POLYGLOT EPIGRAPHS.

MMcM’s Polyglot Vegetarian, which is consistently both nutritious and delicious, has a post presenting all the epigraphs to Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s The Gilded Age, of which the authors wrote: “Our quotations are set in a vast number of tongues; this is done for the reason that very few foreign nations among whom the book will circulate can read in any language but their own; whereas we do not write for a particular class or sect or nation, but to take in the whole world.” MMcM says, “I thought it would be fun to actually transcribe these mottoes, which appear at the head of each chapter, into LT. And, since so many 19th century books have been digitized, it is easy to find many of the sources and check them.” Now, that’s my kind of fun! This is the kind of thing that might have occurred to me to do if I were reading the novel (which I now, of course, want to do), but I would probably not have had the patience to actually follow through—there are a lot of chapters, and many have more than one epigraph. (I add, with awe and reverence, that when MMcM couldn’t find a quoted text online, if at all possible he got the source from the library and scanned the relevant page.) Just about every obvious language is represented, plus all sorts of unexpected ones (Quiché, Syriac, Cantonese, Cornish…); I warn you that if you have any leaning towards this sort of thing, just reading the post (and clicking on all those links, which must have taken an unimaginable amount of time to assemble) will eat up much of your day, but you won’t regret it.
Incidentally, something leaped out at me when I read the Russian epigraph to Chapter XLIX: Солнце заблистало, но не надолго: блеснуло и скрылось (“The sun began to shine, but not for a long time; it shone for a moment and disappeared”). A tip of the hat to the first reader who reproduces my trivial insight (which, I might add, has nothing to do with the grammar or meaning of the sentence).
A couple of typos MMcM might want to correct (I would have left a comment on the post, but couldn’t manage to sign in correctly): “Erewon” should be Erewhon, and “le al de l’action” should be “le mal de l’action.”
And those of you familiar with 19th-century Japanese can help him out with this one:

XI. (p. 108 / 104, 317):
くらへどわあじしらず
Japan: Though he eats, he knows not the taste of what he eats.
I have not been able to locate the source of this saying, or to find its equivalent online. The handwritten text uses a hentaigana form of し shi, based on 志; fortunately, it’s one of the common ones and even included in the Wikipedia’s short sample. It took me a bit to realize that it is written right-to-left — after remembering that ‘taste’ is aji (あじ = 味) from reading an interesting article on the history of MSG and the Ajinomoto Company in Gastronomica. So it reads, kura hedo wa aji shirazu. The end must be 味知らず and the beginning 食ら. I don’t think the へど is 反吐, so that it might mean ‘eat until you get sick’, though that’s the only thing in the dictionary. I’d welcome comments straightening me out from anyone whose 19th century Japanese is better than my poor attempt.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    I can’t read the Japanese with my computer, but there’s something like this in the Analects: “When Confucius first heard the ritual music for three days he was so enthralled that he didn’t notice the taste of the food he ate.”

  2. John Emerson says:

    I can’t read the Japanese with my computer, but there’s something like this in the Analects: “When Confucius first heard the ritual music for three days he was so enthralled that he didn’t notice the taste of the food he ate.”

  3. I can’t read the Japanese with my computer
    Here’s one screenshot, but judging by the little boxes, probably not all of the characters were reproduced.

  4. Thanks for the plug, and even more for the corrections. To repeat my defense of Trumbull, these are really hard to proofread yourself.
    You can see the original kana for the Japanese from the Google Books link (p. 108) that LH reproduced above. I wouldn’t even guarantee my transcription.
    I’m also still interesting in thoughts on selons for selon. I can’t think but that it’s a typo, but it’s rather common, so maybe there’s some history there.

