30 May 2018

Uprooted, Anonymous, and Pushed About

James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2015), p. 51:
I sometimes think we [shepherds from the Lake District] are so independently minded because we have seen just enough of the wider world to know we like our own old ways and independence best. My grandfather went as far afield as Paris for a trip to an agricultural fair once. He knew what cities had to offer, but also had a sense that they would leave you uprooted, anonymous, and pushed about by the world you lived in, rather than having some freedom and control. The potential wealth on offer counted for little or nothing set against the sense of belonging and purpose that existed at home.
Hat tip: Laudator Temporis Acti

25 May 2018

Worth the While of Every Lover of Truth

John Smith Gilderdale, Disciplina Rediviva (London: Bell and Daldy, 1856), pp. 51-52:
Were it indeed only for its use in enabling us to detect the fallacies which may arise out of a singularity of idiom, in the case of a person knowing one language only, the value of this power of translating one language into another would make it worth the while of every lover of truth to retain his knowledge of Latin and Greek. In the act of passing out of one language into another the idea appears for a moment in its naked form, stripped of the accidental gloss of idiom. We see what is of the essence of the idea and what not — the thing in itself, not merely what it was to the Greek or to the Roman, at the same time that this very exhibition of its several phases, under the aspect of varied national influence, is a most valuable commentary on the res itself, of which those idiomata are but the versions.

Besides this, are there not some thoughts which seem so connected in their nature with the mind that gave them birth, that they refuse to be clothed in the new languages of the Western world?

The connection of the dead and the living languages is seen only by those who have carried a continued knowledge of the one into the study of the other. The ease with which the latter are acquired on the strength of a knowledge of their archetypes, along with the philological value of a classical illustration, goes a great way towards persuading most men of the indirect advantage of a life-long familiarity with Greek and Latin.

24 May 2018

Read Much, Reflected Little

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 154:
It is easy to read, but hard to think. Without thinking, we cannot make the sentiments of others our own. Thinking alone adopts them into our family. It is my misfortune, that I have read much, but have reflected little. Let me reverse this order. I prefer strength of impression to superficial knowledge, however extensive.

17 May 2018

The Statistical Mood

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 86:
You do not realize what it does to you when you read statistics. It is a completely destructive poison, and what is worse is that it is not true; it is a falsified image of reality. If we begin to think statistically, we begin to think against our own uniqueness. It is not only thinking, but also a way of feeling. If you go up and down the Bahnhofstrasse, you see all those stupid faces and then look into a window yourself and say that you look just as stupid as the others, if not worse! And then comes the thought that if an atom bomb destroyed all that, who would regret it? Thank God, those lives have come to an end, including my own! In the statistical mood, one is overwhelmed by the ordinariness of life.

14 May 2018

Favere Lingua

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Aphorism XXXIII," Aids to Reflection (London: William Pickering, 1839), p. 79:
It is characteristic of the Roman dignity and sobriety, that, in the Latin, to favour with the tongue (favere lingua) means to be silent. We say, Hold your tongue! as if it were an injunction, that could not be carried into effect but by manual force, or the pincers of the forefinger and thumb! And verily — I blush to say it — it is not Women and Frenchmen only that would rather have their tongues bitten than bitted, and feel their souls in a strait-waistcoat, when they are obliged to remain silent.

7 May 2018

A Slight Sense of Nausea

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Books Unread," Part of a Man's Life (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906), pp. 163-164:
Books which we have first read in odd places always retain their charm, whether read or neglected. Thus Hazlitt always remembered that it was on the 10th of April, 1798, that he "sat down to a volume of the 'New Éloise' at the Inn at Llangollen over a bottle of sherry and a cold chicken." In the same way I remember how Professor Longfellow in college recommended to us, for forming a good French style, to read Balzac's "Peau de Chagrin;" and yet it was a dozen years later before I found it in a country inn, on a lecture trip, and sat up half the night to read it. It may be, on the other hand, that such haphazard meetings with books sometimes present them under conditions hopelessly unfavorable, as when I encountered Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" for the first time on my first voyage in an Azorian barque; and it inspires to this day a slight sense of nausea, which it might, after all, have inspired equally on land.

3 May 2018

The Blind Fight the Blind

Charles Hamilton Sorley, "To Germany," The Muse in Arms, ed. E. B. Osborne (London: John Murray, 1917), p. 149:
You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But, gropers both through fields of thought confined,
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other's dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other's truer form,
And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm,
We'll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace. But, until peace, the storm,
The darkness, and the thunder and the rain.

A Canadian lights a German's cigarette at Passchendaele, November 1917

30 April 2018

Outdoor Erections

Bernard E. Jones, The Practical Woodworker, Vol. II (London: The Waverley Book Company Ltd., 1920), pp. 417-418:


It could be exciting to build a bicycle shed...

