Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary


Opening Passage:

We were in class when the headmaster came in, followed by a new boy, not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk. Those who had been asleep woke up, and every one rose as if just surprised at his work.

Summary: The story of Madame Bovary is actually fairly simple. Charles Bovary, a somewhat plodding and not all that bright young man, grows up to become an officier de santé, which is basically a low-level limited medical practitioner registered to a particular place, in this case Rouen; that is, he's not a doctor, but a country and village substitute for one, a very respectable position, but well below the education and status of a doctor or surgeon. Charles is essentially under the thumb of the first Madame Bovary in the novel, his mother; she essentially arranges for him to marry an older wealthy widow, who is the second Madame Bovary we meet in the novel. She dies a fairly short way in. This leads to the third Madame Bovary, Emma, whose marriage to Charles, two adulteries, and debt take up most of the book. At the end of the book, as at the end of life, Emma and Charles both die (not a surprise ending, although getting there is an interesting tale).

It's very tempting to take Emma Bovary, who is the primary character for much of the book, as the subject, but this is misleading; she just happens to be the one who is least predictable, and therefore ends up taking the most time to summarize. It does end up making her for practical purposes the main character of the book. But in a sense I think we can see the book as a study in the usurious approach to life. It's written in a realistic style, although the Emma is not herself an entirely realistic character (no real human being is quite that consistent), and it's not too difficult to see why the book was brought up on obscenity charges, since Flaubert's descriptions are so intense as to be feverish, and this in combination with the theme of adultery inevitably tends in one direction. But I think it's important not to overlook how moralistic, in a non-derogatory sense, the book is. The book is realistic not just about the natural world but about the moral world as well; while Emma is portrayed sympathetically, in that her motives are laid out in such a way that one could at least sometimes sympathize with her, and while the author does not intrude to lecture at us, the book is unequivocal that Emma's course through the book is one of deterioration and corruption. She is, in other words, not a villainess, and her only temperamental weakness is an excessive tendency to live inside her own head and become overly attached to her own ideas so that she becomes bored with the real thing. But the book puts Emma's adultery and her increasing debt due to extravagance in close parallel. Emma's life is one dependent wholly on credit: lending, taking, and borrowing goods and pleasures that are not her. In her affairs, Emma seeks escape from her plodding marriage, but she always matrimonializes her adultery -- her affairs are ideal marriage taken on credit, without any possibility of actual payment or possession, and she builds up the moral interest on these debts throughout the book until it, like her actual financial debt, crashes around her. And Emma herself in the conduct of her affairs occasionally has some uncomfortable parallels with M. Lheureux, the scammer and usurer who gets her into financial straits.

This is a book with hardly any subject -- all the characters are monotone mediocrities -- but a surprising depth arises simply out of the way the book presents them. And this, of course, was precisely Flaubert's aim: almost no subject, almost all style or way of looking at things.

As I noted before, the book's descriptions are very intense, far more intense than I remember from reading it long ago, and far more intense than anyone's actual experience could possibly present them. In the old Norton Critical Edition I read, there was an appended selection from Jean-Paul Sartre in which he perceptively talks about the peculiarity of taking the book as a paradigmatic example of realistic style, which it often still is. There's a sense in which one can entirely see why someone would take it as a work of realism: the relative lack of author's voice, the extraordinary precision of description, the careful use of plausibility. Characters are a bit stylized and simplified, but where they are, it is always in the service of novelistic plausibility. On the other hand, Sartre is quite right that there's something arbitrary about the classification. The descriptions aren't just vivid, they are super-vivid, high definition, often more vivid than they would be in anyone's ordinary experience, since our actual experience of the world leaves a lot of vagueness that is not amenable to crystal clarity. Dreams and imaginations and fantasies play a continual role throughout the book. There is a justly famous passage in which Flaubert depicts Charles and Emma side by side in bed. Charles is dreaming about his family, and his dream has a lot of detail and variation as he follows his daughter through her life; Emma, on the other hand, is fantasizing about running away with her lover, and her fantasy, while vivid and bright, is monotonous. There is so much packed into this one scene of juxtaposed dream and fantasy. When we look at the plot, we find so many parallelisms and symmetries that we can hardly keep track. And the vivid descriptions are quite often not just descriptions but clearly symbolic in character. Sartre's own accont of the work is not all that much more plausible, but he's definitely on to something here: while the realism label makes a sort of sense, one could just as easily call it a work of surrealism or hyperrealism, and the insistence on the work as a realistic work says perhaps as much as or more about the people who classify it as such than about the work together. There are layers and layers here.

Favorite Passage:
Almost all of the descriptions are very good, but the following is an excerpt from what I think the best passage in the book:

He was bored now when Emma suddenly began to sob on his breast; and his heart, like the people who can only stand a certain amount of music, became drowsy through indifference to the vibrations of a love whose subtleties he could no longer distinguish.

They knew one another too well to experience any of those sudden surprises which multiply the enjoyment of a possession a hundredfold. She wa sas sick of him as he was weary of her. Emma found again in adultery all the platitudes of marriage.

But how to get rid of him? Then, though she felt humiliated by the sordidity of such a happiness, she clung to it out of habit, or out of degeneration; she pursued it more desperately than ever, destroying every pleasure by always wishing for it to be too great. She blamed Léon for her disappointed hopes, as if he had betrayed her; and she even longed for some catastrophe that would bring about their separation, since she had not the courage to do it herself.

She none the less went on writing him love letters, in keeping with the notion that a woman must writer to her lover. (p. 211)

Recommendation: Very highly recommended. The book, however, does not have the characteristic found in the greatest novels, like those of Austen or Dickens, namely, the capacity to be read lightly or deeply, as you please -- it demands your full attention all the time. It was, however, quite enjoyable.

