Friday, March 29, 2013

The Path to Rome

I took the day off from my usual work to catch up on my unpaid work and just plain catch my breath... which thankfully turned out to be a breath of fresh air on this our first true spring-like day: 60+ degrees and sunny.   

So I've done a little work.  But just a little.  Mostly, I've spent the day being refreshed: taking a walk, soaking in some rays, and reading a book just for the pleasure of it.  And what a book!  It perfectly accommodates my desire to take a break from The Heavy, and so far, it is pure delight.  Enjoy this excerpt from the brilliant and endearing Hilaire Belloc: The Path to Rome.

There was a sturdy boy at my school who, when the master had carefully explained to us the nature of metaphor, said that so far as he could see a metaphor was nothing but a long Greek word for a lie.  And certainly men who know that the mere truth would be distasteful or tedious commonly have recourse to metaphor, and so do those false men who desire to acquire a subtle and unjust influence over their fellows, and chief among them, The Proverb-Maker.  For though his name is lost in the great space of time that has passed since he flourished, yet his character can be very clearly deduced from the many literary fragments he has left, and that is found to be the character of a pusillanimous  and ill-bred usurer, wholly lacking in foresight, in generous enterprise, and chivalrous enthusiasm -- in matters of the Faith a prig or a doubter, in matters of adventure a poltroon, in matters of Science an ignorant Parrot, and in Letters a wretchedly bad rhymester, with a vice for alliteration; a willful liar (as for instance, "The longest way round is the shortest way home"), a startling miser (as, "A penny saved is a penny earned"), one ignorant of largesse and human charity (as, "Waste not, want not"), and a shocking boor in the point of honour (as, "Hard words break no bones" --he never fought, I see, but with a cudgel.).  

But he has just that touch of slinking humor which the peasants have, and there is in all he said that exasperating quality for which we have no name, which certainly is not accuracy, and which is quite the opposite of judgment, yet which catches the mind as brambles do our clothes, causing us continually to pause and swear.  For he mixes up unanswerable things with false conclusions, he is perpetually letting the cat out of the bag and exposing our tricks, putting a colour to our actions, disturbing us with our own memory, indecently revealing corners of the soul. is perhaps for this abominable logicality of his and for his malicious cunning  that I chiefly hate him.

This is a portion from his introduction to what is, essentially, a travelogue.  A journey alone and on foot from Toul, France  to Rome.  Think "Bill Bryson meets G.K. Chesterton."

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