Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Aesop on the Postmodern Priority of Language? (I Speak Tongue-in-Cheek)

In the G tradition of the life of Aesop (ch. 51), Aesop's master Xanthos decides to host a dinner for his students. He instructs Aesop to prepare some food that is useful for life. Aesop buys tongues--all tongues--and in each successive course of the meal serves tongues prepared in a different way (boiled, roasted, spiced). At first the students are impressed with the cuisine (Xanthos has chosen food fitting for the conversational aspect of a dinner-party), but by the third course the surfeit of tongues has become a problem and the students have become sick. Xanthos asks for soup. Aesop brings tongue-broth. The students protest, and Xanthos rebukes Aesop and says, to paraphrase, 'Didn't I tell you to get something useful for life?' Aesop, after an introductory remark, says (ch. 53):

"τί οὖν ἐστιν ἐν τῷ βίῳ γλώσσης χρησιμώτερον ἢ μεῖζον; μάθε ὅτι διὰ γλώσσης πᾶσα φιλοσοφία καὶ πᾶσα παιδεία συνέστηκεν. χωρὶς γλώσσης οὐδὲν γίνεται, οὐδὲ δόσις, οὐ λῆψις, οὐδὲ ἀγορασμός· ἀλλὰ διὰ γλώσσης πόλεις ἀνορθοῦνται, δόγματα καὶ νόμοι ὁρίζονται. εἰ οὖν διὰ γλώσσης πᾶς βίος συνέστηκεν, γλώσσης οὐδέν ἐστι κρεῖττον.”

The students are duly impressed by his answer, and tell Xanthos that he was mistaken to criticize Aesop:
οἱ σχολαστικοὶ εἶπον “νὴ τὰς Μούσας, καλὰ λέγει. σὺ ἥμαρτες, καθηγητά.”

But the impressiveness of his philosophical justification for serving tongues because of the power of language does not cure the physical effects that the meal had caused:
οἱ σχολαστικοὶ ἀνεχώρησαν. δι’ ὅλης τῆς νυκτὸς διαρροίᾳ ληφθέντες ἐδυσφόρουν.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

What an anecdote!

Pity for the greekless, but a translation would be inadvisable.