My Followers
From Folly Speaks by Erasmus(1509)

In case anyone thinks I'm presuming too far and not speaking the truth, let's take a brief look at the way men live, and it will then become clear how much they owe me and how they appreciate me, whether great men or humble.

We won't go into every kind of life, it would take too long, but will pick out some outstanding examples from which it will be easy to judge the rest, and there's no point in mentioning the vulgar crowd and humble folk who all belong to me without question. They abound in so many forms of folly and devise so many new ones every day that a thousand Democrituses wouldn't be enough to laugh at them, and we'd always have to call in one Democritus more. It's hardly believable how much laughter, sport, and fun you poor mortals can provide the gods every day. For they allocate their sober morning hours to settling altercations and listening to prayers, but once the nectar is flowing freely they want a change from serious business, and that is when they settle down on some promontory of heaven and lean over to watch the goings-on of mankind, a show they enjoy more than anything.

Heavens, what a farce it is, what a motley crowd of fools! (44) I often take a seat myself amongst the poets' gods. Here's a man who has lost his heart to a young woman, the more hopelessly in love the less he's loved in return. Another marries a dowry, not a wife, and while one man prostitutes his bride, another is watching his as jealous-eyed as Argus. Here's one in mourning, and dear me, what foolish things he says and does, hiring mourners like actors to playa comedy of grief. There's another shedding tears at his stepmother's tomb. This one gives everything he can scrape together to his belly, but soon he'll go hungry again, and that one finds his happiness in idleness and sleep. There are men who spend their time bustling about on other people's affairs to the neglect of their own. One thinks himself rich On loans and credit though he'll soon be bankrupt, and another enjoys nothing so much as living like a pauper in order to enrich his heir. This one scours the seas for a meagre and uncertain profit, entrusting to wind and wave his life, which no money can replace, while that one prefers to seek his fortune in war to living in peace and safety [at home]. Others fancy they've found an easy road to wealth by cultivating childless old men, and there are plenty of people too who court the affection of rich old women with the same end in view. Both groups provide special entertainment to the audience of gods when they end by being duped by the guile of the very people they set out to ensnare. Most foolish of all, and the meanest, is the whole tribe of merchants, for they handle the meanest sort of business by the meanest methods, and although their lies, perjury, thefts, frauds, and deceptions are everywhere to be found, they still reckon themselves a cut above everyone else simply because their fingers Sport gold rings. There are plenty of sycophantic friars too who will sing their praises and publicly address them as honourable, doubtless hoping that a morsel of these ill-gotten gains will come their way. Elsewhere you'll see certain Pythagoreans whose belief in communism of property goes to such lengths that they pick up anything lying about unguarded, and make off with it without a qualm of conscience as if it had come to them by law. Some too are rich only in their prayers, and live on pleasant dreams, which they find enough for happiness. Several enjoy a reputation for wealth abroad while they conscientiously starve at home. One man hurries to squander every penny he has, another hoards everything by fair means or foul; one goes canvassing for public office, another takes his pleasure by his own fireside. A good many engage in interminable litigation, but their efforts to outdo each other all end in enriching the judge who defers judgement and the advocate who acts in collusion with his opposite number. One man is eager for revolution, another toils on with some vast project. Yet another leaves wife and children at home, and goes off to Jerusalem or Rome or St James's shrine, where he has no call to be. To sum up, if you could look down from the moon, as Menippus once did, on the countless hordes of mortals, you'd think you saw a swarm of flies or gnats quarrelling amongst themselves, fighting, plotting, stealing, playing, making love, being born, growing old, and dying: It's hard to believe how much trouble and tragedy this tiny little creature can stir up, short lived as he is, for sometimes a brief war or an outbreak of plague can carry off and destroy many thousands at once.

But it would be very foolish of me and certainly call for some of Democritus' outbursts of laughter if I tried to enumerate all the types of folly and madness among the people. Let's look at those who have some reputation for wisdom amongst mortals and seek the golden bough, as the saying goes.

Among them the schoolmasters hold first place. They would surely be the most unfortunate and wretched class of men and the one most hateful to the gods if I didn't mitigate the hardships of their miserable profession by a pleasant kind of madness. For they're exposed not merely to the 'five curses', that is, the five calamities mentioned in the Greek epigram, but to six hundred, always famished and dirty as they are amidst their hordes of boys in their schools; though what I call schools should rather be their 'thinking-shop', or better still, their treadmill and torture chamber. There they grow old with toil and deaf with the clamour, wasting away in the stench and filth. Yet, thanks to me, in their own eyes they are first among men, and enjoy considerable satisfaction when they terrify the trembling crowd with threatening voice and looks, thrashing their wretched pupils with cane, birch, and strap, venting their fury in any way they please like the famous ass of Cumae. Meanwhile the squalor they live in is sheer elegance to them, the stink smells sweet as marjoram, and their pitiful servitude seems like sovereignty, so that they wouldn't change their tyranny for all the power of Phalaris or Dionysius.

Yet they get even more happiness out of their remarkable belief in their own learning. There they are, most of them filling boys' heads with arrant nonsense, but setting themselves above any Palaemon or Donatus! And by some sort of confidence-trick they do remarkably well at persuading foolish mothers and ignorant fathers to accept them at their own valuation. Then there's this further type of pleasure. Whenever one of them digs out of some mouldy manuscript the name of Anchises' mother or some trivial word the ordinary man doesn't know, such as neatherd, tergiversator, cutpurse, or if anyone unearths a scrap of old stone with a fragmentary inscription, 0 Jupiter, what a triumph! What rejoicing, what eulogies! They might have conquered Africa or captured Babylon. And again, when they keep on bringing out their feeble verses, their own hopeless efforts, and frod no lack of admirers, of course they believe the spirit of Virgil is reborn in themselves. But the funniest thing of all is when there's an exchange of compliments and appreciation, a mutual back-scratching. Yet if someone else slips up on a single word and his sharper-eyed fellow happens to pounce on it, 'Hercules', what dramas, what fights to the death, accusations, and abuse! The whole world of grammarians may turn on me if I lie.

I know one 'jack-of-all-trades', scholar of Greek and Latin, mathematician, philosopher, doctor, all in princely style, a man already in his sixties, who has thrown up everything else and spent twenty years vexing and tormenting himself over grammar. He supposes he'd be perfectly happy if he were allowed to live long enough to define precisely how the eight parts of speech should be distinguished, something in which no one writing in Greek or Latin has ever managed to be entirely successful. And then if anyone treats a conjunction as a word with the force of an adverb, it's a thing to go to war about. To this end, though there are as many grammars as grammarians — or rather, more, since my friend Aldus alone has brought out more than five — there isn't one, however ignorantly or tediously written, which our man will pass over without scrutinizing it from cover to cover. Nor is there anyone, however inept his efforts in this field, who won't arouse his jealousy, for he's pitiably afraid that someone will win the prize before him, and that all his labours of so many years will be wasted. Would you rather call this madness or folly? It doesn't really make much difference to me, as long as you admit that it's entirely due to me that a creature who'd otherwise be quite the most unfortunate can be carried away to such a pitch of happiness that he wouldn't want to change places with the kings of Persia.

Poets aren't so much in my debt, though they're admittedly members of my party, as they're a free race, as the saying goes, whose sole interest lies in delighting the ears of the foolish with pure nonsense and silly tales. Yet strange to say, they rely on these for the immortality and godlike life they assure themselves, and they make similar promises to others. 'Self-love and Flattery' ate their special friends, and no other race of men worships me with such wholehearted devotion.

Then there are the rhetoricians; they may side with the philosophers and not want to commit themselves, but they too really belong to me — witness the fact, amongst others, that the trivialities they've written about include so many painstaking passages on the theory of joking. And so whoever it was who dedicated his Art of Rhetoric to Herennius lists folly amongst the types of witticism, while Quintilian, the prince of orators by a long way, has a chapter on laughter which is even longer than the Iliad. They pay high tribute to folly in believing that what can't be refuted by argument can often be parried by laughter; unless anyone supposes that raising a laugh by witticisms according to plan has nothing to do with folly.

Of the same kidney are those who court immortal fame by writing books. They all owe a great deal to me, especially any who blot their pages with unadulterated rubbish. But people who use their erudition to write for a learned minority and are anxious to have either Persius or Laelius pass judgement don't seem to me favoured by fortune but rather to be pitied for their continuous self-torture. They add, change, remove, lay aside, take up, rephrase, show to their friends, keep for nine years, and are never satisfied. And their futile reward, a word of praise from a handful of people, they win at such a cost — so many late nights, such loss of sleep, sweetest of all things, and so much sweat and anguish. Then their health deteriorates, their looks are destroyed, they suffer partial or total blindness, poverty, ill will, denial of pleasure, premature old age, and early death, and any other such disasters there may be. Yet the wise man believes he is compensated for everything if he wins the approval of one or another purblind scholar.

The writer who belongs to me is far happier in his crazy fashion. He never loses sleep as he sets down at once whatever takes his fancy and comes to his pen, even his dreams, and it costs him little beyond the price of his paper. He knows well enough that the more trivial the trifles he writes about the wider the audience which will appreciate them, made up as it is of all die ignoramuses and fools. What does it matter if three scholars can be found to damn his efforts, always supposing they've read them? How can the estimation of a mere handful of savants prevail against such a crowd of admirers?

