Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Dear Faithful:

Turns out my magisterium overlaps yours after all. Too bad.

Dear Dilettante:

No, "Silence, exile, and cunning" is not the same as "Don't ask, don't tell."

Dear Fellow Student:

I regret the death of Hyman Datz, who taught Johnson and Boswell. (Well, he was old enough. What I really meant was, He taught us Johnson and Boswell.) More an anecdotalist than a scholar, given to re-using notes so old, yellow, and brittle, they looked as though they had been excavated for the occasion, he still inspired students to read authors they would otherwise have ignored. The Augustans are not always an easy sell. They did not tweet; neither were they groovy. Between them Drs Datz and Chapman animated and reanimated the deserving dead. All these years later, and how I love an opportunity to say, "Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."

In grad school I first encountered Dr Datz in the Dept's main office. He said, "You're Epstein, right?" "Yes," I said. "I hear you're pretty smart," said Dr Datz. "Who wrote 'Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean'?" I told him. "Well, most people don't know that," he said. I didn't tell him my father used to recite that at the dinner table. He only knew a couple poems. That was one. I'd also have been safe if Dr Datz had asked me, "Who wrote, 'Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable, Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table,'" but that wasn't going to happen.

1 comment:

steven E said...

And what about "the boys stood on the burning deck,
eating peanuts by the peck"?