Re: CHAT High thoughts, anyone? Yes, Sir !
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, April 30, 2004, 20:24|
On Friday, April 30, 2004, at 11:08 AM, Philippe Caquant wrote:
Yep - from an English verse translation by a Mr Rogers IIRC (can't
remember his first name or initials).
> Got it !
> If you look for "mighty thoughts" in the .pdf file,
> you'll come onto:
> Alas poor witling, and can't you see
> That for mighty thoughts and heroic aims
> the words themselves must appropriate be ?"
> which is not really far from the formulation I found
> in Oracle documentation.
Perhaps - but the Oracle version is clearly a paraphrase and not a
translation. But I'm not entirely happy the verse translation either, as
you will see below.
> Of course, we should now find the original Greek text.
Thanks to your clue I have tracked it down :-)
I discovered the Perseus Tufts site which gives Greek texts with notes and
English translation. Their translation is by Matthew Dillon and is more
literal than Rogers' verse translation. It is:
"It is the compelling power of great thoughts and ideas to engender
phrases of equal size."
It's from lines 1058 & 1059 of the Frogs:
μεγάλων γνωμών καί διανοιών ίσα καί ρήματα τίκτειν.
I'm afraid my mailer will only allow the monotonic modern notation!
For those whose mailers will mangle the Greek, the (roughly) phonemic
megalo:n gno:mo:n kai dianoio:n isa kai re:mata tiktein.
ananke: - nominative singular of feminine noun 'ananke:' = necesiity,
force [of nature], natural need
megalo:n - genitive plural feminine of adjective 'megas' = great [in
approximately all senses of the English word]
gno:mo:n - genitive plural of feminine noun 'gno:me:' = thought, judgment,
kai - conjunction = and
diaboio:n - genitive plural of feminine noun 'dianoia' = thought,
isa - accusative plural neuter of the adjective 'isos' = equal
kai - adverb = also
re:mata - accusative plural of the neuter noun 're:ma' = word
tiktein - present active infinitive of verb = 'to engender, to bring to
life, to bear, to beget
(IMHO both the Rogers' translation & the Oracle paraphrase are the poorer
for neglecting the last metaphor)
Undoubtedly, the observant will have noticed that the sentence has no verb!
The copula is "understood" - not uncommon in ancient Greek. I translate
it very literally thus:
'tis natural need of great opinions and thoughts to give birth to words of
As Philippe rightly says, the words are put into the mouth of Aeschylus
(Aiskhylos), a writer of tragedies who was fond of highflown and abstruse
grandiloquence. It comes as part of an exchange in a supposed debate
between the tragedians Euripedes and Aeschylus. Aristophanes is
caricaturing both of them! The words Aristophanes puts into Aeschylus'
mouth are meant to get a laugh - they're meant to sound exaggerated &
I wonder whether, if Oracle had a more correct translation & realized the
context, it would have quoted Aristophanes, Frogs 1058 - 1059.
As for: "High thoughts must have high language"
- it's clearly not a translation, but a paraphrase and IMHO not a
particularly good one.
So the answer to Mark's question is easy:
"I wonder how Aristophanes proposed to measure the height of language.
Much less the height of thoughts..."
Quite simply, he didn't propose to measure the heights of language or
thoughts and he didn't say anything about their heights. He did, it's true
have a character he was caricaturing talk about the size of thoughts &
opinions as well as words (you can easily measure the size of words); but
that is a very different matter.