PHUSIS.

Thomas Meaney’s LRB review of The Tyranny of Greece over Germany, by E.M. Butler (a reprint of her influential 1935 attack on the German worship of Ancient Greece), discusses various German Hellenists; I particularly enjoyed this brief takedown of Heidegger:

No philosopher besides Nietzsche mentioned the Greeks more often in his works, and no one else made such peculiar use of them. He believed the Greek language had privileged access to the nature of reality as it was before its wholeness was fractured by the travesty of Socratic rationalism. He attributed near talismanic properties to certain Greek words – aletheia, noein, legein – and used Greek vocabulary and grammar as tools to displace a modernity that had forgotten the nature of Being. If Germans could cast off 2400 years of error, he suggested, they might find a way back to Being through their own language, using the buried grammar of the Greeks as a guide. Like a Christian preacher parsing the gospels, Heidegger preferred fragments to whole works, and single words to fragments. For him, a word like aletheia contained the hidden sense of knowledge as unforgettingness, something the Romantic poets had intuited. ‘Heidegger’s Greeks do not so much compose literary or philosophical texts,’ the classicist Glenn Most has written, ‘as rather simply enounce to one another these primal philosophical terms. They look at one another, say phusis, and nod slowly.’

I’m sure someone who knows more about philosophy than I do will tell me this is terribly unfair, but I confess I don’t really care. Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Comments

  1. This is the physis of various biological terms, right?
    Anyway, it’s an entertaining time to reprint this! Thank you Cambridge University Press.

  2. “Like a Christian preacher parsing the gospels, Heidegger preferred fragments to whole works”
    I actually lolled.

  3. Physis (Greek: φύσις) is a Greek theological, philosophical, and scientific term usually translated into English as ‘nature’.”

  4. J.W. Brewer says:

    Please please please “physis” rather than “phusis.” I know we don’t have a single standard transliteration for Greek but that one makes my eyes hurt. 1935 as it happens was also the year that Heidegger published Einfuehring in die Metaphysik, which contains the striking claim (at least if you trust the Manheim translation) that Germany was as of that date “the most metaphysical of all nations.”

  5. I like “phusis”. Rhymes with “whosis”.

  6. While I prefer “physis” myself (simply because I’m used to it), I must point out that “phusis” better represents the sound of the Ancient Greek word.

  7. Heidegger’s original sentence is “Unser Volk erfährt als in der Mitte stehend den schärfsten Zangendruck, das nachbarreichste Volk und so das gefährdetste Volk und in all dem das metaphysische Volk.”

  8. John Emerson says:

    Awhile back I read most of a three-sided debate between Walter Benjamin, Leo Strauss, and Carl Schmitt, all of whom write in that metaphysical Hellenistic way. Heidegger wasn’t part of that reading project, but he would have fit in perfectly. I came away from the encounter with a real horror of high German culture. I ended up feeling that way even about Adorno, who is somewhat different and in every way better than the others, but still firmly fixed in Germanism.

  9. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t really believe anyone who claims certainty as to how the ancient Greeks pronounced things, but I pronounce the y in “physis” like the “oo” in “foosball,” not the y in more domesticated words like physics or hypodermic. Since there are essentially no English words beginning phu- (my AHD has only “Phumiphol,” which is one of several extant transliterations of part of the name of the King of Thailand), it’s not like using a “u” is going to accurately cue the reader as to which of the various sounds represented by “u” in English orthography you might have in mind.

  10. Jeffry House says:

    Heidegger went back to the pre-Ssocratics, ditching 2,500 years of philosophy so that Germans could touch real physis, while ditching all those tiresome ethical precepts like the value of human life and equality among humans.
    “Being” has no morality, you see.

  11. Surely “in all dem das metaphysischste Volk”? But the first page of the Google Books results doesn’t show the bit I’ve bolded, interestingly enough. (And yes, I did search for ” “Unser Volk erfährt als in der Mitte stehend den schärfsten Zangendruck, das nachbarreichste Volk und so das gefährdetste Volk und in all dem das”, rather than anything more likely not to give the relevant result.)

