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. Have you seen this guy of guys?

Buy the book from Amazon.com

Erasmus: Praise of Folly and Other Writings: Critical Commentary

The Erasmus Reader

Discourse on Free Will: Erasmus, Erasmus-Luther, Martin Luther

This article is posted now and will be annotated and keyed to Biblical topics in time.

[1] FOLLY SPEAKS: Whatever is generally said of me by mortal men, and I'm quite well aware that Folly is in poor repute even amongst the greatest fools, still, I am the one and indeed, the only one - whose divine powers can gladden the hearts of gods and men. Proof enough of this is the fact that as soon as I stepped forward to address this crowded assembly, every face immediately brightened up with a new, unwonted gaiety and all your frowns were smoothed away.

You laughed and applauded with such delightfully happy smiles that as I look at you all gathered round me I could well believe you are tipsy with nectar like the Homeric gods,

with a dash of nepenthe (to cause forgetfulness) too to drive away your cares,

though a moment ago you were sitting looking as gloomy and harassed as if you had just come up from Trophonius's cave.

[The phrase about the smoothing away of frowns is taken from' Terence (Adelphi, 839). 'Nepenthe' is the herb mentioned in Homer (Odyssey 4, 220) whose juice, mixed with wine, drove away all care Trophonius, murderer of his brother Agomedes, was buried in a cave which became the seat of an oracle famous for filling with gloom all those who came to consult it. He is mentioned by Homer and Pausanias, and is referred to by Erasmus in the Adages.]

Drugs of various kinds have been used for many centuries to reduce the distress of surgical operations. Homer wrote of nepenthe, which was probably cannabis or opium . Arabian physicians used opium and henbane . More recently powerful rum was administered freely to British sailors before emergency amputations were carried out on board ship in the aftermath of battle. Britannica Members

Opiates exert their main effects on the brain and spinal cord. Their principal action is to relieve or suppress pain. The drugs also alleviate anxiety; induce relaxation, drowsiness, and sedation; and may impart a state of euphoria or other enhanced mood.

Opiates achieve their effect on the brain because their structure closely resembles that of certain molecules called endorphins , which are naturally produced in the body. Endorphins suppress pain and enhance mood by occupying certain receptor sites on specific neurons (nerve cells) that are involved in the transmission of nervous impulses. Opiate alkaloids are able to occupy the same receptor sites, thereby mimicking the effects of endorphins in suppressing the transmission of pain impulses within the nervous system. Britannica Members

Now, when the sun first shows his handsome golden visage upon earth, or after a hard winter the new-born spring breathes out its mild west breezes, [The reference to mild west breezes is a reminiscence of Horace (Odes I 4,1;3,7,3;4,S,6).] it always happens that a new face comes over everything, new colour and a kind of youthfulness return; and so it only takes the mere sight of me to give you all a different look. For great orators must as a rule spend time preparing long speeches and even then find it difficult to succeed in banishing care and trouble from your minds, but I've done this at once and simply by my looks.

[2] Why have I appeared today in this unaccustomed garb? Well, you shall hear the reason if you have no objection to lending me your ears - no, not the ones you use for preachers of sermons,

but the ears you usually prick up for mountebanks, clowns and fools, the sort of ears that once upon a time our friend Midas listened with to Pan.

[Erasmus, having noted at the beginning that Folly herself is speaking and having drawn attention in the preceding section to the instantaneous effect of her appearance, now emphasizes once again that the declamation is put into the mouth of Folly by drawing attention to the dress in which she appears. Since it is Folly who is praising herself, and since therefore she might be taken to be blinded by self-love, Erasmus can pretend, as he did in the letter-preface, that he does not intend anything she says to be taken seriously.

Folly refers to the story of Midas,

whose ears were changed by Apollo into those of an ass for preferring Pan's flute to his own lyre (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 11,153 if. and Herodotus, 7, 33). Midas was at some pains to hide his ears, but his barber betrayed him. There is another reference to Midas in the Adages.]

I've a fancy to play the Sophist before you, and I don't mean by that one of the tribe today who cram tiresome trivialities into the heads of schoolboys and teach them a more than feminine obstinacy in disputation - no, I shall follow the ancients who chose the name Sophist in preference to the damaging title of philosopher or lover of wisdom. .

[The ancient Sophists were itinerant teachers, often of oratory, sometimes even of virtue. But the premium put by most of such teachers on the ability to defend any point of view, irrespective of its truth or moral value, explains the pejorative overtones which the term 'sophist' developed. Folly here touches on a theme frequent in the writings of Erasmus, whose blistering comments on the scholastic educational system focus on the accusation of 'sophistical cavilling'. There is a sense in which the humanist reform of education was always Erasmus's central concern. When, a little later on, Folly refers to speech as the least deceptive mirror of the mind, the reference is to a central tenet in the humanist philosophy of education, as well as to one' of Erasmus's own Apothegmata. Eloquence. or style, not only mirrors intellectual qualities, but can become the means of inculcating and developing them. From this central tenet, clearly implied by Erasmus in an important series of letters to Colet, derives the importance of the renaissance debate about the relationship between eloquence and philosophy (or between dialectic and rhetoric).]

Their concern was to provide eulogies in praise of gods and heroes, so it's a eulogy you are going to hear now, though not one of Hercules or Solon. It's in praise of myself, namely, Folly.

[3] Now, I don't think much of those wiseacres who maintain it's the height of folly and conceit if anyone speaks in his own praise; or rather, it can be as foolish as they like, as long as they admit it's in character. What could be more fitting than for Folly to trumpet her own merits abroad and 'sing her own praises'?

[Folly here quotes a Greek proverb in Greek, as she does three times more in the following lines. Most of the proverbs are comin ented on in the Adages. The Greek phrase for 'infinity doubled' indicates the greatest interval in musical harmony, popularly known (says Luster) as the double octave. Solon, the law-giver who reformed the Athenian constitution, is famous for the introduction of humane and liberal legal, social and political systems.]

Who could portray me better than I can myself? Unless, of course, someone knows me better than I know myself. Yet in general I think I show a good deal more discretion than the general run of gentry and scholars,

whose distorted sense of modesty leads them to make a practice of bribing some sycophantic speaker or babbling poet hired for a fee so that they can listen to him praising their merits, purely fictitious though these are.

The bashful listener spreads his tailfeathers like a peacock and carries his head high, while the brazen flatterer rates this worthless individual with the gods and sets him up as the perfect model of all the virtues - though the man himself knows he is nowhere near that; 'infinity doubled' would not be too far away.

Thus the wretched crow is decked out in borrowed plumage, the 'Ethiopian washed white', an 'elephant created out of a gnat'.

Finally, I follow that well-worn popular proverb which says that
a man does right to praise himself if he can't find any one else to praise him.

Here, by the way, I can't help wondering at the ingratitude (if I may say so) or the dilatoriness of mankind. Everyone is only too anxious to cultivate me and freely acknowledges the benefits I bring, yet throughout all the ages nobody has ever come forward to deliver a speech of thanks in praise of Folly. Yet there has been no lack of persons ready to spend lampoil and lose their sleep working out elaborate speeches in honour of tyrants like Busiris and Phalaris, quartan fever, flies, baldness and plagues of that sort.

[This list of mock encomia is very similar to that of the letter-preface, on which see note 5, pp.57-8. Phalaris was a tyrant of the sixth century B.C., noted for roasting his victims inside a hollow bronze bull, whose encomium was written by Lucian.]

9) Diodorus Siculus Library 9.19.1 (Loeb)

[9.19.1] This Phalaris burned to death Perilaus, the well-known Attic worker in bronze, in the brazen bull. Perilaus had fashioned in bronze the contrivance of the bull, making small sounding pipes in the nostrils and fitting a door for an opening in the bull's side and this bull he brings as a present to Phalaris.

And Phalaris welcomes the man with presents and gives orders that the contrivance be dedicated to the gods. Then that worker in bronze opens the side, the evil device of treachery, and says with inhuman savagery, "If you ever wish to punish some man, O Phalaris, shut him up within the bull and lay a fire beneath it;

by his groanings the bull will be thought to bellow and
cries of pain will give you pleasure
as they come through the
pipes in the nostrils."

When Phalaris learned of this scheme, he was filled with loathing of the man and says, "Come then, Perilaus, do you be the first to illustrate this; imitate those who will play the pipes and make clear to me the working of your device."

And as soon as Perilaus had crept in, to give an example, so he thought, of the sound of the pipes, Phalaris closes up the bull and heaps fire under it. But in order that the man's death might not pollute the work of bronze, he took him out, when half-dead, and hurled him down the cliffs. This tale about the bull is recounted by Lucian of Syria, by Diodorus, by Pindar, and countless others beside them. Lucian Phalaris 1.1; Pind. P. 1.95.

Pind. P. 1 The loud acclaim of renown that survives a man is all that reveals the way of life of departed men to storytellers and singers alike. The kindly excellence of Croesus does not perish, [95] but Phalaris, with his pitiless mind, who burned his victims in a bronze bull, is surrounded on all sides by a hateful reputation; lyres that resound beneath the roof do not welcome him as a theme in gentle partnership with the voices of boys. The first of prizes is good fortune; the second is to be well spoken of; but a man [100] who encounters and wins both has received the highest garland.

1 Reading with Snell tan . . makan for tan . . makan; read either ara (Wilamowitz) or apo (Stone, CR 49, 1935, 124) for ereō. Cf. R. W. B. Burton, Pindar's Pythian Odes, Oxford 1962, 106f.

[4] From me you're going to hear a speech which is extempore and quite unprepared, but all the more genuine for that. Still, I wouldn't have you think I composed this to show off my talent, as the common run of orators do.

As you know, they can spend thirty whole years elaborating a speech which even then may not be theirs at all, and then swear they wrote it for a joke in a mere three days or even dictated it extempore.

For my part, I've always liked best to say 'whatever was on the tip of my tongue'.

[This proverb, in Greek in the Latin text, is induded in the Adages. Folly is referring to an affectation of literary facility verv common both in antiquity and in the renaissance. The notation 'from the country' at the end of the letter-preface is a common and recognizable variant of the same pose. Folly's encomium of herself is In fact a very carefully composed oration and, in spite of her disclaimer in the next sentence, she did in fact follow the classical paradigms for encomiastic oratory.]

None of you need expect me to follow the usual practice of ordinary rhetoricians and explain myself by definition, still less by division. It wouldn't bode well for the future either to limit and confine one whose divinity extends so far, or to cut her up when the whole world is united in worshipping her. And what purpose would it serve for a definition to produce a sketch which would be a mere shadow of myself when I am here before you, for you to look at with your own eyes? For I am as you see me, the true bestower of 'good things', called STULTITIA in Latin,' MOPIA in Greek

[5] But was there any need to tell you even as much as that, as if I didn't make it perfectly clear who I am from the look on my face, as they say? Anyone who argued that I was Minerva or Wisdom could easily be convinced of his mistake simply by the sight of me, even if I never spoke a word, though speech is the least deceptive mirror of the mind. I've no use for cosmetics, my face doesn't pretend to be anything different from my innermost feelings. I am myself wherever I am, and no one can pretend I'm not - especially those who lay special claim to be called the personification of Wisdom, even though they strut about like 'apes in purple and asses in lion-skins'.

[The Greek word for 'good things' is taken from Homer (Odyssey, 8,325) and Folly's assertion that 'the look on her face' makes things clear, alludes to Cicero's letters (To Atticus, 14, 13). The proverbs about 'apes in purple' and 'asses in lion-skins' are both the subject of Commentary in the Adages. Minerva was the Italian goddess of 'handicrafts frequently identified with Athene and hence with wisdom. Folly's assertion that she looks what she is has a special importance since Erasmus (followed here, as so often, by Rabelais) made much of the Silenus figure, whose point was that he appeared foolish and ugly while being wise and admirable. In the Sileni Alcibiadis of '515 Erasmus names Christ together with Socrates and Epictetus among the Silenus figures. The Enchiridion contains a reference to the scriptures which 'like the Silenus of Alcibiades, conceal their real divinity beneath a surface that is crude and almost laughable'. Folly just called herself the true bestower of all good things, perhaps]

However hard they try to keep up the illusion, their ears stick up and betray the Midas in them. There's an ungrateful lot of folk for you - members of my party if anyone is, and yet so ashamed of my name in public that they cast it freely at others as a term of strong abuse. They're 'complete fools' in fact, and yet each of them would like to pass for a wise man and a Thales; so wouldn't the best name for them all be morosophers or wise fools ?

[Thales was one of the seven sages, astronomer, geographer, geometer and philosopher. The important sentence in which Thales is mentioned is not easy to render; and the difficulty is increased by the fact that Kan's Latin text is certainly corrupt at this point, where it differs from Froben's 1515 version. Folly is saying that those of her faction who reject the name of fools and pretend to be wise are not only 'complete fools' in fact, but are wise to be so They ought therefore really to be called hybrid wise-fools. The 'complete fools' or mortals who pretend to be wise are also the subject of commentary in the Adages.

They are, however, also morosophers, which means at the same time both wise and foolish. Lucian uses the term of the wise who pretend to be foolish (Alexander, 40) and Rabelais uses it of Triboullet (Third Book, chapter 46).

Erasmus is playing ironically with the wisdom in Folly's eyes of being foolish. Just possibly, he is also hinting openly at the possibility that Folly and her friends are not so foolish as they pretend to he. At any rate, the purely burlesque pose drops for a minute to reveal the potential seriousness of what Folly will go on to say. The complex thought of Erasmus suggests that, while the followers of Folly pretend to be wise, they have the wisdom to be foolish. It is not farfetched to link this idea with the Pauline folly of the Gross and Erasmus's Own exploitation of the Silenus figure.]

[6] For at this point too I think I should copy the rhetoricians of today who fancy themselves practically gods on earth if they can show themselves twin-tongued, like horse leeches,

and think it a splendid feat if they can work a few silly little Greek words, like pieces of mosaic, into their Latin speeches, however out of place these are.

Then, if they still need something out of the ordinary, they dig four or five obsolete words out of mouldy manuscripts with which to cloud the meaning for the reader.

The idea is, I suppose, that those who can understand are better pleased with themselves,

and those who can't are all the more lost in admiration the less they understand.

Indeed there's a special sort of refined pleasure which all my followers take in paying their highest regard to any particularly exotic import from foreign parts, and the more pretentious among them have to laugh and clap their hands and 'twitch their ears' like a donkey does to show the others how well they can understand. 'So much for that'; now I return to my subject.

[The reference to leeches alludes to Ovid (Metamorphoses, 4, 568). Erasmus is having a joke at his own expense. Just as Folly's declamation is anything but improvised, so it goes to some lengths to drag in Greek proverbs. Folly's attack on literary pretentiousness ends with two Greek proverbs. In the 1529 colloquy The Cyclops, Erasmus makes a similarly ironic comment on his own activity.]

[7] Well, you have my name, gentlemen - but how shall I address you? As "most foolish"? What more honourable could the goddess Folly use in addressing her devotees? But first of all, with the help of the Muses, I'll try to explain my ancestry to you, which not very many people know. I didn't have Chaos, Orcus, Saturn nor Japetus, nor any other of those out-of-date mouldy old gods for a father, but 'Plutus', god of riches himself, the sole 'father of gods and men' whatever Homer and Hesiod and even Jupiter may say.

[Chaos, according to Hesiod, was at the origin of the world. Orcus, the Italian god often identified with Pluto or Hades, was one of the three sons of Kronos and god of the lower world. Saturn was the Roman god often identified with Kronos, father of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Japetus was one of the Titans, son of heaven and earth and the father of Atlas. Plutus was the god of wealth and Hesiod the Greek author of uncertain date whose Theogany tried to bring the traditions concerning the gods into a consistent system. It also established their genealogy. Jupiter is of course the Roman sky-god and equivalent of Zeus. Homer and Hesiod frequently refer to Zeus as the 'father of gods and men'.

Folly, having presented herself in jester's garb, has pursued the introduction to her encomium of herself with a take-off of most of the classical introductory procedures. We have had an exordium, consisting of a greeting and a narratidn. Instead of the scholastic' partition, Folly has refused to explain herself 'by definition, still less by division', but has presented herself without cosmetics and with immediate effect. Erasmus seems to imply a contrast between evangelical humanism and the cosmetic procedures of the scholastics. We now move into a discussion of Folly's birth, parodying the genealogical section of the Greek paradigm for encomia, prior to identifying Folly's companions and moving on to the gifts she bestows.]

He has only to nod his head, today as ever before, for everything to be thrown topsy-turvy whether sacred or profane. War, peace, governments, councils, law-courts, assemblies, marriage-ties, contracts, treaties, laws, arts, gaieties, gravities (I'm out of breath) - in a word, the affairs of men, public and private, are all managed according to his will. Without his help the entire race of poets' divinities, or if I may be so bold, the chosen Olympian gods themselves either wouldn't keep alive at all, or would certainly fare very badly on the 'food they get at home'.

[The 'chosen Olympian gods' were normally said to be twelve in number, although Varro says twenty. St Augustine discusses the issue in The City of God (Book 7, chapter 2, 3, 33). Lucian says in his work on sacrifices that, without the food and drink from sacrifices,

the gods would have a thin time at home on nectar and ambrosia.]

If a man annoys Plutus not even Pallas Athene herself can save him. But anyone who wins his approval can tell mighty Jupiter to go hang himself, thunderbolt and all. 'It's my proud claim that he is my father.' And he didn't make me spring from his brain as Jupiter did that sour and stern Athene, but gave me Youthfulness for a mother, the loveliest of all the nymphs and the gayest too. Nor was he tied to her in dreary wedlock like the parents of that limping blacksmith, but 'lay with her in love', as Homer puts it, something much more delightful.

['Go hang himself' is the literal translation of the phrase from Juvenal (10, 53) to which Folly alludes. Folly here solemnly claims godly birth in the Homeric phrase which she quotes in Greek. The principal myth concerning Athene is that she had no mother but sprang fully armed out of Zeus's head when it was split with an axe by Hephaestus. Erasmus invents a new name for the nymph Youthfulness, normally called Hebe, the daughter of Hera and Zeus. She was the cup-bearer of the gods, here supposed to have conceived Folly by the young, vigorous and somewhat inebriated Plutus whom she served at table. Lijster says that Erasmus is implying that Folly is the product of the union between youth and riches. The limping blacksmith is Vulcan, god of fire, legitimate son of Jupiter and Juno, and the term 'hot-blooded' implies a reference to Horace (Odes, 3, 14, 27).]

Moreover, my father was not the Plutus in Aristophanes (make no mistake about that), half-blind, with one foot in the grave, but Plutus as he used to be, 'sound and hot-blooded with youth - and not only youth, but still more with the nectar he'd just been drinking, as it happened, neat and in generous cupfuls at a banquet of the gods.

[8] If you also want to know my birthplace, as people think it matters a lot in judging noble birth nowadays where an infant uttered its first cries, I wasn't born on wandering DeIos nor out of the waves of the sea nor 'in hollow caves', but on the very Islands of the Blest, where everything grows 'unsown, untilled'.

[Aristophanes was the Athenian author of comedies whose Plutus was staged in 388 B.C. According to legend (see Ovid, Metamorphoses 6, 333) Leto was delivered of Apollo after nine days labour on the island of Delos. The island, previously afloat, was anchored by Zeus to provide a birth-place for the twins Apollo and Artemis. Aphrodite, goddess of fertility, love and beauty, was born 'out of the waves' according to later Greek tradition while, according to Homer (Odyssey, 4, 403), Thetis and her sister Nereids were born in hollow caves. The 'Islands of the Blest', originally the winterless home of the happy dead for Homer, Hesiod and Pindar, are mentioned by Pliny and described by Horace. Folly also refers to Homer in the words 'unsown, untilled'. The islands were fertile without being cultivated, and free from illness, extremes of temperature and all forms of disease and blight. Everything was in abundant supply. In the renaissance the myth of the Islands of the Blest was frequently used as a vehicle either for satire or, as in More's Utopia, as a tentative means of exploring personal and social aspirations, in which form it later blended with the idea of Arcadia and became embedded in the pastoral tradition.]

Toil, old age and sickness are unknown there. There's no asphodel, mallow, onions, vetch and or any other such worthless stuff to be seen in the fields, but everywhere there's moly, panacea, nepenthe, marjoram, ambrosia, and lotus, roses and violets and hyacinths, and gardens of Adonis to refresh the eye and nose. Born as I was amidst these delights I didn't start life crying, but smiled sweetly at my mother straight away. And I certainly don't envy the 'mighty son of Kronos' his she-goat nurse, for two charming nymphs fed me at their breasts, Drunkenness, daughter of Bacchus, and Ignorance, daughter of Pan.

[The list of worthless plants is compdounded from various passages of Hesiod and Horace, although it looks as if Erasmus mistook a reference in Horace to seaons for an allusion to the common vegetable. Asphodel is mentioned as a poor man's vegetable by Hesiod (Works and Days, 42) and by Pliny (Historia naturalis, 21,108). In the second list moly is the wonderful herb (Odyssey, 10, 305) given by Hermes to Odysseus to preserve him from Circe's seductions. Panacea (Pliny, Historia naturalis, 25, ii) cures all ills.

Nepenthe drives away care. Marjoram is the aromatic herb and ambrosia, the food of the gods, is also the name given to a fragrant herb in Dioscorides and Pliny. The lotus was the food of the Lotophagi which made the eater forget his own country and desire to live in Lotusland (Odyssey, 9, 82 if.). The gardens of Adonis, god of vegetation and fertility, mentioned by Erasmus in the Adages, were pots filled with short-lived seasonal plants at his spring festival. The mighty son of Kronos is Homer's description of Zeus, quoted by Folly in Greek (Iliad, 2, 403). Zeus was hidden away in Crete by his mother Rhea to save him from being swallowed by his father. In Crete Zeus was reared on the milk of the she-goat Amalthea.

Erasmus invents Greek names for Drunkenness and Ignorance. The connexion between Bacchus and his daughter Drunkenness is clear.

Pan, the father of Ignorance, was the half-goat Arcadian god, frightening, angry and haunter of wildernesses. Although Folly boasts here that she was nursed by Drunkenness and Ignorance, it is important not to forget that the intoxication induced by Bacchus became in renaissance authors like Rabelais and Pontus de Tyard a figure of the divine 'furor' of the Platonist tradition which, in Marsiho Ficinp, was the beginning of the soul's reunification in its ascent to beatitude. In the same way, ignorance is at this date an equivocal concept since some at least of the evangelical humanists were heavily indebted to the idea of a 'learned ignorance' used by Nicolas of Cusa in his de docta ignorantia to describe human receptivity to divine knowledge. Postel, Bigot and Rahelais were to make Pan, here the father of Ignorance, into a figure of Christ, the Good Shepherd, an identification suggested by Paul Marsus's commentary on Ovid's Fasti. It is difficult to know whether Erasmus intended the ambivalence in Folly's nurses. ]

You see them both here along with the rest of my attendants followers, but if you want to know all their names, you'll have to hear them from me in Greek.

[9] This one you see with her eyebrows raised is, of course, Philautia, Self-love. The one clapping her hands with laughter in her eyes is Kolakia, Flattery. The sleepy one who looks only half-awake is Lethe, Forgetfulness, and this one leaning on her elbow with her hands folded is Misaponia, Idleness. This one wearing a wreath of roses and drenched in scent is Hedone, Pleasure. The one here with the rolling eyes she can't keep still is Anoja, Madness, and this plump one with the well-fed look is called Tryphe, Sensuality. You can see there are also two gods amongst the girls; one is called Comus, Revelry, and the other Negretos Hypnos, Sound Sleep. This, then, is the household which serves me loyally in bringing the whole world under my sway, so that even great rulers have to bow to my rule.

[This section marks the end of that part of the declamation which deals with Folly's birth and education. She will now proceed to the body of the encomium dealing with achievements and attributes. The list of her companions is a variation on the list of deadly sins. Only Philautia plays any significant part in the subsequent declaniation. Kulakia is a name coined by Erasmus. Lethe is the underworld river of mythology from which the shades of the dead drank and then forgot their earthly existence. Misaponia is a term for laziness used by Lucian. Hedone, Anoia and Tryphe are the Greek words for pleasure, madness and sensuality. Comus is the god of revelry and Negretos Hypnos is an Homeric expression for deep sleep (Odyssey, r3, 79). Folly's list of companions by whose help she rules might, if it were less humanist in form, have come from some medieval sermon or allegoiy.]

