Friday, August 26, 2016


A Child Prodigy

John Evelyn, Diary (January 27, 1658), in Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1870), pp. 255-257:
After six fits of a quartan ague with which it pleased God to visite him, died my deare son Richard, to our inexpressible griefe and affliction, 5 yeares and 3 days old onely, but at that tender age a prodigy for witt and understanding; for beauty of body a very angel; for endowment of mind of incredible and rare hopes. To give onely a little taste of some of them, and thereby glory to God, who out of the mouths of babes and infants does sometimes perfect his praises: at 2 yeares and halfe old he could perfectly reade any of the English, Latine, French, or Gottic letters, pronouncing the three first languages exactly. He had before the 5th yeare, or in that yeare, not onely skill to reade most written hands, but to decline all the nouns, conjugate the verbs regular, and most of the irregular; learn'd out Puerilis, got by heart almost the entire vocabularie of Latine and French primitives and words, could make congruous syntax, turne English into Latine, and vice versa, construe and prove what he read, and did the government and use of relatives, verbs, substantives, elipses, and many figures and tropes, and made a considerable progress in Comenius's Janua; began himselfe to write legibly, and had a stronge passion for Greeke. The number of verses he could recite was prodigious, and what he remember'd of the parts of playes; which he would also act; and when seeing a Plautus in one's hand, he ask'd what booke it was, and being told it was comedy, and too difficult for him, he wept for sorrow. Strange was his apt and ingenious application of fables and morals, for he had read Aesop; he had a wonderful disposition to mathematics, having by heart divers propositions of Euclid that were read to him in play, and he would make lines and demonstrate them. As to his piety, astonishing were his applications of Scripture upon occasion, and his sense of God; he had learn'd all his Catechisme early, and understood the historical part of the Bible and New Testament to a wonder, how Christ came to redeeme mankind, and how, comprehending these necessarys himselfe, his godfathers were discharg'd of their promise. These and the like illuminations far exceeded his age and experience, considering the prettinesse of his addresse and behaviour, cannot but leave impressions in me at the memory of him. When one told him how many dayes a Quaker had fasted, he replied that was no wonder, for Christ had said man should not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. He would of himselfe select the most pathetic psalms, and chapters out of Job, to reade to his mayde during his sicknesse, telling her when she pitied him that all God's children must suffer affliction. He declaim'd against the vanities of the world before he had seene any. Often he would desire those who came to see him to pray by him, and a yeare before he fell sick, to kneel and pray with him alone in some corner. How thankfully would he receive admonition, how soon be reconciled! how indifferent, yet continualy chereful! He would give grave advice to his brother John, beare with his impertinencies, and say he was but a child. If he had heard of or saw any new thing, he was unquiet till he was told how it was made; he brought to us all such difficulties as he found in books, to be expounded. He had learn'd by heart divers sentences in Latin and Greeke, which on occasion he would produce even to wonder. He was all life, all prettinesse, far from morose, sullen, or childish in any thing he said or did. The last time he had ben at church (which was at Greenwich), I ask'd him, according to costome, what he remembered of the sermon: two good things, father, said he, bonum gratia and bonum gloria, with a just account of what the preacher said. The day before he died he cal'd to me, and in a more serious manner than usual told me that for all I loved him so dearly I should give my house, land, and all my fine things, to his brother Jack, he should have none of them; the next morning, when he found himself ill, and that I persuaded him to keepe his hands in bed, he demanded whether he might pray to God with his hands unjoyn'd; and a little after, whilst in greate agonie, whether he should not offend God by using his holy name so often calling for ease. What shall I say of his frequent pathetical ejaculations utter'd of himselfe; Sweete Jesus save me, deliver me, pardon my sinns, let thine angels receive me! So early knowledge, so much piety and perfection! But thus God having dress'd up a Saint fit for himselfe, would not longer permit him with us, unworthy of the future fruites of this incomparable hopefull blossome. Such a child I never saw: for such a child I blesse God in whose bosome he is! May I and mine become as this little child, who now follows the child Jesus that Lamb of God in a white robe whithersoever he goes; Even so, Lord Jesus, Fiat voluntas tua! Thou gavest him to us, Thou hast taken him from us, blessed be the name of the Lord! That I had any thing acceptable to Thee was from thy grace alone, since from me he had nothing but sin, but that Thou hast pardon'd! blessed be my God for ever, amen!

