Monthly Archives: December 2013

I am not abstract; I am perpendicular
when I wake up in the morning
with my hair sticking out at right angles to my head
and my body swung parallel to the pillows.
As light refracts ever so slightly through my windows
I shake out the surds from my sleep
and solve the quadratic equation I dreamt up.
My head curls into itself, an incomplete spiral
I don’t feel like straightening into a line
to eke out another day composed of formless words,
not when I miss your curves beside me:
they are on the other side of the page where I work things out,
softly, mathematically elegant
sleeping an hour away in sinuous spacetime.


Bruce Robertson, you are awesome.


Bruce Robertson — of Mount Allison University fame — sent this missive to the DigitalClassicist list and graciously gave permission for it to be posted here:

I’d like to announce the result of last year’s campaign to OCR a significant portion of the polytonic Greek volumes on using a specially allocated HPC environment from Compute Canada. 
At you’ll find page images for over 600 volumes, with corresponding OCR output and freely downloadable archives of all stages of processing. 
A selection of interesting volumes and ideas for their use appears at http;// 

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One of the things that doesn’t immediately seem obvious about this poem is how fun it is to translate. After all, who but a bitter old harridan could find pleasure in translating a break-up poem – not just a break-up poem, but one that also contains programmatic references (referring to the art of poetry itself) that imply Propertius might lay down his pen?

Strangely enough, it really is fun. It’s one half of a slanging match carried out by a man who trained in law (if you’ve ever read Cicero, you’ll know there was a large component of “elaborate slanging match” in Roman courts), was highly educated, and was perhaps a little too unafraid of showing it – and so there’s a lot of spite in the original Latin that classy English sadly doesn’t translate particularly well.

Risus eram positis inter convivia mensis,
et de me poterat quilibet esse loquax.
quinque tibi potui servire fideliter annos:
ungue meam morso saepe querere fidem.
nil moveor lacrimis: ista sum captus ab arte;
semper ab insidiis, Cynthia, flere soles.
flebo ego discedens, sed fletum iniuria vincit:
tu bene conveniens non sinis ire iugum.
limina iam nostris valeant lacrimantia verbis,
nec tamen irata ianua fracta manu.
at te celatis aetas gravis urgeat annis,
et veniat formae ruga sinistra tuae!
vellere tum cupias albos a stirpe capillos,
iam speculo rugas increpitante tibi,
exclusa inque vicem fastus patiare superbos,
et quae fecisti facta queraris anus!
has tibi fatalis cecinit mea pagina diras:
eventum formae disce timere tuae!
When the tables were put in place among the guests I was mocked,
and anyone who wanted to could gossip about me.
I could serve you faithfully for five years:
your nails bitten, you’ll often grieve for my loyalty.
I am moved by no tears: I was captured by that art;
Cynthia, weep forever through guile alone.
I will weep as I leave, but your abuse overcomes my weeping:
you don’t let a yoke fit you well.
Now the weeping thresholds bid farewell to my words,
but not the door shattered by an angry hand.
But may heavy age weigh down upon you with hidden years,
and may unlucky wrinkles crease your beauty!
Then may you burn to tear out your white hairs by the root,
as already the mirror derides your wrinkles,
and may you, excluded in turn, suffer proud haughtiness,
and, changed into an old woman, you have done these things; may you regret them!
My page sang of these dire things, fated for you:
learn to fear your beauty’s destiny!
Magnum iter ad doctas proficisci cogor Athenas
ut me longa gravi solvat amore via.
crescit enim assidue spectando cura puellae:
ipse alimenta sibi maxima praebet amor.
omnia sunt temptata mihi, quacumque fugari
possit: at ex omni me premit ipse deus.
vix tamen aut semel admittit, cum saepe negarit:
seu venit, extremo dormit amicta toro.
unum erit auxilium: mutatis Cynthia terris
quantum oculis, animo tam procul ibit amor.
nunc agite, o socii, propellite in aequora navem,
remorumque pares ducite sorte vices,
iungiteque extremo felicia lintea malo:
iam liquidum nautis aura secundat iter.
Romanae turres et vos valeatis, amici,
qualiscumque mihi tuque, puella, vale!
ergo ego nunc rudis Hadriaci vehar aequoris hospes,
cogar et undisonos nunc prece adire deos.
deinde per Ionium vectus cum fessa Lechaeo
sedarit placida vela phaselus aqua,
quod superest, sufferre, pedes, properate laborem,
Isthmos qua terris arcet utrumque mare.
inde ubi Piraei capient me litora portus,
scandam ego Theseae bracchia longa viae.
illic vel stadiis animum emendare Platonis
incipiam aut hortis, docte Epicure, tuis;
persequar aut studium linguae, Demosthenis arma,
librorumque tuos, docte Menandre, sales;
aut certe tabulae capient mea lumina pictae,
sive ebore exactae, seu magis aere, manus.
aut spatia annorum aut longa intervalla profundi
lenibunt tacito vulnera nostra situ:
seu moriar, fato, non turpi fractus amore;
atque erit illa mihi mortis honesta dies.
I’m compelled to set out on the grand tour to learnéd Athens
so that that long road might free me from love’s burden.
For my care for my girl grows continuously as I look at her:
love itself provides its own greatest nourishment.
Everything’s been tried by me, in whichever way it could be
banished: but out of everyone, the god himself besets me.
But she hardly receives me, or once when she’s refused many times before:
or if she comes, she sleeps covered on the edge of the bed.
There is one remedy: when the land’s changed, Cynthia will be as far from
my eyes as love travels from my heart.
Now let’s go, my friends, to launch a boat upon the level sea,
and draw out by lot the equal places at the oar,
and hoist the happy sails to the very top of the mast:
now the wind helps sailors along their watery path.
Farewell, Roman towers, and farewell, my friends,
and you too, my darling, whatever you were like to me, farewell!
So now I’ll be carried along as a new guest of the level Adriatic,
and now I’ll be forced to approach with a prayer gods who make the waves roar.
Then when my yacht has been carried through the Ionian sea
and rested its tired sails in the calm waters at Lechaeum,
for what remains, keep going, feet, to endure the work,
where the Isthmus wards off one sea and another from the land.
Then when the shores of Piraeus’s harbour capture me,
I’ll ascend the long arms of Theseus’s roads.
There I might even begin to repair my mind at Plato’s Academy
or in your garden, learnéd Epicurus;
or I’ll pursue the study of language, Demosthenes’s weapon,
and the salty wit of your books, learned Menander,
or certainly painted pictures will capture my eyes,
whether in the ivory of a pointed hand, or more frequently in bronze.
Either the length of the years or the long spaces of the deep
will heal my wounds in a silent heart:
if I die, I will be broken by fate, not shameful love;
and that day of death will be an honour for me.

the void

atos_kills_bannerThe DWP have suffered yet another humiliating legal defeat after Appeal Court judges upheld a decision that the Atos assessments for sickness and disability benefits discriminate against people with mental health conditions.

This follows an earlier decision by the Upper Tribunal in January that the Work Capability Assessment – the notorious computer based test which has led to hundreds of thousands of claimants declared ‘fit for work’ – substantially disadvantaged those with mental health problems.

Rather than accept this judgement and attempt to make the process fair, the DWP chose to appeal this decision and carry on as normal.  As ever, this didn’t work out well for them and yet more tax payer’s money was wasted only to end in embarrassment for the department.

A press release from the Mental Health Resistance Network released today explains:

“During a four day hearing in January 2013, the Upper Tribunal heard evidence from…

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