“I am satisfied so long as I keep my books closed”

From the estimable Laudator:

By Yuan Mei (1716–1797), tr. J.D.Schmidt:

I am satisfied so long as I keep my books closed,
But I start to worry, when I open their covers.
The books are long, but the day is short;
I feel like an ant contemplating a mountain.
I work by candlelight until the morning,
But do I remember a tenth of what I read?
I’m terribly worried that a millennium from now,
There’ll be many more books (where will it all end?).
I would like to transform into a fairy or god,
Or ask old heaven for some additional years.
I don’t desire to feast on jade or nectar,
Nor do I wish to wander Penglai’s fairy realms.
In the human world, wherever there are words,
I want to finish reading them (and that’s all I want!)

A distinction is made about being studious and being “curious”, as in the sin curiositas.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. rcg says:

    Here is a video that is a remixed short from ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood’ that makes me ponder the same question. Mr. Rogers was, to my mind, very secular, but in a benign sort of way. Yet that sort of Godless Nice opens many doors and puts within limits much that it should not. This video gives me chills.

  2. majuscule says:


    We didn’t have TV when my kids were growing up so I have only heard tell of Mr. Rogers (and not been curious enough to look on YouTube). Thanks for the link I think. :)

    At a certain point, the twinkle in his eyes was disquieting, rather than disarming. And to think that video was made to promote the program.

  3. Andrew says:

    This from Seneca:

    ‘Sed modo’ inquis ‘hunc librum evolvere volo, modo illum.’ Fastidientis stomachi est multa degustare; quae ubi varia sunt et diversa, inquinant non alunt. Probatos itaque semper lege […] et cum multa percurreris, unum excerpe quod illo die concoquas.

    English translation:

    “But now” you say “I’d like to read this book, and now that one”. It messes up the stomach to taste many things: the extreme variety hurts and doesn’t nourish. Read approved authors instead and after you have scanned over many, choose one that you will cook up that day.

  4. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Mr. Rogers was a pastor. He got into television as a ministry. Godless? Hardly.

  5. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    Man, I needed to read that today.

  6. Random Friar says:

    It is the razor’s edge many of us Dominicans walk… and fall.

    My consolation is that God will provide all the wonder and knowledge that I would want.

  7. digdigby says:

    I can’t let that slur on Mr. Rogers go by. Here he is accepting his Emmy:
    “…..Mister Rogers went on-stage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”

    And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, “I’ll watch the time.” There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly “May God be with you,” to all his vanquished children.

  8. frjim4321 says:

    Error Report:
    Error Report:
    Error Report:

    My iGoogle feed indicates a post called “USCCB explains some grammar of the new translation,” but when I click on the link it’s dead.”

  9. aws says:

    “Living in a bookshop is like living in a warehouse of explosives. Those shelves are ranked with the most furious combustibles in the world—the brains of men. I can spend a rainy afternoon reading, and my mind works itself up to such a passion and anxiety over mortal problems as almost unmans me. It is terribly nerve-racking. Surround a man with Carlyle, Emerson, Thoreau, Chesterton, Shaw, Nietzsche, and George Ade—would you wonder at his getting excited?”

    The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley

  10. Mariana says:

    Bookcases, bookcases everywhere! And there are more at libraries, and then there is the dreaded amazon.co.uk which I try to steer clear of…and Random Friar’s comment above makes the Dominicans sound even more attractive….aaaaaargh!

  11. LisaP. says:

    Timely — I’m trying to put together reading lists for the kids for school next year.

  12. pseudomodo says:

    Fahrenheit 451

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