Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Worthless Reading

William Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, translates some aphorisms of Hermann Hesse, among them this one:
Life is short and no one will be asked hereafter how many books he has mastered. It is therefore harmful and unwise to waste time in worthless reading.

Das Leben ist kurz, und es wird im Jenseits keiner nach der Zahl der Bücher gefragt, die er bewältigt hat. Darum ist es unklug und schädlich, mit wertloser Lektüre Zeit hinzubringen.
Ouch! You should probably not be wasting your time with this blog, dear reader.

On the other hand, Pliny the Younger (Letters 3.5.10) reported about his uncle Pliny the Elder:
He used to say that no book was so bad that profit could not be gained from some part of it.

Dicere etiam solebat nullum esse librum tam malum ut non aliqua parte prodesset.
Cf. also Cassiodorus, Institutes 1.1.8:
While Vergil was reading Ennius, he was asked by someone what he was doing and he answered, "I'm searching for gold in dung."

Vergilius, dum Ennium legeret, a quodam quid faceret inquisitus respondit - "Aurum in stercore quaero."
and Donatus auctus, Life of Vergil:
When Vergil was holding Ennius in his hand and was asked what he was doing, he answered that he was collecting gold from the dung of Ennius.

Cum is aliquando Ennium in manu haberet rogareturque quidnam faceret, respondit se aurum colligere de stercore Ennii.
I have not seen Georges Folliet, "La fortuna du dit de Virgile Aurum colligere de stercore dans la littérature chrétienne," Sacris Erudiri 41 (2002) 31-53.

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