Daniel Dockery

animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri

Home of published musician, recording artist, mathematician, programmer, translator, artist, classicist, and general polymath.

January 26th, 2013

in hac solitudine careo omnium colloquio, […]. nihil est mihi amicius solitudine. in ea mihi omnis sermo est cum litteris.




In this solitude, I am removed from all dialogue, […]. Nothing is dearer to me than solitude; in it, all my conversation is with literature.

Cicero, Epistulæ ad Atticum, XII.XV, Scr. Asturæ vii Id. Mart. a. 709 (“Letters to Atticus”, 12.15, written in Asturia, March 9, 45 BCE.)

Virgil, Eclogues, IX.51–53

July 14th, 2011

omnia fert ætas, animum quoque: sæpe ego longos
cantando puerum memini me condere soles:
nunc oblita mihi tot carmina;


Time takes away everything, even the mind;
I recall how as a boy I sang away the long days:
now I’ve forgotten all my songs.

Virgil, Eclogues, IX.51–53

The Redemption of Lucifer

May 30th, 2011

AKA Mistranslated Bibles and Errant Theology

[This ramble brought to you by seeing one too many misrepresentations of the Isaian passage, sparked by this morning seeing an anon—ostensibly Christian—troll* citing it while haranguing a [now deleted] Tumblr with farcical “arguments” about the beliefs of anon’s patchwork theopoeia. Hat-tip, Renée. (*Which is just another mangled myth, since traditionally trolls are supposed to eat Christians!)]

As a translator, I am accustomed to encountering passages where someone has slipped in our craft, and I have been as culpable as any; these are sometimes embarrassing, sometimes amusing, but sometimes a translator so misses the mark as to change the entire meaning of a passage and confound those who, unacquainted with the original material, rely on that translation. Perhaps the most pernicious example of this can be found in the “translations” of the Christian editions of the Tanakh‘s book of Isaiah, cap. 14, verse 12, which has endured so long as to become part of their theology.

איך נפלת משמים הילל בן־שחר

How you are fallen from heaven, Hêlēl ben-Šāḥar!

The problem lies in that single bolded phrase, the name Hêlēl ben-Šāḥar. The figure as a whole is most likely a survival from Canaanite myth, and scholars have found parallels in the larger story in that Isaian passage to some of the texts uncovered at Ugarit, such as that of Athtar attempting to usurp the Most High Baal. But the first name, Hêlēl, meaning “bright” or “shining”, was an epithet of the planet Venus rising as the morning star. This was still understood by the translators of the LXX (working between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE in Alexandria):

πῶς ἐξέπεσεν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὁ ἑωσφόρος ὁ πρωὶ ἀνατέλλων

They rendered the name as Heosphoros, the morning star, also classically understood to be Venus, and was discussed as such from Homer to Plato and Hesiod among others, called Ἀφροδίτης ἀστήρ, the star of Aphrodite (whom the Romans called Venus). But nearly 500 years later, when Jerome was commissioned by the 37th pope, Damascus I, to produce the Vulgate Latin “translation” of the canonical Biblical texts, the error arises. For הילל and ἑωσφόρος, he chose to use the Latin lucifer. While הילל is an hapax legomenon and we cannot compare the translations of it in other parts of the text, the more accurate Greek translation appears in six other places in the Tanakh passages of the LXX.

In the first of these, I Samuel 30:17, the Hebrew is מהנשׁף ועד־הערב—”from before sunrise to after sunset”—rendered correctly in the LXX as ἀπὸ ἑωσφόρου ἕως δείλης, but mistakenly rendered by Jerome as a uespere usque ad uesperam, “from evening to evening”.

In Psalm 109:3, “from the dawn” is in Hebrew משׁחר, which the LXX gave as “before dawn”, πρὸ ἑωσφόρου and Jerome gave as “before the morning star”, ante luciferum.

In Job, where we find the largest concentration of this term, the first, in 3:9, is simply dawn, שׁחר in Hebrew, ἑωσφόρον in the LXX, but this time Jerome opted for auroræ, which still means dawn (or the goddess of the dawn). In 11:17, “like the morning” is in Hebrew כבקר, ὥσπερ ἑωσφόρος in the LXX, but here Jerome went back to his other term, with ut lucifer, “as the morning star”. In 38:12, we have dawn again, the Hebrew שׁחר, the LXX‘s ἑωσφόρος, and Jerome vacillates back to aurorae. Finally in 41:10, the Hebrew once more offers שׁחר for dawn, the LXX sticks to ἑωσφόρου and Jerome… came up with yet another word, diluculi. It can still mean dawn, though usually meant the earliest or first rays of sun in the morning.

