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In Plato’s Gorgias Socrates accuses Polus of trying to frighten him: “You are trying to make my flesh creep,” he says (473d), all of which is expressed in Greek by the single word mormoluttēi (μορμολύττῃ), a form of the curious verb mormoluttomai (μορμολύττομαι).[1] Its first element is from Mormō (or Mormōn, Μορμώ(ν)), a female hobgoblin invoked by nurses and mothers to scare children—a practice condemned in the Republic, where Socrates says that mothers should not “terrify their children with harmful tales,” such at least as speak evil of the gods (381e, trans. Shorey). The second element of the verb suggests, and possibly derives from, the root lutt– or luss-, which means rage or madness.

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In the third book of Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that just as poets ought to present character that is worthy of emulation, so also craftsmen (painters, sculptors, architects) should produce such works that “our young men, dwelling as it were in a salubrious region, may receive benefit from all things about them, whence the influence that emanates from works of beauty may waft itself to eye or ear like a breeze that brings from wholesome places health, and so from earliest childhood insensibly guide them to likeness, to friendship, to harmony with beautiful reason.” (Republic 401c–d, trans. Paul Shorey.) The breeze is aura (αὔρα), a word which elsewhere in Plato occurs in the phrase “the breeze of fortune,” which bloweth where it listeth.

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An untitled poem of 1854 by A. A. Fet, literally translated, goes something like this.

How cool it is here under the thick linden-tree—
the intense heat of midday has not been penetrating hither,
and hanging over me, thousands
of fragrant fans are swinging.

But there, in the distance, the burning air glitters,
wavering, as if drowsing.
So sharp and dry is the soporific and grating
ceaseless ringing of the grasshoppers.

Beyond the shadows of the branches the vault of heaven shows blue,
as if lightly shrouded in haze,
and, like dreams of slumbering nature,
wavy clouds pass by.

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