In my opinion he was suffocated by the women and maids that tended him, and cover'd him too hot with blankets as he lay in a cradle, near an excessive hot fire in a close roome. I suffer'd him to be open'd, when they found that he was what is vulgarly call'd liver-growne. I caused his body to be coffin'd in lead and reposited on the 30th at 8 o'clock that night in the church of Deptford accompanied with divers of my relations and neighbours, among whom I distributed rings with this motto, Dominus abstulit; intending, God willing, to have him transported with my owne body to be interr'd in our dormitory in Wotton church, in my dear native county Surrey, and to lay my bones and mingle my dust with my fathers, if God be gracious to me and make me as fit for Him as this blessed child was. The Lord Jesus sanctify this and all other my afflictions, Amen!

Here ends the joy of my life, and for which I go even mourning to the grave.
Hat tip: James J. O'Donnell.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


A Recluse

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, VIII.7 (tr. John E. Woods):
Quite a distance out of town—not far from the first village, in fact—was a little farmstead, a tiny, almost worthless piece of property that didn't even have a name. If you stopped to look inside the gate, the first thing you noticed was a manure pile, then several chickens, a doghouse, and, finally, a wretched cottagelike building with a low-hanging red roof. This was the manor house, the residence of Kai's father, Count Eberhard Mölln.

He was an eccentric, whom people seldom saw—a recluse who had forsaken the world for this little farm, where he bred chickens and dogs and grew vegetables: a tall, bald man who wore top boots and a green frieze jacket and sported a huge grizzled beard worthy of a troll. He always had a riding crop in his hand, although he did not own a single horse, and there was a monocle clamped in one eye, under a bushy brow. Apart from him and his son, there was no longer a single Count Mölln to be found anywhere in the country. The various branches of this once rich, powerful, and proud family had withered, died, and rotted away, and little Kai had only one aunt who was still alive—and his father was not on speaking terms with her. She published novels, written under a bizarre pseudonym, in various family magazines. What people remembered about Count Eberhard was that, shortly after he had moved onto the farm out beyond the Burg Gate, a sign appeared on the low front door warning salesmen, beggars, or anyone else making inquiries not to bother him; the sign read: "Here lives Count Mölln, all alone. He needs nothing, buys nothing, and has nothing to give away."

Dort nämlich, weit draußen, unfern des ersten Dorfes, war irgendwo ein kleines Gehöft, ein winziges, fast wertloses Anwesen, das überhaupt keinen Namen hatte. Man gewann, blickte man hin, den Eindruck eines Mithaufens, einer Anzahl Hühner, einer Hundehütte und eines armseligen, katenartigen Gebäudes, mit tief hinunterreichendem, rotem Dache. Dies war das Herrenhaus, und dort wohnte Kais Vater, Eberhard Graf Mölln.

Er war ein Sonderling, den selten Jemand zu sehen bekam, und der, beschäftigt mit Hühner-, Hundeund Gemüsezucht, abgeschieden von aller Welt auf seinem kleinen Gehöfte hauste: ein großer Mann mit Stulpenstiefeln, einer grünen Friesjoppe, kahlem Kopfe, einem ungeheuren ergrauten Rübezahl-Barte, einer Reitpeitsche in der Hand, obgleich er durchaus kein Pferd besaß, und einem unter der buschigen Braue ins Auge geklemmten Monocle. Es gab, außer ihm und seinem Sohne, weit und breit keinen Grafen Mölln mehr im Lande. Die einzelnen Zweige der ehemals reichen, mächtigen und stolzen Familie waren nach und nach verdorrt, abgestorben und vermodert, und nur eine Tante des kleinen Kai, mit der sein Vater aber nicht in Korrespondenz stand, war noch am Leben. Sie veröffentlichte unter einem abenteuerlichen Pseudonym Romane in Familienblättern. – Was den Grafen Eberhard betraf, so erinnerte man sich, daß er, um sich vor allen Störungen durch Anfragen, Angebote und Bettelei zu schützen, während längerer Zeit, nachdem er das Anwesen vorm Burgthore bezogen, ein Schild an seiner niedrigen Hausthür geführt hatte, auf dem zu lesen gewesen: „Hier wohnt Graf Mölln ganz allein, braucht nichts, kauft nichts und hat nichts zu verschenken.“
Count Mölln's sign is not unlike a couple of signs which Mrs. Laudator thinks would be suitable for me:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


An Unidentified Quotation in Erasmus' Adages

Erasmus, Adages I i 1 to I v 100, translated by Margaret Mann Phillips, annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 99 (on I i 48 Tota erras via):
There is also that familiar saying: 'They run well but not on the right road.'

familiar saying] This is mentioned again in III i 84, but has not yet been identified.
The Latin:
celebre habetur et illud apophthegma, Bene currunt, sed extra viam: Καλώς μὲν τρέχουσιν, άλλ' έκτός τής όδού.
Erasmus, Adages II vii 1 to III iii 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), pp. 214-215 (on III i 84 Frustra currit), with note on p. 386:
Also the familiar remark2 once made by someone: 'They run, but not on the right road,' when a man toils industriously, but on no settled plan which can tell him in advance which path to follow and how far.

