Erasmus of Rotterdam
THE SHIPWRECK (1523)
Antony. Terrible tales you tell! That's what going to sea is like? God forbid any such notion should ever enter my head!
Adolph. Oh, no, what I've related up to this point is mere sport compared with what you'll hear now.
Antony. I've heard more than enough of disasters. When you're recalling them I shudder as if I myself were sharing the danger.
Adolph. To me, on the contrary, troubles over and done with are enjoyable. On that same night something happened which in large part robbed the skipper of his hope of safety.
Antony. What, I beseech you?
Adolph. The night was partially clear, and on the top-mast, in the "crow's-nest" (as I think they call it), stood one of the crew, looking out for land. Suddenly a fiery ball appeared beside him- a very bad sign to sailors when it's a single flame, lucky when it's double. Antiquity believed these were Castor and Pollux.
Antony. What's their connection with sailors? One was a horseman, the other a boxer.
Adolph. This is the poets' version. The skipper, who was by the helm, spoke up: "Mate" - that's what sailors call one another- "see your company alongside there?" "I see it," the man replied, "and I hope it's good luck." Soon the blazing ball slid down the ropes and rolled straight up to the skipper.
Antony. Wasn't he scared out of his wits?
Adolph. Sailors get used to marvels. After stopping there a moment, it rolled the whole way round the ship, then dropped through the middle hatches and disappeared. Toward noon the storm began to rage more and more. Ever seen the Alps?
Antony. Yes, I've seen them.
Adolph. Those mountains are warts compared with the waves of the sea. Whenever we were borne on the crest, we could have touched the moon with a finger; whenever dipped, we seemed to plunge through the gaping earth to hell.
Antony. What fools they are who trust themselves to the sea!
Adolph. Since the crew's struggle with the storm was hopeless, the skipper, pale as a ghost, at last came up to us.
Antony. His pallor forebodes some great disaster.
Adolph. "Friends," he says, "I'm no longer master of my ship; the winds have won. The only thing left to do is to put our hope in God and each one prepare himself for the end."
Antony. Truly a Scythian [i.e., harsh] speech.
Adolph. "But first of all," he says, "the ship must be unloaded. Necessity, a stern foe, demands it. Better to save life at the cost of goods than for both to perish together." This was undeniable. A lot of luggage filled with costly wares was tossed overboard.
Antony. This was sacrificing for sure!
Adolph. On board was a certain Italian who had served as legate to the King of Scotland. He had a chest full of silver plate, rings, cloth, and silk robes.
Antony. He didn't want to come to terms with the sea?
Adolph. No, instead he wanted to go down with his beloved treasures or else be saved along with them. So he protested.
Antony. What did the skipper do?
Adolph "We're quite willing to let you perish alone with your goods," said he, "but it's not fair for all of us to be endangered because of your chest. What's more, we'll throw you and the chest together into the sea."
Antony. True sailor's lingo!
Adolph. So the Italian, too, threw his goods overboard, cursing away by heaven and hell because he had entrusted his life to so barbarous an element.
Antony. I recognize the Italian accent.
Adolph. Soon afterward the winds, unappeased by our offerings, broke the ropes and tore the sails to pieces.
Adolph. At that moment the skipper comes to us again.
Antony. To make a speech?
Adolph. "Friends" -he begins by way of greeting- "the hour warns each of us to commend himself to God and prepare for death." Questioned by some who were familiar with seamanship as to how many hours he thought he could keep the ship afloat, he replied that he couldn't promise anything, but not more than three hours.
Antony. This speech was ever sterner than the first one.
Adolph. After saying this, he orders all the shrouds to be slashed and the mast sawn off down to its socket and thrown into the sea, together with the spars.
Antony. Why this?
Adolph. With the sail ruined or torn, the mast was a useless burden. Our whole hope was in the tiller.
Antony. What about the passengers meanwhile?