Tense Logic and Order Theory

I've talked before about using tense logic to describe arguments, and computer programmers can and do use tense logic to describe computer programs. What time has in common with logical arguments and computer programs is primarily order, so this naturally suggests that you could have a tense logic to talk about order theory.

In essence, you can translate talk of orderings to tense logic talk in the following way:

x < y :: Pxy
x > y :: Fxy

Given these we could define an incomparability operator:

x ~ y :: Sxy :: neither Pxy nor Fxy

Then we'd have a semiorder when the following obtained (assuming I haven't slipped up anywhere):

∀x∀y¬(Pxy & Fxy)
∀x∀y∀w((Pxy & Syx & Pzw) → Pxw)
∀x∀y∀w((Pxy & Pyz & Syw) → ¬(Sxw & Szw))

To get preorders and weak partial orders we'd need a notation for x = y, and so forth. As with logical arguments, we aren't assuming that the tense logic system is standard (Kt).

To put it in other words: tense logics seem actually to be logics of direction in an order. Nothing about them requires that they be used only for time. It's just that time as we usually think of it is an obvious total order. (Thought of relativistically, of course, time gets much more complicated, but contrary to what once was thought, it's become increasingly clear that a relativistic tense logic is possible. And we see here why: special relativity doesn't imply that time has no order, it just implies that time can only be treated as a total order when certain conditions obtain.)

Delight in Them and Speak No Word

by Fyodor Tyutchev
tr. by Vladimir Nabokov

Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirit let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.

How can a heart expression find?
How should another know your mind?
Will he discern what quickens you?
A thought, once uttered, is untrue.
Dimmed is the fountainhead when stirred:
drink at the source and speak no word.

Live in your inner self alone
within your soul a world has grown,
the magic of veiled thoughts that might
be blinded by the outer light,
drowned in the noise of day, unheard...
take in their song and speak no word.

Tyutchev was a Russian diplomat in the nineteenth century. He was not appreciated as a poet in his lifetime; while he published a few poems, but they received little recognition (although some critics did recognize his poems as showing that he had some talent as a minor poet), and he himself regarded his poems as 'bagatelles'. But he heavily influenced Russian Symbolism, began to be widely quoted, and is today usually counted as one of the greatest Russian poets of the Romantic movement. The actual name of this poem is "Molchanije".

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Eagle Has Landed

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Lunar Module of the Apollo 11 mission in Mare Tranquillitatis on the moon. (Fellow crew member Michael Collins, whom everyone always unfortunately forgets, was stuck minding the spacecraft in orbit.) The Lunar Module had been named Eagle by the crew; hence Armstrong's famous line, "The Eagle has landed."

Incidentally, after the landing and checklists Buzz Aldrin took communion; he was a Presbyterian and wanted to do something special for an event as momentous as a moon landing, so his pastor prepared him a small communion kit, which he quietly used once he had a moment.

Peloponnesian War Timeline III (Decelean War)

Peloponnesian War Timeline I (First Peloponnesian War)
Peloponnesian War Timeline II (Archidamian War)

420 The Spartans are humiliated at the Olympic games when Elis vetoes official Spartan participation.

418 The Argive alliance, consisting of Argos, Achaea, Elis, Athens, and others, attempts to take the strategically located town of Tegea; taking and holding the town would have effectively confined the Spartans to Sparta. The Spartans send troops to Tegea. Rather than maintaining a defensive stance, they invade nearby Mantinea, an Argive ally. As the Argives held a good position, the Spartans diverted the river Sarandapotamus to flood the Argives out. The Argives, however, impatient to fight, surprised them by pressing the fight more quickly than they had expected. The Argives manage to rout and pursue a considerable part of the Spartan army, but the Spartans devastatingly rout the part of the Argive army that is left. Argos is forced to give up all gained territory and cut off its alliance with Elis and Athens. The elite members of the Argive army overthrow the democratic government in Argos and establish an oligarchy.

417 The Argive oligarchy is overthrown. Fearing Spartan retribution, the Argives increase the fortifications of their city, but they are insufficient and Sparta destroys them.

416 Alcibiades arrives with an Athenian army in Argos and seizes people suspected of being anti-Athenian.

Athens blockades the island of Melos. Melos will eventually be not only defeated but destroyed, to the shock of many of the Greek cities.

415 An Athenian ally in Sicily, Segesta, goes to war against Selinus; being defeated, they appeal to the Athenians for help, lying about their ability to fund the expedition. The Athenians are divided between a peace faction, under Nicias, and a war faction, under Alcibiades; the latter prevails. The Athenians name three generals: Alcibiades, Nicias, and a veteran named Lamachus; each of the three generals attempts to insist on a completely different strategy, but Alcibiades's plan, to begin by building up an alliance in Sicily, wins out. Thus begins the Sicilian Expedition. Just before the expedition sets out, someone defaces a number of statues of Hermes in the city.

The expedition arrives in Sicily, but almost immediately an Athenian ship arrives informing Alcibiades that he is recalled under arrest for the desecration of the statues. He complies, but on the way back escapes and defects to Sparta.

414 Alcibiades negotiates Spartan assistance against the Athenians for Syracuse, the most powerful city in Sicily, and also convinces the Spartans to prepare to occupy Decelea, near Athens; he is able to persuade them that Athens will invade the Peloponnesus if the Sicilian expedition succeeds.

Athens blockades Syracuse by land and by sea. The Spartans arrive. The Spartan navy is defeated by Athens, but the Spartans defeat Athens on land and are able to bring the neutral states of Sicily to the Spartan/Syracusan side. After several skirmishes in which they are defeated, the Syracusans are finally able to defeat the Athenians and force their ships ashore. Now the Athenians are blockaded. The Athenians are eventually forced to surrender.

413 The Spartans occupy Decelea, thus disrupting trade and Athenian access to its silver mines; the Athenian treasury, already dangerously low, looks in danger of bankruptcy. As news of the Sicilian defeat spreads, neutral cities join Sparta and members of the Delian League begin to revolt.