A related post: Portable Cold Frame

27 April 2018

Don't Go Back

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), p. 97:
As a rule, it is better to revisit only in imagination the places which have greatly charmed us, or which, in the retrospect, seem to have done so. Seem to have charmed us, I say; for the memory we form, after a certain lapse of time, of places where we lingered, often bears but a faint resemblance to the impression received at the time; what in truth may have been very moderate enjoyment, or enjoyment greatly disturbed by inner or outer circumstances, shows in the distance as a keen delight, or as deep, still happiness. On the other hand, if memory creates no illusion, and the name of a certain place is associated with one of the golden moments of life, it were rash to hope that another visit would repeat the experience of a bygone day.
Not unrelated: Let the Past Remain in Peace

24 April 2018

Mere Treasures of Words

Isaac Watts, Improvement of the Mind (New York : A. S. Barnes & Co., 1849), p. 73:
When you have learned one or many languages ever so perfectly, take heed of priding yourself in these acquisitions: they are but mere treasures of words, or instruments of true and solid knowledge, and whose chief design is to lead us into an acquaintance with things, or to enable us the more easily to convey those ideas or that knowledge to others. An acquaintance with the various tongues is nothing else but a relief against the mischief which the building of Babel introduced: and were I master of as many languages as were spoken at Babel, I should make but a poor pretense to true learning or knowledge, if I had not clear and distinct ideas, and useful notions in my head under the words which my tongue could pronounce. Yet so unhappy a thing is human nature, that this sort of knowledge of sounds and syllables is ready to puff up the mind with vanity, more than the most valuable and solid improvements of it. The pride of a grammarian, or a critic, generally exceeds that of a philosopher.

20 April 2018

A Troublesome Companion

Maurice Rollinat, Ruminations: prose d'un solitaire (Paris: Eugène Fasquelle, 1904), pp. 20-21 (my translation):
Hate is a troublesome companion who awakens in solitude, gives soliloquies in complete silence, and is never more agitated than when you are in peaceful places.

La haine est une inquiétante compagne qui se réveille dans la solitude, soliloque dans le  plein silence, n'est jamais plus agitée que dans les endroits paisibles.

Maurice Rollinat, photographed by Félix Nadar

18 April 2018

Empfindsamkeit

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 8:
In general, where there is sentimentality there is also a certain amount of brutality. Göring was a wonderful example, for without a qualm he could sign the death sentence for three hundred people, but if one of his birds died, then that fat old man would cry. He was a classic example! Cold brutality is very often covered up by sentimentality.

16 April 2018

Why Soldiers Read

Edward Earle Purinton, Personal Efficiency in Business (New York: Robert M. McBride, 1920), pp. 258-261:
When a man is training to meet death, literary tastes undergo transformation; he ceases to care for the latest news of the sporting circle or the social set or the political grab-bag or the local gossip manufacturers; he has no time to waste on the petty, foul, superficial or trite in literature. But death is no more serious than life, and a man training to meet life should learn to read as wisely and effectively as a soldier. From the statements of military authorities and the records of camp and field librarians we have noted a few of the main reasons and purposes that American soldiers have in mind when they take up a certain book or periodical. They do not always analyze their own mental process, but the results of their instinctive choice of books reveal their subconscious choice, whether analyzed or not.
They read to prepare themselves for new tasks, opportunities and responsibilities.

They read to learn the trend of current events in their line of action the world over.

They read to be able to forecast probabilities and rise to the top in emergencies.

They read to broaden their minds and equip themselves with knowledge that was lacking in their early education.

They read to take their minds off the dangers and difficulties of their work.

They read to soften the pain of wounds and the memory of scars.

They read to conquer loneliness by the mental and moral companionship a good book affords.

They read to shorten the suspense of waiting for only God knows what to happen to them.

They read to overcome physical fatigue with mental refreshment.

They read to understand and remember more clearly what they are fighting for.

They read to think harder and thus to fight better.

They read to get in line for a commission and other chances for promotion.

They read to avoid wasting time and strength in dangerous or vicious amusements.

They read to improve themselves in matters of dress, morals and military conduct.

They read to learn the exact truth in case of argument.

They read to help solve personal and professional problems of all kinds.

They read to break up the depressing monotony of mechanical routine.

They read to develop the free imagination that must offset compulsory action.

They read to learn how to handle their minds and bodies more effectively.

They read to renew their courage, faith, optimism, endurance.

They read to grasp more firmly the basic truths of life and to ground themselves in principles on which they stand immovable.