2 remark] I i 48; the source has not been traced.
The Latin:
Celebratur et illud cuiuspiam ἀπόφθεγμα: Τρέχουσιν ἔξω τῆς ὁδοῦ, id est Currunt extra viam, vbi quis sedulo quidem molitur, sed nulla certa ratione, quae praemonstret, quid quatenusque sequendum sit.
I wonder if Erasmus was thinking of Augustine, Sermons 141.4 (on John's Gospel 14.6; Patrologia Latina 38, col. 777; tr. R.G. MacMullen):
For sometimes even those who walk well, run outside the way. Thus you will find men living well, and not Christians. They run well; but they run not in the way. The more they run, the more they go astray; because they are out of the Way.

aliquando enim ipsi bene ambulantes, praeter viam currunt. invenies quippe homines bene viventes, et non Christianos. bene currunt; sed in via non currunt. quanto plus currunt, plus errant; quia a via recedunt.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Waking Up

Thomas Mann (1875-1955), Buddenbrooks, II.2 (tr. John E. Woods):
Say what you like, there is something pleasant about waking of a morning in a large bedroom with lovely, cheerful wallpaper and finding that the first thing you touch is a heavy satin quilt; and it is exceptional to have an early breakfast in a room opening onto a terrace, with the fresh morning air drifting in from the front garden through an open glass door, and to be served neither coffee, nor tea, but a cup of chocolate—yes, every morning, a cup of birthday chocolate, with a thick moist piece of pound cake.

Was man sagen mag, so ist es etwas Angenehmes, wenn beim Erwachen morgens in dem großen, mit hellem Stoff tapezierten Schlafzimmer die erste Bewegung der Hand eine schwere Atlas-Steppdecke trifft; und es ist nennenswert, wenn zum ersten Frühstück vorn im Terrassenzimmer, während durch die offene Glasthür vom Garten die Morgenluft hereinstreicht, statt des Kaffees oder des Thees eine Tasse Chokolade verabreicht wird, ja, jeden Tag Geburtstagschokolade mit einem dicken Stück feuchten Napfkuchens.



Alan Cameron and Jacqueline Long, Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 343, n. 42, commentary on Synesius, Egyptians, or On Providence 1.3 (92 B):
ἔρρεγκε, in Greek used for both the (properly) involuntary noise "snore" and the voluntary "snort." There can be little doubt that Synesius is inspired by Or. 33 of his idol Dio Chrysostom, an extraordinary attack on the people of Tarsus for making just this noise, a "harsh, disgusting sound produced by violent inhalation or exhalation through the nose," according to C. Bonner, "A Tarsian Peculiarity," Harv. Theol. Rev. 35 (1942): 2; cf. C.P. Jones, The Roman World of Dio Chrysostom (Cambridge, Mass. 1978), 73-74; G. Highet, Classical Papers (New York 1983), 95 n. 53. Dio goes so far as to claim that it is the sort of sound one expects to hear in a brothel (Or. 33.36). Bonner collects various other examples from the second to the seventh century (though omitting both Synesius's and Ammianus's account of the Roman plebs: "turpi sono fragosis naribus introrsum reducto spiritu concrepantes," Amm. Marc. 14.6.25), all cases where ῥέγκω or a similar word is used of a sound clearly felt to be utterly disgusting. According to Sophronius, a young man was deservedly struck blind for making such a noise in the shrine of Saints Cyrus and John (Mir. SS. Cyr. et Ioh. 31 (N. Fernandez Marcos, Los Thaumata de Sofronio: Contribucion al estudio de la Incubatio Cristiana [Madrid 1975], 306).
Gilbert Highet, "Mutilations in the Text of Dio Chrysostom," in his Classical Papers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 74-99 (at 95, n. 53):
ῥέγκουσι, 33.18. This is the only passage in pagan literature known to me where the sound of snorting or snuffling is given an explicitly sexual connotation. The verb, and nouns allied to it (ῥέγκος, rhonchus in Latin, ῥέγξις, ῥωχμός), are used of (1) snoring in sleep: Aesch. Eum. 53, Ar. Nub. 5; (2) the wheezing of persons stuffed with food: Clem. Al. p. 219; (3) a sniff expressing disdain and hostility: Mart. 1.3.5, 4.86.7; cf. sanna in Juv. 6.306, and see Amm. Marc. 14.6.25: turpi sono fragosis naribus introrsum reducto spiritu concrepantes. However, C. Bonner, "A Tarsian Peculiarity," HThR 35 (1942) 1-8, cites two passages from Christian authors in which snuffling or nasal speech and sexual perversion are clearly associated: Tatianus, Ad Gr. 22 and Clem. Al., Paed. 3.29.2-3. C.B. Welles, "Hellenistic Tarsus," MUB 38 (1962) 65-68, thinks Dio's denunciation is "a monstrous jest" designed to carry the true charge that the men of Tarsus were shaving their beards and neglecting philosophy. It is difficult to read the vivid description of homosexual behavior in paragraphs 52 and 63-64 (cf. Epict. 3.1) and accept Welles' kindly interpretation.
In my ideal Greek dictionary, if I looked up ῥέγκω, these discussions and others like them would be quoted in extenso.