[10] You've heard of my birth, upbringing and companions. Now I don't want it to seem that I claim the name of goddess without good reason, so please pay attention and learn what great advantages I bring to gods and men alike, and how far my divinity extends. For if being a god means helping mortals, as someone sensibly wrote, and if those who introduced mortals to wine or grain, or some other commodity, deserved their admission to the council of the gods, why shouldn't I rightly be recognized and named the Alpha of all the gods, when I dispense every benefit to all alike?

[The statement that it is the function of the gods to help men comes from Pliny (Historia naturalis, 2, 5). In Revelation, i, 8, God reveals himself as the 'Alpha and the Omega', that is the beginning and end of all things signified by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This main section of Folly's declamation dealing with her powers takes up very nearly half its total length and leads on to the consideration of Folly's followers which starts in section forty-eight.]

[11] First of all, what can be sweeter or more precious than life itself? And to whom is it generally agreed life owes it's beginning if not to me? For it certainly isn't the spear of 'mighty-fathered' Pallas or the shield of 'cloud-gathering' Jupiter which fathers and propagates the human race. Even the father of the gods and king of men who makes the whole of Olympus tremble when he bows his head has to lay aside that triple-forked thunderbolt of his and that grim Titanic visage with which he can terrify all the gods whenever he chooses, and humble himself to put on a different mask, like an actor, if he ever wants to do what he always is doing, that is, to make a child. And the Stoics, as we know, claim to be most like the gods.

[It is Homer who refers to Athene, daughter of Zeus, as 'mighty-fathered' (Iliad, 5,747) and to Zeus himself, 'father of gods and men' as 'cloud-gathering' (Iliad, I, 160 and 470). The reference is to his thunderbolts. It is Virgil (Aeneid, 9,106) who talks of the terror he inspires and Ovid who mentions his three-forked lightning (Metamorphoses, 2, 848). The mention of the Titanic visage implies a reference to Lucian (e.g. Icaromenippus, 23) who used the phrase on several occasions. The word for 'making a child', in Greek in the Latin text, is a coinage of Erasmus.

The ethical doctrines of the Stoics, which they regarded as based on a rigorously deductive system, centred on the suppression of passion and the following of reason and nature.

Since, however, some early Christian writers like Clement of Alexandria, drawing on neoplatonist as well as on stoic ideas, held that the suppression of passion demanded the total hegemony in man of spirit over matter, the stoic sage was therefore endowed with the spiritual elevation, measured in terms of freedom from matter and rationality of behaviour, of God himself.

The idea that the sage is the equal of God was to be defended by some sixteenth-century Christian Stoics such as Justus Lipsius and attacked as impious by representatives of a more rigorously Augustinian tradition of Christian spirituality. Erasmus himself was to explicit certain stoic themes and ideas, particularly those which, unlike this one, derived from Epictetus.]

But give me a man who is a Stoic three or four or if you like six hundred times over, and he too, even if he keeps his beard as a mark of wisdom, though he shares it with the goat, will have to swallow his pride, smooth out his frown, shake off his rigid principles, and be fond and foolish for a while. In fact, if the philosopher ever wants to be a father it's me he has to call on - yes, me. And I may as well speak more frankly to you in my usual way. What is it, I ask you, which begets gods or men - the head, the face, the breast, hand or ear, all thought of as respectable parts of the body? No, it's not. The propagator of the human race is that part which is so foolish and absurd that it can't be named without raising a laugh. There is the true sacred fount from which everything draws its being, not the quarternion of Pythagoras.

[The Stoics, like the Cynics, wore a characteristic uniform of beard, cloak and stick. The first four whole numbers were the basis for the cosmic system of the Pythagoreans, and so the 'sacred fount' of all natural. During the renaissance there was a serious discussion about the seat of the soul and its affections in the various parts of the body and, in the Enchiridion, Erasmus had adopted a modification of the Platonist view, giving desire to the lower part of the body. Here, however, as when she refers to the Stoics, Folly is in lighter mood. She goes on after Juvenal (6, 43), to talk of the 'halter of matrimony', although Erasmus elsewhere treats that subject seriously, too.]

Just tell me, please, what man would be willing to offer his neck to the halter of matrimony if he applied the usual practice of the wise man and first weighed up its disadvantages as a way of life? Or what woman would ever agree to take a husband if she knew or thought about the pains and dangers of childbirth and the trouble of bringing up children? So if you owe your existence to wedlock, you owe the fact of wedlock to madness, my attendant Anoia, and can see how much in fact you owe to me. And if a woman has once had this experience, would she be willing to repeat it without the divine aid of Lethe, who helps her to forget? Venus herself, whatever Lucretius says, would never deny that she would be weakened and shorn of her power if my own divinity didn't come to her aid. Thus from that amusement of mine, drunken and absurd as it is, spring haughty philosophers and their, present day successors who are popularly called monks, kings in their purple, pious priests and thrice-holy pontiffs; and finally, the whole assembly of the poets' gods, now so numerous that Olympus itself, for all its spaciousness, can scarcely hold such a crowd.

[Lucretius, author of the de rerum natura, starts his poem with an invocation to Venus. goddess of love. 'Kings in their purple' refers to Horace (Odes, 1, 3S-12). The parenthesis on 'those popularly called monks' foreshadows the sustained later attack. Monks, as Erasmus was fond of pointing out, were not instituted by Christ.]

[12] But I shouldn't claim much by saying that I'm the seed and source of existence unless I could also prove that whatever advantages there are all throughout life are all provided by me. What would this life be, or would it seem worth calling life at all, if its pleasure was taken away? I hear your applause, and in fact I've always felt sure that none of you was so wise or rather so foolish - no, I mean so wise - as to think it could.

[Folly has by now come near to laying down her ironic pose by appearing to argue sensibly. Erasmus here recalls us, and himself, too, to the convention he has established inside which foolishness is sense for Folly. However, Folly immediately goes on to argue seriously, so that Erasmus has put the reader in a situation in which he can no longer be sure what is serious and what is not. The stage is now set both for Erasmus's attack on aspects of sixteenth-century society and for his defence that they are only the outpourings of Folly.]

Even the Stoics don't despise pleasure, though they are careful to conceal their real feelings, and tear it to pieces in public with their incessant outcry, so that once they have frightened everyone else off they can enjoy it more freely themselves. I'd just like them to, tell me if there's any part of life which isn't dreary, unpleasant, graceless, stupid and tedious unless you add pleasure the seasoning of Folly. I've proof enough in Sophocles, a poet who can never be adequately praised, who pays me a really splendid tribute in the line

'For ignorance provides the happiest h'fe'.

[The line, of Sophocles is from his Ajax (L 554). Technically it is true to say that the Stoics, or some of them, did not despise the pleasure which was not a passion but a 'rational affection'. Erasmus, as usual, is making learned fun and perhaps remembering that, for Seneca, the 'pleasure' which is the final end of human endeavour is for the Epicurean identified with the 'virtue' which the Stoics cultivate (de beata vita, 13).]

But now let's take the facts in order.

[13] First of all, everyone knows that by far the happiest and universally enjoyable age of man is the first. What is there about babies which makes us hug and kiss and fondle them, so that even an enemy would give them help at that age? Surely it's the charm of folly, which thoughtful Nature has taken care to bestow on the newly-born so that they can offer some reward of pleasure to mitigate the hard work of bringing them up and win the liking of those who look after them. Then follows adolescence, which everyone finds delightful, openly supports and warmly encourages, eagerly offering a helping hand. Now whence comes the charm of youth if not from me? I've seen to it that youth has so little wisdom and hence so few vexations. It's a fact that as soon as the young grow up and develop the sort of mature sense which comes through experience and education, the bloom of youthful beauty begins to fade at once, enthusiasm wanes, gaiety cools down and energy slackens. The further anyone withdraws from me the less and less he's alive, until 'painful age' comes on, that is, old age with its troubles, unwelcome not only to others but just as much to oneself.

[This section contains verbal reminiscences of Virgil, Seneca and Horace. The Greek phrase for 'painful age' is taken from Homer (Iliad, 8, 103) while that, a little later, for 'second childhood' comes from Lucian (Saturn. 9). Erasmus comments on it in the Adages, as' he also does on the proverb from Apuieius which Folly goes on to quote, 'I hate a small child too wise for his years.']

This too would be intolerable to man if I weren't at his elbow out of pity for all he has to bear. Just as the gods of fiction often come to the aid of the dying with some metamorphosis, so do I recall people who are on the brink of the grave, as far as possible, to childhood once again. Hence the aptitude of the popular expression, second childhood. And if any of you are interested in my method of transformation, I'm quite willing to tell you. The spring belonging to my nymph Lethe has its source in the Islands of the Blest, and what flows through the underworld is only a trickle of a stream. There I take them, so that once they have drank deep draughts of forgetfulness the cares of the mind are gradually washed away and they recover their youth. I know they're called silly and foolish, as indeed they are, but that is exactly what it means to become a child again. What else is childhood but silliness and foolishness? Its utter lack of sense is what we find so delightful. Everybody hates a prodigy, detests an old head on young shoulders; witness the oft-repeated saying "I hate a small child who's too wise for his years." And who could carry on doing business or having dealings with an old man if his vast experience of affairs was still matched by a vigorous mind and keen judgement? So I see to it that the old man is witless, and this sets him free meanwhile from all those wretched anxieties which torment the man in his senses. He is also pleasant company for a drink, and doesn't feel the boredom with life which a more robust age can scarcely endure. There are times when like the old man in Plautus he goes back to those three special letters AMO, but he'd be anything but happy, if he still had his wits.

[The reference here is to senile love in Plautus" Mercator (2, 2, 33) and the letters of course mean 'I love'.]

Meanwhile, thanks to what I do for him, he's happy, popular with his friends, even a welcome guest to bring life to a party. In Homer, the speech of old Nestor flows from his lips sweeter than honey, while that of Achilles is bitter, and the old men sitting pn the walls of Troy speak in 'lily-sweet' voices. On this reckoning old age surpasses even childhood, for that is pleasant but inarticulate and lacks the chief amusement in life - talk and still more talk. Add the fact that old people are always particularly delighted by children, and children by them

'For thus the goddess always brings like to like'

and there really is no difference between them except the old man's wrinkles and the number of birthdays he has Counted. [See the Iliad, I, 249 and 3, 152 for the references to Nestor and 'lily-sweet' voices. The verse comes from the Odyssey, 17, 218.] Otherwise they are exactly alike: white hair, toothless mouth; short stature, liking for milk, babbling, chattering, absurdity, forgetfulness, thoughtlessness, everything in fact.

The nearer people approach old age the closer they return to a semblance of childhood, until the time comes for them to depart this life, again like children, neither tired of living nor aware of death.

[14] Anyone who likes can go and compare this service of mine with the changes made by the other gods. What they did in anger, I'd rather not recount, but even when they're particularly well-disposed to people, they have a habit of turning them into a tree, a bird, a grasshopper, or even a snake - as if becoming something else were not just the same as dying.

[The first allusion is probably to Daphne, changed into a laurel tree after asking for help while being pursued by an amorous Apollo (Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, 452 ff.). Ceyx and his wife Alcyone were punished for calling themselves Zeus and Hera. Ceyx was drowned and Alcyone threw herself into the sea after him. Both were changed into birds by the pity of the gods (Oyid, Metamorphoses, II, 410, if.). Tithonus, Priam's brother, was given by Zeus the gift of immortality but not that of eternal youth, for which Eos, goddess of the dawn, forgot to ask. When he became old and garrulous she finally shut him up in a room or, in the version of the legend deriving from Hellanicus, he was changed into a chirping grasshopper. Cadmus, the son of Agenor, built the Cadmea, citadel of Thebes, and introduced writing into Greece. In old age he and his wife Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, were turned into snakes in Illyria (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4, 57 if.).]

Now I restore? man unchanged to the best and happiest time of his life. But if mortals would henceforth have no truck with wisdom and spend all their time with me, there would be no more old age and they could be happy enjoying eternal youth. You must have seen those soured individuals who are so wrapped up in their philosophic studies or some other serious, exacting affairs that they are old before they were ever young; I suppose it's because their preoccupations and the unremitting strain of their keen concentration gradually saps their spirit and vitality. By contrast my morons are plump, sleek and glossy, typical Acarnanian porkers, as they say, and never likely to know any of the disadvantages of old age unless they pick up some infection from the wise. However, man isn't permitted to be happy every bit of his life. [

'Plump', 'sleek' and 'glossy' are words used by Horace of himself (Epistles, I, 4, 15-16) when he presents himself as a pig from the herd of Epicurus. The Acarnanian pigs are also mentioned in the Adages. In the renaissance Epicurus was usually taxed with denying the immortality of the soul and his followers were not unusually referred to as pigs from his herd. His view that man's final end was pleasure could be taken in a severe and almost stoic sense, as Seneca interpreted it, or as something altogether less lofty, which explains something of the ambiguity of the renaissance attitude towards him. In the seventeenth century, Gassendi produced a full-scale Christian version of his philosophy.]

Then there's further good evidence in the common saying which is often quoted: "Folly is the one thing which can halt fleeting youth and ward off the relentless advance of old age." And there's good reason for what is generally said about the natives of Brabant, that increasing age brings other men wisdom, but they grow more and more foolish the nearer they approach old age. At the same time there's no people so cheerful in company or so little affected by the misery of growing old. Close to them as neighbours and also in their way of life are my Hollanders - for why shouldn't I call them mine? They're my devoted followers, so much so that they've earned a popular epithet of which they're not at all ashamed, indeed they make a special boast of it.

[The 'special boast' is the Dutch proverb that the older a Dutchman is, the stupider he is,

Hoe ouder, hoe hotter Hollander.

By claiming a special relationship with the Dutch, Folly is of course being ironic at Erasmus's expense.]

Off you go, you foolish mortals, find a Medea, Circe, [Circe is the holy prostitute in John's Revelation: Circe = church] Venus and Aurora, and some sort of a spring they can use to give you back your youth! But I alone possess this power and make use of it. My hands hold the magic philtre with which Memnon's daughter prolonged the youth of her grandfather Tithonus. I am the Venus by whose favour Phaon became young again to be loved so much by Sappho. Mine are the herbs, if there are any, mine the supplications received, mine the spring which can not only restore lost youth but (better still) preserve it for evermore. And if you all share the view that nothing is better than youth, nothing so hateful as old age, I think you must see how much you owe to me for maintaining such a blessing and driving such an evil away.

[15] But why am I still talking about mortals? Search the heavens, and then anyone who likes can taunt me with my name if he finds a single one of the gods who wouldn't be disagreeable and disliked if he weren't graced by my divine powers.

Why is Bacchus always a boy with long flowing hair?
Surely because he's irresponsible
and drunk,
and spends all his life at banquets
and dances, singing and revelling,
and never has any dealings with Pallas.

In fact he's so far from asking to be thought wise that he's happy to be worshipped with merriment and fun. Nor does he take offence when given a name which means "foolish", in the Greek saying 'more foolish than Morychus'.

[Virgil describes the cult of Bacchus in the Georgics (2,380 if.). Bacchus is the Lydian name of Dionysus, and as this became more popular, the older, bearded figure of the god gave place to the youthful, almost effeminate figure of later Greek sculpture. The proverb concerning Morychus is discussed by Erasmus in the Adages. It apparently refers to one who neglects the places where important things are going on and alludes to a Sicilian statue of Bacchus which was outside his temple. Athenaeus tells us that Bacchus was known as Morychus. Folly goes on to refer to Bacchus's birth from the thigh of Jupiter. His mother Semele, tricked by a jealous Hera, had her request granted by Jupiter that he should come to her, as to Hera, in his full glory, which resulted in her death from his thunderbolts. Jupiter put the premature child into his thigh, whence in due course he was born. The 'Old Comedy' refers to Aristophanes' The Frogs.]

His name was changed to Morychus because the country people in their revels used wine-must and fresh figs to smear the statue sitting at the door of his temple. Then think of the insults flung at him in Old Comedy! "Stupid god," they would say, "just the sort to be born from a thigh."

Yet who wouldn't choose to be this light-hearted fool who is always young and merry and brings pleasure and gaiety to all rather than 'crooked-counselled' Jupiter wlio is universally feared, or old Pan who confounds everything with his sudden alarms, ash-grimed Vulcan, always filthy from his work in the smithy, or even Pallas herself who strikes terror with her Gorgon and spear and 'fixed grim stare'?

Why is Cupid always a boy? Simply because he's a joker and never shows 'sound sense' in word or thought. Why does the beauty of golden Venus never lose its bloom of youth? Surely because she's related to me and gets the colour of her complexion from my father. That's why Homer calls her 'golden Aphrodite'. And besides, she's always smiling, if we are to believe the poets or the sculptors who copy them. What deity did the Romans ever worship more devoutly than Flora, the mother of all delights?

['Crooked-counselled', is a word applied by Homer to Zeus and by Hesiod to Prometheus. Pan, the god of woods, was known for the terror ('panic') with which he inspired travelers. On Vulcan the smith, see note 13. p.71. Pallas Athene as goddess of war is frequently depicted with shield, lance, helmet and her goatskin cloak fringed with serpents and with the Gorgon's head in the centre. The 'fixed grim stare' is a reference to Sophocles (Ajax, 452). On Cupid, Folly refers to the Iliad (8, 524) and on Venus to the Odyssey (8, 337). Aphrodite was the classical Greek name for Venus. Flora is the goddess of flowering plants whose spring festival was renowned for its licentiousness.]

And if anyone cares to ask some searching questions of Homer and the other poets about the lives even of the sterner gods, he'll find folly everywhere. I don't think I need go into the behaviour of the others, as you're well aware of the love-affairs and goings on of Jupiter the thunderer himself, and how even that chaste Diana who ignored her sex and devoted herself to hunting could still lose her heart to Endymion. I only wish they could still hear their conduct ridiculed by Momus, as they often used to do at one time, but it isn't long since they lost their tempers and threw him and Até headlong down to earth because he disturbed the gods' carefree happiness with his pertinent interruptions.

[Jupiter's love affairs were notorious. Hesiod enumerates his seven wives, and there were of course numerous affairs with mortals. Diana, goddess of the moon, who fell in love with the beautiful sleeping hunter Endymion, had his sleep indefinitely prolonged by Jupiter in order to be able to embrace him every night without his knowledge. The Endymion legend is usually referred to Selene or Artemis. But Selene was the moon goddess and Artemis, the chaste goddess of the hunt, was the sister of the sun god Apollo. The Romans identified her with Diana, their moon goddess, so that Diana took over Artemis's functions as virgin hunter to give the legend as Folly refers to it.

Momus, although mentioned by Hesiod, is a literary rather than a mythological character. He is the fault-finder who mocks at his fellow-gods, normally depicted taking off his mask and associated with folly and stinging satire. Erasmus writes of him in the Adages. Até, the personification of blindness and infatuation, caused so much trouble among the gods, notably by leading Juno to deceive Jupiter, that Jupiter threw her down to earth, where she is responsible for discord and disaster (Iliad, 19, 91 if.).]

And not a single mortal thinks of offering hospitality to the exile, far from it - there's no room for him in the halls of princes where my 'Flattery' holds first place; she can no more get on with Momus than the wolf with the lamb. So now that they've got rid of him the gods can have their fun with much more gaiety and freedom, 'living an easy life' in fact, as Homer says, with no one to keep a sharp eye on them. What joke will that fig-wood Priapus not play?

And Mercury is up to all sort of tricks with his thefts and sleight-of-hand. Vulcan too has always acted the 'buffoon' at the banquets of the gods, and delighted the company by his limping or his taunts or the funny things he says.

Then there's that amorous old Silenus who is always obscenely dancing the 'cordax' along with Polyphemus stamping his 'ratatan', and the nymphs dancing a 'barefoot ballet'. The half-goat satyrs play Atellan farces,

Pan makes everyone laugh with his hopeless efforts at singing, and the gods would rather listen to him than to the Muses themselves, especially when the nectar has started to flow freely.

[Homer refers, in slightly different terms, to the 'easy life' of the gods in the Iliad (6, 138). Priapus, god of fertility, shrank to the garden-god and was depicted as grotesque rather than serious or impressive. Horace puts into his mouth that he was once a (useless) piece of fig-wood (Satires, I, 8, i). Mercury, the god of commerce and subsequently of theft, was responsible for stealing Apollo's cattle and, while being reproached for it, his quiver. Ludan tells us that Mercury stole Vulcan's tongs and in the Ode of Horace to which Folly refers (I, 10), Mercury's intervention to protect Priam on his midnight journey to recover the body of Hector is also mentioned.

Homer recounts how Vulcan or Hephaestus downed at the feasts of the gods, moving them to laughter at his Ump or by his scoffing (Iliod, I, ~68 and i8, 397). Silenus was the drunken and misshapen companion of Bacchus, and the 'cordax' an obscene dance which existed before the Old Comedy and was illustrative of the effects of debauchery. Polyphemus is one of the Homeric Cyclopes, who destroyed with a rock his rival Acis for the love of the nymph Galatea. The reference to the 'barefoot ballet' comes from Lucian's de saltatione (chapter 12). The satyrs were sylvan creatures, half-goat, half-man, and the Atellan farces, with stock characters and ritualized action, were noted for their obscenlty.

Pan was always considered to be musical, but his instrument was the shepherd's pipe.]

But I needn't say here what the gods are up to when they've drunk well and the banquet's over - absurdities like these often make me feel I can't stop laughing myself. It would really be better at this point to remember Harpocrates and keep silent, in case some god on Corycian Parnassus may be eavesdropping and hear us say things which even Momus couldn't get away with.

[Harpocrates, mentioned in the Adages, is the god of silence, depicted as a chubby child with his index finger covering his lips. The Corycian cave on Mount Parnassus, also mentioned in the Adages, is associated with unsuccessful attempts to conceal what one is doing. Folly's new reference to Momus underlines the irreverence with which she is discoursing on such apparently serious topics as the going on of the gods and paves the way for her equal irreverence later about contemporary ecclesiastics and their affairs.]

[16] But now it's time we left the gods in heaven and came down to earth for a spell, as Homer does. There too we shall see nothing happy and gay unless I've made it so. In particular, you observe how wisely mother Nature, the parent and creator of the human race, has seen to it that some spice of folly shall nowhere be lacking. By Stoic definition wisdom means nothing else but being ruled by reason; and folly; by contrast, is being swayed by the dictates of the passions. So Jupiter, not wanting man's life to be wholly gloomy and grim, has bestowed far more passion than reason - you could reckon the ratio as twenty-four to one. Moreover, he confined reason to a cramped corner of the head and left all the rest of the body to the passions. Then he set up two raging tyrants in opposition to reason's solitary power: anger which holds sway in the breast and so controls the heart, the very source of life, and lust whose empire spreads far and wide, right down to the genitals. How far reason can prevail against the combined forces of these two the common life of man makes quite clear. She does the only thing she can, and shouts herself hoarse repeating formulas of virtue, while the other two have only to bid her go hang herself and intensify their hateful opposition until at last their ruler is exhausted, gives up and surrenders.

[Erasmus's reference to 'Mother Nature' is a reminiscence of Cicero (de natura deorum, I, 8). The proportion of twenty-four to one is Lijster's interpretation of Erasmus's quantities. On the stoic opposition between reason and passion, see note 18, p. 75, and on the attribution of the passions to the various parts of the body, note 19, p.76. The reference here is to Plato's Timaeus (69d). The Phaedrus had contained the parable of the charioteer (reason) with his two horses (the noble and obedient passions and the wild, disobedient ones). The Timaeus goes on to ascribe the rational part of the soul to the head, the faculty of courage and anger to the part of the body near the heart, and desire to the lower part of the body. This was the doctrine, popularized by Cicero; which Erasmus quoted from Plato in the Enchiridion Militis Christiani. Plato himself, who regarded ethical activity as determined by rational judgement, ascrihed desire to the liver, and by widening the 'lower part of the body' to include the sexual organs, Erasmus,retained plausi. bility. for Plato's ascription of the soul's faculties to the three regions of the body. It is only under the inlluence of St Augustine that the later renaissance authors will reverse Plato's doctrine and put love into the heart.]

[17] But since man was born to manage affairs he had to be given a modicum, just a sprinkling, of reason, and in order to do her best for him in this matter Nature called on me for counsel as she had on other occasions. I was ready with a piece of advice worthy of myself: she should give him a Woman, admittedly a stupid and foolish sort of creature but amusing and pleasant company all the same, and she could share his life, and season and sweeten his harsh nature by her folly. For Plato's apparent doubt whether to place Woman in the category of rational animal or brute beast is intended to point out the remarkable folly of her sex. If ever a woman wants to be thought wise she only succeeds in being doubly foolish, just as if one enters an ox for a wrestling match, they say, one can't hope for the approval and support of Minerva. The defect is multiplied when anyone tries to lay on a velleer of virtue and deflect a character from its natural bent. As the Greek proverb puts it, an ape is always an ape even if clad in purple; and a woman is always a woman, that is, a fool, whatever mask she wears.