Even better sense is shown by those who publish other men's work as their own. with a few verbal changes, in order to transfer to themselves the fame someone else has worked hard to acquire. They buoy themselves up with the thought that even if they're convicted of plagiarism they'll have profited meanwhile by whatever time is gained. Their self-satisfaction's a sight worth seeing whenever they're praised in public and pointed out in a crowd ('That's him, the great man himself!'), or when they're on show in the bookshops, every title-page displaying their three names, which are mostly foreign and evidently intended to be spellbinding, though heaven knows these are nothing more than names. How few people will hear of them if you consider the vast size of the world, and fewer still will give them a word of praise, since even the ignorant must have their preferences! Then too, those names are invented more often than not, or borrowed from the works of the ancients, so that a man can call himself Telemachus, Stelenus, or Laertes. One rejoices in the name of Polycrates, another of Thrasymachus, and it doesn't matter nowadays if you inscribe your book Chameleon or Gourd, or do as the philosophers do and sign it alpha or beta.

But the best joke of all is when they praise each other in an exchange of letters, verses, and eulogies, one ignorant fool glorifying another. A votes B an Alcaeus, so B votes A a Callimachus, or B thinks A superior to Cicero, so A says B is more learned than Plato. And sometimes they look for an opponent, to add to their reputation as his rivals. Then

the hesitant mob is split in opposite views(45)

until both leaders go off victorious to celebrate their triumphs. Sensible men laugh at this, for that is supreme folly, no one will deny. But meanwhile I enable these people to lead a pleasant life, and they wouldn't exchange triumphs with the Scipios. And for getting so much pleasure from laughing at this and enjoying the madness of their fellows, the others are much in my debt, learned though they are — they can't deny it without being the most ungrateful of men.

Amongst the learned the lawyers claim first place, the most self-satisfied class of people, as they roll their rock of Sisyphus and string together six hundred laws in the same breath, no matter whether relevant or not, piling up opinion on opinion and gloss on gloss to make their profession seem the most difficult of all. Anything which causes trouble has special merit in their eyes.

Let's group with them the sophists and dialecticians, a breed of men which can rattle on better than one of Dodona's copper pots. Anyone of them could be a match for twenty picked women in garrulity, but they'd be happier if they were only talkative and not quarrelsome as well — they're so stubborn in their fights to the death about things like goat's wool, and they generally lose sight of the truth in the heat of the argument. However, their self-love keeps them happy, and three syllogisms arm them enough to go straight to battle on any subject and with any man. You could put Stentor up against them, but their obstinacy would see that they won the day.

Next to them come the philosophers, cloaked and bearded to command respect, who insist that they alone have wisdom and all other mortals are but fleeting shadows. Theirs is certainly a pleasant form of madness, which sets them building countless universes and measuring the sun, moon, stars, and planets by rule of thumb or a bit of string, and producing reasons for thunderbolts, winds, eclipses, and other inexplicable phenomena. They never pause for a moment, as if they were private secretaries to Nature, architect of the universe, or had come to us straight from the council of the gods. Meanwhile Nature has a fine laugh at them and their conjectures, for their total lack of certainty is obvious enough from the endless contention amongst themselves on every single point. They know nothing at all, yet they claim to know everything. Though ignorant even of themselves and sometimes not able to see the ditch or stone lying in their path, either because most of them are half-blind or because their minds are far away, they still boast that they can see ideas, universals, separate forms, prime matters,[ quiddities, ecceities,] things which are all so insubstantial that I doubt if even Lynceus could perceive them. And how they despise the vulgar crowd whenever they bring out their triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, and similar mathematical diagrams, piled on top of each other and intertwined like a maze, and then letters of the alphabet, which they marshal in line and deploy hither and thither in order to throw dust in the eyes of the less well-informed! Some of them too will also foretell the future by consulting the stars, promising further wonderful marvels, and they are lucky enough to find people to believe them in this too.

Then there are the theologians, a remarkably supercilious and touchy lot. I might perhaps do better to pass over them in silence without 'stirring the mud of Camarina' or grasping that noxious plant, lest they marshal their forces for an attack with innumerable conclusions and force me to eat my words. If I refuse they'll denounce me as a heretic on the spot, for this is the bolt they always loose on anyone to whom they take a dislike.

Now there are none so unwilling to recognize my good services to them, and yet they're under obligation to me on several important counts, notably for their happiness in their self-love, which enables them to dwell in a sort of third heaven, looking down from aloft, almost with pity, on all the rest of mankind as so many cattle crawling on the face of the earth. They are fortified meanwhile with an army of schoolmen's definitions, conclusions, and corollaries, and propositions both explicit and implicit. They boast of so many 'bolt holes' that the meshes of Vulcan's net couldn't stop them from slipping out by means of the distinctions they draw, with which they can easily cut any knot (a double axe from Tenedos wouldn't do better), for they abound in newly coined expressions and strange-sounding words.

In addition, they interpret hidden mysteries to suit themselves: how the world was created and designed; through what channels the stain of sin filtered down to posterity; by what means, in what measure, and how long Christ was formed in the Virgin's womb; how, in the Eucharist, accidents can subsist without a domicile. But this sort of question has been discussed threadbare. There are others more worthy of great and enlightened theologians (as they call themselves) which can really rouse them to action if they come their way. What was the exact moment of divine generation? Are there several filiations in Christ? Is it a possible proposition that God the Father could hate his Son? Could God have taken on the form of a woman, a devil, a donkey, a gourd, or a flints tone? If so, how could a gourd have preached sermons, performed miracles, and been nailed to the cross? And what would Peter have consecrated (if he had consecrated) when the body of Christ still hung on the cross? Furthermore, at that same time could Christ have been called a man? Shall we be permitted to eat and drink after the resurrection? We're taking due precaution against hunger and thirst while there's time.

There are any amount of 'quibbles' even more refined than these, about concepts, relations, instants, formalities, quiddities, and ecceities, which no one could possibly perceive unless like Lynceus he could see through blackest darkness things which don't exist. Then add those 'maxims' of theirs, which are so 'paradoxical' that in comparison the pronouncements of the stoics, which were actually known as paradoxes, seem positively commonplace and banal; for example, that it is a lesser crime to butcher a thousand men than to cobble a poor man's shoe on a single occasion on the Lord's day, and better to let the whole world perish down to the last crumb and stitch, as they say, than to tell a single tiny insignificant lie. (46) These subtle refinements of subtleties are made still more subtle by all the different lines of scholastic argument, so that you'd extricate yourself faster from a labyrinth than from the tortuous obscurities of realists, nominalists, Thomists, Albertists, Ockhamists and Scotists and I've not mentioned all the sects, only the main ones.

Such is the erudition and complexity they all display that I fancy the apostles themselves would need the help of another Holy Spirit if they were obliged to join issue on these topics with our new breed of theologian. Paul could provide a living example of faith, but when he says "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," his definition is quite unscholastic. And though he provides the finest example of charity, in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, he neither divides nor derides it according to the rules of dialectic. The apostles consecrated the Eucharist with due piety, but had they been questioned about the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem, about transubstantiation, and how the same body can be in different places, about the difference between the body of Christ in heaven, on the cross, and at the sacrament of the Eucharist, about the exact moment when transubstantiation takes place, seeing that the prayer which effects it is a distinct quantity extended in time, they wouldn't, in my opinion, have shown the same subtlety in their reply as the Scotists do in their dissertations and definitions. The apostles knew personally the mother of Jesus, but which of them proved how she had been kept immaculate from Adam's sin with the logic our theologians display? Peter received the keys, and received them from one who would not have entrusted them to an unworthy recipient, yet I doubt whether Peter understood (nowhere does he show signs of subtle reasoning power) how a man who has not knowledge can still hold the key to it. The apostles baptized wherever they went, yet nowhere did they teach the formal, material, efficient, and final cause of baptism, nor did they ever mention the delible and indelible marks of the sacraments. They worshipped, that is true, but in spirit, in accordance only with the words of the Gospel,

"God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

Apparently it had never been revealed to them that a mediocre drawing sketched in charcoal on a wall should be worshipped in the same manner as Christ himself, provided that it had two fingers outstretched, long hair, and three rays sticking out from the halo fastened to the back of its head. Who could understand all this unless he has frittered away thirty-six whole years over the physics and metaphysics of Aristotle and Scotus?

Similarly, the apostles repeatedly teach grace, but nowhere do they draw the distinction between grace gratis data and grace gratificans. They encourage good works without distinguishing between opus operans and opus operatum. Everywhere they teach charity, but fail to separate infused charity from what is acquired. Nor do they explain whether it is accident or substance, a thing created or uncreated. They detest sin, but on my life I'll swear they couldn't offer a scientific definition of what we call sin unless they'd been trained in the Scotist spirit.

Nothing will make me believe that Paul, from whose learning we may judge all the other apostles, would so often have condemned questions, arguments, genealogies, and what he himself called 'battles of words', if he had been well up in those niceties, especially when all the controversies and disagreements of that time would have been clumsy and unsophisticated affairs in comparison with the more than Chrysippean subtleties of the schoolmen of today. Not but what these are extremely moderate men. If anything written by the apostles lacks polish and the master's touch, they don't damn it outright but suggest a suitable interpretation, and this, I suppose, is intended as a tribute in deference to its antiquity and apostolic authorship. It would of course hardly be fair to expect such a standard from the apostles when they never heard so much as a word on these matters from their own teacher. If the same sort of thing turned up in Chrysostom, Basil, or Jerome, then they'd have good reason to mark it "not accepted".

