Wednesday, June 28, 2017

 

Plenty of Gold in Them Thar Hills

Berthold L. Ullman (1882-1965), "The Ph.D. Degree in the Classics," Classical Journal 41.8 (May, 1946) 363-366 (at 366):
Finally, I want to express an opinion on a matter that I have heard discussed all my academic life. The fields of study in the classics, it is asserted, have been exhausted; there are no more worlds to conquer. Nothing could be less true. There is still plenty of gold in them thar hills, not to mention the newer metals more precious than gold. The fact is that there can be no exhaustion of material in the humanities, since their business is with values, which are not only enduring but many-faceted.

 

Wachet Auf

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.1.1 (tr. C.R. Haines):
At daybreak, when loth to rise, have this thought ready in thy mind: I am rising for a man’s work. Am I then still peevish that I am going to do that for which I was born and for the sake of which I came into the world? Or was I made for this, that I should nuzzle under the bed-clothes and keep myself warm? But this is pleasanter. Hast thou been made then for pleasure?

Ὄρθρου ὅταν δυσόκνως ἐξεγείρῃ, πρόχειρον ἔστω, ὅτι "ἐπὶ ἀνθρώπου ἔργον ἐγείρομαι·" ἔτι οὖν δυσκολαίνω, εἰ πορεύομαι ἐπὶ τὸ ποιεῖν, ὧν ἕνεκεν γέγονα, καὶ ὧν χάριν προῆγμαι εἰς τὸν κόσμον; ἢ ἐπὶ τοῦτο κατεσκεύασμαι, ἵνα κατακείμενος ἐν στρωματίοις ἐμαυτὸν θάλπω; "Ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἥδιον." πρὸς τὸ ἥδεσθαι οὖν γέγονας;

 

Table Settings

Mary Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London: Profile Books, 2008), p. 220:
That idea is certainly seen on a smaller scale in a group of table settings from another house in the city: four elderly men, naked, with long dangling penises, each supporting a small tray, for holding appetisers, titbits or any dainty food (Plate 12). Part of this design has had a surprising afterlife: overlooking the dangling penises, a well-known Italian kitchenware company is now marketing an expensive mock-up of this very tray.

The four bronze statuettes are from the House of the Ephebe, I.vii.10-12, Pompeii (Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli, inv. 143760). For a detailed analysis see Sylvain Vanesse, "Between Street Vendors, Singing Slaves, and Envy," Chronika 6 (2016) 15-25.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

 

Nothing Can Endure Forever

A.E. Housman, "An African Inscription," Classical Review 41.2 (May, 1927) 60-61 (at 61):
I add remarks on a few other inscriptions in Mr Lommatzsch's supplement to Buecheler.

[....]

2292, p. 155, lately exhumed at Pompei.
nihil durare potest tempore perpetuo.
cum bene sol nituit, redditur oceano.
decrescit Phoebe, quae modo plena fuit.
Venerum feritas saepe fit dura leuis.
Mr Lommatzsch appends this note:
'1 lege nil. u. 1-3 aliunde sumptos credas (ex poeta neoterico?), si reputes quam rudis iste fuerit poeta in u. 4. Veneres inuenit Catullus.'
The first three verses show clearly how to correct the sense, language, and metre of the fourth. What the man meant to write was
uentorum feritas saepe fit aura leuis.
See also (apparently independently) F.A. Todd, "Two Pompeian Metrical Inscriptions," Classical Review 53.5/6 (November-December, 1939) 168-170 (at 170):
It is with no sinful pride in my sagacity that I offer the correction
VENTORVM feritas saepe fit AVRA leuis
which I made on first reading the inscription in Della Corte's New Excavations (p. 80).
The graffito (now lost) is Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IV 9123, translated by Kristina Milnor, Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 69, as follows:
Nothing is able to endure forever;
    Once the sun has shone brightly, it returns to the ocean;
The moon grows smaller, who just now was full;
    The savagery of the winds often becomes a light breeze.
Id., p. 70:


I think that Marcello Gigante, "Cultura in Pompei antica," Cronache pompeiane 1 (1975) 25-47 (at ?), conjectured Austrorum as the first word of the fourth line. See also his Civiltà delle forme letterarie nell'antica Pompei (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1979), p. 238. Both are unavailable to me.