We can see that the most common term here in the Hebrew is שׁחר, yet for that single term, Jerome offered lucifer, aurora and diluculum (and elsewhere in his text used mane to translate the same word), and is inconsistent even in the use of those. For instance, in Psalm 109:3 he used lucifer for שׁחר, yet in Isaiah 14:12, it is הילל that he translated as lucifer while rendering שׁחר as qui mane oriebaris, “who rose early in the morning”. In Job 11:17, he used lucifer for another term altogether (בקר); in Job 38:32, he “translated” מזרות as lucifer, which seems to be intended for מזלות—the constellations—as used in II Kings 23:5, which Jerome there translated as duodecim signis, the “twelve signs”! The LXX gave the transliterated μαζουρωθ in both places. In Job 38:12, he used both diluculum and aurora in the same passage, writing diluculo for בקר, “morning” (which word he translated as lucifer in Job 11:17) and auroræ for שׁחר. In Job 24:17, he decided בקר could then be… aurora. Elsewhere (Psalm 73:16) he also used aurora to translate the Hebrew word אור (light). Diluculum is easily his favorite of these, however, as it occurs some 41 times in his text, as translations of these Hebrew terms and some others as you might have come to expect.

These are not examples of translating a text’s meaning idiomatically into another language as he varies these terms haphazardly even when the meaning and context remains the same; it’s just bad translation. But the point of this article is to focus more particularly on the consequences of his bad translation, especially as concerns Isaiah 14:12. There, despite having used lucifer in five places in his text, he chose to treat the word in only that one place as a proper name—despite that the context in which he’d used it in every other passage should also make it a proper name in Latin. That is, if not a name, the word only means “light-bringing” and was used in Latin to refer to everything from lightning (lucifera lampade) and meteors (luciferas faces) to the moon, and sometimes, as a feminine adjective, referring to the goddess of the moon, Diana (as Cicero writes in de Natura Deorum, 2.68). But when used in Latin to refer to the morning star, it is a masculine proper noun, the name of a mythological figure who appears in the works of Ovid, Lucretius, Pliny, Propertius, Cicero and many others. Awkwardly, for Jerome, Lucifer the Morning Star was mythologically the son of Aurora, though he seems to use the two synonymously. Lucifer, the Roman god’s myth, was well enough established to root him firmly in the Greek and Roman genealogies. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, XI, 266, we meet Ceyx, king and son of Lucifer, who tells the story of his brother Dædalion. Dædalion had a daughter, Chione, who gave birth to a son, Autolycus, by the god Mercury. In Homer’s Odyssey, we find Odysseus the son of Anticleia, the daughter of that same Autolycus, making the hero Odysseus the great-great-great grandson of Lucifer. Which is simply to say, each time Jerome used Lucifer as a translation of the morning star, it should have been a personification, and not just in the one place.

The problem is not just one of vocabulary but interpretation, as it seems clear Jerome, if not the whole early (and subsequent) church, misunderstood the meaning of the entire passage. The original is an allegorical reference to the predicted fall of the King of Babylon, casting him in the role of the mythological figure of Hêlēl, and yet, for some reason, Jerome and the early church fathers, perhaps, particularly Tertullian and Origen, have tried to make the passage out to be about their imaginary devil, and Jerome’s choice to personify this one reference has had the consequence of creating the immense error that “Lucifer” is the name of “the devil”! They seem to choose to ignore the significance of the other occurrences of “lucifer” in the text, including, singificantly, in Jerome’s version of the Christian “New Testament” books, for he uses it in II Peter 1:19, where they talk of the time when the morning star will rise in their hearts as if it’s a good thing—yet Jerome, correctly for once, translates the Greek φωσφόρος as lucifer: donec dies inlucescat et lucifer oriatur in cordibus uestris, “until the day dawns and Lucifer rises in your hearts”. (Ἑωσφόρος and φωσφόρος were synonymous, both being translated as lucifer by the Romans; e.g., in Apollodorus’ Library, I.7.4, “Ἀλκυόνην δὲ Κῆυξ ἔγημεν Ἑωσφόρου παῖς“—Alcyone was married by Ceyx, son of Lucifer—Ἑωσφόρος was used, while in Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 2.53, we find stella Ueneris, quæ Φωσφόρος Græce Lucifer Latine dicitur, “the star of Venus, which is called by the Greeks Phosphorus is Lucifer in Latin”.)

