понеделник, 3 септември 2012 г.

Димитър Бояджиев / Dimitar Boyadjiev

Димитър Бояджиев (03.09.1949 – 08.07.2005) е изтъкнат изследовател на древността и преподавател по латински, латинска и гръцка историческа граматика, народен латински, сравнително романско езикознание и палеобалкански езици. Освен изключителен учен и човек с уникална душевност, той е автор на блестящи преводи от старогръцки и латински, на петрониевия „Сатирикон” и на „Апология” и„Антология” от Апулей, както и на собствена лирика.
Dimitar Boyadjiev (03.09.1949 08.07.2005) is a renowned researcher of the antiquity and a lecturer of Latin, Latin and Greek historical grammar, people's Latin, comparative Roman language studies, and paleo-Balkan languages. Apart from being an exceptional scientist and a man of genius, he is the author of brilliant translations from Old Greek and Latin of Satyricon by Petronius, Apology and Anthology by Apuleius, and of poems of his own.

            * * *

Стареят хубавиците, уви...
А някъде сред лунната морава,
щурци просвирват сухите треви
и времето лети, и се смалява.

            * * *

Good-looking ladies age, alas…
While there, over moonlit meadows,
Cicadas chirp through dried up grass,
And time flows past, and fades out.



For years now I have asked myself the question whether knowledge of the humani­ties might or might not be considered as a criterion for intellect and culture. A heart-breaking question.
I often think of an illustrious, long-since deceased Bulgarian writer who (it was an open secret) had no command of any foreign language[1]. When I read his works, I do admire them; but at the same time I keenly feel that this man had no idea of a host of things which, in my opinion, everybody ought to be familiar with. This puzzles me.
Is it true that in the Realm of Spirit education is of no great value and knowledge is irrelevant as to the capacity of an author to wield power over human minds?
Should that be true, I would be obliged to hoist a white flag and surrender, since it would prove the Tightness of all the venomous suggestions that in modern time knowledge of the classical languages and ability to read ancient literary works in their original are superfluous, useless, obsolete.
One evening, short before the presidential elections in the US in 1992, I was meditating again upon all that and  in perfect harmony with my gloomy mood my mind-ear echoed with the well-known poem by the Russian poet Alexander Block whose beginning is:
„Осенний вечер был. Под звук дождя стеклянный
Решал все тот же я — мучительный вопрос,
Когда в мой кабинет, огромный и туманный,
Вошел тот джентльмен! За ним — лохматый пëс ...”
[It happened on an autumn evening. To the monotonous sound of the rain
I tried again to solve the same heart-breaking question,
When that gentleman entered my immense and bleak study.
A shaggy dog followed him...]
To console my wounded soul, I switched the TV on and came across an inter­view with Madonna, a singer whose reputation has suffered not a little on account of scandalous newspaper publications. Nevertheless, Madonna behaved like a re­fined lady, spoke in all earnest and what overwhelmed me to the question of the host what she believed to be the most important thing in life, she responded: “Education!”
And she explained how much she had cherished learning and with what pas­sion she had wished to extend her knowledge.
I was delighted to hear that and I was also flattered by the fact that my views were fully shared by a fascinating young woman. What is more, her candid words wonderfully illuminated my mind and I quickly found the answer to the question if knowledge of humanities might be a criterion for intellect and culture. This answer occupies only a few lines and is to be found at the end of this paper. But to reach the answer I need to develop some ideas that have agitated my mind for a long time. I will also try to give examples illustrating the practical value of Studia humaniōra in everyday life.
All of us know that shortly after World War II Winston Churchill delivered at Fulton a famous speech in which the words iron curtain were pronounced for the first time and which gave the alarm signal of the Cold War. The title of this speech, The Sinews of Peace, is a skillful overturning of the expression “sinews of war” that denotes in English the material, mostly financial, resources necessary for meeting the expenses of war.
Why this expression does denote financial resources, not all of us know.
Sinews of war is a literal translation of nervi belli, a metaphor hammered out by Cicero in his fifth Oratio Philippica against Antonius[2]. Fearing that the Senate might assign to Antonius the government of a province, Cicero warned his col­leagues of the danger such a decision implied with the following words:
“Est enim opinio decretūrum aliquem M. Antonio illam ultimam Galliam quam Plancus obtinet. Quid est aliud omnia ad bcllum civīle hosti arma largīri, primum nervos belli, pecuniam infinītam (italics supplied), qua nunc eget, deinde equita tum quantum velit?