412 The Persian satrap Tissaphernes begins to support Sparta with money and ships. At about the same time, Alcibiades falls out of favor with Sparta because of an affair with the Spartan king's wife; worried that they might try to kill him, he defects to Persia, attempting to sabotage the alliance between Persia and Sparta, and also to negotiate his return to Athens.

411 An oligarchic coup succeeds in Athens, putting the city in the hands of the Four Hundred. At around the same time, an oligarchic coup in Samos fails due to Athenian help; the Athenians there, including the generals Thrasybulus and Theramenes, form a sort of democratic government in exile. The Four Hundred will be very unstable, and will soon be replaced by the Five Thousand.

The Athenian navy under Thrasybulus defeats the Spartans at Abydos, thus establishing Athenian control of the Hellespont. The Athenians are unable to press their full advantage, however, largely due to lack of funds.

410 The Athenian navy, under the leadership of Alcibiades, Thrasybulus, and Theramenes, resoundingly defeat the Spartans and Persian troops sent by the satrap Pharnabazus at the Battle of Cyzicus.

The oligarchic government in control of Athens collapses.

Sparta petitions Athens for peace; Athens refuses.

409 Alcibiades and Thrasybulus lay siege to Chalcedon; the siege itself is inconclusive, but leads to an agreement with Chalcedon, and the generals are able to leverage this to gain a temporary alliance with Pharnabazus, which makes it possible to pay the soldiers.

407 Alcibiades returns to Athens and the charges against him are canceled.

Lysander becomes navarch of the Spartan fleet and establishes a base at Ephesus.

406 Alcibiades brings the Athenian fleet to Notium in order to force the Spartan fleet at Ephesus in battle. When Lysander does not take the bait, Alcibiades puts his helmsman Antiochus in charge of the fleet and goes to help Thrasybulus besiege Phocaea. Antiochus, against orders, actively attempts to draw out the Spartans. The Athenian fleet is defeated and the Spartans return to Ephesus. Alcibiades returns to reinforce the Notium fleet, but is unable to draw the Spartans out again. The Athenians, shaken by the defeat of their navy, remove from command Alcibiades and almost all their experienced generals. Alcibiades will never return to Athens again. Because of term limits, Lysander is replaced by Callicratidas.

Callicratidas, after a victory at Mytilene, is decisively defeated at Arginusae. Callicratidas is killed. However, the victory at Arginusae leads to a crisis for Athens. At the end of the battle, the eight generals had to choose between proceeding to destroy a Spartan fleet at Mytilene before it could escape and rescuing the survivors of twenty five ships that had been sunk during the battle. The generals leave behind a small contingent under Thrasybulus and Theramenes to rescue survivors and lead the rest to destroy the Spartan fleet, but a storm makes both impossible. The Athenians are angry at the failure to save the survivors. The generals accuse Thrasybulus and Theramenes, but both, who had been sent back to Athens with the news, are able to defend themselves. Instead, Athenian anger turns on the generals, who are ordered to return home for trial. Six of the eight return. A proposal is made that the assembly should vote on the fate of the generals without any further debate; opposition to this dissolves when the same motion is brought against those who attempt to argue against the proposal as illegal. By chance, Socrates was the presiding officer of the assembly (the presiding officer was chosen by lot, and this was the first and only time Socrates held public office in his lifetime). He refuses to put the matter to the vote, claiming that he will not do anything contrary to the law. This attempt to prevent the action fails; the assembly passes the motion anyway and votes to execute all six generals.

Sparta again petitions Athens for peace; Athens again refuses.

405 The Spartan fleet under Lysander crushes the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami, and so thoroughly that Athens almost entirely loses its previously uncontested sway over the Aegean. In effect, the result is a sort of large-scale blockade of Athens: with the Spartans able to control much of Attica because of their control of Decelea and the Athenian navy no longer able to guarantee safe trade, Athens is nearly isolated for the first time in the war. Lysander begins to capture Athenian allies.

Unable to bring in grain by sea and facing the threat of starvation, the Athenians surrender. Athenians at Samos hold out somewhat longer, but are also brought to heel. The walls and fleet of Athens are destroyed, and Athens is stripped of all of its overseas power. Corinth and Thebes demand the complete destruction of Athens, but the Spartans refuse, instead establishing an oligarchic government, the Thirty Tyrants, and making it a member of the Laecedomonian League. Thus ends the Peloponnesian War.

The Thirty Tyrants are led by Theramenes and Critias. Critias was an associate of Socrates (and Plato's cousin; another member of the thirty, Charmides, was Plato's uncle). They begin a bloody purge.

403 Thrasybulus, with a small group of Athenian exiles, seize the fort of Phyle, which had been left undefended due to lack of funds. The Athenians and Spartans attempt to dislodge them, but fail. Thrasybulus seizes the Piraeus, which is the primary link between Athens and the sea and is no longer protected by the Long Walls; the government of the Thirty Tyrants crumbles and Critias is killed. According to Plato, Apology 32c-d, Socrates narrowly avoided being executed for failure to comply with the demands of the Thirty Tyrants by the collapse of the government.

The Spartans defeat the Athenians at the Battle of the Piraeus, but the Spartan king, Pausanias, agress to allow continued democratic government if certain concessions are meant. He will be brought to trial for this, for which he will be narrowly acquitted.

402 The Spartans attack and defeat Elis in retribution for its behavior in the war; despite being called, Corinth and Thebes refuse to assist. This will be the beginning of a number of imperialistic ventures in which Sparta will engage over the next several years. This will lead in 395 to the Corinthian War, in which Sparta will face off with a coalition composed of Corinth, Thebes, Argos, and Athens. Despite some Spartan victories, that war will end Sparta's attempt to become a naval power, and will more or less end in stalemate; but the peace negotiated afterward will favor, in the short run, Spartan hegemony and, in the slightly longer run, result in increased Persian interference and control. However, the walls and fleet of Athens are restored in the course of the war, and by its end in 387 Athens will have regained parts of its previous empire.

