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The Ship of Fools

Book fool

By Sebastian Brant
First published in Basel, 1494
Woodcut, maybe Dürer
trans. E.H. Zeydel

If on this ship I'm number one
For special reasons that was done,
Yes, I'm the first one here you see
Because I like my library.
Of splendid books I own no end,
But few that I can comprehend;
I cherish books of various ages
And keep the flies from off the pages.
Where art and science be professed
I say: At home I'm happiest,
I'm never better satisfied
Than when my books are by my side.
King Ptolemy did once decree
That he have all the books there be,
And thought he owned a treasure-trove,
But oh, he needed Christian love,
Could not profess the proper creed.
I, too, have many books indeed
But don't peruse them very much;
Why should I plague myself with such?
My head in booklore I'll not bury,
Who studies hard grows visionary;
A Dominie I well could be
And pay someone to learn for me;
Though I may be a vulgar lout
I can when scholars walk about
Say "ita" when I might say "yes".
The man of German tongue I bless;
Although my Latin isn't fine
I know than "vinum" stands for wine,
"Gluckus" a cuckold, "stultus" fool,
And I am "doctor", that's my rule;
My ears are covered up for me,
If they were not, an ass I'd be.

Take me back to buy more books!

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