We are protected by such a wall as may not be scaled by raging stupidity

From Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy (1.3, Loeb text and translation). For American election season and all election seasons.

Just so the clouds of misery were dispelled, and I drank in the clear light, recovering enough to recognize my healer’s face. So, when I looked on her clearly and steadily, I saw the nurse who brought me up, whose house I had from my youth frequented, the lady Philosophy. And I said: “Why have you come, Queen of all the virtues, why have you come down from your high seat in heaven to these wastes where I am banished? So that you too stand in the dock with me, falsely accused?” “Should I desert you, my pupil?” she replied; “Should I not share your labour and help to bear your burden, which you bear because my name is hated? It could not be right that Philosophy should leave an innocent man companionless on the road. Surely I should then be afraid that I should be charged myself; I should shudder with horror at such an unheard-of thing! Do you think that this is the first time that Wisdom has been attacked and endangered by a wicked society? Did I not often of old also, before my Plato’s time, have to battle in mighty struggle with arrogant stupidity? And in his day, was I not beside his teacher Socrates when he won the prize of a martyr’s death? And after him the crowd of Epicureans and Stoics and the rest strove as far as they could to seize his legacy, carrying me off protesting and struggling, as if I were part of the booty, tearing my dress, which I wove with my own hands, and then went off with their torn-off shreds, thinking they possessed all of me. And because they seemed to be wearing certain bits of my dress, some were ignorantly accepted as my servants, and were abused by the delusions of the uneducated mob. But even if you knew nothing of Anaxagoras’ flight from Athens, or Socrates’ draught of hemlock, or Zeno’s sufferings, all these being foreign events, surely you could have thought of Canius and Seneca and Soranusa whose stories are neither ancient nor obscure? The only cause of their deaths was that they were brought up in my ways, so that their behaviour and pursuits were seen to be utterly different from those of wicked men. So it is no wonder if we are buffeted by storms blustering round us on the sea of this life, since we are especially bound to anger the wicked. Though their forces are large, yet we should hold them in contempt, for they are leaderless and are simply carried hither and thither at random in their crazed ignorance. If ever they range against us and press about us too strongly, Wisdom our captain withdraws her forces into her citadel, while our enemies busy themselves ransacking useless baggage. But we are safe from all their mad tumult and from our heights we can laugh at them as they carry off all those worthless things; we are protected by such a wall as may not be scaled by raging stupidity.

Haud aliter tristitiae nebulis dissolutis hausi caelum et ad cognoscendam medicantis faciem mentem recepi. Itaque ubi in eam deduxi oculos intuitumque defixi, respicio nutricem meam cuius ab adulescentia laribus obversatus fueram Philosophiam. “Et quid,” inquam, “tu in has exilii nostri solitudines o omnium magistra virtutum supero cardine delapsa venisti? An ut tu quoque mecum rea falsis criminationibus agiteris?

“An,” inquit illa, “to alumne desererem nec sarcinam quam mei nominis invidia sustulisti, communicate tecum labore partirer? Atqui Philosophiae fas non erat incomitatum relinquere iter innocentis; meam scilicet criminationem vererer et quasi novum aliquid acciderit, perhorrescerem? Nunc enim primum censes apud inprobos mores lacessitam periculis esse sapientiam? Nonne apud veteres quoque ante nostri Platonis aetatem magnum saepe certamen cum stultitiae temeritate certavimus eodemque


superstite praeceptor eius Socrates iniustae victoriam mortis me adstante promeruit? Cuius hereditatem cum deinceps Epicureum vulgus ac Stoicum ceterique pro sua quisque parte raptum ire molirentur meque reclamantem renitentemque velut in partem praedae traherent, vestem quam meis texueram manibus, disciderunt abreptisque ab ea panniculis totam me sibi cessisse credentes abiere. In quibus quoniam quaedam nostri habitus vestigia videbantur, meos esse familiares inprudentia rata nonnullus eorum profanae multitudinis errore pervertit.

Quod si nec Anaxagorae fugam nec Socratis venenum nec Zenonis tormenta quoniam sunt peregrina novisti, at Canios, at Senecas, at Soranos quorum nec pervetusta nec incelebris memoria est, scire potuisti. Quos nihil aliud in cladem detraxit nisi quod nostris moribus instituti studiis improborum dissimillimi videbantur. Itaque nihil est quod admirere, si in hoc vitae salo circumflantibus agitemur procellis, quibus hoc maxime propositum est pessimis displicere. Quorum quidem tametsi est numerosus exercitus, spernendus tamen est, quoniam nullo duce regitur, sed errore tantum temere ac passim lymphante raptatur. Qui si quando contra nos aciem struens valentior incubuerit, nostra quidem dux copias suas in arcem contrahit, illi vero circa diripiendas inutiles sarcinulas occupantur. At nos desuper inridemus vilissima rerum quaeque rapientes securi totius furiosi tumultus eoque vallo muniti quo grassanti stultitiae adspirare fas non sit.

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