 

Two Crappy Poems

[Warning: Four-letter words ahead.]

Simon Lemnius (1511-1550), "In M. Lutherum," lines 1-8, tr. Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (New York: Random House, 2017), p. 365:
You suffer yourself from dysentery and you scream when you shit, and that which you wished on others you now suffer yourself. You called others shitters, now you have become a shitter and are richly blessed with shit. Earlier anger opened your crooked mouth, now your arse opens the load of your stomach. Your anger didn't just come out of your mouth — now it flows from your backside.
The entire Latin poem, from Lemnius' Epigrammaton Libri III (1538), unpaginated (line numbers added):
Ipse dysenteriam pateris clamasque cacando,
    Quamque aliis optas euenit illa tibi.
Dumque cacatores clamas, tu nenpe cacator
    Factus es, et merda diues es ipse tua.
Ante tibi rabies distorta resoluerat ora,        5
    Et soluit culus iam tibi uentris onus.
Noluit haec tantum rabies e faucibus ire,
    Nunc etiam natibus perfluit illa tuis.
Non poterat fundi pestis tibi tanta labellis,
    Vnde tamen rumpat repperit illa uiam.        10
Sed puto rumpetur citius tibi uenter et exta,
    Exeat e culo quam tibi tanta lues.

Since Roper didn't translate the last four lines (9-12), here's my rough rendering:
So great a plague couldn't be expelled from your lips, however it found a path from which it could break out. But I suppose your stomach and guts will burst before so great a pestilence exits from your arsehole.
Here is Martin Luther's response, "Dysenteria Lutheri in Merdipoetam Lemchen," tr. Carl P.E. Springer, "Martin Luther, the Oreads of Wittenberg, and Sola Gratia," in Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Abulensis. Proceedings of the Tenth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Avila 4-9 August 1997 (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2000 = Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 207), pp. 611-618 (translation pp. 612-613, n. 8, Latin text p. 613; line numbers added to Latin text):
How well your cause and your poetry are matched, Lemchen! Your cause is manure, your poetry is manure. Lemchen, the man of manure, was worthy of a song of manure, for nothing but manure is fitting for a poet of manure. O unhappy the prince whom you praise with your song of manure, whom you yourself befoul with your manure. You press manure from your bowels and you would like to produce all on your own a large bowel movement, but you produce nothing, O poet of manure. But if a penalty worthy of your deserts follows you, your corpse will be a miserable pile of manure for the crows.

Quam bene conveniunt tibi res et carmina, Lemchen!
    Merda tibi res est, carmina merda tibi.
Dignus erat Lemchen merdosus carmine merdae,
    Nam vatem merdae nil nisi merda decet.
Infelix princeps, quem laudas carmine merdae!        5
    Merdosum merda quem facis ipse tua.
Ventre urges merdam vellesque cacare libenter
    Ingentem, facis at, merdipoeta, nihil.
At meritis si digna tuis te poena sequatur,
    Tu miserum corvis merda cadaver eris.        10
This is a careful translation, although I might render res in the first two lines as as "subject matter" rather than "cause".

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Path to Greatness

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), "Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and the Art of Sculpture," tr. David Carter, Johann Joachim Winckelmann on Art, Architecture, and Archaeology (Rochester: Camden House, 2013), pp. 31-55 (at 32):
The only way for us to become great, and, if indeed it is possible, inimitable, is through the imitation of the ancients...

Der einzige Weg für uns, groß, ja, wenn es möglich ist, unnachahmlich zu werden, ist die Nachahmung der Alten...