Adolph. There you'd have seen what a wretched plight we were in: the sailors singing Salve Regina, praying to the Virgin Mother, calling her Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, Mistress of the World, Port of Salvation, flattering her with many other titles the Sacred Scriptures nowhere assign to her.
Antony. What has she to do with the sea? She never went voyaging, I believe.
Adolph. Formerly Venus was protectress of sailors, because she was believed to have been born of the sea. Since she gave up guarding them, the Virgin Mother has succeeded this mother who was not a virgin.
Antony. You're joking.
Adolph. Prostrating themselves on the deck, some worshiped the sea, pouring whatever oil they had on the waves, flattering it no differently from the way we do a wrathful sovereign.
Antony. What did they say?
Adolph. "O most merciful sea, O most kind sea, O most splendid sea, O most lovely sea, have pity on us! Save us!" Many songs of this kind they sang to the sea-which was deaf.
Antony. Absurd superstition! What did the rest do?
Adolph. Some did nothing but get sick. Many made vows. There was an Englishman who promised heaps of gold to the Virgin of Walsingham if he reached shore alive. Some promised many things to the wood of the Cross at such and such a place; others, again, to that in some other place. The same with respect to the Virgin Mary, who reigns in many places; and they think the vow worthless unless you specify the place.
Antony. Ridiculous! As if saints don't dwell in heaven
Adolph. Some pledged themselves to become Carthusians. There was one who promised to journey to St. James at Compostella barefoot, bareheaded, clad only in a coat of mail, begging his bread besides.
Antony. Did nobody remember Christopher?
Adolph. I couldn't help laughing as I listened to one chap, who in a loud voice (for fear he wouldn't be heard) promised a wax taper as big as himself to the Christopher in the tallest church in Paris -- a mountain rather than a statue. While he was proclaiming this at the top of his lungs, insisting on it again and again, an acquaintance who chanced to be standing by nudged him with his elbow and cautioned: "Be careful what you promise. Even if you sold all your goods at auction, you couldn't pay for it." Then the other, lowering his voice - so St. Christopher wouldn't overhear him, of course! - said, "Shut up, you fool. Do you suppose I'm serious? If I once touch land, I won't give him a tallow candle."
Antony. I'm surprised nobody thought of the Apostle Paul, who was once shipwrecked himself, and when the ship broke, jumped overboard and reached land. No stranger to misfortune, he knew how to help those in distress.
Adolph. Paul wasn't mentioned.
Antony. Did they pray all the while?
Adolph. Strenuously. One chanted Salve Regina, another Credo in Deum. Some had certain queer beads [i.e., rosaries], like charms, to ward off danger.
Antony. How devout men are made by suffering! In prosperity the thought of God or saint never enters their heads. What were you doing all this time? Making vows to any of the saints?
Adolph. Not at all.
Adolph. Because I don't make deals with saints. For what else is that but a bargain according to the form "I'll give this if you do that" or "I'll do this if you'll do that"; "I'll give a taper if I can swim"; "I'll go to Rome if you save me."
Antony. But you called on some saint for help?
Adolph. Not even that.
Antony. But why?
Adolph. Because heaven's a large place. If I entrust my safety to some saint - St. Peter, for example, who perhaps will be the first to hear, since he stands at the gate - I may be dead before he meets God and pleads my cause.
Antony. What did you do, then?
Adolph. Went straight to the Father himself, reciting the Pater Noster. No saint hears sooner than he, or more willingly grants what is asked.
Antony. But didn't your conscience accuse you when you did this? Weren't you afraid to entreat the Father, whom you had offended by so many sins?
Adolph. To speak frankly, my conscience did deter me somewhat. But I soon recovered my spirits, thinking to myself, "No father is so angry with his son that, if he sees him in danger in a stream or lake, he won't grasp him by the hair and pull him out." Of all the passengers, none behaved more calmly than a certain woman who was suckling a baby.
Antony. What did she do?
Adolph. She was the only one who didn't scream, weep, or make promises; she simply prayed in silence, clasping her little boy. While the ship was continually battered by the sea, the skipper undergirded it with ropes both fore and aft, for fear it might break to pieces.
