Friday, November 03, 2006

Bright Fountain

Today is the feast day in the Anglican Communion of Richard Hooker, priest, author of On the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Hooker's remarkable book is still influential in the Communion among both liberals and conservatives, and his extraordinary prose style — the finest, in my opinion, of the Elizabethan period — reminds us that he was a contemporary of Shakespeare. There were giants in the earth in those days.

Here is an excerpt, in which Hooker argues (against the Puritans) for the value of secular learning:

There is in the world no kind of knowledge whereby any part of truth is seen, but we justly account it precious, yea, that principal truth, in comparison whereof all other knowledge is vile, may receive from it some kind of light. Whether it be that Egyptian and Chaldean wisdom mathematical, wherewith Moses and Daniel were furnished; or that natural, moral, and civil wisdom, wherewith Solomon excelled all men, or that rational and oratorial wisdom of the Grecians, which the Apostle St. Paul brought from Tarsus, or that Judaical, which he learned at Jerusalem sitting at the feet of Gamaliel, to detract from the dignity thereof were to injury even God himself, who, being that light which none can approach unto, hath sent out these lights whereof we are capable, even as so many sparkles resembling the bright fountain from which they rise.

"To injury," by the way, is not a misprint; just a sign of how the language has changed since 1589.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A lovely image -- three cheers for general revelation!