Chapter X The pilgrim examines the learned class generally
Thereupon my guide said to me:
“At last I understand where your mind draws you: among the learned with you, among the learned; that is the bait for you, an easier, more peaceful, and for the mind a more useful life.” —
“That is indeed so,” said my interpreter;
“for what can be more delightful for a man than to withdraw from, and to ignore unprofitable manual toil and give himself wholly to the investigation of all splendid causes? That is indeed what makes mortal men like, if not equal to, immortal God, so they may become as though omniscient, knowing and understanding what is, has been, or is to be in the heavens above, upon the earth, and in the abyss beneath; true, such perfection is not attained by all to an equal degree.” —
“Lead me there, why do you tarry?” said I.
A rigorous examination to start with
We then came to a gate called Discipline: it was long, narrow, and dark, full of armed guards, to whom every one desiring to enter the street of the learned had to report and request his guidance. I observed that the crowds of those who presented themselves, for the greates part young men, were immediately put through various severe examinations. The first of these, required of all, aimed at ascertaining what kind of purse, posterior, head, brain (which they judged by the nasal +11mucus), and skin each of the candidates brought. If the head were of steel, the brain of quicksilver, the posterior of lead, the skin of iron, and the purse of gold, they praised him and willingly conducted him farther; if he lacked any of these five prerequisites, they either ordered him back or admitted him grudgingly, foreboding ill success for him. I was amazed and inquired:
“Does so much depend upon these five metals that they search for them so diligently?” —
“Very much, indeed,” replied my interpreter;
“the head that not of steel would crack: without the brain of quicksilver the pupil could not make a mirror of it; without the skin of sheet-iron he would not survive the formative process; not possessing the seat of lead, he would hatch nothing but miscarry everything; and without the purse of gold, where would he obtain the necessary leisure or teachers, both living and dead? Or do you imagine thatsuch great things may be obtained without cost?” Then only did I understand that this profession requires health, intelligence, perseverance, patience, and expenditure of money.
“It may therefore be truly affirmed,” I said,
“non cuivis contingit adire +12Corinthum. Not every log is fit to serve for grained veneer.”
To enter is painful and difficult: memorial artificialis
We proceeded further into the gate where I observed that each guard, choosing one or more of the candidates, led them on, blew something into their ears, wiped their eyes, steamed their nose and nostrils, drew out and trimmed their tongue, taught them to clasp or extend their hands and fingers, and coached them in I do not know how many more ways. Some guards even attempted to bore their pupils' heads and to pour something into them. My interpreter, seeing frightened thereat, said
“Be not amazed; the learned must possess hands, tongue, eyes, ears, brain, and all other external and internal organs of a different order from those of the ignorant masses of manking; for that purpose they are here reformed, and that cannot be accomplished without toil and pain.” Then I looked and saw how deadly those poor wreteches had to pay for their re-formation. I do not speak of their purses, but of their skins which they had to expose. For they were beaten with fists, +13pointers, canes, and sticks on their cheeks, head, back, and seat until they shed blood, and were full of bruises and scars, weals and callouses. Some seeing this, before they surrendered themselves to the guards, cast but a hasty glance inside the gate and ran away: others tore themselves out of the hands of the would-be re-formers and likewise fled. Only a small remnant persevered to the end, to proceed further into the square; desirous of joining that profession, I too underwent the formation in a like manner, although not without hardships and +14bitterness.
Each learned man is given a password
When we left the gate, I noticed that each of those who had acquired something of the preliminary training, received a device by which he could be recognized as belonging to the scholars: an ink-horn stuck under his belt, a pen behind his ear, and a blank book for recording knowledge in his hand; I too received those articles. Mr. Searchall thereupon said to me:
“We are now confronted with four paths: philosophy, medicine, law, and theology; where shall we go first?” —
“Do as you judge best,” I replied.
“Let us first go to the square where they all meet,” he suggested;
“you will there see them all together, then let us visit their lecture rooms separately.”
