Writing and Thinking

In medieval times, books were written on a more expensive archetype of paper called parchment–they are sheep and calves which take assurance in that.˚  So whenever a monk wrote, he did so extremely carefully; he simply couldn’t afford to make a mistake.  The result was a compendium of incredible illuminations, a few of which I recently studied in the special collection here at my university:

A Medieval Illumination

I can’t even begin to imagine how ridiculously edifying it must have been, at a time when people were forced to rely so much on memory, to actually write something down in a tangible book.  People’s thoughts were much more organised, simply because they had to be; creating a book was the grand consummation of years of very meticulous thought.

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˚ Pardon my ineloquent Shakespeare reference.

My Dear Boy

my dear boy

My dear boy,

Beware of man, beware his company,

O mark me well, mark him an enemy.

Beware the world, beware of living life,

Beware of sorrows, beware of pains and strife,

Beware of toils, those burdens from above,

But most of all, my boy, beware of Love.

Aye Love ‘s a tumultuous sea, where waves do crash,

And men are tossed at passion’s volition rash;

You need it not my child, so set not sail,

For treasure hunts at sea are doomed to fail.

This erratic pirate’s epic bears not aught

That is not also born in books and thought.

When I was young I feared I’d die alone,

Without a friend, or wife, in pain I’d moan,

As lying on my bed for one I’d part,

My stiff veins would break the rhythm of my heart.

There was a time I feared that future fate

When I were old and died in such a state

As common men will never come to know,

For only sages understand the woe.

But now those fears are parted with the pain,

And no such lonely worries here remain,

For I shall nevermore as lonely be

When now these fantastical voices are so saying “come live with me”.

You mustn’t understand me wrong my boy,

I haven’t lost my wits but found my joy;

My sense is as Hamlet and Don Quijote vital

Their minds and mine as sure as Dido’s requital.

I’ve simply found the thrill of the theoretical

(And you mustn’t either think this life pathetical)

To be more than enough to keep me company.

Of living friends and foes I need not any

When philosophers and poets assuage my fears—

Those dead men’s voices occupy my ears.

So now I have a fear of death no more,

Having seen so many make the trip before—

Aneas, Dante, plus Odysseus

Shall be with me as I go down to dis,

Nor have I living yet a fear of age

When Beowulf’s poet’s years serve as my gauge.

Philosophy shall be my Juliet,

And poetry for love the stage will set;

Romantic verse will make the story heard

Of a love affair with knowledge and thoughts and words.

O come, my boy, and heed what I have learned,

Most well to mark the wisdom I have earned,

My books have taught me everything I know,

And now the seed of it I hereby sow:

I’ th’ dark and hostile world he needs not a friend

Who has the company of words immortal penned—

A man is a wretched, reckless, ruthless beast

He’s better left alone—ignored at the least,

Better shunned, forgotten from the start,

For friends and loves as tides are sure to part,

But books and words will never break a heart.

My own, truly,

No One