The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

THE PILGRIM WITNESSES THE PROMOTION OF MASTERS AND DOCTORS

And lo! the sound of a trumpet, as if they were summoning men to a festival; and Searchall, knowing what would happen, says: "Well, let us yet turn back; here there will be somewhat to behold." "What, then, will happen?" quoth I. He answered: "The academy will now crown those who, having been more diligent than the others, have attained the summit of science." "These," say I, "will now be crowned as an example to the others." Now being desirous of seeing so strange a thing, and seeing that crowds were already flocking together, I also enter behind them; and behold, under a philosophical heaven, stood one with a paper sceptre, and some out of the crowd stepped up to him, demanding a testimony of their profound learning. He favoured their demand, saying that it was a seemly one, and ordered that they should explain in writing what they had learned, and what testimonial they required. Then one brought forth a summary of philosophy, another one of medicine, another one of jurisprudence; and their pouches, to make matters smoother, abstained not from bribery.

2. The man then led them forward, one by one, and pasted on their foreheads the words: "This is a master of the free arts; this a doctor of medicine; this a licentiate of both laws,"[1] and so forth; and he confirmed all this with his seal, ordering all present and not present, at the risk of the wrath of the goddess Pallas, not to address them otherwise than by this title when they met them. And then he dismissed them and the whole crowd. Then I said: "Will, then, nothing more happen?" "And is this, then, not sufficient for thee?" the interpreter said. "Dost thou not see how all give way to these men that have been crowned?" And freely the others made way for them.

3. But none the less, I, who ever wished to see what would then happen to these men, watched one of these masters of arts; then they asked him to count something together, but he knew not how to do so; they then told him to measure something, he knew not how to do so. They asked him to name the stars, he knew not how to do it; they asked him how to expound syllogisms, he knew not how to do it; they asked him to talk in strange tongues, he knew not how to do it; they asked him to speak in his own language, he knew not how to do it; at last they asked him to read and write, he knew not how to do it. "But what a sin is this," I said, "to call yourself a master of the seven arts, and then to know not one?" The interpreter answered: "If one learneth not, a second, a third, a fourth does; all cannot be perfect." "Now I understand," I said, "that after spending a lifetime in the schools, after laying out a fortune on this, after having received titles and seals, it is at the end still necessary to inquire whether a man has learnt something. God help me against such mismanagement." "Thou wilt not cease thy sophistry," said he, "till thou hast come to grief; continue then to prattle pertly, but I swear that thou wilt encounter some evil." "Well, then," quoth I, "be it that they are masters and doctors of seven times seventy sciences; be it that they know all things or none, I will say naught more. Only let us go hence."

  1. I.e., civil and ecclesiastical law.