If I wished to see a mountain or other scenery under the most favorable auspices, I would go to in in foul weather so as to be there when it cleared up. We are then in the most suitable mood, and nature is most fresh and inspiring. There is no serenity so fair as that which is just established in a tearful eye.
Fear in a handful of dust. Stillness and sun-petrified ruins. Here lay the ancient city, running north and south, overlooking the sea and the memory of its ships.
Here, then, was all that was left of great Selinus, called rich and powerful by Thucydides, with silver and gold in its temples and a treasury of its own at the shrine in Olympia. One of those sad disputes, with which the Greeks destroyed their promised land of Sicily, destroyed this city.
In 409 B.C. Hannibal and the Carthaginian army razed the walls of Selinus to the ground. Selinus, ‘City of the Wild Celery’ (and we had passed wild celery as we climbed the headland), was extinct by Strabo’s time. It had been a monument to the vanity of human wishes even when the Roman galleys swept past that bright bay…
Viendo don Quijote la humildad del alcaide de la fortaleza, que tal le pareció a él el ventero y la venta, respondió:
—Para mí, señor castellano, cualquiera cosa basta, porque ‘mis arreos son las armas/mi descanso el pelear, etc.’
Pensó el huésped que el haberle llamado castellano había sido por haberle parecido de los sanos de Castilla, aunque él era andaluz, y de los de la playa de Sanlúcar, no menos ladrón que Caco, ni menos maleante que estudiantado paje…
(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra:
El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha)
Don Quixote, observing the respectful bearing of the Alcaide of the fortress (for so innkeeper and inn seemed in his eyes), made answer, “Sir Castellan, for me anything will suffice, for
‘My armour is my only wear,
My only rest the fray.'”
The host fancied he called him Castellan because he took him for a “worthy of Castile,” though he was in fact an Andalusian, and one from the strand of San Lucar, as crafty a thief as Cacus and as full of tricks as a student or a page.
He who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; he who is continually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult. Therefore, the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and so never has any difficulties.
(Lao Tse: Tao Teh King 63:3)
El que promete a la ligera
merece poco crédito.
El que todo lo encuentra fácil
difícil le será todo.
Por esto, el sabio en todo considera la dificultad,
y en nada la halla.
Oh to see the Earth just once as a full moon, from a pavement café on the empty shores of the Sea of Tranquillity, a glass of plutonic champagne in front of me on my platinum table, dreaming of an impossible trip to Spain!
In 1981, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an essay titled Why Read the Classics?. It’s less than ten entertaining pages, so I recommend you read it if you can lay your hands on it. (It’s been published in a book form, in a collection of his essays, bearing the same title.)
What follows here is the 14 definitions of what classics are as put forward in the essay – 14 definitions worth thinking about:
We get only transient and partial glimpses of the beauty of the world. Standing at the right angle, we are dazzled by the colors of the rainbow in colorless ice. From the right point of view, every storm and every drop in it is a rainbow.
Hace mucho tiempo el escritor argentino, Jorge Luis Borges estaba enseñando literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires. Un día dijo a sus estudiantes:
A long time ago the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges taught English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. One day he said to his students:
La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:
Si Shakespeare les interesa, está bien. Si les resulta tedioso, déjenlo. Shakespeare no ha escrito aún para ustedes. Llegará un día que Shakespeare será digno de ustedes y ustedes serán dignos de Shakespeare, pero mientras tanto no hay que apresurar las cosas.”
(Jorge Luis Borges: Curso de literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires)
If Shakespeare interests you, that’s fine. If you find him tedious, leave him. Shakespeare hasn’t yet written for you. The day will come when Shakespeare will be right for you and you will be worthy of Shakespeare, but in the meantime there’s no need to hurry things.
In 1842, a nobody called George Borrow wrote a detailed, 550-pages long account of his day job. Sounds boring? It isn’t: Borrow’s day job was to sell Bibles in war-torn, Catholic Spain. The Bible in Spain is a book I cannot recommend enough; it’s a travelogue, an adventure story and comedy all in one. If you want to know more, you can read my review here.
Today’s quote is rather lengthier than usual but gives you a flavour of Borrow’s style of writing. Enjoy this excerpt about his run-in with the famous Spanish bureaucracy:
I occasionally see world weary westerners traipsing down Regent Street in loose robes and sandals chanting ‘Hare Krishna’, apparently believing that this would ease their existential angst, or, better still, solve all their problems – I blame the Beatles. Personally, I’ve never yet felt tempted to sing ‘Hare Krishna’; mainly because it’s somebody else’s cultural background and I’ve got a perfectly serviceable one of my own. Even so – and despite the Beatles – I recognise that the East has much to offer us.
When an Argive said once upon a time, “There are many tombs of Spartans in our country,” a Spartan said, “But there is not a single tomb of an Argive in our country,” indicating by this that the Spartans had often set foot in Argos, but the Argives had never set foot in Sparta.
(Plutarch: Morals, Vol. III., Sayings of Spartans)
Cuando un argivo dijo en una occasión: «En nuestra tierra hay muchas tumbas de espartanos», un espartano le respondió: «Pues en la nuestra no hay ni una sola de argivos», porque ellos habían invadido muchas veces Argos, pero los argivos jamás Esparta.
(Plutarco, Obras morales y de costumbres, III., Máximas de espartanos)
Seville harbour – only a few hundred yards of dock set on the banks of a slow river, fifty miles from the sea, yet once the greatest harbour in the world, and still, in the legends of man, the most important. Columbus, Pizarro and Fernando Magellan, the Santa María and the little Victoria – from here they sailed to find a new world, or to be the first in all history to encircle the globe.
(Laurie Lee: A Rose for the Winter)
El puerto de Sevilla – sólo unos pocos cientos de yardas de muelle en las orillas de un río lento, cincuenta millas del mar, sin embargo, en otro tiempo el mayor puerto del mundo, y todavía en las leyendas de la humanidad, el más importante. Colón, Pizarro y Fernando de Magallanes, el Santa María y el pequeño Victoria – zarparon de aquí para encontrar un mundo nuevo, o para ser primero en toda la historia en la circunnavegación del globo.