No Comment, Quotation — July 26, 2008, 7:17 am

Gracián on the Role of Culture

greco-cardinal

Cultura, y aliño. Nace bárbaro el hombre, redímese de bestia cultivándose. Hace personas la cultura, y más cuanto mayor. En fe de ella pudo Grecia llamar bárbaro a todo el restante universo. Es muy tosca la ignorancia; no hay cosa que más cultive que el saber. Pero aun la misma sabiduría fue grosera, si desaliñada. No sólo ha de ser aliñado el entender, también el querer, y más el conversar. Hállanse hombres naturalmente aliñados, de gala interior y exterior, en concepto y palabras, en los arreos del cuerpo, que son como la corteza, y en las prendas del alma, que son el fruto. Otros hay, al contrario, tan groseros, que todas sus cosas, y tal vez eminencias, las deslucieron con un intolerable bárbaro desaseo.

Culture and Elegance. Man is born a barbarian and raises himself above the beastly by means of culture. Culture therefore makes the man; the more a man, the higher. Thanks to it, Greece could call the rest of the world barbarians. Ignorance is very raw; nothing contributes so much to culture as knowledge. But even knowledge is coarse if without elegance. Not alone must our intelligence be elegant, but our desires, and above all our conversation. Some men are naturally elegant in their internal and external qualities, in their thoughts, in their address, in their dress, which is the rind of the soul, and in their talent, which is its fruit. There are others, on the other hand, who are so crude that everything about them, even their excellences, is tarnished by an intolerable and barbaric disorder.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia § lxxxvii (1647)(S.H. following J. Jacobs transl. 1892).

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