401 Against Socrates' advice, Xenophon joins the Ten Thousand, mercenaries who fight for Cyrus the Younger in his succession dispute with his brother Artaxerxes II. They will win the battle of Cunaxa, but Cyrus's death will leave them stranded in hostile territory, forced to fight their back home, a story told in Xenophon's Anabasis.

399 Socrates tried and executed; there is evidence that his association with Critias is one of the things that turns the jury against him, even though by law no one could be charged for crimes committed before 403 (hence the charges of impiety and corrupting the youth).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Peloponnesian War Timeline II (Archidamian War)

Peloponnesian War Timeline I (First Peloponnesian War)

440 Samos revolts and attempts to secede from the Delian League; the Spartans call a council of their allies to discuss going to war again with Athens, but the prevailing vote is not to do so. Athens crushes the Samian revolt.

433 The Athenians provide some back-up support for Corcyra in its fight against Corinth, in the hopes of reducing Corinthian ability to build its navy. The Corcyrans are defeated at the Battle of Sybota, but the Athenian ships, instructed not to enter the battle unless the Corinthians attempt to land, prevent the Corinthians from pressing their advantage.

The Athenians demand that Potidaea, a member of the Delian League but a colony of Corinth, to tear down its walls and cut off ties to Corinth; the Macedonians have been fomenting anti-Athenian rebellion in the area. Sparta and Corinth assist Potidaea. Athens blockades Potiadea.

Plato tells us, Symposium 219e-221b, that Socrates fought at Potidaea and also saved Alcibiades's life during the battle.

432 A council in Sparta determines that Athens has broken the Thirty Years' Peace; the beginning of the Second Peloponnesian War (often just called the Peloponnesian War). The first phase of the Peloponnesian War is often known as the Archidamian War.

431 Sparta begins the first of its summer invasions of Attica. Pericles's Funeral Oration.

430 Athens is struck by plague, which kills thirty thousand, including Pericles and his sons. The Athenians begin to shift away from Pericles's conservative, defensive approach to strategy.

426 The Athenians invade Aetolia, but are severely defeated. The general in charge, Demosthenes, refuses to return to Athens for fear of his life. However, when Ambracia, a Spartan ally, invades Acarnania, the Acarnanians ask Demosthenes for help; he defeats the Spartan army.

425 Demosthenes is ordered to aid with putting down a revolt in Sicily, but due to a storm puts down at Pylops on the Peloponnesian peninsula. He fortifies it, giving the Athenians a base very close to Sparta. The Spartan fleet attempts to dislodge them, but is defeated, and Spartan forces are stranded on nearby Sphacteria. While the Spartan forces captured are not large, many are from the upper tiers of Spartan society, and the Spartans negotiate an immediate armistice and try to negotiate a more extended cessation of hostilities. The Athenians make no concessions and the Spartans are forced to break off negotiations. The Battle of Sphacteria follows and the Spartan force on Sphacteria, surrounded, outnumbered, and in the end outmaneuvered, surrenders. It is a triumph for Athens, in three ways. (1) Athens has forced even Spartans, who never surrender, to surrender, and have taken high-level hostages. (2) Athens gets a respite from Spartan invasion by issuing an ultimatum: if Sparta invades Attica again, the hostages will die. (3) Athens keeps Pylos and the garrison there will repeatedly launch raids into areas under Spartan control. Athens takes heart, and will act far more aggressively and imperially the next several years.

424 The Athenians begin an invasion of Boeotia. Due to a failure of the Athenian generals to coordinate, this will lead to defeat at the Battle of Delium. The Athenians retreat to Delium itself, but the Boeotians construct a war engine that makes them able to set Delium on fire. The Athenians flee. When the second Athenian army finally manages to show up, they are defeated at Sicyon. The Boeotian victory is usually credited to their general Pagondas, whose innovative tactics are some of the most brilliant in the war. The Battle of Delium is one of the three engagements in which we know Socrates fought; Plato at Symposium 220d-221c and Laches 181b seems to indicate that his service in this particular engagement was widely recognized as extraordinary and heroic.

Thucydides is sent to be the Athenian general in Thasos. The Spartans under Brasidas besiege the nearby Athenian colony and ally, Amphipolis, which sends to Thucydides for help; however, when he arrives he finds that the colony has already surrendered and is in Spartan control. Because of his failure to protect Amphipolis, Thucydides will be recalled and exiled for twenty years, during which he travels among the allies of Sparta; this will be the foundation for his History of the Peloponnesian War.

As a result of the fall of Amphipolis, Athens and Sparta sign a one-year armistice.

422 The end of the armistice leads to the Battle of Amphipolis, one of the three campaigns at which we know Socrates fought. Due to bad organization on the field, the battle is a disaster for the Athenians. However, the battle also leads to the deaths of the most hawkish general on each side, Brasidas for the Spartans and Cleon for the Athenians.

421 The Peace of Nicias puts an end to the first phase of the Pelopponesian War as Athens and Sparta make peace. However, Spartan and Athenian allies continue to skirmish, and some Spartan allies, emboldened by apparent Spartan weakness, begin to consider revolting. Sparta's traditional enemy, the Athenian ally Argos, will begin building an anti-Spartan alliance.

Peloponnesian War Timeline III (Decelean War)

Peloponnesian War Timeline I (First Peloponnesian War)

I'm starting to put together new resources for my fall courses, and one thing I want to have in hand this time around is a Peloponnesian War timeline, since I've come to the conclusion that understanding Plato (I use Plato's Gorgias in my intro courses) really does require having some sense of the Peloponnesian War. Just as some of the specific arguments in Plato only make sense when you consider the particular people to whom they are addressed, so many of the general themes in Plato only make sense if you keep in mind that many of his dialogues are set during or shortly after the worst war in Greek history up to that point. These are my notes; I'd be interested if any of you have any particular events that you think should be on the list, or notice any errors. It's long -- a lot has to be included -- so I'll put it up in three parts.

