That Heavy Dust

David Myatt

That Heavy Dust
Extract From A Letter To A Friend

Since you mentioned an old, all but forgotten, scribbling of mine [1] in which I quoted the post-classical Latin phrase memento homo quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris [2] I recall similar expressions of the impermanence of mortal life in classical literature from Homer on. For although that Latin phrase is often regarded as deriving from the Book of Genesis in the Septuagint, dating as that book does – according to papyri texts so far discovered – to around 250 BCE, [3] the sentiment it expresses is centuries older and part of the weltanschauung of Ancient Greece.

Thus in the Iliad – Book XVI, 775–776 – there is an ancient expression similar in sentiment to the reminder that prowess and life are transient given to a Roman General centuries later during their Triumphus [4], their victory parade in Rome.

Ὃ δ’ ἐν στροφάλιγγι κονίης κεῖτο μέγας μεγαλωστί, λελασμένος ἱπποσυνάων

He of great strength lay in the swirling dust, his skill with horses taken away.

In Book VI, 146–149, there is the beautiful, poetic,

οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ᾽ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ᾽ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ᾽ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη:
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ᾽ ἀπολήγει

Just as the genesis of leaves is, so it is with mortals:
Leaves scattered upon earth and yet the trees
Burst again when the growing season returns
With one generation of mortals leaving and another brought forth.

In the Agamemnon of Aeschylus – vv. 438-442 – we have the poignant

ὁ χρυσαμοιβὸς δ᾽ Ἄρης σωμάτων
καὶ ταλαντοῦχος ἐν μάχῃ δορὸς
πυρωθὲν ἐξ Ἰλίου
φίλοισι πέμπει βαρὺ
ψῆγμα δυσδάκρυτον ἀν-
τήνορος σποδοῦ γεμί-
ζων λέβητας εὐθέτους.

And Ares – exchanging bodies for gold
And holding his scales among the combat of spears –
Has, from Ilion by his fire,
Conveyed to their loved ones a painful lament – that heavy dust
He had exchanged for their men: ashes, stuffed into easily-stowable urns.

Personally, I find the sentiments expressed in Homer, in Aeschylus, and in so many other Greek and Roman writers, far surpass those of the Old Testament, and recall many times in the choir stalls of a monastery while chanting Matins – replete as that night Office was with verses from the Old Testament – desiring instead to recite something from Homer, in Ancient Greek of course.

David Myatt
28th August, 2018

Nota Bene: For publication here I have added two footnotes – [1] and [4] – to the two appended to the letter. All translations are mine.

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[1] https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/telesmata-in-the-picatrix/

[2] “Recall, mortal, you are dust and you will revert to being dust.”

[3] As I wrote in a footnote in my Tu Es Diaboli Ianua,

“The archaeological – the physical – evidence seems to indicate that the Greek text of the Old Testament is older than the Hebrew text, with the earliest manuscript fragment being Greek Papyrus 458 currently housed in the Rylands Papyri collection – qv. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 20 (1936), pp. 219-45 – and which fragment was discovered in Egypt and has been dated as being from the second century BCE.

In contrast, the earliest fragments of the Old Testament in Hebrew date from c.150 BCE to c. 70 CE, and are part of what has come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, the earliest known Greek – and almost complete – text of the Old Testament, Codex Vaticanus, dates from c.320 CE with the earliest complete Hebrew text of the Tanakh, the Allepo Codex, dating from centuries later, around 920 CE.

While it is and has been a common presumption that the Hebrew version of the Old Testament is older than the Greek version, my inclination is to favour the extant physical evidence over and above presumption. Were physical evidence of Hebrew texts earlier than Greek Papyrus 458 discovered, and of there existing a complete Hebrew text dating from before Codex Vaticanus, my inclination would be to revise my opinion based on a study of the new evidence.”

[4] qv. M. Beard, The Roman Triumph, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. p. 272f.


Article source: https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/that-heavy-dust/


Myatt: The Ethics Of Killing Vermin

The Ethics Of Killing Vermin
A Personal Opinion From Experience

The definitive record of the English language – the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989 – defines vermin as (i) “animals of a noxious or objectionable kind [and which are] almost entirely restricted to those animals or birds which prey upon preserved game, crops, etcetera” and also as (ii) referring to “creeping or wingless insects (and other minute animals) of a loathsome or offensive appearance or character, especially those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants.”

Although the killing of vermin – especially those that prey upon preserved game and crops and those which infest or are parasitic on living beings and plants – is common practice in the majority of modern societies especially among farmers, gardeners, and horticulturalists, what aroused my curiosity about the ethics involved was a problem a long-standing friend of mine, who with his family were ethical vegans and trying to live in a self-sufficient way, was having with rats devouring their crops.

Before my retirement – as an old man – from manual work I had spent many, many, years working on farms, working as a gardener, and working in commercial horticulture. On the last farm on which I lived I had no problem hunting down and shooting the fox that had decimated the chickens we kept; had no problem in having Jack Russell’s hunt down and kill rats infesting the barns; had no ethical problem in previous employments in using pesticides and herbicides via knapsacks and tractor driven boom-sprayers. For the health of the livestock, and the health and yield of crops and plants, were part of my responsibility, a responsibility I willingly accepted.

