We Three Kings

Over the same curry, I enjoyed reading a new version of a well-known Christmas Carol in the most recent copy of the Classical Association News (which the Virtual Stoa reads so you don’t have to, etc.):

Misit huc Magos Oriens
stella tres nos ducit agens
rura rivos campum clivos
donaque transferens


Natus est ad Bethlehem Rex:
aureus confirmet apex;
totus sine cuncto fine
pareat illi grex:

Numinosum offero tus:
noscitatur ture Deus;
ornent iuncti Summum cuncti
cum prece laudibus:

Ecce! myrrha acerbum olens,
umbras imminere docens!
Cruciatum immolatum
en lapis opprimens!

Iamque vindicatus ovat,
se victorem nuntiat
angelorum terra chorum
laude reduplicat.

Mark Mortimer’s apparently translated 300 hymns and carols into Latin: Latinised Hymns available from Newton Publications, Old Rectory, Newton Reigny, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0AY, £11 a pop.

Right, that really is it for a bit. I’m off to watch the Dalek episode of Dr. Who, and then I’m popping round the corner to St Barnabas for the Midnight Mass. And then off to London in the morning, if I can find a bus to take me.

Pliny Beaver Blogging

Yup, it was Pliny the Elder alright, Natural History 8, 47. Here’s the Latin:

Easdem partes sibi ipsi Pontici amputant fibri periculo urgente, ob hoc se peti gnari; castoreum id vocant medici. alias animal horrendi morsus arbores iuxta flumina ut ferro caedit, hominis parte conprehensa non ante quam fracta concrepuerint ossa morsus resolvit. cauda piscium his, cetera species lutrae. utrumque aquaticum, utrique mollior pluma pilus.

And here’s the splendid English translation of 1601 by Philemon Holland:

The Bievers in Pontus gueld themselves, when they see how neere they are driven, and bee in danger of the hunters: as knowing full well, that chased they bee for their genetoires: and these their stones, Physicians call Castoreum. And otherwise, this is a daungerous and terrible beast with his teeth. For verily, hee will bite downe the trees growing by the river sides, as if they were cut with an axe. Looke where he catcheth hold of a man once, he never leaveth nor letteth loose untill hee have knapped the bones in sunder, and heard it cracke againe. Tailed hee is like a fish, otherwise he resembleth the otter. Both those beasts live in the water altogether, and carrie an haire softer than any plume or downe of feathers.

That’s probably enough Beaver-Blogging for one morning. I’ll get back to Kitten-Blogging soon.

Welcome Visitor

A while ago I used this weblog to publicise the excellent Latin translation of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” by Judith P. Hallett. She visited the VS recently and wrote this in the comments box, which I’ll reproduce below on the grounds that I don’t think any of my readers are quite sad enough to spend their time trawling entries from months ago on the offchance that new comments have appeared. (I hope not, at any rate.)

See Classical Association News, June 2003, for a Latin version of “Take Me Out…” in honor of the CA Centenary.

Aufer nos ad Britannos, alumnos Boudiccae
Da nobis quae (id est quid, plura)
Publicae domus ardens est cura.
Societate gaudeamus
Eorum classica.
Centum annos floruit cum speque gloria.

As a member of the Classical Association (oddly enough), I’m flattered. And she also refers us to more of her translated songs on the Munich Petronian Society webpage, including “Jailhouse Rock” and, I’m delighted to report, the main theme from Oklahoma! reworked as “Nostra Roma!” (“Nostra Roma, urbs aeterna septem collium”, etc).

(We can only hope that a Latin version of “The Farmer and the Cowman” will appear before too long.)

Nunc hic aut numquam

Over at Respectful of Otters, Rivka reproduces “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in Latin and comments, “But seriously: I don’t know what it is about fans of Latin that prompts them to translate just about anything into Latin, seemingly unprovoked. You don’t see Ancient Sumerian hobbyists doing anything like that, do you?”.Well, you do, actually: go here for some discussion of the problems that you run into when you try executing the important project of putting Elvis Presley lyrics into Sumerian.

(The same guy also recorded quite a bit of Elvis in Latin, so perhaps it’s only Latin obsessives who also want to put things into Sumerian, too.)

