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Hombre de entereza. Siempre de parte de la razón, con tal tesón de su propósito, que ni la passión vulgar, ni la violencia tirana le obliguen jamás a pisar la raya de la razón. Pero ¿quién será este Fenis de la equidad?, que tiene pocos finos la entereza. Celébranla muchos, mas no por su casa; síguenla otros hasta el peligro; en él los falsos la niegan, los políticos la dissimulan. No repara ella en encontrarse con la amistad, con el poder, y aun con la propria conveniencia, y aquí es el aprieto del desconocerla. Abstrahen los astutos con metafísica plausible por no agraviar, o la razón superior, o la de estado; pero el constante varón juzga por especie de traición el dissimulo; préciase más de la tenacidad que de la sagacidad; hállase donde la verdad se halla; y si dexa los sugetos, no es por variedad suya, sino dellos en dexarla primero.
A person of integrity. Be a person of integrity. Cling to righteousness with such tenacity of purpose that neither the passions of the mob, nor the violence of the tyrant can ever cause you to transgress the bounds of right. But who can be such a phoenix of equity? What a scanty following rectitude has! Many praise it indeed, but few devote themselves. Others follow it until danger threatens; then the false deny it and the politic conceal it. For righteousness cares not if it conflicts with friendship, power or even self-interest; then comes the danger of desertion. Astute people make plausible distinctions so as not to stand in the way of their superiors or of the reasons of state. But straightforward and constant people regard deception as a kind of treason and set more store in tenacity than on sagacity. Such people are always to be found on the side of truth, and if they desert a group they do not change due to fickleness but because the others have first deserted truth.
–Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia § 29 (1647)(J. Jacobs transl. 1892)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”