Archive for May, 2014

Some jokes from Philogelos

May 28, 2014

dawe

Philogelos 2:  Σχολαστικὸς κολυμβᾶν βουλόμενος παρὰ μικρὸν ἐπνίγνη· ὤμοσεν οὖν μὴ ἅψασθαι ὕδατος, ἐὰν μὴ πρῶτον μάθηι κολυμβᾶν.

A learned simpleton wanting to go for a swim almost drowned; so he swore not to touch the water until he had first learned how to swim.

I remember that joke from a book I did German from in the sixth form, but it appears to be somewhat older than that, having possibly been written down about the time of the Emperor Constantine–see #2 here or here.

Philogelos 14: Σχολαστικὸς οἰκίαν πριάμενος εἶτα διὰ τῆς θυρίδος παρακύψας ἠρώτα τοὺς παρερχομένους εἰ πρέπει αὐτῶι.A learned simpleton bought a house and then peered out of the window and asked passers-by whether he looked good in it.

That’s recognisable as a joke, but ‘learned simpleton’ will hardly do here. ‘New Russian’ or ‘Christ Church man’ would be distinctly anachronistic–‘recreational student’, perhaps…

Meanwhile, Philogelos 56 has a philosophical tinge to it:

Σχολαστικὸς καὶ φαλακρὸς καὶ κουρεύς συνοδεύοντες καὶ ἔν τινι ἐρημίαι μείναντες συνέθεντο πρὸς τέσσαρας ὥρας ἀγρυπνῆσαι καὶ τὰ σκεύη ἕκαστος τηρῆσαι. ὣς δὲ ἔλαχε τῶι κουρεῖ πρώτωι φυλάξαι, μετεωρισθῆναι θέλων τὸν σχολαστικὸν καθεύδοντα ἔξυρεν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν πληρωθεισῶν διύπνισεν. ὁ δὲ σχολαστικὸς ψήχων ὡς ἀπὸ ὕπνου τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ εὑρὼν ἑαυτὸν ψιλόν· μέγα κάθαρμα, φησίν, ὁ κουρεύς πλανηθεὶς γὰρ ἀντ᾽ ἐμοῦ τὸν φαλακρὸν ἐξύπνισεν.

A skholastikos [?pseudo-intellectual] and a bald man and a barber were travelling together and, having made a halt in a deserted spot, they agreed each to keep watch for four hours and guard their things. The barber got the first watch and, wishing to keep himself awake, he shaved the skholastikos and, when the time was up, woke him. Upon waking, the skholastikos rubbed his head and finding it bare he said: ‘That barber scum, he’s got it wrong and woken the bald man instead of me’.

Philogelos 57 reminds us of at least two good reasons not to mourn the passing of classical antiquity: Σχολαστικῶι ἐκ δούλης τεκνώσαντι ὁ πατὴρ συνεβούλευε τὸ παίδιον ἀποκτεῖναι. ὁ δε Πρῶτον, ἒφη, σὺ τὰ τέκνα σου κατόρυξον, καὶ οὕτως ἐμοὶ συμβούλευε τὸν ἐμὸν ἀνελεῖν.

A skholastikos [~ ‘student idler’] fathered a child by a slave-girl and his father advised him to kill it. ‘First of all’, he said, ‘you bury your children, and then you can tell me to kill mine.’

Philogelos 93:Σχολαστικὸς μαθῶν περὶ κλίμακος τινος ὅτι ἀναβαίνοντων ἔχει βαθμοὺς εἴκοσιν ἐπύθετο εἰ καὶ καταβαίνοντων τοσοῦτοι εἰσιν.

A skholastikos, learning that a certain staircase had twenty steps going up, asked whether it was the same number going down.

To show life imitating art, I did manage to fall *up* some steps at work that I’d previously managed to fall down.  A passing skholastikos suggested that only my pride was hurt.  I hit  him hard in the gut and watched impassive as he choked on this own blood.  Wishful thinking…

Philogelos 151 could be construed as racist, which would be unusual for classical antiquity:

Εὐτράπελος ἰδῶν πορνοβοσκὸν μισθοῦντα μέλαιναν ἑταιρίδα εἶπε · Πόσου τὴν νύκτα μισθοῖς;

A smart fellow caught sight of a pimp hiring out a black prostitute and said, ‘How much do you charge for the night?’

Philogelos 192 is actually very funny if you ignore the joke:

Δυσκόλωι τις ναυκλήρωι ἀπαντήσας εἶπε· Τὸν ἐπίπλουν σου εἶδον ἐν Ῥόδωι, κἀκεῖνος ἀπεκρίνατο· Κἀγώ σου εἶδον τὸ ἧπαρ ἐν Σικελίαι.

