The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But mainly on the just because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.
That’s what my undergraduate Latin professor, the late great Donald Hill, used to say on weeks like this, when the rain just won’t let up. The poem’s been stuck in my mind lately, perhaps because my roof has sprung several leaks so there’s no escape from the rain even indoors – but more likely because I discovered yesterday that my departing ex has in fact taken all my functioning umbrellas.
Luckily he left the buckets.
But in this world of ever-present information, I couldn’t allow a poem to be just a poem. And so, in the spirit of avoiding this week’s enormous pile of marking, I fell down the research rabbit hole. Again…
These lines are attributed to a chap called Charles Bowen, who was made Baron Bowen in 1893. He was notable for his work as a High Court judge and as a Lord Justice of Appeal – but also (thank you, Wikipedia!) for his verse translation of Virgil’s Eclogues and the first half of the Aeneid. (Why just the first half? That’s what I want to know.)
See: no matter what stone you turn over, you’ll always find a classicist lurking under it.
For once my bookshelves have let me down: I don’t have the Bowen translation (or if I do, I haven’t been able to find it yet!). But The Classical Review from 1888 (Vol. 2, Iss. 3 pp.66-70, if you want the full reference) waxes lyrical about it:
‘The exact and refined scholarship of the translator shows itself in the minute carefulness of his workmanship, and his fidelity to the subtle suggestions and shades of meaning in the original. But to accurate scholarship and critical appreciation he adds the lively susceptibility, the mobility of mind and imagination, the affluence of language, and the power, ease, and tact in its employment, characteristic of a literary artist; and with these gifts of a poetic temperament he combines acuteness and soundness of judgment derived from the education of a great practical career.’
Now that’s a glowing review! I’m going to have to read the translation for myself now, just to see if I can spot the tact in the employment of affluent language…
I did keep going down the rabbit hole, of course, discovering many interesting facts of no particular relevance. For instance, Charles’ daughter Ethel married her first cousin, who was a Wedgwood (the first Baron Wedgwood, actually: the family seemed to make quite a habit of acquiring baronies). He became famous for a filibuster in Parliament in 1913, when he talked for two days straight so that nobody else could get a word in. He reportedly made 150 speeches in a row and sustained himself with only barley-water and chocolate.
You know, if I ever give up teaching I think I might do quite well at filibustering. As long as the moustache isn’t compulsory…
Finally, just a quick shout-out to some of my regular readers… Congratulations to the A276 folks on surviving today’s Latin exam: I hope you’re celebrating tonight!
Good luck to Steve on his big week ahead (sorry I haven’t had a chance to write, but there’s something in the post for you…!).
And a happy birthday to my dad, who always comes to help when I run out of buckets…
Right, back to the marking. Like the rain, end-of-term marking doesn’t let up; and also like the rain it creates an atmosphere of gloom. Wish I had an umbrella…
This week’s links from around the internet
Pope News in Latin – Vatican News
Acropolis exhibition – The Guardian
Barbarians, Brexit and Hadrian’s Wall – The Sydney Morning Herald
Dentist unwrapping Herculaneum scrolls – The Telegraph
Updates from Cambridge Latin – CSCP
Comment and opinion
Understanding academic impact – The Sphinx
Doubting Josephus – The Spectator
Classics and the silent cinema – CRSN
On misogyny – The History Girls
Computational Classics – Society for Classical Studies
Madeline Miller on myth – Public Books
Why posh politicians pretend to speak Latin – OUP Blog
Classical brand names – Prospect Magazine
The place of blogs in Classics – The Sphinx
Classics and race across the Atlantic – Eidolon
Classics via Pliny – CUCD Bulletin
Podcasts, video and other media
The Diadochi Wars – Kings and Generals
The Romans and adultery – Emperors of Rome
Michael Scott on favourite walls – Open Material Religion
A first academic podcast from Neville Morley – Thucydiocy
Fancy doing some archaeology in the North of England? – BBC