[There is a notion that somebody will propose Outer Gaul, now governed by Plancus, for Marcus Antonius. That would simply be presenting the enemy with all the weapons re­quired for civil war. First, the sinews of war, a limitless supply of money (italics supplied), of which he now stands in need. Then, cavalry, all he wants.[3]]
In the Latin original the phrase pecuniam infinitam is an apposition to nervos belli (which is to be seen also from the translation of D. R. Shackleton Bailey), i.e. a key to the metaphor is given to us in the text itself. And yet sinews of war denotes in English the meaning of both nervos belli and pecuniam infinitam without any in­dication that the latter phrase has ever existed. That is merely because at the epoch when this expression was borrowed into English, educated readers were supposed to recognize right away Cicero’s hand and to recollect no less than automatically the apposition pecuniam infinitam.
We see, therefore, that he who wishes to have an insight into what sinews of war, one of the subtleties of English, means, ought to know Latin prose of the classical period in its original. We see also that only such a person will be able to appreciate the literary brilliance of the title of Churchill's Fulton speech, a speech which has so profoundly marked the history of our own time.
But it is not only history, be it ancient or modern, which I am concerned with. We very often observe right before our eyes all sorts of phenomena, including pat­terns of social behaviour, whose roots and whose innermost sense are deeply cast in the spiritual inheritance of Antiquity.
If you take the bus from Sofia University to the Oncological Clinic and get off at the stop before the Clinic, you could read a quatrain written in oil-paint upon an ugly fencing of corrugated iron. The unknown author has left this quatrain untitled, but, con­sidering the sense of the text as a whole, we might name it “An Epitaph”. I am afraid that the quatrain could possibly hurt decency, but since it is of great importance to my further speculations, I will take the risk of adducing it here. The text runs as follows:
„Две очи, останалото гъз,
лека ти пръст, лека ти
[Two eyes,
The rest is ass.
May the earth fall lightly on you,
May the earth fall lightly on you.]
We have here a spontaneous manifestation of the poetical verve of an unpro­fessional author who assumes an attitude highly provocative towards conventions adopted by society
Nevertheless, the shocking effect is gentle, almost graceful, because the author has cautiously chosen the most neutral formula of leave-taking of the de­parted. Abstaining from mentioning God, he has kept safe from blasphemy. This renders the quatrain up to a point acceptable. But as a matter of fact, the formula may the earth fall lightly on you is not Christian: it is a purely heathen formula equivalent to sit tibi terra levis. And, that is not all: this old formula which we read upon thousands and thousands of Latin funeral inscriptions has not been invented by the Romans. It is attested for the first time as early as 5th century B. C. we find it in Euripides' tragedy Alcestis which was presented, as it seems, in 438 В. C. The chorus, lamenting over the death of the young woman whose body was lying still unburied, uttered the following words:
             “κούφα σοι
χθών έπάνωθε πέσοι, γύναι.
[May the earth fall lightly on you, dear woman.[4]]
I am not sure if our ethnographers have established by which circuitous paths this formula has made its way among Bulgarians. I guess this problem is very com­plicated; I suppose that its solution might be found on the basis of comparative eth­nography of the Balkan peoples. Nevertheless, as a Bulgarian I can firmly tell that in my mother tongue “may the earth fall lightly on you” is a phrase used nowadays only in special cases in which the speaker wants to avoid mentioning God, or aims at originality. It occupies a removed corner in the stock-in-trade of such formulae in Bulgarian; the thread which starts from it runs back in time to reach straight to Classical Greece. A thread visible to people of knowledge.
It is interesting to note that socially, people of knowledge in general (and people who know the classical languages in particular) do not always enjoy the re­spect they deserve. As compensation, they sometimes play innocent tricks on their fellows. So did Wilhelm Hauff in his tale “The Caliph Stork”.
Let us remember the plot of this story.
An evil sorcerer disguised himself like a peddler and sold to the Caliph of Bagh­dad and his Grand Vizier a small box filled with magic powder. If one sniffed in that powder and uttered the mysterious word mutābor, he would turn into whatever beast or bird he wished; should he wish to regain his human features, he had to sniff in the box again and to utter the same word. But there was a dangerous clause in the bargain the metamorphosed was not allowed to laugh. If he violated this rule, he would forget the magic word and remain forever in the shape of the creature he had turned into.