[Folly's reference to Plato's doubts about whether women were human or animal (Timaeus, 90e) does not give a fair idea of what either Plato or Frasmus thought. Rabelais borrows this reference for the Third Book (chapter 32). The two proverbs in this paragraph are both commented on in the Adages. That concerning Minerva refers to the attempt to teach something to someone who Cannot understand. The idea that women's folly sweetens the harsh nature of men oomes from Aulus Gellius (15, 2~, 2).]

But I don't think the female sex is so foolish as to be angry with me for attributing folly to them, seeing that I am Folly, and a Woman myself. If they look at the matter in the right way they must see that it's entirely due to folly that they are better off than men in many respects. In the first place they have the gift of beauty which they rightly value above everything else, for it ensures their power to tyrannize over tyrants themselves. Besides, that unkempt look, rough skin, bushy beard and all the marks of old age in a man can only come from the corrupting influence of wisdom, seeing that a woman always has smooth cheeks, gentle voice, soft skin and a look of perpetual youth. Next, what else do Women desire in this life but to give maximum pleasure to men? Isn't this the purpose of all their attention to their persons, all that make.up, bathing, hair-dressing and all those ointments and perfumes, as well as so many arts of arranging, painting and disguising face, eyes and skin? Now, does anything count more in Winning them men's favour than their folly? There's nothing which men won't permit to Women, and for no other return than pleasure, but it's their folly which makes women delight them. No one will deny the truth of this who considers the nonsense a man talks with a Woman and the silly things he does whenever he wants to enjoy the pleasure she gives. So there you have the source of life's first and foremost delight.

[18] However, there are some men, especially old men, who are more given to wine than to women, and find their greatest pleasure in drinking parties. Now whether a party can have much success without a woman present I must ask others to decide, but one thing is certain, no party is any fun unless seasoned with folly.

In fact, if there's no one there to raise a laugh with his folly, genuine or assumed, they have to bring on a 'jester', one who's paid for the job, or invite some absurd hanger-on whose laughable, that is; foolish, remarks will banish silence and gloom from the company.

What was the point of loading the stomach with all those delicacies, fancy dishes and tidbits if the eyes and ears and the whole mind can't be fed as well on laughter, jokes and wit?

But when it comes to that sort of confectionery, I'm the only mistress of the art. And all the usual rituals of banquets, drawing lots for a king, throwing dice, drinking healths, 'passing round the cup', singing with a myrtle branch, dancing, miming - none of them was discovered for the benefit of the human race by the Seven Sages of Greece, but by me.

[The banquet rituals include choosing a 'king' or president to prescribe who will sing, how much he must drink and in general to direct the festivities (see Horace, Odes, i 4, i8). 'Drinking healths' refers to a sort of friendly competition. 'Singing with a myrtle branch' is a proverb considered in the Adages and refers to the habit of passing round a stick of myrtle, held bv the singer and given by him to the guest whom he wished to sing.]

The very nature of all things of this sort is that the more folly they have, the more they enrich man's life, for if that is joyless it seems scarcely worth calling life at all. But it can't fail to end up joyless unless you can find diversions of this kind to remove the boredom inseparable from it.

[19] But there will perhaps be some who have no use for this kind of pleasure, and find their satisfaction in the affection and companionship of their friends. Friendship, they're always saying, must come before everything. It is something even more essential than air, fire and water, so delightful that if it were removed from their midst it would be like losing the sun, and finally, so respected (if this is at all relevant) that even the philosophers do not hesitate to mention it amongst the greatest of blessings. Here again I can show that of that greatest blessing I am both poop and prow. And I'll demonstrate it not by the Crocodile's Syllogism or the Horned Sorites nor any other dialectical subtlety of that kind - no, with what is called sound common sense 1. can put my finger on the spot.

[The reference to 'poop and prow' is proverbial and is noted in the Adages. The Crocodile's Syllogism is mentioned by Quintilian and is a trick. The example normally given is that of a crocodile promising to return to its mother a child he has snatched. providing she can correctly forecast what he will do. If she says he will return it, she is wrong. If she says he will not; she is right, but only if he in fact does not. The Horned Sorites is also in Quintilian and is best illustrated by dilemmas of the type posed by the question 'Have you stopped heating your wife?' Among the philosophers who praaise the joys of friendship are the Stoics and Cicero. The tradition passed through St Ambrose into Christian writings and was strongly taken up both in the middle ages and in the renaissance, when friendship came to be considered as essentially disinterested, a union of wills divorced from desire and sensual inclination. The neoplatonist context of so rauch renaissance writing on the affections made friendship non-instinctive and, in spite of earlier gropings, it was not until the late sixteenth century that morally elevating friendship came to be considered even to be compatible with instinctively based affection. Erasmus, like the other humanists, reacted very strongly against the educational system largely focused round a knowledge of the next. complex rules of minor logic.]

Just think: winking at your friend's faults, passing over them, turning a eye, building up illusions, treating obvious faults as which call for love and admiration - isn't all that related to folly? One man showers kisses on his mistress's mole, another is charmed by the polypus on his dear lamb's nose, a father talks about the wink in his son's squinting eye - what's that, please, but folly pure and simple? Let's have it repeated, three and four times over, it is folly, and the same folly, which alone makes friendships and keeps friends together. I'm talking of ordinary mortals, none of whom is born faultless, and the best among them is the one with fewest faults. But among those Stoic philosopher-gods either no friendship forms at all, or else it is a sour and ungracious sort of relationship which only exists between very few of them - I hesitate to say it doesn't exist at all, for most men have their foolish moments, or rather, everyone is irrational in various ways, and friendship joins like to like. But if ever some mutual good will does arise amongst these austere characters it certainly can't be stable and is unlikely to last long, seeing that they're so captious and far keener-eyed to pick out their friends' faults than the eagle or the Epidaurian snake. Of course they're blind to their own faults and simply don't see the packs hanging from their backs.

[Most of this paragraph so far is a reminiscence of Horace, from whom it quotes and whom it paraphrases (Satires, i, 3). The eagle's eye is proverbially acute. The Epidaurian snake mentioned by Horace is Asdepius, Greek hero and god of healing, whose symbol was a snake, often coiled on a staff, and who originally came intQ prominence at Epidaurus. the site of his first and principal shrine. He is said to have come to Rome in the form of a snake.]

It's in man's nature for every sort of character to be prone to serious faults. In addition, there are wide variations of age and interests, as well as all the lapses and mistakes and accidents of mortal life. Consequently the delights of friendship couldn't last a single hour among such Argus-eyed folk without the addition of what the Greeks aptly named 'good-nature', a word we can translate either as folly or as easygoing ways. Besides, isn't Cupid himself, who is responsible for creating all relationships, totally blind, so that to him 'ugliness looks like beauty'? And so he sees to it that each one of you finds beauty in what he has, and the old man loves his old woman as the boy loves his girl. This happens everywhere and meets with smiles, but nevertheless it's the sort of absurdity which is the binding force in society and brings happiness to life.

[Argus had eyes in the back of his head. The Greek word for 'good nature' is taken from Plato's Repubhc (401e). Cupid is represented as blind both because the lover sees no defects in the object of his love and on account of the ill-assorted relationships over which he presides. The Greek phrase for 'ugliiaess looks like beauty' comes from Theocritus (6, 19) and the proverbial expression 'the old man loves his old woman' is treated in the Adages. At the end of this paragraph. Folly suggests that love, however absurd, is the binding force of society. This is an allusion to the celebrated neoplatonist notion of love as the 'vinculum Mundi'. The renaissance neoplatonists, following Plotinus, saw the 'vinculum Mundi' in terms of God's love for men and men's love for one another and for God, so that love was circular, beginning and ending in God. Panurge, in the mock encomium of the early chapters of Rabelais's Third Book will facetiously hold that debt is the bond of society.]

[20] What I've said about friendship is much more applicable to marriage, which is nothing other than an inseparable union for life. Goodness me, what divorces or worse than divorces there would be everywhere if the domestic relations of man and wife were not propped up and sustained by the flattery, joking, complaisance, illusions and deceptions provided by my followers! Why, not many marriages would ever be made if the bridegroom made prudent inquiries about the tricks that little virgin who now seems so chaste and innocent was up to long before the wedding. And once entered on, even fewer marriages would last unless most of a wife's goings-on escaped notice through the indifference or stupidity of her husband. All this can properly be attributed to folly, for it's she who sees that a wife is attractive to her husband and a husband to his wife, that peace reigns in the home and their relationship continues. A husband is laughed at, cuckolded, called a worm and who knows what else when he kisses away the tears of his unfaithful wife, but how much happier it is for him to be thus deceived than to wear himself out with unremitting jealousy, strike a tragic attitude and ruin everything!

[21] In short, no association or alliance can be happy or stable without me. People can't long tolerate a ruler, nor can a master his servant, a maid her mistress, a teacher his pupil, a friend his friend nor a wife her husband, a landlord his tenant, a soldier is comrade nor a party-goer his companion, unless they sometimes have illusions about each other, make use of flattery, and have the sense to turn a blind eye and sweeten life for themselves with the honey of folly. I daresay you think this is the last word on the subject, but there are more important things to come.

[22] Now tell me: can a man love anyone who hates himself? Can he be in harmony with someone else if he's divided in himself, or bring anyone pleasure if he's only a disagreeable nuisance to himself? No one, I fancy, would say he can unless there's someone more foolish than Folly. Remove me, and no one couH put up with his neighbour, indeed, he'd stink in his own nostrils, find everything about himself loathsome and disgusting. The reason is that nature, more of a stepmother than a mother in several Ways, [The idea that nature is only a stepmother is a well-known renaissance topos oliginating in Quintilian.] has sown a seed of evil in the hearts of mortals, especially in the more thoughtful men, which makes them dissatisfied with their own lot and envious of another's. Consequently, all the blessings of life which should give it grace and charm are damaged and destroyed. What good is beauty, the greatest gift of the gods, if it is tainted by the canker of decay? Or youth, if it is soured and spoiled by the misery of advancing age? And finally, is there any duty throughout life which you can perform gracefully as regards yourself or others (for the importance of graceful performance extends beydnd mere skill and covers every action) unless you have Self-love at hand to help you, Self-love who is so prompt to take my place on all occasions that she is rightly called my sister?

What is so foolish as self-satisfaction and seif-admiration? But then what agreeable, pleasant or graceful act can you perform if you aren't self-satisfied?

Take away this salt of life and immediately the Orator's words will freeze on his lips, the musician will please no one with his tunes, the actor and his posturings will be hissed off the stage, the poet be a laughing-stock along with his Muses, the painter and his works deemed valueless, and the doctor starve amidst his remedies.

Finally, you'll look like ugly Thersites and old Nestor instead of handsome Nireus and young Phaon, a pig rather than Minerva, and a speechless child and a boor instead of an eloquent and civilized man;

which shows how necessary it is for a man to have a good opinion of himself, give himself a bit of a boost to win his own self-esteem before he can win that of others.

And since for the most part happiness consists in being willing to be what you are, my Self-love has provided a short cut to it by ensuring that np is dissatisfied with his own looks, character, race, posttion and way of life. And so no Irishman would want to change places with an Italian, nor Thracian with an Athenian, nor Scythian with an inhabitant of the Islands of the Blest. What remarkable foresight of nature it was, to level out all these variations and make all alike! Where she has withheld some of her gifts she generally adds a tiny bit more Self-love - but it's silly of me to say this, seeing that Self-love is her greatest gift. Just let me add that you'll find no great deed performed without my prompting and no great achievement unless I was responsible.

[Nireus, according to Homer, was the most handsome of the Greeks, after Achilles, but a weakling (Iliad, 2, 671) and Thersites was the ugliest (Iliad, 2, 212). Nestor is said by Ovid to have lived to be more than two hundred years old (Metamorphoses, 12, 187, if.) while Phaon was rejuvenated by Venus (see note 29, p.82). The comparison between Nireus and Thersites occurs in Ovid and the allusion to Minerva corresponds to a reference in the Adages. Folly quotes Martial on being willing to he what you are (lo, 47,)]

[23] Of all deeds which win praise, isn't war the seed and source? But what is more foolish than to embark on a struggle of this kind for some reason or other when it does more harm than good to either side? For those who fall in battle, like the men of Miegara, are 'of no account'. When the mail-clad ranks confront each other and the trumpets "blare out their harsh note", what use, I ask you, are those wise men who are worn out with their studies and can scarcely draw breath now their blood is thin and cold? The need is for stout and sturdy fellows with all the daring possible and the minimum of brain.

Of course some may prefer a soldier like Demosthenes, who took Archilochus's advice and had scarcely glimpsed the enemy before he threw away his shield and fled, as cowardly in battle as he was skilled in speech-making. People say that judgement matters most in war, and so it does for a general, I agree, but it's a soldier's judgement, not a philosopher's.

Besides, it's the spongers, pimps, robbers, murderers, peasants, morons, debtors and that sort of scum of the earth who provide the glories of war, not the philosophers and their midnight oil.

[The men of Megara also figure in the Adages. This is a proverbial expression for people of no account. The harsh note of the trumpets alludes to Virgil (Aeneid; 8, 2). The incidents concerning the Athenian orator Demosthenes and the advice of Archilochus the Ionic poet are both mentioned in Plutarch. Erasmus was withering in his satire on the futility of war, inheriting his view from Colet and the tradition of neoplatonist evangelism. He shared it with More and, even more, with Rabelais. Among Erasmus's own writings against war are the famous Dulce bellum inexpertis from the 151S Adages and the 1517 Querela pacis, a 'complaint' put into the mouth of Peace.]

[24] As an example of just how useless these philosophers are for any practice in life there is Socrates himself, the one and only wise man, according to the Delphic oracle. It showed little enough wisdom in its judgement,

for whenever he tried to do anything in public he had to break off amid general laughter.
Yet on one point the man was sensible enough - he refused to accept the epithet wise but attributed it to the god.

'He also held the view that the wise man should steer clear of taking part in politics, though maybe he should have gone further and advised done who wants to be counted a man to keep well away from wisdom.

What drove him to drink the hemlock after his trial if not his wisdom? For while he was philosophizing about clouds and ideas, measuring a flea's foot and marveling at a midge's humming, he learned nothing about the affairs of ordinary life. And at the master's side in his hour of peril stands his pupil Plato, a splendid advocate, I must say, when he was so overwhelmed by the clamor of the crowd that he could hardly get out half a sentence.

Then what shall I say about Theophrastus? When he stepped forward to speak he was suddenly struck dumb as if he'd seen a wolf. Isocrates might have fired the military-minded in time of war, but he was so timid by nature that he never ventured to open his mouth.

Cicero, the father of Roman eloquence, always rose to speak in an unseemly state of agitation like a child with hiccups. Quintilian explains this as a mark of an intelligent orator conscious of the risks he ran, but in saying so,

doesn't he openly admit that wisdom is an obstacle to successful performance? If people are half-dead of fear when they have to fight only with words, what will they do if the issue must be settled by the sword?

[The passage on Socrates draws on several Platonic dialogues, and notably the Apology. There is also a reference to Aristophanes on the midges' humming (Clouds, 146 and 157). The anecdote about Plato's reaction to the crowd is from Diogenes Laertius (2, 41). The incident involving Theophrastus, the disciple of Aristotle, is of unknown origin unless, as Kan supposes, Erasmus bases his account on a misunderstanding of Cicero (Tusculan Disputations, 5, 9, 24). The effect of wolves is proverbial and is mentioned in the Adages. The mention of Isocrates, the Athenian orator, alludes to Cicero (de oratore, 2, 3, io). Cicero himself writes of his own nervousness when he spoke in public (pro Roscia Amerino, 4, 9). The reference Quintilian is to the Institutia oratoria, II, 1,43.P.F.L.-5]

And on top of all this, please heaven, that famous saying of Plato's is always quoted: "Happy the states where either philosophers are kings or kings are philosophers!"

But you look at history you'll find that no state has been plagued by its rulers as when power has fallen into the hands of some dabbler in philosophy or literary addict.

The two Gatos are sufficient proof of this, I think, when one of them was a disturber of the peace of the republic with crazy denunciations, and the other shower his wisdom by defending the liberty of the Roman people, but in doing so completely destroyed it.

Then there are the families of Brutus and Cassius, the Gracchi brothers and even Cicero himself, who was just as much a scourge to the republic of Rome as Demosthenes was to Athens. As for Marcus Aurelius, we have to admit that he was a good emperor, but I could still deny him this distinction on tIle grounds that he was unpopular and disliked amongst his subjects for the very reason that he was so much of a philosopher. And even admitted that he was good,

he undoubtedly did more harm to Rome by leaving such a son as his than he ever benefited it by his administration.

In fact this type of man who is devoted to the study of wisdom is always most unlucky in everything, and particularly when it comes to procreating children; I imagine this is because Nature wants to ensure that the evil of wisdom shall not spread further throughout mankind.

So it's well known that decree had a degenerate son, and the children of the great sage Socrates himself took after their mother rather than their father, as someone put it rather well: meaning, they were fools.

[ Plato's statement about philosopher.kings is from the Republic (5', 473d). Rahelais borrows this allusion for Gargantua (chapter 45). The Cato who is blamed by Folly for his denunciations is Cato the Censor (234-149 B.c.) who attacked the Scipios, became consul, and was noted for conservatism in a somewhat puritan tradition. The second Cato is Cato of Utica (95-46), moderate but unamiable, who joined cause with Pompey in 52 B.C. and who governed Utica in Pompey's interest during the civil war which Pompey lost to Caesar. Brutus and Cassius, oudawed by Octavian, lost the famous Battle of Philippi to Antony and Octavian. The Gracchi brothers were both reformers who attempted to undermine the authority of the senate by allying the rich business class with the plebs. Cicero was an intermittent enemy of Caesar and supporter of Pompey. Modern scholars would generally accept Folly's criticism of Marcus Aurelius. His son Commodus, sole emperor from A.D. i8o to 192, ruled by favourites and was much influenced by his concubine Marcia. He was obsessed by power and deeply antagonistic to the senate. Cicero's son, also Marcus Tuflius, born in 6~ B.C., is said to have heen idle, extravagant and devoted to the bottle.]

[25] One could put up with it somehow if these folk would play 'the ass with the lyre' only in public affairs and not be so utterly incompetent in every single thing in life.

Ask a wise man to dinner and he'll upset everyone by his gloomy silence or tiresome questions. Invite him to a dance and you'll have a camel prancing about.

Haul him off to a public entertainment and his face will be enough to spoil the people's enjoyment. He'll have to leave the theatre like Cato the Wise when he couldn't lay aside his scowl.

If he joins in a conversation, all of a sudden there's the wolf in the fable. If there's anything to be bought or an arrangement to be made, in fact if any one of those things has to be done without which our daily life can't be carried on, you'll call your wise man a blockhead, not a man.

It's quite impossible for him to be of any use to himself, his country or his family because he's ignorant of ordinary matters and far removed from any normal way of thinking and current practice.

And so inevitably he is also disliked, doubtless because of the vast discrepancy between ordinary life and minds like his.

For nothing happens in this world which isn't full of folly, performed by fools amongst fools. If any individual wants to make a stand against the rest, I'd recommend him to take his lead from Timon and move off to some wilderness where he can enjoy his own wisdom in solitude.

[The proverbial 'ass with the lyre' figures in the Adages, as do the prancing camel and the sudden silence caused by the wolf in the fable. Cato the Censor's serious frown is a commonplace of Latin literature. Lucian's dialogue Timon was translated by Erasmus in Timon of Athens cut himself wholly off from the world and would see no one but Alcibiades.]

[26] But to return to my subject. Take those wild sprung from rocks and trees - what power brought them together into a civilized society if not flattery? This is all that's meant by the lyre of Amphion and Orpheus. What was it which recalled the Roman mob to harmony in the state when it was plotting violence - a philosopher's speech?

Not a bit of it. It was a silly, childish fable made up about the belly and the other parts of the body.

A similar sort of story told by Themistocles about a fox and a hedgehog had the same effect. No sage's speech could ever have achieved so much as that fictitious white hind of Sertorius or the ridiculous anecdote invented about the famous Spartan with his two dogs, and the one about pulling the hairs out of a horse's tail, to say nothing of Minos and Numa who both fled the foolish mob by means of fantastic trumped up tales. It's absurdities like these that sway the mighty, powerful monster which is the common people.

[Amphion and Orpheus both come from the well-known renaissance list of musicians whose music produced extraordinary or magical effects. Amphion was given a lyre by Jupiter and, together with his brother, constructed the walls of Thebes by drawing the stones into position with his music. Orpheus, too, charmed -beasts, trees and stones with Apollo's lyre (see Horace, Ars poetica, 39! ff.). The legendary fable of the Belly and the Limbs which calmed the Roman mob and brought them back to Rome was reputedly told them by Menenius Agrippa in the fifth century B.C. (see Livy, 2, 32). Themistocles, the Athenian statesman, is said by Plutarch to have dissuaded the Athenians from throwing off the yoke of taxation by a fable in which a fox will not have the blood. sucking flies removed by a hedgehog on the grounds that'they would only be replaced by other unsatisfied ones.

According to Plutarch, Sertorius persuaded the Spaniards that the white hind signified that he was in Communication with the gods, and the anecdote about the Spartan, also from Plutarch, concerned Lycurgus who demonstrated to the Spartans the importance of education by showing them the difference between a trained and an untrained dog. The reference to the hairs from the horse's tail comes from an anecdote in Valerius Maximus (7, 3, 6) in which Sertorius showed his barbarian army the futility of trying to overcome the Romans in one great battle by demonstrating that the only way to pluck a horse's tail was one hair at a time. Minos was believed by his people to retire every nine years to Jupiter's grotto to be inspired by the god. Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, is said by Plutarch to have made his followers helieve he was advised by the nymph Egeria in a wood near Rome. Polly's reference to the gullibility of the common people is a Common renaissance topos. It is historically important as it indicates the new and exciting nature of the insights into social and personal possibilities among those who experienced them. Erasmus was to explore the natural rectitude of moral aspirations but, like Rabelais and the Pl6iade poets, he could only plausibly do so on the presupposition that he was dealing with the well-born. High birth was a condition of entry into The'J~me. But there are classical precedents, and both Horace and Plato regard the common people as a monster.]

[27] Again, what society ever took its laws from Plato or Aristotle or the teachings of Socrates? And what made the house of Decius choose to dedicate their lives to the gods of the underworld and brought Quintus Curtius to the abyss if not the vain hope of fame, the sweetest of all Sirens, though damned by your wise men to a remarkable degree? Nothing is so foolish, they say, as for a man to stand for office and woo the crowd to win its vote, buy its support with presents, court the applause of all those fools and feel self-satisfied when they cry their approval, and then in his hour of triumph to be carried round like an effigy for the public to stare at, and end up cast in bronze to stand in the marketplace.

[The reference to the house of Decius draws its point from the deaths of three of its members at war for their country. The young knight Quintus Curtius, according to legend, rode his horse Into an abyss which opened in the forurn after the auguries had said that it could be closed only when Rome's greatest treasure was thrown into it (Livy, 7, 6, s). The phrase 'cast in bronze' alludes to Horace (Satires, 2,3, 183).]

Then there are changes of first and second names, divine honours awarded to a nobody, official ceremonies devised to raise even the most criminal of tyrants to the level of the gods. All this is utterly foolish, and more than one Democritus is needed for these absurdities, every-one agrees. Yet from this source spring the deeds of valiant heroes to be lauded to the skies in the writings of so many eloquent'men. This same folly creates societies and maintains empires, officialdom, religion, law courts and councils in fact the whole of human life is nothing but a sport of folly.

[28] Now let us turn to the arts. What else has fired men's natural talents to devise and hand on to posterity so many disciplines' which they think remarkable if not their thirst for fame? With all their toil and sweat and sleepless nights men have thought to gain some sort of reputation, emptiest of acquisitions, and thereby showed themselves complete fools. Meanwhile it's Folly to whom you owe so many of life's major blessings, and the nicest thing of all is that you have someone else's madness to think for your enjoyment.