(Some dates may be approximate)

479 The Greeks, led by the Athenians and Spartans, push the invading Persians out of the Aegean.

477 The Delian League, led by Athens, forms with the intention of continuing the war with the Persians, as a war of vengeance. Members either provide military forces or pay a tax into a common treasury, to serve as a war fund.

471 Naxos attempts to secede from the Delian League. It is defeated.

466 Athenian general Cimon defeats the Persians in the Battle of the Eurymedon; this success leads more Greek cities to join the Delian League voluntarily.

465 Athens founds the colony of Amphipolis; nearby Thasos, fearing that its mining interests may be threatened by the colony, attempts to secede from the Delian League. During the rebellion, Sparta promises to come to the aid of Thasos, but is prevented from doing so by a massive helot revolt. After a three-year siege, Thasos is defeated, its walls are torn down, it is forced to turn over its mines to Athens, and it is required to pay a yearly tribute.

To deal with the helot revolt, more massive than any revolt before, Sparta is forced to call on its Hellenic allies. Along with other Greek cities, Athens sends troops, but Sparta, perhaps fearing that Athens will switch sides, dismisses them, while using the troops of other cities. This ends up being a serious blow to the Sparta-friendly faction in Athens, and Athens begins making anti-Spartan alliances with Thessaly to the north, Argos (Sparta's major rival and traditional enemy on the Peloponnesus), and Megara (which is in a dispute with Corinth, a powerful Spartan ally). It also begins to help helots resettle after the helot revolt is put down.

460 Egypt revolts against Persia; to assist, Pericles sends an expedition to assist. Cyprus is captured, but the Persians put down the rebellion and capture or kill many Athenians.

The First Peloponnesian war begins as Athens goes to war against Corinth.

458 Aegina joins forces with Corinth and its allies in an attempt to end Athenian intrusion into the area. While powerful in its own right, the Aeginan fleet is crushed by the Athenian fleet. Athens blockades the isle of Aegina, and simultaneously defends Megara from Corinth by scraping together an army of men who would ordinarily be too young or old to serve. By a bit of luck the Megarans and the rag-tag army manage in the end to give a serious defeat to the Corinthians. Aegina is eventually defeated and forced to join the Delian League.

A minor military dispute begins between Phocis and Doris; Phocis is an Athenian ally and the Spartans consider themselves to have distant blood ties with Doris. The Spartans enter on the side of Doris, forcing the Phocians to accept terms. The Spartan army's way home by sea is blocked, however, when an Athenian fleet arrives to help the Phocians; the Spartans take the long land route through Boeotia. Athens, alarmed, sends troops, and are defeated at the Battle of Tanagra. Rather than invade Attica, the Spartan army returns home. The Athenian army, however, begins to conquer Boeotia. Sparta, worried about growing Athenian power, sends support to Thebes, the most powerful city in Boeotia.

Athens finishes its Long Walls, which protect the link between Athens and the sea.

454 Pericles seizes the treasury of the Delian League and has it moved to Athens, ostensibly to protect it from the Persians.

451 A truce is negotiated between Athens and Sparta.

449 Some ancient authors give this date for the Peace of Callias, a treaty between Persia and Athens that is thought by some to have ended the Persian War completely after the Athenians manage to fend off the Persians from Cyprus. Its existence, however, is controversial.

The Second Sacred War begins as Sparta forces the Phocians to give the holy city of Delphi back to the Delphians. After the Spartans leave, the Athenians recapture Delphi and give it back to the Phocians.

447 Boeotia begins to revolt against Athenian rule; the Athenians are defeated at the Battle of Coronea, and abandon Boeotia, allowing Boeotia to secede from the Delian League. This Boeotian success will lead to revolts in Euboea and Megara. While the Athenians are attempting to deal with these revolts, the Spartans invade Attica.

445 The Thirty Years' Peace is established between Athens and Sparta. Athens gives up some of its conquests, and Megara is allowed to join the Lacedomonian League. Despite the name, the truce will only last thirteen years.

Peloponnesian War Timeline II (Archidamian War)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Natural Beauty and Amiableness

From the apparent usefulness of the social virtues, it has readily been inferred by sceptics, both ancient and modern, that all moral distinctions arise from education, and were, at first, invented, and afterwards encouraged, by the art of politicians, in order to render men tractable, and subdue their natural ferocity and selfishness, which incapacitated them for society. This principle, indeed, of precept and education, must so far be owned to have a powerful influence, that it may frequently encrease or diminish, beyond their natural standard, the sentiments of approbation or dislike; and may even, in particular instances, create, without any natural principle, a new sentiment of this kind; as is evident in all superstitious practices and observances: But that all moral affection or dislike arises from this origin, will never surely be allowed by any judicious enquirer. Had nature made no such distinction, founded on the original constitution of the mind, the words honourable and shameful, lovely and odious, noble and despicable, had never had place in any language; nor could politicians, had they invented these terms, ever have been able to render them intelligible, or make them convey any idea to the audience. So that nothing can be more superficial than this paradox of the sceptics; and it were well, if, in the abstruser studies of logic and metaphysics, we could as easily obviate the cavils of that sect, as in the practical and more intelligible sciences of politics and morals.

The social virtues must, therefore, be allowed to have a natural beauty and amiableness, which, at first, antecedent to all precept or education, recommends them to the esteem of uninstructed mankind, and engages their affections. And as the public utility of these virtues is the chief circumstance whence they derive their merit, it follows, that the end, which they have a tendency to promote, must be some way agreeable to us, and take hold of some natural affection. It must please, either from considerations of self-interest, or from more generous motives and regards.

Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Section V, Part I.

Queen of Country

Kitty Wells died on July 16 at the age of 92. She's being described in some places as the first female country superstar, which is not true, but it is true that Wells was the first female musician to have a number 1 hit on Billboard's country music list, with this, which is probably her best known song:

It was an answer song to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life", using the same basic folk melody with variations. The answer was wildly popular, knocking the very popular "The Wild Side of Life" out of its No.1 spot and becoming even more widely known, which is notable since NBC radio banned it, and she was often not allowed to sing it because it was thought too suggestive.

I think this, "Paper Mansions," is one of her best ones, though:

Will Your Lawyer Talk to God is a pretty good one, too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Song of a Secret Bird

A Ballad of Dreamland
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

I hid my heart in a nest of roses,
Out of the sun's way, hidden apart;
In a softer bed than the soft white snow's is,
Under the roses I hid my heart.
Why would it sleep not? why should it start,
When never a leaf of the rose-tree stirred?
What made sleep flutter his wings and part?
Only the song of a secret bird.

Lie still, I said, for the wind's wing closes,
And mild leaves muffle the keen sun's dart;
Lie still, for the wind on the warm sea dozes,
And the wind is unquieter yet than thou art.
Does a thought in thee still as a thorn's wound smart?
Does the fang still fret thee of hope deferred?
What bids the lids of thy sleep dispart?
Only the song of a secret bird.

The green land's name that a charm encloses,
It never was writ in the traveller's chart,
And sweet on its trees as the fruit that grows is,
It never was sold in the merchant's mart.
The swallows of dreams through its dim fields dart,
And sleep's are the tunes in its tree-tops heard;
No hound's note wakens the wildwood hart,
Only the song of a secret bird.

In the world of dreams I have chosen my part,
To sleep for a season and hear no word
Of true love's truth or of light love's art,
Only the song of a secret bird.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Three Poem Re-Drafts


I sat upon the wayside, lost in thought
of longest years and great ideas and loves,
of hopes and hearts in darkness caught,
of mighty topics handled with kid gloves
by men who never think save on their meals,
by minds that know no truths but only feel,
who never have the paths of Wisdom sought.

Through all my many days of glowering cloud --
the days are many, though the years be few --
of this I was most often proud,
that I knew and saw more than others do;
but minds are mirrors wavy and unwise,
prone to malice, mischievous with lies.
When I see the world, why trust my sight as true?

Or perhaps it is, but in a subtle way;
for many are the threads that God can spin
upon the loom of life, and in bright day
one pure white refracts through many men,
yet never less the white will play on face
of crystal planes, before it turns to race
to dazzle mind and eye with plural ray.

A rabbit stole the sun; it, fearless, rose
and snatched a piece away, a shattered shard
that broke into the stars that nightly glow.
Perhaps a god inspired the lonely bard
who told that tale, that we might come to see
that rays of light refract through you and me
to be caught again by none but pure of heart.

For truth, they say, is simple, one, and whole;
it stays as it ever stays, unbroken and most pure.
When the titan for our sake the glory stole,
it shattered, for only God could this endure
to wear as gem and dress; as flint on steel,
the sparks flew out to set our minds to reel,
the fire of the Logos lodged in earthen souls.

Yet as I sit upon the wayside here and think,
the fire always flickers; for what am I,
presuming from that Hippocrene to drink
which lacks its full effect until we die,
but a thief within the garden, stealing pears,
and plucking those great things as none should dare;
and what is this but an all-engulfing pride?

And yet--and yet the flame still mounts on high.
What the titan has unlocked none can return;
none who speak it can undo that question, "Why?"
And as the pitch once flamed must henceforth burn,
so must I, now heated, lit, and god-inspired,
be self-taught; for learning is desire
from the One. To the One it must return.

Protreptic for Prothalamion

Trip the tongue on love, keep the time;
bear up your broken soul, and bear in mind
that every poem passes, but when it's passed
the spirit's light remains, for love will last.
Love is legend's match; it lies in wait
for worthy men and wise with hearts of faith
who drink the deepest cup with droughts that sate
and yet create a thirst that grows more great.
So bring your bright-lit joys and ring the bells;
let will be wed to love, which makes all well.

Already Sorry

Sun shines high in bluebird sky,
grass springs up at our feet;
your hair like gold streams in the cold,
like your lips, so honey-sweet,
and your eyes so startling blue
that I'm already sorry for loving you.

Your words in my ears banish all fears,
rejoicing resurges inside
with force and ache no man can take,
as heart bursts open with pride
at a world so painfully new
that I'm already sorry for loving you.

Gilpin on the Picturesque II: Picturesque Travel

Gilpin's theory of the picturesque is not merely confined to a discussion of the concept of picturesque. That account, according to Gilpin in the Three Essays, is a matter of "assigning causes" (TE 41); Gilpin's major concern with it is simply to establish the basic idea of the picturesque and note the difficulty of pinning down the picturesque, as principle, with precision. In some ways the most important and influential part of his theory of the picturesque lies in what Gilpin calls "searching after effects" and the particular method he espouses for it, namely, picturesque travel, which Gilpin puts forward as a way to make travel itself a rational occupation. And what is picturesque travel? As he puts it in his Observations on the River Wye, it is "examining the face of a country by the rules of picturesque beauty; opening the sources of those pleasures which are derived from the comparison" (ORW 1).