Even among learned men there are deficiencies
5 Thereupon, he led me to a square and behold! a crowd of students, masters, doctors, priests, both youths and grey-beards! Some were congregated in groups, conversing and disputing among themselves; others hugged out-of the-way nooks, away from all the rest. Some (as I clearly perceived, although I dared not speak of it) had eyes but no tongue; others had tongue but no eyes; some had only ears, but no tongue or eyes; and so forth; then I realized that deficiencies existed even here. Seeing that they all issued from a certain place and again re-entered it, like bees swarming in and out of a hive, I prompted my companions to go in as well.
Description of a library
6 So we entered; and behold, a large hall the end of which was out of sight; on all sides were ranged such long rows of shelves, sections, cases, and containers that a hundred thousand wagon loads could not remove them all, and each had its separate designation and title.
“What kind of apothecary’s shop have we come into,” I inquired.
“One which deals in medicines for mind-diseases,” answered my interpreter:
“such a place is properly called a libraray. Behold these endless stores of wisdom!” I looked around and watched groups of scholars approaching and handling the equipment. Some selected the best and wittiest, and drawing out a piece, ate it, slowly chewing and digesting it. I went up to one of them and asked him what he was doing.
“I am cultivating myself.” —
“And how does the food taste?” —
“While I am chewing it,” he replied,
“it tastes bitter and acrid; but later it turns sweet.” —
“But why are you eating it?” I continued.
“I find it more convenient to carry it within,” he answered;
“for I am then surer of it. Do you not observe the benefit?” I scrutinized him more carefully and saw that he was stout and fat, with a healthy complexion; his eyes shone like candles, his diction was carefully chosen, and everything about him had an air of livelines.
“Look at these!” my interpreter told me.
The evils of studies
7 I looked and behold! some men behaving very greedily, glutting themselves with anything they could lay their hands on. Observing them more carefully, I noticed that they neither improved their complexion nor gained flesh or fat, save that their belly was blown and swelled out; I also perceived that whatever they crammed in, passed out at both ends undigested. Some of them became dizzy or lost their minds; others grew pallid, pined away, and died. Others seeing this, singled out these men as a warning against the dangers in the use of books (as they called the boxes); thereupon, some ran away; others exhorted all to deal carefully with those things. Hence, these latter did not consume them inwardly, but packed them into sacks or bags which they kept suspended before or behind their persons (for the greatest part, they selected the following titles: the Vocabulary, the Dictionary, the Lexicon, Illustrations, Quotations, Loci communes, Postils, Concordances, Herbaria, and such others as they deemed the most appropriate to their needs) and these they carried about, and whenever they had occasion to speak or write, they drew them out of their pockets and culled out whatever was needed for their tongue or pen. Perceiving this, I said:
“I notice that these people carry their knowledge in their pockets.” —
“Those are merely aids to memory,” my interpreter answered;
“have you not heard of them?” I have, indeed, heard some praise this custom on the ground that such men brought out only generally approved knowledge. That might very well have been the case. I observed, however, that the custom had this disadvantage. It happened in my presence that some misplaces boxes, while others, having laid them aside, lost them in fire. What running about, wringing of hands, lamenting, and imploring of aid then ensued! For the time being nobody was willing to dispute, or write, or preach; but walking about with downcast eyes, cringing and blushing, he begged or purchased from his acquintances a new outfit; those, however, who had inner store of knowledge, were not afraid of such a mishap.
Student who does not study
8 Moreover, I observed certain of them who did not even trouble themselves to carry the boxes in their pockets, but stored them in their rooms; I followed them and saw that they made beautiful receptacles for the books, painting them various colors, some daubing them with silver and gold; then they placed the books on or took them off the shelves, pleased with looking at them; they continued putting up and taking down the books, approaching or retreating, pointing out to each other or to strangers the excellent appearance of them, all superficially. Some occasionally looked at the titles to memorize the names of the works.
“What are these folk playing?” I inquired.
“My dear fellow,” replied the interpreter,
“it is a fine thing to possess a fine library.” —
“Even when it is not used?” I remarked.
“Lovers of books are also counted among the learned,” he rejoined. I thought to myself: just as well might a man be counted among blacksmiths if he possessed a heap of hammers and pincers, but did not know how to use them! Nevertheless, I forebore to speak for fear of catching something.