The Caliph and his Vizier decided to try first of all the life of storks. They amused themselves greatly, but as ill luck would have it – once they saw so comic a scene that they could not refrain from laughing.
The word immediately disappeared from their minds.
After many vicissitudes of fortune, they managed to discover the haunt of the sorcerers and eavesdropped on their conversation. The same sorcerer who had dis­guised himself to sell the box told the whole story to his colleagues and mentioned also the word the Caliph and his Vizier had forgotten. Thus they retrieved at last their human form.
Here is the most important part of the conversation between the sorcerers[5]:
“Er erzalte unter andern auch die Geschichte des Kalifen und seines Wesirs.
‘Was fur ein Wort hast du ihnen denn aufgegeben?’ fragte ihn ein anderer Zauberer. ‘Ein recht schweres lateinisches, es heißt mutābor’.
[He (one of the sorcerers) told among other things the story of the Caliph and his Vizier. ‘Well, what sort of word have you thought out for them?’ another sorcerer asked.
‘A very difficult Latin word mutābor.’]
What the evil sorcerer calls “a very difficult Latin word” is no more than a con­jugated verbal form in the passive voice of the future tense. For those who have mas­tered the paradigm of the first conjugation there is neither secret nor mystery in it.
The form means “I shall be changed”, but it has been left without translation in the text of the story. So the author has ciphered a little bit of his message, render­ing it intelligible only to people who know Latin[6].
By the way, since I am comparing knowledge with ignorance, it seems perti­nent to emphasize a very important detail. Knowledge, even if it be immense, is of no use by itself. One must retrace connections, that is to say, one must avail oneself of knowledge.
I am saying this only to prevent misunderstanding.
And now I am going to show what capability to retrace connections could achieve when it is armed with knowledge. To this effect, I will adduce examples extracted from the works of Alexander Block. I wish first to express my admiration for the penetrating characteristic Block gave to the melody of Latin. This charac­teristic was enunciated by means of poetry, i.e. it was not based on previous analy­sis, but only on the personal impressions of the author.
We find it in the poem Ravenna which belongs to the cycle Poems of Italy. The text runs as follows:[7]
„А виноградные пустыни,
Дома и люди – всë гроба.
Лишь медь торжественной латыни
Поет на плитах, как труба.”
[The vine-yard deserts,
The houses and the men all is now a cemetery.
Nothing remains but the brass sound of solemn Latin
That blares forth like a horn from the gravestones.]
In the original Russian lines Nothing remains but the brass sound of solemn Latin / That blares forth like a horn from the gravestones I overhear the thunder like hexameter of Virgil as well as the metallic clang of Tacitus’ prose. It is evident that Latin speech with its capriciously dancing accent, determined by the alteration of long and short vowels, sings in the consciousness of the poet.
The quatrain suggests that the original impulse to write the poem should have been a visit Block made to Ravenna. One feels inclined to imagine the poet sauntering along the streets of the town, wandering in its environs, peering at the ancient inscriptions and finally writing down the text. In fact, this is not quite so.
Block has left us with an unfinished writing in the genre of travel notes whose title is Lightnings of Art (and whose subtitle is “Impressions of Italy”). He started writing it in 1909 during his journey through Italy; he seems to have intended to make a booklet out of it. One of the sections of this writing is entitled The Silent Witness. The title hints at the relief figures upon the sarcophagi in the tomb of the Volumnii which is some kilometers away from Perugia. In this section we find two passages correlative with the poem Ravenna. In the very beginning, before describ­ing Perugia and the tomb of the Volumnii, Block writes as follows:[8]
„Жить в итальянской провинции невозможно потому, что там нет живого, потому, что весь воздух как бы выпит мертвыми и, по праву, принадлежит им. Випоградные пустыни (italics supplied), из которых кое-где смотрят белые глаза магнолий; на площадях – зной и стрекочущие коротконогис подобия бывших людей.”
[It is impossible to live in an Italian province. There is no life left there, because all the air is as though drank up by the dead and belongs to them by right. You see vine-yard deserts (italics supplied) dotted here and there with white-eyed magnolias; the sun-heated squares are trodden by short-legged makeshifts of former men.]
From the above passage we may infer that in the visual memory of the poet the typical landscape designed by the words vine-yard deserts is not solely associated with the environs of Ravenna.