Mythologically, Lucifer’s a nice fellow; he heralds the new day, ushers the darkness away, and helps the lost find their way back home. So, Christians, you’ve been picking on and blaming the wrong guy for nearly two thousand years. Isn’t it time you leave him alone and get your own Bible right?

The silent friendship of the moon

April 21st, 2011

In Borges’ “La cifra” and the obverse of his “Poema“, both translated here earlier, the poet refers to Virgil. In the “Poem”, among the things brought with the hexameters of Virgil’s Æneid is “[l]a amistad de la luna“, “the friendship of the moon”, and “La cifra” opens with “[l]a amistad silenciosa de la luna / (cito mal a Virgilio)“, “the silent friendship of the moon / (I misquote Virgil)”.

He is making reference to line 255 in the second book of the Æneid, from the scene where the Greeks slip out from the Trojan horse to sack the city of Troy, making their way “tacitæ per amica silentia lunæ“, “unnoticed through the friendly silence of the moon”.

Borges’ interest seems only in the expression quite abstracted from the story’s context through his own fondness for the moon as evidenced in many of his other works. He returns to the expression many times. In his brief essay on Dante’s Purgatorio, I.13 (from Nueve ensayos dantescos [1982]), he refers again to “el famoso hexámetro de La Eneida: «a Tenedo, tacitæ per amica silentia lunæ»” (“the famous hexameter from The Æneid: «from Tenedos, unnoticed through the friendly silence of the moon»”), comparing to it verse 60 of canto I of Dante’s Infierno, “mi ripigneva là dove ‘l sol tace“—”pushed me there where the sun is silent”.

In Borges’ defence, though he needs none, his misquotation isn’t as severe as that perpetrated by José Lezama Lima in Paradiso: “Pero con esperada frecuencia volvíamos al ternario, a unir sol, tierra y luna, aunque yo casi siempre me inclinaba a la luna silentiæ amicæ.” (In Gregory Rabassa’s translation, this reads “But with expected frequency we returned to the ternary, to unite sun, earth and moon, although I almost always leaned toward the silent friendship of the moon”, though his translation is incorrect for the Latin.)

tristia

December 24th, 2010

nec tamen, ut lauder, uigilo curamque futuri
nominis, utilius quod latuisset, ago.
detineo studiis animum falloque dolores,
experior curis et dare uerba meis.
quid potius facam desertis solus in urbe,
quamue malis aliam quærere coner opem?

Ovid, Tristia, V. vii. 39–40.

It’s not for praise I stay awake and toil for the future of a name best forgotten. I busy my mind with studies, sidetracking sorrows, trying to give voice to my concerns. What else can I do alone in this forsaken town, what other help to this should I seek?

I wish I had some such study tonight to drive myself to like distraction, that I would not now be sitting here brooding as I am, under full sway of this sad, sorrowful season’s selection of spectres. This flu business hardly helps.

Last night, I lost myself in music, or my fumbling attempts thereat. As they did not turn out well—they seldom do—I do not wish to pursue the same fruitless path tonight. The goal, as with Ovid, is to forget my frustrations, not encourage them. Yet running through my options now, I’m coming to a dreary conclusion: everything I know how to do is an equal frustration.

Writing, art, music, any of it, all of it—equally flawed, equally disappointing. I’m tired of this; I need a new outlet.

Fazer uma obra e reconhecê-la má depois de feita é uma das tragédias da alma. Sobretudo é grande quando se reconhece que essa obra é a melhor que se podia fazer. Mas ao ir escrever uma obra, saber de antemão que ela tem de ser imperfeita e falhada; ao está-la escrevendo estar vendo que ela é imperfeita e falhada—isto é o máximo da tortura e da humilhação do espírito. Não se os versos que escrevo sinto que me não satisfazem, mas sei que os versos que estou para escrever me não satisfarão, também.

Por que escrevo então? […] Tenho de escrever como cumprindo um castigo. E o maior castigo é o de saber que o que escrevo resulta inteiramente fútil, falhado e incerto.

