ricardienne: (Default)
From Elizabeth Asmis, Rhetoric and Reason in Lucretius:

…Lucretius continually anticipates doctrines which are proved later on in the sequence of arguments. While these would be viewed as logical disturbances in a purely logical tract, in the context of Lucretius' own rhetorical style of composition they are components of a whole, into which they fit perfectly logically. More precisely, Lucretius often lifts conclusions from a later context of argument in order to clarify and strengthen an earlier sequence of argument…

…Lucretius makes "anticipations" of doctrines that are yet to be proved; and this, I suggest, is a deliberate feature of Lucretius' rhetorical method of exposition, which no more implies logical carelessness than Lucretius' method of exposition as a whole.


This is how I write, actually, although I don't have the underlying rhetorical reasoning. I just find that everything starts to mush together and that I can't separate the arguments into a logical sequence. Everything depends on everything else. I need something like 17 dimensions to be happening in my writing. But it's nice to know that Lucretius does it the same way, sort of.

Speaking of which, I think I am going to write my music history paper on intellectual vs. sinful music and psalmody in the early church. Mainly because it will let me talk about Augustine's "Psalmus contra partem Donati." But it's very frustrating: not only is there NO TRANSLATION of it, there isn't even anything written about it other than a byline here and there. The most I've been able to find is Augustine's own discussion in Retractiones. Why don't more people care about ancient political protest songs early Catholic propaganda one of the earliest qualitative meter Latin poems written in quasi-vernacular Latin by one of the most brilliant theologians of all time? And in the form of a responsorial hymn about a church schism?

I, at least, have been interested in this thing ever since I discovered it, and now, at least, after two more years of Latin, I can read it pretty easily.

And truly, it is slightly crazy, particularly when one thinks of a congregation chanting it:



They tend to run circles around those who don't know Scripture:
For they hear "traitors," and don't know what happened before.
But if I should say, "prove it," they haven't got anything to say.
They say that they trust their own people, but I say they lied.
For we also trust our own, who say that you were the traitors.
You want to know who tells the truth? The ones who stay with the original [church].
You want to know who tells lies? The ones who aren't in unity [with it].
The former [law]suit is finished now. Why won't you rest in peace?


Those older than us have spoken, and they have written books about it,
Who understood the case, which they can prove anew.
There were certain traitors from the sacred law of the Book,
The bishops from Numidia, and some not-insignificant commoners.
When they came to Carthage to ordain a bishop,
They found Caecilianus ordained in his seat.
They were angry because they hadn't been able to ordain one themselves.
And there were other enemies of Caecilianus -- very unjust men,
Impious, insane, and proud, about who it is tedious to speak.
So all these joined have joined themselves to kindle a crime against him:
They say that his ordination betrayed the sacred Book.
Thus they break the nets of peace and stray now through the sea.*


Unfortunately, Augustine stuck to just writing pamphlets after this.
* Refers back to the first stanza, which is more or less a paraphrase of Matthew 13.

Sandor Veress seems to have set it, actually, and I really want to listen to it. The CD is about $15 on Amazon, but I don't know whether I should buy it. If it had his solo cello sonata on it, I definitely would.
ricardienne: (augustine)
We had lunch with V. today -- discussed septic systems, a truly fascinating subject. Is a phosphorus-removing filter really necessary for a seasonal camp? What are the benefits of a large holding-tank versus a leech-field versus a series of small tanks? It's odd to think about how much I know about septic systems. In third grade, I was the only one who got the teacher's joke about a septic tank.

I was reading The Mother's Companion this morning -- we seem to have a bound volume from some year in the 19th century, though I couldn't find a precise date. Every single issue is the same: an article about the importance of religous education for children, a story or two about death-bed conversions, some religious poems and a page of household hints (how to make Beef Tea, for example). Eventually the related the story of Augustine. Except not really. His conversion was presented like all the rest: he gets very ill and suddenly realizes he should trust in Christ. But Augustine as he presents himself isn't just a dissolute youth who receives a sudden revelation. He works his way to an intelluctual understanding of Christianity; he joins the church as a catchumen long before the moment of his conversion. I'm interested by instances like this: why take a very detailed, interesting story that is entirely appropriate already and change it? The anguish and indecision in the garden, and then the child's voice -- it's moving, much more so than another iteration of the same.