Antony. Miserable protection!
Adolph. Meantime an old priest, a man of sixty named Adam, jumped up. Stripped to his underclothes, and with his shoes and leggings removed, he urged us all to prepare likewise for swimming. And standing in the middle of the ship, he preached to us a sermon from Gerson [a famous theologian/preacher from Paris] on the five truths concerning the benefit of confession. He urged everyone to be ready both for life and for death. A Dominican was there, too. Those who wished confessed to these two.
Antony. What did you do?
Adolph. Seeing everything in an uproar, I confessed silently to God, condemning my unrighteousness before him and imploring his mercy.
Antony. Where would you have gone if you had died in that condition?
Adolph. That I left to God the judge, for I was unwilling to be judge of my own cause; nevertheless a strong hope possessed my mind the whole time. While all this is going on, the captain tearfully returns to us. "Get ready," says he, "because the ship will be useless to us in a quarter of an hour." For it was already shattered in some places, and was drawing water. Soon afterwards a sailor reports seeing a church tower in the distance, and beseeches us to appeal to whichever saint took that church under his protection. Everyone falls to his knees and prays to the unknown saint.
Antony. Had you invoked him by name, he might have heard.
Adolph. We didn't know his name. As much as he could, meantime, the skipper steered the ship in that direction. It was already breaking up, taking in water everywhere and clearly is about to fall to pieces if it hadn't been undergirded with ropes.
Antony. A bad state of affairs!
Adolph. We were carried far enough in for the inhabitants of the place to see our plight. Groups of them rushed to the shore, and taking off hats and coats and sticking them on poles, urged us towards themselves, and by lifting their arms to heaven indicated their pity for our lot.
Antony. I'm waiting to hear what happened.
Adolph. The whole ship was filled with water now, so that thereafter we would be no safer in ship than in sea.
Antony. At that moment you had to fall back on your last hope.
Adolph. On suffering, rather. The crew released the lifeboat and lowered it into the sea. Everyone tried to hurl himself into it, the sailors protesting in the uproar that the lifeboat would not hold such a crowd, but everybody should grab what he could and swim. The situation did not allow leisurely plans. One person snatched an oar, another a boathook, another a tub, another a bucket, another a plant; and, each relying on his own resources, they committed themselves to the waves.
Antony. What happened during this time to that poor little woman who alone did not weep and wail?
Adolph. She was the first of them all to reach the shore.
Antony. How could she do that?
Adolph. We put her on a curved plank and tied her in such a way that she couldn't easily fall off. We gave her a small board to use as a paddle, and, wishing her luck, shoved her off into the waves, pushing with a pole to get her clear of the ship, where the danger lay. Holding her baby in her left hand, she paddled with the right.
Antony. Brave woman!
Adolph. Since nothing else remained, one man seized a wooden statue of the Virgin Mother, now rotten and mouse-eaten, and, putting his arms around it, began to swim.
Antony. Did the lifeboat come through safely?
Adolph. The first to go down. And thirty people had thrown themselves into it.
Antony. What mishap caused that?
Adolph. Before it could get away it was overturned by the lurching of the big ship.
Antony. A cruel business! What then?
Adolph. While looking out for others, I nearly perished myself.
Antony. How so?
Adolph. Because there was nothing left for me to swim on.
Antony. Cork would have been useful there.
Adolph. In that emergency I would rather have had plain cork tree than golden candlestick. Casting about, I finally thought of the stump of the mast. Since I couldn't pry it loose by myself, I enlisted the help of another man. Supporting ourselves on this, we put to sea, I holding on to the right end and he to the left. While we were tossing about in this way, that priest who preached on board threw himself in our midst - on our shoulders. Big fellow, too. "Who's the third?" we yell. "He'll be the death of us all." He, on the other hand, says calmly, "Cheer up, there's plenty of room. God will help us."
Antony. Why was he so late in starting to swim?