A little further Block writes[9]:
„... жизнь Перуджии умерла, новой не будет, а старая поет как труба (italics sup­plied), голосами зверей на порталах, на гербах, а главное – голосами далеких предков, живущих своею жизнью – под землей.”
[... life is dead in Perugia; there will be no new life, and old life blares forth like a horn (italics supplied) in the voices of animal figures on portals, on fountains, on coats of arms; and most of all in the voices of distant ancestors, unseen witnesses who under the earth live a life of their own.]
In contrast to the poem Ravenna, here the phrase blares forth like a horn bears not only on Latin speech, but 011 the entire polyphony of old Roman life which hypnotized the imagination of the poet.
I do not like stealthily glancing into the kitchen of literary creation; never­theless, it seems to me that the passages adduced from Lightnings of Art are of some help to get closer to the text of Ravenna. Block has seen vine-yard deserts everywhere in Italy, and the key-phrase blares forth like a horn has tantalized him long, till at last he succeeded in putting it in its right place in the poem dedicated to Ravenna. Although the same phrase rang in his head also in Perugia.
I have not made inquiries to find out if Block has read the Latin inscriptions from Ravenna, but what he did in the tomb of the Volumnii near Perugia makes it useless to ask ourselves such a question. There is only one Latin inscription in this tomb - all others are in Etruscan. In the same section of Lightnings of Art, Block has deciphered, translated and commented on this inscription - and this he has done with skill and gusto. It is true that he has committed also an error[10], but similar er­rors are found even in the works of epigraphists, as experienced as Mommsen.
The conduct of Block in front of the Latin inscription in the tomb of the Volumnii allows us to establish two facts which in some measure contradict each other. First, his being able to decipher the inscription indisputably qualifies his schooling in Latin as excellent. Second, although there is a publication of the same inscription, well known and accessible to everybody, a publication printed decen­naries before his visit to the tomb, Block did not bother to consult it to verify the correctness of his own deciphering. Had he done so, he would not have committed the error: so would have done every classical philologist and every professional in whatever field. But Alexander Block did not do so.
I am uncertain about the cause why Block should have disliked classical phi­lologists to the point of hating them. Was it connected with his disgust with the conservative educational system in the Russian Empire? However, the fact remains that Block's opinion of classical philologists was so low that he perhaps omitted on purpose to consult the publication of which I am speaking. I am ready to believe he did so to be different from pedants: he would never have humiliated the ethereal soaring of his spirit by philistine action.
The opinion that Block held of classical philologists is most clearly expressed in his paper Catilina (a Page of the History of World Revolution)[11]. In this paper the poet biliously censures classical philologists and accuses them of foolishness and insensibility.
I agree that among representatives of every profession there are foolish and in­sensible people. But why should it be the most glorious philological discipline that fosters these qualities? Why should it foster them more than, say, the trade of the executioner? To my mind, foolishness and insensibility are immanent to men by na­ture and their presence is determined not professionally, but individually, whereas knowledge given by a reputable profession could not but strengthen intellect and inspire noble sentiments.
Paradoxically, the article Block has written against classical philologists has absolutely refuted the thesis of its author. In this paper Block shows himself to be a very good specialist in the field of Studia humaniora and arrives at a new interpreta­tion of one of the monuments of Roman literature, the poem Attis by Catullus.
It hardly needs explanation that none of the problems that ancient literature propounds could be examined apart from their historical context. Competence in the classical languages and competence in genre peculiarities of the literary monu­ments are both necessary, but insufficient, preconditions for understanding these monuments. They teem with covert and overt allusions to single facts of a com­plicated reality which we ought to plunge in. He, who ignores the historical facts, although he might be able to read the ancient texts, shall never understand them. The discipline which we call Altertumswissenschaft is invisible - we must orient ourselves in all the ramifications of it.
Block did orient himself in these ramifications.
