In 1927 the French man of letters, Julien Benda, published a short book entitled La Trahison des Clercs. The phrase, trahison des clercs, henceforward passed into common discourse to denote and condemn the subordination of scholarship or speculation to some political interest or commitment. Benda’s book soon appeared in English under the title, The Treason of the Intellectuals.

Translation is notoriously a very difficult art. The translator has to convey not only the literal meaning of a text or a work but also tones and nuances. In this particular case “intellectual” is manifestly not the equivalent of “clerc.” In English, “intellectual” has a pejorative ring; it hints at a self-satisfied assumption of superiority, at the arrogant conviction that one has been vouchsafed truths hidden from the vulgar herd, truths that are particularly indispensable to the formulation and execution of public policy.

Clerc has none of these overtones. A clerc in the primary sense is a member of the clergy, itself a body of men set apart by ordination for religious service in the church and constituting, as the etymology indicates, God’s lot or portion. It is this which Benda had in mind when he used the term to denote not ordained clercs, but rather laymen who are set apart, whose vocations and avocations require them to maintain a distance from political interests, and to eschew advocacy in favor of this or that faction or party, even if the victory of the one or the failure of the other might redound to their advantage. To elucidate his meaning, Benda quotes Goethe: “Let us leave politics to the diplomats and the soldiers.”

Clerc in Benda’s sense has no ready equivalent in English, at least none whose meaning and associations would be immediately familiar and intelligible. “Clerk,” in particular, will not do, since English usage has now given the word a range of different significations. As it happens, there does exist a word which conveys exactly the meaning Benda had in mind, but it is not and has never been in current or common use. The word is “clerisy,” which was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his book, On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830). To Coleridge, the clerisy were the members of the National Church, by which he did not mean the Church of England or any other Christian church. “The proper object and end of the National Church,” Coleridge wrote, “is civilization with freedom; and the duty of its ministers . . . would be fulfilled in the communication of that degree and kind of knowledge to all, the possession of which is necessary for all in order to their civility.” The function of this clerisy lies “in producing and re-producing, in preserving, continuing and perfecting, the necessary sources and conditions of national civilization.”

How, then, according to Benda, does the clerisy commit treason? It is by becoming, as he puts it, the spiritual militia of the temporal. What ought to remain an intelligence-miroir, a mind content with receiving, absorbing, and reflecting on whatever happens in the world, has become an intelligence-glaive, intelligence used as a weapon to defend one particular interest or attack another.

Rulers, of course, have always sought to use clercs for their purposes. Benda quotes a memorandum sent by Napoleon to his Interior Minister suggesting that the writing of French history should not be left to private industriousness or to some publisher’s financial venturesomeness. History, Napoleon laid down, should be written in such a manner as to serve the interest of the state.

Napoleon was by no means the first ruler, nor has he proved the last, to seek control over the scholarly enterprise. What is new for Benda is that in the modern world, writers and scholars have themselves desired to put their talents at the service of a political cause, and have rejoiced and gloried in this service. He quotes the Marquis de Condorcet, a contemporary of Napoleon’s and as much a victim of revolutionary politics as Napoleon was its supreme beneficiary. In his Historical Sketch of the Successive Advances of the Human Mind, Condorcet wrote that historians should keep themselves eternally vigilant in order to identify and stifle under the weight of reason the earliest seeds of superstition and tyranny. This is one aspect of what Benda calls the divinization of the political.



A feature of the modern world is the mobilization of history and of historians in a political cause—for Condorcet it was the cause of progress. The polities of classical antiquity, though placing themselves under tutelary deities, did not believe that they were themselves divine. Thucydides was ready to envisage the possibility of a world in which Athens was no more, and as late as the 16th century the historian Guicciardini could write that

all cities, all states, all kingdoms are mortal; whether in the course of nature or by accident, everything some time or other will perish. This is why a citizen who witnesses the death of his country cannot lament its misfortune with as much reason as he does his own ruin, for the country has simply suffered the fate which in any case it was destined to suffer, while the disgrace is entirely his, whose misfortune was to be born during the period when such a disaster was to eventuate.

Thucydides and Guicciardini were at the opposite pole from the outlook widely prevalent in the modern world that salvation—that is, earthly salvation—must come, and that it will come through political action. The late Ghanaian dictator Kwame Nkrumah expounded it with succinct eloquence when he exhorted the masses of his countrymen who, in a moment of enthusiasm, put their future in his hands: “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all the rest shall be added unto you.”

