Poverty, the Muses’ Patrimony

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:

“Poverty is the muses’ patrimony, and as that poetical divinity teacheth us, when Jupiter’s daughters were each of them married to the gods, the muses alone were left solitary, Helicon forsaken of all suitors, and I believe it was, because they had no portion.

Calliope longum caelebs cur vixit in aevum?
Nempe nihil dotis, quod numeraret, erat.
Why did Calliope live so long a maid?
Because she had no dowry to be paid.

Ever since all their followers are poor, forsaken and left unto themselves. Insomuch, that as Petronius argues, you shall likely know them by their clothes. There came, saith he, by chance into my company, a fellow not very spruce to look on, that I could perceive by that note alone he was a scholar, whom commonly rich men hate: I asked him what he was, he answered, a poet: I demanded again why he was so ragged, he told me this kind of learning never made any man rich.

Qui Pelago credit, magno se faenore tollit,
Qui pugnas et rostra petit, praecingitur auro:
Vilis adulator picto jacet ebrius ostro,
Sola pruinosis horret facundia pannis.
A merchant’s gain is great, that goes to sea;
A soldier embossed all in gold;
A flatterer lies fox’d in brave array;
A scholar only ragged to behold.

All which our ordinary students, right well perceiving in the universities, how unprofitable these poetical, mathematical, and philosophical studies are, how little respected, how few patrons; apply themselves in all haste to those three commodious professions of law, physic, and divinity, sharing themselves between them, rejecting these arts in the mean time, history, philosophy, philology, or lightly passing them over, as pleasant toys fitting only table-talk, and to furnish them with discourse. They are not so behoveful: he that can tell his money hath arithmetic enough: he is a true geometrician, can measure out a good fortune to himself; a perfect astrologer, that can cast the rise and fall of others, and mark their errant motions to his own use. The best optics are, to reflect the beams of some great man’s favour and grace to shine upon him. He is a good engineer that alone can make an instrument to get preferment. This was the common tenet and practice of Poland, as Cromerus observed not long since, in the first book of his history; their universities were generally base, not a philosopher, a mathematician, an antiquary, &c., to be found of any note amongst them, because they had no set reward or stipend, but every man betook himself to divinity, hoc solum in votis habens, opimum sacerdotium, a good parsonage was their aim. This was the practice of some of our near neighbours, as Lipsius inveighs, they thrust their children to the study of law and divinity, before they be informed aright, or capable of such studies. Scilicet omnibus artibus antistat spes lucri, et formosior est cumulus auri, quam quicquid Graeci Latinique delirantes scripserunt. Ex hoc numero deinde veniunt ad gubernacula reipub. intersunt et praesunt consiliis regum, o pater, o patria? [Obviously the hope of profit stands before all arts, and the heap of gold is prettier than anything the Greeks and Latins wrote in their madness. From this number then they come to the government of the republic and find themselves amidst and even at the head of the councils of kings, o my father, o my fatherland?] so he complained, and so may others. For even so we find, to serve a great man, to get an office in some bishop’s court (to practise in some good town) or compass a benefice, is the mark we shoot at, as being so advantageous, the highway to preferment.”

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