schoolboys of history

Schoolboys of Ancient Greece were made to memorize the works of great poets (especially Homer) as moral lessons. But what does this fragment say?

Some read it as the beginning of a list of mythological figures. To others, it reads as a part of an epic poem by Hesiod, “The Catalog of Women.” Either way, he seems pretty distracted. Is the scroll sideways?

Boy Reading a Scroll, 470-450 B.C., Attributed to the Akestorides Painter. J. Paul Getty Museum.

Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human lonliness.
—  Vladimir Nabokov, A Letter That Never Reached Russia
Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness, dear, my happiness will remain, in the moist reflection of a streetlamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human lonliness.
—  Vladimir Nabokov, A Letter That Never Reached Russia
Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness , dear, my happiness will remain,in the moist reflection of a street lamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal’s black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.
—  Vladimir Nabokov, Selected Letters, 1940-1977