But then, I'm not sure that "they" would find the original story appropriate. It isn't easy enough, or pleasant enough, Augustine's experience. He struggles with belief and then with worldly temptations, and he knows that he will continue to struggle even after he has become a Christian. And this isn't the message that The Mother's Companion or very much of 19th century revivalist popular religion wants to have. It should all be sweetness and happiness and innocent children making saintly speeches as they go off to heaven. Augustine would have a field day.

And now a more positive nostalgia for the Victorians and Edwardians:

I'm reading the Anne books backwards. I think part of my trouble in college must be that I got my ideas about it from Dear Daddy Long-legs and Anne of the Island. (I am very quick to blame my reading habits for everything.) Neither Judy nor Anne has any anxieties over whether she'll be able to get into the class she needs to fulfill a distribution requirement, or worries about what major she should pick, or whether she'll be prepared to go to grad school. Gilber Blythe taks High Honors in Classics and then goes off to medical school. And of course one makes friends, goes for long walks and chats, joins clubs, and so on. And then all the girls go off to be either school teachers or secretaries, so I suppose there you are.

I am not having a good day, word-wise. I typed "ceiling wax" in my subject line, and wanted to start writing about "phosphorus philtres". Oy.
ricardienne: (augustine)
…is not a good thing at all.

Although, I have not been completely idle tonight: really, I haven't. I translated the first stanza of Augustine's Psalma Contra Partem Donati, which, although it's an early example of an abecedary poem and one of the first pieces of Latin (or Romance, for that matter) rhythmic verse does not exist in English translation. I did my best, and [livejournal.com profile] voglia_di_notte helped me by simultaneously translating from an Italian version. Sadly, I do not think that the rest of my Latin class will appreciate it at all when (if) I include it in my presentation next week, as schisms in early Christianity are, shall we say, Not of General Interest, nor is bad (by Classical standards) poetry written about them, as I would guess.

And meanwhile, my Dante paper is, very sadly, not writing itself.

I had one of those days where I just didn't want to talk at all. However, I shouldn't be allowed to have this kind of day on a Thursday, because Thursday is language table day, where I need to talk. I feel like such an idiot, just sitting there. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Literature was… difficult, too. Possibly this was because I didn't have much to say, and thus felt quite useless. It was sort of fun to discuss Petrarch's Cicero-addiction though. It's nice to know that obsessive fangirling (fanboying, in his case, I suppose) of historical figures is not new. At least I'm not writing Richard III or Augustine or Tacitus letters --yet. We also concluded that Petrarch/Cicero/Augustine=OT3. I don't really want to comment on that.
ricardienne: (augustine)
I'm still not feeling wholly better, but, having fulfilled my obligation, I am at least not trying to write in French.

Luis cornered me this morning and exacted promise that I will go to French Table next week, and that he will be taking attendance. And then it turned out that the rehearsal that I had been told started at 9:00 wasn't actually until 9:30. No Comment, but I could have had a whole extra half hour to drink my tea and read the paper.

I was reading Augustine the other day. Between Tacitus, Canterbury Tales, and The King's Two Bodies, I had been neglecting him of late. I probably shouldn't find his excursions into natural history as funny as I do, but, well, they are funny.

City of God,, Book XI, ch. 4

For who but God the Creator of all things has given to the flesh of the peacock its antiseptic property? This property, when I first heard of it, seemed to me incredible; but it happened at Carthage that a bird of this kind was cooked and served up to me, and, taking a suitable slice of flesh from its breast, I ordered it to be kept, and when it had been kept as many days as make any other flesh stinking, it was produced and set before me, and emitted no offensive smell. And after it had been laid by for thirty days and more, it was still in the same state; and a year after, the same still, except that it was a little more shrivelled, and drier.

