Monday, August 28, 2006

Herodotus on History, Life, and Split Infinitives

SOCRATES: Our good friend Herodotus is visiting us, as he is preparing a new English translation of his famous Histories. For this purpose he seeks to expand his knowledge of English vernacular, so he has come to make use of your library, which is renowned as "The Vulgarian Alexandria".

GLEN: I'm honored, and of course Herodotus is always a welcome sight. But if you need a new translation, why don't you just let some Associate Professor of Classics do it for you?

HERODOTUS: The last Professor of Classics was executed by a firing squad in April.

GLEN: No kidding?

HERODOTUS: So my publisher tells me. The professor died bravely, and the publisher's mail room clerk was slain alongside him. That's why I haven't received the advance check he promised me. Though my publisher's detailed account of this tragedy left me deeply moved, I suspect there is more to the story. I'm afraid that the publisher was not willing to pay someone to translate Herodotus, and concocted a falsehood to conceal his reluctance.

SOCRATES: Won't pay someone to translate your work? Well, perhaps he feels that the translator should pay for the honor of rendering your wisdom into a barbarian tongue, rather than receiving payment. And what price could be high enough for such an honor? I'll bet the finest scholars in America are mortgaging their mobile homes to raise the funds.

HERODOTUS: Perhaps. Or perhaps no one cares about your old friend Herodotus any longer.

GLEN: No, no.

SOCRATES: You should have seen the Emmy show. They wouldn't shut up about you. Herodotus said this, Herodotus said that ...

HERODOTUS: Spare me the flattery. Do they really shoot people in this country for being boring? As my friends you owe it to me to tell the truth.

GLEN: No, no, no. God, we wish.

SOCRATES: Would Glen be sitting here if that were true? Get a grip on yourself. Anyway, you'd be the last one they'd shoot.

GLEN: Tell us about your studies.

HERODOTUS: Well, I've been quite absorbed in Mencken's The American Language, as well as Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. Fowler's spirited defense of the split infinitive is also very interesting. We didn't have split infinitives in Greek. I can't wait to try one.

SOCRATES: Go for it.

GLEN: You want another drink first?

HERODOTUS: All right, but not so full this time. This wine is very rich.

GLEN: It's not wine, it's scotch. You don't have to put sugar in it like that, it's already flavored.

HERODOTUS: Oof. Hah. So it is ...

SOCRATES: The Celtic barbarians who make the stuff drown sheep in it. They believe that the sheep's soul becomes trapped in the wine.

HERODOTUS: Really? Must remember that. It does rather taste like a sheep's soul, with a trace of smoke, kissed from the lips of a woman who has just taken a cold drink ... a breath of hot passion mixed with ice. Hera and Aphrodite, tongue-fighting in my mouth.

SOCRATES: Were there any split infinitives in that sentence?


SOCRATES: I want to hear some split infinitives.

GLEN: Hang on, refill first.

HERODOTUS: Single Malt. Incredible stuff. What if they drowned two malts in it?

SOCRATES: Or like, six?

HERODOTUS: Woof. Balls on a chariot wheel. Are we ready now?

SOCRATES: Do it. Split an infinitive.


SOCRATES: Do it! Do it!

GLEN: I can't believe we're doing this.

SOCRATES: I know, I know. This is so bad.

HERODOTUS: "To purely love, is to lovely be; and for her and I to lovely join, is to sweetly split infinity."

SOCRATES: That was good. A trifle fruity, but it was pretty good.

GLEN: That ... that was the greatest, best split infinitive I've ever heard in my life.

SOCRATES: I wouldn't go that far, but it was pretty damn good.

GLEN: Way to do it. Way to frigging do it. Cheers.


HERODOTUS: Thank you. Cheers.

GLEN: Now give us something from the Histories. Give us a story.

HERODOTUS: But I haven't even begun the translation yet.

GLEN: So what?

SOCRATES: Yeah, to hell with the translation. You're not a writer, anyway, you're a logios. Just go with it, just tap the words right out of your bad Ionian soul. Oral history rules.

GLEN: Just let loose the river, and let it find the sea.


GLEN: Let the river find the sea.


GLEN: And we're not going to judge you, and get all over your case and stuff, because we're your friends. You know? And we're just, we're just here with you. You know what I mean? We're here.

SOCRATES: Exactly. Exactly. And you know, Herodotus ... you know, you're not an Athenian.


SOCRATES: You're not an Athenian.

HERODOTUS: I know I'm not.

GLEN: What has that got to do with anything?

SOCRATES: Can I just say what I was going to say? Can I just talk for a minute? Herodotus, all I'm saying is ... you know, you're not an Athenian. But you're okay.

GLEN: Of course he's okay. He's better than okay, he's Herodotus. And he's our friend, and we're here with him, and he's going to lay out some history for us, so why do you have to start up with your Athenian shit? What the hell is the matter with you?

HERODOTUS: Guys, guys, whoa. Let's have another drink, and just cool out. It's okay, I perfectly understand, okay?

GLEN: Okay, okay. Cheers.

SOCRATES: Here's to swimming with bow-legged Amazons.

GLEN: And swimming betwixt their knees.

HERODOTUS: So, what would you like to hear?

SOCRATES: Something with a bunch of dead Spartans in it.

HERODOTUS: Yeah. Yeah. See, I always knew you liked Thucydides better than me.

SOCRATES: No, I don't.

GLEN: Come on, Herodotus, he didn't mean it that way.

SOCRATES: Thucydides is a prick.

GLEN: If Thucydides were to, like, crawl through a mile of sewage mixed with broken razor blades, just to lick your shadow off a dead Spartan's ass, it ... it would be totally wrong for him to do that. Because, you know, he would not be worthy.

SOCRATES: Thucydides. Feh. We should drive down to his house and kick his ass until he craps blood. You know why he was exiled, don't you?

HERODOTUS: Because he failed to relieve Amphipolis when the Spartan Brasidas besieged it.

SOCRATES: No, just because he was such a prick.

HERODOTUS: My friends, rich in wisdom and single malt scotch-wine, thank you for your appreciation. But I'm afraid the world has passed old Herodotus by. It reminds me of the Pyramid of Asychis. This pyramid was made of mud instead of stone, and was humble in size compared to that of Cheops. Yet this crumbling heap was considered to be the greatest pyramid of all, because of the manner in which it was constructed. They drew the mud from the bed of the Nile by inserting a long pole into it, and only the mud that was gathered from the end of this pole was used to make the brick. That's me. That's my life.

GLEN: What is? The Pyramid of Asychis is your life?

HERODOTUS: Yes. Ugly, squat, and falling to pieces, but lovingly and painstakingly built. One handful of mud at a time. Or something like that.