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It is one of the many strengths of Christopher Brooke’s fascinating new study, Philosophic Pride, that he is aware of the multifarious nature of his subject; he knows that he is dealing with a fluid cluster of ideas and themes, not as a unitary philosophical movement. Not that he has set out, in any case, to write a history of (Neo-)Stoicism; his task is both narrower and harder than that. The subject of this book is the relationship between Stoicism and early modern political thought; since there was scarcely such a thing as a worked-out body of Stoic political theory (unless we count Seneca’s fanciful portrayal of the monarchical ruler – Nero, of all people – extending the empire of reason), this means that an already elusive subject is considered here from a variety of oblique angles...It's a long review, too, filling all of p. 5.
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"So if the longer notes at first appear digressive, they return you to the poem convinced that the editorial digression showed you the very by-ways of Milton's imagination. Take the long paragraph of Fowler's small print excited by Milton's first description of Adam and Eve's hairstyles -- of Adam's "hyacinthine locks" and Eve's "wanton ringlets". We start with Saint Paul's strictures on when women should cover their hair, then wander through a mini-essay on the significance of hair in epic poetry, a parenthesis on Milton's own hairstyle and hair-colouring, suggestive examples of the depiction of women's hair in 17th-century painting and some speculation about Milton's "special sexual interest in hair". You might think this is like listening to an engagingly eccentric professor, free-associating, in the library of his mind, yet soon the clinching references to the ways the poem fixes on Eve's "golden tresses" convince you otherwise. Her "dishevelled" hair signifies what is both lovely and vulnerable about here, and the poet is as fascinated as the devil who gazes at her from his hiding place."Here's what Fowler wrote in the 1971 edition of his book (I think I've got a later edition at home, so I'll post any of Fowler's subsequent thoughts on hair before too long):
"iv.301-8. The hair-length proper for each sex follows directly from the statement of their hierarchic relation; for, according to St Paul, 'a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man: for her hair is given her for a covering' (1 Cor. xi 7, 15; cp. the A. V. marginal glass on 10, which explains the covering is a 'sign that she is under the power of her husband'). hyacinthine locks] When Athene 'shed grace about his head and shoulders', Odysseus' hair flower 'like the hyacinth flower' (Homer, Od. vi 231). If a colour were implied, it might be either blue, the colour of the hyacinth flower or gem (i.e., the sapphire; cp. l. 237n), or just possibly tawny (the hyacinth of heraldry, near to the colour of M.'s own hair), or black (Eustathius' gloss on the Homeric passage) or very dark brown (Suidas' gloss); in fact, almost any colour at all. But it is just as likely that a shape is meant (the idealized treatment accorded to hair in antique sculpture?), or an allusion to the beautiful youth Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo but doomed to die. The elaborateness of the present passage lends some support to the theory that M. had a special sexual interest in hair. (In this connection cp. 496f, Lycidas 69, 175.)"And here's John Milton, Paradise Lost, iv.300-311:
"His fair large front and eye sublime declared Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks Round from his parted forelock manly hung Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad: She as a veil down to her slender waist Her unadorned golden tresses wore Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied Subjection, but required with gentle sway, And by her yielded, by him best received, Yielded with coy submission, modest pride, And sweet reluctant amorous delay."
For if it be enough to excuse it of idolatry to say it is no more bread, but God; why should not the same excuse serve the Egyptians, in case they had the faces to say the leeks and onions they worshipped were not very leeks and onions, but a divinity under their species or likeness?Here's Blaise Pascal, in the Pensï¿½es (and I've quoted this passage before:
He alone [ = God] is our true good. From the time we have forsaken him, it is a curious thing that nothing in nature has been capable of taking his place: stars, sky, earth, elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, snakes, fever, plague, war famine, vice, adultery, incest. From the time he lost his true good, man can see it everywhere, even in his own destruction, though it is so contrary to God, reason, and nature, all at once.And here's David Hume, in the Natural History of Religion, ï¿½12:
How can you worship leeks and onions? we shall suppose a Sorbonnist to say to a priest of Sais. If we worship them, replies the latter; at least, we do not, at the same time, eat them. But what strange objects of adoration are cats and monkeys? says the learned doctor. They are at least as good as the relics or rotten bones of martyrs, answers his no less learned antagonist. Are you not mad, insists the Catholic, to cut one another's throat about the preference of a cabbage or a cucumber? Yes, says the pagan; I allow it, if you will confess, that those are still madder, who fight about the preference among volumes of sophistry, ten thousand of which are not equal in value to one cabbage or cucumber."So where does this trope come from? And does anyone know of any other examples? (And let's hope this doesn't turn into another bout of furious beaver-blogging...)[Thanks.] UPDATE [12.20pm]: This page might provide a clue or two, and points us towards Numbers 11:5: "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick." But nothing about worshipping. There's also Malebranche, from The Search after Truth, with a reference to this bit of the Bible:
"It is true that reason does not tell us that we ought to worship, for example, leeks and onions as the sovereign divinity, because they cannot make us entirely happy when we have them, or entirely wretched when we do not. Thus the pagans never honoured them as much as the great Jupiter, on whom all their deities depended. Nor as much as the sun, which our senses represent to us  as the universal cause, which gives life and movement to everything, and which you could not help regarding as a divinity if you assumed (like the pagan philosophers) that it included in its being the genuine causes of what it seems to bring about, not only in our body and in our spirit, but also in all the beings around us."But even if you should not render sovereign honour to leeks and onions, you could still offer them some sort of restricted worship ï¿½ I mean think about them, and love them in a certain way. If it is true that they can give us a certain sort of happiness, then we should honour them in proportion to the good they can do. And it is certainly the case that people who accept the evidence of their senses think that these vegetables are capable of doing them good. For example, the Israelites would not have missed them so deeply in the desert, and they would not have considered themselves wretched for lack of them, if they had not imagined that they would in some way be made happy by having them."And here's John Wesley, in Sermon 102, which really doesn't make me warm to the man:
But that the generality of men were not one jot wiser in ancient times than they are at the present time we may easily gather from the most authentic records. One of the most ancient nations concerning whom we have any certain account is the Egyptian. And what conception can we have of their understanding and learning when we reflect upon the objects of their worship? These were not only the vilest of animals, as dogs and cats, but the leeks and onions that grew in their own gardens. Indeed, I knew a great man (whose manner was to treat with the foulest abuse all that dared to differ from him: I do not mean Dr. Johnson -- he was a mere courtier compared to Mr. Hutchinson) who scurrilously abused all those who are so void of common sense as to believe any such thing concerning them. He peremptorily affirms, (but without condescending to give us any proof) that the ancient inhabitants of Egypt had a deep hidden meaning in all this. Let him believe it who can. I cannot believe it on any man bare assertion. I believe they had no deeper meaning in worshipping cats than our schoolboys have in baiting them. And I apprehend, the common Egyptians were just as wise three thousand years ago as the common ploughmen in England and Wales are at this day. I suppose their natural understanding like their stature, was on a level with ours, and their learning, their acquired knowledge, many degrees inferior to that of persons of the same rank either in France, Holland, or Germany.Oh dear, it's beaver-blogging all over again. Must. Stop. This. Now.