Adolph. Oh, he was to be in the lifeboat along with the Dominican (for everybody conceded this much honor to him), but although they had confessed to each other on the ship, nevertheless some condition -- I don't know what -- had been forgotten. There on the edge of the ship they confess anew, and each lays his hand on the other. While they're doing this, the lifeboat goes down. Adam told me this.
Antony. What became of the Dominican?
Adolph. According to Adam, after entreating the aid of the saints he threw off his clothes and began to swim.
Antony. Which saints did he invoke?
Adolph. Dominic, Thomas, Vincent, and I don't know which Peter, but first and foremost he placed his trust in Catherine of Siena.
Antony. Christ didn't come to mind?
Adolph. This is what the priest told me.
Antony. He'd have swum better if he hadn't thrown off his sacred cowl. With that put aside, how could Catherine of Siena [a Dominican saint] recognize him? But go on with what happened to you.
Adolph. While we were still tossing beside the ship, which was rolling from side to side at the will of the waves, the broken rudder smashed the thigh of the man who was holding on to the left end of the stump. So he was torn away. The priest, saying a prayer Requiem aeternam for him, took his place, urging me to keep hold of my end with confidence and kick my feet vigorously. We were swallowing a lot of salt water all this while. Thus Neptune saw to it that we had not only a salty bath but even a salty drink, though the priest showed us a remedy for that.
Antony. What, please?
Adolph. Every time a wave came rushing upon us, he turned the back of his head to it and kept his mouth closed.
Antony. A doughty old fellow you tell me of.
Adolph. When we'd made some progress after swimming a while, the priest, who was very tall, said, "Cheer up, I'm touching bottom!" I didn't dare hope for such great luck. "We're too far from shore to hope for bottom." "Oh, no," he replied, "I feel land with my feet." "Maybe it's something from the chests that the sea has rolled this way." "No," he said, "I feel land plainly by the scraping of my toes." After we had swum a while longer in this direction and he again touched bottom, "Do what you think best," he said, "I'm giving up the whole mast to you and trusting myself to the bottom"; and thereupon, after waiting for the waves to subside, he went on foot as fast as he could. When the waves overtook him again, he resisted by clasping his knees with his hands and putting his head under water, as divers and ducks do; when the waves receded, up he popped and rushed on. When I saw he was successful at this, I imitated him. Standing on the coast were men-hardy fellows, and used to the water -- who by means of extremely long poles, held out from one to the other, braced themselves against the force of the waves; so that the one farthest out held his pole to the swimmer. When this was grasped, all heaved toward shore and the swimmer was hauled safely to dry land. A number were rescued by this device.
Antony. How many?
Adolph. Seven, but two of these died when brought to a fire.
Antony. How many were you in the ship?
Antony. O cruel sea! At least it might have been satisfied with a tenth, which is enough for priests. From so large a number how few returned!
Adolph. We were treated with wonderful kindness by the people there, who looked after our needs with astonishing eagerness: lodging, fire, food, clothing, money for travel.
Antony. What people were they?
Antony. No people could be more kindly, though they do have savage neighbors. I guess you won't visit Neptune very soon again after this.
Adolph. No, not unless God takes my reason from me.
Antony. And I for my part would rather hear such tales than experience the events at first hand.
CYCLOPS, OR THE GOSPEL BEARER (1529)
Cannius. What's Polyphemus hunting here?
Polyphemus. What could I be hunting without dogs or spear? Is that your question?
Cannius. Some wood nymph, perhaps.
Polyphemus. A good guess. Look, here's my hunting net.
Cannius. What a sight! Bacchus in a lion's skin -- Polyphemus with a book -- a cat in a saffron gown [a proverbial expression for something improbably odd]!
Polyphemus. I've painted this little book not only in saffron but bright red and blue, too.
Cannius. I'm not talking about saffron; I said something in Greek. Seems to be a soldierly book, for it's protected by bosses, plates, and brass clasps.
Polyphemus. Take a good look at it.
