Friday, May 16, 2014


The Bird of Wisdom Flies Low

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), "Diogenes and Plato," Imaginary Conversations of Greeks and Romans (London: Edward Moxon, 1853), pp. 73-131 (at 75; Diogenes speaking):
The bird of wisdom flies low, and seeks her food under hedges: the eagle himself would be starved if he always soared aloft and against the sun. The sweetest fruit grows near the ground, and the plants that bear it require ventilation and lopping. Were this not to be done in thy garden, every walk and alley, every plot and border, would be covered with runners and roots, with boughs and suckers. We want no poets or logicians or metaphysicians to govern us: we want practical men, honest men, continent men, unambitious men, fearful to solicit a trust, slow to accept, and resolute never to betray one.
Id., p. 93:
Keep always to the point, or with an eye upon it, and instead of saying things to make people stare and wonder, say what will withhold them hereafter from wondering and staring. This is philosophy; to make remote things tangible, common things extensively useful, useful things extensively common, and to leave the least necessary for the last. I have always a suspicion of sonorous sentences. The full shell sounds little, but shows by that little what is within. A bladder swells out more with wind than with oil.
Id., p. 97:
Why not at once introduce a new religion? since religions keep and are relished in proportion as they are salted with absurdity, inside and out; and all of them must have one great crystal of it for the centre; but Philosophy pines and dies unless she drinks limpid water.
Id., p. 100:
I want sense, not stars.
The only thing I know about the soul is, that it makes the ground slippery under us when we discourse on it...
Id., p. 101:
Thou hast many admirers; but either they never have read thee, or do not understand thee, or are fond of fallacies, or are incapable of detecting them. I would rather hear the murmur of insects in the grass than the clatter and trilling of cymbals and timbrels over-head. The tiny animals I watch with composure, and guess their business: the brass awakes me only to weary me: I wish it under-ground again, and the parchment on the sheep's back.

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