[29] Well, now I've proved that I must be given credit for courage and industry, shall I go on to lay claim to prudence? You might as well mix fire and water, I can hear someone say. But here again I believe I can succeed, if you'll continue to give me your ears and attention as before. First of all if prudence develops through experience, does the honour of possessing a claim to it rightly belong to the wise man who attempts nothing, partly through his sense of propriety, partly through his natural timidity, or to the fool who isn't deterred from anything either by the propriety Which he hasn't got or the dangers which he doesn't think about? The wise man seeks refuge in his books of antiquity and learns from them the pure subtleties of what the ancients say. The fool tries everything, meets his dangers at first hand, and thereby acquires what I'm sure is genuine prudence. That is something Homer appears to have seen,' despite his blindness, when he says 'even the fool is wise after the event'. For the two main obstacles of learning by experience are a sense of propriety which clouds the judgement and fear which advises against an undertaking once danger is apparent. Folly offers a splendid liberation from both of them. Few mortals realize how many other advantages follow from being free from scruples and ready to venture anything.

['Mixing fire and water' is one of Erasmus's Adages, as is, the saying of liomer that the fool is wise after the event (Iliad, '7, 32) and the reference to clouding the judgement. The advantages claimed by Folly for folly have again become serious ones.]

But if people prefer the sort of prudence which comes from forming opinions on life, please hear how far those who pride themselves on that account really are from having it. In tlie first place, it's well known that all human affairs are like the figures of Silenus described by Alcibiades and have two completely opposite faces, so that what is death at first sight, as they say, is life if you look within, and vice versa, life is death. The same applies to beauty and ugliness, riches and poverty, obscurity and fame, learning and ignorance, strength and weakness, the noble and the base-born, happy and sad, good and bad fortune, friend and foe, healthy and harmful - in fact you'll find everything suddenly reversed if you open the Silenus. Maybe some of you will think I've expressed this too philosophically; well, I'll speak bluntly, as the saying goes, to make myself clear.

[On the Silenus figure, see note 8, p.67. In his essay Sileni Alcibiadis for the Adages, Erasmus writes,'.. For it seems that the Sileni were small images divided in half, and so constructed that they could he opened out and displayed;

when closed they represented some ridiculous, ugly flute-player, but when they opened they suddenly revealed the figure of a god!' (Translated Margaret Mann Phillips, Erasmus on his Times: A Shortened Version of the Adages of Erasmus, Cambridge University Press, 1967. p.77.)

The phrase for 'speaking bluntly' also occurs in the Adages. Kan's text here differs from Froben's and is probably corrupt. The Latin contains an allusion to Minerva, identified with Athene as goddess of wisdom, and implies that lofty discourse can obscure the simplest things.]

We all agree a king is rich and powerful, but if he lacks all spiritual goods nothing belongs to him, and he's surely the poorest of men. And if he's addicted to a large number of vices he's no more than a cheap slave. We could philosophize about others in the same way, but one example will suffice. What's the point of this, someone will say. Hear how we'll develop the argument.

If anyone tries to take the masks off the actors when they're playing a scene on the stage and show their true natural faces to the audience, he'll certainly spoil the whole play and deserve to be stoned and thrown out of the theatre for a maniac.

For a new situation will suddenly arise in which a woman on the stage turns into a man, a youth is now old, and the king of a moment ago is suddenly Dama, the slave, while a god is shown up as a common little man.

[Dama is the name given by Horace to a Syrian slave (Satires, 2, 5, i8; 2, 7, s4). The phrase 'true natural faces' appears. in the Adages.]

To destroy the illusion is to ruin the whole play, for it's really the characterization and makeup which hold the audience's eye. Now, what else is the whole life of man but a sort of play?

Actors come on wearing their different masks and all play their parts until the producer orders them off the stage, and he can often tell the same man to appear in different costume, so that now he plays a king in purple and now a humble slave in rags.

It's all a sort of pretence, but it's the only way to act out this farce. At this point let us suppose some wise man dropped from heaven confronts me and insists that the man whom all look up to as god and master is not even human, as he is ruled by his passions, like an animal, and is no more than the lowest slave for serving so many evil masters of his own accord.

Or again, he might tell someone else who is mournng his father to laugh because the dead man is only just beginning to live, seeing that this life of ours is nothing but a sort of death. Another man who boasts of his ancestry he ight call low-born and bastard because he is so far removed from virtue, which is the sole source of nobility. If he had the same sort of thing to say about everyone else, what would happen? We should all think him a crazy madman. Nothing is so foolish as mistimed wisdom, and nothing less sensible than misplaced sense. A man's conduct is misplaced if he doesn't adapt himself to things as they are, has no eye for the main chance, won't even remember that convivial maxim 'Drink or depart', and asks for the play to stop being a play.

[The phrases for 'an eye for the main chance' and 'drink or depart' are both in the Adages.]

On the other hand, it's a true sign of prudence not to want wisdom which extends beyond your share as an ordinary mortal, to be willing to overlook things along with the rest of the world and wear your illusions with a good grace. People say that this is really a sign of folly, and I'm not setting out to deny it - so long as they'll admit on their side that this is the way to play the comedy of life.

[30] As for my next point - immortal gods, shall I speak out or keep silence? But why keep silent when it's something truer than truth? Though perhaps it would be better for a matter of such importance to summon the Muses from Helicon, seeing that the poets are always calling on them for help over the merest trifles. Come, then, for a while, daughters of Jove, while I show that no one can approach that perfect wisdom which the wise call the citadel of bliss unless Folly shows the way. First of all, it's admitted that all the emotions belong to Folly, and this is what marks wise man off from the fool; he is ruled by reason, the fool by his emotions. That is why the Stoics segregate all passions from the wise man, as if they were diseases. But in fact these emotions not only act as guides to those hastening towards the haven of wisdom, but also wherever virtue is put into practice they are always present to act like spurs and goads as incentives towards success. Yet this is hotly denied by that double-dyed Stoic Seneca who strips his wise man of every emotion. In doing so he leaves nothing at all of the man, and has to 'fabricate' in his place a new sort of god who never was and never will be in existence anywhere. Indeed, if I may be frank, what he created was a kind of marble statue of a man, devoid of sense and any sort of human feeling.

[The reference to the muses on Helicon alludes to Virgil (Aeneid, 7, 641). There was some confusion between the later Stoi~ who held only that man should overcome his passions and the sceptics like Pyrrho who held that they should not even feel pleasure or pain. Folly is rather harsh on Seneca, although some of his somewhat rhetorical formulations could be quoted in support of her view.]

Well, if that's what they like, they can enjoy their wise man, love him without a rival, live with him in Plato's Republic or in the kingdom of ideas, if they prefer, or else in the gardens of Tantalus. Who wouldn't flee in terror from a man like that as a monstrous apparition, deaf as he is to all natural feelings and no more moved by love or pity or any emotions than if hard flint or Parian crag stands fixed? He misses nothing, he is never deceived, but like Lynceus he sees all clear, weighs up everything precisely, and finds nothing to excuse. Self-sufficient, self-satisfied, the only man to be rich and healthy, a king and free - unique in fact in everything, but only in his own unique opinion - he feels need of friends and is a friend to no one, he doesn't hesitate to bid the gods themselves go hang, and everything that happens to him in life he treats as crazy with ridicule and contempt.

[Lucian said of Plato's Republic that Plato was the only person to live in 'it (which implies a deliberate misunderstanding of its literary genre). Like Utopia, which means nowhere, the gardens of Tantalus did not exist. Erasmus comments on the phrase in the Adages. The line quoted is from Virgil (Aeneid, Iv, 471). Parian marble was much esteemed for its durability. The Argonaut Lynceus, brother of ldas, had preternaturally sharp sight and is mentioned by Pindar and Horace as well as occurring in the Adages. The final sentence is very reminiscent of Horace (Satires, I, 3, 124-5), and its descri~ tion of the sage is a summary of one of the principal stoic 'para. doxes'.]

But this is the sort of animal who is the perfect wise man. I ask you, if it were put to the vote, what state would elect a man like that to office, what army would want him for a general? Still less would any woman want or endure that sort of husband, or host that guest, or servant a master with a character like his. Anybody would prefer someone from the ordinary run of fools, someone who can manage fools or obey them as a fool himself, and can please those like himself, that is, most men. And he would be pleasant to his wife and agreeable to his friends, a congenial guest for a meal and good company for a drink, a man in fact who thinks every human interest is his concern.

[Lijster, and therefore subsequent commentators, seem to have missed the obvious reference to Terence's famous comment 'homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto' (there is no human interest which is not my concern, Heautontimorumenos, 77). The phrase 'being pleasant to his wife' is an allusion to Horace (Epistles, 2, 2, '33).]

The wise man's a bore, I had enough of him long ago; and so my speech will move on to more profitable themes.

[31] Now suppose someone could look down on the life of a man from a great height, as the poets say Jove does, how many disasters would he see in store for it! Man's birth is painful and sordid, his upbringing wearisome, his childhood fraught with dangers, and his youth hard-won with toil. Old age is a burden and death a harsh necessity; armies of disease close their ranks around him, misfortunes lie in wait, ill luck is always ready to attack. There's nothing without its tinge of acute bitterness, quite apart from all the evil things man does to man, such as the infliction of poverty, imprisonment, slander, dishonour, torture, treachery, betrayal, insult, litigation and fraud.

But now I'm clearly trying to 'measure grains of sand'. What man has done to deserve all this or what angry god has caused him to be born for these miseries is not for me to say at the moment, yet anyone who reflects about it will surely approve the example set by the maidens of Miletus, however pitiable their fate. But who are the people whose death was self-sought through weariness of life? Weren't they closely connected with wisdom? I'll say nothing at this point about people like Diogenes, Xenocrates, Cato, Cassius and Brutus, but there's the famous centaur Chiron, who could have been immortal if he hadn't preferred to choose death. This will show you, I fancy, what would happen if wisdom spread throughout mankind: we'd Soon need some more clay and a second Prometheus to model it.

[It is Homer who refers to Zeus as contemplating from above men and their doings (iliad, 8, si). Folly here elaborates the well. worn theme of the miseries of human life. Miletus was one of the great lonian sea-ports, and, according to Aulus Gellius, there was a spate of suiddes among its young women. Folly's list of suicides is well known. Diogenes the Cynic and Xenocrates are sometimes said (as by Diogenes Laertius) to have committed suicide. Cato of Utica is perhaps the most famous of all the antique suicides (along with Socrates and Seneca) for renaissance authors. Both Cassius and Brutus killed themselves in 42 B.C. after Antony's victory at Philippi. Chiron, accidentally wounded by Hercules, preferred to die although he was immortal.]

However, I am here, and with a mixture of ignorance and thoughtlessness, often with forgetfulness when things are or sometimes hope of better things, with a sprinkling of honeyed pleasures, I bring help in miseries like these. I do so with such effect that men are reluctant to leave life even when their thread of destiny has run out and life ilas long been leaving them. The less reason they have for having to stay alive, the more they enjoy living - so far are they from feeling at all weary of life. Thanks to me you can see old men everywhere who have reached Nestor's age and scarcely still look human, mumbling, senile, toothless, white-haired or bald - or rather, in the words of Aristophanes, 'dirty, bent, wretched, wrinkled, hairless, toothless, sexless'. Yet they're still so pleased with life and eager to be young that one dyes his white hair, another covers up his baldness with a wig, another wears borrowed teeth taken from some pig perhaps, while another is crazy about a girl and outdoes any young man in his amorous silliness. For any real old drybones with a foot in the grave can take some tender young girl for a wife today, even if she has no dowry and is ready for others to enjoy her - it's common practice, most something to boast about. Yet it's even more fun to see, the old women who can scarcely carry their weight of years and look like corpses that seem to have risen from the dead. They still go around saying 'life is good', still on heat, 'longing for a mate', as the Greeks say, and seducing some young Phaon they've hired for large sums of money. They're forever smearing their faces with make-up and taking tweezers to their pubic hairs, exposing their sagging, Withered breasts and trying to rouse failing desire with their quavery whining voices, while they drink, dance among the girls and scribble their little love-letters.

[The words of Aristophanes were used by him to describe and there is a further allusion to Aristophanes in the phrase for a mate'. The reference to pubic hair alludes to Martial(10, 90) while the 'sagging and withered breasts', come from Horace (Epistles, 8, 7) as does the 'rousing of desire' (Odes, 4, '3, 5). This section contains a further reference to Horace in the phrase 'clap yourself' (Satires, 1, 1.66), and a further adage about 'the beam to hang from'.]

All this raises a general laugh for what it is - absolute foolishness; but while they're pleased with themselves, lead a life of supreme delight suffused with sweet fantasy, and owe all their happiness to me. Those who find this too ridiculous should please consider whether they'd rather spend a life sweetened with folly like this or go and look for the proverbial beam to hang from. The fact that such conflict is generally frowned on means nothing to my fools, for either they don't realize anything is wrong, or if they do, they find it easy to take no notice. If a rock falls on your head it does positive harm, but shame, disgrace, reproaches and insults are damaging only in so far as you're conscious of them. If you're not, you feel no hurt at all. What's the harm in whole audience hissing you if you clap yourself? And Folly alone makes this possible.

[Folly's specious arguments are ironic inversions of perfectly serious humanist contentions, and there is a strong element of self-parody running through Erasmus's text. The idea that non-physical evils do harm only in so far as one is conscious of them, for instance, is a caricature of the stoic view that, while there are legitimate affeetive reactions to present goods, future goods and future evils, there 4s no rational affective reaction to present evils, which exist only in the imagination. There is no rational grief as nothing which happens externally is a source of grief for the sage. Erasmus himself, strongly committed with all the humanists to a belief in man's power of autonomous self-determination, develops the view with 'which Epictetus' Manual opens, that our true good is in our power. It follows that all those things we cannot change, the fortuitous events of the external world, cannot constitute true goods or true evils. In the evangelical humanists generally, and particularly in Erasmus, Bud~ and Rabelais, the stoic principles of Epictetus were developed in the interest of supporting man's power of self~et~mination. As a result the common medieval idea of contempt for adversity is given a new significance. Erasmus wrote to Marguerite de Valois, soon to be Queen of Navarre, after the disas-' trous battle of Pavia in 1525, to congratulate her on her 'contempt for adversity, and this is the quality which defines Pantagruelism in the prologue to Rabelais's fourth book. In 1521 Bud~ published his three books de contemptu rerum fortuitarum and Erasmus's own early de con temptu mundi was published in the same year and republished in the 1529 edition of his great work on education de pueris... instituendis.]

[32] Now I believe I can hear the philosophers protest that it can only be misery to live in folly, illusion, deception and ignorance. But it isn't, it's human. I don't see why they call it a misery when you're all born, formed and fashioned in this pattern, and it's the common lot of all mankind. There's no misery about remaining true to type, unless maybe someone thinks man is to be pitied because he can't fly with the birds nor go on all fours like all the other animals and isn't armed with horns like a bull. In the same way the finest horse could be called unfortunate because it knows no grammar and doesn't eat cake, and a bull unhappy because it's useless in the gymnasium. But a horse who knows nothing of grammar isn't unhappy, and a foolish man is not unfortunate, because this is in keeping with his nature. Then these verbal wizards produce another, argument. Man, they say, is especially gifted with understanding of the sciences so that they can help him to compensate by his wits for what nature has denied him. But does it seem likely that nature would be so alert and careful about things like midges and grasses and flowers and yet be caught napping over man alone, so that he has need of the sciences which the notorious Thoth, the evil genius of the human race, devised to be its greatest curse?

[Thoth, the Egyptian god, is said to have invented numbers and letters and in Plato's Phaedrus (274) the Theban king Thamus ates the malignity of his influence. The Latin word for ~erbal wizards' also contains an allusion to the Phaedrus (266c). Folly continues to caricature the humanist arguments and to exploit them in an anti-humanist sense. For the scholastics as for the fifteenth-century Florentine Platonist Marsiho Ficino, man's nature occupied a fixed position in the hierarchy of being, hetween the spiritual and the material creation, and much of medieval spirituality and ethics centres on his need to live in accordance with his place in th~ hierarchy. 'Truth to type' was a serious ethical and spiritual principle although, in Erasmus's immediate predecessor, Pico della Mirandola, man had already become detached from the fixed hierarchy and was capable of self-determination in such a way as to be able to achieve parity of stature with the angels or degradation to the status of the irrational beasts (see the Introduction, pp.22-3). The argument that man should be guided by reason rather than by instinct was another serious ethical principle parodied here by Folly, with deliberate allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. But this is still self.parody rather than any serious attack on the 5 of scientific inquiry.]

These are quite useless as regards happiness, they are in fact an obstacle to the very thing for which they were specially invented, as that sensible king in Plato neatly proves in discussing the invention of letters. And so the Sciences crept in along with all the other banes of human life, introduced by the same evil spirits who are responsible for every wickedness, namely the 'demons' who were given their name because it means "those who know" in Greek.

[See Plato's Cratylus (396b). The etymological derivation of the demons, originally the manifestations of supernatural power, from the Greek word for knowing or teaching seems most unlikely.]

But the innocent folk of the Golden Age had no sciences to provide for them and lived under the guidance of nothing but natural instinct. What need had they of grammar when all spoke the same language, and the sole purpose of speech was to make communication possible? They had no use for dialectic, when there was no battle of conflicting opinions, no place for rhetoric where no one was out to make trouble for his neighbour, no demand for jurisprudence when there were no evil habits to be the undoubted antecedents of good laws. They were also too pious in their beliefs to develop an irreverent curiosity for probing the secrets of nature, measurg the stars, calculating their movements and influence, seeking the hidden causes of the universe. They thought sacrilege for mortal man to attempt to acquire knowledge outside his allotted portion. The madness of inquiring into what is beyond the heavens never even entered their heads. But as the innocence of the Golden Age gradually fell away, the sciences Were invented by those evil spirits, as I said. These were few at first and taken up by few, but later on the superstition of the Chaldeans and the idle frivolity of the Greeks added hundreds more simply to torment the wits of man -

indeed, it only takes a single system of grammar to provide continuous torture for life.

[The myth of the Golden Age is in some ways similar to that of the Islands ?~ the Blest (see note 14, p.71). It was originally an early paradise ruled by Saturn, a period of peace and prosperity without wars or violence and in which laws were superfluous. The earth was fertile without being cultivated and even the animals lived peacefully with one another. See especially Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, 89 ff. Macrobius points out that good laws derive from evil habits (Saturnalia, 3, '7, io). The Golden Age was an influential myth in the renaissance. but the most important feature of Folly's account, however, is the glossing over the problem of original sin. Th& early sixteenth centur~ went some way towards attempting to replace the authority of Augustine, gloomily conscious of human sinfulness, with that of Origen, who rainirnizes the effects of original sin on fallen nature.

Erasmus himself in the i~i6 Paraclesis goes so far as to regard the philosophy of Christ and Christian rebirth as the 'establishment of well-formed human nature', iust as Folly here asserts the innocence of natural instinct. This is perhaps the heart of evangelical humanism. Erasmus always defended the view that human perfection, even religious perfection, was achieved in accordance with natural needs and moral aspirations, while the scholastics of the early sixteenth century thought of religious perfection in practice as something extrinsic to human needs and not empirically verifiable in human experience.]

[33] However, amongst these sciences the ones which are most highly valued are those which come closest to common sense, or rather, to folly.

Theologians go hungry, scientists are cold-shouldered, astrologers laughed at and dialecticians ignored; only 'the doctor is a man worth many men'.

And the more ignorant, reckless and thoughtless a doctor is, the higher his reputation soars even amongst powerful princes. In fact now that medicine is practised by so many, it is really only one aspect of flattery, just as rhetoric is. Next to doctors the petty lawyers take second place. Maybe they ought to be first, but the philosophers are all agreed that theirs is a profession for asses and are always laughing at them, and I don't want to do the same. Yet these asses can settle matters large and small if they give the word, and their estates multiply, while the theologian who has combed through his bookcases in order to master the whole of divinity nibbles at a dry bean and carries on a nonstop war with bugs and lice. Thus the happier branches of knowledge are those which are more nearly related to folly, and by far the happiest men are those who have no traffic at all with any of the sciences and follow nature for their only guide. We shall never find her wanting unless we take it into our heads to overstep the limits of our mortal lot. Nature hates any counterfeit, and everything turns out to be happier when it's unspoilt by artifice.

[The Greek phrase about doctors comes from Homer (Iliad, i i, 5!4). The reference to flattery alludes to Socrates's discourse in Plato's Gorgias (463a). Since rhetoric was considered to be the art of moving an audience, so that Aristotle treats the passions of the soul in his Rhetoric, the affinity hetween rhetoric and flattery was natural. Doctors and lawyers were a favourite subject for satire well beyond the renaissance, and Folly's reference to the contrast between nature and art takes up another subject which was important in the renaissance but which was endlessly to occupy educational and poetic theorists for very much longer. Goethe and Schiller were still engaged in this debate.]

[34] Well then, can't you see that of all the rest of living creatures the happiest in life are those which have least to do any scientific training and have nature alone for a teacher? Bees do not even have all natural instincts, yet they are the happiest and most marvellous of insects. No architect couId match them in building structures nor could any philosopher set up a state like theirs. Contrast the horse, which is almost human in its instincts and has taken to sharing the life of man, so it also has to share man's misfortunes. It feels ashamed if it loses a race, so quite often it ends up broken-winded; and while it seeks glory on the battlefield it is run through and bites the dust along with its rider. I needn't go into details - the sharp-toothed bit, pricking spurs, prison-like stable, whips, sticks, bridle, rider, the whole of the voluntary servitude the horse has chosen to undergo when he imitates man's fortitude and is all eagerness to take vengeance on the foe. Far more to be desired is the life of flies and little birds who live for the moment solely by natural instinct, so far as the snares laid by men permit.

Once they are shut in cages and taught to imitate the human voice all their natural brightness is dulled, for in every way nature's creations are more cheerful than the falsifications of art. And so I could never have enough praise for the famous cock who was really Pythagoras. When he had been everything in turn, philosopher, man, woman, king, commoner, fish, horse, frog, even a sponge, I believe, he decided that man was the most unfortunate of animals, simply because all the others were content with their natural limitations while man alone tries to step outside those allotted to him.

[The happiness of bees was something of a classical topos, and is to he found. for instance, in Virgil, Ovid and Pliny. Folly rememhers the Aeneid in the phrase 'bites the dust' (11, 418). The reference to the famous cock who had once heen Pythagoras comes from one of Lucian's dialogues translated by Erasmus. Does Folly helieve, with Pliny, that sponges are animals? The Latin term for 'broken comes from Horace (Epistles, I, I, 9).]

[35] Again, amongst men in many ways he preferred the ignoran't to the learned and great. Gryllus was considerably wiser than 'many-counselled Odysseus' when he chose to grunt in his sty rather than share the risks of so many dangerous hazards. Homer, the father of fables, seems to take the same view when he calls all mortals 'wretched' and 'long-suffering' and often describes Ulysses, his model of wisdom, as 'unfortunate', though he never does this to Paris or Ajax or Achilles. The reason for this is clear, that cunning master of craftiness never did a thing without Pallas to advise him, and became far too wise as he moved further and further away from nature's guidance. So amongst mortal men those who strive after wisdom are the furthest from happiness; they are in fact doubly stupid simply because they ignore the fact that they were born men, try to adopt the life of the immortal gods, and like the giants would rebel against nature, with the sciences for their engines of war.

[On Gryllus, see note 5, p. ~8. 'Many counselled' is a Homeric epithet for Odysseus. Homer often calls mortals 'wretched', but as a matter of fact never 'long-suffering'. Odysseus, Latinized as Ulysses, is called 'unfortunate' in the Odyssey (e.g. 5, 436). The allusion to the giants who rehel against nature comes from Cicero (de senectute, 2,5).]

Conversely, the least unhappy are those who come nearest to the instinctive folly of dumb animals and attempt nothing beyond the capacities of man. Now let's see if we can't prove our point by means of a simple illustration - no need to bother with your Stoic syllogisms. Heavens above, doesn't the happiest group of people comprise those popularly called idiots, fools, nitwits, simpletons, all splendid names according to my Way of thinking? Perhaps what I'm saying seems foolish and absurd at first sight, but really it's a profound truth. To begin with, these people have no fear of death, and that surely frees them from no small evil. They're also free from pangs of conscience. Tales of the dead hold no terrors for them, and they've no fear of ghosts and spectres. They're not tortured by dread of impending disaster nor under the strain of hopes of future bliss. In short, they are untroubled by the thousand cares to which our life is subject. They don't feel shame, fear, ambition, envy nor love. Finally, if they come still closer to dumb animals in their lack of reasoning power, the theologians assure us they can't even sin.