Someone met an ill-natured ship’s captain and said, ‘I saw the membrane covering your intestines in Rhodes’. And he replied, ‘I saw your liver in Sicily’.

Philogelos 244 is (by ancient standards) verging on the feminist:

Νεανίσκος πρὸς τὴν γυναὶκα αὐτοῦ ὰσελγῆ οὖσαν εἶπεν· Κυρία, τί ποιοῦμεν; ἀριστοῦμεν ἢ ἀφροδισιάζομεν; Kἀκείνη ἔφη· Ὡς θέλεις· ψωμὴν οὐκ ἔνι.

A young man said to his wife (who was lascivious) ‘Wife, what shall we do? Have lunch or have sex?’ ‘As you like,’ she said, ‘only there isn’t any bread.’

There’s a very harsh asyndeton here, while for all the crudity of the joke, 151 goes in for some quite elaborate variatio to avoid πορνοβοσκὸν…πορνὴν  [literally:  prostitute-pasturer…prostitute].

So how is the skholastikos to be translated?  At the simplest this term would just seem to be a place-holder for general idiocy, but that idea is far too simple!

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The meadow (Aleksei Ryaskin)

May 25, 2014

The meadow, like a small Universe,
Contracts, expands, and contracts again.
The meadow is something changing and yet unchanged
It bends between the weight of the sky but does not break.

It bathes in the sunlight, rises to the surface and sinks,
It waves at passing birds with sweet and bitter grass.
It has no secrets, as though on the palm of the hand
But in spite of all that it remains a puzzle all the same.

The agaric has dispersed in the grass and frozen in place.
The old gloomy hollyhock languidly waves its leaves.
A black nanny-goat lies beside the old hollyhock
And counts aloud from one to a hundred and from a hundred to one.

The dandelions stand like crosses, with their white shirts thrown off.
They stand as if turned to stone, and have no interest in bee or wasp
And beside them the clover and camomile are arguing about something
Casting at one another now petals and now pollen.

Ants build empires, dragonflies try to find sorrel.
Caterpillars begin a song in the night, butterflies continue it by day.
The meadow has not one minute for sadness and sorrow
The meadow is absorbed by the life that throngs upon it.

It’s not simple to make the meadow reflect upon happiness
It is content with things as they are, the sky’s colour and its own fate,
It never takes part in debates and arguments
It is in harmony with the world and with itself.

Алексей Ряскин

Алексей Ряскин

ЛУГ

Луг, словно маленькая Вселенная,
Сжимается, расширяется и снова сжимается.
Луг — это что-то меняющееся и в то же время неизменное.
Он гнется под тяжестью неба, но не ломается.

Он купается в солнечном свете, всплывает и тонет,
Он машет пролетающим птицам травой и горькой, и сладкой.
У него нет секретов, он весь как на ладони.
Но, несмотря на всё это, луг все равно остается загадкой.

Разбрелись по траве и замерли грибы опята.
Лениво машет листьями старый угрюмый лопух.
Черная коза лежит со старым лопухом рядом
И считает от одного до ста и от ста до одного вслух.

Словно кресты стоят одуванчики, сбросив белые рубашки.
Стоят, будто окаменев, и уже не интересуются ни пчелой, ни осой.
А рядом о чем-то спорят цветы клевера и ромашки
И кидают друг в друга то лепестками, то пыльцой.

Муравьи строят империи, стрекозы пытаются отыскать щавель.
Гусеницы запевают песню ночью, бабочки продолжают петь ее днем.
Луг не имеет ни одной минуты для тоски или для печали,
Луг весь поглощен жизнью, кипящей на нем.

Не просто заставить его размышлять о счастье,
Он и так всем доволен: и цветом неба, и своей судьбой.
В спорах и рассуждениях он никогда не принимает участья,
Луг живет в гармонии с миром и с самим собой.

From five to seven (Marina Chirkova)

May 23, 2014

…The sky is falling down, breaking up into thou-
sands of breadcrumbs, into shaky silence,
into dogs’ pawprints, so much like flowers,
into a coloured spot of blood and a tuft of fur, into the po-
rous on-
com-
ing so slow bluely embracing of-
ten getting-wet-through town, with win(dows) go(ggling) the
sky does not want to wait half the night, touching in
haste, touching for
a joke,
touching to
death…–
only one thing is for the better: the weak one will
get a hundred wonders…Look at the speck of light, a winged mote
over a child’s open palm like a lily of the valley–is it
harsh? You see, the letters from the sky come to life
in the warmth (for a moment), unbroken жжж..