Monday, June 26, 2017

 

Pliny the Elder

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, "Pliny the Elder and Man's Unnatural History," Greece & Rome 37.1 (April, 1990) 80-96 (at 80):
Not everybody shares my enthusiasm for the elder Pliny. We all have a nodding acquaintance with the Natural History, but few wish to pursue the relationship to the level of intimacy. Critics who care for the purity of Latin prose take a particularly dim view of him. Eduard Norden's verdict in Die antike Kunstprosa (i.314) is much cited: 'His work belongs, from the stylistic point of view, to the very worst which we have.' This negative judgement was firmly endorsed by Frank Goodyear in the Cambridge History of Latin Literature:
Pliny is one of the prodigies of Latin literature, boundlessly energetic and catastrophically indiscriminate, wide-ranging and narrow-minded, a pedant who wanted to be a popularizer, a sceptic infected by traditional sentiment, and an aspirant to style who can hardly frame a coherent sentence.
Not that Goodyear would have us ignore him. On the contrary, he serves as a deterrent exemplum of all that is frightful in Latin prose:
Students of Latin language and style neglect Pliny at their peril. Here, better than in most other places, we may see the contortions and obscurities, the odd combinations of preciosity and baldness, and the pure vacuity to which rhetorical prose, handled by any but the most talented, could precipitously descend and would indeed often descend again.

 

A Sanctuary

Cicero, On His House 41.109 (tr. N.H. Watts):
What is more sacred, what more inviolably hedged about by every kind of sanctity, than the home of every individual citizen? Within its circle are his altars, his hearths, his household gods, his religion, his observances, his ritual; it is a sanctuary so holy in the eyes of all, that it were sacrilege to tear an owner therefrom.

quid est sanctius, quid omni religione munitius quam domus unius cuiusque civium? hic arae sunt, hic foci, hic di penates, hic sacra, religiones, caerimoniae continentur; hoc perfugium est ita sanctum omnibus ut inde abripi neminem fas sit.
John Bodel, "Cicero's Minerva, Penates, and the Mother of the Lares: An Outline of Roman Domestic Religion," in Household and Family Religion in Antiquity, edd. John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2008), pp. 248-275 (at p. 269, n. 14, with my correction):
A law code promulgated by the emperor Theodosius in 392 CE explicitly prohibited private veneration of the Lares, Penates, and the genius (of the head of the household): Codex Theodosianus 16.10.12. For earlier Christian polemic against traditional domestic worship, see, e.g., Tertullian, Apology, 13.4; Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 2.24.12–13; Jerome, Against Isiah [sic, should be Commentary on Isaiah], 16.57.7.
Clyde Pharr's translation of the edict from the Theodosian Code, followed by the Latin:
No person at all, of any class or order whatsoever of men or of dignities, whether he occupies a position of power or has completed such honors, whether he is powerful by the lot of birth or is humble in lineage, legal status and fortune, shall sacrifice an innocent victim to senseless images in any place at all or in any city. He shall not, by more secret wickedness, venerate his lar with fire, his genius with wine, his penates with fragrant odors; he shall not burn lights to them, place incense before them, or suspend wreaths for them.

Nullus omnino ex quolibet genere ordine hominum dignitatum vel in potestate positus vel honore perfunctus, sive potens sorte nascendi seu humilis genere condicione fortuna in nullo penitus loco, in nulla urbe sensu carentibus simulacris vel insontem victimam caedat vel secretiore piaculo larem igne, mero genium, penates odore veneratus accendat lumina, inponat tura, serta suspendat.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

 

Hexameters Consisting Entirely of Words in Asyndeton: A Horatian Example

Horace, Satires 1.2.98 is a hexameter consisting entirely of nouns in asyndeton:
custodes, lectica, ciniflones, parasitae
For similar lines in Greek and Latin poetry see:

 

Different Kinds of Emendation

B.L. Ullman (1882-1965), "The Present Status of Latin Text Criticism," Classical Weekly 4.4 (October 22, 1910) 25-29 (at 26):
Now there are many different kinds of emendation, as many as there are different kinds of men — the emendations of inspiration, the emendations reached by logical deduction, and the emendations that do not emend. Some men are born emenders, others make themselves emenders — while the rest of us have emendations thrust upon us. Not that I do not believe in emendation, but I do believe that much of it is unnecessary and easily avoidable.
Id. (at 27):
The work of others has proved that the references to MSS of Scaliger, Bosius, Cruquius, Barth and a host of others are full of fraud or carelessness, or both. I would suggest a canon of criticism that ought to be adopted by all textual critics: A scholar of the period between the 15th and 18th centuries who quotes readings from MSS is guilty of fraud or gross carelessness until he is proved innocent. If this principle were rigorously adhered to, it would be a great step in advance.

