Currently, in the New Bod, there is quite a tasty little exhibition relating to the brilliant Catholic apologist and philologist J R R Tolkien. Among the goodies is a jeu penned by T when on a walking holiday with fellow Inklings.
It constitutes a spoof Examination Paper. This is how it begins:
College of Cretacious Perambulators.
[?1] April 1938
Comment on the following.
(1) It is no good setting them that, they would know it.
(2) 'The poet sat in the third and laughed.'
(3) 'Ten twenty thirty you're very dirty.'
(4) 'The Armada can wait but my bowels can't.'
(5) Panta sphairei [in Greek letters with accents.]
(6) Felix qui potuit felis cognoscere caudam.
(1) presumably parodies the thought processes assumed to be present in the minds of cantankerous examiners. (3) is from George MacDonald ... Does anybody have any thoughts about (2)? Or about contextualisation in general?
(4), (5), and (6) speak for themselves ... or do they? In (5), the ink of the final two letters is much stronger, and it appears to me that they represent a correction of what was first written rather more faintly. Grammarians will immediately guess that the lectio prima might have been Panta sphairoi. But, in either case, what is the phrase supposed to mean?
I wonder if there are conceptual links between the 'questions'. One could certainly imagine a link between the appalling Drake's profluent bowels and the apophthegm of Heraclitus "Panta rhei". And between Heraclitus and the greatest of the Greek philosophers, Epicurus, as mediated through Lucretius to Virgil.
Whose was the cat and whence its sapient tail?