The object of picturesque travel is, according to Gilpin, the discovery of every sort of beauty, whether of art or of nature, that can be found in the world, but chiefly, of course, the picturesque:

This great object we pursue through the scenery of nature. We seek it among all the ingredients of landscape---trees---rocks---broken grounds---woods---rivers---lakes---plains---vallies---mountains---and distances. These objects in themselves produce infinite variety. No two rocks, or trees are exactly the same. They are varied, a second time, by combination; and almost as much, a third time, by different lights, and shades, and other aerial effects. Sometimes we find among them an exhibition of a whole; but oftener we find only beautiful parts. (TE 41)

There is more here than might immediately meet the eye, and, in fact, it is notable that several of Gilpin's Observations on various parts of Britain tend to break down their analyses of different landscapes in more or less this way. The characteristic note of the picturesque, distinguishing it from other kinds of beauty, is roughness or, as we might call it, differentiation. Here we see the landscape analyzed in terms of layers of differentiation: first, there is the differentiation we find between individual "ingredients of landscape"; second, there is the differentiation of how these individual ingredients are situated with respect to each other; third, there is the differentiation cause by light and other effects that change how the individual ingredients appear. Gilpin goes on to warn that the picturesque is not primarily found in the curious or peculiar, but in the most usual forms of nature, because the picturesque is not synonymous with what we might call 'striking at first glance'; rather, the quality of the picturesque that grabs the eye is something enduring, something that continues to attract the eye. It's not, in other words, mere differentiation, but differentiation attractive in itself. He insists on this, I think, because the picturesque is a kind of beauty in the broad sense, and beauty in the broad sense is not found in mere variety, but in a variety unified. It is the unity of differentiations, the harmony of different kinds of roughness, that makes the picturesque scene.

Having identified the object of picturesque travel, Gilpin identifies the the things that make picturesque travel a form of rational enjoyment. He notes that some people could be led by the picturesque to contemplate the higher beauties of divinity and virtue, but that this is not really intrinsic to the way picturesque travel is structured. He does insist, however, that picturesque travel does have something of a moral tendency insofar as it involves a rational enjoyment, and thus provides an alternative to activities that are devoted to frivolous pleasures. The elements of picturesque travel that allow for this structure of rational enjoyment are:

(1) The pursuit of the picturesque. The picturesque traveller faces the landscape adventurously; it is a source of unlimited new varieties. We saw this above with the paassage on the object of the travel: there are endless varieties and combinations of varieties capable of being picturesque. Thus picturesque travel involves a form of agreeable suspense, or as we would say, openness; as the hunter faces the world that carries the possibility of game at every corner, so the picturesque traveller faces a world that carries the possibility of picturesque scene at every step.

(2a) The attainment of the picturesque. When we find a picturesque scene, it doesn't merely strike the mind. The picturesque traveller will identify the ingredients of the landscape, the subtle differentiations that make it picturesque. This is actually the reason for the mention of parts and wholes in the above passage. Sometimes on discovering something picturesque we admire the composition, the overall lighting and shading; this is to contemplate it under the idea of the whole, or in a comprehensive view. More often we simply look at specific ingredients, capable of participating in such a whole even if they do not, in which case we look at what makes these ingredients picturesque, what is missing from the whole, how the defect of the overall composition could be remedied, and so forth. We also look at how it compares with other things, such as works of art, great paintings, and other natural scenes. Thus a great part of picturesque travel is analysis, but it is not a mere analysis of the scenery; rather, it is an analysis of the scenery in light of the notion of the picturesque, "by the rules of picturesque beauty," and uses the concepts and methods of the painter, sketch artist, and like, to engage actively with the scene. A scene in which we find the picturesque only partially is as much a matter for the mind to analyze as a scene in which we find it fully. Where we find the picturesque in full, we examine it; where we find the picturesque only in part, we complete it. That is to say, the analysis involved in picturesque travel is not merely a factual analysis, devoted to what we find; it is also a counterfactual analysis, devoted to what could have been. And in both respects it is not merely reductive, breaking the scene or ingredient down to its elements, but also comparative, juxtaposing it with other scenes or ingredients.

(2b) The highest pleasure of picturesque travel derives not from analysis, however, but from the overwhelming scene. Sometimes, even if a scene fails to be a perfect example of the picturesque, it nonetheless rises before us and drives thought away. Our mind is blown open, so to speak, by an enthusiasm; the scene is, as we say, lovely beyond words, and the natural response here is not analysis but simply to be impressed. One of hte distinctions Gilpin will make between nature and artists as sources of the picturesque, is that nature in some ways exceeds what any artist can do. The apparent defects of natural picturesque may well be due simply to the fact that natural picturesque is on a scale exceeding anything a painter could ever accomplish; and the sheer variety of picturesque found in nature is beyond the capacity of any artist to imitate. As Gilpin notes, every artist is in some ways forced to be a mannerist: "Each has his particular mode of forming particular objects" (ORW 34-35). But nature forms particular objects in every way, shape, and form imaginable. Thus there is always a capacity for richness of picturesque in nature that goes beyond human capability.

(3) The enlargement and correction our experience. Picturesque travel is not merely an occasion for thought, it is a learning experience. We discover new ways the world can be, and as a result we can become in a sense "more learned in nature" (TE 50), getting, as we say, a better feel for how the natural world works. Although Gilpin doesn't develop this point in his essay on picturesque travel, this connects his theory of the picturesque with the more general theories of taste that were common in the period. One of the major concerns of such theories was how to cultivate good taste, and they almost all agree on the importance of a wide and varied experience, which we can then use to be fine discriminations and coherent judgments.

This is also related to Gilpin's notion of seeing the natural world correctly. As he notes elsewhere, "A country should be seen often to be seen correctly; it should be seen also in various seasons; different circumstances make such changes in the same landscape as give it wholly a new aspect" (ORW vii-viii). As noted above, every artist is forced by human limitation to be a mannerist to some extent, but to the extent that an artist has a familiarity with the richness of nature, we find that the artist is able to rise above it, or at least make it so that it is not a defect.

(4a) The representation of the picturesque. A secondary pleasure arises from recollecting and recording, or, I suppose, recording and recollecting, the picturesque that we have discovered, by sketching the landscapes we have seen. This is another way in which picturesque travel is distinguished by its active character from merely riding around and admiring the view.