The fresh idea in Block's paper is the connection established between the poem of Catullus and the troubled social atmosphere in Rome at the time of Cati- lina's conspiracy.
The subject-matter itself is a mythological one. Young Attis devoted himself to the Great Goddess Cybele, a Micrasiatic divinity whose cult was savagely cruel, and in a moment of religious ecstasy he crippled himself; but later, when he came to his senses, he bitterly repented of what he had done.
In the beginning Block calls the attention of the reader to the metre used in Attis, the galliambus, which is believed to have been invented by some Alexandrian poet. I will quote the first lines to show how this metre sounds[12]:
“Super álta vectus Áttis celerí rate mariá
Phrygium út nemus citáto cupidé pede tetigít..." (Ctl., 63, 1-2)
[Having sailed the sea-deeps in a swift vessel, Attis
arrived, ardently he entered
       the Phrygian forest, set feverish foot...]
Block has quoted a quite larger portion of the text with the following justifica­tion for his doing so[13]:
„... позволяю себе цитировать несколько стихов по-латыни для того, чтобы дать представление о размере, о движении стиха, о том внутреннем звонс, которым проникнут каждий стих.”
[... I take the liberty of quoting some Latin lines in order to give an idea of the inner movement of the metre and of the peculiar melody which flows from every line.]
Though ordinary at first sight, this justification surprises the specialist and strikes him with respect. Every time that we read Catullus’ poem, we again and again hesitate, about the ictus metricus. This is so because (first) galliambus is a unique metre in Roman poetry and (second) the text which embraces ninety-three lines presents twelve metrical variants[14]. It is of no great use to have grown accustomed to rare metres and know vowel quantities: reading galliambi requires a preliminary study of the metrical scheme and some exercise till we are able to feel the beat of the rhythm. Unfortunately, even if we have exercised ourselves a lot, we stumble over almost every line and are obliged to return to the scheme. So great is the difficulty of galliambus. But there! From what Block has written himself just about the same metre it is clear that he mastered Latin prosody at a level no lower than that of any specialist[15]. Or as I have said above with regard to the lines Noth­ing remains but the brass sound of solemn Latin / that blares forth like a horn from the gravestones – Latin speech sings in the consciousness of the poet.
Block points our to us that the metre of Attis should not have been chosen by Catullus at haphazard (it is connected with the peculiar songs and dances per­formed by the priests of Cybele in their ritual) and puts for discussion the basic question: what was the true cause which impelled Catullus to turn his attention to the myth of Attis?
The further reasoning of Block represents a thorough analysis, philological as well as historical, the substance of which I am going to expound briefly.
For all his love for the so-called “learned” subjects, Catullus could hardly have got out of nothing his inspiration to write a poem on such a strange and per­verse subject. Though formally this subject choice could be attributed to the literary fashion of the time, the actual message of a poem on such a subject lacks clarity - and this suggests the idea that the poem should have been related to its time not only by the tics of literary fashion. It is, therefore, necessary to find out some hid­den clue, a clue to be looked for in a concrete historical situation. We ought to think it likely that in the life of Catullus there has been some very important event as­sociated with the irrational myth of Attis by some striking similitude. A plus condi­tion: the event should have been so important, and the similitude instrumental to the association so striking that Catullus should have felt an irresistible drive to remake the myth into a poem.
What is left is only to guess what the event and the association were.
The event is the civil trouble, says Block, and the myth of the poor Attis seized with self-destructive madness, is to be associated with the self-destructive madness of Roman society.
I am able to bring one point of precision or two to Block’s argumentation[16], but this would be useless since it is unshakable as a whole. The sharpness of that paper is in its author’s irreproachable mastery of the facts which had led him to a lucky guess. By virtue of this guess, the contradictions between the single facts disappear; they set in logical order and form an integral pattern. This qualifies the paper of Block as a paper in the field of Classics par excellence.
It proves that Alexander Block, the furious detractor of Classicism, has made a meritorious contribution to it. But since this is so, then detraction turns into lau­dation for is there a more convincing proof of the grandeur of a discipline than the fact that a person who protests his hatred for it has after all surrendered to its charms?

