, it unfetters a vast quantity of force which would otherwise lie dormant. But it does not communicate the impulse to climb higher, to improve, to become artistic. It creates activity and monotony, but this in the long run produces a counter-effect, a despairing ennui of the soul, which through machinery has learnt to hanker after the variety of leisure. 
Id., p. 342:
§288 HOW FAR MACHINERY HUMILIATES. Machinery is impersonal; it robs the piece of work of its pride, of the individual merits and defects that cling to all work that is not machine-made in other words, of its bit of humanity. Formerly, all buying from handicraftsmen meant a mark of distinction for their personalities, with whose productions people surrounded themselves. Furniture and dress accordingly became the symbols of mutual valuation and personal connection. Nowadays, on the other hand, we seem to live in the midst of anonymous and impersonal serfdom. We must not buy the facilitation of labour too dear. 
For the original see Vol. 9 of the Musarion edition, pages 302 and 333.

Related posts:

5 July 2016

The Somme Centenary

A. E. Coppard, "The Glorious Survivors," Hips & Haws (Waltham St Lawrence: Golden Cockerel Press, 1922), p. 29:
We like you, Glorious Dead:
You are so amiable, amenable.
For two moments a year
We share your creditable silence,
It is so profitable and so profound,
You help us to think thoughts peaceful and holy,
And we are dumb,
Ecstatically insane.

But you, Insuperable Residuum,
What is to be done with you
Who died a threefold death and yet survive?
You are anachronisms,
Unpeaceable things like Russians and Irishmen.
Do not speak of ideals, do not shout of triumph,
(Before whose smoking gun
Bloodless as a reed the dead one lies):
No one has ever seen a vision without fear,
And we who are whole need not to see visions,
We need only peace and humility.
Once having lived the life of the dead
Why can't you hawk your collar studs in silence
And vend your matches with a meeker air?
We can praise, O devoutly we can praise
The glorious death of the dead,
But the death of the living why should we magnify?
If we cannot think our peaceful and holy thoughts
We must vomit;
And remember,
We have truncheons for you, guns for you,
Ah, we can give you bayonets and beans!

30 June 2016

We Are What We Read

Louise Collier Wilcox, The Human Way (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1909), p. 26:
We are what we read almost as much as we are what we think. When we express an opinion of a book we label ourselves. The romantic will hunt through books for romance, the historian for statistics and facts, the statesman for policy and methods, the poet for beauty and ideals, and the philosopher for everything. We take from the author mainly the gift of our sleeping selves — some portion of us so quiescent we hardly recognise it till some one of the great band of embodiers brings it up to the rim of consciousness. We draw out a clearer, better-defined outline of our blurred and dim perceptions. After all, even in books, the statement holds true that we receive but what we give. Or at best, we receive what we are fitted to extract. 

24 June 2016


Arthur Hugh Sidgwick, Walking Essays (London: Edward Arnold, 1912), pp. 177-178:
There is no human relation which walking cannot promote: with whomsoever you would be friends, you must first do the things in which walking so conspicuously assists — that is, you must clear the brain of feathers and fireworks, settle the mind well back on itself, and link the present firmly on to the past. For some, maybe, the aged and infirm, the walking days are over; and to these you can only talk. But you will find, if you are fortunate, that you are not debarred from their friendship. It is not only that they may speak to you of the walks of their youth, enlarging the distances and diminishing the times, for the abasement of the present generation, while you sit admiring the kindly law of nature by which memory passes so easily into imagination. Even if they have not been walkers, there is still a kinship between you; for the sixtieth year is like the eighteenth mile — the point at which you settle into your stride for the last stage, and the essence of the preceding miles begins to distil itself in your brain, emerging clear and translucent from the turbid mass of experience. Remember the metaphor which Socrates used to Cephalus. 'I love,' he said, 'talking to the very old; for, it seems to me, we ought to ask them, as men far advanced on a track which we too may have to walk, what it is like, rough and difficult or easy and smooth.' 