Cannius. I'm looking. Very fine, but you haven't yet decorated it enough.
Polyphemus. What's lacking?
Cannius. You should have added your coat of arms.
Polyphemus. What coat of arms?
Cannius. The head of Silenus [in Greek mythology, a drunken satyr] peering out of a wine jug. But what's the book about? The art of drinking?
Polyphemus. Be careful you don't blurt out blasphemy.
Cannius. What, you don't mean it's something sacred?
Polyphemus. The most sacred of all, the Gospels.
Cannius. By Hercules! What has Polyphemus to do with the Gospels?
Polyphemus. You might as well ask what a Christian has to do with Christ.
Cannius. I'm not sure a halberd isn't more fitting for the likes of you. If I were at sea and met a stranger who looked like this, I'd take him for a pirate; if I met him in a wood, for a bandit.
Polyphemus. Yet this very Gospel teaches us not to judge a man by appearances. Just as a haughty spirit often lurks under an ash-colored cowl, so a cropped head, curled beard, stern brow, wild eyes, plumed cap, military cloak, and slashed breeches sometimes cover a true Christian heart.
Cannius. Of course. Sometimes a sheep lurks in wolf's clothing, too. And if you trust fables, an ass in a lion's skin.
Polyphemus. What's more, I know a man who has a sheep's head and a fox's heart. I could wish him friends as fair as his eyes are dark, and a character as shining as his complexion.
Cannius. If a man with a sheepskin cap has a sheep's head, what a load you carry, with both a sheep and an ostrich [i.e., feathers] on you head. And isn't it rather ridiculous to have a bird on your head and an ass in you heart?
Polyphemus. That hurt!
Cannius. But it would be well if, as you've decorated the Gospels with various ornaments, the Gospels in turn adorned you. You've decorated them with colors; I wish they might embellish you with good morals.
Polyphemus. I'll take care of that.
Cannius. After your fashion, yes.
Polyphemus. But insults aside, you don't condemn those who carry a volume of Gospels about, do you?
Cannius. I'd be the last person in the world to do that.
Polyphemus. What? I seem to you the least person in the world, when I'm taller than you by an ass's head?
Cannius. I don't believe you'd be that much taller even if the ass pricked up its ears.
Polyphemus. Certainly by a buffalo's.
Cannius. I like the comparison. But I said "last"; I wasn't calling you "least."
Polyphemus. What's the difference between an egg and an egg?
Cannius. What's the difference between middle finger and little finger?
Polyphemus. The middle one's longer.
Cannius. Very good! What's the difference between ass ears and wolf ears?
Polyphemus. Wolf ears are shorter.
Cannius. That's right.
Polyphemus. But I'm in the habit of measuring long and short by span and ell, not by ears.
Cannius. Well, the man who carried Christ was called Christopher. You, who carry the Gospels, ought to be called Gospel-bearer instead of Polyphemus.
Polyphemus. Don't you think it's holy to carry the Gospels?
Cannius. No -- unless you'd agree that asses are mighty holy.
Polyphemus. How so?
Cannius. Because one of them can carry three thousand books of this kind. I should think you'd be equal to that load if fitted with the right packsaddle.
Polyphemus. There's nothing farfetched in thus crediting an ass with holiness because he carried Christ.
Cannius. I don't envy you that holiness. And if you like, I'll give you relics of the ass that carried Christ, so you can kiss them.
Polyphemus. A gift I'll be glad to get. For by touching the body of Christ that ass was consecrated.
Cannius. Obviously those who smote Christ touched him too.
Polyphemus. But tell me seriously, isn't carrying the Gospels about a reverent thing to do?
Cannius. Reverent if done sincerely, without hypocrisy.
Polyphemus. Let monks have hypocrisy! What has a soldier to do with hypocrisy?
Cannius. But first tell me what hypocrisy is.
Polyphemus. Professing something other than what you really mean.
Cannius. But what does carrying a copy of the Gospels profess? A gospel life, doesn't it?