Those apostles certainly refuted pagan philosophers and the Jews (who are by nature the most obstinate of men), but did so more by the example of their way of life and their miracles than by syllogisms, especially in the case of those who would have been intellectually quite incapable of grasping a single quodlibet of Scotus. Today there's no heathen or heretic who doesn't give way at once when confronted by these ultra-subtle refinements, unless he's so thick-headed that he can't follow them, or so imprudent that he shouts them down, or so well trained in the same wiles that the battle's evenly matched — as if you set magician against magician or a man with a lucky sword fights another who has one too. This would just be reweaving Penelope's web. And in my opinion Christians would show sense if they dispatched these argumentative Scotists and pigheaded Ockhamists and undefeated Albertists along with the whole regiment of sophists to fight the Turks and Saracens instead of sending those armies of dull-witted soldiers with whom they've long been carrying on war with no result. Then, I think, they'd witness a really keen battle and a victory such as never before. For who is too cold-blooded to be fired by their ingenuities, too stupid to be stung into action by their attacks? And is there anyone so keen-sighted that they can't leave him groping in the dark?

You may suppose that I'm saying all this by way of a joke, and that's not surprising, seeing that amongst the theologians themselves there are some with superior education who are sickened by these theological minutiae, which they look upon as frivolous. Others too, think it a damnable form of sacrilege and the worst sort of impiety for anyone to speak of matters so holy, which call for reverence rather than explanation, with a profane tongue, or to argue with the pagan subtlety of the heathen, presume to offer definitions, and pollute the majesty of divine theology with words and sentiments which are so trivial and even squalid.

Yet those who do so are so happy in their self-satisfaction and self-congratulation, and so busy night and day with these enjoyable tomfooleries, that they haven't even a spare moment in which to read the Gospel or the letters of Paul even once through. And while they're wasting their time in the schools with this nonsense, they believe that just as in the poets Atlas holds up the sky on his shoulders, they support the entire church on the props of their syllogisms and without them it would collapse. Then you can imagine their happiness when they fashion and refashion the Holy Scriptures at will, as if these were made of wax, and when they insist that their conclusions, to which a mere handful of scholastics have subscribed, should carry more weight than the laws of Solon and be preferred to papal decrees.

They also set up as the world's censors, and demand recantation of anything which doesn't exactly square with their conclusions, explicit and implicit, and make their oracular pronouncements:

"This proposition is scandalous; this is irreverent; this smells of heresy; this doesn't ring true."

As a result, neither baptism nor the gospel, neither Paul, Peter, St Jerome, Augustine, or even Thomas, 'the greatest' of Aristotelians, can make a man Christian unless these learned bachelors have given their approval, such is the refinement of their judgement. For who could have imagined, if the savants hadn't told him, that anyone who said that the two phrases "chamber-pot you stink" and "the chamber-pot stinks", or "the pots boil" and "that the pot boils" are equally correct can't possibly be a Christian? (47) Who could have freed the church from the dark error of its ways when no one would ever have read about these if they hadn't been published under the great seals of the schools? And aren't they perfectly happy doing all this? They are happy too while they're depicting everything in hell down to the last detail, as if they'd spent several years there, or giving free rein to their fancy in fabricating new spheres and adding the most extensive and beautiful of all in case the blessed spirits lack space to take a walk in comfort or give a dinner-party or even play a game of ball. Their heads are so stuffed and swollen with these absurdities, and thousands more like them, that I don't believe even Jupiter's brain felt so burdened when he begged for Vulcan's axe to help him give birth to Athene. And so you mustn't be surprised if you see them at public disputations with their heads carefully bound up in all those fillets — it's to keep them from bursting apart. (48)

For myself, I often have :a good laugh when they particularly fancy themselves as theologians if they speak in a specially uncouth and slovenly style, and while they mumble so haltingly as to be unintelligible except to a fellow-stammerer, they refer to their powers of perception, which can't be attained by the common man. They insist that it detracts nom the grandeur of sacred writing if they're obliged to obey the rules of grammar. It seems a most peculiar prerogative of theologians, to be the only people permitted to speak ungrammatically; however, they share this privilege with a lot of working men. Finally, they think themselves nearest to the gods whenever they are reverently addressed as "our masters", a title which holds as much meaning for them as the 'tetragram' does for the Jews. Consequently, they say it's unlawful to write MAGISTER NOSTER except in capital letters, and if anyone inverts the order and says "noster magister", he destroys the entire majesty of the theologians' title at a single blow.

The happiness of these people is most nearly approached by those who are popularly called 'religious' or 'monks'. Both names are false, since most of them are a long way removed from religion, and wherever you go these so-called solitaries are the people you're likely to meet. I don't believe any life would be more wretched than theirs if I didn't come to their aid in many ways. The whole tribe is so universally loathed that even a chance meeting is thought to be ill-omened — and yet they are gloriously self-satisfied. In the first place, they believe it's the highest form of piety to be so uneducated that they can't even read. Then when they bray like donkeys in church, repeating by rote the psalms they haven't understood, they imagine they are charming the ears of their heavenly audience with infinite delight. Many of them too make a good living out of their squalor and beggary, bellowing for bread from door to door, and indeed I making a nuisance of themselves in every inn, carriage, or boat, to the great loss of all the other beggars. This is the way in which these smooth individuals, in all their filth and ignorance, their boorish and shameless behaviour, claim to bring back the apostles into our midst!

But nothing could be more amusing than their practice of doing everything to rule, as if they were following mathematical calculations which it would be a sin to ignore. They work out the number of knots for a shoestring, the colour and number of variations of a single habit, the material and width to a hair's breadth of a girdle, the shape and capacity (in sacksful) of a cowl, the length (in fingers) of a haircut, the number of hours prescribed for sleep. But this equality applied to such a diversity of persons and temperaments will only result in inequality, as anyone can see. Even so, these trivialities not only make them feel superior to other men but also contemptuous of each other, and these professors of apostolic charity will create extraordinary scenes and disturbances on account of a habit with a different girdle or one which is, rather I too dark in colour. Some you'll see are so strict in their observances that they will wear an outer garment which has to be made of Cilician goat's hair and one of Milesian wool next to the skin, (49) while others have linen on top and wool underneath. There are others again who shrink from the touch of money as if it were deadly poison but are less restrained when it comes to wine or contact with women. In short, they all take remarkable pains to be different in their rules of life. They aren't interested I in being like Christ but in being unlike each other.

Consequently, a great deal of their happiness depends on their name. Some, for instance, delight in calling themselves Cordeliers, and they are subdivided into the Colletines, the Minors, I the Minims and the Bullists. Then there are the Benedictines and the Bernardines, (the Brigittines, Augustinians, Williamites and Jacobins), as if it weren't enough to be called Christians. Most of them rely so much on their ceremonies and petty man-made traditions that they suppose heaven alone will hardly be enough to reward merit such as theirs. They never think of the time to come when Christ will scorn all this and enforce his own rule, that of charity. One monk will display his wretched belly, swollen with every kind of fish. Another will pour out a hundred sacks full of psalms, while another adds up his myriads of fasts and accounts for his stomach near to bursting by the single midday meal, which is all he usually has. Yet another will produce such a pile of church ceremonies that seven ships could scarcely carry them. One will boast that for sixty years he has never touched money without protecting his fingers with two pairs of gloves. While another wears a cowl so thick with dirt that not even a sailor would want it near his person. Then one will relate how for over fifty years he has led the life of a sponge, always stuck in the same place; others will show off a voice made hoarse by incessant chanting, or the inertia brought on by living alone, or a tongue stiff with disuse under the rule of silence. But Christ would interrupt the unending, flow of these self-glorifications to ask:

'Where has this new race of Jews sprung from? I recognize only one commandment as truly mine, but it is the only one not mentioned. Long ago in the sight of all, without wrapping up my words in parables, I promised my father's kingdom, not for wearing a cowl or chanting petty prayers or practising abstinence, but for performing the duties of faith and charity. I do not acknowledge men who acknowledge their own deeds so noisily. Those who also want to appear holier than I am can go off and live in the heavens of the Abraxasians, if they like, or give orders for a new heaven to be built for them by the men whose foolish teaching they have set above my own commands.'

When they hear these words and see common sailors and waggoners preferred to themselves, what sort of looks do you think they'll give each other?

But for the moment they're happy in their expectations, not without help from me. And although they are segregated from civil life, no one can afford to belittle them, least of all the mendicants, who know all about everyone's secrets from the confessional, as they call it. They know it's forbidden to publish these abroad, unless they happen to be drinking and want to be amused with enthralling stories, but then no names are mentioned and the facts left open to conjecture. But if anyone stirs up this hornets' nest they'll take swift revenge in their public sermons, pointing out their enemy by insinuations and allusions so artfully veiled that no one who knows anything can fail to know who is meant. And you'll have to throw your sop to Cerberus before they'll make an end of barking.

Is there a comedian or cheapjack you'd rather watch than them when they hold forth in their sermons? It's quite absurd but highly enjoyable to see them observe the traditional rules of rhetoric. Heavens, how they gesticulate and make proper changes of voice, how they drone on and fling themselves about,rapidly putting on different expressions and confounding everything with their outcry! This is a style of oratory which is handed down in person from brother to brother like a secret ritual. I'm not one of the initiated, but I'll make a guess at what it's like.

They start with an invocation, something they've borrowed from the poets. Then if they're going to preach about charity their exordium is all about the Nile, a river in Egypt, or if they intend to recount the mystery of the cross they'll happily begin with Bel, the Babylonian dragon. If fasting is to be their subject they make a start with the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and if they would expound the faith they open with a discussion on squaring the circle. I myself have heard one notable fool — I'm sorry, I meant to say scholar — who set out to reveal the mystery of the Trinity to a large congregation. In order to display the exceptional quality of his learning and to satisfy the ears of the theologians he made a novel beginning, starting with the alphabet, syllable, and sentence, and going on to the agreement of noun with verb, adjective with noun and substantive. There was general astonishment amongst his listeners, some of whom whispered to each other the quotation from Horace, "What's the point of all this stink?" Finally he reached the conclusion that a symbol of the Trinity was clearly expressed in the rudiments of grammar, and no mathematician could trace a figure so plain in the sand. And that great theologian had sweated eight whole months over this discourse, so today he is blinder than a mole, all his keenness of sight doubtless gone to reinforce the sharp edge of his intellect. But the man has no regrets for his lost sight; he even thinks it was a small price to pay for his hour of glory.

I've heard another one, an octogenarian and still an active theologian, whom you'd take for a reincarnation of Scotus himself, set out to explain the mystery of the name of Jesus. He proved with remarkable subtlety how anything that could be said about this lay hidden in the actual letters of his name. For the fact that it is declinable in three different cases is clearly symbolic of the threefold nature of the divine. Thus, the first case (Jesus) ends in s, the second (Jesum) in m, the third (Jesu) in u, and herein lies an 'inexpressible' mystery; for the three letters indicate that he is the sum, the middle, and the ultimate. They also concealed a still more recondite mystery, this time according to mathematical analysis. He divided Jesus into two equal halves, leaving the middle letter s broken by a caesura. Then he showed that this was the letter Hebrew character syn in Hebrew, pronounced syn; and syn sounds like the word I believe the Scots use for the Latin peccatum, that is, sin. Here there is clear proof that it is Jesus who takes away the sins of the world. This novel introduction left his audience open-mouthed in admiration, especially the theologians present, who very nearly suffered the same fate as Niobe. As for me, I nearly split my sides like the fig-wood Priapus who had the misfortune to witness the nocturnal rites of Canidia and Sagana, and with good reason; for when did Demosthenes in Greek or Cicero in Latin think up an 'exordium' like that? These orators held the view that an introduction which was irrelevant to the main theme was a bad one — even a swineherd with no one but Nature for a teacher wouldn't open a speech in such a way.

But our masters of learning think that their preamble, as they call it, will show special rhetorical excellence if it's wholly unconnected with the rest of the subject, so that the listener will marvel and say to himself "Now where's that taking him?".

In the third place, by way of an exposition, they offer no more than a hasty interpretation of a passage from the gospel as an aside, so to speak, though this should really be their main object. And fourthly, with a quick change of character they propound some theological question the like of which 'has never been known on earth or in heaven', (50) and they imagine this is a further indication of their expertise. At this point there really is a display of theological arrogance, as they bombard the ears of their listeners with such high-sounding titles as Worthy Doctors, Subtle or Most Subtle Doctors, Seraphic Doctors, Cherubic Doctors, Holy Doctors, and Incontrovertible Doctors. Then they let fly at the ignorant crowd their syllogisms, major and minor, conclusions, corollaries, idiotic hypotheses, and further scholastic rubbish. There remains a fifth act, in which an artist can really surpass himself. That is where they trot out some foolish popular anecdote, from the Mirror of History, I expect, or the Deeds of the Romans and proceed to interpret it allegorically, tropologically, and anagogically. In this way they complete their chimaera, a monstrosity which even Horace never dreamt of when he wrote "Add to the human head" and so on.

But they've heard from someone that the opening words of a speech should be restrained and quietly spoken. As a result they start their introduction so softly they can scarcely hear their own voices — as if it really did any good to say what is intelligible to none. They've also heard that emotions should be stirred by frequent use of exclamations, so they speak in a low drone for a while and then suddenly lift their voices in a wild shout, though it's quite unnecessary. You'd swear the man needed a dose of hellebore, as if it didn't matter where you raise your voice. Moreover, as they've heard that a sermon should warm up as it goes along, they deliver the various sections of the beginning anyhow, and then suddenly let out their voices full blast, though the point may be of no importance, and finally end so abruptly that you might think them out of breath.

Last of all, they've learned that the writers on rhetoric mention laughter, and so they're at pains to scatter around a few jokes. 0 'sweet Aphrodite', what polish and pertinence, a real case of 'the ass playing the lyre'! They sometimes try satire too, but it's so feeble that it's laughable, not wounding, and they never sound so servile as when they're anxious to give an 'impression of plain speaking'. In fact their entire performance might have been learned from the cheapjacks in the market squares, who are a long way their superiors, though the two types are so alike that they must have learned their rhetoric from each other.

Even so, thanks to me, they find people who'll listen to them and believe they hear a genuine Demosthenes or Cicero, especially among merchants and silly women, whose ears they are particularly anxious to please. For the merchants have a habit of doling out small shares of their ill-gotten gains if they're suitably flattered, and the friars find favour with women for many reasons, the main one being that a priest can provide a bosom where a woman can pour out her troubles whenever she quarrels with her husband.

Now I think you must see how deeply this section of mankind is in my debt, when their petty ceremonies and silly absurdities and the noise they make in the world enable them to tyrannize over their fellow men, each one a Paul or an Antony in his own eyes. For my part, I'm only too glad to leave these hypocrites, who are as ungrateful in their attempts to conceal what they owe to me as they're unscrupulous in their disgraceful affectations of piety. I've long been wanting to say something about kings and their courtiers, who cultivate me quite openly, with the can dour one expects from those of gentle birth. Indeed, nothing would be so dismal and as much to be shunned as the life they lead if they had even a grain of good sense; No one would think power worth gaining, at the cost even of perjury or parricide, if he seriously considered the burden that has to be shouldered by the man who wants to exercise true sovereignty. Once he is at the helm of government he has to devote himself to public instead of his personal affairs, and must think only of the well-being of his people. He can't deviate by so much as a hair's breadth from the laws he has promulgated and set up himself, and he has to guarantee personally the integrity of every magistrate and official. Every eye is trained on him alone, and he can either be a beneficial star, should his character be blameless, and the greatest salvation to mankind, or a fatal comet leaving a trail of disaster in his wake. Other men's vices are neither so well-known nor so far-reaching in their effects, but a sovereign's position is such that if he falls short of honesty in the slightest degree, corruption spreads throughout his people like a plague. Then too, a sovereign's lot brings with it many seductions to lead him from the path of virtue, such as pleasures, independence, flattery, and luxury, so that he must strive the harder and be more keenly on the watch lest he prove to have failed in his duty even if he is only deceived. Finally, to say nothing of the plotting and enmity and all the other perils or fears which beset him, there stands over him that true King who before long will demand a reckoning of everyone of his slightest transgressions, with severity proportionate to the degree of power he held. These are the considerations, I say, and many more like them, which would rob the prince of all his pleasure in sleep or food did he but reflect on them, as he would if he were wise.

But as it is, with my help, princes leave all these concerns in the lap of the gods. Their own concern is for a soft life, and so in order to keep their minds untouched by care they give audience only to men who know how to say what is pleasant to hear. They believe they properly fulfil all the duties of a prince if they devote themselves to hunting and keep a stable of fine horses, if they sell magistracies and commands at a profit to themselves, if they devise new methods every day for reducing the wealth of their subjects and sweeping it up into their own purse — but all under appropriate forms and suitably contrived pretexts, so that their practices preserve a facade of justice however iniquitous they are. They take care too to add a word of flattery with a view to putting popular sentiment under obligation to themselves. Picture the prince, such as some of them are today: a man ignorant of the law, well nigh an enemy to his people's advantage while intent on his personal convenience, a dedicated voluptuary, a hater of learning, freedom, and truth, without a thought for the interests of his country, and measuring everything in terms of his own profit and desires. Then give him a gold chain, symbol of the concord between all the virtues, a crown studded with precious stones to remind him that he must exceed all others in every heroic quality. Add a sceptre to symbolize justice and a wholly uncorrupted heart, and finally, the purple as an emblem of his overwhelming devotion to his people. If the prince were to compare these insignia with his way of life, I'm sure he would blush to be thus adorned, and fear that some satirist would turn all these trappings into a subject for mockery and derision.

Now what shall I say about the courtiers? For the most part they're the most obsequious, servile, stupid, and worthless of creatures, and yet they're bent on appearing foremost in everything. There's only one matter in which they have no pretensions: they're quite happy to go around displaying the gold, jewels, purple, and all the other emblems of virtue and wisdom on their persons while leaving any interest in what these symbolize to others. They count themselves extremely fortunate to be permitted to call the king "Sire", to know how to address him in three words, to pile up courtesy titles like "Serene Highness", "your Lordship", "your Majesty", to shed all sense of shame and make themselves agreeable with flattery, for these are the skills becoming to nobleman and courtier. But if you look more closely into their whole pattern of life you'll find they're no better than Phaeacians or "Penelope's suitors" — you know the rest of the poem which Echo can quote for you better than I can. They sleep till midday, when a wretched little hired priest waiting at their bedside runs quickly through the mass before they're hardly out of bed. Then they go to breakfast, which is scarcely over before there's a summons to lunch. After that follow dice, draughts, fortune-telling, clowns, fools, whores, idle games, and dirty jokes, interspersed with one or two snacks. Then comes dinner, followed by a round of drinks, or more than one, you may be sure. In this way, hours, days, months, years, and centuries are frittered away without a moment's boredom. For my part, whenever I see them 'giving themselves airs' I've generally had enough of it and make off; meanwhile each of the ladies thinks herself pretty well a goddess according to the length of the train she's trailing, and the noblemen elbow past each other to be seen standing close to Jove. Their self-satisfaction rests on the weight of the chain their necks have to carry, as if they have to show off their physical strength as well as their riches.

Such practices of princes have long been zealously adopted by supreme pontiffs, cardinals, and bishops, and indeed, have almost been surpassed. Yet if any of these were to reflect on the meaning of his linen vestment, snow-white in colour to indicate a pure and spotless life; or of his two-horned mitre, both peaks held together by a single knot, signifying perfect knowledge of both Old and New Testaments; of his hands, protected by gloves, symbolic of purity, untainted by any contact with human affairs, for administering the sacrament; of his crozier, a reminder of his watchful care of the flock entrusted to his keeping, or the cross carried before him as a symbol of his victory over all human passions — if, I say, any of them were to reflect on these and many kindred matters, wouldn't his life be full of care and trouble? But as things are, they think they do well when they're looking after themselves, and responsibility for their sheep they either trust to Christ himself or delegate to their vicars and those they call brothers. They don't even remember that the name 'Bishop', which means 'overseer', indicates work, care, and concern. Yet when it comes to netting their revenues into the bag they can play the overseer well enough — no 'careless look-out' there.

Similarly, the cardinals might consider how they are the successors of the apostles and are expected to follow the example of their predecessors, and that they are not the lords but the stewards of the spiritual riches for every penny of which they will soon have to render an exact account. They could also reflect for a moment on their vestments and a* themselves these questions: what meaning, has this whiteness of surplice for them if not total and supreme purity in life? And the purple beneath, if not a burning love for God? And again, this cloak on top, spreading out in capacious folds to envelop the entire mule of the most reverend father and quite big enough to cover a camel — doesn't it signify the boundless charity which should be at the service of every man, with instruction, exhortation, comfort, chastisement, or admonishment, settling wars and opposing evil princes, and freely spending not wealth alone but their very lifeblood on behalf of Christ's flock? And what need have they of wealth at all if they take the place of the apostles who were poor men? If, as I say, they would ask themselves these questions, they would either renounce their ambitions for the office they hold and resign without further regrets, or else they would surely lead a life as arduous and anxious as that of the original apostles. Then the supreme pontiffs, who are the vicars of Christ: if they made an attempt to imitate his life of poverty and toil, his teaching, cross, and contempt for life, and thought about their name of "pope", which means "father", or their title of "Supreme Holiness", what creatures on earth would be so cast down? Or who would want to spend all his resources on the purchase of their position, which once bought has to be protected by the sword, by poison, by violence of every kind? Think of all the advantages they would lose if they ever showed a sign of wisdom! Wisdom, did I say? Rather a grain of the salt Christ spoke of would suffice to rid them of all their wealth and honours, their sovereignty and triumphs, their many offices, dispensations, taxes, and indulgences, all their horses and mules, their retinue, and their countless pleasures. (You'll note how much trafficking and harvesting and what a vast sea of profiteering I've covered in a few words.) In place of all this it would bring vigils, fasts, tears, prayers, sermons, study, sighs, and a thousand unpleasant hardships of that kind. Nor must we overlook what this will lead to. Countless scribes, copyists, clerks, lawyers, advocates, secretaries, muleteers, grooms, bankers, and pimps (and I nearly added something rather more suggestive, but was afraid of being too blunt for your ears) — in short, an enormous crowd of people now a burden on the Roman see (I'm sorry, I meant 'now an honour to') would be left to starve. A monstrous abominable crime! And even more execrable, the supreme princes of the church, the true lights of the world, would be reduced to taking up scrip and staff.

But as things are today, any work that has to be done they can leave to Peter and Paul, who have plenty of time on their hands, while claiming all the pomp and pleasure for themselves. Consequently, and again, thanks to me, practically no class of man lives so comfortably with fewer cares; for they believe they do quite enough for Christ if they play their part as overseer by means of every kind of ritual, near-theatrical ceremonial and display, benedictions and anathemas, and all their titles of "your Beatitude", "Reverence", and "Holiness". For them it's out of date and outmoded to perform miracles; teaching the people is too like hard work, interpreting the Holy Scriptures is for schoolmen, and praying is waste of time; to shed tears is weak and womanish, to be needy is degrading; to suffer defeat is a disgrace and hardly fitting for one who scarcely permits the greatest of kings to kiss his sacred feet; and finally, death is an unattractive prospect, and dying on a cross would be an ignominious end.

All they have left are the weapons and fine-sounding benedictions to which Paul refers (and these they certainly scatter around with a lavish hand) along with interdicts, suspensions, repeated excommunications and anathemas, painted scenes of judgement, and that dreaded thunderbolt whereby at a mere nod they can dispatch the souls of mortal men to deepest Tartarus. This the holy fathers in Christ, who are in fact the vicars of Christ, launch against none so savagely as those who at the devil's prompting seek to nibble away and reduce the patrimony of Peter. Lands, cities, taxes, imposts, and sovereignties are all called Peter's patrimony; despite the words of the Gospel, "We have forsaken all and followed thee." Fired with zeal for Christ they will fight to preserve them with fire and sword, and Christian blood flows freely while they believe they are the defenders, in the manner of the apostles, of the church, the bride of Christ, through having boldly routed those whom they call her foes. As if indeed the deadliest enemies of the church were not these impious pontiffs who allow Christ to be forgotten through their silence, fetter him with their mercenary laws, misrepresent him with their forced interpretations of his teaching, and slay him with their noxious way of life!

Moreover, since the Christian church was founded on blood, strengthened by blood, and increased in blood, they continue to manage its affairs by the sword as if Christ has perished and can no longer protect his own people in his own way. War is something so monstrous that it befits wild beasts rather than men, so crazy that the poets even imagine that it is let loose by Furies, so deadly that it sweeps like a plague through the world, so unjust that it is generally best carried on by the worst type of bandit, so impious that it is quite alien to Christ; and yet they leave everything to devote themselves to war alone. Here even decrepit old men can be seen showing the vigour of youths in their prime, undaunted by the cost, unwearied by hardship, not a whit deterred though they turn law, religion, peace, and all humanity completely upside down. And there's no lack of learned sycophants to put the name of zeal, piety, and valour to this manifest insanity, and to think up a means whereby it is possible for a man to draw a murderous sword and plunge it into his brother's vitals without loss of the supreme charity which in accordance with Christ's teaching every Christian owes his neighbour. I still find it difficult to make up my mind whether certain German bishops have set an example or are following one, in the way in which they have abandoned pomp and benedictions and other such ceremonial matters and carry on as secular lords, even to the extent of believing that it is almost a mark of cowardice and unbecoming to a bishop to render up his warrior soul to God elsewhere than on the battlefield.

Then the rank and file of priests think it wrong to fall short of the standard of holiness set by their masters. They battle for their rights to a tithe with swords, spears, stones, and every force of arms in fine soldier style, while the sharp-eyed amongst them look to see if they can extract anything from the writings of the ancients with which to intimidate the wretched people into agreeing that more than a tithe is their due. It never occurs to them how much can be read, everywhere about the duty they owe the people in return. Nor does the tonsure serve as any reminder to them that a priest should be free from all the desires of this world and have his thoughts fixed on heaven. On the contrary, these fine fellows insist that they've properly performed their duty if they reel off perfunctorily their feeble prayers, which I'd be greatly surprised if any god could hear or understand, seeing that they can scarcely do either themselves even when bawling them at the top of their voice.

But there's one thing priests have in common with laymen. When it comes to, harvesting their gains they're all on the alert, everyone of them an expert in the law. Yet if there's a burden to be borne they deliberately shift it on to another's shoulders, passing it on like a ball from hand to hand. Just as lay princes delegate some of their administrative duties to deputies who keep passing these on from one to another, they leave any concern for piety, doubtless in their modesty, to ordinary folk. These pass it on to those they call 'ecclesiastics', as if they themselves had no connection at all with the church and the vows taken at baptism meant nothing. Then the priests who call themselves 'secular' (as if they'd been consecrated to the world, not to Christ) push the burden on to the 'regulars', and they pass it on to the monks; the less strict monks shift it on to the stricter orders, and the whole lot of them leave it to the mendicants; and from there it goes to the Carthusians, amongst whom alone piety lies hidden and buried, hidden in fact so well that you can scarcely ever get a glimpse of it. In the same way, the pontiffs who are so occupied with their monetary harvests delegate all their more apostolic work to the bishops, the bishops to the heads of the churches, and these to their vicars; they in their turn push it on to the mendicant friars, who put it in the hands of those who will shear the sheep's wool.

But it's not my purpose here to go into details of the lives of pontiff or priest. I don't want to look as though I'm writing satire when I should be delivering a eulogy, nor anyone to think that in praising bad princes I mean to censure good ones. I touched briefly on these matters only to make it clear that no mortal can live happily unless he is initiated in my rites and is sure of my favours.

For how could it be otherwise, seeing that the goddess of Rhamnus, Nemesis herself, who directs the fortunes of mankind, gets on so well with me that she has always shown herself the bitterest enemy of the wise, while bestowing every advantage on fools even in their sleep? You know about Timotheus, the meaning of the name given him, and the saying about 'The creel catches fish while the owner sleeps.' Then there's 'The owl is on the wing,' and references to 'being born on the fourth' and to having Sejanus' nag or the lost gold of Toulouse, which are clearly aimed at the wise. But enough of 'quoting proverbs'; I don't want you to imagine I've been plundering the notebooks of my friend Erasmus.

To return to the point. Fortune favours the injudicious and the venturesome, people who like to say 'the die's cast'. But wisdom makes men weak and apprehensive, and consequently you'll generally find the wise associated with poverty, hunger, and the reek of smoke, living neglected, inglorious, and disliked. Fools, on the other hand, are rolling in money and are put in charge of affairs of state; they flourish, in short, in every way. For if a man finds his happiness in pleasing princes and spending his time amongst those gilded and bejewelled godlike creatures, he'll learn that wisdom is no use at all to him, and is indeed decried above all by people like this. If he wants to get rich, how much money can he make in business if he lets wisdom be his guide, if he recoils from perjury, blushes if he's caught telling a lie, and takes the slightest notice of those niggling scruples wise men have about thieving and usury? And then if anyone aspires to ecclesiastical wealth or preferment, a donkey or a buffalo would get there faster than a wise man. If you're after pleasure, then women (who play the biggest part in the comedy) are wholeheartedly for the fools, and flee in horror from a wise man as from a scorpion. Finally, all who look for a bit of gaiety and fun in life keep their doors firmly shut against the wise, more than anything — they'll open it to any other living creature first. In short, wherever you turn, to pontiff or prince, judge or official, friend or foe, high or low, you'll find nothing can be achieved without money; and as the wise man despises money, it takes good care to keep out of his way.

For my own praises, on the other hand, there's neither measure nor limit. Even so, there has to be a limit sometime to a speech, and I shall come to an end, though first I must show you briefly that there are plenty of great authors who testify to me in their writings and behaviour alike. I don't want to be thought so foolish as to please only myself, or be wrongly accused by the lawyers of having no evidence to produce. So I'll take them as a model for what I cite — which will be 'nothing to the point'.

To start with, everyone accepts the truth of the well-known saying "Where fact is lacking, fiction is best", and so children are properly taught from the start the line "To play the fool in season is the height of wisdom",(51) You can see now for yourselves what a great blessing Folly is when even her deceptive shadow and semblance win such high praise from learned men. Still more frankly does the plump, sleek porker from Epicurus' herd tell us to "Mix folly with counsel", though he's not so clever when he adds it should be "only for a while". Then he says "It is sweet to be silly in season", and again, elsewhere, he prefers "to seem artless and foolish than be wise and short-tempered".(52) In Homer, too, Telemachus wins the poet's praise in every way, but is now and then called childish, and the dramatists apply the same epithet freely, like a good omen, to children and young people. And what is the subject of that divine poem the Iliad if not the passions of foolish kings and peoples? Moreover, Cicero's famous tribute is surely quite unqualified: "The world is full of fools!" For everyone knows that the more widespread a blessing, the more effective it is. (53)

However, it may be that these authorities carry little weight with Christians, so if you like we'll find further support for my praises in the evidence of the Holy Scriptures, or give them a proper foundation as the learned do. Let me begin first by asking permission from the theologians to make sure they give their approval. Then, since we're tackling such a difficult subject and possibly presuming too far in asking the Muses to come down again from Helicon, a long journey for them, especially for something which isn't really their concern, maybe while I'm playing the theologian and treading such a thorny path, I ought to call on the spirit of Scotus (which is far thornier than any porcupine or hedgehog) to leave his precious Sorbonne and occupy my breast, but only for a while — it can soon return wherever it likes, 'to the devil' for all I care. I only wish I could change my face and don a theologian's garb! (54) Still, if I had too many of the trappings of theology I'm afraid someone might take me for a thief and accuse me of secretly pillaging the desks of our masters. But it oughtn't to be so remarkable if I've acquired something from my long-standing association with the theologians, considering how close it has been. Even that figwood god Priapus listened to his master reading and remembered a few Greek words. And the cock in Lucian had no difficulty in understanding human speech simply from having lived with men so long.

But now if the auspices are good, let's get back to our subject. Ecclesiastes wrote in his first chapter that "the number of fools is infinite",(55) and in making the number infinite doesn't he appear to embrace all mankind, apart from a handful of individuals whom I doubt if anyone has ever met? Jeremiah is even more explicit in his chapter 10, when he says that "every man is made a fool by his own wisdom." (56) To God alone he allowed wisdom, leaving folly to all mankind. A little earlier he says: "Man should not glory in his own wisdom." (57) Now why don't you want man to glory in his own wisdom, my dear Jeremiah? The answer's simple: because man has no wisdom. But to return to Ecclesiastes. When he cries "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"(58) — what else do you suppose he means except what I've said, that the life of man is nothing but a sport of folly? And thereby he casts his vote for Cicero's tribute: in which the words I quoted above are rightly celebrated: "The world is full of fools." (59) Again, when the great sage Ecclesiasticus said "The fool changes as the moon, but the wise man is steadfast like the sun," what he was suggesting was surely that the entire mortal race is foolish and the epithet of wise applies to God alone. By moon they understand human nature, by the sun the source of all light, that is, God. This is confirmed by what Christ himself says in the Gospel, that no one is to be called good save one, that is, God. (60) Then if whoever is good is wise, as the stoics say, and anyone who is not wise is a fool, it must follow that all men are fools. Again, Solomon says in Proverbs chapter 15 "Folly is joy to the fool" (61) which is clearly an admission that nothing in life is enjoyable without folly. There is a similar reference in the text

"He who increases knowledge increases sorrow, and in much understanding is much grievance." (62)

Surely too the famous preacher has openly expressed the same idea in his chapter 7:

"The heart of the wise is the home of sadness, and the heart of the foolish is the home of joy." (63)

That is why he thought that full knowledge of wisdom was still incomplete without understanding of me as well. If you doubt me, here are his own words, which he wrote in chapter I:

"And I gave my heart to know wisdom and learning, and also madness and folly." (64)

Note that when Ecclesiastes wrote this he named folly last, and intended it as a tribute, for this, as you know, is the order followed by the church, where the person who comes first in status takes the last place, in this point at least in accordance with the evangelist's teaching.

Indeed, Ecclesiasticus, whoever he was, makes it quite clear in his chapter 44 that folly is better than wisdom, though I'm not going to quote his words until you'll help with the 'development of the argument' with suitable replies, like those who join in discussions with Socrates do in the dialogues of Plato. Now, which is it better to hide away, things which are rare and valuable or those which are common and cheap? Have you nothing to say? Even if you pretend ignorance, there's a Greek proverb to answer for you — 'the water-pot is left lying on the doorstep' — and in case anyone doesn't accept that with proper respect, let me tell you it's quoted by Aristotle, the god of our teachers. Are any of you so foolish as to leave gold and jewels lying in the road? I'm sure you're not. You hide them away in the innermost room of your house, you do more, you secrete them in the furthest corners of your best-locked chest. It's the mud that you leave lying in the street. So if what is precious is hidden, and what is worthless is left exposed to view, isn't it obvious that the wisdom which Ecclesiasticus forbids to be hidden is worth less than the folly he orders to be kept concealed? Hear the evidence of his own words:

"Better is a man who hides his folly than a man who hides his wisdom." (65)

Consider too how the Holy Scriptures attribute honesty of mind also to the fool, while the wise man believes that no one is his equal. For this is how I interpret what Ecclesiastes wrote in chapter 10.

"But a fool walking along the road, since he is foolish, thinks all men are fools." (66)

Now don't you think it indicative of exceptional honesty to think every man your equal, and in a world given to self-aggrandizement to share your merits with all? And so the great king was not ashamed of being named like this when he said in chapter 30, "I am the most foolish of men." (67) Nor was Paul, the great teacher of the heathen, reluctant in his Epistle to the Corinthians to accept the name of fool. "I speak as a fool, I am more," (68) he said, just as if it were a disgrace to be outdone in folly.

But at this point I hear an outcry from certain Greek pedants who are bent on pecking crows' eyes, or rather, catching out the many theologians of today by blinding them with the smoke-screen of their own commentaries. The second place in this flock, if not the actual leadership, certainly belongs to my friend Erasmus, whom I mention by name from time to time by way of a compliment. What a foolish thing to quote, they cry, just what you'd expect from Folly! The Apostle's meaning is quite different from what you imagine. He didn't intend by these words that he should be thought more foolish than anyone else, but when he said "They are ministers of Christ; so am I," as if he had made a boast of putting himself on a level with the others in this, he went on to correct himself by adding "I am more," aware that he was not only the equal of the other apostles in his ministry for the Gospel but to a large extent their superior. He wanted this to carry conviction without his words sounding arrogant and offensive, so he made folly his pretext to forestall objections, writing "I speak as a fool" because it is the privilege of fools to speak the truth without giving offence.

But what Paul had in mind when he wrote this, I leave to the pedants to dispute. For my part I follow the large, fat, stupid, and popularly most highly thought of theologians with whom the majority of scholars would rather be in the wrong, 'by Zeus,' than hold a correct view along with your experts in three tongues. Not one of these thinks of your Greek pedants as more than jackdaws, especially since a certain renowned theologian (renowned perhaps in his own eyes?) whose name I have the sense to suppress, lest some of our jackdaws are quick off the mark with the Greek taunt of the 'ass playing the lyre', has expounded this passage in masterly theological style. Starting from the words "I speak as a fool, I am more" he opens a new chapter such as could only be possible by calling on the full forces of dialectic, and makes a new subdivision, with the following interpretation (I'll quote his argument exactly, his actual words as well as their substance):

"I speak as a fool, that is, if I seem to you a fool in making myself the equal of false apostles, I shall seem even more of a fool in your eyes by setting myself above them."

However, a little later he appears to forget himself and slips into a different interpretation.

But I don't know why I bother to defend myself with a single example, seeing that it's the generally accepted privilege of theologians to stretch the heavens, that is, the Scriptures, like tanners with a hide. According to St Paul, there are words which can do battle for Holy Scripture, though in their context they don't do so, if we are to trust Jerome, that 'master of five tongues'. Paul once happened to see an inscription on an altar in Athens and twisted its meaning into an argument for the Christian faith. He left out all the words which would have damaged his case and selected only the last two, ignoto deo "to the unknown god". Even in this he made some alteration, since the complete inscription read

"to the gods of Asia, Europe, and Africa, the unknown and foreign gods".

His, I believe, is the precedent our present-day 'sons of theology' follow when they pick out four or five words from different contexts, and if necessary even distort their meaning to suit their purpose, though those which come before and after may be either totally irrelevant or actually contradictory. This they do with such carefree impudence that theologians are often the envy of the legal experts. (69)

They can go to any lengths now that the great — I nearly blurted out his name but that Greek saying stopped me again — has extracted a meaning from some words of Luke which is as compatible with the spirit of Christ as fire with water. For as the hour of the supreme peril approached, a time when loyal servants would rally round their master and 'fight his fight' with all the resources they could muster, Christ's intention was to remove from the hearts of his disciples any reliance on defences of this kind, and so he asked them whether they had lacked anything when he had sent them out so unprovided, with neither shoes to protect their feet against injury from thorns and stones nor purse as a guard against hunger. When they replied that they had lacked nothing, he went on:

"But now, he who has a bag, let him take it, and likewise a purse; and he who has no sword must sell his coat and buy one." (70)

Since the whole of Christ's teaching is directed towards instilling gentleness, patience, and contempt of life, the meaning of this passage should be clear to all. Christ wanted to disarm his emissaries still further, so that they would not only spurn shoes and purse but also cast off their coats in order to set out on their mission of the Gospel naked and unencumbered, providing themselves with nothing but a sword — not the sword which serves robbers and murderers, but the sword of the spirit which penetrates into the innermost depths of the bosom and cuts out every passion with a single stroke, so that nothing remains in the heart but piety.

Now, pray, see how our renowned theologian distorts this. He interprets the sword as a defence against persecution, the bag as an adequate supply of provisions, just as if Christ had reversed his beliefs and recanted his former teaching when his emissaries appeared to be setting out insufficiently equipped 'in royal style.' Or he seems to have forgotten that he said they would be blessed when afflicted with insults, revilement, and persecution, and forbade them to resist evil since only the meek are blessed, not the pugnacious; forgotten that he had called on them to consider the example of the sparrows and the lilies, so that he is now so reluctant to see them go out without a sword that he even bids them sell their coat to buy one, preferring them to go naked rather than unarmed. Moreover, just as anything which serves to repel violence comes under the head of "sword", "pouch" covers any of the necessities of life. And so this interpreter of the divine mind fits out the apostles with spears, crossbows, slings, and catapults, and leads them forth to preach the crucified. He also loads them up with coffers and trunks and packs — as if they'll always have to move on from an inn on an empty stomach. He isn't even disturbed by the fact that though Christ once ordered a sword to be bought, he soon afterwards sharply ordered one to be sheathed; nor has anyone heard it said that the apostles used swords and shields against attack from the heathen, which they would have done had Christ intended what our interpreter says he did.

There's another of them, whom with due respect I won't name, though his reputation stands high, who has taken Habakkuk's words about tents ("The hides of the land of Midian shall be taken") to refer to the flayed skin of Bartholomew. And I was recently present myself (as I often am) at a theological debate where someone asked what authority there was in the Scriptures for ordering heretics to be burnt instead of refuted in argument. A grim old man, whose arrogance made it dear he was a theologian, answered in some irritation that the apostle Paul had laid down this rule saying, 'A man who is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject devita,' and he went on thundering out this quotation again and again while most of those present wondered what had happened to the man. At last he explained that the heretic was to be removed from life de vita. Some laughed, though there were plenty of others who found this fabrication sound theology; but when several expressed their disagreement, our 'lawyer from Tenedos', as they say, our irrefutable authority continued thus:

'Pay attention. It is written that thou shalt not let the evildoer maleficus live. Every heretic is an evildoer; therefore,' etc.

The entire audience marvelled at the man's reasoning power and came over to his way of thinking, hotfoot. It occurred to no one that this law applied only to sorcerers, wizards, and magicians, whom the Hebrews call mekaschephim in their own tongue, a word we translate as malefici. Otherwise the death penalty would have to be applied to fornicators and drunkards.

But it's foolish of me to continue with these examples so numberless that the volumes of Chrysippus and Didymus could never hold them all. I only wanted to remind you of the licence granted those saintly scholars, so that you would show me the same indulgence as a 'blockhead theologian' if my quotations aren't always quite accurate. Now let me get back to Paul. "You suffer fools gladly", (71) he says, speaking of himself. And again, "Receive me as a fool," (72) and "I do not speak according to God but as if I were foolish," (73) and elsewhere too he says, "We are fools for Christ's sake." (74) This is high tribute to folly from a great authority. Moreover, he is an open advocate of folly as a prime necessity and a great benefit.

"Whoever among you thinks himself wise must become a fool to be truly wise." (75)

And according to Luke, Jesus addressed the two disciples whom he joined on the road to Emmaus as fools. Should we be surprised at this, seeing that that (godlike) Paul attributes some folly even to God? "God's foolishness", he says, "is wiser than men." (76) Origen subsequently objected in his commentary that we cannot really explain this folly by reference to the views held by men, as we can in the passage

"The doctrine of the cross is folly to those that are perishing."

But there is no need to worry about producing all this evidence to prove my point when Christ openly says to his Father in the sacred Psalms 'Thou knowest my foolishness.'(77) It is also significant that fools have always given great pleasure to God, and this, I fancy, is the reason. Great princes eye men who are too clever with hostility and suspicion, as Julius Caesar did Brutus and Cassius, though he had no fear of drunken Antony, (78) and as Nero did Seneca and Dionysius did Plato, though they delighted in men of duller and simpler wits. In the same way, Christ always loathes and condemns those 'wiseacres' who put their trust in their own intelligence; as Paul bears witness in no uncertain words when he says "God has chosen the foolish things of the world," (79) and again "God chose to save the world through folly," (80) since it could not be redeemed by wisdom. God himself makes this clear enough when he proclaims through the mouth of the prophet

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and reject the intelligence of the intelligent." (81)

So does Christ, when he gives thanks because the mystery of salvation had been hidden from the wise but revealed to little children, that is, to fools. (The Greek word for a child, ancient greek for child means "foolish", and is the opposite of ancient greek for wise "wise"). There are also some relevant passages in the Gospel where Christ attacks Pharisees and scribes and teachers of the Law while giving his unfailing protection to the ignorant multitude. What else can "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees" (82) mean but "Woe unto you who are wise"? But Christ seems to have taken special delight in little children, women, and fishermen, while the dumb animals who gave him the greatest pleasure were those furthest removed from cleverness and cunning. So he preferred to ride a donkey, though had he chosen he could safely have been mounted on a lion; and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, not of an eagle or a hawk, while throughout the Scriptures there is frequent mention of harts, young mules, and lambs. Moreover, he calls those who are destined for eternal life his sheep, though there is no animal so stupid: witness the proverbial expression in Aristotle, 'sheeplike character', which he tells us is derived from the slow-wittedness of the animal and is commonly used as a taunt against dull and stupid men. Yet Christ declares himself the shepherd of this flock, and even takes pleasure himself in the name of Lamb, as when John reveals him in the words 'Behold the Lamb of God.' The same expression often appears in the Apocalypse. (83)

All this surely points to the same thing: that all mortals are fools, even the pious. Christ too, though he is the wisdom of the Father, was made something of a fool (84) himself in order to help the folly of mankind when he assumed the nature of man and was seen in man's form, (85) just as he was made sin (86) so that he could redeem sinners. Nor did he wish them to be redeemed in any other way save by the folly of the cross (87) and through his simple, ignorant apostles, to whom he unfailingly preached folly. He taught them to shun wisdom, and made his appeal through the example of children, lilies, mustard-seed, and humble sparrows, all foolish, senseless things, which live their lives by natural instinct alone, free from care or purpose. And then when he forbade his disciples to worry about how they should answer the charges of the governors and told them not to seek to know times and seasons, it was surely because he wanted them not to rely on their own intelligence but be wholly dependent on him. This also explains why God the creator of the world forbade man to eat of the tree of knowledge, as if knowledge was poisonous to happiness. So Paul openly condemns knowledge for building up conceit and doing harm, and I believe St Bernard had him in mind when he interpreted the mountain on which Lucifer set up his seat as the mount of knowledge.

Then perhaps we shouldn't overlook the argument that Folly finds favour in heaven because she alone is granted forgiveness of sins, whereas the wise man receives no pardon. So when men pray for forgiveness, though they may have sinned in full awareness, they make folly their excuse and defence. If I remember rightly, that is how Aaron in the Book of Numbers intercedes against the punishment of his sister:

"I beseech you, master, do not charge us with this sin, which we committed foolishly."

Saul uses the same words in praying David to forgive his fault: "For it is clear that I acted foolishly." And again, David himself tries to placate the Lord by saying.

"I beseech thee, 0 Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have acted foolishly,"

as if he could only win forgiveness by pleading folly and ignorance. Still more forceful is the argument that when Christ prayed on the cross for his enemies, "Father, forgive them", he made no other excuses for them but their ignorance: "For they know not what they do." Paul writes to Timothy in the same vein,

"But I was granted God's mercy because I acted ignorantly, in unbelief."

What else is acting ignorantly but acting foolishly, with no evil intent? And when Paul speaks of being granted mercy, he clearly implies that he would not have been granted it had he not had folly to plead in his defence. The sacred psalmist, whom I forgot to quote in his proper place, also speaks for us all when he says, "Remember not the sins of my youth and my ignorances,"(88) and you will have marked that his two excuses are youth, which finds in me a constant companion, and ignorances which are numbered as plural so that we may appreciate the full power of folly. (89)

To sum up (or I shall be pursuing the infinite), it is quite clear that the Christian religion has a kind of kinship with folly in some form, though it has none at all with wisdom. If you want proofs of this, first consider the fact that the very young and the very old, women and simpletons are the people who take the greatest delight in sacred and holy things, and are therefore always found nearest the altars, led there doubtless solely by their natural instinct. Secondly, you can see how the first founders of the faith were great lovers of simplicity and bitter enemies of learning. Finally, the biggest fools of all appear to be those who have once been wholly possessed by zeal for Christian piety. They squander their possessions, ignore insults, submit to being cheated, make no distinction between friends and enemies, shun pleasure, sustain themselves on fasting, vigils, tears, toil; and humiliations, scorn life, and desire only death — in short, they seem to be dead to any normal feelings, as if their spirit, dwelt elsewhere than in their body. What else can that be but madness? And so we should not be surprised if the apostles were thought to be drunk on new wine, and Festus judged Paul to be mad.

But now that I have and donned the 'lion skin', let me tell you another thing. The happiness which Christians seek with so many labours is nothing other than a certain kind of madness and folly. Don't be put off by the words, but consider the reality. In the first place, Christians come very near to agreeing with the Platonists that the soul is stifled and bound down by the fetters of the body, which by its gross matter prevents the soul from being able to contemplate and enjoy things as they truly are. Next, Plato defines philosophy as a preparation for death because it leads the mind from visible and bodily things, just as death does. And so as long as the mind makes proper use of the organs of the body it is called sane and healthy, but once it begins to break its bonds and tries to win freedom, as if it were planning an escape from prison, men call it insane. If this happens through disease or some organic defect, by general consent it is called insanity. Even so, we see this type of person foretelling the future, showing a knowledge of languages and literature they had never previously learned, and giving clear indication of something divine. Undoubtedly this happens because the mind is beginning to free itself from contamination by the body and exercise its true natural power. I think this also explains why those who are struggling at the hour of death often have a somewhat similar experience, so that they speak wonders as if inspired.

Again, if this happens through pious fervour, it may not be quite the same kind of insanity, but is so like it that most people make no distinction, especially as the number of folk who differ in their whole way of life from the general run of mankind is very small. And so we have a situation which I think is not unlike the one in the myth in Plato, where those who were chained in a cave marvelled at shadows, whereas the man who had escaped and then returned to the cavern told them that he had seen real things, and they were much mistaken in their belief that nothing existed but their wretched shadows. This man who has gained understanding pities his companions and deplores their insanity, which confines them to such an illusion, but they In their turn laugh at him as if he were crazy and turn him out. In the same way, the common herd of men feels admiration only for the things of the body and believes that these alone exist, whereas the pious scorn whatever concerns the body and are wholly uplifted towards the contemplation of invisible things. The ordinary man gives first place to wealth, the second to bodily comforts, and leaves the last to the soul — which anyway most people believe doesn't exist because it is invisible to the eye. By contrast, the pious direct their entire endeavour towards God, who is absolute purity, and after him towards what is closest to him, the soul. They have no thought for the body, despise wealth and avoid it like trash, and if they are obliged to deal with such matters they do so with reluctance and distaste, having as if they did not have, possessing as if they did not possess.

There are moreover in each of these things widely differing degrees. To begin with, though all the senses have some kinship with the body, some of them are grosser, such as touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste, while other faculties are less physical, for instance, memory, intellect, and will. The power of the soul depends on its inclinations. Since, then, all the power of the pious soul is directed towards what is furthest removed from the grosser senses, these become blunted and benumbed. The vulgar crowd of course does the opposite, develops them very much and more spiritual faculties very little. That explains what we have heard happened to several saints, who drank oil by mistake for wine.

Again, take the affections of the soul. Some have more traffic with the grossness of the body, such as lust, desire for food and sleep, anger, pride, and envy, and on these the pious wage unceasing war, while the crowd thinks life impossible without them. Then there are what we could call intermediate affections, which are quasi-natural to all, like love for one's country, and affection for children, parents, and friends. The crowd sets great store by these, yet the pious strive to root them too from their soul, or at least to sublimate them to the highest region of the soul. They wish to love their father not as a father, for he begot nothing but the body, and this too is owed to God the Father, but as a good man and one in whom is reflected the image of the supreme mind, which alone they call the summum bonum and beyond which they declare nothing is to be loved or sought. (90)

This is the rule whereby they regulate all the remainder of life's duties, so that anything visible, if it is not wholly to be despised, is still valued far less than what cannot be seen. They also say that even in the sacraments and the actual observances of their religion, both body and spirit are involved. For example, they think little of fasting if it means no more than abstaining from meat and a meal — which for the common man is the essential of a fast. It must at the same time reduce the passions, permitting less anger or pride than usual, so that the spirit can feel less burdened by the matter of the body and can aim at tasting and enjoying the blessings of heaven. It is the same with the Eucharist: the ritual with which it is celebrated should not be rejected, they say, but in itself it serves no useful purpose or can be positively harmful if it lacks the spiritual element represented by those visible symbols. It represents the death of Christ, which men must express through the mastery and extinction of their bodily passions, laying them in the tomb, as it were, in order to rise again to a new life wherein they can be united with him and with each other. This then is how the pious man acts, and this is his purpose. The crowd, on the other hand, thinks the sacrifice of the mass means no more than crowding as close as possible to the altars, hearing the sound of the words, and watching other small details of such ritual.

I quote this only as one example; in fact the pious man throughout his whole life withdraws from the things of the Body and is drawn towards what is eternal, invisible, and spiritual. Consequently, there is total disagreement between the two parties on every point, and each thinks the other mad; though in my view, the epithet is more properly applied to the pious, not the common-man. This will be clearer if I do as I promised, and show briefly how the supreme reward for man is no other than a kind of madness. (91)

First consider how Plato imagined something of this sort when he wrote that the madness of lovers is the highest form of happiness. For anyone who loves intensely lives not in himself but in the object of his love, and the further he can move out of himself into his love, the happier he is. Now, when the soul is planning to leave the body and ceases to make proper use of its organs, it is thought to be mad, and doubtless with good reason. This, surely, is what is meant by the popular expressions "he is beside himself", "he has come to", and "he is himself again". Moreover, the more perfect the love, the greater the madness — and the happier. What, then, will life in heaven be like, to which all pious minds so eagerly aspire? The spirit will be the stronger, and will conquer and absorb the body, and this it will do the more easily partly because it is, as it were, in its own kingdom, partly for having previously in life purged and weakened the body in preparation for this transformation. Then the spirit will itself be absorbed by the supreme Mind, which is more powerful than its infinite parts. And so when the whole man will be outside himself, and happy for no reason except that he is so outside himself, he will enjoy some ineffable share in the supreme good which draws everything into itself.

Although this perfect happiness can only be experienced when the soul has recovered its former body and been granted immortality, since the life of the pious is no more than a contemplation and foreshadowing of that other life, at times they are able to feel some foretaste and savour of the reward to come. It is only the tiniest drop in comparison with the fount of eternal bliss, yet it far exceeds all pleasures of the body, even if all mortal delights were rolled into one, so much does the spiritual surpass the physical, the invisible the visible. This is surely what the prophet promises:

"Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have there entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those that love him."

And this is the part of Folly which is not taken away by the transformation of life but is made perfect. So those who are granted a foretaste of this — and very few have the good fortune — experience something which is very like madness. They speak incoherently and unnaturally, utter sound without sense, and their faces suddenly change expression. One moment they are excited, the next depressed, they weep and laugh and sigh by turns; in fact they truly are quite beside themselves. Then when they come to, they say they don't know where they have been, in the body or outside it, awake or asleep. They cannot remember what they have heard or seen or said or done, except in a mist, like a dream. All they know is that they were happiest when they were out of their senses in this way, and they lament their return to reason, for all they want is to be mad for ever with this kind of madness. And this is only the merest taste of the happiness to come. (92)

But I've long been forgetting who I am, and I've 'overshot the mark'. If anything I've said seems rather impudent or garrulous, you must remember it's Folly and a woman who's been speaking. At the same time, don't forget the Greek proverb 'Often a foolish man speaks a word in season', though of course you may think this doesn't apply to women.

I can see you're all waiting for a peroration, but it's silly of you to suppose I can remember what I've said when I've been spouting such a hotchpotch of words. There's an old saying, 'I hate a fellow-drinker with a memory', and here's a new one to put alongside it: 'I hate an audience which won't forget.'(93)

And so I'll say goodbye. Clap your hands, live well, and drink, distinguished initiates of Folly.

The End