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learned.[1] We labour only to fill the memory, and we leave the understanding (c) and the conscience (a) empty. Just as birds go at times in quest of grain and carry it in their beaks without tasting it, to feed it to their little ones,[2] so our pedants go about picking up learning from books and take it only in their tongues, simply to void it and make parade of it.[3]

(c) It is a wonder how nicely this folly finds an example in me. Is it not doing the same thing that I do in the greater part of this composition? I go about, here and there, carrying away from books sentences which please me, not to keep them in mind, for I have no memory,[4] but to transport them hither, where, to tell the truth, they are no more mine than when in their original place. We are, in my opinion, learned only through immediate knowledge, not through that of the past, as little as through that of the future. (a) But, what is worse, their pupils and their little ones are in no wise nourished and fed by it: instead, it passes from hand to hand, for the sole purpose of making a show of it, of talking of it to others, and of telling stories from it, as it were false coin, useless for any other purpose and business than as counters and for calculation.[5] (c) Apud alios loqui didicerunt, non ipsi secum.[6] Non est loquendum, sed gubernandum.[7] Nature, to show that there is nothing rude in what is guided by her, causes the birth, in nations least cultivated by art, of productions of the intelligence which often vie with the most artistic productions. On my present subject, how subtle is the Gascon proverb, derived from the bag-pipe: “Bouha prou bouha, mas a remuda lous ditz qu’em” (Blow hard,

  1. See Seneca, Epistle 89, near the end.
  2. See Plutarch, How to know whether one improves in the practice of virtue.
  3. Mettre au vent.
  4. Non pour les garder, car je n’ay point de gardoires.
  5. They have learned to talk with others, not with themselves. — Cicero, Tusc. Disp., V, 36.
  6. See Plutarch, How to know whether one improves in the practice of virtue.
  7. The important thing is not talk, but conduct. — Seneca, Epistle 108.