Alas, proud Christians, faint with misery,
So warped of vision in the inward sense
You trust in your backslidings! Don’t you see
That we are worms, whose insignificance
Lives but to form the angelic butterfly
That flits to judgement naked of defence?
Why do you let pretension soar so high,
Being as it were but larvae — grubs that lack
The finished form that shall be by and by?
[O superbi Cristian, miseri lassi!
Che, della vista della mente infermi,
Fidanza avete ne’ ritrosi passi;
Non v’ accorgete voi, che noi siam vermi
Nati a formar l’ angelica farfalla,
Che vola alla giustizia senza schermi?
Di che l’ animo vostro in alto galla,
Poi siete quasi entomata in difetto,
Sì come verme, in cui formazion falla?]
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 2 “Purgatorio,” Canto 10, l. 121ff (10.121-129) (1314) [tr. Sayers (1955)]
Criticizing prideful Christians.
(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:
O, miserable Pride! of Blindness born!
Vile retrograde Ambition! theme of Scorn!
Can Reptiles in the dust, of dust be proud? --
Boast of their meanness, falsify their end;
From their immortal hopes at once descend.
And let a dowerless Vice their prospects cloud? --
As Reptiles, who their painted plumes display,
(Tho; crawling once in dust,) and wing their way
On Summer-buxom gales, and claim the Sky:
Thus were ye born, and thus you claim your flight
To the pure Precincts of celestial Light,
If on no fpurious Pride your hopes rely.
[tr. Boyd (1802), st. 23-24]
Christians and proud! O poor and wretched ones!
That feeble in the mind’s eye, lean your trust
Upon unstaid perverseness! Know ye not
That we are worms, yet made at last to form
The winged insect, imp’d with angel plumes
That to heaven’s justice unobstructed soars?
Why buoy ye up aloft your unfleg’d souls?
Abortive then and shapeless ye remain,
Like the untimely embryon of a worm!
[tr. Cary (1814)]
O haughty Christians! miserable, alas!
From mental sight to weakness that's allied,
Confiding in perverseness and in pride,
Perceive ye not we are but merely worms,
Born embryo of angelic butterfly,
Which, unrestrained, to justice flies on high,
Where is the object of your souring flight?
Insect, in whom defecta lone prevails,
And worm, in which the true formatiln fails.v [tr. Bannerman (1850)]
O ye proud Christians! wretched, weary ones!
Who, in the vision of the mind infirm
Confidence have in your backsliding steps,
Do ye not comprehend that we are worms,
Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly
That flieth unto judgment without screen?
Why floats aloft your spirit high in air?
Like are ye unto insects undeveloped,
Even as the worm in whom formation fails!
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]
O proud Christians, wretched and weary, who, weak in the sight of the mind, have confidence in your backward paces, do ye not perceive that we are worms, born to form the angelic butterfly which flies without screen to the judgement? In respect of what does your mind float on high, since ye are as it were defective insects, like a worm in which formative power is in default?
[tr. Butler (1885)]
Proud Christians, wretched, weary, and undone!
Who of your mental sight are so bereaved
That ye have faith in backward paths alone;
That we are worms have ye not yet perceived,
Born but to form the Angelic butterfly
That soareth up to judgment unreprieved?
Of what your spirit doth it vaunt so high?
Since ye are unformed insects at the best,
Worms as it were unfinished utterly.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]
O proud Christians, wretched weary ones, who, diseased in vision of the mind, have confidence in backward steps, are ye not aware that we are worms born to form the angelic butterfly which flies unto judgment without defence? Why doth your mind float up aloft, since ye are as it were defective insects, even as a worm in which formation fails?
[tr. Norton (1892)]
O ye proud Christians, wretched and weary, who, sick in mental vision, put trust in backward steps,
perceive ye not that we are worms, born to form the angelic butterfly that flieth to judgment without defence?
Why doth your mind soar on high, since ye are as 'twere imperfect insects, even as the grub in which full form is wanting?
[tr. Okey (1901)]
O vainglorious Christians, weary wretches who are sick in the mind's vision and put your trust in backward steps, do you not perceive that we are worms born to form the angelic butterfly that soars to judgement without defence? Why does your mind float so high, since you are as it were imperfect insects, like the worm that is undeveloped?
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]
O ye proud Christians, weary and sad of brow,
Who, tainted in the vision of the mind,
In backward steps your confidence avow,
Preceive ye not that we are worms, designed
To form the angelic butterfly, that goes
To judgment, leaving all defence behind?