Pessoa, Livro do desassossego, 231

To write something and recognize afterward that it’s bad is one of the tragedies of the soul. It’s especially terrible when we recognize that the work is the best we could do. But when we write something knowing beforehand that it has to be imperfect and flawed, seeing as we write it that it’s imperfect and flawed—that is the spirit’s maximum torture and humiliation. Not only do I feel that the verses I write do not satisfy me, I know that neither will the verses I’m about to write.

So why do I write? I must write—it’s like carrying out a punishment. And the greatest punishment is knowing that what I write will be entirely futile, flawed and uncertain.

As it’s said that “the truth is established” by “two witnesses”, these two botcheries of last night’s effort will be mine.

[This piece is not currently available online.]

The basic study of the intended melody, meant to be a throw-away piece, though it’s perhaps the better of the two in the end.

Black Keys

A more elaborate work on the same melodic material, passing through a number of modulations into other tonal areas than the basic F# minor of the original, though beginning and ending with it.

Further work and revision has—perhaps, or hopefully—improved this latter work, so I have removed the earlier recording; the new incarnation has been premiered on the Facebook “fan” page, under the title “A Waltz in Winter“.

He cometido el peor de los pecados
que un hombre puede cometer. No he sido
feliz. […] Mi mente
se aplicó a las simétricas porfías
del arte, que entreteje naderías.
No me abandona. Siempre está a mi lado
la sombra de haber sido un desdichado.

Borges, “El remordimiento”

I have committed the worst sin a man can commit: I have not been happy. I gave my mind to the symmetric stubbornness of art and all its webs of pettiness. It never leaves me. It is always at my side, the shadow of having been a brooding man.

Insatiate Orque

April 13th, 2010

Notes on the origin and etymology of the orc in English, inspired by seeing someone slightly more than my own age recently remarking on their belief that the word was invented by Tolkien, and that it had become a “word” courtesy of Peter Jackson’s film-adaptation of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, further asserting that before the movies, no one “their age” would have understood the word!

Poor Blake! Forgotten so soon?

In thunders ends the voice. Then Albions Angel wrathful burnt
beside the Stone of Night; and like the Eternal Lions howl
in famine & war, reply’d. Art thou not Orc, who serpent-form’d
stands at the gate of Enitharmon to devour her children;
Blasphemous Demon, Antichrist, hater of Dignities;
Lover of wild rebellion and transgresser of Gods Law;
Why dost thou come to Angels eyes in this terrific form?

Blake, America: A Prophecy, 1793

His Orc, a major character in his literary mythology, derives from both the attested English meanings of orc as a noun:

orc, n. 1

Originally: any of various ferocious sea creatures. In later use: a large cetacean, esp. the killer whale, Orcinus orca. Cf. ORCA, n. Now rare.

    1590. J. Stewart, Poems II.40, “Strong ourks and phoks and monsters euerie day | From seis he send.”

    1631. P. Fletcher, Sicelides III, “That Orke mouth of thine did crumme thy porridge with my grandsires braines.”

    1794. W. Jones, Hindu Wife 42, “Some slowly through green waves advancing. E’en orcs and river-dragons felt Their iron bosoms melt.”

orc, n. 2

A devouring monster; an ogre; spec. a member of an imaginary race of subhuman creatures, small and human-like in form but having ogreish features and warlike, malevolent characters.

    1656. S. Holland, Don Zara I. i. 6, “Who at one stroke didst pare away three heads from off the shoulders of an Orke, begotten by an Incubus.

    1854. Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, Oct. 380/1, “The elves and the nickers, the orcs and the giants.”

    1865. C. Kingsley, Hereward, I. i. 71, “But beyond, things unspeakable—dragons, giants, orcs, […]”

The Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed., 2004.

As the citations suggest, Blake was also neither the first nor only to use the word in English. There were two distinct forms of orc in use in early, Anglo-Saxon English; one, from the Latin orca (II A), referring to a large vessel (in OE, this was generally used to refer to religious cups, chalices or other offering vessels), has not persisted into modern English, but the other, deriving from the Latin Orcus, referred more to an evil or underworld spirit, or the underworld itself, and in compound words reflected a meaning closer to what has persisted into the modern language.