 

Preoccupation with the Classics

John Buchan (1875-1940), Pilgrim's Way: An Essay in Recollection (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1940), pp. 26-27:
This preoccupation with the classics was the happiest thing that could have befallen me. It gave me a standard of values. To live for a time close to great minds is the best kind of education. That is why the Oxford school of classical 'Greats' seems to me so fruitful, for it compels a close study of one or two masters like Plato and Thucydides. The classics enjoined humility. The spectacle of such magnificence was a corrective to youthful immodesty, and, like Doctor Johnson, I lived 'entirely without my own approbation.' Again, they corrected a young man's passion for rhetoric. This was in the nineties, when the Corinthian manner was more in vogue than the Attic. Faulty though my own practice has always been, I learned sound doctrine — the virtue of a clean, bare style, of simplicity, of a hard substance and an austere pattern. Above all the Calvinism of my boyhood was broadened, mellowed, and also confirmed. For if the classics widened my sense of the joy of life they also taught its littleness and transience; if they exalted the dignity of human nature they insisted upon its frailties and the aidos with which the temporal must regard the eternal. I lost then any chance of being a rebel, for I became profoundly conscious of the dominion of unalterable law. Prometheus might be a fine fellow in his way, but Zeus was king of gods and men.

Indeed, I cannot imagine a more precious viaticum than the classics of Greece and Rome, or a happier fate than that one's youth should be intertwined with their world of clear, mellow lights, gracious images, and fruitful thoughts. They are especially valuable to those who believe that Time enshrines and does not destroy, and who do what I am attempting to do in these pages, and go back upon and interpret the past. No science or philosophy can give that colouring, for such provide a schematic, and not a living, breathing universe. And I do not think that the mastery of other literatures can give it in a like degree, for they do not furnish the same totality of life — a complete world recognisable as such, a humane world, yet one untouchable by decay and death —
                   Based on the crystalline sea
                   Of truth and its eternity.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

 

Necessities

Horace, Satires 1.1.73-75 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Don't you know what money is for, what end it serves?
You may buy bread, greens, a measure of wine, and
such other things as would mean pain to our human nature, if withheld.

nescis quo valeat nummus, quem praebeat usum?
panis ematur, holus, vini sextarius; adde
quis humana sibi doleat natura negatis.

 

The So-Called Refugee Cantata

Yesterday I listened to Bach's Cantata 39, Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot.

Alfred Dürr, The Cantatas of J.S. Bach. Revised and translated by Richard D.P. Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; rpt. 2006), p. 394:
It is sometimes maintained that Bach composed his so-called 'Refugee Cantata' in 1732 for a service to celebrate the banished Protestants of Salzburg. This is no more than an agreeable legend, however, for research has established that the work was in fact written for 23 June 1726. It is, of course, possible that at a repeat performance six years later the cantata found a new purpose which had been anticipated by neither librettist nor composer, but whether this really happened we do not know.
Mack Walker, The Salzburg Transaction: Expulsion and Redemption in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), p. 102:
Probably the most widely distributed and reprinted contemporary account of the expulsion—also the earliest and in most respects quite accurate—was written by Christoph Sancke, pastor at the Thomaskirche at Leipzig (where J.S. Bach was musical director).39

39 Characteristic of the legendary magnetism already gathering about the Salzburg emigration is the story that J.S. Bach's cantata "Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, und die, so im Elend sind, führe ins Haus," called the "Flüchtlings-kantate," was inspired by the Salzburg expulsion and was introduced before an audience of emigrants by the Thomasschule choir at Leipzig in June 1732. This was not the case: S. Jost Casper, "Johann Sebastian Bach and die Salzburger Emigranten—eine unheilige Legende," MGSL 122 (1982), 341-70. I owe the reference to Tanya Kevorkian.
MGSL is Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Salzburger Landeskunde.