(4b) A related pleasure arises from using our experience of the picturesque to create "scenes of fancy" (TE 52), by which we select with good taste the features of the picturesque we have known and compose them in an act of creation.

It is important, I think, to emphasize the fact that 'picturesque travel' is not merely travel that happens to involve some appreciation of natural beauties. Rather, the whole character of it is devoted to the discovery, appreciation, and recording of the picturesque. It is not mere sight-seeing, it is in a sense a philosophical method for the study of the picturesque, a kind of aesthetic expedition to be the aesthetic counterpart for the scientific expeditions of the natural historian. And it is perhaps this, more than anything else, that caught the imagination of Gilpin's contemporaries. Gilpin's accounts of his own picturesque travels were widely read and used as guidebooks, as people began to engage in their own picturesque travels, and it is this fashion for picturesque travel that led Gilpin's theory of the picturesque to have the influence it did.

We have not completely covered Gilpin's theory of the picturesque, however, because, as we can see from the last source of enjoyment in picturesque travel, a great part of Gilpin's approach to the picturesque is devoted to recording the picturesque. This occurs in two forms, written observations on the scene, and landscape sketching. We will look at those in the next post in the series.

Feeling One's Own Excellence

It is therefore a reproach as unwise as unjust, voiced by shallow minds against great men who work with laborious diligence at the sciences, when they ask: What is that good for? If one wants to apply oneself to science, this question must never be raised. Supposing a science could make disclosures only about some possible object; it would be, for that reason, already useful enough. Every logically perfect cognition has always some possible use which, although as yet unknown to us, may perhaps be found by posterity. If in the cultivation of sciences one had always looked for material gain or their usefulness, we should have no arithmetic or geometry. Moreover, our understanding is so organized that it finds satisfaction in mere insight, even more than in the utility arising from it. Plato had already observed this. Man herein feels his own excellence, he sees what it means to have understanding.

Immanuel Kant, Logic, Hartman & Schwarz, trs; Dover [New York: 1974] p. 47. The basic argument is certainly right. On the other hand, the division of the practical and speculative suggested by some of the stronger phrases here is rather sharper than is plausible.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book a Week, July 15

Chris recommended reading Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary after Stendhal's The Red and the Black, since that would allow something of a compare-and-contrast. And while I've read Madame Bovary, it has been quite a long time -- over a decade -- and it is sitting on my shelf. The particular version I have is a beat-up Critical Norton edition, using Paul de Man's revision of Eleanor Marx Aveling's translation. Paul de Man was a friend of a Derrida and a deconstructionist who, as it happened, was a nasty piece of work who became lionized in certain literary circles. (Paul de Man wrote for a collaborationist newspaper in Nazi-occupied Belgium, later lied profusely about this period of his life, absconded from various failed monetary ventures, and may have been a bigamist.) Eleanor Marx, often also known as Eleanor Marx Aveling, was the youngest daughter of Karl Marx, and both a socialist activist and accomplished literary translator. She had an extended affair with Edward Aveling, an atheist and socialist; Aveling, however, secretly married another woman, but when he came down with a kidney disease, returned to Eleanor. When Eleanor found out about the secret marriage, she committed suicide. This led to such anger against Aveling that when he died four months later very few people even attended his funderal.

The air of scandal attaching to the translation perhaps fits well with the book, which owed its own original popularity to scandal. Written over a period of five years, it was then serialized in La Revue de Paris starting in 1856. The editor cut out one particular scene, the carriage ride in Book III; but as Flaubert pointed out at the time, the book was not really less shocking without it. And the magazine in question was already being closely scrutinized by the government. The prosecutor, Ernest Pinard, brought charges of offending public morality and offending religious morality against Flaubert. The defense lawyer, Senard, doesn't seem to have done a very good job at defense, but he did get an acquittal. When the book was published in book form, then, it had an eager audience. When writing the book Flaubert said at one point that he would, if he could, write a book about nothing, holding together by nothing but style. This would be hard to do under the best circumstances; but Flaubert was a perfectionist, sometimes spending days on a single page, scrupulously eliminating anything suggestive of an author's voice. But, as Baudelaire once said of the book, every great work of art must be accomplished as an impossible task.

My very first introduction to Madame Bovary was, somewhat ironically, through the Home Improvement television episode "Her Cheatin' Mind", which at least had the merit of making me interested enough to read the book. I remember enjoying it, but don't remember details, so it's about time to dust it off.

St. John Fidanza

Today is the feast of St. Giovanni di Fidanza (although, of course, liturgically it is superceded by Sunday), but we never call him that. Instead we call him St. Lucky. According to legend, when he was a baby, he was rather sickly, so his parents took him to see St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis took him in his arms and exclaimed, "O buona ventura!" And that is the name that stuck: Good Fortune. The legend is late and apocryphal. We actually don't know why he had the name Bonaventura, but he himself did claim that he had been saved from a deathly illness by the prayers of St. Francis, which is why he went into the Franciscan Order. He eventually became head of the Order at one of its most difficult times, and died at the Council of Lyons. According to legend he was poisoned, but that, too, is a late and apocryphal tale. The beginning and end of Bonaventure's life are lost in legend, I suppose.

Here is a peculiar passage in which we find Bonaventure telling a joke about bishops (to make a serious point, of course):

The King of Anglia asked a certain bishop what the two horns on his mitre signified. He responded, and well, that they signified the Two Testaments, which bishops ought to know. "And what do those two hanging things (pendicula), which hang behind the back, signify?" He responded that they signified ignorance of both, 'because we know neither one nor the other, but throw both behind the back.'" And in this he spoke badly.

[Bonaventure, Collationes de Septem Donis Spiritus Sancti, Collatio IV de dono scientiae, 17.]