Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rome

If you have made imparting knowledge to the young and impressionable your life's work, then I hope that what follows will give you heart.

I just got back from four days in Rome.  As much as I enjoyed the climate, the people, and the food, the best moments came when I stood before something, read the sign explaining what it was and felt a click deep inside my brain.  Ah, yes, I remember...  And I wanted to weep with gratitude for every teacher (religious and secular) who gave me, not a classical education exactly, but a rigorous one that made what I saw last week meaningful.  The required Latin classes which meant that I could read many of the the inscriptions.  The history classes, not only the ones about the Roman Empire which meant I recognized the names of the emperors and their family members, but also Church history as I walked through Vatican City.  The religion classes so I could stand in the Sistine Chapel and look at the scenes from the Old and New Testaments and know them.   And to realize that I could reach for and find a timeline in my head so that I knew where to place each thing in history.

It's as if I was given a gift over 30 years ago and I only just got around to consciously opening it as I arrive at the culmination of the first half century of life.  
Le véritable lieu de naissance est celui ou l'on a porté pour la première fois un coup d'oeil intelligent sur soi-même : mes premières patries ont été des livres...
Et pourtant, j'ai aimé certains de mes maîtres, et ces rapports étrangement intimes et étrangement élusifs qui existent entre le professeur et l'élève, et les Sirènes chantant au fond d'une voix cassée qui pour la première fois vous révèle un chef-d'oeuvre ou vous dévoile une idée neuve. 
Mémoires d'Hadrien
Marguerite Yourcenar

3 comments:

Ellen said...

Ah, it sounds like you had a wonderful little break in Rome. I'm so glad you did. You excaped 4 days of rain, too!

Inaka Nezumi said...

Slowly working my way through Mémoires d'Hadrien in fits and starts. Good book, though hard going with only decades-old high-school French to fall back on. Must get back to it.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Nezumi-san, It's a beautiful book and the reason I took it off the shelf for this post is in the picture above. This is the Castel Sant'Angelo, also known as Hadrian's mausoleum. I stood in the room where his ashes were placed after his death. Wikipedia has a nice article about this building which went from tomb to fortress to papal residence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castel_Sant'Angelo