Why doth your mind take such exalted pose,
Since ye, disabled, are as insects, mean
As worm which never transformation knows?
[tr. Binyon (1943)]
O you proud Christians, wretched souls and small,
who by the dim lights of your twisted minds
believe you prosper even as you fall --
can you not see that we awer works, each one
born to become the Angelic butterfly
that flies defenseless to the Judgment Throne?
what have your souls to boast of and be proud?
You are no more than insects, incomplete
as any grub until it burst the shroud.
[tr. Ciardi (1961)]
O proud Christians, wretched and weary, who, sick in mental vision, put trust in backward steps: are you not aware that we are worms, born to form the angelic butterfly that flies until judgment without defenses? Why does your mind soar up aloft, since you are as it wer imperfect insects, even as the worm in which full form is wanting?
[tr. Singleton (1973)]
O haughty Christians, wretched, sluggish souls,
all you whose inner vision is diseased,
putting your trust in things that pull you back,
do you not understand that we are worms,
each born to form the angelic butterfly,
that flies defenseless to the Final Judge?
Why do your souls’ pretensions rise so high,
since you are but defective insects still,
worms as yet imperfectly evolved?
[tr. Musa (1981)]
O proud Christians, wretched and exhausted,
Who, sick in mind, and not seeing aright,
Go confidently in the wrong direction;
Do you not perceive that we are grubs,
Born to turn into the angelic butterfly
Which flies towards justice without defence?
Why does your mind float aloft
Since you are no more than defective insects,
Like the grub which has not reached its full development?
[tr. Sisson (1981)]
O Christians, arrogant, exhausted, wretched,
Whose intellects are sick and cannot see,
Who place your confidence in backward steps,
Do you not know that we are worms and born
To form the angelic butterfly that soars,
Without defenses, to confront His judgment?
Why does your mind presume to flight when you
Are still like the imperfect grub, the worm
Before it has attained its final form?
[tr. Mandelbaum (1982)]
O proud Christians, weary wretches, who, weak in mental vision, put your faith in backward steps,
do you not perceive that we are worms born to form the angelic butterfly that flies to justice without a shield?
Why is it that your spirit floats on high, since you are like defective insects, like worms in whom formation is lacking?
[tr. Durling (2003)]
O proud Christians, weary and wretched, who, infirm in the mind’s vision, put your trust in downward steps: do you not see that we are caterpillars, born to form the angelic butterfly, that flies to judgement without defence? Why does your mind soar to the heights, since you are defective insects, even as the caterpillar is, in which the form is lacking?
[tr. Kline (2002)]
Proud Christians, wretched and — alas! — so tired,
who, feeble in your powers of mental sight,
place so much faith in your own backward tread,
do you not recognize that you are worms
born to become angelic butterflies
that fly to justice with no veil between?
Why is it that your thoughts float up so high?
You, with your faults, are little more than grubs,
chrysalides (no more!) that lack full form.
[tr. Kirkpatrick (2007)]
O vainglorious Christians, miserable wretches!
Sick in the visions engendered in your minds,
you put your trust in backward steps.
Do you not see that we are born as worms,
though able to transform into angelic butterflies
that unimpeded soar to justice?
What makes your mind rear up so high?
You are, as it were, defective creatures,
like the unformed worm, shaped from the mud.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]
O haughty Christians, miserable and weary,
Driven by sickness rioting in your mind,
Placing eternal trust in what walks backward,
Unable to see that human beings are worms,
Born to create angelic butterflies
That fly to God's judgment, needing no other protection.
Why do you let your mind soar into Heaven,
Since what you truly are is imperfect insects,
Just as the worm must wait to come into being?
[tr. Raffel (2010)]
Note not all quotations have been tagged, so Search may find additional quotes on this topic.
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Again, it is proper to the magnanimous person to ask for nothing, or hardly anything, but to help eagerly. When he meets people with good fortune or a reputation for worth, he displays his greatness, since superiority over them is difficult and impressive, and there is nothing ignoble in trying to be impressive with them. But when he meets ordinary people, he is moderate, since superiority over them is easy, and an attempt to be impressive among inferiors is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.