  12. This recalls Thorleif Boman’s Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, one of those books I’ve had for ages and never fully read.
    This Wiki article sums up one of Boman’s core thoughts:
    ____________
    Apologists respond that the word “soon” (other translations use “shortly” or “quickly”) does not have to be understood in the sense of close future. The Norwegian scholar Thorleif Boman explained that the Israelites, unlike Europeans or people in the West, did not understand time as something measurable or calculable according to Hebrew thinking but as something qualitative.
    We have examined the ideas underlying the expression of calculable time and more than once have found that the Israelites understood time as something qualitative, because for them time is determined by its content.[113]
    …the Semitic concept of time is closely coincident with that of its content without which time would be quite impossible. The quantity of duration completely recedes behind the characteristic feature that enters with time or advances in it. Johannes Pedersen comes to the same conclusion when he distinguishes sharply between the Semitic understanding of time and ours. According to him, time is for us an abstraction since we distinguish time from the events that occur in time. The ancient Semites did not do this; for them time is determined by its content.[114]
    _______________________
    I quickly found a video that mentions Boman in this context and that also features Dan Everett, who, along with Noam Chomsky, was the subject of considerable discussion at the Hattery not long ago.

  13. I came away from the encounter with a real horror of high German culture.

    Christ, don’t. Educated German-speakers were often right and often wrong, but to ignore them from about 1850 to 1970 in western culture would be like ignoring Americans from 1890 to about 2070 (I’m guessing here, bien entendu); they were both central to the discourse in western culture.

  14. Having a horror of is not quite the same as deciding to ignore.

  15. Surely “in all dem das metaphysischste Volk”?
    You’d think, but you can actually see the entire text here, and it’s the way I quoted it.

  16. Having a horror of is not quite the same as deciding to ignore.

    Ah, definitely, but the first does make the second far more likely.

  17. I once heard a chap announce that the letter beta should be pronounced bay-ta, because that was how the Greeks had pronounced it. Suppressing the temptation to ask “What, all of ‘em?” I asked how he knew. It was, he told me, to do with the representation of the sound that sheep make. “But”, said I, “in English we can’t even agree whether sheep say ‘ba’ or ‘meh’.”

  18. marie-lucie says:

    In French, sheep say “bêêê” and goats say “mêêê”. Cows say “meuh” (same vowel as in “peu”).

  19. Years and years ago (when there were wolves etc.) I took an aesthetics class reading philosophers from Heidigger to Suzanne Langer and I can’t remember how many others. Mostly a tedious group. I was struck and confounded by Heidegger’s worship of all things Greek, such that the impression has remained when I have mostly forgotten most of the others. I think that at the time I thought Heidegger either naive or mostly ignorant of the ensuing 2500 years of the Western canon. So, this answers a question I had not till now relinquished. Of course, it does not much change my impressions of Heidegger’s views on art.

  20. Aidan: Educated German-speakers were often right and often wrong, but to ignore them from about 1850 to 1970 in western culture would be like ignoring Americans from 1890 to about 2070 (I’m guessing here, bien entendu); they were both central to the discourse in western culture.
    What events or trends are you delimiting with the years 1850 and 1970 ? Is it right or wrong to ignore German speakers after 1970 ?
    It’s an interesting suggestion that educated German speakers moved from the centers to the suburbs after 1970. Habermas now lives in Stamberg rather than Frankfurt. Also, Luhmann moved out of Bielefeld to Oerlinghausen in 1977. The inner cities appear to have been abandoned to media theorists.

  21. Christopher Burd says:

    “While I prefer ‘physis’ myself (simply because I’m used to it), I must point out that ‘phusis’ better represents the sound of the Ancient Greek word.”
    Eh? Wasn’t the Ancient Greek pronunciation rather close to [pʰysis]?

  22. It’s been 30+ years, but I still remember being disgusted by Heidegger’s mistranslation (wilful, I assume) of Sophocles’ ‘Ode to Man’, the famous first chorus of the Antigone. Where the Greek says “resourceless/helpless he [=Man] comes upon nothing”, meaning that there is nothing he can’t at least try to handle, an obvious litotes, Heidegger (as I recall) made it all portentously metaphysical by translating it “resourceless he comes upon . . . NOTHINGNESS”. Assuming he didn’t mean it as some kind of joke (does Heidegger joke?) I see no excuse for such crap.
    That’s not the only time I’ve been amazed at what (some) philosophy majors do with classical texts. A friend in Philosophy told me her Plato seminar was trying to figure out some sort of subconscious/unconscious urges of the World Soul in the Timaeus. I hadn’t read it in 30 years, but I made the obvious Freudian joke: obviously the World Soul wants to kill the Demiurge and marry the Receptacle. She told me some philosophy professor has seriously argued precisely that interpretation.