Polyphemus. I suppose so.
Cannius. Therefore, when the life doesn't correspond to the book, isn't that hypocrisy?
Polyphemus. Apparently. But what is it truly to bear the Gospel?
Cannius. Some bear it in their hands, as the Franciscans do their Rule. Parisian porters, and asses and geldings, can do the same. There are those who bear it in their mouths, harping on nothing but Christ and the Gospel. That's pharisaical. Some bear it in their hears. The true Gospel bearer, then, is one who carries it in hands and mouth and heart.
Polyphemus. Where are these?
Cannius. In churches -- the deacons, who bear the book, read it to the congregation, and have it by heart.
Polyphemus. Though not all who bear the Gospel in their hearts are devout.
Cannius. Don't quibble. A man doesn't bear it in his heart unless he loves it through and through. Nobody loves it wholeheartedly unless he emulates the Gospel in his manner of living.
Polyphemus. I don't follow these subtleties.
Cannius. But I'll tell you more bluntly. If you carry a jar of Beaune wine on your shoulder, it's just a burden, isn't it?
Polyphemus. That's all.
Cannius. But if you hold the wine in your throat, and presently spit it out?
Polyphemus. Useless -- though, really, I'm not accustomed to doing that!
Cannius. But if -- as you are accustomed- you take a long drink?
Polyphemus. Nothing more heavenly.
Cannius. Your whole body glows; your face turns rosy; your expression grows merry.
Cannius. The Gospel has the same effect when it penetrates the heart. It makes a new man of you.
Polyphemus. So I don't seem to you to live according to the Gospel?
Cannius. You can best decide that question yourself.
Polyphemus. If it could be decided with a battle-ax...
Cannius. If someone called you a liar or a rake to your face, what would you do?
Polyphemus. What would I do? He'd feel my fists.
Cannius. What if someone hit you hard?
Polyphemus. I'd break his neck for that.
Cannius. But your book teaches you to repay insults with a soft answer; and "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
Polyphemus. I've read that, but it slipped my mind.
Cannius. You pray frequently, I dare say.
Polyphemus. That's pharisaical.
Cannius. Long-winded but ostentatious praying is pharisaical. But your book teaches us to pray without ceasing, yet sincerely.
Polyphemus. Still, I do pray sometimes.
Polyphemus. Whenever I think of it -- once or twice a week.
Cannius. What do you say?
Polyphemus. The Lord's Prayer.
Cannius. How often?
Polyphemus. Once. For the Gospel forbids fain repetitions as "much speaking."
Cannius. Can you concentrate on the Lord's Prayer while repeating it?
Polyphemus. Never tried. Isn't it enough to say the words?
Cannius. I don't know, except that God hears only utterance of the heart. Do you fast often?
Cannius. But your book recommends prayer and fasting.
Polyphemus. I'd recommend them too, if my belly did not demand something else.
Cannius. But Paul says that those who serve their bellies aren't serving Jesus Christ. Co you eat meat on any day whatever?
Polyphemus. Any day it's offered.
Cannius. Yet a man as tough as you could live on hay or the bark of trees.
Polyphemus. But Christ said that a man is not defiled by what he eats.
Cannius. True, if it's eaten in moderation, without giving offense. But Paul, the disciple of Christ, prefers starvation to offending a weak brother by his food; and he calls upon us to follow his example, in order that we may please all men in all things.
Polyphemus. Paul's Paul, and I'm me [ego (in Latin)].
Cannius. But Egon's job is to feed she-goats. [A reference to a text by Virgil.]
Polyphemus. I'd rather eat one.
Cannius. A fine wish! You'll be a billygoat rather than a she-goat.
Polyphemus. I said eat one, not be one.
Cannius. Very prettily said. Are you generous to the poor?
Polyphemus. I've nothing to give.
Cannius. But you would have, if you lived soberly and worked hard.
Polyphemus. I'm fond of loafing.
Cannius. Do you keep God's commandments?