21 June 2016

L'honnête homme

Émile Amiel in the preface to his biography of Erasmus (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1889), pp. vi-vii (my translation):
In our utilitarian age people have said and repeated in every way that higher education, as it has been constituted since the sixteenth century, no longer meets the needs of democracy, which lives, they say, upon industry, trade, and agriculture. This is only true up to a point; it has not been demonstrated that the study of letters, properly understood, is inappropriate for these three sources of wealth. Nor has it been shown that a scholar, blessed with a sharp mind, is unsuited to business. However, these are two ways of misunderstanding the question. Besides the fact that man does not live by bread alone, our opponents forget the paramount thing, namely that college does not and should not claim to prepare students to take up lucrative careers immediately. That is the job of technical schools. College only seeks to accomplish one thing, namely the regular and concurrent development of all the faculties. For the mind as for the body it should be a plain gymnasium in the Greek sense of the word, where the wrestler prepares himself for the struggle of life. In the simplest terms, it is a training ground where the mind learns to learn. It need not be concerned about the immediate application of knowledge, which is the responsibility of graduate or professional schools. The humanities are intended to form what in the seventeenth century was known as l'honnête homme, which is to say a gentleman in the literary and moral sense, one able to take his place in a society he is called to serve according to his own lights. Let us ask no more of them.
Related posts:

18 June 2016

Hallmark Holidays

Roland Jaccard, La tentation nihiliste (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1989), my translation:
Wanting to have children is wanting to take revenge for one's past. For a woman it is to make a gift of her hate to her own mother and for a man it is to compete with his father or with God in the idiotic fantasy of posterity. And for each couple it is a remedy for despair. When life has failed to live up to our expectations, when we have given up on our own self-creation, when we have the foreboding thought that everything is screwed, instead of heading off to the morgue we gather our family and those who are close to us in a place that is even more sinister because it is more vulgar: motherhood.

Vouloir des enfants, c'est vouloir se venger de son passé. C'est pour la femme faire don à sa propre mère de sa haine et pour l'homme rivaliser avec son père ou avec Dieu dans le fantasme imbécile d'une postérité. Et c'est pour chaque couple un remède au désespoir. Quand la vie a trompé nos attentes, quand on a renoncé à se créer soi-même, quand on pressent que tout est foutu, alors plutôt que de se rendre à la morgue, on convie sa famille et ses proches dans un lieu plus sinistre encore, parce que plus kitsch : la maternité. 

15 June 2016

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Jeremy Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying (London: Bickers and Son, 1873), p. 45:
But if we could from one of the battlements of Heaven espy how many men and women at this time lie fainting and dying for want of bread, how many young men are hewn down by the sword of War, how many poor Orphans are now weeping over the graves of their father, by whose life they were enabled to eat; if we could but hear how many Mariners and Passengers are at this present in a storm, and shriek out because their keel dashes against a Rock or bulges under them, how many people there are that weep with want, and are mad with oppression, or are desperate by too quick a sense of a constant infelicity; in all reason we should be glad to be out of the noise and participation of so many evils. This is a place of sorrows and tears, of great evils and a constant calamity: let us remove from hence, at least in affections and preparation of mind.
Related posts:

13 June 2016

An Occasional Bitterness of the Spirit

Herbert Read, "The Artist's Dilemma," The Contrary Experience  (London: Secker & Warburg, 1973), pp. 269-270:
Each artist must find an individual solution to the dilemma which is implicit in his acceptance of society. To a few who are favoured by tradition and wealth the solution may come easily; they have probably nothing to fear but the uneasy conscience of the rentier and the envy of their colleagues. But for most artists some form of sacrifice or renunciation is involved: they must surrender their isolation; they must  subordinate their artistic ideals to the baser demands of entertainment. Or they may prefer to keep their ideals and curtail their ambitions. But this alternative is apt to bring with it an occasional bitterness of the spirit. One willingly throws ballast overboard so long as it consists of replaceable things; but when we come to the children of our imagination, then the hand is reluctant.

7 June 2016

The Sea

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1923):
Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.
Robert Henri, Girl Seated by the Sea (1893)

For more on this subject, visit First Known When Lost.

6 June 2016

No Mere Elegant Trifling

John Morley, "On the Study of Literature," Studies in Literature  (London: Macmillan, 1901), pp. 218-219:
Literature consists of all the books — and they are not so many — where moral truth and human passion are touched with a certain largeness, sanity, and attraction of form. My notion of the literary student is one who through books explores the strange voyages of man's moral reason, the impulses of the human heart, the chances and changes that have overtaken human ideals of virtue and happiness, of conduct and manners, and the shifting fortunes of great conceptions of truth and virtue. Poets, dramatists, humorists, satirists, masters of fiction, the great preachers, the character-writers, the maxim-writers, the great political orators — they are all literature in so far as they teach us to know what makes literature, rightly sifted and selected and rightly studied, not the mere elegant trifling that it is so often and so erroneously supposed to be, but a proper instrument for a systematic training of the imagination and sympathies, and of a genial and varied moral sensibility.