  23. does Heidegger joke?
    Sometimes, yes. The trouble is that commentators on Heidegger rarely possess a sense of humor. Heidegger attracts people of the po-faced persuasion.
    Take Heidegger’s discussion of the various ways that stuff (Zeug) calls attention to itself: by being auffällig, aufdringlich or aufsässig. Or take Geworfenheit, with its connotation of werfen (of animals: to bring forth young). Heidegger (and Hegel: think aufheben) mess around with low-down words and puns in a serious way.
    Anyone unfamiliar with everyday German will find it nearly impossible to appreciate Heidegger and Hegel (to the extent they deserve). In contrast, for L’être et le néant a passing command of French suffices (in addition to a certain familiarity with the discursive style of medieval philosophers). Sartre’s style is the pineapple of elegance, Heidegger’s is the glorification of Bratwurst.

  24. Some sheep have very deep voices.

  25. What events or trends are you delimiting with the years 1850 and 1970?
    And when it comes to Greece, don’t forget Winckelmann. He was murdered in 1768. He really started the Greek tyranny.

  26. What events or trends are you delimiting with the years 1850 and 1970 ? Is it right or wrong to ignore German speakers after 1970 ?

    With the 1850 figure, I’m trying to capture that national (justified) self-confidence of Bismarck’s »wir fürchten Gott, und sonst nichts auf der Welt«. 1970 … is roughly the end of the careers of the pre-war thinkers and doers, who were still doing impressive things after the war. I can’t think of analogous figures who were active in the 80s, 90s, and more recently, but if you can make an argument for some, I’m curious to read it.
    It’s a failure of intellectual curiosity or energy to ignore German speakers after 1970, as it is to ignore modern Greek philosophers; but they’re both less central to the discourse than were their predecessors, so doing so doesn’t leave a yawning gap.

  27. What is this business of “central to the discourse” ? There are lots of discourses and many centers, some of them open 24/7 – even in the suburbs. They carry the Luhmann, Sloterdijk and Bolz brands I buy. Maybe you should shop around more.

  28. “does Heidegger joke?” Und Cherman humour iss no laughing matter.

  29. Wasn’t the Ancient Greek pronunciation rather close to [pʰysis]?
    After the vowel shift that also turned ου to /u/, yes, but I see Heidegger’s Greeks as the true ancients, who used the truly ancient vowels—none of your namby-pamby Frenchified late-classic /y/.