[The word used by Folly for the stoic 'syllogisms' is pejorative, denoting a suggestion which is not backed up by a logically cogent argument. The moral theologians traditionally grouped together the categories of the young and the mad ('infans et amens') as incapable of the moral self-determination implied by sin.]

Now, foolish sage, please count up for me all the nights and days when your soul is tortured by anxieties - heap all your life's troubles in one pile, and then at last you'll realize what the evils are from which I've saved my fools. Add the fact that they're always cheerful, playing, singing and laughing themselves, and also wherever they go they bring pleasure and merriment, fun and laughter tQ everyone else, as if the gods had granted them the gift of relieving the sadness of human life. Consequently, though other folk may be at odds, they are always accepted, sought out, fed, tended, embraced, helped at time of need, and allowed to say or do anything with impunity. No one would dream of hurting them - even wild beasts have some natural perception of their innocence and do them no harm. They are indeed under the protection of the gods, and most of all, under mine; and for this reason they are rightly held in honour by all.

[36] They are moreover the favourites of kings, so much so that many great rulers can't eat a mouthful or take a step or last an hour without them, and they value their fools a long way above the crabbed wiseacres they continue to maintain for appearance's sake. The reason for their preference is obvious, I think, and shouldn't cause surprise, men have nothing but misery to offer their prince,

they're confident in their learning and sometimes aren't afraid to speak harsh truths which will grate on his delicate ear,
whereas clowns
can provide the very thing a prince is looking for, jokes, laughter, merriment and fun.

And, let me tell you, fools have another gift which is not to be despised. They're the only ones who speak frankly and tell the truth, and what is more praiseworthy than truth? For although Plato makes Alcibiades quote the proverb which says that truth belongs to wine and children, the credit really should be mine; witness Euripides and that famous line of his about me: 'for the fool speaks folly'. Whatever the fool has in his mind shows in his face and comes out in his speech, but wise man has two tongues, as Euripides also says, one to speak the truth with, the other for saying what he thinks fits the occasion. He makes a habit of changing black into white and blowing hot and cold in the same breath, and there's all the difference between the thoughts he keeps to himself and what he puts into words. .

[The reference to a 'delicate ear' is from Persius (Satires, I, 107). The proverb 'truth belongs to wine', discussed in the Adages, is important here, because it demonstrates that Erasmus was using the Ficino translation of Plato, whose mistranslation Folly adopts. The .text is from the Symposium (217e). The reference to Euripides 'is to the Baccchae; (369). The reference to the wise man's two tongues is not to an authentic text of Euripides (Rhesus, 394). Juvenal (Satires, 3' 30) mentions changing black into white. The phrase 'blowing hot and cold' alludes to one of Aesop's fables.

Folly's allusion to the jesters of kings points to a custom which, familiar from Shakespeare, was already widespread ih the early sixteenth century, when there were real 'fook' renowned for their wisdom.]

And so for all their good fortune princes seem to me to be particularly unfortunate in having no one to tell them the truth and being obliged to have flatterers for friends, it might be said that the ears of princes shun the truth, and that they steer clear of wise men for the simple reason that they fear there be someone outspoken enough to risk saying what is true rather than pleasant to hear. The fact is, kings do dislike the truth, but the outcome of this is extraordinary for my fools. They can speak truth and even open insults and be heard with positive pleasure; indeed, the words which would cost a wise man his life are surprisingly enjoyable when uttered by a clown.

For truth has a genuine power to please if it manages not to give offence, but this is something the gods have granted only to fools.

It is also the reason why these people give so much pleasure to women, who are naturally more inclined to amusement and frivolity.

Besides, however much women carry on with fools, even when things take a serious turn, as they often do, it can always be passed off as joking and fun. The feminine sex is artful, especially at covering up its own doings.

[Folly's words were not only to be confirmed a hundred years later in Shakespeare's plays, but they already 'corresponded to the authentic historical role of some of the great jesters.]

[37] To return to the happiness of fools. After living a life full of enjoyment, with no fear or awareness of death, they move straight off to the Elysian fields where their tricks can amuse pious souls who have come to rest. Let's now compare the lot of a wise man with that of this clown. Imagine some paragon of wisdom to set up against him, a man who has frittered away all his boyhood and youth in acquiring learning, has lost the happiest part of his life in endless wakeful nights, toil and care, and never tastes a drop of pleasure even in what's left to him.

He's always thrifty, impoverished, miserable, grumpy, harsh and unjust to himself, disagreeable and unpopular with his fellows, pale and thin, sickly and blear-eyed, prematurely white-haired and senile, worn-out and dying before his time. Though what difference does it make when a man like that does die? He's never been alive. There you have a splendid picture of a wise man.

[The portrait of the wise man is uncomfortably like a grotesque caricature of Erasmus himself, whose self-parody cuts particularly deep in this section. Erasmus did 'fritter away' his youth in acquiring learning. He also worked extremely hard, was thrifty, intermittently impoverished and exceptionally waspish. He was also sickly almost to the point of hypochondria'.]

[38] Here the 'Stoic frogs' start croaking at me again. Nothing, they say, is so pitiable as insanity, and exceptional folly is near-insanity, or could even be called the real thing. Insanity only means being off your head, but these frogs are right off, the track. So let's demolish their argument, if the Muses will lend their support, subtle though it is. In Plato, Socrates shows how a single Venus and a single Cupid are divided into two, and so these masters of dialectic should really have distinguished between two forms of insanity, if they wanted to appear sane themselves. For not every form of insanity is a disaster, or Horace would not have asked, "Or is it fond insanity deceiving me?"

Blue notes from WinZoe2.html

This may be the method of Lynn Anderson of Jubilee 99 at which he may (if we understand the parable) displace the previous three little horns from the role of king of the change agent movement) Revelation 17 and Daniel 7 are universal patterns for the little Armageddons all of us have to battle:

And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. Daniel 7:24

And he shall speak (poetically) great (as the embodiment of the adversary) words against the most High, and

shall wear out the saints of the most High, and

think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. (3 1/2 years) Daniel 7:25

But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. Daniel 7:26

As little mountains of Armageddon they can be identified by the word:

Airo (g142) ah'ee-ro; a prim. verb; to lift; by impl. to take up or away; fig. to raise the voice, keep in suspense (the mind); spec. to sail away (i.e. weigh anchor); by Heb. [comp. 5375] to expiate sin: - away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up). (honorable men, magnify, marriage utterly wear out from H5375) (Jubilees were to take away sins)

Remember that the mountain of armageddon are people who rise up, lift up and exalt themselves above the plain. This final battle is not the war of the worlds. Rather, it is the war of the words. The battle is from the Greek-

Polemeo (g4170) pol-em-eh'-o; from 4171; to be (engaged) in warfare, i.e. to battle (lit. or fig.): - fight, (make) war.

Polemic is from the Greek "polemikos" and means a war: "to shake, cause to tremble, dispute, controversial, argumentative. A polimicist is one "skilled in making war." (Webster) (I.e. a skilled change agent)

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs (toads) come out of the mouth (edge of a weapon) of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. Re 16:13

These kings for an hour are really frogs and they are not what they are quacked up to be. They are-

"Quacks were represented as frogs and were associated metaphorically with serpents." (Vine) (Marsh-leapers in Hebrew)

Lord Jesus Christ came to take away the keys to knowledge from those who had taken the Word away from the people of the Kingdom. He denounced the clergy and said that we should call no man "Doctor of the Law" or Rabbi. Instead, He came to relieve His people of the burdens of the c

And Plato would not have counted the frenzy of poets, seers and lovers amongst life's chief blessings, nor would the sybil have called the great undertaking of Aeneas insane.

[The reference to Horace is to the Odes (~, 4, 5) and that to Aenea~ to the Aeneid (6, i3~). In Plato's Symposium (i8o), Pausanias proposes the division of love into the love which is common and includes that for a woman's body and that which is divine and seeks satisfaction only in the union of the souls. From this division result the double Venus and the double Cupid.

Marsiho Ficino's famous commentary is at its most powerful at this point and Ficino himself in a letter coined the term 'Platonic love' to describe the higher and morally perfective affection. But unlike some of his followers, and Erasmus himself in the Enchiridion, Ficino himself holds the compatibility of the two loves.

The doctrine of the four furores, poetic, Bacchic, prophetic and erotic, the forms of divine frenzy which move the soul to its reunification in the ascent of its love through the four circles of creation to heatitude is elaborated in Ficino from the doctrine of Socrates in the Phaedrus (244).

The poetic furor in particular was an important renaissance concept. It was used, for instance, to explain the religious and moral significance which S6 billet and the Pliade attributed to poetic activity, and allowed them to insist on the need for the poet to be moved emotionally when he wrote. By 1546 Richard Le Blanc in his preface to the translation of Plato's Ion could go so far as explicitly to identify the poetic, furor with divine grace.]

The nature of insanity is surely twofold. One kind is sent from hell by vengeful furies whenever they let loose their snakes and assail the hearts of men with lust for war, insatiable thirst for gold, the disgrace of forbidden love...parricide, incest, sacrilege, or some other sort of evil, or when they pursue the guilty, conscience-stricken soul with their avenging spirits and flaming brands of terror.

The other is quite different, desirable above everything, and is known to come from me. It occurs whenever some happy mental aberration frees the soul from its anxious cares and at the same time restores it by the addition of manifold delights. This is the sort of delusion Cicero longs for in a letter to Atticus, for it would have the power to free him from awareness of the great troubles of his times. Horace's Argive too was on to the right thing.

His insanity was only sufficient to keep him sitting whole days alone in the theatre, laughing and clapping and enjoying himself because he believed marvellous plays were being acted on the stage, when in fact there was nothing at all. In all his duties in life he behaved well,

pleasant to his friends,
kind to his wife,
a man who could forgive
his slaves, and at a broken seal and flask
not mad with rage.
When his relatives intervened and gave him remedies to cure him, and he was wholly restored to his senses, he protested like this to his friends:
'My friends,' he said,
'This is not saving; it's killing me to snatch
my pleasure, take by force
what I enjoyed my mind's delusion.'
He was quite right too. They were deluded themselves and more in need of hellebore than he was for thinking that such a pleasurable and happy form of insanity was an evil to be dispelled by potions.

[The reference to Cicero alludes to the Letters to Atticus (3, 13, 2). The quotations from Horace come from the Epistles (2, 2, 133 ff.). Hellebore was supposed to cure madness.]

But I've not yet made up my mind whether every vagary or mental aberration should be given the name of insanity. A purblind man who takes a donkey for a mule or one who praises an ill-written poem as an excellent one certainly won't be thought insane. But someone who is wrong in his mental judgement as well as in his perception, especially if this is continuous and goes beyond accepted practice, will surely be put down as a borderline case.

Take, for example, a man who hears a donkey bray and thinks he hears a marvellous symphony, or some wretched humbly-born pauper who imagines he's Croesus, king of Lydia.

But often enough this kind of insanity is pleasurable and affords considerable enjoyment both to those who suffer from it and those who witness it but aren't mad in the same way, for in this form it is far more widespread than the common man believes. One madman laughs at another, and each provides entertaininent for the other, and you'll often see the madder one laughing the louder at the one who's not so mad. .

[The reference to taking a donkey for a mule is an allusion to Theognis (996) and the proverb 'rich as Croesus' is discussed in the Adages. From this point on Folly abandons for the time being her classical examples arid moves o,n to contemporary social criticism. Needless to say, she sees early sixteenth-century society through the eyes of Erasmus even when, as in the following section, she is clearly remembering Horace.]

[39] In Folly's opinion then, the more variety there is in a man's madness the happier he is, so long as he sticks to the form of insanity which is my own preserve, and which indeed is so widespread that I doubt if a single individual be found from the whole of mankind who is wise every hour of his life and doesn't suffer from some form of insanity. The only difference is one of degree. A man who sees a gourd and takes it for his wife is called insane because this happens to very few people. But when a husband swears that the wife he shares with her many lovers outdoes faithful Penelope, and congratulates himself on what is a happy delusion, no one calls him insane because this is seen happening in marriages everywhere.

[The view that no one is wise every hour of his life comes from Pliny (Historia Naturalis, 7, 4'). Penelope's fidelity to Odysseus is the framework of the Odyssey's narrative.]

In the same category belong those who care for nothing but hunting wild game, and declare they take unbelievable pleasure in the hideous blast of the hunting horn and baying of the hounds. Dogs' dung smells sweet as cinnamon to them, I suppose, and what delicious satisfaction when the beast is to be dismembered! Common folk can cut up an ox or a sheep of course, but only a gentleman has the right to carve wild game. Bare-headed, on bended knee, with a special sword for the purpose it would be sacrilege to use any other with ritual gestures in a ritual order he cuts the ritual number of pieces in due solemnity, while the crowd stands round in silence and admires the spectacle it has witnessed a thousand times and more as if it was something new. And then if anyone's lucky enough to get a taste of the creature, he fancies he's stepped up a bit in the world. All they achieve by this incessant hunting and eating wild game is their own degeneration - they're practically wild beasts themselves, though all the time they imagine they lead a life fit for kings.

Much the same is the class of people who are consumed with an insatiable passion for building, forever changing round to square and square to round without limit or proportion, until they're reduced to utter destitution with nowhere to live and nothing to eat. What does that matter? They've spent several years enjoying themselves to the full. Next to them I think I'll put those who are always working to change the face of nature by new and secret devices and search land and sea for some sort of a fifth essence. Led on by sweet hope so that they never grudge labour and expense, they show wonderful ingenuity in always thinking up something whereby to deceive themselves afresh. They go on enjoying their self-deception until they've spent every penny and can't even afford to set up a small furnace. Even so they continue to dream pleasant dreams and do their best to fire others to enjoy the same happiness. When at last all hope is gone they've still got a saying to give them great comfort:

The intent suffices in a great design.
And then they blame the shortness of life which wasn't enough for the magnitude of their task.

[Seneca had argued in his de brevitate vitae that life is long enough if it is well spent. The verse comes from Propertius (2, 10, 6). Lijster suggests that the hunter's rites described by Folly are partly irlspired by Erasmus's experiences in England. The reference to builders comes from Horace (Epistles, I, 1, too). Erasmus was always ironical about alchemy, magic, astrology and superstition, so Folly naturally claims as her own the seekers after the fifth essence. Rabelais published his first two books under the name of M. Alcofribas, abstracteur de quinte essence.]

Now there are the gamblers. I'm a bit doubtful about admitting them to our fellowship, though a lot of them put on a foolish show to make us laugh. They're so addicted to the game that their hearts leap and pulses quicken at the mere sound of the rattling dice. When their hopes of win have lured them on to make shipwreck of their entire resources, their ship has run on to the rock of the dice which is no less fearsome than Cape Malea, and they've managed to climb out of the water without a shirt on their backs, they'll take to cheating anyone - except the winner; they don't want people to suppose they're not men of honour. Now they're old and can scarcely see, but they carry on in spectacles, and when well-earned gout has crippled their joints they end up paying a substitute to put the dice in the box for them. It would all be delightful if this sort of game didn't so often turn into a furious quarrel, and then it concerns the Furies, not me.

[Cape Malea, the southeast promontory of Laconia, was notorious for its shipwrecks and is mentioned as a pun on the Latin word for dice, alea.]

[40] But there's no doubt that those folk are all men of my kidney who delight in miracles and fictitious marvels, her hearing or telling about them. They can never have of such tales when there are any wonders to relate about ghosts, spectres, phantoms and the dead, and all the miracles there are of that kind. The further these are from truth, the more eagerly they are believed and more agreeably they titillate the ear. Such things not only serve remarkably well for whiling away a tedious hour but can also be profitable, especially for preachers and demagogues.

[Folly, having claimed various forms of indubitably foolish behaviour as her own, here tendentiously goes on to establish rights over forms of religious behaviour which could not easily be criticized with impunity, but about which Erasmus felt as strongly as Luther. The phrase for being 'of my kidney' (literally 'flour') comes from Persius (Satires, 5, 115). Much of Lucian's sceptical irreverence about the doings of the ancient gods is here applied to the contemporary Christian scene, with an important emphasis on clerical venality. In particular this paragraph appears to allude to the Philopseudes translated by More.

The evangelical humanists were often bitterly opposed by the friars who had a virtual and lucrative preaching monopoly, and it is certain that the exploitation of the fear of death in later medieval religious practice was partly nourished by the economic needs of the clergy.]

Closely related to them are the people who've adopted foolish but pleasurable belief that if they see some carving or painting of that towering Polyphemus, Christopher, they're sure not to die that day, or if anyone addresses a statue of Barbara in the set formula he'll return unhurt from battle, or a man will soon become rich if he approaches Erasmus on the proper days with the proper bits of candle and the proper scraps of prayer. They've already got a second Hippolytus, but in George they've found another Hercules too. They piously deck out his horse with trappings and amulets and practically worship it. Its favours are sought with some new small offering, and an oath sworn by the saint's bronze helmet is fit for a king.

[Erasmus frequently returned to the subject of the superstitious practices which had grown up round the cults of Saints. Several of the saints in the present section figure also in the Enchiridion and in the Colloquies A Pilgnmage for Religion's Sake and On the Eating of Fish. This Section of the encomium is to some extent an elaboration of parts of the Enchiridion. St Christopher. the third-century martyr, was according to legend enormous in Stature. The medieval paintings and statues are on that account often of generous dimensions, whence the comparison with the giant Polyphemus. A series of Latin rhymes testifies to the belief that no one would die on any day on which he saw a picture or carving of the saint. St Barbara, the third-century virgin martyr, was executed by her own father who, it is said, was struck dead by lightning as he finished his task. St Barbara subsequently became the patron of gunners and, in consequence, also the protectress of warriors. The allusion to the need to get the formula right is typical of the extrinsicism of much popular late medieval devotion. St Erasmus, martyred in the early fourth century, was usually invoked in certain illnesses and by sailors. Exactly why his inter. cession should be especially powerful in the production of wealth is uncertain.

St Hippolytus is said to have been martyred by being dragged behind two horses because Hippolytus, the mythological son of Theseus, was dragged to death behind his chariot when Poseidon at Theseus's request sent a sea-monster to frighten his horses. St George is celebrated in legend for his conquest of the dragon, as Hercules conquered the Hydra of Lerna. During the renaissance, Hercules often appears as a figure of Christian saints and even Christ himself. His labours, for instance, are depicted on the facade of the Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo (as well as at Lyons and on the Campanile in Florence) alongside Old Testament scenes. The Hercule Chretien is one of Ronsard's most celebrated Hymnes.]

And what am I say about those who enjoy deluding themselves with imaginary pardon's for their sins? They measure the length of their time in Purgatory as if by water-clock, counting centuries, years, months, days and hours as though there were a mathematical table to calculate them accurately. Then there are people who rely on certain magic signs and prayers thought up by some pious impostor for his own amusement or for gain they promise themselves everything, wealth, honours, pleasure, plenty, continual good health, long life, a vigorous old age, and finally a seat next to Christ in heaven. However, that's a blessing they don't want until the last possible minute, that is, when the pleasures of this life have left their tenacious and reluctant grasp to make way for the heavenly joys to come.

[The word used by Folly for 'pardons' is a non-technical term which, while it suggests the forgiveness of sins, does not explicitly affirm anything beyond the much-disputed remissions not of guilt but of the residual 'temporal debt' due to sin which were known as indulgences. The 'temporal debt' remained after the sin itself had been repudiated and its guilt therefore remitted, and it is about this limited and residual effect of sin that the dispute raged. Indulgences were granted in particular for onerous works or for alms donated to specific causes (like the building of St Peter's in Rome or the prosecution of wars against the Turks). They cduld be applied to the souls of the defunct, thereby hastening or obtaining their release from Purgatory, the state of final purification from the effects of sin which was conceived as extending for definite but varying periods of time. In effect, therefore, if it was not possible to buy forgiveness from sin, it was possible to buy the souls of the dead out of Purgatory and into heaven, and to buy off the residual effects of one's own repented sins. Folly's remarks are carefully limited to counterfeit indulgences, just as her remarks about magic signs and prayers are carefully confined to those of venal impostors. 'Erasmus frequently expresses himself about indulgences, the chief subject of Luther's Wittemberg theses of 1517, most notably in the Enchiridion and the Exomologesis, always taking the view that all religious practice should be the expression of an inner moral conversion.]

Take for example some merchant, soldier or judge who believes he has only to give up a single tiny coin from his pile of plunder to purify once and for all the entire Lernean morass he has made of his life, All his perjury lust, drunkenness, quarrels, killings, frauds, perfidy and treachery he believes can be somehow paid off by agreement, and paid off in such a way that he's now free to start fresh on a new round of sin:

Could anything be so foolish or, I suppose, so happy as those who promise themselves supreme bliss for repeating daily those seven short verses of the holy Psalms the magic verses which some demon is believed to have pointed out to St. Bernard? He was a joker no doubt, but silly rather than. witty, as the poor fellow was caught in his own trap.

Things like this are so foolish that I almost blush for them myself, yet they win general approval, and not just among the mob but also among those who make profession of religion. It is much the same when separate districts lay claim to their own particular saints. Each one of these is assigned his special powers and has his own special cult, so that one gives relief from toothache, another stands by women in childbirth, a third returns stolen objects, a fourth will appear as a saviour for shipwrecks, another protect the flocks, and so on - it would take too long to go through the whole list. There are some whose' influence extends to several things, notably the Virgin, mother of God, for the common ignorant man comes near to attributing more to her than to her son.

[The Lernean morass was the legendary marsh where Hercules killed the hydra. Legend has it that a devil told St Bernard that he knew of seven verses from the Psalms which, if repeated daily, would ensure salvation. When he would not reveal which they were, the Saint is said to have replied that, since he recited daily the whole psalter, he must anyway include the seven magic verses. The list of superstitious practices concerned with local cults, special patrons and assured salvation was a long one, and it lived long enough for Pascal to attack it in his Provincial Letters. It was one of the principles of the evangelical humanists to restore the redemptive work of Christ to the centre of religious attention, and among the undoubted aberrations of late medieval piety was a cult of the virgin Mary which detracted from the proper place of Jesus in Christian devotion. During the whole of this section Lijster's notes back-pedal heavily as he explains throughout that it is only abuses to which Folly is drawing attention, and that she does not wish to attack authentic indulgences, the legitimate cult of saints or non-superstitious practices]

[41]. But what do men seek from these saints except what belongs to folly? Amongst all the votive offerings you covering the walls of cer' fain churches right up to the ve'ry roof, have you ever seen one put up for an escape from folly or for the slightest gain in wisdom? One man escaped drowning, another was run through by his enemy and survived, another boldly (and equally fortunately) fled from battle and left his fellows to continue the fight. Another came down from the gallows, thanks to some saint who befriends thieves, and went on to relieve a good many people. of their burden of wealth. This one broke out 'of prison, that one recovered from a fever, to the annoyance of his doctors; yet another swallowed poison, but it acted as a purge and did him good instead of killing him - a waste of effort and money for his wife, who was not at all pleased. Another upset his wagon but drove his horses home unhurt, another escaped with his life w'hen his house collapsed, and anoti was caught in the act by a husband but got away. Not one them gives thanks for being rid of folly, and it's so not to be wise that mortals would prefer to pray for deliver. ance from anything rather than from me; But I don't know why I'm wading through this sea of superstition:

Had I a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths,
A voice of iron, I could not count the types
Of fool, nor yet enumerate the names
Of every kind of folly.
[The story of the man who swallowed poison and, to the displeasure of his wife, survived, comes from Ausonius (Epigrams, 10). The adulterous wife, wishing to kill her husband, gave him two Poisons together, of which either alone would have killed him but of which one was the antidote to the other. The lines of verse are taken, with slight changes, from the Aeneid I(6, 625-7).]

The ordinary life of Christians everywhere abounds in these Varieties of silliness, and they are readily permitted and encouraged by priests who are not unaware of the profit to be made thereby. Meanwhile, if some disagreeable wiseacre were to get up and interrupt with a statement of the true facts: "You won't do badly when you die if you've been good in your lifetime. You'll redeem your sins only by adding hatred for wrong-doing, tears, vigils, prayers, fasts, and a change in your whole way of living to the small suni you've already paid. The saint will protect you if you'll try to imitate his life" - if, I repeat, your wise man starts blurting out these uncomfortable truths, you can see how he'll soon destroy the world's peace of ~nind and plunge it into confusion.

In the same company belong those who lay down such precise instructions in their lifetime for the funeral ceremonies they want that they even list in detail the number of candles, black cloaks, singers and hired mourners the~ wish be there, as if it were possible for~some awareness of this to return to them, or the dead would be ashamed to be joined by a corpse which didn't haye a splendid burial. They might be newly elected officials planning a public or banquet, such is their zeal.