* * *

I will limit myself to these examples. I should like to hope they have made it clear that if we know the past, we undoubtedly shall adapt ourselves better to the conditions of modern life. The place of Studia humaniōra in the system of present-day intellectual values seems nowadays even better determined than, for instance, in the time of Newton. He had no choice left: whatever sort of work he could have intended to write, it was to be written inevitably in Latin. Studia humaniōra are an extra special province of knowledge: the spiritual culture of the West (whose continuity through ages no one could call in question) originates from Ancient Greece and Rome. Access to Studia humaniōra is free to everybody and the award which awaits learners is huge: they very soon feel as though they had acquired a new sense.
Of course, I shall not conceal the fact that the price of knowledge is high. It is hard work.
But knowledge is worth this price.
Time has already come for me to give the answer to the question I have enun­ciated at the beginning of this paper and to tell if knowledge might be considered a criterion for intellect and culture. The radiant personality of Madonna has helped me to understand that I had asked this question to myself in a manner which was not correct.
Culture is to be acquired that is a matter too obvious to be discussed. But intellect is quite different I could compare it to the gift of abandoning oneself to what French people call a frisson. The nature of intellect is indefinable: one may  or may not have been given a certain amount of it. It seems then if we imagine two equal intellects  that the one which should be armed with knowledge should be also superior to the other.
I am sorry to say that this way of reasoning is wrong because, in spite of the fact that we could imagine a couple of equal intellects as an abstraction, we never could identify them in practice; besides, we could not find two identical human beings nor is there any objective and generally recognized criterion for measuring intellect.
Thus the question which had so long tormented me disappeared in Madonna's sunny smile and I felt relieved as well as illuminated. Here am I happy to express my gratitude to the singer.
And since Madonna and I share the same convictions, I will avail myself of her authority[17] and give a piece of advice to young people (because these lines are destined mostly to them): do not underestimate what Madonna has said about education.
I will conclude with a German sentence in which the very essence of Studia humaniōra is formulated and which the late Professor Velizar Velkov liked very much. It runs as follows: Die Altertumswissenschaft ist kein eisernes altes Weib, sondern eine leichtsinnige Nymphe, die sich auf die Schulter des geistig Zierlichen niederlaßt.        
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I am bound to express my profound gratitude to Mr. Aaron Thomas, Master of Arts in Classics, who kindly improved the English of this paper.
(B: Thracia XIII, Studia in memoriam Velizari Velkov. Sofia, 2000, 27-39)

[1] Nomina sunt odiosa.
[2] He seems to have followed Greek models, since we find similar expressions in many Greek authors, cf., e.g. Ar. Ra. 862.
[3] Cicero. Philippics (ed. and translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey). Chapel Hill and Lon­don, 1986, 150-151.
[4] Euripides. Alcestis (text and translation by D. J. Conacher). ARIS &PHILLTPS, Warminster, 1988,463-464.
[5] Hauff, W. Marchen.Berlin and Weimar. 2. Auflage, 1969, 34.
[6] I recommend to all colleagues to avail themselves of the story of Wilhelm Hauff in teaching the paradigm of indicative futuri aclivi. On the one hand, the tale will certainly animate the class; on the other hand, some of the students should have read the story in their childhood and still re­member the form mutābor which will help them to learn the paradigm with less effort. I know that from my own experience. I will never forget the words with which one of my students synthesized the moral of the story. He exclaimed: “He who does not know Latin will remain a stork!”.
[7] Блок, Ал. Лирика. Театр. Москва (Block, Al. Verse and Drama. Moscow), 1982, 288.
[8] Блок, Ал. Собрание сочинений в шести томах. Т. 5. Ленинград {Block, Al. His Complete Works, Vol. V. Leningrad), 1982, 27.
[9] Op. cit., 28.
[10] Op. cit.. 29: cf. also 370, footnote 5.
[11] Op. cit.. vol. IV. Leningrad, 1982, 266-295.
[12] The poems of Catullus (translated by James Michie). Bristol Classical Press, 1969, 125.
[13] Op. cit. in footnote 10, 285-286. Block quotes an old edition, but the varia lectio which it contains does not alter the meaning of the text.
[14] Eisenhut, W. Catulli Carmina. Leipzig, Teubner, 1983, 109.
[15] Cf also Block's comment on metrical variants of galliambus (Op. cit., in footnote 10, 286-287).
[16] My objections bear mostly upon the representation of Catilina as a revolutionary.
[17] In her interview on TV, Madonna told the audience the name of the candidate she pre­ferred. He has won (and he won again in the 1996 elections).


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