3 June 2016

High Among the Wise Masters of Life

John Morley, "Aphorisms," Studies in Literature (London: Macmillan, 1901), pp. 68-69
Horace's Epistles are a mine of genial, friendly, humane observation. Then there is none of the ancient moralists to whom the modern, from Montaigne, Charron, Ralegh, Bacon, downwards, owe more than to Seneca. Seneca has no spark of the kindly warmth of Horace; he has not the animation of Plutarch; he abounds too much in the artificial and extravagant paradoxes of the Stoics. But, for all that, he touches the great and eternal commonplaces of human occasion — friendship, health, bereavement, riches, poverty, death — with a hand that places him high among the wise masters of life. All through the ages men tossed in the beating waves of circumstance have found more abundantly in the essays and letters of Seneca than in any other secular writer words of good counsel and comfort. And let this fact not pass, without notice of the light that it sheds on the fact of the unity of literature, and of the absurdity of setting a wide gulf between ancient or classical literature and modern, as if under all dialects the partakers in Graeco-Roman civilisation, whether in Athens, Rome, Paris, Weimar, Edinburgh, London, Dublin, were not the heirs of a great common stock of thought as well as of speech.
A note to myself: The UofT has digitized the 1601 edition of Pierre Charron's De la sagesse.

1 June 2016

Fame in a Footnote

Arthur Helps, Brevia (London: Bell and Daldy, 1871), pp. 77-78:
In a company of learned men there was talk about posthumous fame. Some said that it was a strong motive to exertion with many persons. Others maintained that its potency as a motive was very small indeed, except with a few half-crazy people, like Alexander the Great. All agreed that it was a foolish motive as applied to the mass of men, because anything that was worthy of the name of "fame" was unattainable for them.

A man writes an elaborate work upon a learned subject. In a few years' time, another man writes an elaborate work upon the same learned subject, and is kind enough to allude to the former author in a foot-note. Twenty or thirty years afterwards, this second man's work is also absorbed in a similar manner; and his labours, too, are chronicled in a foot-note. Now, the first man's fame, if you come to look at it carefully, is but small. His labours are kindly alluded to in a foot-note of a work which is also kindly alluded to in a foot-note of a work published forty or fifty years hence.

Surely this fame in a foot-note is not much worth having.

30 May 2016

A Lesson of Profound Humility

Arthur Helps, Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd  (London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1901), pp. 15-16:
When we consider the incidents of former days, and perceive, while reviewing the long line of causes, how the most important events of our lives originated in the most trifling circumstances; how the beginning of our greatest happiness or greatest misery is to be attributed to a delay, to an accident, to a mistake; we learn a lesson of profound humility.
A related post: A Line of Incidents

26 May 2016

That Explains Everything

Evelyn Waugh in a review of Henry Green's novel Living, from Graphic magazine (14 June, 1930), reprinted in A Little Order, ed. Donat Gallagher (London: Eyre Methuen, 1977), p. 81:
A few days ago I came upon an illuminating paragraph in a Sunday newspaper. It was in the column where a lady of fashion dispenses advice to those who consult her about their private concerns. A correspondent wrote "... I am not outstandingly brilliant at anything. I can't leave home as my mother is delicate, but I want to do something to earn not less than £3 a week. I've tried chicken farming and it doesn't pay." The answer was, "You might get a job as a reader to a publisher ... that or book reviewing."

That explains everything about our literary critics: they are young ladies, not outstandingly brilliant at anything, who have failed to make a success with poultry.

25 May 2016

Shoulder the Sky and Drink Your Ale

A. E. Housman, "IX," Last Poems (London: Grant Richards, 1922), pp. 24-25:
The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers
Stream from the hawthorn on the wind away,
The doors clap to, the pane is blind with showers.
Pass me the can, lad; there's an end of May.

There's one spoilt spring to scant our mortal lot,
One season ruined of our little store.
May will be fine next year as like as not:
Oh ay, but then we shall be twenty-four.

We for a certainty are not the first
Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.

It is in truth iniquity on high
To cheat our sentenced souls of aught they crave,
And mar the merriment as you and I
Fare on our long fool's-errand to the grave.

Iniquity it is; but pass the can.
My lad, no pair of kings our mothers bore;
Our only portion is the estate of man:
We want the moon, but we shall get no more.

If here to-day the cloud of thunder lours
To-morrow it will hie on far behests;
The flesh will grieve on other bones than ours
Soon, and the soul will mourn in other breasts.

The troubles of our proud and angry dust
Are from eternity, and shall not fail.
Bear them we can, and if we can we must.
Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.
An unpaid endorsement: Muskoka Brewery's Detour  India Pale Ale is glorious.