By chance yesterday I also read a newspaper article by Germany's chief promoter of refugee resettlement, Angela Merkel. The article is her answer to the question "Was ist deutsch?" and takes the form of an alphabetical list. The list is an idiosyncratic one, as such lists must be, and it contains what look to me like some evident contradictions (e.g. both Ordnung under O, and Unordnung under U). Among other items on the list are:
Whether all of these things are echt deutsch and can exist together in harmony, I couldn't say. But as for Chorgesang and Lutherbibel, here are the words of the opening chorus of Bach's cantata 39, taken from Isaiah 58.7-8:
Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot und die, so im Elend sind, führe ins Haus! So du einen nacket siehest, so kleide ihn und entzeuch dich nicht von deinem Fleisch.

Alsdenn wird dein Licht herfür brechen wie die Morgenröte, und deine Besserung wird schnell wachsen, und deine Gerechtigkeit wird für dir hergehen, und die Herrlichkeit des Herrn wird dich zu sich nehmen.
As translated in Dürr, pp. 392-393:
Break your bread with the hungry, and bring those who are in distress into your house! If you see someone naked, then clothe him, and do not avoid your own kin.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your improvement shall grow swiftly, and your righteousness shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall take you to His own home.

Fritz Eichenberg, Christ of the Breadline

P.S. Some items on Merkel's list which I wholeheartedly embrace:

 

Nicknames and Caricatures

Lyndal Roper, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (New York: Random House, 2017), pp. 142-143 (endnote omitted):
Luther playfully invented nicknames for his enemies. There was the plodding Hieronymus Düngersheim von Ochsenfahrt, who became "the ox"; Emser was dubbed the goat, Eck the fool, Alveld the donkey, Pope Leo "that wolf," and the theologians became the "asses" of Louvain and Cologne. He punned with the name of his adversary, Thomas Murner, christening him the "cat fool" (Mur means "tomcat" in German, and Narr means "fool"). It made excellent cartoon material, and soon their grotesque portraits decorated the cheap pamphlets. Turning one's opponents into animals denies them the status of worthy intellectual antagonists, and laughter removed some constraints on aggression — on both sides.
Illustration, id., p. 143:


To my mind, the full name Hieronymus Düngersheim von Ochsenfahrt (usually without the umlaut) is funnier than the nickname, mostly because of the English homophones.

Friday, June 23, 2017

 

Four Ages of Man

Pseudo-Hippocrates, Epistles 17.9, tr. C.D.N. Costa, Greek Fictional Letters. A Selection with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 102 (Greek) and 103 (English):
Do you not see that even the cosmos is full of hatred for humanity? It has collected innumerable afflictions for them. Man is one complete illness from birth: while being nurtured he is useless and a suppliant for help; as he grows up he is presumptuous and a fool in his tutor's hands; in his prime he is reckless; when past it he is pitiable, with a crop of troubles brought on himself by his own witlessness. Such he is from when he sprang from the blood of his mother's womb.

οὐχ' ὁρῇς, ὅτι καὶ ὁ κόσμος μισανθρωπίης πεπλήρωται; ἄπειρα κατ' αὐτῶν πάθεα ξυνήθροικε. ὅλος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γενετής νοῦσός ἐστι· τρεφόμενος ἄχρηστος, ἱκέτης βοηθείης· αὐξανόμενος ἀτάσθαλος, ἄφρων διὰ χειρὸς παιδαγωγίης· θρασὺς ἀκμάζων, παρακμάζων οἰκτρός, τοὺς ἰδίους πόνους ἀλογιστίῃ γεωργήσας· ἐκ μητρῴων γὰρ λύθρων ἐξέθορε τοιοῦτος.

