Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rosy Fingered Dawn

Looking out the window about 9:30 this morning my thoughts went back to a college classroom where Professor Pasinetti* lectured us in Humanities at UCLA. He recited in whatever language was appropriate - Latin, Italian, Greek, English - and he recited it so beautifully, that I was transported, even when I couldn't understand a word.  (Most of the time he lectured in English)  It was in that class that I read some of the greatest books ever written, including the Odyssey.

And as I looked out at the fleecy pink clouds, the words "Rosy fingered dawn" immediately came to mind. So here's a bit of Homer - from Chapter IX - where he's plotting how to deal with Cyclops.

"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them for his morning's meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted, and cried 'Shoo, shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and covering myself with glory.

"In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens; it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he was asleep. The lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:

"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you treat them in this way?'
You can read it all at classics.mit.  I don't have any cyclops to battle today, but I do have some things to do. 

*This is for college students.  I googled Prof. Pasinetti to make sure I spelled his name right and found a whole Wikipedia page on him.  I really had no idea (until now) who he was when I was his student - I was a freshman.  I knew he was a fantastic lecturer, but I had no idea about who he was beyond that lecture hall.  So, check out your professors.  Know who they are.  And go talk to them about their lives and yours.  Get the most out of your education.

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