Of course, the Aberdeen Bestiary corroborates this: "Its flesh is so hard that it hardly decays and it cannot easily be cooked." But where are they getting this from? If they cook and eat peacocks, well, not regularly, but on occasion, shouldn't someone have had a better idea of what the flesh was like. The most interesting thing is that Augustine claims to be speaking from experience. Assuming he isn't totally making it up, I suppose it might have had something to do with the way it was prepared. Or, as Carthage, I am guessing, is fairly dry, it might have quickly turned into Peacock jerky.

And this is clearly an early version of the "but how do it know" joke:
Who gave to straw such power to freeze that it preserves snow buried under it, and such power to warm that it ripens green fruit?

The diamond is a stone possessed by many among ourselves, especially by jewellers and lapidaries, and the stone is so hard that it can be wrought neither by iron nor fire, nor, they say, by anything at all except goat's blood.

Again -- isn't this something that would have been testable?

And then there is a very cool description of the wonderful properties of that strange object the magnet, which I am putting under a cut because it is rather long:
when a diamond is laid near it, it does not lift iron )
ricardienne: (Default)
Hey! Livejournal now allows six icons! Yay!

Anyone who has read Ender's Game or anything else by Orson Scott Card should read this article. Creepy. Very creepy. But it's important to know, I think.

This article got me thinking about Fantasy in general. I was really troubled that I hadn't seen it before, what Card was up to. But what about other fantasy or Sci-Fi novels? Where is the line between thought experiment and belief?
Fantasy novels are really a Fascist Plot )

So, I was reading my excellent edition of City of God today, and the editor mentioned a brilliant extended pun that Augustine made in one of the sections that was cut for this translation. But I managed to track it down:

And you thought that St. Augustine didn't have a sense of humor… )
ricardienne: (augustine)
Insert usual disclaimer involving Measure for Measure here )

Today was a good day for laughing in class. In Heroic Age, the professor told us that we could all go and practice our Skarphedin moves on the iced-over path from the Campus Center. He promised extra credit to anyone who could, after stopping to tie his (her) shoe, slide along the ice and knock someone's molars out.

Come to think of it, today was a good day for random extra-credit offers, as well. In Latin, he told us that it would be an automatic "A" for anyone who turned in a paper carved into stone. (This was during of a 20 minute digression on Wikipedia, copyright law, and the preservability of various forms of media, which ended in his warning us that sooner or later the world would descend anew into a period where learning was the provenance of only a very select few (!!!) and that he hoped for our sakes that it was either after our times, or that we were among that elite.) I still haven't decided whether or not to sign up for his FYSEM section next semester. It would probably be really interesting, but he made it sound like it will be really rigorous and unorthodox…
ricardienne: (augustine)
Natalie sent me City of God!!! (Yes, a proper thank-you is in the mail, but I have to express myself now!)

I started it this afternoon; it felt really familiar. Augustine's voice is so amazingly clear. And now I really can't wait to read him in the original.

Why do I like Augustine so much? )

I've only read the First Book, and I was astounded. Augustine addresses the issue of the sack of Rome. Is the Pagan viewpoint that it can be blamed on Romans turning away from the Gods justified? ('Of course not. Only an idiot would believe that.') In it, Augustine addresses the issue of rape.

Augustine takes a more progressive view of rape than our society does )

*blinks*

Oct. 13th, 2005 10:16 pm
ricardienne: (augustine)
So, one does have to wonder how well Augustine kept those vows of chastity when one gets letters like this one from his friend Severus:


Severus, to the venerable and desirable bishop Augustine, whom I would embrace wholly in the bosom of love…