[Folly's irony at the expense of those who are over-concerned with providing for their own funerals is inspired by Seneca's de brevitate vitae, chapter 20.]

[42] I must press on, and yet I can't pass over without a mention those who are no better than the humblest worker but take extraordinary pride in an empty title of nobility, one tracing his family back to Aeneas, another to Brutus, a third to Arcturus.

[The mention of the 'humblest worker' and the inclusion of Aeneas and Brutus in the list of desirable ancestors are reminiscences 9f Juvenal (Satires, 8, 181-2). The reference to Arcturus has sometimes been taken as an elliptical reference to the claim of the Tudor kings to descend from King Arthur. It most probably alludes to Cicero's de natura deorum (2, 42, 110). Arcturus, killed by drunken shepherds, was put in the heavens by Jupiter and became the constellation Boötes, while his daughter Erigone, who had killed herself the news of her father's death, became Virgo. Their dog, who led to her dead father, became Canicula.]

They display the statues and portraits of their ancestors everywhere, tot up their great-grandfathers and great-great grandfathers, know all the old family names by heart, though they're not far off being dumb statues themselves and could well be worse than the statuary they display. And yet, thanks to sweet Self-love, they lead happy lives; and there are always plenty of fools like themselves to look up to this sort of brute as if he were a god.

But I needn't cite one instance after another like this when everywhere there are countless people made marvellously happy by Self-love. Here's a man uglier than an ape who rivals Nireus in his own eyes, and another who has only to trace three arcs with a compass to imagine himself Euclid.

And the 'ass at the lyre' with a voice worse than a squawking cock when he pecks his hen believes he sings like a second Hermogenes.

But by far the most enjoyable form of insanity is that which makes many people boast about any talent in their household as if it were their own. An example of this is the doubly fortunate rich man in Seneca. He kept servants at hand to whisper the names whenever he had a tale to tell, and though he was so frail he was hardly alive, he was quite ready to take up a challenge of fisticuffs, secure in the knowledge that he had plenty of stout fellows at home.

[On Nireus, see note 42, p.95. Euclid was of course the great geometer of the fourth century B.C. and Hermogenes was a famous singer from Sardia protected by Augustus and mentioned by Horace (Satires, 1, 3, 129). The rich man with the bad memory, called Calvisius Sabinus, is mentioned in Seneca's letters (27,5).]

As for those who teach and practise the arts - what shall I say about them? They all have their special form of Self-love, and you're more likely to find one who'll give up his family plot of land than one who'll yield an inch where his ability is in question.

This is especially true of actors, singers, orators and poets;
the more ignorant one of them is, the more immoderate his self-satisfaction, boastfulness and conceit.

They can always find like to meet their like, in fact anything wins more admiration the sillier it is. The worst always pleases the most people, since the majority of men, as I said before, are prone to folly.

Besides, if an artist is unskilled but all the more pleased with himself and the more generally admired, why should he choose to undergo a proper course of instruction? It'll cost him a lot in the first place, then make him more nervous and selfconscious, and he'll end up pleasing far fewer people.

[43] Now, just as Nature has implanted his personal self-love in each individual person, I can see she has put a sort of communal variety in every nation and city. Consesequently the British think they have a monopoly, amongst other things, of good looks, musical talent and fine food. The Scots pride themselves on their nobility and the distinction of their royal complexions as much as on their subtlety in dialectic. The French lay claim to polite manners, the Parisians demand special recognition for their theological acumen which they think exceeds nearly everyone else's. The Italians usurp culture and eloquence, and hence they're all happy congratulating themselves on being the only civilized race of men. In this kind of happiness the Romans take first place, still blissfully dreaming of the past glories of Rome, while the Venetians have their own opinion of their noble descent to keep them happy. Meanwhile the Greeks, as originators of the arts, imagine they should still share the honours of the illustrious heroes of their past; while the Turks and all the real barbarian riff-raff actually demand recognition for their religion and pour scorn-on Christians for their superstition. The Jews go even further, still faithfully awaiting their, Messiah and clinging fast to their Moses to this very day. The Spaniards admit no rival in the glories of war, while the Germans boast of their height and their knowledge of the magic arts.

[Folly is here drawing on popular caricatures and proverbial national characteristics, most of which occur elsewhere in Erasmus's writings, but which have little to do with Erasmus's personal views about the countries he mentions. Apart from the gratifying remarks about England, where Erasmus spent some of what must have been the happiest years of his life, the most noteworthy comments concern the Scots, the French and the Italians. In the early sixteenth century many Scotsmeh taught philosophy at Paris, which was undoubtedly the intellectual capital of northern Europe and whose theology faculty was totally intent on the pr~ servation of medieval orthodoxy, concerned neither with pastoral needs nor even, as a body, with monastic reform. Both the English and the French owed much to the new learning and new values which they found south of the Alps, but the French especially were at the same time concerned to vindicate the super~rity and antiquity of their own culture, for which they invented a glorious history. Anti-Italian jokes appear early in sixteenth.century France and are a by-product of the new national consciousness, often based on an attempt to revive twelfth.century glories.]

[44] I'm sure you can see without my going into further details how much pleasure Self-love brings to men, both individual and collective, and her sister Flattery does almost as much. Philautia is only flattery of yourself, and if you do the same to someone else it becomes 'Kolakia'. Fawning on people has fallen into disrepute today, but only amongst those who are less concerned with fact than the names applied to them. They think it's incompatible with sincerity, but examples from dumb animals could prove them quite wrong. No animal fawns so much as a dog, and none is so faithful. Nothing has such winning ways as a squirrel, and where could you find a greater friend to man? Unless perhaps you think savage lions, fierce tigers or dangerous leopards contribute more to the life of man.

There is a kind of flattery which is wholly noxious, and a good many treacherous persons use it in mockery in order to destroy their unfortunate victims. But the form I use stems from a sort of ingenuous goodness of heart and is far nearer being a virtue than the critical asperity which is its opposite: what Horace calls a harsh and disagreeable surliness. Mine raises downcast spirits, comforts the sad, rouses the apathetic, stirs up the stolid, cheers the sick, restrains the headstrong, brings lovers together and keeps them united. It attracts children to pursue the study of letters, makes old men happy, and offers advice and counsel to princes in the form of praise which doesn't give offence. In short, it makes everyone more agreeable and likeable to himself, and this is the main ingredient in happiness. What shows such willingness to please as the way mules scratch each other? For the moment I'll say nothing about the large part flattery plays in your celebrated eloquence, a larger one in medicine its largest in poetry, but will sum up by saying that it is what sweetens and gives savour to every human relationship.

[On Kolakia, see note 16, p.74. After ironically praising self-love, Folly here goes on in the same style to praise flattery, a vice which, in the guise of servility to princes, Erasmus found both odious and dangerous. Erasmus however does not primarily object to flattery simply because it is insincere, and Folly makes little of that objection. The use of animal behaviour as an example to shame men is traditional and became very popular in later renaissance authors like Montaigne. The allusion to Horace, who favours a mean between insincere adulation and forthright criticism, refers to Epistles (1, 18, 508). The mules who scratch one another are proverbial and occur in the Adages. The argument that praise makes life tolerable is borrowed from Plato (Gorgias, 463a).]

[45] But it's sad, people say, to be deceived. Not at all, it's far sadder not to be deceived. They're quite wrong if they think man's happiness depends on actual facts; it depends on his opinions. For human affairs are so complex and obscure that nothing can be known of them for certain, as has been rightly stated by my Academicians, the least assuming of the philosophers. Alternatively, if anything can be known, more often than not it is something which interferes with the pleasure of life. Finally, man's mind is so formed that it is far more susceptible to falsehood than to truth. If anyone wants an immediate clear example of this he has only to go to church at sermon time, where everyone is asleep or yawning or feeling queasy whenever some serious argument is expounded, but if the preacher starts to rant (I beg your pardon, I mean orate) on some old wives' tale as they often do, his audience sits up and takes notice, open-mouthed. And again, if there's some legendary saint somewhat celebrated in fable (you can put George or Christopher or Barbara in that category if you need an example) you'll see that he receives far more devout attention than Peter or Paul or even Christ himself. But this is not the for the moment.

[This paragraph begins with an allusion to the stoic view that man's true good depends not on what happens to him but on his own state of mind. which remains in his power. Historically this view was the ethical consequence of the sceptical contention, to which Folly goes on to refer, that we cannot know the true world. Although there is a clear distinction between the Stoics and the Academicians or Sceptics, the sixteenth century very often confused the two, powerfully assisted by Cicero who makes Pyrrho, the most important Sceptic, sound like an exaggerated Stoic. Folly is here drawing on Cicero's De Oratore (1, 10). On the subject of the saints mentioned here, see note 76, p.126. Folly is careful not to go so far as to say that they were not saints - it was to be four and a half centuries before they were dropped from the calendar.]

Now this gain in happiness costs very little, whereas real facts often take a lot of trouble to acquire, even when they are quite unimportant, like grammar. An Opinion, on the other hand, is very easily formed, and it is equally conducive to happiness, or even more so. Just suppose that a man is eating rotten' salt fish, and they taste like ambrosia to him though another man can't stand the stink; does that affect his happiness? Whereas if the taste of sturgeon makes some-one sick, what can it add to the blessings of life? If anyone has a particularly ugly wife who has the power to rival Venus in her husband's eyes, isn't it just the same as if she were genuinely beautiful? The possessor of a dreadful daub in red and yellow paint who gazes at it in admiration, convinced that it is a painting by Apelles or Zeuxis, would surely be happier than someone who has paid a high price for a genuine work by one of these artists but perhaps gets less pleasure from looking at it. I know someone of my name who made his new bride a present of some jewels which were copies, and as he had a ready tongue for a joke, persuaded her that they were not only real and genuine but also of unique and incalculable value. Now, if the young woman was just as happy feasting her eyes and thoughts on coloured glass, what did it matter to her that she was keeping trinkets hidden carefully away in her room as if they were some rare treasure? Meanwhile her husband saved expense, enjoyed his wife's illusion, and kept her as closely bound in gratitude to him as if he'd given her something which had cost him a fortune.

What difference is there, do you think, between those in Plato's cave who can only marvel at the shadows and images of various objects, provided they are content and don't know what they miss, and the philosopher who has emerged from the cave and sees the real things? If Micyllus in Lucian had been allowed to go on dreaming that golden dream of riches for evermore, he'd have had no reason to desire any other state of happiness. And so there's nothing to choose between the two conditions, or if there is, the fools are better off, first because their happiness costs them so little, in fact only a grain of persuasion, secondly because they share their enjoyment of it with the majority of men.

[Folly's views about the unimportance of grammar reflect Erasmus's impatience with those humanists whose grainmatical interests deflected them from absorbing the values and attitudes contained in classical literature. Apelles and Zeuxis are both famous Greek painters mentioned by' Pliny. 'Someone of my name' can only refer to Thomas More who had married in 1505. Plato's image of men as cave-dwellers who take the shadows they see for the only reality occurs at the be-ginning of Book 7 of the Republic. Erasmus frequently refers to this image for those who take shadows for the reality. and he had used it in the Enchiridion. At the beginning of Lucian's The Dream or the Cock, a dialogue translated by Erasmus, Micyllus complains that he cannot even escape from his poverty into beautiful dreams at night without being awakened by the cock.]

[46] Indeed, no benefit gives pleasure unless it is enjoyed in company. Yet we all know how few sages there are, always supposing there's one at all. Out of all those centuries the Greeks can count seven sages at the most, and if anyone looks at them more closely I swear he'll not find so much as a half-wise man or even a third of a wise man among them. Next, among the many things to Bacchus's credit must be counted what is his chief claim to fame - his ability to free our minds from care. Of course the effect lasts only a short time, for as soon as you've slept off your drink your troubles come racing back in triumph, as the saying goes.

Isn't the blessing I confer much more generous and effective? I fil the mind with a kind of perpetual intoxication, with transports of rejoicing and delight, all without any effort, and I don't leave a single mortal without a share in my bounty, though the gifts of the other deities are unevenly bestowed. Not every region produces the mellow wine of good quality which can banish care and flow with rich still hopes. Few have a lovely face, the gift of Venus, and fewer the eloquence which Mercury grants. Not many owe their wealth to Hercules, and Homer's Jupiter doesn't allow authority to all comers. Often enough Mars remains neutral in battle, and a lot of people return disconsolate from Apollo's oracle. Saturn can often flash lightning and Phoebus shoot plague with his arrows, while Neptune destroys more lives than he spares. As for those underworld Jupiters, Plutos, Discords, Punishments, Fevers and all that lot, I don't call them gods, but murderers. I, Folly, am the only one who extends my ever ready generosity to all alike.

[The regions flowing 'with rich hopes' are a reminiscence of Horace (Epistles, I. 15, 19). The reference to Hercules comes from, Persius (2. II). The Latin text uses for Mars the primitive 'Mavors' also used by Virgil. Phoebus is the cause of plague in the Iliad (i, 10 and si). The word used for 'Jupiters' is Vejoves, the piural form of, a hostile god and, in its singular form, given by Ovid to the youthful Jupiter (Fasti, 3.429 ff.). The word for 'Discords' is Atas, plural form of the goddess of discord, At~, on whom see note 32, p.85.,]

[47] I don't expect prayers, and I don't lose my temper and demand expiation for some detail of ceremony which has been overlooked. Nor do I confound heaven and earth if someone has sent invitations to all the other gods and left out, so that I'm not admitted to a sniff of the steaming tims.

[Eris is the mother of At~ and also the goddess of discord, a title she earned by avenging the failure to invite her to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis by throwing into the midst of the guests the golden apple marked 'for the most beautiful', a gesture which led to the judgement of Paris and the Trojan war. Folly's reference to 'steaming victims' alludes also to Diana, who avenged herself on Calydon whose King Oeneus made offerings to all the gods except her (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8, 276). The reference to human sacrifices a few lines lower is explained by the identification of the goddess to whom the ship-wrecked foreigners on Tauris were sacri'iced with Diana (Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto, 3,2, 53 and Tristia, 4' 4, 63).]

The rest of the gods are so particular about these that you'd almost find it better and even safer to them alone instead of worshipping them. There are several men who are just the same, so hard to please and easily offended that it's wiser to have nothing at all to do with them than treat them as friends.

But no one offers sacrifice to Folly, people say, or 'sets up a temple.' Well, I'm quite surprised myself, as I said before, at such ingratitude, but I'm easy-going and take it all in good part. Besides, I can't say this is really what I want. Why should I need a whiff of incense, a sacrificial meal, a goat or a pig? Mortals all over the world worship me in a manner which is highly approved, even by the theologians. Ought I to envy Diana because she was propitiated by human blood? I hold the view that I'm worshipped with truest devotion when all men everywhere take me to their hearts, express me in their habits, and reflect me in their way of life - as in fact they do. This form of worship even of the saints and among Christian believers is quite rare.

Think of the many who set up a candle to the Virgin, Mother of God, and at midday too, when it isn't needed, and of the few who care about emulating her chastity of life, her modesty and love of heavenly things. Yet that is surely the true way to worship and by far the most acceptable to heaven. Besides, what should I want with a temple? The entire world my temple, and a very fine one too, if I'm not mistaken, I'll never lack priests to serve it as long as there are men. And I'm not yet so foolish as to demand statues carved in stone and coloured with paint which can often do harm to the cult of us gods, when the stupid and thick-headed give their devotion to images instead of to the divinities they represent, and we suffer the same fate as those who are supplanted by their substitutes. I fancy I can count as many statues set up to me as there are men who wear my living image in their faces, whether willingly or not.

And so I've no reason to be envious of the other gods because they're each worshipped in their own corner of the earth on fixed days, like Apollo, for example, in Rhodes, Venus in Cyprus, Juno at Argos, Minerva at Athens, Jupiter at Olympus, Neptune at Tarentum, and Priapus at Lampsacus. To me the whole world offers far more precious victims, without ceasing and with one accord.

[This passage concludes the section dealing with Folly's powers. The next section opens the famous description by Folly of her followers. But in this section Folly drops her mask. She has claimed for herself the theologians who defend rites and superstition, but she now ~enlists among her devotees those who worship her in their hearts and express her in their habits. The irony is not totally consistent. After the theologians. Folly claims for her own those whose religion is interior and evangelical. The worship of the sun-god Apollo at Rhodes is associated with the cloudless sky above that city. Horace remarks on the cult of Venus at Cyprus (Odes. i, 3, I), of Juno at Argos (Odes, I, 7, 8~), of Minerva or Pallas, the eponymous goddess of Athens (Odes, I, 7, 5) and of Neptune in the town founded by his son Taras (Odes, 1, 28. 29), Olympus is Greece's highest mountain, seat of the king of the gods. Virgil (Georgics, 4, 3) mentions the association between Priapus and Lampsacus where he was born.]

[48] 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 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 promontary 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! I often join them myself and sit 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 play a comedy of grief. There's anpther 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 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 affections of rich old women with the same end in view. Both groups provide special entertainmdnt to the audience of gods wher in 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.

[Folly here adopts the perspective of the gods in viewing human affairs,' and derives from Lucian's Icaromenippus. translated by Erasmus in 1512. The shedding of tears at a stepmother's funeral is a proverbial image of feigned grief which appears in the Adages. The man whose belly counts for all comes from Horace (Epistles, I, 15, 32) and many of the attitudes censured by Folly had been satirized by Persius, Juvenal or Horace. Folly remembers the patristic strictures on trading and ends the paragraph with an attack on merchants, no doubt with reference to the contemporary scene. For Erasmus the greed and self-interest of merchants was socially counter-productive.]

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 ry penny he has, another hoards everything by fair means or foul; one goes canvassing for public office, another 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, shortlived as he is, for sometimes a brief war or an outbreak of plague can carry off and destroy many thousands at once.

[The Pythagorean belief in the community of goods which, Folly says, allows people to make off with unguarded property. was none the less an ideal taken seriously by Erasmus, who devotes the first proverb of the Adages to discussing it, and by More, who makes it the basis for his Utopia. The early Fathers had been reluctantly concessive in allowing the legitimacy of private property. and Erasmus points out in the discussion of his first adage that the ideal which he takes from Plato could not be more Christian. The pilgrimage to the popular shrine of St James at Compostella was as important in the middle ages as that to Rome or Jerusalem. Erasmus did himself compose a liturgy for the pilgrimage shrine of the Virgin Mother of Loreto in 1523 without. however, alluding in it to the miraculous translation of the house said to have taken place in the thirteenth century but lirst recognized by a Bull of 1470. Menippus Is the ~ero of Lucian's Icaromenippus who comments from heaven on the behaviour of the gods and their view of men.]

[49] But it would be very foolish of me and certainly call for some of Democritus's outbursts of laughter if I to enumerate all the types of folly and madness. Let's at those who have some reputation for wisdom amongst mortals and seek the golden bough, as the saying goes. Among them the school-masters 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 dtdn'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 insults mentioned in the Greek gram, 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.

[In late antiquity, Democritus was known as 'the laughing philosopher' on account of his attitude to the folly of the world. The 'five curses' are enumerated in an epigram of Palladas, listing the misfortunes alluded to in the first five lines of the Iliad, a text to which of course all 'grammarians' were exposed. The ass of Cumae probably refers to Aesop's ass in the lion's skin (which figures in the Adages). On Phalaris, see note 6, p. 66. Dionys~us was a famous tvrant of Syracuse. Folly's description of school-masters owes something to Juvenal's seventh satire and takes up a traditional butt of satirical attack. The grammarians or school-masters whom Folly treats so harshly were also elsewhere attacked by Erasmus, who believed in an educational system that was humane as well as humanist. He abhorred the harsh discipline and physical discomfort of the Parisian colleges, and especially the ColIege de Montaigu under the reforming Standonck which he had attended in 1495-6. He was later to lampoon Montaigu in the colloquy On the Eating of Fish in 1526, by which time it had become the focal point of the scholastic opposition to evangelical humanism.]

Yet they get even more happiness out of their remarkable belief in their own learning. There they are, 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.

[Palaemon was the first Roman grammarian to write a fully comprehensive grammatical treatise. He was known also for his arrogance and notorious morals, and lived under Tiberius and Claudius. Donatus lived in the fourth century A.D. and taught St Jerome. His grammar was the standard text-book throughout the middle ages. In his seventh satire Juvenal mentions the 'name of Anchises' nurse' as an instance of the unknowable things grammarians quarrel about. The conquest of Africa and the capture of Babylon were proverbial expressions for the achievement of the impossible.]

And again, when they keep on bringing out their feeble verses, their own hopeless efforts, and find 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 sections of a 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

[Aldus Manutius, the famous humanist and printer, opened his press at Venice in 1485. By 1500 his house had become the centre of a small academy of Greek scholars, and the famous Roman small type-face, said to be copied from the ha~d of Petrarch, was known to humanists throughout Europe. Erasmus came to call in 1507 and stayed to see the Adages througli the Aldine press in i~o8. He writes of Aldus in the rSo8 adage Festina lente and again, waspishly d~ fending himself against attack after Aldus's death, in the 571 col~quy Opulentia Sordida. Alberto Plo, a pupil of Aldus who from 1525 was convinced that Erasmus was a Lutheran in disguise, felt it necessary to defend Aldus against what he erroneously took to be an attack on him in this passage on grammarians. Erasmus's reply makes it clear that no offence was intended or could reasonably be taken, but his reminiscences of Venice in the colloquy were coloured by his need to defend himself against accusati6ns that he had acted as a paid proof-reader for Aldus and risen drunk from his table.]

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 he won't envy for his bungling efforts in this field, for he's pitiably afraid that someone will win the prize, and 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.

[50] 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 god-like life they assure themselves, and they make similar promises to others. 'Self-love and flattery' are their special friends, and no other race of men worships me with such wholehearted devotion.

Then there are the orators; 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 treatises on the theory of joking. And so whomever it was who dedicated his Art of Rhetoric to Herennius lists folly amongst 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 owe much to folly, for often what can't be refuted by argument can be parried by laughter, unless anyone supposes that raising a laugh by witticisms according to plan has nothing to do with folly.

[That 'poets are a free race' is a proverb quoted by Lucian and used in the Adages. The theme of poetic immortality touched on by Folly is a commonplace associated especially with Horace. The popular rhetorical handbook Ad Herennium was once thought to be by Cicero, but this attribution was questioned from the fifteenth century. Quintilian deals with laughter in a famous chapter (book 6, chapter 3) of the Institutia oratoria which he published towards the end of the first century A.D.]

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

[Persius and Laehus come from Cicero's de Oratore (2, 6,25) where they signify the very learned and not so learned for reasons which are historically obscure.]

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, re-phrase, 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 whatever remaining 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 the 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 booksbops, every title-page displaying their three names, which are mostly foreign and evidently intended to he spellbinding, though Heaven knows these are nothing more than names.

How few people will ever 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 alpIla 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's 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 until both leaders go off victorious to celebrate their triumphs.

[The Greek phrase for the 'great man himself' is a reminiscence of Horace (Odes, 4, 3, 21-3). The 'three names' of each author refer to the Roman usage in which a middle name denoted nobility. Tele ·~machus was the son and Laertes the father of Ulysses. Stelenus is not classical and may be a mistake for the Sthenelus who was a tragic poet of the fifth century B.C. Polycrates was an Athenian orator and sophist (see note 5, p. ~8). Thrasymachus was a sophist and rhetorician from Chalcedon in the fifth century B.C. Polly alludes to the Aristotelians who used letters like alpha and beta for numbers and signs, Alcaeus was a famous Greek lyric poet of the seventh Century B.C. The two names are mentioned together by Horace (Epistles, 2, 2, 99). The final verse about the hesitant mob is from the Aeneid (2,39)- Folly's advice to plagiarize touches on a practice to which Erasmus became increasingly sensitive. In 1533 he added to the adage Festina lente, pointing out how ill-regulated the printing trade had become.

The law had not yet caught up, and the press which had once been welcomed as the instrument for the dissemination of the great works had become, says Erasmus, the tool of commerdal exploiters.]

Sensible men laugh at this, for that is supreme folly, 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.

[51] 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.

Any one 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 goats' wool,

and they generally lose sight of the truth in the heat of the argument.
However, self-love
keeps them happy, and three syllogisms arm enough to go straight to battle on any subject and any man. You could put Stentor up against them, but their obstinacy would see that they won the day.

[Sisyphus was condemned everlastingly to roll a large rock up a mountain only to see it fall down again just before it reached the top. The humanist lawyers like Erasmus's contemporary Bude were erned to disinter the text of ancient legislation from under the burden of medieval glosses which had hitherto determined its interpretation.