  30. “there are lots of discourses and many centers ”
    i am interested in what LH people would say about
    this post
    it says that the main purpose of philosophy should be that, critique of sciences, of the concepts scientists are working out solutions of, when the sciences are directly involved in the field exploration and it’s about mostly natural sciences i guess, and i think that is correct, people in the applied sciences seem to get, that, entangled in the minute problems of what is under their direct attention and may lose that, perspective, buried in their subjects of study and the larger picture, whatever it is, gets blurred, linquistics seem like should go together with philosophy in that direction, criticizing in return, as it seems, philosophers for that, faulty use of words while describing those concepts? or the humanities as a science should be also under that, supervision of philosophers, that makes philosophy and philosophers to be or become soo knowledgeable in everything knowable, something like supercomputers, but maybe that’s not such an impossible thing too, in the google era, or every scientist just should be a philosopher in mind i guess, just modern education i think lacks that very important training, in natural sciences at least what is imhe, and current philosophical debates seem to revolve around mostly criticizing the materialist basis or materialist interpretation of the natural sciences, just an impression after reading the thread there, instead of helping out with words and concepts, i mean, in formulating the concepts directing that, “crude’ scientific investigation and integrating all the existing knowledge into something whole
    the excerpt in the LH’s post riducules how the thinkers drop big greek words and nod knowingly to each other, when i read blog discussions on philosophy, that also doesn’t seem that different too, just it becomes more like name dropping, surely when people study the same subject, those names should tell instantly the whole worlds of ideas behind those names
    with my ignorance and rudimentary knowledge of philosophy, remembering something about dialectic materialism based on Marx Engels Lenin citations what we were taught in the school, i go to wikipedia and it turns out that Sloterdjik for example sounds as if like he is some kind of a reactionary with his anti-globalism and anti-tax stances, his comparing the 15th century naval globalism as progressive and nowadays globalism resulting in global provincialism, that sounds something not like very well grounded and as if like biased and eurocentric there, i never read one word of his, so wouldn’t know, if this impression is wrong then should blame wiki, just his thinking in spheres is a bit resembling ‘my’ thinking in layers, how layers upon layers all things and phenomena are so like periods of chaos and order taking their turns from each other, dialectics, in other words
    and it’s impossible during so short time alloted for one’s lifetime to read and retain them all, the big names, is my feeling, of being lost, so thank you, i guess, wiki for telling at least who is who
    and there is no one and impeccable authority out there to read and worship too
    i mean why not just to drop studying all the names, that seems so much work memorizing and start synthesizing only the correct ideas out of their heritage into one whole clear scientific order, something like superbuddhism, and Heideggers’ ignoring the 2500 yrs of western thought as people in the comments here say he did, maybe it was some kind of attempt in that direction, or maybe it’s impossible to reconcile too many schools of thoughts and there is no one and only truth which is always and absolutely correct and things should be just left as it is, evolving by themselves, chaos is chaos and knowledge is maybe not any different from any other physical particles and waves, just is hold within humans as its natural receptacles, mechanistically thinking
    about greek scientific words, i recalled there was a campaign to translate all the anatomical terms for example into our language which could be done pretty easily, all the words were already there with traditional medicine usage, just i don’t see any point in resisting foreign words in medicine, it like just doubles the work to study, for new students, studying the terms in three-four languages first to keep up with the subject when should be spending that time studying the concepts and facts
    but if to abolish one or other language usage that also cuts off connections, so maybe should just endure that, tedium, as it will be rewarded by knowledge in the end, hopefully

  31. my youtube feed feeds me curious clips sometimes like this one yesterday
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdf1Zb-MvIc
    so i thought, he actually says nothing that shocking though the title is that, just uses a lot of foreign rooted words like interpretations, allusions, deconstruction etc. and it seems gets lost on the audience, i mean ytb commenters posting hateful responses to his talk, exactly how he says that they speak one but different language

  32. read, please, now I really wish you use capitalization and usual punctuation for us poor co-furriners.

  33. Bill Walderman says:

    “I see Heidegger’s Greeks as the true ancients, who used the truly ancient vowels—none of your namby-pamby Frenchified late-classic /y/.”
    Although the evidence is slender, the vowel shift in Ionic-Attic seems to have already taken place by the fifth century and maybe even by as early as the sixth century. Allen, Vox Graeca at 66; Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers, at 103. So maybe even Heidegger’s Greek said /y/. And of course true Heidiggerian Greeks, who are after all really proto-Germans, pronounce ypsilon as u-umlaut. But I guess that must be somehow different from the “Frenchified” /y/.

  34. first, my shift key was broken in my old notebook, so i got too used in skipping its pressing and haven’t acquired the habit of capitalization yet secondly, my many grammar errors and mistakes gets it seems to me like some less attention if it’s all just messy words string, sorry
    third, thank you for reading my long and grammatically challenging comment :), now i await what you’d say on the science and philosophy relations, i guess

  35. used to

  36. I wish I could answer read’s question. I think her use of English quite easy to follow, even charming, just difficult to those whose language is hedged-in by rules. Sure the rules are supposed to enhance communication, but they can also inhibit the mind from understanding.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    Bill W: And of course true Heidiggerian Greeks, who are after all really proto-Germans, pronounce ypsilon as u-umlaut. But I guess that must be somehow different from the “Frenchified” /y/.
    To me as a French person, German “u-umlaut” (ü) sounds exactly the same as the French vowel [y] (written (u), as in une lune ‘a moon’, for instance). French speakers use the vowel [i] not [y] when reading words like physique ‘physics, physical” and physis.