13 April 2018

A Vaudeville of Despair

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1973), p. 149:
The uncontrolled emotional outpouring, the dazed masses standing huddled in the city squares sometimes for days on end, grown people groveling hysterically and tearing at themselves, being trampled in the surge toward the coffin or funeral pyre — how to make sense out of such a massive, neurotic "vaudeville of despair"? In one way only: it shows a profound state of shock at losing one's bulwark against death. The people apprehend, at some dumb level of their personality: "Our locus of power to control life and death can himself die; therefore our own immortality is in doubt." All the tears and all the tearing is after all for oneself, not for the passing of a great soul but for one's own imminent passing.

11 April 2018

Courage

Ernst Jünger, "Mut," in Sämtliche Werke, Vol. 7 (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1980), p. 52 (my translation):
Courage is the wind that drives ships to far shores, the key to all treasures, the hammer that forges great empires, and the shield without which no culture survives. Courage is the individual's commitment to inevitable consequences, the hurtling of an idea against matter without regard for the outcome. Courage is allowing yourself to be nailed to the cross, alone, for your cause. Courage is to affirm, in the final nervous spasm and with your dying breath, the principles for which you stood and fell. To hell with an age that wants to take courage and men from us!

Everyone has experienced this feeling too, no matter how dull he may be. There is something about courage that cannot be resisted, something which jumps from one heart to other hearts at the moment of action. Unless one's character is utterly depraved and ignoble, the feeling for the heroic is not so easy to escape. Struggle is certainly sanctified by its cause; and a cause is even more sanctified by struggle. How else could you respect an enemy? Only the brave can fully understand this.

Struggle is always a holy thing, God's judgement over two ideas. It is up to us to support our cause with greater and greater determination, and so to fight is our ultimate reason and what we have fought for and won is our only true possession. No fruit will ripen for us unless it has endured storms of iron, and the best and the most beautiful also demand that they be won through earnest struggle.
Rudolf Schlichter, Ernst Jünger (c. 1929)
Image via Verlag Antaios

9 April 2018

The Difference Between Civilized and Savage Man

A. Hyatt Verrill, Knots, Splices and Rope Work (New York: Norman W. Henley Pub. Co., 1912), p. 8:
Few realize the importance that knots and cordage have played in the world's history, but if it had not been for these simple and every-day things, which as a rule are given far too little consideration, the human race could never have developed beyond savages. Indeed, I am not sure but it would be safe to state that the real difference between civilized and savage man consists largely in the knowledge of knots and rope work. No cloth could be woven, no net or seine knitted, no bow strung and no craft sailed on lake or sea without numerous knots and proper lines or ropes; and Columbus himself would have been far more handicapped without knots than without a compass. 

5 April 2018

Bitter Recollections

Charles Wagner, The Better Way, tr. Mary Louise Hendee (Toronto: William Briggs, 1903), p. 50:
Do not condemn yourself to bitter recollections. Why so honor the offence as to write it on the tablets of your memory? Is your heart so large that you can afford to give so much place to resentment? What a pity that the little man saves from the wreck of forgetfulness should consist first of all in the wrongs which have been done him! There are deeds that are unpardonable; people who merit neither excuse, nor good-will, nor forbearance. Is this sufficient reason for remembering them forever? Let the injury fall to the ground and do not stoop to recover it. Stoop rather to pick the flower, however humble, that smiles up at you here in this valley.
For the original, see  L'ami: dialogues intérieurs (Paris: Fischbacher, 1902), p. 66.

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2 April 2018

Paul Cézanne's Prayer

Henri de Régnier, "La Prière de Paul Cézanne," Vestigia Flammae (Paris: Mercure de France, 1921), pp. 223-224 (my translation):
Lord of light, air, and cloud,
You to Whom I have called so often,
Look on the hard and weary features of my poor face,
The mouth beneath the beard and the stubborn forehead;

Consider the eyes which have gazed on things
With such determination to know the truth of them,
And see these hands, gnarled and weakened
By the painful effort of their sincerity;

And now, Lord, in Your mercy,
Hear me and let me be, tomorrow, by Your grace,
The faithful servant whom the master grants
A simple tomb in a corner of the garden.

I have spent long days in honest labour,
And I made the most of the little I received.
No deceit ever soiled my palette,
And my eyes never betrayed what they saw.

Others sought tumult and glory,
But I only wanted the humble laurel
Whose leaves, almost black, grow somberly
At the doorstep of the true artist and good workman.

And this is why, Lord, having lived my life,
To the moment of my death, in the place were I was born,
I offer You these bright eyes in a poor face,
And this forehead, and these hands, and this willful stare.

Accept them, and take also these round apples,
These grapes, and these fruits which I painted as best as I was able,
For to me their contour was the shape of the world
And all eternal light is in them.