…You know best how greedy I am for you: but still I do not grumble because I cannot do as much as I want, since I do no less than I can. Thanks be to God, sweetest brother, things are good for me when I am close to you, indeed clinging to you as tightly as possible, my one and only. I take in the abundance of your breasts and grow stroner, if I can just grasp and squeeze those breasts, so that whatever they protect and shut up secretly within -- well, if I can just take away the skin they give to the suckling to suck on, then maybe they can pour our their innermost essence to me. I want that essence poured out to me, I say: your innermost essence, your essence fat with heavenly stuffing and flavored with every spiritual sweetness, your essence, pure innermost essence, essence simple but crowned by the twofold bond of double love;
your essence, innermost essence drenched in the light of truth and making the truth shine back within. I place myself under what drips from them, what comes back from them, so that my darkness may grow weak in the presence of your light, so we can both walk together in the brightness of day. O truly cunning honeybee of God, building honeycombs illed with divine nectar, dripping with mercy and truth, through which my sould runs with delight, and whatever if finds it lacks, or wherever it feels weak, it struggles to fortify itself with your life-giving food.
O'Donnel, James J. Augustine: A New Biography. New York: HarperCollins Publishing Inc, 2005. 101-102.


But really, I DO think that this is platonic love, and intellectul love. Augustine freaks out so much about his sexuality that I just can't imagine him in any kind of physical relationship as a bishop. But it's pretty funny, anyway. And apparently the actual Latin isn't "essence" but "entrails."
ricardienne: (Default)

a.d. III Ides Oct.




I skipped French Table today. I'm going to lose it all, and it's going to be horrible, but I really didn't want to go.

The sun hasn't been out in at least a week. It's cold and rainy and depressing. Good weather for sitting in a cozy setting and reading, or for putting Mozart of Haydn quartets on and baking cookies1. Of course --

--So, one of the morons in my dorm made the fire alarm go off. He decided to spray the fire extinguisher "just to see what would happen." IDIOT!!!!!! I didn't turn my music off, and it went from the beginning of "Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama" to the very end of "Se vuol ballare, signor Contino," which, granted, is only six minutes or so.

Anyway, I was browsing in the library after the Latin midterm today (I swear that we had never seen maneo, manere before, and the fourth sentence was just plain icky) and I got a new biography of St. Augustine by James J. O'Donnell. It's quite interesting. I am really getting quite fond of this early-Christian, late-Roman period. Perhaps I should start taking Greek and be a Classics major. But it really is fascinating, how much I don't know about this kind of early Christianity, about the various competing sects, even about how misleading a lot of what one reads is. The term Bishop, for example, actually corresponds more closely to what we would call a parish priest: there were about 700 of them in North Africa alone in Augustine's time.

The one thing that gives me pause, however, is how O'Donnell tends to give examples from modern slang and pop culture to get his points across. In particular, I wonder about his translations. Are they too free? Or is it that scholarly translation tends to be too free to conform to a certain standard of appropriate gravitas?

Take this, for example, from Romans 13.13:
no orgies and drunkenness, nothing about bedrooms and horniness, no wrangling and rivalry -- just put on the master Jesus Christ and don't go on looking after the flesh and its hankerins.

From the official Vatican Website:

let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Okay, so it isn't that different.

Here's the Latin, from the same site:

Sicut in die honeste ambulemus: non in comissationibus et ebrietatibus, non in cubilibus et impudicitiis, non in contentione et aemulatione; sed induite Dominum Iesum Christum et carnis curam ne feceritis in concupiscentiis.

My half-literal, half-guessed-at translation of the above, with the help of The Perseus Project dictionaries because, for some strange reason, we haven't learnt all the words for 'immodesty' and 'drunkeness' yet.

Let us walk honorably, as in the day: not in Bacchanales and drunkenness, not in beds and immodesty, not in struggle and competition; but dress yourself in the Lord Jesus Christ and do not concern yourself for the flesh in its desires.

So, okay, he's pretty accurate. Which makes me really want to read Augustine in the original. Hm.



1. When I think about chamber music in its original context of music that would have been played for the private enjoyment of, say, Prince Esterhazy in the comfort of his own estate, I wonder what it would have been like to be a servant in such a household. Because the music would have filtered through the walls, right? So if you were scrubbing the floors in another room, or polishing silver, you still would have heard it. For this reason I like to listen to Mozart and Haydn when I bake.

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