  38. Well, I’m a barbarian and can’t speak Greek, so I’ve mostly learned to pronounce physics as fizikz and physis as faizeis. I have a hard time figuring out how to pronounce pwsis if it’s not assimilated to either pnsis or pysis.

  39. Christopher Burd says:

    After the vowel shift that also turned ου to /u/, yes, but I see Heidegger’s Greeks as the true ancients, who used the truly ancient vowels—none of your namby-pamby Frenchified late-classic /y/.
    Ha! Another vowel shift. I suppose if the Romans had started Hellenizing a few centuries earlier (and if the shift is post-5c BC), they might not have bothered importing Y.
    The pattern o > u > y > i seems pretty common. Does it ever go backwards?

  40. They are exactly the same, but Germans are no less foolishly nationalist than anyone else, and during the period of French domination of cultural life, some found it necessary to claim to reject “French sounds” even when they were just the same as German sounds. How successful this was can be well illustrated from my mother’s pronunciation of the German word Chance as [ˈʃʷɑ~ːsə] (German /ʃ/ is labialized relative to French or English /ʃ/).
    In addition, many German dialects do not have rounded front vowels, which may have helped. There may also be some sufficiently northern German-speakers (there is one of my acquaintance who considers Hamburg a southern city!) who have adopted the Scandinavian front rounded vowels, which are not merely compressed at the corners of the lips but involve actual protrusion of them.

  41. Christopher Burd says:

    “French speakers use the vowel [i] not [y] when reading words like physique ‘physics, physical” and physis.”
    Sure, it’s ygreque (Greek I), not ugreque. But the Germans and Scandinavians say [y] in Physik/fysik(k).

  42. Christopher Burd says:

    “…the Scandinavian front rounded vowels, which are not merely compressed at the corners of the lips but involve actual protrusion of them.”
    The Swedes seem to have two versions of [y], the front or “superumlaut” version (Y) and the back version (U). I expect that IPA ‘y’ is, strictly speaking, only correct for the first.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    CBurd: The pattern o > u > y > i seems pretty common. Does it ever go backwards?
    I have not had access to a comprehensive survey of vowel changes, but from what I have picked up over the years I doubt that this sequence would go backwards. u to o, yes, but I don’t think i can go to y.
    it’s ygreque (Greek I), not ugreque
    I think you mean y grec, the only spelling I know.

  44. I found the original Most article [PDF], for primary source fiends.

  45. @Marie-Lucie: Yes, the French /y/ and the German /y/ sound exactly alike to both you and me, but would Heidegger have conceded that a French vowel could possibly have sounded exactly like a German vowel?

  46. J.W. Brewer says:

    The original Most article is pretty good reading, and I see that he leaves “physis” (or whatever) untransliterated, thus sidestepping any controversy on that front.

  47. On Heidegger’s “das metaphysische Volk.”
    I think that H’s use of the definite article cum positive (‘das metaphysische’ instead of ‘das metaphysischste’) implies a qualitative boundary between the Deutsches Volk (TM) and the rest of the world, which by default becomes non-metaphysical instead of merely less metaphysical.

  48. Well put, spherical. I like your TM as an abbreviation for total metaphysisch.

  49. “Well, I’m a barbarian and can’t speak Greek, so I’ve mostly learned to pronounce physics as fizikz and physis as faizeis. I have a hard time figuring out how to pronounce pwsis if it’s not assimilated to either pnsis or pysis”
    Well “phusis” makes me want to pronounce it like “pus”, so you’re doing better than me.
    Hi, Marja, this is Ginkgo.

  50. Sir JCass says:

    I don’t know what the phusis about the pronunciation of phusis.