Þanon untydras     ealle onwocon,
eotenas ond ylfe     ond orc-neas,
swylce gigantas,     þa wið Gode wunnon

Then all the evil brood were born, ettins and elves and hell-fiends, even the giants, who strove with God

Beowulf, ll. 111–113

The usage evolving in later English however was modified, or reinforced perhaps, by the influence of the word as it had passed through other languages which had derived their own usage via the Latin Orcus, such as the Italian orco, a sort of man-eating giant relating to the similar Spanish ogro (and English kin ogre), etc. The description of the sea-monster orc of cantos CI–CX of Ludovico Ariosto‘s Orlando furioso (1516–1532) combines a mixture of the two meanings, applying the tusks and other monstrous features of the typical humanoid orc to the sea-monster orca, as can be seen in many of the illustrations of the scene of Ruggiero rescuing Angelica, such as those of Doré. The encounter was summarized in 1863,

Rogero, lance in rest, spurred his Hippogriff toward the Orc, and gave him a thrust. The horrible monster was like nothing that nature produces. It was but one mass of tossing and twisting body, with nothing of the animal but head, eyes and mouth, the last furnished with tusks like those of the wild boar. Rogero’s lance had struck him between the eyes, but rock and iron are not more impenetrable than were his scales. The knight, seeing the fruitlessness of the first blow, prepared to give a second. The animal, beholding upon the water the shadow of the great wings of the Hippogriff, abandoned his prey, and turned to seize what seemed nearer. Rogero took the opportunity, and dealt him furious blows on various parts of his body, taking care to keep clear of his murderous teeth; but the scales resisted every attack. The Orc beat the water with his tail till he raised a foam which enveloped Rogero and his steed, so that the knight hardly knew whether he was in the water or the air. He began to fear that the wings of the Hippogriff would be so drenched with water that they would cease to sustain him. At that moment Rogero bethought him of the magic shield which hung at his saddle-bow; but the fear that Angelica would also be blinded by its glare discouraged him from employing it. Then he remembered the ring which Melissa had given him, the power of which he had so lately proved. He hastened to Angelica and placed it on her finger. Then, uncovering the buckler, he turned its bright disk full in the face of the detestable Orc. The effect was instantaneous. The monster, deprived of sense and motion, rolled over on the sea, and lay floating on his back.

Thomas Bulfinch, Legends of Charlemagne, “The Orc”

Only a few years later, Robert Browning’s work, The Ring and the Book was published in 1869,

Methinks I view some ancient bas-relief.
There stands Hesione thrust out by Troy,
her father’s hand has chained her to a crag,
her mother’s from the virgin plucked the vest,
at a safe distance both distressful watch,
while near and nearer comes the snorting orc.
I look that, white and perfect to the end,
she wait till Jove despatch some demigod;
not that,—impatient of celestial club
Alcmena’s son should brandish at the beast,—
she daub, disguise her dainty limbs with pitch,
and so elude the purblind monster!

ibid., ix, Juris Doctor Johannes-Baptista Bottinius—
Fisci et Rev. Cam. Apostol. Advocatus

When Joshua Sylvester in 1604 published his translation of one of King James’ favorite poets Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas’ La Sepmaine; ou Création du monde of 1581, he described Hunger thus,

Here first comes Dearth, the lively form of death,
still yawning wide with loathsome, sickening breath,
with hollow eyes, with meager cheeks and chin,
with sharp, lean bones piercing her sable skin,
her empty bowels may be plainly spied
clean through the wrinkles of her withered hide.
She hath no belly but the belly’s seat,
her knees and knuckles swelling hugely great,
insatiate Orque that, even at one repast,
almost all creatures in the world would waste;
whose greedy gorge dish after dish doth draw,
seeks meat in meat. For still her monstrous maw
voids in devouring, and sometimes she eats
her own dear babes for lack of other meats.
Nay, more; sometimes, O strangest gluttony,
she eats herself, herself to satisfy,
lessening herself, herself so to enlarge,
and cruel thus she doth our grandsire charge;
and brings besides from Limbo to assist her
Rage, feebleness and thirst, her ruthless sister.

Du Bartas His Devine Weekes and Workes Translated,
II, The Story of Adam, iii, “The Furies”

If the nouns aren’t enough orc for you, it’s also attested as a verb; e.g., “I Orkt you once, and Ile fit you for a Cupid.” And, no, Tolkien had nothing to do with it—it’s from Fletcher’s Sicelides of 1631.

