Chapter XVI The pilgrim observes the promotion of masters and doctors

But behold! a trumpet sounded as if summoning the people for a celebration; Mr. Searchall, divining what was to happen, suggested: “Let us return for a moment; there will be something worth seeing.” — “What will it be?” I inquired. He answered: “The Academy is going to crown those who, having exercised superior diligence, have attained the summit of learning; these, I say, are to be crowned as an example to all others.” Desirous to see such a rare spectacle, and seeing the multitudes rushing thither, I followed after the crowd; here, under the “philosophical +51sky,” stood a personage holding a paper sceptre, to whom some from among the crowd presented themselves, requesting an attestation of their high learning. He approved their request as proper and commanded them to present in writing what they knew and to which they desired certification. Thereupon one expounded a summary of philosophy; another, of medicine; another, of law; but at the same time, in order to make the progress smoother, they greased the way with their purses.

2 The personage then, taking the candidates ones by one, pasted a title on their foreheads: this is a Master of Liberal Arts; this is a Doctor of Medicine; this is a Licentiate of Both Laws, +52etc. Then he confirmed these titles with his seal, and commanded all, whether present or absent, on pain of the disfavor of the goddess Pallas Athene, not to address them otherwise, when they met them, except by those titles. Therewith he dismissed both them and the multitude. “Is there something more to follow?” I asked. “Isn’t that enough for you?” retorted my interpreter. “Don’t you see how everybody gives way before them?” And indeed, they did give way.

3 However, wishing to learn how they fared afterwards, I observe one of those masters of arts: they asked him to figure out something, he could not; to measure something, he could not; to name the stars, he could not; to make syllogisms, he could not; to speak in foreign languages, he could not; to deliver an oration in his own tongue, he could not; at last they bade him read and write, but he could not. “What a shame,” I exclaimed, “to subscribe oneself a master of the seven arts but to know none of them!” — “If this one does not know them,” my interpreter answered, “another or a third or fourth does; all cannot be equally proficient.” — “Do I understand, then,” I replied, “that after one has spent his youth and his substance in schools, after he has been loaded with titles and seals, it is necessary to ask whether he has learned anything? May God save us from such a pass!” — “You will never cease playing the wiseacre,” he retorted, “until you catch something! Just keep on babbling like that, and I swear that you will surely suffer for it.” “Well, then,” I replied, “even if they be masters or doctos of seventy-seven arts, and know them all or none, I will not say a word; only let us go away.”