Aufer me ad arenam

When I’m not reading the blogs, I’m reading the newsletter of the Classical Association, CA News. This is old news, but it’s only just reached me, and it made me laugh, from the round-up of “Classics in the Media” in 2003:

But the biggest publisher’s advance, $500,000 no less, has gone to Victor Davis Hanson for a book on the Peloponnesian War. Hanson is a Classics teacher and raisin farmer… [blah blah blah] He followed this up [= Who Killed Homer?] with a devastating review of a Judith Hallett anthology, which led her to protest that he had not disclosed to the editors the fact that, some years previously, she had reported him and a colleague to the FBI as fitting the description of the wanted “Unabomber”…

The colleague, perhaps unsurprisingly, was John Heath, co-author of the egregious nonsense that was WKH?, a book that was memorably and also devastatingly reviewed by Peter Green in the New York Review of Books [though sadly, it’s not online: it should be, as a public service to the world].Judith Hallett’s more recent contribution to classical studies has been to translate the American classic, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, into Latin. Sing along with me, please:

Aufer me ad arenam.
Aufer me cum turba.
Da mihi glires sparsos melle.
Reditum domum non curo velle.
Pro leonibus exhortemur.
Nil refert hominum.
Duo, tria membra edent

[And for an almost-literal and spendidly-singable translation back into English: Take me to the arena / Take me out with the crowd / Buy me some dormice in honeycomb / I don’t care if I never go home / So let’s root, root, root for the lions / Not the humans they maim / Munching two, three more body parts / at our Caesar’s game!]

Careers in Classics

One of the curious things about being a politics academic going to classics lectures on Herodotus (see below) is that J. Enoch Powell is regularly mentioned, but in his capacity as author of a standard reference work, A Lexicon to Herodotus, rather than in his more familiar (to me, at least) capacity as racist hatemonger.

It reminds me of the time I was reading a very dull book from 1930 by Richard Hope on The Book of Diogenes Laertius (quite unlike DL’s own book, which is fabulous, full of good things). On several occasions, as I remember, the Book of Richard Hope footnoted Friedrich Nietzsche’s DL scholarship — for before he became the Nietzsche we know today, he was a professional classicist at the university of Basel who wrote rather dull articles on DL’s sources, and those who work on DL are understandably more interested in these pieces than, say, Beyond Good and Evil or Thus Spake Zarathustra.

Writing those words reminds me that Powell did go through a phase of modelling himself on Nietzsche: think of his obsession with landing a chair in his 20s, which led to his brief migration to Australia just before the outbreak of war. But, all things considered, I think that Nietzsche made the right career move when he gave up his academic classics. It would have been much better for all of us — and for the world of Herodotus scholarship — if Powell hadn’t.


Yesterday I went to a superb lecture by UC Berkeley’s Leslie Kurke on Herodotus-as-Aesopian-fabulist, which ended with a discussion of the famous Hippokleides story:

At last the day arrived for the marriage feast and for the Kleisthenes’ announcement of whom he had chosen from all. Kleisthenes sacrificed one hundred cattle, and summoned both the suitors and all of the citizens of Sicyon to the banquet. After dinner, the musical competition among the suitors was held, as well as also the competition in speaking on a set theme and in these, Hippokleides surpassed all the other suitors. As the drinking continued, Hippokleides ordered the flute player to play a dance tune for him, and when the flute player obeyed he began to dance. Presumably, Hippokleides danced to his own satisfaction, but Kleisthenes, as he watched the whole business, was disturbed. Hippokleides rested for a little while, but then he ordered the servants to bring in a table, and when it had been brought in, he danced on it, first of all Lakonian dances and after that Attic dances, he stood on his head on the table and waved his legs in the air. Even though Hippokleides was no longer acceptable to him as a son-in-law, because of the shamelessness of his dancing, Kleisthenes did not wish to berate him and restrained himself during the first two sessions of dancing but when he saw him waving his legs in the air he was no longer able to restrain himself and said: “Oh son of Teisander, you have danced away your wedding”: but Hippokleides replied: “Hippokleides doesn’t care”.

And today I’m very pleased to read on the BBC website that Johnny Cash’s son John Carter Cash said of his dad at the 37th Annual Country Music Awards that “It’s amazing my father had such a life that he could expose himself and still never lose his dignity”.The Man in Black doesn’t care!

Though it’s unclear whether he was waving his legs in the air at the time.