In this quest for the political kingdom, the clerisy plays a vital role as recruiting sergeants and subordinate officers. Their value, indeed, lies wholly in this, that they devote their work to advancing a national (or a class) interest. Benda’s argument is directed against those French clercs, whether writers or academics, who had knowingly and gladly subordinated their scholarship or artistic gifts to one side of the political spectrum, the nationalist cause (as represented in his day by the Action Française), or, on the other side, to that of the proletariat (of which the Communist International claimed then to be the champion). And both sides encouraged, even demanded, such commitment. Charles Maurras, the founder of the Action Française, denounced as “savage and brutal” the activity of those clercs guided by a desire for the truth, and mutatis mutandis this was also exactly the same outlook of someone like the Leninist writer Georg Lukács. If we recall Coleridge’s description of the clerisy as a body whose object and end are civilization with freedom, and whose activity lies in the maintenance and spread of civility, then it is manifest that a commitment to a political cause which governs and constrains clerkly activities is self-canceling and self-destructive. An appetite for truth is incompatible with the duties of a recruiting sergeant.

The phenomena against which Benda was writing were much more visible in France than in England or the U.S. There was no movement here comparable to the Action Française in its intellectual prestige or in its spread within the academy and among the intellectual classes. Nor did Marxism, though it had many devotees, occupy the same commanding position within British or American intellectual life as it did for so long in France. This has perhaps to do with the relative stability of British and American political institutions compared with the turbulence and extremism which have punctuated French politics from 1789 almost to the present day, where the body politic has been riven by unappeasable hatreds, the legitimacy of successive regimes has been questioned by large and influential groups, and where political passions have raged uncontrollably.

But in today’s English-speaking world (as indeed in today’s France), we do now see a political commitment within the academy having to do neither with the character and definition of the body politic nor with the class struggle. This particular commitment has arisen out of a fairly recent development in the history of Western countries, namely, their expansion outside Europe and their military, political, and intellectual dominance over very large areas of Asia and Africa. Except in its intellectual aspect, this dominance is now dead and gone, but both while it lasted and still today it has inspired within the academy sultry and acrid political passions and tenacious political commitments.

That this should be so is quite remarkable. Military and political expansion, after all, is nothing new in history. Rome and Islam, to take two familiar examples, founded and governed empires which incorporated a large number of alien peoples. Their culture was received and adopted by the conquered. Yet it is impossible to recall any expressions of guilt by Roman rulers or Latin writers over the conquest of Gaul, the subjugation of Egypt, or the destruction of Jerusalem. Nor did the Arab Muslim conquerors of Andalusia or the Turkish Muslim conquerors of the Balkans—two events separated by many centuries—or Muslim chroniclers and men of letters evince any misgivings or remorse over the expansion of the faith or the great increase in its power. On the contrary, it was their subsequent military defeat and political failure which evoked self-examination, a search for what had gone wrong, for what Romans or Muslims must have done to have so signally attracted the punishment of heaven. Nor in their times of power did Roman or Muslim writers take up, let alone fervently embrace, the cause of a conquered group and advocate its secession from Rome or the Muslim state.



The reasons behind the singularity of the modern Western attitude toward the government of foreign peoples are by no means mysterious or incomprehensible, but they are quite complex and cannot be set out in short compass. What I want to consider here is one aspect of this attitude—namely, political commitment within the academy either to a foreign nationalism or to what is called anti-imperialism or anti-colonialism—and to elucidate its character by means of a few well-documented examples.

I begin with a case which involved the University of London. At the end of World War I, some Greek businessmen in London, acting with the encouragement of the Greek government, endowed the Koraes chair in Modern Greek History at King’s College (which is part of the University of London). The university offered the donors’ representatives a say in appointments to the chair and periodic reports on the academic activities of its incumbent. Arnold J. Toynbee was appointed as the first Koraes Professor in 1919. He was a classicist by training, and when in 1912 he was elected Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, after gaining the highest academic honors as an undergraduate, he was thought to have a brilliant academic career before him. He was also the son-in-law of Gilbert Murray, eminent authority on ancient Greece and ardent Liberal. During the war, when in government service, Toynbee had published a voluminous report on anti-Armenian atrocities perpetrated by the Ottoman government, and a pamphlet entitled The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks. From the point of view of everyone concerned, then, his credentials seemed of the best.

