But it is a pleasure incomparable, for the mind of man to be settled, landed, and fortified in the certainty of truth; and from thence to descry and behold the errors, perturbations, labours, and wanderings up and down of other men.
(6) Lastly, leaving the vulgar arguments, that by learning man excelleth man in that wherein man excelleth beasts; that by learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where in body he cannot come; and the like: let us conclude with the dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that whereunto man's nature doth most aspire, which is immortality, or continuance; for to this tendeth generation, and raising of houses and families; to this tend buildings, foundations, and monuments; to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration; and in effect the strength of all other human desires. We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which the infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished? It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, no nor of the kings or great personages of much later years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but leese of the life and truth. But the images of men's wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages. So that if the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which as ships pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one of the other? Nay, further, we see some of the philosophers which were least divine, and most immersed in the senses, and denied generally the immortality of the soul, yet came to this point, that whatsoever motions the spirit of man could act and perform without the organs of the body, they thought might remain after death, which were only those of the understanding and not of the affection; so immortal and incorruptible a thing did knowledge seem unto them to be. But we, that know by divine revelation that not only the understanding but the affections purified, not only the spirit but the body changed, shall be advanced to immortality, do disclaim in these rudiments of the senses. But it must be remembered, both in this last point, and so it may likewise be needful in other places, that in probation of the dignity of knowledge or learning, I did in the beginning separate divine testimony from human, which method I have pursued, and so handled them both apart.
(7) Nevertheless I do not pretend, and I know it will be impossible for me, by any pleading of mine, to reverse the judgment, either of AEsop's cock, that preferred the barleycorn before the gem; or of Midas, that being chosen judge between Apollo, president of the Muses, and Pan, god of the flocks, judged for plenty; or of Paris, that judged for beauty and love against wisdom and power; or of Agrippina, occidat matrem, modo imperet, that preferred empire with any condition never so detestable; or of Ulysses, qui vetulam praetulit immortalitati, being a figure of those which prefer custom and habit before all excellency, or of a number of the like popular judgments. For these things must continue as they have been; but so will that also continue whereupon learning hath ever relied, and which faileth not: Justificata est sapientia a filiis suis.
THE SECOND BOOK. To the King.
1. It might seem to have more convenience, though it come often otherwise to pass (excellent King), that those which are fruitful in their generations, and have in themselves the foresight of immortality in their descendants, should likewise be more careful of the good estate of future times, unto which they know they must transmit and commend over their dearest pledges.