ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.—Exodus 22:21.
The comic poet also says, "Quot capita tot sententiae, suus cuique mos est." "As many men, so many minds, each has his way." Young soldiers exult in war, and pleaders delight in the gown; others aspire after riches, and think them the supreme good. Some approve Galen, some Justinian. Those who are desirous of honours follow the court, and from their ambitious pursuits meet with more mortification than satisfaction. Some, indeed, but very few, take pleasure in the liberal arts, amongst whom we cannot but admire logicians, who, when they have made only a trifling progress, are as much enchanted with the images of Dialectics, as if they were listening to the songs of the Syrens.
But among so many species of men, where are to be found divine poets? Where the noble assertors of morals? Where the masters of the Latin tongue? Who in the present times displays lettered eloquence, either in history or poetry? Who, I say, in our own age, either builds a system of ethics, or consigns illustrious actions to immortality? Literary fame, which used to be placed in the highest rank, is now, because of the depravity of the times, tending to ruin and degraded to the lowest, so that persons attached to study are at present not only not imitated nor venerated, but even detested. "Happy indeed would be the arts," observes Fabius, "if artists alone judged of the arts;" but, as Sydonius says, "it is a fixed principle in the human mind, that they who are ignorant of the arts despise the artist."
But to revert to our subject. Which, I ask, have rendered more service to the world, the arms of Marius or the verses of Virgil? The sword of Marius has rusted, while the fame of him who wrote the AEneid is immortal; and although in his time letters were honoured by lettered persons, yet from his own pen we find,
" - tantum Carmina nostra valent tela inter Martia, quantum Chaonias dicunt, aquila veniente, columbas."
Who would hesitate in deciding which are more profitable, the works of St. Jerom, or the riches of Croesus? but where now shine the gold and silver of Croesus? whilst the world is instructed by the example and enlightened by the learning of the poor coenobite. Yet even he, through envy, suffered stripes and contumely at Rome, although his character was so illustrious; and at length being driven beyond the seas, found a refuge for his studies in the solitude of Bethlehem. Thus it appears, that gold and arms may support us in this life, but avail nothing after death; and that letters through envy profit nothing in this world, but, like a testament, acquire an immortal value from the seal of death.
"Pascitur in vivis livor, post fata quiescit; Cum suus ex merito quemque tuetur honor."
"Denique si quis adhuc praetendit nubila, livor Occidet, et meriti post me referentur honores."
Those who by artifice endeavour to acquire or preserve the reputation of abilities or ingenuity, while they abound in the words of others, have little cause to boast of their own inventions. For the composers of that polished language, in which such various cases as occur in the great body of law are treated with such an appropriate elegance of style, must ever stand forward in the first ranks of praise. I should indeed have said, that the authors of refined language, not the hearers only, the inventors, not the reciters, are most worthy of commendation. You will find, however, that the practices of the court and of the schools are extremely similar; as well in the subtleties they employ to lead you forward, as in the steadiness with which they generally maintain their own positions. Yet it is certain that the knowledge of logic (the acumen, if I may so express it, of all other sciences as well as arts) is very useful, when restricted within proper bounds; whilst the court (i.e. courtly language), excepting to sycophants or ambitious men, is by no means necessary. For if you are successful at court, ambition never wholly quits its hold till satiated, and allures and draws you still closer; but if your labour is thrown away, you still continue the pursuit, and, together with your substance, lose your time, the greatest and most irretrievable of all losses. There is likewise some resemblance between the court and the game of dice, as the poet observes:-