  51. thank you, kon, for your nice words
    i try to soften “big” words in my comments by my excessive use of thats and probably misplaced definite and indefinite articles, must be pretty annoying to follow for native speakers and looks silly that i often get blocked or deleted at other sites, spams here often seem to tease me too, haha,
    our young bloggers use some invented language which would look totally ungrammatical, but in fact they are all wordplays and non-standard transliterations used for humorous effects, emoticons included, easy coding so it’s enjoyable to read
    so reading blogs means this informal exchange of ideas not necessarily all right and correct especially if the topic is debatable and it is more enjoyable than studying by myself, and people are usually more receptive to informal flow of information, i noticed that when for example i was back home from studying abroad and formal lectures/presentations seemed to be drawing not as much interest as informal even gossipy like talks around the dinner table, just judging from my coworkers reactions, even if the topic discussed is almost the same thing
    it’s better of course to study all the first-hand resources, but it could get tiresome and boring pretty quickly, so i enjoy browsing around blogs “scavenging’ for *knowledge*, of course it can’t substitute formal study, still much can be learnt with the lesser efforts, but it seems people here are reluctant to engage in a too, that, dilettante level philosophical debate i ask about i guess, though i’d love just to listen to what others have to say
    just when the discussion threads get all shouty matches and personal vendettas with accusations in trolling and all that, as they say, one-upmanship displays, with deletions and blocking etc. as if like it’s some kind of battle of ambitions and it’s that important to win the argument, then it feels like there is not that much to learn and it’s all just waste of time and nerves, i am not about LH threads, here all the threads are fun to argue and informative

  52. The original LRB piece looks great — a real tour of the German mind from Winckelmann to the present. Does anyone know how to access it?

  53. Hilarious:
    “In 1962, Heidegger boarded the cruise ship Yugoslavia bound for Greece. He was worried about ‘whether what is attributed to the land of the fled gods is not perhaps something imagined and might prove one’s path of thinking to have been a wrong road’. After the second night on board, he sighted Corfu, ancient Corcyra, land of the Phaeacians. While the other passengers glanced at ‘informative guidebooks’ and ‘amusing books on Greece’, Heidegger reread Book Six of the Odyssey on the upper deck and was disappointed by how little it corresponded with what he saw. Was Goethe, he wondered, correct to proceed no further than Sicily? When they reached the coast, he boarded a bus to Olympia, now a tourist town ringed with half-finished American hotels. ‘Did Olympia offer the insight that we have sought into what is proper to the Greek world?’ Heidegger asked himself. No was the answer. On the Acropolis he elbowed past tourists taking endless photographs, all but blind to the ‘feast of thinking’ before their eyes. On Rhodes he found the Greek element having to struggle with the Asiatic element. But finally, on the bare island of Delos, Heidegger found what he was looking for. ‘The veiledness of a former beginning spoke from everything,’ he wrote to his wife.”

  54. That’s merely a philosopher’s formulation of the postcard remark: “Wish you were here, and I were there”. Everybody is liable to disappointment – what’s wrong with high-flown comments as a reaction, rather than banal ones ?
    Suppose he had written: Was für eine Scheiße, es ist alles hier anders, als ich es mir vorgestellt hatte. For some people, that would have been an occasion for Schadenfreude rather than hilarity. Spite and mockery are the oldest renewable resources.

  55. I went to Wikipedia to find what was so special about Delos and I think I found it:
    “Due to the above history [island was the birthplace of Athena and Apollo, was purified of graves several times, became a major slave market, basically imported everything it needed since it was barren, etc.], Delos – unlike other Greek islands – did not have an indigenous, self-supporting community of its own. As a result, in later times it became uninhabited.”
    So that is what is special about Delos! Lots of Greek history but no Greeks! (Population as of 2001 was 14).

  56. The Swedes seem to have two versions of [y], the front or “superumlaut” version (Y) and the back version (U). I expect that IPA ‘y’ is, strictly speaking, only correct for the first.

    Technically, Standard Swedish has both /ʉ/ (a close, central exolabial vowel) and /y: ~ ʏ/ (a close, front endolabial vowel). In Stockholm Swedish both tend to a frontal realisation, but the compressed/protruded labiality still distinguishes them (if you can hear the distinction, that is, which I can’t; I need a spectrogram to notice it).

  57. @Stu: In Heidegger’s case it’d probably have been Schattenfreude.

  58. For some people, that would have been an occasion for Schadenfreude rather than hilarity.
    Is it wrong of me to feel both Schadenfreude and hilarity?