  5. Already said this on PV itself, but I was brought there from here, so…
    I believe the Japanese is a part of a quote usually given as something like “心焉に在らざれば視れども見えず聴けども聞こえず食らえども其の味を知らず” (kokoro koko ni arazareba miredomo miezu kikedomo kikoezu kuraedomo sono aji o mirazu, ‘When one’s mind wanders, one looks but does not cannot see, one listens but cannot hear, one eats but knows not the food’s taste’). The full line comes from Confucius’ “The Great Learning”, I don’t know whether the shorter version is used elsewhere.
    The transcription given above has わ for what I see as も, and the usual quote has that 其の in it. (And there’s the standard old-orthography へ for modern-orthography え.) The bit at the end alone used as the epigraph would be just ‘One eats but knows not the taste of the food’, I suppose.

  6. John Emerson says:

    In Confucius (Legge’s Dover edition, which is indexed) the Sino-Japanese word aji / wei mention above is seen in Analects VII 13, The Great Learning VII 2; and Doctrine of the Mean IV 2. The third of these is the one IllVes refers to. Thus, this was a Japanese saying derived from Confucius. A lot of classical Chinese philosophy became proverbial wherever Chinese was studied, so this wasn’t necessarily scholarly classical reference; the fact that it’s cited in Japanese suggests that it probably wasn’t.
    It’s worth looking at the three citations for their meanings. In the Analects the point is that Confucius was so devoted to high culture that his physical appetites became unimportant to him. In the second, he says “Everyone eats, but not everyone appreciates flavors.” The third (the one pertinent here) is somewhat like the second: some people are so unaware that they don’t really grasp their own experiences.

  7. John Emerson says:

    In Confucius (Legge’s Dover edition, which is indexed) the Sino-Japanese word aji / wei mention above is seen in Analects VII 13, The Great Learning VII 2; and Doctrine of the Mean IV 2. The third of these is the one IllVes refers to. Thus, this was a Japanese saying derived from Confucius. A lot of classical Chinese philosophy became proverbial wherever Chinese was studied, so this wasn’t necessarily scholarly classical reference; the fact that it’s cited in Japanese suggests that it probably wasn’t.
    It’s worth looking at the three citations for their meanings. In the Analects the point is that Confucius was so devoted to high culture that his physical appetites became unimportant to him. In the second, he says “Everyone eats, but not everyone appreciates flavors.” The third (the one pertinent here) is somewhat like the second: some people are so unaware that they don’t really grasp their own experiences.

  8. Checking in here this morning to see if my friend, Mr Slipperly-slopes had anything amusing to say that would jump start me out of my hangover, I noticed this thread and was greatly impressed.
    The Jpanese was not transliterated carefully and as it was written in all kana, the person who tracked down the quote did a really fine job I thought! As IllVes already stated, it comes from the Book of Great Learning (originally part of the book of rites) and as he hinted above, the conventional understanding is that how we perceive things is dependent on our state of mind (kokoro) so that cultivation of self is essential. It also might be the origin of the japanese “mind’s eye” 心眼
    IllV if you see this, I could really use some input on a daodejing quote at my place

  9. Thank you all for the help. I’ve done my best to correct the post.

  10. The わ does not make sense. A typo for も?

  11. Less a typo and more my bungling of handwriting. When searches came up empty, I failed to apply the Jeopardy rule: when unsure, always stick with your first choice.

  12. A.J.P. Crown says:

    VEUT FAIRE SÉCHER DE LA NEIGE AU FOUR ET LA VENDRE POUR DU SEL BLANC. French Proverb: He would dry snow in the oven, to sell it for table salt.—Quitard.
    How does one use this phrase? I like it a lot.

  13. Sire A.J.P. : someone wants to do something completely impossible/useless/pointless ?

  14. jump start me out of my hangover
    In the absence of a lifestyle that does not require excessive painkillers I would recommend Indian food. Back in the 80’s a great favorite of the London pub-crawl crowd was to move to the local somosa house when the pubs closed at 11:00 or so. Consuming a few greasy somosas before retiring was considered to be a great hangover cure.

