Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anatomy of Melancholy VII

I realize I only just started working on this series last August 11th, and I only have 5 pages of notes left on it, so it is not like there should be any hurry in writing everything down. However there has not been a literary or 17th century entry in a while, the tone of occasional minor seriousness that I aspire to has been flagging, and I do not know of any other way to impart it. So it is back to Burton.

On exercise and recreation: "...he is nobody that in the season hath not a hawk on his fist." If only Twitter were really like this.

"William the Conqueror, in his younger years, playing at chess with the Prince of France (Dauphine' was not annexed to that crown in those days), losing a mate, knocked the chess-board about his pate, which was a cause afterward of much enmity between them."

"Yet 'if', as Socrates said, 'all men in the world should come and bring their grievances together, of body, mind, fortune, sores, ulcers, madness, epilepsies, agues, and all those common calamities of beggary, want, servitude, imprisonment, and lay them on a heap to be equally divided, wouldst thou share alike, and take thy portion? or be as thou art?'" I suppose this is a good point, though it reminds me of the question of why in the world I had any children, let alone five, though of course I don't expect them to have their proper share of these human calamities, even though I am supposed to have a somewhat sober and philosophical education. I can't find the origin of this supposed Socratic quotation in ancient literature, and Burton himself did not reveal it. An internet search only brings up the passage in Burton for at least five pages. I was not prepared to dig any deeper than that, as the major literature concerning Socrates is well known enough that if it were there it should have been easily found.

"Some philosophers and divines have evirated themselves, and put out their eyes voluntarily, the better to contemplate." He does not specify who these philosophers who blinded themselves intentionally were. He references Homer and Democritus as blind men who saw more accurately than all who had sight, but they are cited as a lead-in to the introduction of this more demonstrative group rather than as making some part of their number.

Machiavelli quote: "...'tis a wonderful thing...to him that shall consider of it, that all those, or the greatest part of them, that have done the bravest exploits here upon earth, and excelled the rest of the nobles of their time, have been still born in some abject, obscure place, or of base and obscure abject parents."  This does not mean there is still hope for most people of course.

"What care I of what stuff my excrements be made? (Hieronym)" This is one way of looking at social anxiety.

"...Babylon, the greatest city that ever the sun shone on, hath now nothing but walls and rubbish left." A rare superlative from our author.

"...'tis but a folly to love thy fetters, though they be of gold." This is on marriage, I assume as it pertains to men. Of course there is something in it, although if one is prone to be unhappy, there is occasion for being so in almost everything, so that in itself is probably no reason to forego those chains. He followed up this with a "why be sad when your son dies?" bit, that I thought he might reverse his position on a few pages later, though I don't seem to have noted that he did so.

"But I will urge these cavilling and contumelious arguments no farther, lest some physician should mistake me,  and deny me physic when I am sick: for my part, I am well persuaded of physic..." This is one of his more rapid backtracks.

"Nicholas Leonicus hath a story of Solon, that, besieging I know not what city, steeped hellebore in a spring of water, which by pipes was conveyed into the middle of the town, and so either poisoned, or else made them so feeble and weak by purging, that they were not able to bear arms."

Numerous examples of given of men who bored holes through their skulls in order to exhale bad vapors. I may try it.

"...as Hierome bears me witness: 'A far greater part had rather read Apuleius than Plato.' Tully himself confesseth he could not understand Plato's Timaeus..." One suspects the level of legitimate artistic comprehension across all forms is microscopic. For science it is even worse. Life is a ridiculous sort of charade in most instances. All the smart people know that already I suppose.

"I speak it only to tax and deter others from it, not to teach, but to show the vanities and fopperies of this heroical or herculean love," and to "apply remedies unto it". It is proper.

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