Dos amores han dado origen a dos ciudades: el amor de sí mismo hasta el desprecio de Dios, la terrena; y el amor de Dios hasta el desprecio de sí, la celestial…

— San Agustín

Hilaire Belloc

The Path to Rome

   

When that first Proverb-Maker who has imposed upon all peoples by his epigrams and his fallacious half-truths, his empiricism and his wanton appeals to popular ignorance, I say when this man (for I take it he was a man, and a wicked one) was passing through France he launched among the French one of his pestiferous phrases, “Ce n’est que le premier pas qui coûte”; and this in a rolling-in-the-mouth self-satisfied kind of a manner has been repeated since his day at least seventeen million three hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred and four times by a great mass of Ushers, Parents, Company Officers, Elder Brothers, Parish Priests, and authorities in general whose office it may be and whose pleasure it certainly is to jog up and disturb that native slumber and inertia of the mind which is the true breeding soil of Revelation.

For when boys or soldiers or poets, or any other blossoms and prides of nature, are for lying steady in the shade and letting the Mind commune with its Immortal Comrades, up comes Authority busking about and eager as though it were a duty to force the said Mind to burrow and sweat in the matter of this very perishable world, its temporary habitation.

“Up,” says Authority, “and let me see that Mind of yours doing something practical. Let me see Him mixing painfully with circumstance, and botching up some Imperfection or other that shall at least be a Reality and not a silly Fantasy.”

Then the poor Mind comes back to Prison again, and the boy takes his horrible Homer in the real Greek (not Church’s book, alas!); the Poet his rough hairy paper, his headache, and his cross-nibbed pen; the Soldier abandons his inner picture of swaggering about in ordinary clothes, and sees the dusty road and feels the hard places in his boot, and shakes down again to the steady pressure of his pack; and Authority is satisfied, knowing that he will get a smattering from the Boy, a rubbishy verse from the Poet, and from the Soldier a long and thirsty march. And Authority, when it does this, commonly sets to work by one of these formulæ: as, in England north of Trent, by the manifestly false and boastful phrase, “A thing begun is half ended,” and in the south by “The Beginning is half the Battle”; but in France by the words I have attributed to the Proverb-Maker, “Ce n’est que le premier pas qui coûte.”


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Hilaire Belloc

20 febrero, 2021

update 22 febrero, 2021

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