 

A Good Death

Suetonius, Life of Augustus 99.2 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
For almost always on hearing that anyone had died swiftly and painlessly, he prayed that he and his might have a like euthanasia, for that was the term he was wont to use.

nam fere quotiens audisset cito ac nullo cruciatu defunctum quempiam, sibi et suis εὐθανασίαν similem—hoc enim et verbo uti solebat—precabatur.

 

Our Barbarians

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option (New York: Sentinel, 2017), p. 17:
Our barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears of the past for designer suits and smartphones.
Although I'm not a professor, I usually do try to follow "Common Rules of the Professors of Higher Faculties," § 8, Ratio Studiorum (tr. Allan P. Farrell):
It scarcely becomes the dignity of a professor to cite an authority whose works he himself has not read.
I confess that I haven't read Dreher's book, except for excerpts in reviews.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

 

A Herm in the House of Caecilius Jucundus

Mary Beard, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (London: Profile Books, 2008), pp. 181-182:
In the atrium of the house, two squared pillars (or herms) were found, of a type commonly used in the Roman world to support marble or bronze portrait heads. In the case of male portraits, genitals would be attached half way down the herm, making what is, to be honest, a rather odd ensemble. On one of these pillars genitals and bronze head survived — a highly individualised portrait of a man, with thinning hair and a prominent wart on his left cheek (Ill. 68). Both pillars carry exactly the same inscription: 'Felix, ex-slave, set this up to the our Lucius'.
There is obviously something amiss with "the our Lucius". The inscription (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum X 860) reads
Genio L(uci) nostri / Felix l(ibertus)
and should be translated
Felix, ex-slave, set this up to the genius of our Lucius.
Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. genius, sense 1.a:
The male spirit of a gens existing during his lifetime in the head of the family, and subsequently in the divine or spiritual part of each individual.
Herm in the House of Caecilius Jucundus (V.i.26), Pompeii (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, inv. 110663):




Another misprint in Beard's book, p. 109:
At one point, in the middle of a marital row, Trimalchio takes a barbed potshot at his wife's lowly origins: 'If you're borne on a mezzanine, you don't sleep in a house.'
For borne read born. The reference is to Petronius, Satyricon 74.14 (sed hic qui in pergula natus est aedes non somniatur).

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Restrictions on Citizenship

Suetonius, Life of Augustus 40.3 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Considering it also of great importance to keep the people pure and unsullied by any taint of foreign or servile blood, he was most chary of conferring Roman citizenship and set a limit to manumission. When Tiberius requested citizenship for a Grecian dependent of his, Augustus wrote in reply that he would not grant it unless the man appeared in person and convinced him that he had reasonable grounds for the request; and when Livia asked it for a Gaul from a tributary province, he refused, offering instead freedom from tribute, and declaring that he would more willingly suffer a loss to his privy purse than the prostitution of the honour of Roman citizenship.

magni praeterea existimans sincerum atque ab omni colluvione peregrini ac servilis sanguinis incorruptum servare populum, et civitates Romanas parcissime dedit et manumittendi modum terminavit. Tiberio pro cliente Graeco petenti rescripsit, non aliter se daturum, quam si praesens sibi persuasisset, quam iustas petendi causas haberet; et Liviae pro quodam tributario Gallo roganti civitatem negavit, immunitatem optulit affirmans facilius se passurum fisco detrahi aliquid, quam civitatis Romanae vulgari honorem.

 

How Could Anyone Ever Live Before This or That Invention?

