Random thoughts / Resources

Classical Stuff on the Internet

I’m afraid this post is not going to be an in-depth analysis of the current use of the internet to facilitate Classical learning, or anything actually useful or relevant like that. In fact it’s really just two links to things I came across in the course of today that seem like a nice illustration of the principle that you can literally find anything on the internet (without, in this case, even trying particularly hard). First of all (courtesy of rogueclassicism) we have what must be the best piece of bureaucratic correspondence ever, in the form of two poems in medieval Latin style, dating from the good old days of the 1930s.

The first was sent by a desperate scholar who’d been asking the civil service for bookshelves for his library for the past few months:

Stella desperantium, miserorum lumen
Rerum primum mobile, nobis quasi numen
Audias propitie supplicantem sonum
De profundis clamitat studii patronum
Otium molestum est, et periculosum
Menses sine linea vexant studiosum.
Statum hunc chaoticum noli prolongare
Animam et domum nos fac aedificare
Libros nostros libera turri de seclusa
Quibus mus nunc fruitur gaudeat et Musa.
O, duc nos ad gratiae sempiternum fontem
Unde tibi lauri frons coronabit frontem.
Qui in Bibliotheca Warburgiana
studiis se dedere ardent

(Translation, taken from the original piece in the Art Newspaper: “Star of guidance in despair, Light of all the wretched/ Mover of the Spheres—to us almost God in Heaven:/ Listen with a gracious ear to the imploring voices,/Clamouring from the wilderness to thee, scholar’s patron!/Unwished leisure is as much dangerous as painful,/ Months that pass without a line irritate the studious./ Suffer not to be prolonged this primeval chaos,/ Elevate our house; and thus elevate our spirits./ Liberate our Library from its towered prison:/ What the mouse now feeds upon let the Muse enjoy it./ Lead us to the fount of grace as it flows for ever,/ And we will enwreath your crown with the crown of laurel./ From those who long to study in the Warburg Library.”
And the second is his reply from the relevant civil servant:

Doctor disertissime, rector venerande,
Omnibus amabilis semper et amande,
Congemiscens audio verba deprecantum
Imo corde vocibus tactus eiulantum.
Set nunc tibi nuncio gaudium suave,
Te et tuos liberans studiosos a ve.
EANT LIBRI LIBERE. Deus sit tutamen
Libris et legentibus in eternum. Amen.

(Translation: “Eloquent and learned man, venerated rector,/ Always lovable and hence loved by all around thee./ Groaning loud myself I heard the plaintive application,/And my deepest heart was touched by the suppliants’ voices./ But I am the messenger now of joyful tidings/ Which will free from present woe you and your disciples:/ LET THE BOOOKS GO FREE AT ONCE! And may God’s protection/ In eternity preserve books and readers. Amen.”)

I’ve got to say, I feel like these lose something in these translations. There may be a prize (of a small amount of classical kudos and a mention in a future post) to anyone who cares to write better ones, preferably preserving the original metre and rhyme scheme. But in any case, next time Cambridge bureaucracy is getting you down, you know what to do…

Oh, and the other thing I found today? That came courtesy of the British Museum’s most recent Eva Lorant Memorial Lecture, and was a recording of the Trans-Siberian Marching Band performing what was presumably some kind of Trans-Siberian March on an orchestra of reconstructed Etruscan brass instruments. Believe it or not, no part of that last sentence is made up. It starts at about 51:50 here, and as I can’t even begin to describe it, I think you’re just going to have to listen for yourself. Enjoy.




6 thoughts on “Classical Stuff on the Internet

      • That sounds mind-bogglingly awesome.

        ‘The Watcher over the Cosmos turns out to be a certain sheep…The Sheep that Watches the Cosmos is kidnapped by a villain called Mandys, and pursued by a rapid reaction commando force…’

        Also, the note that ‘The text begins with a Latin summary for the erudite non-Czech reader’ is one that’s lamentably underused in book-blurbs.

        We should definitely investigate this further.

      • Well, the UL already think I’m weird for ordering up “Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs” from the Reading Room. How much weirder can they think I am if I go order this…?

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