Dodona was the seat of an ancient oracle of Jupiter.. whose priests interpreted the rustling of leaves and the clanging or vibrating of copper pots in the wind.

Goat's wool signifies something trivial value in the Adages. Stentor was the Greek In the Trojan war whose voice (Iliad, 5, 785) sounded like that of fifty men. The inclusion bf lawyers among the followers of Folly might seem less surprising than the omission of doctors, since later satirists neither, and Folly had earlier mentioned them both together (chapter 33). But even the lawyers are here seen as merely garrulous rather than the venal or stupid characters for which many later took them. Both legal and medical studies were being reLewed by Erasmus's humanist contemporaries.]

[52] Next to them come the philosophers, cloaked and 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, producing reasons for thunderbolts, winds, eclipses and inexplicable phenomena. They never pause for a moment, as if they'd access to the secrets of 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, 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 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 this too.

[On the philosophers, Folly delights in cataloguing the subtle abstractions of the scholastics. All the terms listed here were used in the context of disputes about universal ideas behind which in fact were hidden totally different views about man. Generally Platonist psychological presuppositions led to the view either that universal concepts like 'tree-ness' were merely words with nothing to correspond to them in reality or that actual things were modifications of realized 'universal' ideas. Both solutions entailed theological difficulties, and there developed a more Aristotelian epistemology in which the universal concept was 'abstracted' from a perception by a process which always remained obscure. Quiddities or essences defined the nature of particular objects whether or not they had being or existence. Ecceities were important in the Scotist reaction against Thomist realism. They designated individual natures not really but only 'formally objectively' distinct from a common or~ universal nature. Forms were the object of intellectual abstractions conferring reality and numerical distinction for the Aristotelian scholastics on objects whose other component was 'prime' or undifferentiated matter. The cloaks and beards which philosophers wore do 'jot, Erasmus elsewhere assures us, themselves suffice to make a philosopher. On Lynceus, see note 54, p.107.]

[53] Then there are the theologians, a remarkably supercilious and touchy lot. I might perhaps do better to pass over in silence without 'stirring the mud of Camarina' or grasping that noxious plant, lest they marshal their forces for an attack with innumerable conclusioins 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.

[The 'mud of Camarina' refers to a swamp which, when drained against Apollo's orders, then allowed the city to be sacked by its enemies. It is proverbial for the cause of one's own ruin and is discussed in the Adages. The 'noxious plant' (Anagyris foetida or bean trefoil) is the subject of the following adage. Vulcan used an invisible net to envelop his unfaithful wife Venus and her lover Mars (Odyssey, 8, 270 ff.). Its mesh was close enough to immobilize them. The axe of Tenedos is discussed in the Adages. It is a weapon for wreaking swift justice and cutting through ambiguities and excuses. Folly's long indictment of the theologians lies at the very heart of the Praise of Folly and of Erasmus's evangelical humanism. The ironic mask has gradually been lowered through the succession of followers from grammarians to philosophers until Folly, in this paragraph, attacks her own followers in' something very like the voice of Erasmus. The form becomes freer. Bantering irony gives way more often to withering sarcasm at first and then to total seriousness in the praise of evangelical folly. Although the ironic mask is frequently resumed, it is no longer consistently worn, until in the last paragraphs of all Folly grasps for it hastily and admits that she has forgotten who she is.]

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 substance. 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 fiintstone? 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 performed the sacrament at a time 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.

[Folly's implication, of course, is that the scholastics, enmeshed in their own abstract categories, were more intrested in speculative subtleties than in questions relevant to religious and moral experience. The Paris theologians, with very few exceptions, regarded themselves as above all custodians of an orthodoxy which i~ their view needed to have no pastoral relevance. or link with human experience. It remains, however, true that some of the questions listed by Folly such as the origin of the world and the transmi~ sion of guilt were matters of obvious religious significance, that the scholastics themselves were often aware of the religious relevance of the apparently abstruse matters they discussed, and that others originated in classroom debates on issues considered trivial but which could be used to teach the techniques of theological debate. There was in fact a serious debate about whether the wo~d existed from eternity, which the fourth Lateran Council had failed satisfactorily to settle in 1215. The transmission of original sin was also subject to debate, but Solutions to this pr6blern were wrapped up with views about universal ideas, as it was obviously easier to understand the transmission of original sin if all men' were actual modifications of the universal 'humanity', and those who rejected exaggerated' realism had to find alternative hypotheses for the remission of sin.

The subsistence of the accidents of bread when substance of the Eucharistic species had been changed was a serious difficulty caused by the application of Aristotelian categories to a phenomenon they were never intended to explain. The moment of divine generation and the number of filiations in Christ had been discussed in the context of the Arian debates and the 'Filioque' dispute which split eastern and western Christians, but were not important issues in the late middle ages. Erasmus mentions these with similar distaste in the preface to his 1523 edition of St Hilary. The 'hatred' of the Father for his Son, who had assumed the sins of the world, was a hypothesis about the theology of the redemption accepted even by so late an author as Bossuet. Discus- about the forms in which God could have become incarnate were of pedagogical utility only, although it appears from a letter to Colet of '499 that Erasmus had had to put up with them. The of consecrating the Eucharistic species 'before the, r~ tion posed real problems of sacramental causality and was a stone for the whole theology of the sacraments.]

There are any amount of 'quibbles' even more refined than about concepts, formalities, quiddities, ecceities, no one could possibly perceive unless like Lynceus he sees 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 crime to butcher a thousand men than for a poor man to cobble his 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. 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, Thornists, 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.

[The idea that the murder of a thousand is a lesser crime than' the breaking of the Sabbath derives from the exaggerated application of the scholastic principles that crimes against God have a malice not intrinsic to crimes against men. That a lie may not be told to save the world from destruction admirably illustrates the wax the scholastics derived moral norms from abstract principles rather than human needs. Lies are intrinsically evil. The end does not justify the means, and no extrinsic end can therefore justify a lie. The application of abstract principle is logical, but the resulting norm takes no account of charity or compassion. Realists an4 nominalists were so called from the opposite positions they took up in the debate about universals. The realists believed that the universal was in some way realized in individual objects and the nominalists that universals were merely logical categories. Thomists were the followers of Thomas Aquinas (died 1274), now acknowledged to be the greatest of the scholastics but whose system, which automatically geared divine command to human moral aspiration, found general recognition only after the humanist reform of theology in the sixteenth century. Albertists were followers of Albertus Magnus (died 1280), teacher of Thomas Aquinas, notable for his scientific work and his openness to the new Aristotelianism. 'Qckhamists and Scotists were followers respectively of William of Ockham (died 1347) and Duns Scotus (died 1308), boih of whom took part in the reaction against Aquinas which led to the late medieval nominalist emphasis on the transcendance of God and the arbitrary nature of his revelation and his law.]

Paul could exhibit 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 gives the best description of charity, in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter thirteen, he neither divides nor defines 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 transubstantiatlon 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 new 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 its character, delible and indelible.

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."

[Paul's description of faith comes from Hebrews xi, I. The thorny problems of Eucharistic theology led in the early sixteenth century to a great variety of views and all the points mentioned by Folly were in fact discussed. In the attempts at reconciliation both at Ratisbon ni 1541 and at Poissy in i~6i Eucharistic theology was apparently (but perhaps only apparently) the one irreconcilable doctrinal issue separating the two sides of the schism opened up by the Reformation. The doctrine of Mary's immaculate conception to which Folly goes On to refer had been accepted by the Paris theology faculty only in 1497. Scotus had argued against Aquinas that it did not compromise the unique mediation of Christ, but his treatment of the question made the immaculate conception into a Marian privilege not clearly relevant to religious experiences, although it is of funda'mental importance for an onderstanding of the effects of the r~ demption. The 'keys' mentioned in Matthew xvi, 19, signified the 'ruling' power of the Church, which is distinct from its teaching authority. The point made by Folly refers to the Scotist insistence that the power of the Church to teach does not derive from the learning of its prelates and theologians. On baptism, the scholastics were caught up in the attempt to apply to the sacraments the four types of cause in Aristotle, formal, material, efficient and final. The 'character' of baptism is indelible, although not all the sacrament's effects are permanent. It accounts for the fact that baptism may not be received more than once. The scriptural reference to worship 'in spirit and in truth' comes from John iv, 24.]

Apparently it had never been revealed to them that a mediocre drawing sketched in charcoal on a wall should be worshipped in same manner as Christ himself, provided it had two outstretched hands, long hair, and three rays sticking out from a 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 actual and sanctifying grace. They encourage good works without distinguishing between opus operantis 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 in the Scotist spirit. Nothing will make me believe that Paul, whose learning sets a standard for everyone else, 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.

[The scholastic theologians distinguished between three cate gories of worship, applicable respectively to God, Mary and the other saints. Some at least, says Lijster, held that the images should themselves be venerated with the category of worship applicable to the subject signified, although the veneration of images apart from the subjects they signified was neither int~nded nor discussed. The iconographical details are those conventionally applicable to images of Christ. On grace Erasmus uses the technical scholastic terms gratia gratis data and gratia gratificans (for which Lijster has the more usual Uratia gratum faciens). The technical English equivalents are 'actual' and 'sanctifying' 'grace. Sanctifying grace produces an enduring State of soul known as justification, while 'actual' grace belongs not to the soul but to its operative faculties like inellect and will, and enables them to perform, for instance, the meritorious works which either prepare for or flow from justification. The sentence about the opus operantis and the opus operatum does not appear in the Froben i~i~ edition, and the Kan text is certainly wrong in printing opus operans (for opus operantis). The distinction was made to emphasize that the validity of a sacramental rite (the opus operatum) is independent of the religious disposition of the officiating minister (the opus operantis). The distinctions of charity are parallel to those of grace. Charity is infused at the moment of the justification which it effects. But its own effects on the operative faculties can be augmented and, in this case, it is possible to talk of 'acquired' charity. The charity which is infused into the soul has to be created, but the full effect of justification cannot be explained unless in some sense God's uncharity is Communicated to us, so that the distinction became necessary in the attempt to explain the metaphysics of justi. fication. Whether grace achieves in us a 'substantial' or an 'accidental' modification was a question bound to arise in any discussion of the modalities of justification inside Aristotelian categories. St Paul's condemnations of dissension and vain dispute are to be found, for instance, in I Timothy (i, 4; vi, 4 and 29), 2 Timothy (ii, i6 and 23) and Titus (iii, 9). Chrysippus was the subtlest of Stoic philosophers.]

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".

The apostles also 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 confrouted by these ultra-subtle refinements, unless he's so thick-headed that he can't follow them or so impudent 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?

[Before it became a literary form the Quaestio de quolibet was a scholastic exercise held twice a year. The subjects were unconnected with the ordinary course of lectures and disputations, were often genuinely disputed questions and often aroused much passion in the audience, which was allowed to participate. Quodlibet is the name given first to these solemn disputations and then to published treatments of theological questions suitable for defending at one of these acts. Penelope, the wife of Ulysses, never finished he'r web because she unwove at night what she had done during the day.]

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 vile.

Yet all the while they 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 take a single look at the gospel or the letters of Paul.

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 syllogisi and without them it would collapse.

Then you can in 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 nor even Thomas, the 'greatest of the 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 "to boil in a pot" and "to boil a pot" mean much the same thing can't possibly be a Christian?

[The scholastics drew on an increasing range of censures from ''heretical' down to 'offensive to pious ears'. Folly throws in a few variations of her own. The phrase for 'greatest of Aristotelians' is a Greek coinage of Erasmus not intended to be ironical. Folly, it should be noticed, is' iauch harder on Scotus and his followers than on Thomas Aquinas. The final sentence of this passage mocks at scholastic ignorance of and lack of concern for proper Latin usage.]

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 school?
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 an extra one to the finest and most extensive, 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.

For myself, I often have a good laugh when they particularly fancy themselves as theologians if they speak in a especially uncouth and slovenly style, and while they mumble haltingly as to be unintelligible except to a fellowerer, they refer to their powers of perception which be attained by the common man. They insist that it acts from the grandeur of the holy scriptures 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.

[Jupiter, having swallowed the pregnant Metis in case his child dethrone him, felt a pain in his head and asked Vulcan to t open, whereat Pallas Athene emerged from it fully armed. is some doubt whether Folly goes on to refer to heads swathed In bandages or doctoral bonnets. Folly, like Erasmus and many of the humanists, clearly associates non-classical, careless and erroneous Latin usage with the decay ol true religion. and accuses the theologians of responsibility foi both. The fun made of the MAGISTER NOSTER was to be notably ploited by the humanist Ulrich von Hutten's ironic attack on t scholastics in 15t5, the Letters to Obscure Men, written to defend the humanist theologian Johannes Reuchlm. Reuchlm was a Hebraeist, the first of the humanists to provoke a concerted attack from-the scholastics. After his death, Erasmus wrote a colloquy on his 'apotheosis' (1522). Erasmus had meanwhile quarrelled with Hut. ten who, having become a Lutheran, wished to turn the old Holy Roman Empire into an all-German kingdom and do away with any connexion with Rome. Against him Erasmus wrote his Sponge 1523. The tetragram consisted of the four Hebrew consonants in the name of God, I H w H. Out of respect the word was never written out in full or pronounced. 'Jehovah' combines the consonants with the vowels from the Hebrew for 'lord'. Iii the next paragraph, the first sentence alludes to the derivation of the word 'monk' from the Greek for solitary.]

[54] The happiness of these people is most nearly approached by those who are popularly called "Religious" "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 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 squalor and beggary, bellowing for bread from door to door, and indeed making a nuisance of themselves in every inn, or boat, to the great loss of all of 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 shoe-string the colour of a girdle, the variations in colour of a habit, the material and width to a hair's breadth of a girdle, the shape and capacity (in sacksful) of a cowl, the breadth (in fingers) of a tonsure, 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 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, 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 rule of life. They aren't interested 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 Coletines, the Minors, the Minims and the Bullists. Then there are the Benedictines and the Bernardines; the Bridgetines, Augustinians, Williamists and Jacobines; as if it weren't enough to be called Christians.

[Cilician goat's hair is rough and Milesian wool exceptionally fine. 'Cordeliers' was a generic name for all Franciscans or friars minor. Fqlly deliberately chooses some lesser known orders and lesser known names for well known orders. By the' time Erasmus came to write the Praise of Folly. serious attempts at monastic reforms were being made. But it is true that some orders, notably the Franciscans, were extremely distrustful of learning, and especially the humanist learning which they regarded as leading to heresy. When Rabelais was a Franciscan, his Greek hooks were confiscated. The earliest French humanists were themselves favourable to the monastic vows. Some indeed were monks. But the Parisian humanists favourable to monks were inclined to feel that if only priests understood Latin all would be well again. This was the view of Josse Clic'htove, an early humanist who defended the monastic vows, worked for the reform of the monasteries and was strongly anti-Lutheran. He typifies a party of humanists less reactionary than the rest of the Paris theology faculty, but less radical than Erasmus, whom Clichtove attacked soon after the publication of the Praise of Folly.

Stories of debauched. drunken and lecherous monks may be exaggerated, but totally irreligious behaviour was scandalous and widespread. Folly gets the mentality with pitiless accuracy when she points to the mixture of excessive punctiliousness in rule-keepmg with wide-ranging breaches of the spirit and letter of the vows. Her most important criticism is that directed against the imposition of uniformity on people of different gifts and temperaments. This was the kernel of the moderate humanist criticism of the religious orders and is frequently found in Erasmus.]

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 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 sacksful 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 boasts 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 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 charity.
I don't 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."

[The Abraxasians were a gnostic sect beieving in 365 spheres or heavens, a number they arrived at by totting up the numerical equivalents for the Greek letters in the word abraxas.]

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, especially 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 entertaining stories, but then 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

[The reference to the 'sop for Cerberus' alludes to the Aeneid, 6,419. 'Mendicant' was a term which covered all the orders who begged for their living and were therefore not cloistered. Certain canonical privileges, particularly associated with confessional jurisdiction, attached to this status. The sacrament of penance, demanding auricular confession, was attacked by all the reformers. Some of the late medieval handbooks, with their insistence on specifying the last theological subspecies of guilt for validity of absolution, explain why Calvin, for instance, found it so distasteful. Erasmus wrote a good deal about the sacrament and seems himself to have confessed regularly, if rarely. In general he emphasizes not the sacramental validity but the occasion offered by the sacrament for obtaining advice and direction. It was of course forbidden under the most rigorous canonical penalties for a confessor to reveal anything which could connect a penitent with a sin.]

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 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.

[Bel is the dragon of Daniel xiv. The signs of'the Zodiac are not totally without relevance to fastIng. The Lenten fast, roughly coinciding with the sun's entry into the segment Aries, was occasionally justified by reference to the change in the humours coincident on the astronomical event. In the next paragraph Folly refers to Horace, Satires, 2, 7, 21.]

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 50 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 mathematica!, analysis. He divided Jesus into two equal halves, leaving the letter s in the middle. Then he showed that this was 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 figwood 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?"

[The proverb 'blind as a mole' is discussed in the Adages. Ovid (Metajuorphoses, 6, 152 if.) recounts how Niobe's seven sons were all killed by Apollo's darts and her seven daughte'rs by Diana before she herself was turned to stone as a punishment for scorning Leto, mother of Apollo and Diana. The figwood Priapus which cracked in fright at the rites of Canidia and Sagana comes from Horace (Satires, 1, 8). The phrase 'where's that taking him?' comes from Virgil (~ucolics, 3, 19). The introduction to the sermon based on the letters of the name Jesus is reminiscent of the number mysticism and caballistic interpretations still popular in the early sixteenth century. Even though many of the humanists wrote occasionall~ in this style, Erasmus was firmly opposed to it.]

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',

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, 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.

This 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 etc."

The phrase for what 'has never been known on earth,or in heaven' comes from Lucian's Alexander which Erasmus had translated. The 'great scholastics acquired honorific titles by which they were known to later generations. Thomas Aquinas was the 'doctor angelicus', Scotus the 'doctor subtilis', Bonaventure the 'Pater seraphicus', Ockham the 'doctor invincibilis'. 'Irrefragabills' was used only of Alexander of Hales. The famous Mirror of Vincent of Beauvais, like the Gestia Romanorum, is a popular thirteenth-century handbook printed in the late fifteenth century and often used as a source of exempla. The middle ages classified commentaries on scripture into four categories of interpretation, so that each text could have a literal meaning, an allegorical meaning (drawing the religious lesson), a tropological (moral) me~ning and an anagogical (mystical) meaning. The four-fold possik~lity of each text was summarized in the famous rhyme.

Littera ~esta docet; quid credas allegon~a;
Moralis, quid agas; quid speres, anagogia.

The Enchiridion contains several examples of the allegorical exegesis of the Old Testament. The reference to Horace alludes to the opening of the Ars poetica 'Supposing a painter chose to put a human head on a horse's neck - could you help laughing?'

But they've heard from someone that the opening 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 rhetorlc 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 with the lyre'.

They sometimes try satire too, but it's so feeble that it's laughable, 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 squares, who are a long way their superiors, though 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 silIy 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 church finds 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 enables to tyrannize over their fellow men, each one a Paul an Antony in his own eyes.

[On the 'ass with the lyre' see note 46, p.99. The saints Antony and Paul referred to were hoth fourth-century hermits.] [The proverbial 'ass with the lyre' figures in the Adages, as do the prancing camel and the sudden silence caused by the wolf in the fable. Cato the Censor's serious frown is a commonplace of Latin literature. Lucian's dialogue Timon was translated by Erasmus in ~ Timon of Athens cut himself wholly off from the world and would see no one but Alcibiades.]

[55] 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 affectations of piety.

End of Monk Section See Praise of Folly for a Second Version;

I've long been wanting to say something about kings and their courtiers who cultivate me quite openly, with the candour 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 the public instead of his personal affairs, and must think only of the wellbeing 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 strained on him alone, and he can either be a star to steer by, 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. 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 every one 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 her iniquitous their practices these preserve a facade justice. 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 most of them are today: a man ignorant of the law, well-nigh an enemy to 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 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 a wholly uncorrupted heart, and finally, the purple as emblem of his overwhelming devotion to his people. If the prince were to compare this insignia with his way of life I'm sure he would blush to be thus adorned, and fear some malicious satinst would turn all these trappings into a subject for mockery and derision.

[The political thought of Erasmus scarcely changed through his career and is conveniently summarized in the 1516 treatise the Education of a Christian Prince, written for the future Charles V. Its main characteristics are the insistent pursuit of peace in all circumstances, a consequent dislike of treaties and pacts. a preference for the arbitrated settlement of disputes, for a limited monarchy under a prince himself subject to the laws, and a state where social harmony is erected on economic prosperity and controlled by the laws. There is also a clear view of the dangers of any succession. Underneath Folly's depiction of the dangers faced by princes emerges a portrait of the ideal prince, subject to his own laws, devoted to the welfare of his people. intent on the suppression of corruption and mindful of his own salvation. Deviating 'by a hair's breadth' from the norm is a proverb discussed in the Adoges. The Latin for 'leave all these concerns in the lap of the gods' is taken from Horace (Odes. 1,9,9).]

[56] Now what shall I say about the courtiers? For the most part they're the most obsequious, servile, stupid worthless of creatures, and yet they're bent on appeal foremost in everything. There's only one matter in which they have no pretensions: they're quite happy to go displaying the gold, jewels, purple and all the other emblen of virtue and wisdom on their persons while leaving interest in what these symbolize to others. They count themselves extremely fortunate to be permilted to call the Sire, to know how to address him in three words, to 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 nobleman and courtiers. But if you look more closely at 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 follows 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 the weight of the chain their necks have to carry, as if have to show off their physical strength as well as their riches.

[Flattery is of course a recurrent theme in Folly's declamation in Erasmus's works. The second chapter of the treatise On the ducation of a Christian Prince is entitled 'The Avoidance of Flat-'ers'. The Phaeacians (Odyssey, 6, 8), were noted for luxurious living. Penelope's suitors are dismissed as idle and luxurious layabouts by .'e in the poem Folly refers to (Epistleg, I, 2).]

[57] Such practices of princes have long been zealously adopted by supreme pontiffs, cardinals and bishops, and have almost been surpassed. Yet if any of these were to reflect on the meaning of his linen vestment, snow-in colour to indicate a pure and spotless life, or of his two-horned mitre, each peak 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 many kindred matters, wouldn't his life be full of care trouble?

But as things are, they think they do well when they're looking after themselves, and responsibility for their sheep they can either trust to Christ himself or delegate 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 their revenues into the bag they can play the overseer well enough - no 'careless look-out' there.

[The phrase for 'careless look~out', in Greek in the text, combines an allusion to an Homeric usage (e.g. Iliad, 10, ~i5) with a pun on the literal sense of 'episkopos' or overseer. Folly is of course right in pointing out that liturgical ceremonial ecclesiastical protocol were developed under the influence of procedures. Cardinals, in particular, grew from parish priests the Roman titular churches, a status which still gives them the right to elect the bishop of Rome, into ecclesiastical princes, with privileges of jurisdiction and dress to match their new~status. In the Enchiridion and elsewhere. Erasmus frequently makes the point that ecdesiastical titles deuote not power or status but func tion'.]

[58] 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 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 ask themselves these questions: what meaning has this whiteness of surplice for them if not total 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 cover the entire mule of Most Reverend Father (and quite big enough to envelop 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 life-blood on behalf of 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.

[59] Then the Supreme Pontiffs, who are the vicars of Christ: if they made an attempt to imitate his life 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 creature 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, violence of every kind?

Think of all the advantages they would lose if they ever showed a sign of wisdom! Wisdom, I say? Rather a grain of the salt Christ spoke of would be 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, copy-clerks, lawyers, advocates, secretaries, muleteers, bankers and pimps (and I nearly added something rather more suggestive, but I didn't want to offend your ears) - in short, an enormous crowd of people now a burden of 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 themseIves.

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 a waste of time; to shed tears is weak and womanish, to be needy is degrading; to suffer defeat is a disgrace hardly fitting for one who scarcely permits the greatest kings to kiss the toes of his sacred feet; and finally, death is an unattractive prospect, and dying on a cross would an ignominious end.

The only weapons they have left are the fine-souding 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 who are in fact the vicars of Christ, launch against none 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 pat despite the words in 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 through having boldly routed those whom they call foes.