But the boy is throwing snowballs and to him it’s all the same,
what hits who where: Oi! Don’t aim for his belly!!
Both for you and him it’s not hometime and it’s funny…
And we ourselves (don’t think to forget it) are on friendly terms with the sky.

Марина Чиркова

Марина Чиркова

…Небо рушится вниз, разламываясь на ты-
сячи хлебных крошек, на шаткую тишину,
на собачьи следы, так похожие на цветы,
на цветное пятнышко крови и шерсти клочок, на губ-
чатый наст-
упав-
ший так медлен(но) синим обнявший час-
то промокавший город, ок(нами) вылу(пленными) полн-
очи ждать не хочет небо, касаясь нас-
пех,
касаясь нас-
мех,
касаясь нас-
мерть… –
одно только к лучшему: слабый пол-
учит сто чудес… Смотри на крылатой пылинки блик
над раскрытым ландышем детской ладошки – жест-
око? Видишь, снежными бабочками на тепло (на миг)
оживают небесные буквы, сплошные “же”…

А малыш катает снежки и ему всё равно,
что куда там падает: Ай! Не кидай под дых!!
И ему и тебе и домой не пора и смешно…
Мы и сами (не вздумай забыть это) – с небом на ты…

Duomo (Aleksandr Leont’ev)

May 21, 2014

The empty foam of marble freezes.
And I will find a simile, I know,
Later on–when I’m flying past:
Like some Alps in beige-coloured snow.
The same flying buttresses and the same ribs.
Here motion appears as something untrue.
A type of evil, loveless architecture–
A butterfly that’s pierced through and through.

Who is going to fill the bulky
Many-tiered organ with unhurried air,
And the pipes, sliding through the registers?
An Arabian hurricane without compare!
So is this heaviness not something close to me?
…Save it and make, one day, some lace
With bobbins fashioned from the stone
And with a frame that doesn’t lose the place.

In the azure labyrinth, my dear,
Are we not glad to go astray?
But why are the obstacles multiplying
As my legs are weakening on the way…
What, are we still climbing? A bit higher?
It is cold in this gargoyles’ insect shell.
‘Give me a hand’–I asked you on the roof
Needing tenderness, but a sceptic as well.

All of Milan with its rings that bustle
Can be seen from this height as it looms
But the lazy olive-trees in the suburbs are dearer
To me, and also the first of the blooms.
Let’s go down! Isn’t it dizziness
That’s to blame? Decide on some goal.
The Church of the Spirit?–fear and rejection.
Like a cathedral wherein is no soul.

 

Duomo

Стынет пена мрамора пустая.
Подобрать сравнение смогу
После — в самолете пролетая:
Словно Альпы в бежевом снегу.
Те же аркбутаны и нервюры.
Здесь движенье выглядит как ложь.
Род безлюбой, злой архитектуры.
Бабочка, исколотая сплошь.

Кто наполнит воздухом небыстрым
Грузный многоярусный орган,
Кладку труб, скользя по всем регистрам? —
Аравийский только ураган!
Так ли эта тяжесть не близка мне?
…Упаси создать когда-нибудь
Кружево — с коклюшками из камня,
Со станком, откуда не вспорхнуть…

Разве мы, любимая, не рады
В лабиринт ажурный забрести?
Но зачем же множатся преграды
И слабеют ноги на пути…
Что, еще поднимемся? Повыше?
Холодно в хитине из химер.
“Руку дай!” — просил тебя на крыше:
В нежности нуждался, маловер.

Весь Милан, чьи кольца суетливы,
Виден с грандиозной высоты.
Но милей — ленивые оливы
В пригородах, первые цветы.
Спустимся! Не головокруженье
Виновато ль? Что-нибудь реши.
Церковь Духа? — страх и отторженье.
Как собор, в котором нет души.

Pro-Russian party founded in England!

May 17, 2014

zarossiu

This advert from the edition of Pulse dated 15 May announces the creation of a party called ‘For Russia’ so as to champion and defend the rights and freedoms of Russian and Russian-speaking people living in Great Britain.  The party is founded on outspoken support for the policy of the Russian Federation and President Putin.  The website looks just like Edinaya Rossiya, especially the bear.

Well, if this is aimed at Russian citizens, they can hardly put forward candidates for election in this country, so perhaps they intend underground conspiracy leading to armed insurrection.  And if it’s for UK citizens, then you wonder where the Treason Act is when you need it–or that nice Mr Farage…

Best not to take this kind of nonsense too seriously!

