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WEEPING, BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF
miserable being, to have no pity upon myself, and yet to be weeping on account of the death of Dido which came from her love for Æneas, whilst I had no tears to shed for that death which comes from not loving Thee, O God, Thou Light of my heart, Thou Bread of the mouth of my inmost spirit, Thou Husband of my mind and of my bosom thought? I did not love Thee, and I was not faithful to Thee, my Spouse, and at my unfaithfulness the world around me echoed, “Well done!” “ well done!" " for the friendship of this world is fornication against Thee;" and the “welldone!" is repeated till one is ashamed not to be like the rest. And I did not weep at these things, but I wept for Dido “dead, and having by the sword sought a wound extreme, I myself all the while seeking extreme things, Thy lowest creatures, having forsaken Theeearth turning towards earth. And if forbidden to read all this, I was grieved because I might not read what made me grieve. Such folly is accounted a more honourable and a richer kind of learning, than that by which I learned to read and write.
But now let my God cry aloud within my soul ; and let Thy truth say to me: “It is not so, it is not so; far better were those first lessons.” For, lo, I would rather forget the wanderings of Æneas and all the rest, than forget the way to read and write. But it is true that veilsa hang over the thresholds of the grammar schools ; yet these are less signs of an honourable secrecy than cloaks of error. Let not
1 Æneid, vi. 457
2 Veils were hung up in courts of law as emblems of honour, and perhaps, as here indicated, having the further significance of something hidden and mysterious.
PREFERRED POETIC FABLES TO ARITHMETIC
those of whom I no longer stand in fear cry out against me, whilst I confess to Thee, my God, whatever my soul desires, and whilst I find pleasure in condemning my own evil ways, that I may love Thy good ways. Let not the sellers and buyers of grammar cry out against me : for if I ask whether it is true, as the poet says, that Æneas at one time came to Carthage; the less learned of them will reply that they do not know, the more learned that he never did. But if I were to ask them with what letters the name Æneas” is written, all who know their letters could make a true reply, according to the accepted use of those signs, upon which men have agreed amongst themselves. Therefore, if I were to ask, which of the two would prove the greater hindrance to the affairs of life, to forget the way to read and write, or to forget these poetic fictions, who, in his right senses, does not see what the reply must be? Therefore I erred as a boy when I preferred these follies to more profitable things, or rather when I loved the one and hated the other. Thus “one and one are two, two and two are four," was an odious sing-song to me; whilst the wooden horse filled with armed men, and the burning of Troy, and “the shade of Creusa herself,"' were to my vanity a most delightful spectacle.
He hated Greek.
WHY then did I hate the Greek language, in which
were similar stories. For Homer also skilfully
Æneid, ii. 772.
HATED GREEK, A FOREIGN TONGUE TO HIM
wove fictions of the same kind, and with the most charming fancy, yet was he distasteful to me as a boy. And so I believe Virgil would be to the boys of Greece, if they were forced to learn him as I was Homer. For the difficulty, indeed, the difficulty of learning a foreign tongue gave, as it were, a flavour of gall to all the sweets of Grecian fable. For I knew none of the words, and in order to make me know them I was forced on by cruel threats and penalties. Indeed there was a time when, as an infant, I knew no Latin, but by attention I learned it without menace or punishments, amid even the caresses of nurses, the jokes of those who had fun with me, and the merriment of those who played with me. This I learned without the goad of impending penalties, since my heart urged me to give birth to its own conceptions, which I could not do without learning some words, not of teachers, but of talkers, into whose ears I in turn brought forth what my mind conceived. Whence it is sufficiently clear, that the free desire of knowledge has more power to make us learn these things than the urgency of fear. But the latter restrains the rambles of the former by Thy laws, O God-by Thy laws, from the master's rod even to the martyrs' trials; Thy laws, which have the effect of intermingling a wholesome bitterness, and thereby recalling us to Thyself from that pernicious sweetness which draws us away from Thee.
* It must not be concluded from this that Augustine did not learn Greek. “He speaks of an early distaste which he had for the language, ... plainly no more than a boy's distaste for the labour needful to overcome the first difficulties of a foreign tongue,"
HE WILLS TO USE ALL LEARNING FOR GOD
His Prayer to God.
faint under Thy discipline; neither let me faint in confessing to Thee Thy Mercies, by which Thou hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that Thou mightest become sweeter to me than all the seductions which once I followed, and that I may love Thee with the strongest love, and may embrace Thy Hand with all the affection of my heart, and that Thou mayest deliver me from every temptation even unto the end. For behold, do Thou, O Lord, my King and my God, make use of for Thy service whatever in my childhood I learned ; let it be for Thy service that I speak, and write, and read, and count: for when I learned vanities, Thou didst grant me Thy discipline, and the sins which I committed by taking delight in those vanities Thou hast forgiven me. In reading such things I learned many useful words ; but these I might have learned from reading books which are not fictitious, and that is the safe course for the young to walk in.
he inveighs against the mode of educating the
UT woe to thee, thou torrent of human custom !
Who shall stand against thee? How long will it be ere thou shalt be dried up? How long wilt thou hurry away the sons of Eve into that vast and ter
IMMORALITY OF THE GODS
rible ocean, which they with difficulty enough pass over who embark on the wood' of the Cross ? For did I not read in thee of Jove the thunderer and adulterer? Both of these, certainly, he could not be ; but so it was depicted, that by the flattery of false thunder he might authorise the imitation of true adultery. But who of these gowned masters would lend a serious ear to one of the same profession, crying out and saying, "Homer feigned these things, and transferred human actions to the gods; would I not rather that he had brought down divine things to us?”2 But it would have been nearer the truth had he said, “He indeed feigned these things; but by attributing a divine nature to infamous men, crimes were no longer reckoned as crimes; so that those who committed them seemed to be imitating, not abandoned men, but the celestial gods.”
And yet, thou torrent of hell, into thee the sons of men are hurled, with rewards for this learning ; and a great affair is made of it, when this goes on publicly in the forum, in the sight of laws which allot salaries in addition to the stipend ; and thou lashest thy rocks and roarest, “Here words are learned, here eloquence is acquired, most necessary for carrying your point and setting forth your opinions." And so should we not have known these words, "golden shower," "lap," "intrigue," "temples of heaven," and such other words which occur in the same passage; unless Terence had introduced a licentious youth,
S. Augustine compares the Cross to a ship which is necessary if we would safely “pass the waves of this troublesome world," and reach our Country.
2 Cicero, Tuscul. i. c. 26.