[The 'grain of salt' Christ spoke of refers to Matthew V, 13. The 'fine-sounding' benedictions to which St Paul refers are thos of the spreaders of dissension and deceivers of guileless hearts offer 'flattering talk' and 'pious greetings' (Romans xvi, iB). The 'painted scenes of judgement' depicted the fate of the damned Interdicts, suspensions and anathemas were, like excommunication. canonical penalties. Their efficacy however was in the order not grace but of ecclesiastical organization, a point which neither Folly nor the middle ages as a whole properly appreciated. The 'dreaded thunderbolt' is presumably either excommunication or perhaps the solemn curse. The quotation 'we have forsaken all' comes from Matthew xix 27.]

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 mercinary laws, misrepresent him with their forced interpretations of his teaching, and slay him with their noxious 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 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.

[The connexion between war and the Furies refers to the Aeneid, 7, 323. The reference to 'decrepit old men' alludes clearly to II who was over 6o when he' acceded to the papacy. For the' next ten years he made war, even allying himself with the Turks, and revalued the depreciated silver coinage of the papacy, thereby considerably improving the papal income. Erasmus, who had had to get out of the way of the papal army, was witheringly con- as Folly's satirical portrait makes clear. The attribution Erasmus of the Lucianic dialogue abo4t Julius's attempt to enter aven, the Julius exciusus, written in 1513. is disputed. Lijster, who perpetually apologizing for Erasmus's audacities, thinks him r~ ained on the subject of Julius II.]

[60] 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 are openly active in office, even to the extent of belieiving 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.

And then the rank and file of priests who think it is 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 gain, they're all on the alert, every one of them an expert in 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 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 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 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 vhen I should be delivering a eulogy, nor anyone to think in praising bad princes I mean to censure good ones. I hed briefly on these matters only to make it clear that no mortal can live happily unless he is initiated in my rites is sure of my favours.

[Erasmus, always c6nscious of the abuse of hierarchical fanc' as the source of power or wealth, held that ecclesiastical pr~ demanded an increasing likeness to Christ. He used this in a lost essay on the war waged by Julius II. 'Seculars' differ from 'religious' (who need not be priests) in that, 'ithough obliged to celibacy, they do not take the three formal vows poverty, chastity and obedience. In addition, the ancient orders - exempt from hierarchical jurisdiction and are responsible only ~ugh their own superiors to the pope. Not all religious or 'regu-are monks, who have the added obligation of the cloister which when strictly applied, that they may not leave their monas~ is interesting that Folly implies that the mendicants, who in-the Franciscaus, pass for less worldly than the monks, who at any rate probably richer. The Carthusians were the most and the most contemplative of ail the monastic orders. Thomas More seriously considered joining them. They are norn Considered not to have been in need of reform, even at this date.]

[61] 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 his name, 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's nag or the lost gold of Toulouse which are clearly aimed at wise. But enough of 'quoting proverbs'; I don't want you to imagine I've been plundering the note-books 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, consequently you'll generally find the wise associated with poverty, hunger and the reek of smoke, living neglected, in glorious and disliked. Fools, on the other hand, are in money and are put in charge of affairs of state; flourish, in short, in every way. For if a man finds his happiness in pleasing princes and spending his time amongst those bejewelled godlike creatures of mine, he'll learn 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 can he bargain over money with wisdom for a guide? He'll recoil from perjury, blush if he's caught telling a lie, if he takes the slightest notice of those scruples about thieving and usury which are so disturbing to the wise. And then if any. one aspires to ecclesiastical wealth and preferment, a donkey or a buffalo would get there faster than a wise man. If you're after pleasure, then women (who play part in the comedy) are wholeheartedly for the fools, and flee in horror from a wise man as from a scorpion.

[In the paragraph preceding this one, Folly, realizing she is not supposed to he writing satire, makes play of the fact that she has heen speaking with Erasmus's voice. Nemesis, who personifies avenging justice, presided over the punishnaent of pride and the avenging of injustice in the world. The various phrases in Greek in original text come from a series of adages, with another allusion by Folly to the identity of her inventor. Timotheus was an Athenian general of the fourth century B.C. denial that he owed his victories to Fortune brought swift retribution. His name means 'favoured by Cod'. The first two adages refer to man's inability to help himself and his need to rely on For-tune. 'Being born on the fourth (month)' like Hercules presaged lahours and trials. 'Sejanus's nag' brought misfortune to its owners, while whoever touched the gold of Toulouse died in agony (Aulus Gellius, 3, ~, ~). The 'die is cast' is another proverb discussed in the Adaaes. The reference a few lines later to 'pleasing princes' alludes to Horace (Epistles, I, 17, 35), who thinks there are greater titles to fame.]

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 he achieved without money; and as the wise man despises money, they take 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, nor 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'.

[Here ends the central section on Folly's followers. Folly now 'announces the final section of the dedamation, devoted to the wise who have praised her and, in particular, to Pauline folly, Since this Christian folly is praised without a trace of irony. the Pr'aise of Folly ends with a remarkable feat of double irony as it transforms itself from a mock encomium into a real one.]

[62] 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". You can see now for yourselves what a great blessing Folly is when even her deceptive shadow and resemblance win such high praise from learned men. Still more frankly does the plump, sleek porker from Epicurus's 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".

In Homer too, Telemachus wins the poet's praise in every way, but is now and then called 'silly', 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 wrath of foolish kings and peoples? Moreover, Cicero's famous tribute is surely quite unqualified: "The world is full of fool's." For everyone knows that the more widespread a blessing, the more effective it is.

[The introductory paragraph to the final section is still bantering in tone, as in logic. The line about playing the fool in season comes from one of Cato's distichs, learned by heart by every grammar~chool child in the middle ages. The 'sleek porker from Epicurus's herd' is an expression Horace uses of himself (Epistles, 1,4. 16). Ilis advice to mix folly with counsel is in Odes, 4, 12, 27-8. The other Horatian reference is to Epistles, 2,2, 126. Hoi~ier called Telemachus a silly child (Odyssey, II, 449). The quotation from Cicero comes from the letters (To his friends, 9.22, 4)]

[63] 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, and give them a proper foundation as they 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 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.

[Folly has already once invoked the Muses from Helicon, rememhering the Aeneid (7, 641). The Sorbonne was the seat of the Paris faculty of theology, not especially Scotist in its views but reactionary and sharing with Scotist theology the presuppositions]

But now if the auspices are good, let's get back to our subject. Ecclesiastes wrote in his first chapter "The number of fools is infinite", 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". To God alone he allowed wisdom, leaving folly to all mankind. A little earlier he says: "Man should not glory in his own wisdom." 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", 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."

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 is understood 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. 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.

[Erasmus quotes scripture from memory and is frequently in accurate. The long catena of scriptural quotations hegins in this paragraph with the following: Ecciesiastes i, is; Jeremiah x, 14; x. ~ and 12; Jeremiah ix. 23; Ecclesiastes ~ and xii, 8; Ecclesiasticus Xxvii, 12; Matthew xix, 17. i88 189 PRAISE OF FOLLY]

Again, Solomon says in Proverbs Chapter 15, "Folly is joy to the fool", which is clearly an admission that nothing in life is enjoyable without folly. There is a sirnilar reference in the text "He who increases knowledge increases sorrow, and in much understanding is much grievance." Surely too the famous preacher has openly expressed the same idea in his Chapter 7: "The heart of wise is the home of sadness, and the heart of the foolish the home of joy." 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 wisdom and learning, and also madness and folly."

Note that when Ecclesiastes wrote this he named Folly last, and intended it as a tribute, for this, as you know, is 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. And indeed, Ecclesiasticus, whoever he was, makes this quite clear in his Chapter 44, though I'm not going to quote 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.

[126. Proverbs xv, 21; Ecclesiastes i, i8; Ecciesiastes vii. 4; Eccle-Siastes i, 17. The reference to Ecclesiasticus xliv seems wrong and is too vague to permit of identification elsewhere.]

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, here's a Greek proverb to answer for you 'the water-pot is broken 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.

[Rhetoric, I, 6. The proverb is discussed in the Adaaes about the extrinsic nature of human perfection which Erasmus most dislikes. The reference to Priapus recalls Horace (Satires, i,8, i).]

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 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." 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". 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 Solomon was not ashamed of being named like this when he said in Chapter 30, "I am the most foolish of men." Nor was Paul, the 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," he said, just as if it were a disgrace to be outdone in folly.

[Ecclesiasticus xx, 33; Ecclesiastes x, 3; Proverbs xxx, 2; 2 Corinthians xi, 23. There follows at this point another reference to Erasmus by 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 thaji 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 this, he went on to correct himself by adding "1 am aware that he was not only the equal of the other les in his ministry for the gospel but to a large extent superior. He wanted this to carry conviction without words sounding arrogant and offensive, so he made his pretext to forestaH objections, writing "I speak as fool" because it is the privilege of fools to speak the without giving offence.

But what Paul had in mind when he wrote this, I leave to pedants to dispute. For my part I follow the large, fat, and popularly most highly thought of theologians

whom the majority of scholars would rather be in the wrong, 'by Zeus',
than hold a correct view along with experts in three tongues

Not one of these thinks of your Greek pedants as more than jackdaws, especially as a certain renowned theologian (renowned perhaps in his own eyes?) whose name I have the sense to suppress, some of our jackdaws are quick off the mark with the Greek taunt of 'the ass and 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 sub-division, 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.

[The experts in the three tongues (Latin. Greek and Hebrew) were the humanists who insisted that a knowledge of the ancient tongues was the indispensable tool for theological studies in further- of an evangelically based religion. Trilingual foundations were made notably at Cologne, Louvain and Alcala, while the ideal that inspired them also inspired foundafions elsewhere, as at Oxford. Fran~ois I put out feelers to Erasmus with a view to his making: such a foundation in France, but nothing came of the project until the institution of the royal lectureships from 1530 onwards. The theologian referred to and barely disguised in the reference to the ass and the lyre was Nicholas of Lyra who died in 1349. It was said in the sixteenth century, that if Lyra had not played his lyre, Luther would not have danced (Si Lyra non lyrasset, Luther non saltasset). He wrote a series of Postillae Litterales on the Old and New Testaments, carefully distinguishingb between literal and mystical senses of the text. They were immensely influential and were the first commentary on the Bible to he printed (1471-2). Folly is of course making clear in her reference to Erasmus and trilingual pedantry that she is 'conferring only an ironic compliment on Nicholas of Lyra by, embracing his view.]

[64] 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. Anyway, according to St. Paul, the words of the holy scriptures conflict with each other, though there is no contradiction in their context, 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, to 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 eyen 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 nvy of the legal experts.

[The incident of St Paul and the inscription at Athens is recounted in Acts xvii, 23. What Folly says is narrated by Jerome in ~liis commentary.]

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 a 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." 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 purses 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 if Christ had reversed his beliefs and recanted his former teaching when his emissaries appeared to be setting 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 he even bids them to sell their coat to buy one, prefen them to go naked rather than unarmed. Moreover, just anything which serves to repel violence comes under the head of "sword", "pouch" covers any of the necessities ol life. And so this interpreter of the divine mind fits out 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 afterwar 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.

[The text of Luke whose interpretation Folly accuses Nicholas of Lyra of distorting is xxii, 35-i. The texts about swords to which Folly refers are presumably Matthew xxvi, S2 and John xviii, Ix, but nowhere does Christ order a sword to he ho ughL secular power to do its will by the application of spiritual sanctions. The 'man from Tenedo,s' is discussed in the Adages.]

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 Bartholemew.

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 being refuted in argument.

A grim old man, whose arrogance made it clear he was a theologian, answered in some irritation that the apostle I had laid down this rule in saying, "A man who is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject", and he went on thundering out this quotation and again while most of those present wondered had happened to the man. At last he explained that heretic was to be removed from life (de vita). Some laughed, though there were plenty of others who found fabrication sound theology; but when several expressed 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 (male ficus). Every heretic is an evildoer; therefore, etc." The entire audience marvelled at the man's reasoning power and over to his way of thinking, hotfoot. It occurred to no one that this law applied only to sorcerers, wizards and whom the Hebrews. Call mekaschephim in their tongue, a word we translate as male fici. Otherwise the death penalty would have to be applied to fornicators and drunkards.

[The second theologian appears to be the hermit of St Augustine, Jordan of Quedlinhurg (sometimes called Jordan of Saxony, but to be confused with the Dominican general of that name), a iystical writer and preacher who died in 1380 or 1370. The reference Habakkuk is iii, 7. There are different traditions about the death of St Bartholomew, who may have been beheaded. St Paul's use of devita is from the letter to Titus (iii. io) and the reference to the maleficus is in Deuteronomy xiii, 5, (where th& Latin term is 'fictor somniarum'). The Greek word for devita means in fact 'avoid'. In his translation of the New Testament, Erasmus says 'flee'. There was in fact technically no death penalty for heresy as such, since heresy is an ecclesiastical crime. Heretics were delivered to the ~cular power and put to death normally for 'blasphemy'. The effect the same, and the Church was quite capable of forcing the '9S]

[65] But it's foolish of me to continue with 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", he says; speaking of himself. And again, "Receive me as a fool", and "I do not speak according to God but as if I were foolish"; and elsewhere too he says, "We are fools for Christ's sake." 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." 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 St. Paul attributes some folly even to God? "God's foolishness," he says, "is wiser than men." Origen subsequently objected in his comment 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 for me 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 foolish-ness."

[Chrysippus is said to have written more than seven hundred works. Didymus, the Greek contemporary of Augustus, is said to have written 3,500 or 4,000, of which none has survived. The texts of St Paul referred to in this paragraph are 2 Corinthians xi, '9, i6 and 17 and i Corinthians iv, 10; iii, 18; i, 25; i, i8. The reference to Luke is to xxiv, 25 and that to the Psalms to Psalm lxviii, 6 (Vulgate; R~.V. lxix, ~). Origen, the third-century Greek Father whose understanding Christian dogma within a neoplatonist framework later caused his work to be condemned, was a very important figure for the evangelical humanists. Pico della Mirandola had defended him (in a thesis which in turn was' condemned), and the early sixteenth century saw a real attempt to replace the authority of the anti-Pelagian Augustine with that of a rehabilitated Origen, whose doctrine clearly harmonized more easily with the humanist determination to understand Christian perfection in terms of moral fulfilment. Erasmus w''as notably favourable to Origen.]

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. Nero felt the same about Seneca and Dionysius about Plato, though they both 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 foolish things of the world", and again "God chose to the save the world through folly", since it could not be redeemed by wisdom. God himself makes this clear enough when he aims through the mouth of the prophet

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

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 means foolish, and is the opposite of 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 Objection to the ignorant multitude. What else can "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees" mean but "Woe unto you who are wise"?

[Caesar's fear of Brutus and Cassius who were pale and thin is reported by Plutarch (Life of Caesar, 62), as is his failure to fear the sleek Antony. Shakespeare draws on the same passage of Plut in Julius Caesar, I, ii, Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, He thinks too much: such men are dangerous. Tadtus says that Nero distrusted his former tutor Seneca (Annai~ Is, 62 if.). The tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse sent Plato away in dis~ grace. The scripture quotations in this section are I Corinthians i, and 21, Isaiah xxix, '4 (but Folly confuses this text with i ( inns i, '9) and Matthew Xxiii. 13-15 and 23~7.]

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, whjle throughout the scriptures there is frequent mention of harts, young mules and lambs. Moreover, 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 is derived from the slow-wittedness of the animal and is commonly used as a taunt against dull and stupid men. Christ declares himself the shepherd of this flock, and takes pleasure himself in the name of Lamb, as when reveals him in the words "Behold the Lamb of God", same expression often appears in the Apocalypse.

[The ass is mentioned in Matthew Xxi, 2 and the dove Matthew iii, s6. The parable of the good shepherd Is in John Aristotle's proverb is discussed in the Adages. The expression Lamb of Cod' appears in John i, 29 and 36 and throughout tl~ Apocalypse ~eveIation).]

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 himself in order to help the folly of mankind, when he assumed the nature of man and was seen in man's form; just as he was made sin so that he could redeem sinners. Nor did he wish to be redeemed in any other way save by the folly of the cross and through his simple, ignorant apostles, to whom unfailingly preached folly. He taught them to shun wisdom, and made his appeal through the example of lilies, mustard-seed and humble sparrows, all 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 is also the explanation of 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 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 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 Book of Numbers intercedes against the punishment of wife: "I beseech you, master, do not charge us with sin, which we committed foolishly." Saul uses the same in praying to David to forgive his fault: "for it is clear 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 excuse for then but their ignorance: "for they know not what they do." Paul writes to Timothy in the same vein, "But I was at 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", 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.

[The remarkable animation of this passage in its plea for learned or spiritual ignorance derives from the tradition of unlettered piety which Erasmus absorbed from the devotio moderna and the Brethren of the Common Life, and which it was his personal achievement to integrate with Christian humanism. In this final section of the Praise of Folly Erasmus takes a,dvantag'e of the ironic form to put his ideal w'ith total seriousness into the sort of paradoxes in which the evangelists recount the moral teach-" i'~ng of Christ. However, what Folly says here does not exclude the need~for learning, required to justify this reading of the Christian message, which Erasmus thought should itself he instantly acc~, ible to everyone. The references here are to: i Corinthians i, i8 and 24 (Christ's folly the wisdom of God); Philippians ii, 7 (assuming the form of man); 2 Corinthians V, 21 (made sin); i Corinthians i, 21 (the folly of the Cross). Children are mentioned for instance in Matthew xviii, 3; lilies for instance in Matthew vi, 28; mustard seed in Matthew xiii, 3 I; spar. rows in Matthew x, 29; governors in Matthew x, iB; times and seasons in Acts 1.7; the tree of knowledge in Genesis ii, 57. St Paul's association of knowledge with conceit is in I Corinthians viii, s. St Bernard's identification of Lucifer's sin with a desire for knowledge is in his commentary on Isaiah xiv, 12. The reference to Number. 200 is to xii. ii, to Saul I Kings (I Samuel) xxix, 2! and to David 2 Kings (2 Samuel) xxiv, 10. Christ's prayer for those who crucified him is In Luke xxiii (verse 34) and the reference to Timothy comes from I Timothy I, i3'. The Psalm quoted is xxiv, 7 (Vulgate; RS.V. xxv, 7). Not all these quotations bear the weight which Folly puts on them. In particular it is difficult to read Genesis as condemning knowledge. But Erasmus deliberately attaches Folly to a tradition of exegesis with which the Brethren of the Common Life had made him familiar. 'Th'e wisdom Folly goes on to attack is conventional and worldly rather than spiritual, but she does renew Christ's insistence that his 'wisdom is folly to the world.]

[66] To sum up (or I shall be pursuing the infinite), it is 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 great 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 he surprised if the apostles were thought to be drunk on new wine, and Festus judged Paul to be mad.

[The apostles were thought to be drunk in Acts ii, 13 and Festus's reaction to St Paul is in Acts xxvi, 24. 'Donning the lionskin' means undertaking a great task and is a proverb discussed in Ada8es. - 10 201]

But now that I have donned 'the lionskin', let me tell you another thing. The happiness which Christians seek with so many labours is nothing other than a certain kind madness and folly. Don't be put off by the words, but consider the reality. In the first place, Christians come near to agreeing with the Platonists that the soul is and bound down by the fetters of the body which by gross matter prevents the soul from being able to contemplate and enjoy things as they truly are. Next, Plato used philosophy as a preparation for death because it leads mind from visible and bodily things, just as death does. And so as long as the mind makes proper use of the organs the body has 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 known 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 expel something similar, so that they speak wonders as if inspired. Again, if this happens through pious fervour, it might not be quite the same kind of insanity, but is so much like it that most people make no distinction, especially as the number of humble 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 that 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 belief that nothing existed but their wretched shadows. A 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 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 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 in 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, behaving as if they do not have, possessing as if they did not possess.

[Folly makes it clear that neoplatonist, and especially Plotinlan, Systems can serve as a substructure to explain and understand the Christian revelation. Folly's Platonism remains notable however for the reference to prophetic insanity, one of the four Sorts of divine furor discussed by Ficino in his commentary on Plato's Symposium which stimulate the process by which the soul is reunified and, progressively weaned from dependence on matter, reunited to God.

The idea that philosophy is a preparation for death is also discussed by Cicero, the source from whom Montaigne took the title of his famous essay Que philosopher, c'est apprendre ~ mourir. Erasmus in the Enchiridion takes it from Socrates in the Phaedo. The phrase 'possessing as if they did not possess' is a reminiscence St Paul, I Corinthians vii, 29~3o. spiritual and angelic status or to remain immersed in the material world. Folly carefully distinguishes the passions, belonging to the senses which the 'vulgar crowd' is enmeshed, from the higher affections, however hesitant she may remain about these. They are intermediate', 'quasi'-natural, capable of heing transferred to the highest point of the soul. The uncertainty is transferred from the Enchiridion, where sorne of the affections come near to being virtuous. lirasmus, far too empirically minded to systematize his teaching, does in fact move towards a greater sympathy with these 'inter- - affections. The identification of the summum bonum with dne mind is expressed in terms reminiscent of Ficino's comy on the Symposium.]

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 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 father, and affection for children, relatives 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, 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 is to be loved or sought. This is the rule whereby they r gulate all the remainder of life's duties, so that anyt visible, if it is not wholly to be despised, is still valued less than what cannot be seen.

[It is recounted of St Bernard that, meditating on scripture, drank oil without noticing that it was not water. Folly is presenting a modified neoplatonist psychological system, drawing on Origen's commentary on St Paul and the seventh cha~ ter of the Enchiridion in which Erasmus expounds Origen's view. The ascription of passions to the body rather than the soul is Plot. insan, although it became common in the nec>~stoic rqoralists of the renaissance. Iji Christian authors it normally leads to a trichotomist psychological system, based on I Thessalonians V, 23, and distinguishes body, soul and spirit. For Folly, as for Pico Mirandola, the soul can determine itself either to achieve]

They also say that even in the sacraments and the actual advances of their religion, both body and spirit are involved. For example, they think little of fasting if it means 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 be rejected, they say, but 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 extinction of their bodily passions, laying them in the tomb, as it were, in order to rise again to a new life where in you 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 hearing the sound of the words, and watching the ritual down to the smallest detail. 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 at 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.

[Folly, having drawn almost unguardedly on the Plotinian tradition, is now at pains to modify the neoplatonist paradigm by insisting on the positive, if still relatively slight, value of the world, especially with regard to the sacraments. Elsewhere, Erasmus is caustic about such 'works' as fasting. Here, however, Folly points out the purposes of the ascetic practices elal ated in earlier centuries, which was to discipline the passions. It is possible that the human nervous system has become more complex since the early middle ages, and the pain threshold lower. Folly, at any rate, does not use absolutes but prefers to talk in terms of more and less. She insists only on not allowing the ritual, material element in religious practice to submerge the spiritual content. in The Christian death with Christ crucified and rebirth with Christ glory are here interpreted, as by the neoplatonist Fathers, in terms of the conquest of passion, promoting a greater hegemony of spirit nses and hence, on neoplatonist presuppositions, a greater n~ to Cod. See note i8, p. 75. ]

[67] 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. 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 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", "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 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 for having previously in life purged and weakened the body in preparation for this transformation. Then the spirit will itself be absorbed by supreme Mind, which is more powerful than its infinite parts. And so when the whole man will be outside himself, and be 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 good 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.

[Plato speaks of the madness of lovers in the Phaedrus (245b).

Love was another of the four Platonist furores which stimulated:
soul's ascent to heatitude. The idea of living in the object of one s love is Platonist too ithough also a commonplace of Christiari tradition. The promise starting 'eye has not seen' comes from I Corinthians ii, 9. The reference t6 the 'good part' of Folly (Moriae) is a deliberate allusion to the 'best part' of Mary (Manue) which: Christ said should not be taken from her in spite of Martha's plea Luke x, 42). The folly being praised by Folly has hecome religious fulfilment and, as such, totally serious. The last paragraph derive from St Paul's account of his own ecstasy at the beginning of 2 Corinthians xii]

[68] 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 fool 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.'

And so I'll say Goodbye. Clap your hands, live and drink; distinguished initiates of FOLLY.

[The last paragraph hegins with a quotation from Lucian's The Dream or the Cock. The ironic mask is resumed and Folly remembers she is a garrulous woman, even if she can speak 'a word in season' (a proverb discussed in the Adaaes). A last adage is mentioned about a fellow-drinker with a memory. The final reference to drink recalls the earlier serious Bacchus before, in Holhein's wood-cuts, Folly finally leaves her pulpit.]

This translation first published 1971 / Translation copyright © Betty Radice, 1971

Resource From: Contains Images

In Praise of Folly

Kenneth Sublett Edited

Reformation Index

Home Page

Counter added 11.28.04 18654  10.08.10 30000