Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Augustine's Table and Gossip

In Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo he notes that the great African bishop had the following poetic verses written on his table “warning against the common plague of gossip” (p. 200):

            Whoever thinks that he is able,

            To nibble at the life of absent friends,

            Must know that he’s unworthy of this table,

The original Latin version of the inscription is recorded in Caxton’s translation of The Golden Legend:

Quisquis amat dictis absentum rodere vitam,
Hanc mensam indignam noverit esse sibi.

Brown also shares an anecdote from an early biographer:  “….Once when some intimate friends of his, fellow bishops, were forgetful enough of his verses as to gossip, he upbraided them so sternly that he lost his temper, and said that either they should rub these verses off the table, or that he would get up and go to his room in the middle of the meal” (p. 200).


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