Poets, Philosophers, Fools

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Puerorum Educatione:

“What should I say about theologians? What error in faith has not stemmed from them? Who brought about the Arrian insanity, who separated the Greeks from the church, who seduced the Bohemians, if not theologians? At one time, the Romans expelled every kind of doctor from the city because they were guilty of all sorts of crimes; once the guilty had been punished, they allowed the innocent to return to the city. What about orators? Does Cicero not say that many cities were razed to the very ground because of the eloquence of evil people? But just as neither all orators nor all doctors nor all theologians nor all philosophers ought to be rejected on account of a few bad apples, similarly, we ought not to shrink from all poets on account of the vices of a few. Otherwise, even Plato himself should have been ejected from the city which he formed, since he was given to tragedy and Macrobius relates some of his poems which prove that he was a poet. Nor would Cicero have remained in that city, since he was not only the greatest cultivator of poets, but even wrote out three books On His Own Times in verse, in the old poetic fashion. Boethius’ objection merits laughter rather than a response. For who could hold back a laugh when it is said that a poet is condemning poetry? Is Boethius not a poet in all ways? For in his work, Philosophy (who speaks with him) goes on in verse and fiction. How many stories are found there? How many types of meters? Boethius seems similar to that guy who used to swear that no one should swear. But let us not impute what those others think to Boethius, who was both a philosopher and a poet. Let us suppose that he had something else in mind, which it would be tedious to discuss right now.”


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