Paul Cézanne, Nature morte au crâne (c. 1897)

Seigneur de la clarté, de l’air et du nuage,
Toi vers qui si souvent mon appel s’est tourné,
Vois les traits durs et las de mon pauvre visage,
Sa bouche sous la barbe et son front obstiné ;

Considère ces yeux qui fixèrent les choses
Avec un tel désir de voir leur vérité
Et regarde ces mains noueuses, et moroses
Du douloureux effort de leur sincérité ;

Et maintenant, Seigneur, en ta miséricorde,
Ecoute et que je sois, par ta grâce, demain,
Le serviteur fidèle à qui le maître accorde
Une tombe rustique en un coin du jardin.

J’ai passé de longs jours en un labeur honnête
Et j’ai tiré parti du peu que j’ai reçu,
Nulle fraude jamais n’a souillé ma palette
Et mes yeux n’ont jamais menti ce qu’ils ont vu ;

D’autres ont recherché le tumulte et la gloire,
Mais moi je n’ai voulu que cet humble laurier
Qui pousse sobrement sa feuille presque noire
Au seuil du probe artiste et du bon ouvrier,

Et c’est pourquoi, Seigneur, ayant vécu mon âge,
Au moment de mourir aux lieux où je suis né,
Je t’offre ces yeux clairs en un pauvre visage
Et ce front et ces mains et cet œil obstiné.

Accepte-les et prends aussi ces pommes rondes,
Ces grappes et ces fruits que j’ai peints de mon mieux,
Car leur contour pour moi fut la forme du monde
Et toute la lumière éternelle est en eux.

29 March 2018

That Roving Habit

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 155:
There are periods, when the mind is indisposed to serious study, when it sympathizes with a suffering body, when its tone is destroyed, and its powers require relaxation. But we should distinguish natural infirmity from that indolence which grows by indulgence, and which one vigorous exertion would drive away. It is desirable, and I think it possible, to acquire a conquest over the former weaknesses of nature. May we not form a habit of attention which pain itself cannot distract? Do I not too often apologize for indolence, by attributing it to bodily indisposition? Let me check that roving habit, which I have indulged, of reading a thousand trifles, — a habit by which the tone of the mind is destroyed, until we turn with loathing from wholesome studies. Regularity and order are essential; and when I have formed a plan, let me submit to many inconveniences rather than swerve from it.

26 March 2018

An Error on the Right Hand

John Denham (1615-1669) in the preface to his translation of The Destruction of Troy, from The Works of the British Poets, ed. Robert Anderson, Vol. V (London: John & Arthur Arch, 1795), pp. 693-694:
I conceive it is a vulgar error in translating poets, to affect being fidus interpres; let that care be with them who deal in matters of fact, or matters of faith: but whosoever aims at it in poetry, as he attempts what is not required, so he shall never perform what he attempts; for it is not his business alone to translate language into language, but poesy into poesy; and poesy is of so subtle a spirit, that in the pouring out of one language into another, it will all evaporate; and if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum, there being certain graces and happinesses peculiar to every language, which gives life and energy to the words; and whosoever offers at verbal translation, shall have the misfortune of that young traveller, who lost his own language abroad, and brought home no other instead of it: for the grace of the Latin will be lost by being turned into English words; and the grace of the English, by being turned into the Latin phrase. And as speech is the apparel of our thoughts, so are there certain garbs and modes of speaking, which vary with the times; the fashion of our clothes being not more subject to alteration, than that of our speech: and this I think Tacitus means, by that which he calls sermonem temporis istius auribus accommodatum; the delight of change being as due to the curiosity of the ear, as of the eye; and therefore if Virgil must needs speak English, it were fit he should speak not only as a man of this Nation, but as a man of this age; and if this disguise I have put upon him (I wish I could give it a better name) sit not naturally and easily on so grave a person, yet it may become him better than that fools-coat wherein the French and Italian have of late presented him; at least, I hope, it will not make him appear deformed, by making any part enormously bigger or less than the life; (I having made it my principal care to follow him, as he made it his to follow Nature in all his proportions) neither have I any where offered such violence to his sense, as to make it seem mine, and not his. Where my expressions are not so full as his, either our language, or my art were defective (but I rather suspect myself;) but where mine are fuller than his, they are but the impressions which the often reading of him, hath left upon my thoughts; so that if they are not his own conceptions, they are at least the results of them; and if (being conscious of making him speak worse than he did almost in every line) I err in endeavouring sometimes to make him speak better, I hope it will be judged an error on the right hand, and such an one as may deserve pardon, if not imitation.
A related post: Rather Impressionist Than Pre-Raphaelite