See also Cécile Bost-Pouderon, "Le ronflement des Tarsiens: l'interprétation du Discours XXXIII de Dion de Pruse," Revue des Études Grecques 113.2 (2000) 636-651.

Monday, August 22, 2016


If I Were...

Cecco Angiolieri (1260-1312), Sonnets, LXXXVI (tr. Luciano Rebay):
If I were fire, I would set the world aflame;
If I were wind, I would storm it;
If I were water, I would drown it;
If I were God, I would send it to the abyss.
If I were Pope, then I would be happy,
For I would swindle all the Christians;
If I were Emperor, do you know what I would do?
I would chop off heads all around.

If I were death, I would go to my father;
If I were life, I would flee from him;
The same I would do with my mother.
If I were Cecco, as I am and I was,
I would take the women who are young and lovely,
And leave the old and ugly for others.

S'i' fosse foco, ardere' il mondo;
S'i' fosse vento, lo tempesterei;
S'i' fosse acqua, i' l'anegherei;
S'i' fosse dio, mandereil en profondo;
S'i' fosse papa, sare' allor giocondo,
Ché tutt'i cristiani imbrigherei;
S'i fosse 'mperator, sa' che farei?
A tutti mozarei lo capo a tondo.

S'i' fosse morte, andarei da mio padre;
S'i' fosse vita, fugirei da lui:
Similemente faria da mi' madre.
S'i' fosse Cecco com'i' sono e fui,
Torei le donne giovani e legiadre:
E vecchie e laide lasserei altrui.
The same, tr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
If I were fire, I'd burn the world away;
If I were wind, I'd turn my storms thereon;
If I were water, I'd soon let it drown;
If I were God, I'd sink it from the day;
If I were Pope, I'd never feel quite gay
Until there was no peace beneath the sun;
If I were Emperor, what would I have done?—
I'd lop men's heads all round in my own way.

If I were Death, I'd look my father up;
If I were Life, I'd run away from him;
And treat my mother to like calls and runs.
If I were Cecco (and that's all my hope),
I'd pick the nicest girls to suit my whim,
And other folk should get the ugly ones.



Gregory Nazianus, Poems II.i.11.20-23 (Patrologia Graeca 37, col. 1031; tr. Carolinne White):
Everything ends in disaster: even good things are by time
outworn. Little or nothing remains,
as when the earth is swept away by heavy showers
and the pebbles are all that is left.

κέκμηκε πάντα, καὶ τὰ καλὰ τῷ χρόνῳ
κέκμηκεν. οὐδὲν ἢ στενὸν τὸ λείψανον,
ὡς γῆς συρείσης ὑετῶν λάβρων φορᾷ
κάχληκές εἰσιν οἱ λελειμμένοι μόνον.

