Monday, 9 March 2009

Some more things

Inane newspaper statement of the weekend
In an article about people divorcing in their 20s: "But it is not an exclusively female problem".

Excellent relatives
My brother and his wife have given up supermarkets for Lent, which is a very good idea. Tim says that it's odd how much less rubbish they have, and how much more compostable material, given that he thought that the main thing they bought at supermarkets was loose vegetables anyway. They now get their eggs from a place where you take your own empty egg cartons.

Cassiodorus update
I read each Psalm before I read what Cassiodorus has to say about it, but he's working from the Old Latin text, with occasional variants from Jerome's translations, while I'm using the King James version. (I often read them aloud to the rats, like the Fairing after whom I named this blog. Audrey seems to like this; she looks at me intently for a long time, then runs up onto my shoulder, licks my nose, and runs away again very fast.) I got to one of my favourites the other day, My heart is inditing of a good matter, set by Handel as a beautiful anthem. I was a little taken aback to see that Cassiodorus had it as "My heart has belched forth a good word". "We use the word belched," he goes on to explain, "when the abundant food which we have eaten emits vapour which allows the healthiest digestion. But how great was the spiritual feast with which this man had been so filled that he belched forth the secret source of so goodly an odour~!" There's something about the style as well as the content of this which encapsulates the enjoyable flavour of absurdity in translations from medieval Latin.

Otherwise the translation annoys me a bit by interpreting those serious puns of which medieval writers were so fond -- I suppose the nearest modern equivalent would be expressions like "herstory" -- as attempts as etymologies. Take "mentiri est contra mentem loqui", to lie is to speak against the mind; this is clearly word play, but the translator adds a sniffy footnote saying the suggestion is fanciful.

Mrs Pilkington
I'm reading an excellent biography of Laetitia Pilkington, who was divorced by her licentious husband when he found a young man in her room. (She claimed they were just reading together, and that her husband had set it up to be rid of her.) Previously a favourite of Swift, she was now abandoned by everyone she knew, and removed from all contact with her children. She just about managed to support herself by writing, and was generally rather interesting. Asked on her deathbed if she forgave her husband she said that if she were to die, then yes, but if she lived then the feud would go on. Before the divorce, at a time when she realised that her husband was seeing other women and perhaps anxious to be rid of her, perhaps even making vague efforts to pimp her out to a rich rake, she wrote some excellent angry verse:

Strephon, your Breach of Faith and Trust
Affords me no Surprize;
A Man who Grateful was, or Just,
Might make my Wonder rise.

That Heart to you so fondly ty'd,
With Pleasure wore its Chain,
But from your cold neglectful Pride,
Found Liberty again.

For this no Wrath inflames my Mind,
My Thanks are due to thee,
Such Thanks as gen'rous Victors find
Who set their Captives free.

Also good, this extract:

Go then, Inconstant, go, and rove,
Forget thy Vows, neglect thy Love;
Some senseless, tasteless, Girl pursue,
Bought Smiles befit such Swains as you;
While for the worst I see you change,
You give me a compleat Revenge.

I've often wished that some woman had answered Rochester.

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