[μεγαλοψύχου δὲ καὶ τὸ μηδενὸς δεῖσθαι ἢ μόλις, ὑπηρετεῖν δὲ προθύμως, καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἐν ἀξιώματι καὶ εὐτυχίαις μέγαν εἶναι, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς μέσους μέτριον: τῶν μὲν γὰρ ὑπερέχειν χαλεπὸν καὶ σεμνόν, τῶν δὲ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἐκείνοις μὲν σεμνύνεσθαι οὐκ ἀγεννές, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς φορτικόν, ὥσπερ εἰς τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἰσχυρίζεσθαι.]
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 4, ch. 3 (4.3.26) / 1124b.18 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Irwin (1999)]
The core word Aristotle is using is μεγαλοψυχία (translated variously as high-mindedness, great-mindedness, pride, great-soulness, magnanimity). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:
Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading strength against the weak.
[tr. Chase (1847)]
It would seem, too, that the high-minded man asks favours of no one, or, at any rate, asks them with the greatest reluctance, but that he is always eager to do good offices to others; and that towards those in high position and prosperity he bears himself with pride, but towards ordinary men with moderation; for in the former case it is difficult to show superiority, and to do so is a lordly mater; whereas in the latter case it is easy. To be haughty among the great is no proof of bad breeding, but haughtiness among the lowly is as base-born a thing as it is to make trial of great strength upon the weak.
[tr. Williams (1869)]
It is characteristic too of the high-minded man that he never, or hardly ever, asks a favor, that he is ready to do anybody a service, and that, although his bearing is stately towards person of dignity and affluence, it is unassuming toward the middle class; for while it is a difficult and dignified thing to be superior to the former, it is easy enough to be superior to the latter, and while a dignified demeanour in dealing with the former is a mark of nobility, it is a mark of vulgarity ind ealing with the latter, as it like a display of physical strength at the expense of an invalid.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 8]
It is characteristic of the high-minded man, again, never or reluctantly to ask favours, but to be ready to confer them, and to be lofty in his behaviour to those who are high in station and favoured by fortune, but affable to those of the middle ranks; for it is a difficult thing and a dignified thing to assert superiority over the former, but easy to assert it over the latter. A haughty demeanour in dealing with the great is quite consistent with good breeding, but in dealing with those of low estate is brutal, like showing off one’s strength upon a cripple.
[tr. Peters (1893)]
It is a mark of the proud man also to ask for nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily, and to be dignified towards people who enjoy high position and good fortune, but unassuming towards those of the middle class; for it is a difficult and lofty thing to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter, and a lofty bearing over the former is no mark of ill-breeding, but among humble people it is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.
[tr. Ross (1908)]
It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great, but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]
It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing or hardly anything but to offer his services eagerly, and to exhibit his greatness to those with a reputation for great worth or those who are enjoying good luck, but to moderate his greatness to those in the middle. For it is a difficult and a dignified thing to show oneself superior to the former, but an easy one to do so to the latter, and, while adopting a dignified manner toward the former is not ill-bred, to do so toward humble people is vulgar, like displaying strength against the weak.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]
It is the mark of a high-minded man, too, never, or hardly ever, to ask for help, but to be of help to others readily, and to be dignified with men of high position or of good fortune, but unassuming with those of middle class, for it is difficult and impressive to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter; and whereas being impressive to the former is not a mark of a lowly man, being so to the humble is crude -- it is like using physical force against the physically weak.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]
Another mark of the magnanimous man is that he never, or only reluctantly, makes a request, whereas he is eager to help others. He his haughty toward those who are influential and successful, but moderate toward those who have an intermediate position in society, because in the former case to be superior is difficult and impressive, but in the latter it is easy' and to create an impression at the expense of the former is not ill-bred, but to do so among the humble is vulgar.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]
It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing, or almost nothing, but to help others readily; and to be dignified in his behavior towards people of distinction or the well-off, but unassuming toward people at the middle level. Superiority over the first group is difficult and impressive, but over the second it is easy, and attempting to impress the first group is not ill-bred, while in the case of humble people it is vulgar, like a show of strength against the weak.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]
It belongs to the great-souled also to need nothing, or scarcely anything, but to be eager to be of service, and to be great in the presence of people of worth and good fortune, but measured toward those of a middling rank. For it is a difficult and august thing to be superior among the fortunate, but easy to be that way among the middling sorts; and to exalt oneself among the former is not a lowborn thing, but to do so among the latter is crude, just as is using one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]
It is not ill-bred to adopt a high manner with the great and the powerful, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people.
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