Polyphemus. That's tiresome.
Cannius. Do you do penance for your sins?
Polyphemus. Christ has paid for us.
Cannius. Then why do you insist you love the Gospel?
Polyphemus. I'll tell you. A certain Franciscan in our neighborhood kept babbling from the pulpit against Erasmus's New Testament. I met the man privately, grabbed him by the hair with my left hand, and punched him with my right. I gave him a hell of a beating; made his whole face swell. What do you say to that? Isn't that promoting the Gospel? Next I gave him absolution by banging him on the head three times with this very same book, raising three lumps, in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Cannius. The evangelical spirit, all right! This is certainly defending the Gospel with the Gospel.
Polyphemus. I ran across another member of the same order who never stopped raving against Erasmus. Fired with evangelical zeal, I threatened the fellow so much he begged pardon on both knees and admitted the devil had put him up to saying what he said. If he hadn't done this, my halberd would have bounced against his head. I looked as fierce as Mars in battle. This took place before witnesses.
Cannius. I'm surprised the man didn't drop dead on the spot. But let's go on. Do you live chastely?
Polyphemus. I may when I'm old. But shall I confess the truth to you, Cannius?
Cannius. I'm no priest. If you want to confess, find somebody else.
Polyphemus. Usually I confess to God, but to you I admit I'm not yet a perfect follower of the Gospel; just an ordinary fellow. My kind have four Gospels. Four things above all we Gospelers seek: full bellies; plenty of work for the organs below the belly; a livelihood from somewhere or other; finally, freedom to do as we please. If we get these, we shout in our cups, "lo, triumph; lo, Paean! The Gospel flourishes! Christ reigns!
Cannius. That's an Epicurean life, surely, not an evangelical one.
Polyphemus. I don't deny it, but you know Christ is omnipotent and can turn us into other men in the twinkling on an eye.
Cannius. Into swine, too, which I think is more likely than into good men.
Polyphemus. I wish there were no worse creatures in the world than swine, oxen, asses, and camels! You can meet many men who are fiercer than lions, greedier than wolves, more lecherous than sparrows, more snappish than dogs, more venomous than vipers.
Cannius. But now it's time for you to begin changing from brute to man.
Polyphemus. You do well to warn me, for prophets these days declare the end of the world is at hand.
Cannius. All the more reason to hurry.
Polyphemus. I await the hand of Christ.
Cannius. See that you are pliant material for his hand! But where do they get the notion that the end of the world is near?
Polyphemus. They say it's because men are behaving now just as they did before the Flood overwhelmed them. They feast, drink, stuff themselves, marry and are given in marriage, whore, buy sell, play and charge interest, build buildings. Kings make war, priests are zealous in crease their wealth, theologians invent syllogisms, monks roam through the world, the commons riot, Erasmus writes colloquies. In short, no calamity is lacking: hunger, thirst, robbery, war, plague, sedition, poverty. Doesn't this prove human affairs are at an end?
Cannius. Is this mass of woes, what worries you most?
Cannius. That your purse is full of cobwebs.
Polyphemus. Damned if you haven't hit it! Just now I'm on my way back from a drinking party. Some other time, when I'm more sober, I'll argue with you about the Gospel, if you like.
Cannius. When shall I see you sober?
Polyphemus. When I'm sober.
Cannius. When will you be so?
Polyphemus. When you see me so. Meantime, my dear Cannius, good luck.
Cannius. I hope you, in turn, become what you're called.
Polyphemus. To prevent you from outdoing me in courtesy, I pray that Cannius, as the name implies, may never be lacking a can!
THESE TRANSLATIONS ARE BY CRAIG R. THOMPSON, FROM TEN COLLOQUIES (The Library of the Liberal Arts, 1957). THE TEXTS ARE PUBLISHED HERE FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF STUDENTS IN HIS-110 AND HIS-221. ANY OTHER USE MAY CONSTITUTE A VIOLATION OF COPYRIGHT LAWS.