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From Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius


translated by David R. Slavitt


Book V, section III


What strife breaks the civil bonds

of the things of this world?  What God would set

such incompatible truths loose

to struggle thus with one another?

Either could stand alone, but together

how can their contradictions be joined?

Or is there some way that they can get on

that the human mind, enmeshed in flesh,

cannot discern?  That flame is covered,

and in the darkness the world’s subtle

connections are hidden.  And yet we feel

the warmth of the love that holds together

all that there is in eternal truth

that knows what it seeks and has its end

in its beginning.  But which of us yearns

to learn those things he already knows?

And is that wisdom or is it blindness?

(And how do we know that we do not know

what we do not know?)  If it were found,

could the ignorant seeker recognize it?

From our minds to the mind of God

is an awesome leap: the infinite number

of separate truths that are yet all one

leave us breathless.  The body’s dense

flesh obscures our recollection

of the separate truths and the one truth

and yet allows us at least to suspect

that we all live in an awkward state

of inklings of our ignorance

which turn out to be our greatest wisdom—

as if we had long ago ascended

and beheld from on high the exalted vision

of which we now retain nothing

but the sense of loss of that exaltation.


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Per Contra Spring 2007