Catullus: “How many kisses?”

November 3rd, 2009

quæris, quo mihi basiationes
tuæ, Lesbia, sint satis superque.
quam magnus numerus Libyssæ harenæ
lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis
oraclum Iouis inter æstuosi
et Batti ueteris sacrum sepulcrum;
aut quam sidera multa, cum tacet nox,
furtiuos hominum uident amores:
tam te basia multa basiare
uesano satis et super Catullo est,
quæ nec pernumerare curiosi
possint nec mala fascinare lingua.

G. Valerius Catullus (84–54 BCE), carmen VII

Translated:

You ask how many of your kisses, love,
would be enough—or more!—for me?
As many as the grains of Libyan sand
lying along silphium-bearing Cyrene
between the oracle of sweltering Jove
and the sacred sepulchre of old Battus;
or as many as the quiet night’s stars
which see the secret loves of men:
to kiss you with that many kisses
might be enough to sate your mad lover!
So many that the curious cannot count
nor evil tongues disdain them.

Happy birthday, Gabriela!

Seneca

March 26th, 2005

Seneca, de Tranquillitate Animi (“On the tranquility of the mind”), XVII.8–11:

Indulgendum est animo dandumque subinde otium, quod alimenti ac uirium loco sit. Et in ambulationibus apertis uagandum, ut cælo libero et multo spiritu augeat attollatque se animus; aliquando uectatio iterque et mutata regio uigorem dabunt, conuictusque et liberalior potio. Nonnumquam et usque ad ebrietatem ueniendum, non ut mergat nos, sed ut deprimat: eluit enim curas et ab imo animum mouet et, ut morbis quibusdam, ita tristitiæ medetur, Liberque non ob licentiam linguæ dictus est inuentor uini, sed quia liberat seruitio curarum animum et asserit uegetatque et audaciorem in omnes conatus facit. Sed, ut libertatis, ita uini salubris moderatio est. Solonem Arcesilanque indulsisse uino eredunt; Catoni ebrietas obiecta est: facilius efficient crimen honestum quam turpem Catonem. Sed nec sæpe faciendum est, ne animus malam consuetudinem ducat, et aliquando tamen in exsultationem libertatemque extrahendus tristisque sobrietas remouenda paulisper. Nam, siue græco pœtæ credimus, “aliquando et insanire iucundum est”; siue Platoni, “frustra pœticas fores compos sui pepulit”; siue Aristoteli, “nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiæ fuit”. Non potest grande aliquid et super ceteros loqui nisi mota mens. Cum uulgaria et solita contempsit instinctuque sacro surrexit excelsior, tunc demum aliquid cecinit grandius ore mortali. Non potest sublime quicquam et in arduo positum contingere, quamdiu apud se est: desciscat oportet a solito et efferatur et mordeat frenos et rectorem rapiat suum, eoque ferat quo per se timuisset escendere.

Translation:

We must treat the mind kindly and frequently give it rest, which serves the purpose of food and strength: and we must indulge in outdoor rambles, that the mind may become stronger and be elevated under the open sky and in the fresh air. Sometimes riding, travel, a change of country, a social meal and more liberal drinking will give us strength; sometimes we ought to come even to the point of drunkenness, not for the purpose of drowning ourselves, but of sublimating ourselves deep in wine. For it washes away cares and raises our spirits from the lowest depths, and is a remedy for sadness as also for certain diseases. The inventor of wine is called Liber, not because of the freedom of speaking which comes through him, but because he frees the soul from the servitude of cares, releases it from slavery, quickens it, and makes it bolder for all undertakings. But moderation is wholesome both in freedom and in wine. Men believe that Solon and Arcesilaus were addicted to wine. Drunkenness is charged to Cato: yet whoever shall reproach him with this will more easily prove that this crime is honorable than that Cato was base. But it must not be done often lest the mind contract a bad habit, and yet sometimes it ought to be drawn into exultation and freedom, and gloomy sobriety ought to be case aside for a short time. For whether we believe the Greek poet, ‘it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad,’ or Plato, ‘he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry;’ or Aristotle, ‘there is no great genius without a mixture of madness;’ the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

Daniel Dockery

animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri

Home of published musician, recording artist, mathematician, programmer, translator, artist, classicist, and general polymath.