Pears

From the Confessions 4.9 of St. Augustine (+430):

Theft is punished by thy law, O Lord, and by the law written in men’s hearts, which not even ingrained wickedness can erase. For what thief will tolerate another thief stealing from him? Even a rich thief will not tolerate a poor thief who is driven to theft by want. Yet I had a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled to it by neither hunger nor poverty, but through a contempt for well-doing and a strong impulse to iniquity. For I pilfered something which I already had in sufficient measure, and of much better quality. I did not desire to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself.

There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night — having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was — a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart — which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error — not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.

 

And now a more modern take, from the other point of view, through the help of the Laudator temporis acti:

Eden Phillpotts, My Garden (London: Country Life, 1906), pp. 198-200:

    Prime of garden pests is the human boy. In the pupa stage this creature evadeth every lure, and causeth much anguish of mind within the confines of cultivated ground. He hath no eye to distinguish between the grass plat and the garden knot, but trampleth indifferently upon either, and loveth best to frisk over soil wherein rare and curious seeds are germinating. Glass hath an affinity or attraction for him, and when he breaketh the same, he lifteth up his voice shrilly in merriment; but maketh still louder sounds to indicate anguish, when captured and chastened. At the season of Spring he haunteth shrubberies, and leapeth out upon the innocent traveller with horrid, inarticulate sounds. The ear may mark his unseen progress through plantations by the snapping of green boughs and by the outcry of parent birds. Occasionally, in his efforts to secure the nurseries of fowl upon lofty trees or precipices, he falleth and breaketh his neck; but this seldom happeneth, because he hath a feline plenitude of lives, and, in the art of self-preservation, is ever very nimble, discreet, and unscrupulous. During the autumnal months he affecteth the place of fruit, and by strategy may there be taken at any time in the day with full pockets and full cheeks. He hath no special taste in fruits, but devoureth with the impartial profusion of the caterpillar and canker worm. The birds of the air surpass him by their wise patience, for they know to an hour when the perfection of plum or pear has come; but not so he.

    ….

    There is no cure for the human boy save time. Then, by exceeding slow stages, he groweth into the adult organism, and either turneth from his mysterious courses toward justification of existence, or else, as too often happeneth, doth wax in wickedness, as well as in the power to perform it.

 

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3 Responses to Pears

  1. Beau says:

    I can remember being the boy in the “Confession” of the first paragraph…only it was oranges not pears, and we through them at each other instead of feeding them to hogs. I now have two boys of my own and can relate with Eden Phillpotts.

    “He hath no eye to distinguish between the grass plat and the garden knot, but trampleth indifferently upon either, and loveth best to frisk over soil wherein rare and curious seeds are germinating. Glass hath an affinity or attraction for him, and when he breaketh the same, he lifteth up his voice shrilly in merriment; but maketh still louder sounds to indicate anguish, when captured and chastened.”

    Truer words were never spoken of my two year old boy!

  2. Thomas G. says:

    Yes, Augustine’s pear-swiping youth is a universal type. With me and my friends it was the neighbor’s apple tree. They weren’t even very good apples – small, green, and sour. But apple quality was beside the point at the time . . .

  3. Thomas G. says:

    Here’s a proferred riff:

    There is no cure for the human boy save time. Then, by exceeding slow stages, he groweth into the adult organism, and acquireth himself a garden, in which place he feeleth the retribution of his past sins at the hands of baneful boys who trampleth his earthy goods into the loam and purloineth whatever may be reached by diminutive hands. Thus is sin, in good time, ever repaid in kind.