‘The Lord’s summer…’ (Irina Ermakova)

May 17, 2014

The Lord’s summer.  A ray of light on the shoulder.  Heat.
(the air flows–even if you wring your dress out)
Joy in the house–guests! Commotion from early on:
–You know, Mary, you’re my sister now.
–We’re all sisters!
–Some of us are brothers.

Their bodies are transparent. Shadows sewn with light.
Each one bears a son inside her.
–Man is clay.
And spirit!
–Spirit and clay.
(their sons will be killed, but they don’t know about that)
They chatter, drink lemonade, laugh.
(o Comforter of all the broken-hearted)
One of them has curls that pour out in a sea of red.
The other’s plait is coarse salt-and-pepper.
–Liza, see what bracelets
Joe gave me yesterday–ruby on emerald!
(my lightness–summer lightness where are you)
Sun on the roof is a head on a platter.
The shadow on the wall forms a cross.
On the table Turkish delight, nuts, a bunch of grapes
in pink drops, light in a pomegranate fracture.
There seems to be distant thunder, but the sky is clear.

The first one is a girl, the second one is almost an old woman.
Each of them has a burning sphere over their head.
–Listen, Mary, but him…does he believe you?
Joseph, does he believe…it’s from the Holy Spirit?

What is two thousand years?
A gulp of lemonade.
An almond in sticky icing sugar.
Two blind minutes.
And dark night over the unsteady one.
(bags–fur coat–hats–felt boots–from the kindergarten
in your arms–angina–temperature at the limit
man–spirit spirit spirit–spirit and clay
the ambulance–it got lost somewhere in the blizzard
oh God–don’t forsake my son).

Mary laughed. Elizabeth is radiant.
The ray of light is broken. Shadows are illuminated from below.
The sun sinks behind the roofs of Nazareth.
The Light is coming to birth. But first–the Witness to the Light.

A red-eyed pigeon strolls along the window-ledge.

 

Ирина Ермакова

Ирина Ермакова

Лето Господне. Луч на плече. Жара.

(воздух течет – хоть выжимай платье)

В доме радость – гостья! переполох с утра:

– Знаешь, Маша, ты мне теперь сестра.

– Все мы сестры!

– Некоторые – братья.

Их тела прозрачны. Тени прошиты светом.

Каждая – носит в себе сына.

– Человек – это глина.

– И дух!

– Дух и глина.

(сыновей убьют – но они не знают об этом)

Они болтают, пьют лимонад, смеются.

(о Утешитель всех сокрушенных сердцем)

Кудри одной морем червонным льются.

Косы другой – крупная соль с перцем.

– Лиза, смотри, какие вчера браслеты

Подарил мне Оська – яхонт на изумруде!

(легкость моя – летняя легкость где ты)

Солнце на крыше, что голова на блюде.

Тень на стене сложилась крестообразно.

На столе лукум, орехи, гроздь винограда

в каплях розовых, луч в разломе граната.

Чудятся дальние громы, а небо ясно.

Первая – девочка. Вторая – почти старуха.

Над головами их по горящей сфере.

– Слушай, Маш, а он… он тебе верит?

Верит Иосиф, что… от Святого Духа?

Что такое две тысячи лет?

Глоток лимонада.

Миндаля ядрышко в сахарной пудре липкой.

Две слепых минуты.

И темная ночь над зыбкой

(сумки-шуба-шапки-валенки – из детсада

на руках – ангина – градусник на пределе

человек – дух дух дух – дух и глина

скорая – заблудилась где-то в метели

Боже – не оставляй моего сына).

Усмехнулась Мария. Сияет Елизавета.

Луч сломался. Тени подсвечены снизу.

Тонет солнце за кровлями Назарета.

И родится Свет. Но прежде – Свидетель Света.

Красноглазый голубь разгуливает по карнизу.

Variations on the theme of reed flute and wind (Aleksandr Tsygankov)

May 11, 2014

Again I become accustomed to the pace, that is, to all
The monuments strolling in the yard,
Where the garden, laid out by one unknown
Is fragrant with asters in September.
And the leaf-fall, like a new occupation layer,
Raises slightly the roofs and trees,
Covering again music with silence,
So as to look round and make a choice of words,
For a long time not testing for soundness that
Which will not escape decay beneath the moon.
In these latitudes a thick woollen overcoat
Determines the local colour of the streets.

And the room swooping down in the depths of the yard
Will hide the unnecessary, dissolve the statues:
What the local sculptors stuck together–
Not an urban, but a temporal motif.

