Thursday, January 12, 2012

Even a Little Learning…

Even a little learning teaches that human nature is always in trouble. Drinking deeper confirms it. A good example comes in today’s post on Laudator Temporis Acti (link); it is delightfully titled—but it could’ve been titled “So What Else Has Changed.”

Some stray thoughts that rose, reading that. Note the language. Rose. Not progressed. In our times, though ever more hesitantly, we believe in progress. That belief contradicts what plainly lies in front of us. Progress is either personal, creative or it’s just as vanishing as everything else. Ocean waves don’t progress, they just rise and fall; tides ebb or flow.

Those with little learning, like me, don’t know where the Pierian spring is located. Irritated, I looked it up. Turns out that a portion of Greek Thessaly was called Pieria (link). In that region is Mount Pierus. The Greeks though that the Muses lived there. Being a mount it had at least one spring.

The phrases comes from Alexander Pope poem, An Essay on Criticism. Scholars have traced it back to Petronius’ Satyricon. Here is the verse in J.M. Mitchell’s translation.

I LOSE MY WAY
But whether he’s nursed ‘neath the fortress grim of the armed Tritonian maid,
Or a Spartan settlement nurtured him, or the home where the Sirens played;
His boyhood’s years he must give to song, and quaff the Maeonian spring
With a generous heart; he must hurry along, just giving his steeds their fling,
With Socrates’ pupils, and unafraid, he must learn from Demosthenes
To wield the orator’s giant blade; and — when he has learned all these —
Then let the poets of Roman race throng round, and, their old Greek dress
But lately shed, in native grace, lend him their own loveliness.
Let the page have done with the dusty Court, let Fortune go her own way;
Let the theme be banquets and fields hard fought, told bravely in warrior lay;
Let Cicero’s thunders try thy soul; be these thy strengthening.
So in full flood high thoughts shall swell from the true Pierian spring.

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