Dried Roses

Sunday cat pix

LG on a rare excursion outdoors.

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LinkJanuary 1, 2007 in Cats

Sunday cat pix

Under wraps. Bubble, that is.

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LinkJanuary 7, 2007 in Cats

Sunday cat pix

Divine right.

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LinkJanuary 14, 2007 in Cats

Sunday cat pix

Sleeping with Arsène Houssaye’s Confessions.

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LinkJanuary 23, 2007 in Cats

Ad usum delphinorum

On the historical dimension of language: The following was originally a comment on a post by John Holbo at Crooked Timber (or rather two posts, because the one I commented on referred to an earlier post at the Valve). In that post Holbo cites a passage from Nietzsche:
I mean that philology presupposes a noble faith – that for the sake of a very few human beings, who always “will come” but are never there, a very large amount of fastiduous and even dirty work needs to be done first: all of it is work in usum Delphinorum” (Gay Science, §102).
Here’s my comment, lightly edited:
The Dauphin was the eldest son of the king of France, so-called after the province of the Dauphiné, formerly an independent country, sold to the King of France in 1349. From that time on it was given to the heir to the throne as part of his inheritance. The Dauphin’s arms include a pair of dolphins, taken over from the arms of Guigues IV, comte d’Albon. Why Albon’s arms included a dolphin I don’t know.
Delphinus (from Greek δελφις, root δελφιν-, ‘dolphin’) is just the Latin translation of Dauphin. Delphinorum is the genitive plural: “of the dolphins”, i.e. the princes—the Dauphin himself and his brothers, who were always taught privately and for whom textbooks were written by their preceptors (e.g. Bossuet; Condillac wrote one for the Prince of Parma). Ad usum delphinorum subsequently became a catch phrase meaning “for beginners”.
In the passage from Nietzsche, who is alluding to the Princes who were the original delphini, the sense of the phrase is that textual criticism, collation of manuscripts, etc.—the “dirty work” of philology—is done for the sake of future geniuses who will benefit from trustworthy, well-annotated versions of old texts. If you have a good library nearby, take a look at Heyne’s edition of Virgil’s Æneid. On the first page of the poem, you will see, if I remember rightly, one line of verse. The rest is commentary. Now that’s philology. But if you want to understand Virgil, you had better have some such commentary on hand. The same goes for Nietzsche. Common sense or “intuition” is likely to mislead.
Nietzsche’s claim may be no more than a jibe at his old profession. If he meant more by it than that, I don’t think it can stand. The hope, faint or bright, of scholars that their works will be useful to the princes of the future is no doubt one motive for writing them. But in a less crass age, such work would be regarded as intrinsically valuable. The writing of it is satisfying in the same way that making well-crafted verse or music is satisfying. Utility is an afterthought, a byproduct.

LinkJanuary 27, 2007 in Language · Literature

Sunday cat pix

Today we have three pix, to make up for a shortfall—excuse me, a sufficiency that hasn’t happened yet—last week. First up: soft bed, sleep and sun. I know humans are supposed to have immortal souls & all that, but cats can enter heaven here & now.

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LinkJanuary 27, 2007 in Cats

Wednesday garden pix

The garden moves indoors: Calendula blooming in the kitchen window.

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LinkJanuary 31, 2007 in Garden