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But what were the causes for my strong dislike of Greek
literature, which I studied from my boyhood? Even to this
day I have not fully understood them. For Latin I loved
exceedingly--not just the rudiments, but what the grammarians
teach. For those beginner's lessons in reading, writing,
and reckoning, I considered no less a burden and pain than
Greek. Yet whence came this, unless from the sin and vanity
of this life? For I was "but flesh, a wind that passeth
away and cometh not again."
Those first lessons were better, assuredly, because they
were more certain, and through them I acquired, and still
retain, the power of reading what I find written and of
writing for myself what I will. In the other subjects, however,
I was compelled to learn about the wanderings of a certain
Aeneas, oblivious of my own wanderings, and to weep for
Dido dead, who slew herself for love. And all this while
I bore with dry eyes my own wretched self dying to thee,
O God, my life, in the midst of these things.
21. For what can be more wretched than the wretch who has
no pity upon himself, who sheds tears over Dido, dead for
the love of Aeneas, but who sheds no tears for his own death
in not loving thee, O God, light of my heart, and bread
of the inner mouth of my soul, O power that links together
my mind with my inmost thoughts? I did not love thee, and
thus committed fornication against thee. Those around me, also sinning,
thus cried out: "Well done! Well done!" The friendship of
this world is fornication against thee; and "Well done!
Well done!" is cried until one feels ashamed not to show
himself a man in this way. For my own condition I shed no
tears, though I wept for Dido, who "sought death at the
while I myself was seeking the lowest rung of thy creation,
having forsaken thee; earth sinking back to earth again.
And, if I had been forbidden to read these poems, I would
have grieved that I was not allowed to read what grieved
me. This sort of madness is considered more honorable and
more fruitful learning than the beginner's course in which
I learned to read and write.