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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1467–1536)

A Young Man and an Echo

From “Colloquies”

Young Man.I have a mind to ask your advice about a few things, if you are at leisure——

Echo.I am at leisure——

Young Man.And if I, a young man, shall be welcome to you.

Echo.You are welcome.

Young Man.Can you tell me true concerning things to come?

Echo.I can.

Young Man.Do you understand Greek too?

Echo.I do.

Young Man.What do you consider studies of the Muses to be?

Echo.Divine studies.

Young Man.Do you think, then, that the authors that conduce to learning ought to be studied?

Echo.Them you should study.

Young Man.But what is in the minds of those who speak contemptuously of such studies?

Echo.The thoughts of swine.

Young Man.Yet I wish the lovers of these studies were as fond of piety.

Echo.So do I.

Young Man.Nowadays, the wickedness of some draws hatred upon many.

Echo.It does, on many.

Young Man.And many lay the sins of man on the back of learning.

Echo.Yes, asses.

Young Man.But they commonly seem not to be of the meanest sort.

Echo.They are vile persons.

Young Man.Do you not think that those who spend their time upon a sophistical kind of learning spin cobwebs?

Echo.They do.

Young Man.And do they not weave and unweave Penelope’s web?

Echo.They do weave it.

Young Man.What course of life do you advise me to follow?

Echo.A safe one.

Young Man.Will it prove fortunate if I should marry?

Echo.Do it late.

Young Man.But what if it should happen to be my lot to marry an unchaste or extravagant wife?

Echo.You must bear it.

Young Man.Why, but it is worse than death to live with such!

Echo.It is so.

Young Man.Does Fortune thus govern human affairs?

Echo.Yes, she only.

Young Man.Perhaps, rather than marry, one should become a monk?

Echo.That also binds one.

Young Man.Then, what remedy is left, when one is tied by a knot which cannot be unloosed?


Young Man.Well, but it is a miserable sort of life for men to live alone.

Echo.It is entirely so.

Young Man.What sort of men do you account the monks of these times to be?


Young Man.What, then, makes some esteem them as half-gods?


Young Man.What do they most seek who sue for a benefice?


Young Man.Does a priest get nothing else?

Echo.Yes, gain.

Young Man.What good thing do they get who obtain bishoprics?


Young Man.But none live in greater idleness.

Echo.I know it.

Young Man.What things will be able to make them think, and understand what a great burden they have upon them?


Young Man.Therefore, the priesthood is a desirable life, if a man behave himself as he ought in it?

Echo.It makes him happy.

Young Man.What advantage shall I have if I go into their court who excel in princely dignity?


Young Man.But I see a great many that are wont to promise themselves much happiness therefrom.

Echo.They are blockheads.

Young Man.But in the meantime, while they go clothed in their silks, the common people look upon them as fine fellows.

Echo.They are not worth a fig.

Young Man.Why, then, those men who are arrayed in silk, and whom we worship almost as gods, have not much excellency within them?

Echo.They have mischief.

Young Man.And perhaps you put no great value upon military men?

Echo.A farthing.

Young Man.The astrologers, however, who tell fortunes by the stars, are able to promise great things.


Young Man.As to grammarians, then: they are men who take great pains.

Echo.To no purpose.

Young Man.Neither do hungry, greedy lawyers please you, I suppose?

Echo.They are wolves.

Young Man.What sort of man shall I be if I pursue a handicraft?

Echo.The scum of the people.

Young Man.Why, then, do neither good occupations nor bad procure one anything desirable?

Echo.A maintenance.

Young Man.Shall I be happy if I persevere in profound study?

Echo.You will.

Young Man.But what will make me pious?


Young Man.I have spent my time these ten years on Cicero.

Echo.You are an ass.

Young Man.How comes it that you call me an ass?

Echo.Because of the thing itself.

Young Man.Perhaps you mean I should not devote so much application to him as to make me neglect others?

Echo.I do say so.

Young Man.Then, does not he please you who fatigues himself all his days only for the one purpose that he may become a Ciceronian at last?

Echo.He is a madman.

Young Man.What is left for them to do who are old, whose age is not seasonable for the learning of these things?

Echo.The plow-tail.

Young Man.I believe you would be more eloquent if you were at a greater distance.

Echo.I should be so.

Young Man.I don’t like words of two syllables.

Echo.Go your way.

Young Man.I began first, and I see I can’t hinder your having the last word.

Echo.Let me have it.

Young Man.Do you now think I am sufficiently instructed to perform those things well which shall happen in life?


Young Man.Well, then, if you would have me go away, bid me begone.