  15. How does one use this phrase?
    As Quitard says, it’s like the Laputan academician who would calcine ice into gunpowder.
    So, not so much that the goal is pointless, as that the means is impractical.

  16. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Thanks Paul and MMcM. I didn’t know the Gulliver reference.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    IL VEUT FAIRE SÉCHER DE LA NEIGE AU FOUR ET LA VENDRE POUR DU SEL BLANC. French Proverb: He would dry snow in the oven, to sell it for white salt.
    I had never heard or read this, but the link to Quitard’s work and to the title of his book shows that Q was talking about forgotten proverbs, which were no longer use in his own time (the book is dated 1860).

  18. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Thanks, Marie-Lucie. We must bring it back. I’ve already started using it with my dog.

  19. John Emerson says:

    A selection “The Adages of Erasmus” has been published by U. Toronto. Some of the adages are old chestnuts and some are fascinating but extinct.
    “Et mortuus estaut docet litteras”: “Either he’s dead, or he’s teaching school”. From Zenobius / Zenodotus. Used to describe someone who you know is doing very poorly when you don’t know more about him than that.
    I’ll leave the explanation for later.

  20. John Emerson says:

    A selection “The Adages of Erasmus” has been published by U. Toronto. Some of the adages are old chestnuts and some are fascinating but extinct.
    “Et mortuus estaut docet litteras”: “Either he’s dead, or he’s teaching school”. From Zenobius / Zenodotus. Used to describe someone who you know is doing very poorly when you don’t know more about him than that.
    I’ll leave the explanation for later.

  21. In addition to the recent single volume selection, UTP published seven volumes of the Collected Works devoted to Adages.

  22. John Emerson says:

    I love Erasmus, but that’s a bridge too far.
    I also have the “Erasmus Reader” greatest hits collection, which includes an etiquette book for aspiring youths. Erasmus is really good about telling them when to fart and when not.

  23. John Emerson says:

    I love Erasmus, but that’s a bridge too far.
    I also have the “Erasmus Reader” greatest hits collection, which includes an etiquette book for aspiring youths. Erasmus is really good about telling them when to fart and when not.

  24. John Emerson says:

    Erasmus in a wrongly neglected author. He’s very funny and interesting and has a lot to say, but he tends to be regarded as of historical interest only. I think that his humanism conflicts with the methodological, scientific, rationalist temper of our time. But he’s right, and our time has been wrong.

  25. John Emerson says:

    Erasmus in a wrongly neglected author. He’s very funny and interesting and has a lot to say, but he tends to be regarded as of historical interest only. I think that his humanism conflicts with the methodological, scientific, rationalist temper of our time. But he’s right, and our time has been wrong.

  26. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Well, Erasmus sounds good, but humanism is old-fashioned crap, John. About as useful nowadays as an electric deep fryer.

  27. John Emerson says:

    What’s the problem with electric deep fryers, Kron?

  28. John Emerson says:

    What’s the problem with electric deep fryers, Kron?

  29. If a backyard pit full of bubbling oil was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for me.

  30. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Next time try telling your dinner guests that you cooked it in the deep fryer. Just try. You’d be better off telling them it was road kill

  31. John Emerson says:

    He’s talking about Norwegians, Hat. No wonder!

  32. John Emerson says:

    He’s talking about Norwegians, Hat. No wonder!

  33. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Have you ever seen an unhealthy looking Norwegian? They’re all six-two with thirty-inch waists, and that’s just the womenfolk.

  34. John Emerson says:

    And they wonder why they’re hated the world over.

  35. John Emerson says:

    And they wonder why they’re hated the world over.

  36. Can you say “cholesterol”?

  37. I would point out to budding MMcMs that although Toronto has published the complete Adages, trying to find anything in it is hopeless. Better to use the online Mannheim edition (1603), or even better on paper (if you are in a good library) is Jean LeClerc’s edition of 1703.

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