Monday, 7 July 2008

Loebs and Penguins

While having a tidy up the other day, I found the following quotations about well-know sets of translations.

The Loeb Library, with its Greek or Latin on one side of the page and its
English on the other, came as a gift of freedom... The existence of the amateur
was recognised by the publication of this Library, and to a great extent made
respectable... The difficulty of Greek is not sufficiently dwelt upon,
chiefly perhaps because the sirens who lure us to these perilous waters are
generally scholars [who] have forgotten... what those difficulties are. But for
the ordinary amateur they are very real and very great; and we shall do
well to recognise the fact and to make up our minds that we shall never be
independent of our Loeb.
-- Virginia Woolf, TLS 1917

Two comments need to be made here. First, I hope that I will never be likened to a siren in any other way. Second, several who should be recognised as "ladies and scholars" are known to have a Loeb with them at all times.

Next, the story is told of a schoolmaster, who, when confronted by the line non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites [Vergil, Eclogue 3.108], which he regarded as "tricky", asked one of his pupils, "What does the Penguin say?"
The wag replied, "Sir, it says, 'Quack, quack', sir!'"

History is silent about what became of this boy.

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