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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Gather Ye Whatchamacallits While Ye May....

 Mediaeaval View Of Taranto (Tarentum In Roman Times)

In Laudator Temporis Acti today:

The Tarentines
Theopompus, fragment F 233 Jacoby, quoted by Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 4.166 e-f (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):

The city of Tarentum offers sacrifices of oxen and holds public banquets nearly every month. The mass of common people is always busy with parties and drinking-bouts. And the Tarentines have a saying of some such purport as this, that whereas the rest of the world, in their devotion to work and their preoccupation with various forms of industry, are always preparing to live, they themselves, with their parties and their pleasures, do not put off living, but live already.

ἡ πόλις ἡ τῶν Ταραντίνων σχεδὸν καθ᾽ ἕκαστον μῆνα βουθυτεῖ καὶ δημοσίας ἑστιάσεις ποιεῖται. τὸ δὲ τῶν ἰδιωτῶν πλῆθος αἰεὶ περὶ συνουσίας καὶ πότους ἐστί. λέγουσι δὲ καί τινα τοιοῦτον λόγον οἱ Ταραντῖνοι, τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους διὰ τὸ φιλοπονεῖσθαι καὶ περὶ τὰς ἐργασίας διατρίβειν παρασκευάζεσθαι ζῆν, αὐτοὺς δὲ διὰ τὰς συνουσίας καὶ τὰς ἡδονὰς οὐ μέλλειν, ἀλλ᾽ ἤδη βιῶναι.

My interest is not this antique "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" philosophy expressed here, although I do envy the Greek font used in printing as well as the Greek fun.
I had quoted a post from the blog yesterday, and as I was walking back from my morning run at 7:30 AM, I started to think about the name of the blog.

Underneath the title, Laudator Temporis Acti,  is the quotation:
"A peculiar anthologic maze, an amusing literary chaos, a farrago of quotations, a mere olla podrida of quaintness, a pot pourri of pleasant delites, a florilegium of elegant extracts, a tangled fardel of old-world flowers of thought, a faggot of odd fancies, quips, facetiae, loosely tied" (Holbrook Jackson, Anatomy of Bibliomania) by a "laudator temporis acti," a "praiser of time past" (Horace, Ars Poetica 173).

So I asked myself why "tempus actum" - or the genitive "temporis acti" - for time past? I think of French, which is my foothold into the Romance languages, and think of  temps passé  , time (long) past, and of passe-temps, a hobby or pastime.
Why "acti"?
So acti is the passive participle of agere, which means to do, drive, force, and has the idea of getting stuff done.
The word "agenda" comes from agere, being the gerund  (or gerundive - I could never get them straight)  of agere, and meaning "things to be done". (Only later did it come to mean a list of things to be done. I still say "My list of agenda" and most people ignore it.)

The word "pass" such as in "to pass the time" in English (and don't forget how much English was influenced by Norman French after William the Conqueror... 1066 and all that) comes from Latin patere, meaning to undergo, experience, suffer, etc. The past participle of patere is passus, and that leads us right to "pass" in the sense of "having experienced", as well as words such as "passion", meaning suffering.

Furthermore, most verbs have Voice, which is either "Active"; e.g., I throw, or "Passive"; e.g., I am thrown.

It struck me that a writer who was also aware of style might very well distinguish between two senses of time past: the passive, in which times runs by us and we are but spectators, and the active, in which we configure time itself as a series of our actions within it.
It is a difference in participation in life.

Which leads us right back to the introductory quote about the Lucky Tarantinoi !

Gather ye those rosebuds!


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