Do not become accustomed, artist! That is,
To what is reversible. Go out into the wood with your paints!
Everything that reveals images to one person
Will elicit the interest of many,
And raise up to the heights–like the first verse!
And it’s not for us to blame something else.
The wind got up and subsided in a moment.

The monitor shows evening. I am going for a walk.
Market, chapel, in the lace a dark public garden…
So I did not look for, did not find the carved upper storey
That once I painted in my fashion,
And spent the night, as I recall, at one woman’s place,
And in the evening hurried to the great river:
I was not contemplating–I drew the clouds up!
Memory is like the flute of time in a reed.
The wind from the bank will not be torn off by the river!

Александр Цыганков

Александр Цыганков

Вариация на тему тростниковой флейты и ветра
Вновь привыкаю к месту, читай, ко всем
Памятникам, гуляющим во дворе,
Где палисад, разбитый незнамо кем,
Благоухает астрами в сентябре.
И листопад, как новый культурный слой,
Приподнимает крыши и дерева,
Перекрывая музыку тишиной,
Чтоб оглядеться и подобрать слова,
Долго не испытуя на прочность то,
Что под луною тленья не избежит.
В этих широтах драповое пальто
Определяет уличный колорит.
И налетевший дождь в глубине двора
Лишнее скроет, статуи растворив:
Что налепили местные скульптора —
Не городской, а временный лейтмотив.
Не привыкай, художник! Читай, к тому,
Что обратимо. С красками выйди в лес!
Всё, что откроет образы одному,
То и у многих вызовет интерес,
И вознесёт к вершинам — как первый стих!
И на другое что-то не нам пенять.
Ветер поднялся и через миг затих.
На мониторе вечер. Иду гулять.
Рынок, часовня, в кружеве тёмный сквер…
Как не искал, не нашёл теремок резной,
Что написал однажды на свой манер,
И ночевал, как помнится, у одной,
И торопился утром к большой реке:
Не созерцал — выстраивал облака!
Память — как флейта времени в тростнике.
Ветер от берега — не оторвёт река!

80/20: An ‘iron law’ of religious giving?

May 11, 2014

eye-of-a-needle

In his excellent book ‘Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD’, Peter Brown says:

Hence the double aspect of the Christianity that had emerged in the Latin West in the crucial period between 370 and 400 AD. A new institution had become prominent in a society that knew what it was to give. Its upper classes had always valued the exhilarating “rush” associated with giving to an esteemed public cause, of which civic euergetism was the most spectacular and the most certain of acclaim. Great opportunities for giving now opened up in the relatively new Christian churches . But how would these traditions of highly personalized display impinge on a group that had hitherto been notable for its capacity for collective action? This was a real dilemma. Ideally, giving was open to all Christians. But this was a myth. It was no more true in the fourth century than was the nineteenth-century myth that the great Catholic Cathedral of Saint Patrick’s in Manhattan was built “through the pennies of Irish chambermaids.” (In reality, the first building of Saint Patrick’s was made possible through a campaign by which the bishop approached a hundred leading figures for $ 1,000 each.)   Furthermore, what sociologists of modern religion call “skewness” appears to be an iron law in religious giving: 20 percent of the congregation usually contribute 80 percent of the funds of the religious community that they support.

This looks far too pat. The 80/20 factoid is derived from the Pareto distribution, which reflects wealth distribution in ‘modern’ societies. It will have been far more skewed in pre-modern settings, such as the Late Roman Empire. In addition, skewness is skewness and needs no support from ‘sociologists of modern religion’.

Brown quotes a paper by Iannaccone [Skewness Explained: A Rational Choice Model of Religious Giving, Laurence R. Iannaccone Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jun., 1997), pp. 141-157.] which says:

Whereas the rest may apply to all aspects of religious participation, skewness is truly a distinctive feature of giving. Professional fund-raisers consider skewness “a bedrock rule of thumb” relevant to virtuallyevery setting, large or small, religious and nonreligious (Hoge 1994: 103). In practice, it means that 20% of a congregation’s members provide more than 80% of the giving. Inevitably, these people also exercise substantial power, for who can afford to alienate the few families that keep the church afloat?

Well, that’s much more sensible, though having correctly stated that this skewness is a straightforward consequence of the properties of the statistical distributions that might plausibly be involved, Iannaccone then drags the regrettable and moth-eaten Chicago School stuff out of the store-cupboard and proceeds to make up lots of parameters, just for fun probably…but I don’t think you can dispute that the giving is at least as skewed as 80/20.