Yet what was a self-sufficient ethical vegan and his self-sufficient ethical vegan family to do in respect of vermin control when suggested non-harmful methods – such as using raised crop beds and humanely trapping and releasing pests elsewhere – had failed? In addition, in the case of rats, would the released pests go on to prey on the crops of someone else and therefore would the vegans be somehow morally responsible for the damage so caused?

My initial suggestion, based both on my practical experience and my interest in Ancient Greek and Latin literature, was for him to use Jack Russell’s to hunt down and kill the rats. For would he – as Creon hoped by his walling-in of Antigone alive in a rock-hewn tomb {1} and as Fabius Maximus, Pontifex of Rome, hoped when he had a Vestal Virgin buried alive {2} – escape retribution by Μοῖραι τρίμορφοι μνήμονές τ᾽ Ἐρινύες {3} because he and they had not personally undertaken the deed of killing?

Such pest control certainly seems to be a moral dilemma for an ethical vegan, committed as such a person is to not harming or causing suffering to living beings, human and otherwise. Would, for instance, it be necessary for he and his family to suffer, to go hungry, because of a refusal to kill – directly or otherwise – such vermin as were devouring their crops?

              My fallible conclusion in respect of his dilemma was that it is for my friend, for each ethical vegan, for each ethical vegan family, to resolve such a moral dilemma in their own way and in their own time; for such individual, such familial, resolution seems to me – according to my admittedly fallible understanding of ethical veganism – to be a necessary part of the vegan weltanschauung where there is not and should not be any reliance on ideations, on dogma, on ideology, on the opinions of others, or on any causal – human-invented – abstractions.

For myself and in respect of vermin I would probably do again what I did when working on farms, when working as a gardener, and when working in commercial horticulture. The raison d’être being that to survive, to prosper, as human beings on this planet it seems to me (based on my experience) that we sometimes of necessity must make difficult decisions in regard to other life while respecting – as I personally always tried to do and as so many others before me had ancestrally done – the being, the soul, the presencing of the Cosmos, that was temporarily manifest in the life that we ended, be such life a fox or even a tree we felled. For there was no joy in such an ending, only – again in my experience – a balancing mingled with a wordless respect for all emanations of life. For ultimately we are they – that life – as they, that life, are us, with such an ancient and natural paganus wisdom almost forgotten in this modern majority city-dwelling age. And yet this wisdom survives – if only just – in some of those who for decades have manually toiled in the countryside.

              To end on a personal note, and in regard to abstractions, I have to admit that my long-standing – and now vegan – friend was the one who was responsible, years ago, for drawing my attention to the fact that the “folk” and “the tribe”, which I had eulogized in my pre-2011 ‘numinous way’, were causal – human-invented – abstractions and thus seemed to be contrary to the individual empathic-derived ethics of that numinous way. Which revelation forced me to reconsider that ‘numinous way’ and formed an important part of the process that eventually led me to evolve that ‘numinous way’ into my individualistic philosophy of pathei-mathos.

David Myatt
August 2018

{1} ἄγων ἔρημος ἔνθ᾽ ἂν ᾖ βροτῶν στίβος
κρύψω πετρώδει ζῶσαν ἐν κατώρυχι,
φορβῆς τοσοῦτον ὡς ἄγος μόνον προθείς,
ὅπως μίασμα πᾶσ᾽ ὑπεκφύγῃ πόλις.
κἀκεῖ τὸν Ἅιδην, ὃν μόνον σέβει θεῶν,
αἰτουμένη που τεύξεται τὸ μὴ θανεῖν,
ἢ γνώσεται γοῦν ἀλλὰ τηνικαῦθ᾽ ὅτι
πόνος περισσός ἐστι τἀν Ἅιδου σέβειν.

She will be led to where the paths are desolate of mortals
And be concealed alive in a rock-hewn tomb
With as much food before her as is required for expiation
So that the whole clan escapes pollution.
There she may if she asks have success from dying
By giving reverence to Hades, the only god she reveres –
Or she will learn at last though late by this
That it is useless toil to so revere Hades.

Sophocles, Antigone, vv. 773-780

{2} Stupri compertae et altera sub terra, uti mos est, ad portam Collinam necata fuerat. (Livy, Book XXII, 57)

{3} “Trimorphed Moirai with their ever-heedful Furies.” Aeschylus (attributed), Prometheus Bound, 516


Translations by DWM

Article source:
https://davidmyatt.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/the-ethics-of-killing-vermin/

Image credit:
The Day’s Consecration – from a painting by Richard Moult


Myatt’s Translation of Sappho

Sappho, depicted on Attic red-figure kalathos, c. 470 BCE. Provenance: Akragas (Sicily) and currently in Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich

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Myatt – or rather, his translation of some of the fragments of the poetry of Sappho as recorded by Mr Richard Moult et al under the titles Sappho: Poetic Fragments I, II, III – gets a mention in a chapter of the book Orienting Feminism: Media, Activism and Cultural Representation published by the academic press Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. The chapter in question (pp.137-153) is by Siobhan Hodge and titled Sappho in Cyberspace.

For the curious, here is a copy of David Myatt’s translation of Sappho: https://regardingdavidmyatt.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/sappho-poetic-fragments-v1.pdf

For the even more curious, the recordings by Moult et al are available (as of March 2018) at (i) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdAVliim57c and (ii) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uARVfV7mngs and (iii) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHKfNVzKSkc


Image credit:
Sappho, depicted on Attic red-figure kalathos, c. 470 BCE.
Provenance: Akragas (Sicily) and currently in Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich