Erasmus, or the folly of arguing postmodernism

Erasmus of Rotterdam
In Praise of Folly

Introduction: dedicated to Thomas More

(...) But perhaps there will not be wanting some wranglers that may cavil and charge me, partly that these toys are lighter than may become a divine, and partly more biting than may beseem the modesty of a Christian, and consequently exclaim that I resemble the ancient comedy, or another Lucian, and snarl at everything. But I would have them whom the lightness or foolery of the argument may offend to consider that mine is not the first of this kind, but the same thing that has been often practiced even by great authors: when Homer, so many ages since, did the like with the battle of frogs and mice; Virgil, with the gnat and puddings; Ovid, with the nut; when Polycrates and his corrector Isocrates extolled tyranny; Glauco, injustice; Favorinus, deformity and the quartan ague; Synescius, baldness; Lucian, the fly and flattery; when Seneca made such sport with Claudius' canonizations; Plutarch, with his dialogue between Ulysses and Gryllus; Lucian and Apuleius, with the ass; and some other, I know not who, with the hog that made his last will and testament, of which also even St. Jerome makes mention. And therefore if they please, let them suppose I played at tables for my diversion, or if they had rather have it so, that I rode on a hobbyhorse. For what injustice is it that when we allow every course of life its recreation, that study only should have none? Especially when such toys are not without their serious matter, and foolery is so handled that the reader that is not altogether thick-skulled may reap more benefit from it than from some men's crabbish and specious arguments. As when one, with long study and great pains, patches many pieces together on the praise of rhetoric or philosophy; another makes a panegyric to a prince; another encourages him to a war against the Turks; another tells you what will become of the world after himself is dead; and another finds out some new device for the better ordering of goat's wool: for as nothing is more trifling than to treat of serious matters triflingly, so nothing carries a better grace than so to discourse of trifles as a man may seem to have intended them least. For my own part, let other men judge of what I have written; though yet, unless an overweening opinion of myself may have made me blind in my own cause, I have praised folly, but not altogether foolishly. And now to say somewhat to that other cavil, of biting. This liberty was ever permitted to all men's wits, to make their smart, witty reflections on the common errors of mankind, and that too without offense, as long as this liberty does not run into licentiousness; which makes me the more admire the tender ears of the men of this age, that can away with solemn titles. (...)


Etenim non deerunt fortasse uitilitigatores, qui calum nientur partim leuiores esse nugas quam ut theologum deceant, partim mordaciores quam ut Christiane conueniant modestie; nosque clamitabunt ueterem comediam aut Lucianum quempiam referre atque omnia mordicus arripere. Verum quos argumenti leuitas et ludicrum offendit, cogitent uelim non meum hoc exemplum esse, sed idem iam olim a magnis auctoribus factitatum; cum ante tot secula Batrachomuomachian luserit Homerus, Maro Culicem et Moretum, Nucem Ouidius; cum Busyriden laudarit Polycrates et huius castigator Isocrates, iniustitiam Glauco, Thersiten et quartanam febrim Fauorinus, caluitiem Synesius, muscam et parasiticam Lucianus; cum Seneca Claudii luserit apotheôsin, Plutarchus Grylli cum Ulysse dialogum, Lucianus et Apuleius Asinum, et nescio quis Grunnii Coro cottæ porcelli testamentum, cuius et diuus meminit Hieronymus Proinde, si uidebitur, fingant isti me laterunculis in terim animi causa lusisse, aut si malint equitasse in arundine longa. Nam que tandem est iniquitas, cum omni uite insti tuto suos lusus concedamus, studiis nullum omnino lusum permittere, maxime si nuge seria ducant, atque ita tractentur ludicra ut ex his aliquanto plus frugis referat lector non omnino naris obese, quam ex quorundam tetricis ac splendidis argumentis? ueluti cum alius diu consarcinata oratione rhetoricen aut philosophiam laudat, alius principis alicuius laudes describit, alius ad bellum aduersus Turcas mouendum adhortatur, alius futura predicit. alius nouas de lana caprina comminiscitur questiunculas. Vt enim nihil nugacius quam seria nugatorie tractare, ita nihil festiuius quam ita tractare nugas ut nihil minus quam nugatus fuisse uidearis. De me quidem aliorum erit iudicium; tamet si, nisi plane me fallit philautia, Stulticiam laudauimus, sed non omnino stulte.
Iam uero ut de mordacitatis cauillatione respondeam, semper hec ingeniis libertas permissa fuit, ut in communem hominum uitam salibus luderent impune, modo ne licentia exiret in rabiem. Quo magis admiror his temporibus aurium delicias que nihil iam fere nisi solennes titulos ferre possunt

Fields, old men, stones and oblivion


So in old age, you happy man, your fields
Will still be yours, and ample for your need!
Though, with bare stones o'erspread, the pastures all
Be choked with rushy mire, your ewes with young
By no strange fodder will be tried, nor hurt
Through taint contagious of a neighbouring flock.
Happy old man, who 'mid familiar streams
And hallowed springs, will court the cooling shade!
Here, as of old, your neighbour's bordering hedge,
That feasts with willow-flower the Hybla bees,
Shall oft with gentle murmur lull to sleep,
While the leaf-dresser beneath some tall rock
Uplifts his song, nor cease their cooings hoarse
The wood-pigeons that are your heart's delight,
Nor doves their moaning in the elm-tree top.
Virgilio, The Eclogues, Eclogue I

Today was a day of reading about old men, dividing walls in the fields and oblivion. 


Marie-Louise Kaschnitz: Eines Tages

 Eines Tages

Es ist kein Garten so fernab gelegen,
Dass nächtens nicht der wilde Schrei der Welt
Gleich einem wunderbaren Feuerregen
Vernichtend auch auf seine Saaten fällt.

Und keinem ist der Kreis so fest gezogen,
Dass eines Tages nicht ein wilder Geist
Ihm mit der Urgewalt der Meereswogen
Furcht und Erbarmen aus dem Herzen reißt.

Ein wölfisch Wesen springt aus Lammesmienen,
Und keiner lebt, der nicht in sich entdeckte
Ein fremdes ungeheures Element.

Und weil er lebt, muss er dem Chaos dienen
Und einem Neuen, das die Zeit erweckte,
Und dessen Sinn und Ende niemand kennt.

Marie-Louise Kaschnitz 
(Una poeta alemana, 1901-1974, a la que le gustaba Neruda).

Lees alemán? me preguntaron.
Si, dije, porque nunca hay que dejarse vencer por el no.
Palabras, aquí y allá, que uno con empeño y poca maña.
Pero no cejo.