. . . I’ll actually manage to see all of Ben Hur.
There is now a blog collecting links to the work of the eminently readable modern essayist extraordinaire Dr Anthony Daniels, The Skeptical Doctor, whose nom de plume, or rather nom du clavier, is Theodore Dalrymple.
This site should make for a convenient entry point to the various publications in which his essays appear, at least as far as they’ll have his essays online.
Allegory, in some sense, belongs not to medieval man but to man, or even to mind, in general. It is of the very nature of thought and language to represent what is immaterial in picturable terms. What is good or happy has always been high like the heavens and bright like the sun. Evil and misery were deep and dark from the first. Pain is black in Homer, and goodness is a middle point for Alfred no less than for Aristotle. To ask how these married pairs of sensibles and insensibles first came together would be great folly; the real question is how they ever came apart, and to answer that question is beyond the province of the mere historian.
C. S. Lewis The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition, 44.
Do not saddle yourself with fools: he is one who does not know them, and a greater, he who knowing them, does not shake them off, for they are dangerous in the daily round, and deadly as confidants, even if at times their cowardice restrains them; or the watchful eye of another; in the end they commit some foolishness, or speak it, which if they tarry over it, is only to make it worse: slight aid to another’s reputation, he who has none himself; they are full of woes, the welts of their follies, and they trade in the one for the other; but this about them is not so bad, that even though the wise are of no service to them, they are of much service to the wise, either as example, or as warning.
Gracian’s Manual, § 197
Diligent, and intelligent. Diligence quickly accomplishes what the intelligence has well thought out. Haste is the passion of fools, and as they know not the difficulties, they work without heed: wiser men, on the other hand, are likely to fail from over-caution; for of reflection is bred delay: and so their hesitation in acting loses them the fruits of their good judgment. Promptitude is the mother of fortune. He does much who leaves nothing for tomorrow. A magnificent motto: to make haste slowly.
Gracian’s Manual, § 53
Look beneath. For ordinarily things are far other than they seem; and the dullness which does not seek to pass beyond the rind, is due to be increasingly disillusioned if it gets deeper into the interior. The false is forever the lead in everything, continually dragging along the fools: the truth brings up the rear, is late, and limps along upon the arm of time, wherefore the man of insight will save for it at least the half of that faculty, which our great mother has wisely given us twice. Deceit is superficial, wherefore the superficial are taken in at once. The man of substance lives safely within himself, to be better treasured of his colleagues, and of those who know.
Gracian’s Manual, § 146
Have helpful spirits about you. The good fortune of the mighty that they can surround themselves with men of understanding who protect them from the dangers of every ignorance, who disengage them from the snarls of every difficulty. A singular distinction, to be served by the wise; and better than the barbarous taste of Tigranes, he who used captive kings as servants. A new kind of lordship and of the best in life: by art to make subjects of those whom nature placed above you. Knowledge is long, and life is short, and he who does not know, does not live. Peculiarly smart, therefore, to learn without effort and much from many, being taught by all. Later, in the assembly this man speaks for the many, for through his lips there speak all the sages that he drew upon for counsel; thus does he gain the title of oracle through the sweat of others. These superior souls first choose the lesson: to teach it later as the quintessence of wisdom. Wherefore let him who cannot manage to have wisdom in his train, at least strive to be familiar with it.
Gracian’s Manual, § 15.