  59. Not wrong, perhaps a bit greedy.

  60. “So that is what is special about Delos! Lots of Greek history but no Greeks! (Population as of 2001 was 14).”
    It’s a patetrn apparently. I remember how in 1990 when it became obvious that the US was going to withdraw the brigade frorm Berlin and basically the American community would disappear, along with the AFN station, there was the predictable smug satisfaction that all those Amis would be leaving (and who can blame anyone for feeling that way, really) and a fair bit of whining that they would be losing AFN, as if they were being deprived of something the powers that be had some obligation to provide them.
    It was about like liking jazz and hating black people.

  61. Delos, Delos! I have chosen Sicily to end my days in; I gave my choice thought, and would not change it. Athens I shall see no more; I’m an old summer cicada now, a bad voyage would kill me. In any case, so much has altered there, I would be a stranger. It is only when I think, Never again the Delia, that a shadow falls on my heart.
    Nothing much will have changed on Delos. The strong cool young sun on the silver-sparkling rocks and the painted marble; the old spotted lions sitting along the lake; the bright Ionian crowds. It will have grown gayer, if not as rich as before Ionia fell. But even Greeks from there who have lost their cities save best clothes for the Delia. Friends meet there after many years; youths and girls who were children five years before exchange winged glances. If a face is missing, not much is said: Apollo, who stands so tall there staring at the sun, does not like clouds and rain. It may be windy, it may be cold; but it is always fine for the birthday of the god. Some Son of Homer sang that on that day you might think the Ionians immortal, untouched by age or time.
    True, indeed. Since Apollo’s healing shrines are in other places, and no one must pollute his birthplace by dying there, only those in their health and strength come to the Delia: old men with their beards combed smooth and their hair pinned with golden grasshoppers, their walking-staffs polished to show the grain; women fresh-bathed and scented with oil of violets; young men with hair flowing down over their shoulders, striding out in short tunics disdaining the sharp breeze; and the girls linked hand in hand, as they will be for their singing, in bright dresses with colored borders, green or saffron or blue, hearing each other their words for the choral odes, or giggling over their dialect songs poking fun at other cities; their mothers brooding over them, wary of the youths; the younger boys, whose voices will have broken before the next Delian feast, looking at the athletes and thinking about the games.

    —Simonides of Keos, in The Praise Singer by Mary Renault

  62. Man, I love Mary Renault.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    I am not usually attracted by historical fiction (I want to read history, or fiction), and I knew of Mary Renault but never felt like reading her work, but JC’s quotation is making me change my mind!

  64. I know of nothing else that gives so convincing a feeling of what it was like to live in another place and time.

  65. Now I am very sorry I’ve not read Mary Renault. And I bet my regional library doesn’t carry her books. Too old. Not much Ursula K. LeGuin either.
    Holy Moly! I see phusis appears once in Homer, in the same passage as moly, also a nonce word. Hermes pulls moly from the ground and shows Odysseus its phusis, its nature, its virtue, the plant’s spirit’s effect (let me not hear the word magic).
    (I have long wondered why Robin says ‘Holy Moly!’ to Batman. Surely it would have been better in the mouth of Wonder Woman.)
    I understand Heidegger’s disappointment in not seeing Phaeacia in Corfu. I prefer Samuel Butler’s placing of it in northwestern Sicily.

  66. marie-lucie: My personal favorites are The Mask of Apollo, which is about the theatre and Plato, and The Praise Singer. But it’s a hard choice, because I like all eight books very much and have read them many times each, though Funeral Games, about the succession wars after the death of Alexander, is terribly bitter and painful to read, so I haven’t re-read it as often. The consensus view seems to prefer the Theseus diptych The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea.
    I put another quotation from The Praise Singer in two comments on Nick Nicholas’s blog: this one is about the process by which Homer was preserved in writing.
    The lovely Scots word foisonless or fushionless means ‘tasteless or insipid’ (of food) and ‘weak’ (of persons): thus ‘lacking in phusis‘. Alas, the etymology is French foison < Latin fusionem < fundere ‘pour’.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    Merci, JC!

  68. Trond Engen says:

    two comments on Nick Nicholas’s blog
    I miss him. What’s happened?
    (I get more than a little paranoid by the sideshow flag parade. I’m “A visitor from Skien, Telemark viewed “opɯdʒɯlɯklɑr: Book Review: Ismail Kadare, The H File” 6 mins ago”.)

  69. Most likely the economy. Nick tends to post when he travels, and he probably isn’t traveling much.

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