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by Father Edmund Campion
Is there any lover of good behavior in this assembly of young men, who needs to have his life and manners improved? Behold, I am here to instruct him: since I am willing, entrust yourself to me. I will give you sound advice, not without wit.
Greetings, learned old man, preceptor of honest study. Fill my heart with your precepts.
Receive my instructions, which will foster your intellect: their meaning is to be extracted from my ambiguous tropes. Pray join me in visiting the Aeonian Sisters, let there be no Cato to mutter in his Stoic tones. How do you begin your morning? What’s the way you get out of bed? Then in what order do you go about your work? 123
Alas, how suddenly my sweet snores disappear! I have scarcely laid down and got comfortable when they roar “Get up, up.” I hear there’s a certain place in which darkness lasts six months, and daylight for the same length of time. I would like to relax for such a day, and one of those nights would suffice for my sleep.
But, having been awakened, you should add some furtive snooze, and be the last to leave your nest. Ahow, how delightful are snatches of forbidden repose! So see to it that you are the last to raise up your weary body, be the last performing this duty, and in all others besides. Be the last to attend holy services, be the last to enter the classroom after the bell has rung, be the last to come to dinner when summoned, be the last to join your classmates, be the last to go to bed, and indulge your sloth.
But I fear the schoolmaster will prove difficult if I don’t hurry, and turn up with unwashed hands and uncombed hair.
What’s this punctuality about your grooming? Let your hair be matted, tangled, and flying in the wind, as you are more uncouth and dirtier than the shaggy beasts. Let your fingers be armed with fingernails long enough that you could dig a grave without a shovel, and let you be so dirty that, if you wanted to plant garlic, it could take root in your skin.
What if I have a runny nose?
Catch the drippings, or share your snot with your chums.
And if they bid me clean my clothes?
Clean them with your spit.
Or shine my shoes?
Use your bedspread.
And engrave this in your mind before everything else, that you should be energetic in doing whatever is forbidden. If the hour requires that you speak in Czech, you should exert yourself to be a Roman in your speech. But if the school requires you to employ the learned language, let nothing but your mother tongue issue from your mouth. If Teacher says “ouside,” you must say “I’d rather stay.” But if he tells you to stay, then hasten your steps.
This also irritates me. I seem to be a captive in this school, as if I were a prisoner.
It’s hard work to hoodwink your prefects, but you’ll cover yourself with glory. An advantageous occasion will help you, if Father has left the room. You can invent lies, and say, “I’m being summoned under compulsion, I won’t delay, I promise” And don’t fail to make bold misuse of the time you have until you must go back. Meanwhile you must be industrious in inventing excuses for your loitering: a tailor, a friend, a task, a bookseller, a craftsman. Reproaches won’t bother you, you can hold them in scorn, since you purchase such great advantage at the price of the the punishment you suffer.
I’m swamped by my studies, I suffer constant boredom.
Relieve your tedium in the way that is granted you. Pretend that you are doing some work inappropriate to the moment, finishing up some task you had previously neglected. Take out your pencil, doodle and color your books. When you are sitting in the classroom, lest you seem to be taking few notes, scribble pictures and images of the gods. Draw donkeys with their baskets and monstrous beasts, fawns, satyrs, and half-human bulls, the Devil with his horns, all sorts of shapes. They’ll imagine you’re taking many notes with your learned hand.
Oh, my professor, inscribe such stuff on my eager self! Oh what an easy school it would be under your regime! If you’re speaking in earnest and not teasing me with false impressions, I’ll quickly make my escape in your company by following your instructions.
Oh noble boy! What evil error has captured you? Is this your wisdom? Don’t you understand my meaning yet? I have been teasing you and speaking in disguised terms, so that unseemly vice might be clearer in your eyes. Surely you don’t like these foul things? I mean uselessly frittering away your life, sleeping, stuffing yourself, kicking over the traces of modesty, naughtiness, trickery, and that most pressing plague, idleness, which damns the mind to the fires of Hell.
Mercy me, let Almighty God avert that omen!
In the guise of a joke I have taught you what your free time requires. You must harvest its true fruit.
I shall, and I’m grateful. I’ll turn everything you have said upside-down, and you won’t regret having teased me.
A MUTE DIALOGUE
By the Reverend Father Edmund Campion
Join me in seeing with your eyes living volumes of what the old philosophers taught, a number of the things they thundered in their words or the doctrines they committed to writing, expressed in unspeaking imagers.
THE CUP OF DEATH
Do you see how this cup tastes of the death it offers? Both of these two cups aim to attract impressionable youth: within its shining metal the one contains ghastly drops of deadly poison, while the other purveys an honest drink in its glass: everything is clear, its contents are pure, clean, and friendly to the light. This goblet knows nothing of deceit, its nature recoils from that. Go ahead and drink, but take care not to taste the fatal wine. Whatever is straightforward and candid, noble, pure, and shuns no man’s judgment, nor high heaven, our sacrosanct laws, the illuminations of the Fathers, fellows who bear witness, the saved congregations of the pious — if you are wise you will choose that and loathe subterfuges.
Seeing these terrible things, these things,
Store them up in your mind, your mind.
A SPHERE AND A CUBE
Chose the cube: thus, dearly beloved, you should shape yourself. For the sphere is quick to move and, since it is shamefully moved about by every breeze, never stays in one place. But the cube remains steadfast: no matter how it is stricken or where you try to push it, it stays fixed in its place thanks to its proper weight, and endures, no matter from what point of balance one tries to dislodge it. As far as I am concerned, you must not submit your mind to sudden storms, but should endure and persevere. This how we live: adopt a frame of mind which is peaceful and steady, no matter what adversities assault you. Stand on steady feet, and never abandon your pious endeavors.
Oh how manly steadfastness
Helps you gain high heaven’s bliss.
A BOY BREAKING A BUNDLE OF STICKS
These all can’t be broken, but they can be individually — have a try. The inviolate bonds of brotherly peace provide glory, strength, and consolation. Bundled together they thrive, but divided they beget catastrophes.
Christian charity has restored high heaven.
Christian charity binds us all together,
Giving holy strength to our souls’ salvation,
Common and single.
A CRIPPLE AND A BLIND MAN
A limping cripple and a blind man joined on a journey: neither alone could help himself, but together they could aid themselves and each other. Imagine that the blind man holds up the cripple, while he shows the blind man the way. Thus, thus these companions help each other along, each doing his part to be of use. No man is self-sufficient, no man can live for himself alone. No man should wax proud: neither a thousand talents of gold, or power of wit, nor most fertile streams of eloquence, or physical strength, nor a rich store of honors rescues us from downfalls, for which we needy throng of the faithful seek and give help. I am stating that which we have learned by experience.
This one is strong in his mind, and that in the course of his action.
Let one of them be the eyes, let the other do the feet’s service.
Lastly, while this hourglass measures the passage of a long day, you should understand these wholesome evidences of your salvation. What’s the glass? The human body. And the grains of sand? Your life. The body is fragile, life does not cease its flowing. Keep on running, happy boy, but bear in mind how evanescent is time, how it flies on for an uncertain space, how rarely old age receives the young, and how it is not destined to endure. Ponder this life in your mind, and brood in your heart on that life which will enrich us with the fruits of immortality.