I noticed a hexameter line consisting entirely of nouns in asyndeton at id., II.i.34.61 (Patrologia Graeca 37, col. 1311; tr. Carolinne White, except that I substituted shipmate for her comrade):
Shipmate, son, parent, brother, friend, wife, husband

σύμπλοον, υἷα, τοκῆα, κάσιν, φίλον, εὖνιν, ἀκοίτην
For similar examples see:


Response to Critics

Martial 1.91 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Although you don't publish your own poems, Laelius, you carp at mine.
    Either don't carp at mine or publish your own.

cum tua non edas, carpis mea carmina, Laeli.
    carpere vel noli nostra vel ede tua.
Gregory Nazianus, Poems II.i.39.68 (Patrologia Graeca 37, col. 1354; tr. Carolinne White):
If this is of little value, produce something better yourself.

εἰ μικρὰ ταῦτα, σὺ τέλει τὰ μείζονα.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Constant to the Same Sweet Mistress

William Maginn (1794-1842), "Pandemus Polyglott," in his Miscellanies: Prose and Verse, ed. R.W. Montagu, Vol. II (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1885), pp. 262-282 (at 263-264):
The Doctor, though a colossus of mind, has had the firmness through life to forego all those mundane advantages which his wondrous powers must have obtained for him had such been his pleasure; and as in early life he gave himself up to the allurements of classical literature, so with a constancy seldom rivalled did he in manhood and in age still does he adhere to the same sweet mistress. The fruits of this affection are manifold, as some forty MS. folios testify; but, while the Doctor lives, his intimates alone will have the benefit of their acquaintance; for he is far too chary of his own personal comfort, too sensible of his own dignity, to sacrifice the one, or diminish his own proud sense of the other, by trusting the smallest of his learned labours to the caprice or indifference of a world engaged for the most part in pursuits which he looks down upon with pity, and would regard, if he were less good than he is, with contempt.


Carpe Diem

Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-1492), "Il Trionfo di Bacco e Arianna," lines 45-60, tr. Giuseppe Baretti, An Introduction to the Italian Language (London: A. Millar, 1755), p. 453 (words in italics represent additions):
Let every one open well his ears to our song: let none feed himself with the hopes of to-morrow. Let to-day every one be merry, young and old, males and females: let every sad thought fall, let us still make merry. Let him be joyous who will; there is no certainty of to-morrow.

O Women, and young lovers, long live Bacchus, and long live Love: let every oné play, dance, and sing: let the heart burn with sweetness. Do not think of labour, do not think of grief: what must be, must be. Let him be joyous who will; there is no certainty of to-morrow.
The Italian, from Lorenzo il Magnifico, Poesie, ed. Federico Sanguineti (Milan: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, 1992), p. 178:
Ciascun apra ben gli orecchi,        45
di doman nessun si paschi;
oggi siàn, giovani e vecchi,
lieti ognun, femmine e maschi;
ogni tristo pensier caschi:
facciam festa tuttavia.        50
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c'è certezza.

Donne e giovinetti amanti,
viva Bacco e viva Amore!
Ciascun suoni, balli e canti!        55
Arda di dolcezza il core!
Non fatica, non dolore!
Ciò ch'a esser, convien sia.
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c'è certezza.        60
Id., tr. John Addington Symonds, Sketches and Studies in Italy and Greece, Second Series (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1900), p. 328:
Listen well to what we're saying;
    Of to-morrow have no care!
Young and old together playing,
    Boys and girls, be blithe as air!
Every sorry thought forswear!
    Keep perpetual holiday.—
    Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
Nought ye know about to-morrow.

Ladies and gay lovers young!
    Long live Bacchus, live Desire!
Dance and play; let songs be sung;
    Let sweet love your bosoms fire;
In the future come what may!—
Youths and maids, enjoy to-day!
Nought ye know about to-morrow.
Id., tr. Stanley Appelbaum, First Italian Reader: A Dual-Language Book (Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 2008), p. 45:
Let everyone open his ears wide:
let no one be contented with tomorrow;
young and old, women and men,
let's all be happy today;
let every sad thought drop away;
let's celebrate constantly.
Let all who wish to be happy, be so:
there's no certainty about tomorrow.

Ladies and amorous young men,
long live Bacchus, long live Love!
Let everyone play music, dance, and sing!
Let each heart blaze with pleasure!
No weariness, no sorrow!
What must be, let it happen!
Let all who wish to be happy, be so:
there's no certainty about tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


When the Criminals All Spoke Perfect French

Mohamed Choukri (1935-2003), Jean Genet in Tangiers, tr. Paul Bowles (New York: The Ecco Press, 1974), pp. 14-15:
He [Brion Gysin] went on to say that he had been rereading some of the books. I can't believe that man didn't have a classical education, he said. There's some mystery that he's trying to hide. His life is one of the great literary mysteries of the century.