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Zibaldone, tr. Kathleen Baldwin et al. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), p. 1839 (Z 4198-4199):
If in time the invention, e.g., of lightning conductors (which now we must agree are hardly of much use), becomes more solidly based and extensive, more reliable, more worthy of attention, and more generally used; if aerostatic balloons, and aeronautics acquire a certain degree of science, and become more common, and utility becomes part of them (which now it is not), etc.; if so many other modern discoveries, like those of steam navigation, telegraphs, etc., find applications and improvements so as to change the face of civilized life, which does not seem unlikely; and if eventually other new discoveries compete to do that; then certainly men in a thousand years' time, will call the present age scarcely civilized, they will say that we were living in continual and extreme fear and hardship, they will find it hard to understand how people could lead and bear their lives being continually exposed to the danger of storms, lightning, etc., navigate at sea with such risk of sinking, trade [4199] and communicate with distant lands when air navigation was unknown or imperfect, the use of telegraphs, etc., they will look in wonder at how slow our present means of communication are, how unreliable, etc. And yet we have no sense of, we are not aware of how impossible or difficult the life that will be attributed to us is; we think we have a fairly comfortable life, that we communicate with one another fairly easily and quickly, that we have plenty of comforts and pleasures, in fact that we live in a century of refinement and luxury. Now believe me that exactly the same thoughts were in the minds of those men who lived before the use of fire, navigation, etc. etc., those men that we, especially in this century, with our grandiose rhetorical arguments declare were exposed to continual danger, continual and immense discomfort, ferocious animals, bad weather, hunger, thirst; continually trembling and shaking with fear, and surrounded perpetually by suffering, etc. And believe me that what I reflect on above is the perfect solution to the ridiculous problem we make for ourselves—how could men ever live in that state; how could anyone ever live before this or that invention. (Bologna, 10 September, Sunday, 1826.)

Se una volta in processo di tempo l'invenzione per esempio dei parafulmini (che ora bisogna convenire esser di molto poca utilità), piglierà piú consistenza ed estensione, diverrà di uso piú sicuro, piú considerabile e piú generale; se i palloni aereostatici, e l'aeronautica acquisterà un grado di scienza, e l'uso ne diverrà comune, e la utilità (che ora è nessuna) vi si aggiungerà ec.; se tanti altri trovati moderni, come quei della navigazione a vapore, dei telegrafi ec. riceveranno applicazioni e perfezionamenti tali da cangiare in gran parte la faccia della vita civile, come non è inverisimile; e se in ultimo altri nuovi trovati concorreranno a questo effetto; certamente gli uomini che verranno di qua a mille anni, appena chiameranno civile la età presente, diranno che noi vivevamo in continui ed estremi timori e difficoltà, stenteranno a comprendere come si potesse menare e sopportar la vita essendo di continuo esposti ai pericoli delle tempeste, dei fulmini ec., navigare con tanto rischio di sommergersi, commerciare [4199] e comunicar coi lontani essendo sconosciuta o imperfetta la navigazione aerea, l'uso dei telegrafi ec., considereranno con meraviglia la lentezza dei nostri presenti mezzi di comunicazione, la loro incertezza ec. Eppur noi non sentiamo, non ci accorgiamo di questa tanta impossibilità o difficoltà di vivere che ci verrà attribuita; ci par di fare una vita assai comoda, di comunicare insieme assai facilmente e speditamente, di abbondar di piaceri e di comodità, in fine di essere in un secolo raffinatissimo e lussurioso. Or credete pure a me che altrettanto pensavano quegli uomini che vivevano avanti l'uso del fuoco, della navigazione ec. ec. quegli uomini che noi, specialmente in questo secolo, con magnifiche dicerie rettoriche predichiamo come esposti a continui pericoli, continui ed immensi disagi, bestie feroci, intemperie, fame, sete; come continuamente palpitanti e tremanti dalla paura, e tra perpetui patimenti ec. E credete a me che la considerazione detta di sopra è una perfetta soluzione del ridicolo problema che noi ci facciamo: come potevano mai vivere gli uomini in quello stato; come si poteva mai vivere avanti la tale o la tal altra invenzione (Bologna. 10 settembre Domenica. 1826).

 

Pert Little Fellows

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Untimely Meditations (Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen), II: "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life" ("Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben"), § 4 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
[W]e behold pert little fellows associating with the Romans as though they were their equals: and they root and burrow in the remains of the Greek poets as though these too were corpora for their dissection and were as vilia as their own literary corpora may be.

[K]leine vorlaute Burschen sehen wir mit den Römern umgehen, als wären diese ihres gleichen: und in den Überresten griechischer Dichter wühlen und graben sie, als ob auch diese corpora für ihre Sektion bereitlägen und vilia wären, was ihre eignen literarischen corpora sein mögen.

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