Monday, February 27, 2012

Man's Most Honorable Part

Erasmus, The Fabulous Feast, translated by Craig R. Thompson:
Some boon companions, as they're called, whose main object in life is a laugh, were once having a party. Among them was Antony; also another man with the same sort of reputation and jealous of Antony. Now as philosophers, when they meet, are accustomed to propound some question about natural phenomena, so here the question quickly came up, which was man's most honorable part? One guessed the eyes, another the heart, another the brain, another something else, and each offered reasons for his surmise. Told to give his opinion, Antony said he thought the mouth the most honorable part of all; and he added a reason, I'm not sure what. Then that other fellow, to avoid agreement with Antony, retorted that in his opinion the part we sit on was most honorable. Ridiculous as this seemed to everyone, he argued that priority in seating is commonly allowed to belong to the part he had named. They applauded this notion and had a good laugh. Antony seemed to be beaten in that contest. He dissembled: he had awarded highest honors to the mouth only because he knew the other, from envy of his reputation, would name a different part. Some days later, when they were both guests at the same party again, Antony came across the envious chap talking with some others while they were waiting for dinner. Turning his back, Antony broke wind loudly in the other's face. "Get out, you clown," said the man angrily. "Where did you learn those manners?" "Angry, too, are you?" said Antony. "Had I greeted you by word of mouth, you'd have replied in the same way. Now I greet you with that part of the body which in your opinion is the most honorable of all and I'm called clown." Thus did Antony recover his lost reputation.

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