I asked him how he thought it was possible for Genet to have had such an education. He said he had spoken of it with him, but Genet would never say more than that his entire education came from the thieves and vagabonds he happened to know in his formative years. Brion told him outright that he wasn't going to accept that, and added that he suspected he'd been brought up in a Catholic institution.

You don't learn the language of Racine in the street, Brion went on. And I wouldn't be surprised if Genet knew Greek and Latin.

I asked him how Genet had reacted to that.

No reaction, except that he got a bit pale, and looked very much astonished. Then he laughed and denied it. And he went through the same story as always. The thieves and the pimps. He claims it was a very special period that didn't last, the time when the criminals all spoke perfect French! No. You've got Genet the genius, and Genet the criminal. But there's another Genet, Genet the third, Genet the mystery man.
Cf. Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, II.8 (tr. M.A. Screech):
I see even today's brigands, hangmen, mercenaries and stable-lads better taught than the teachers and preachers of my day.

Je voy les brigans, les boureaulx, les avanturiers, les palefreniers de maintenant, plus doctes que les docteurs et prescheurs de mon temps.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Americans and the Classics

Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945), "Rabelais and the Pantagrueline Spirit," speech delivered to the Faculty of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, October 28, 1932:
I think Americans are peculiarly impatient about the classics of any subject. In my own line, I know, I next to never meet anybody who seems to have read anything that was written before about 1890.


The Day of Datylus

Erasmus, Adagia II iv 97, in Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 33: Adages II i 1 to II vi 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 236 (adage misnumbered as 96):
Datyli dies
The day of Datylus

Δατύλου ἡμέρα, The Day of Datylus. When things have gone very well. Taken from a man called Datylus, who achieved the highest honours at Athens.
The Latin:
Δατύλου ἡμέρα, id est Datyli dies, vbi res feliciter successerunt. Sumptum a Datylo quodam, qui apud Athenienses summos est honores consecutus.
Mynors' note on p. 420 (where he has the correct numbering of the adage):
There is a famous fragment of the early Lesbian lyric poet Alcaeus (346 Lobel-Page), in which he calls to his companions: 'Let us drink! Why are we waiting for the lamps? Only a finger breadth of day remains.' This last phrase was, or became proverbial, and is in the collections (Zenobius 3.10, Diogenianus 4.13, Suidas Δ 28); but daktylos, finger(breadth), has become a proper name in the genitive, 'of Daktylos,' and in Zenobius the name is Datylos. The collectors then had to provide 'the day of Da(k)tylos' with a historical explanation which looks quite spurious, and Erasmus simply translates this.
But Datylos (or Datyllos) seems to be elsewhere attested as a proper name. See Diccionario Griego–Español, s.v. Δατύλλος:
Datilo héroe aten. IG 13.383.76 (V a.C.), SEG l.c., prob. el mismo mencionado en el prov. Δατύλλου ἡμέρα Com.Adesp.305, recogido c. otra explicación, prob. errónea, en la forma Δακτύλου ἡμέρα por Zen. 3.10, Diogenian. 1.4.13, Apostol. 5.86, Sud.
and Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. VIII: Adespota, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), p. 101, number 305:

If I understand this correctly, Kurt Latte in his edition of Hesychius (unavailable to me) suggested that the day of Daty(l)lus may have been the day during the festival of Pandia on which sacrificial meat was distributed to the people.

I don't have access to Lobel and Page, edd., Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta, but here is the fragment of Alcaeus (cited by Mynors) from David A. Campbell's Loeb Classical Library edition:
Let us drink! Why do we wait for the lamps? There is only an inch of day left. Friend, take down the large decorated cups. The son of Semele and Zeus gave men wine to make them forget their sorrows. Mix one part of water to two of wine, pour it in brimful, and let one cup jostle another.

πώνωμεν· τί τὰ λύχν᾿ ὀμμένομεν; δάκτυλος ἀμέρα·
κὰδ δἄερρε κυλίχναις μεγάλαις, ἄϊτα, ποικίλαις·
οἶνον γὰρ Σεμέλας καὶ Δίος υἶος λαθικάδεα
ἀνθρώποισιν ἔδωκ᾿. ἔγχεε κέρναις ἔνα καὶ δύο
πλήαις κὰκ κεφάλας, <ἀ> δ᾿ ἀτέρα τὰν ἀτέραν κύλιξ


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