In 1921, Toynbee visited Greece and Turkey in order to report for the Manchester Guardian on the Greco-Turkish wars which had been sparked by the Greek occupation and annexation of Smyrna. What he saw in the theater of war led Toynbee to conclude that when it came to atrocities, Greeks were no better than Turks. He said so in his dispatches, which he shortly afterward collected in a volume containing his reflections on the significance of the war and particularly on the spread of Western ideologies and their role in exacerbating the conflict. This book, The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, is probably the best Toynbee wrote. It created a furor, however, among the donors of the Koraes chair, who held that its occupant had no business attacking Greece. Four years after his appointment, Toynbee, who had not been told of the special conditions attaching to it, felt compelled as a result of outside agitation and pressure to resign from his position.

It was no doubt imprudent of the university and of King’s College to accept a gift which had such strings attached to it. Other universities have since done the same, particularly in the heyday of OPEC. In many cases university authorities were attracted by the lure of expansion, of establishing new posts and new departments with money which seemed to be offered on a silver platter. The greed manifest in these transactions seems, in its innocence, to be a comparatively venial sin.

It was somewhat different with the Koraes chair. Leading figures at King’s and in the university were for it, because they were passionate philhellenes who believed that the modern Greeks were the direct heirs of Phidias and Pericles and hence much superior to the unspeakable Turks. They also believed that the modern Greek cause was just. That cause was the Megale Idea, that is, the recovery of Constantinople as well as Ionia and other lands of Greek settlement elsewhere in the Ottoman empire, and the recreation in modern times of “the glory that was Greece.” The Principal of King’s, Ronald Burrows, in particular was a most fervent admirer of Venizelos, the Prime Minister who had secured the approval of the Allies for the Greek landing at Smyrna, and whose government launched that ill-fated expedition. Burrows wrote a poem, entitled “Song of the Hellenes to Veniselos the Cretan.” The last stanza of this jingle gives some idea of the fervor of his commitment:

Veniselos! Veniselos!
Thou’ll not fail us! Thou’ll not fail us!
Righteousness is on thy face;
Strength thou hast to rule our race;
Great in war and great in peace,
Thou, our second Perikles.

Toynbee’s appointment and its sequels, then, were a direct outcome of an uncritical political romanticism, deleterious to the university and to King’s College. More seriously, such an attitude was detrimental to historical understanding, an enterprise which the academy exists to promote. The restoration of “the glory that was Greece,” or of Greek dominion over Constantinople, could not but be a fantasy. Even if, per impossibile, it came to be realized, the result would hardly have been to the taste of any modern Westerner, who would find life in a polis or under the caesaropapist rule of a Byzantine emperor impossibly constraining. Such a romantic commitment also stood in the way of a proper understanding of the politics of the kingdom of Greece, from its inception an unstable and intrigue-ridden Near Eastern backwater, passionate devotion to which by an outsider seems a piece of extravagant excess.



The same may be said about the ideas and intellectual influence of Edward Granville Browne (1862-1926), who in 1902 became Sir Thomas Adams Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge. In 1910, Browne published The Persian Revolution, a book which for many decades was accepted as the most authoritative source on the events of 1905-06 that had led to the grant of a constitution by the Shah, and the establishment of a parliament. Browne knew in great detail the vast corpus of Persian literature of the Islamic period, and was a great admirer of Persian poetry of the classical age. As a young man he had spent a year traveling in Persia. His travels resulted in A Year Among the Persians, a classic book celebrating the grace, beauty, and charm of an ancient civilization that had produced exquisite buildings, beautiful carpets, tiles, pottery, and painting, as well as literature.

The Persian Revolution was also a celebration of something else, namely, the idea that a civilization which had flourished in former centuries vindicated and justified political actions which, if successful, would revivify an ancient and illustrious past. Browne’s attitude to modern Persia was thus on a par with Burrows’s attitude to modern Greece. It is very interesting that in the preface to The Persian Revolution Browne himself draws a parallel between the two countries. No one, he says, would deny that modern Greece owes its independence to the feeling that the ancient Greeks contributed so much to the spiritual, intellectual, and artistic wealth of the human race. Persia stands in the same category, he continues, and has the same claim on our sympathies.

The Persian Revolution does indeed show the extent to which Browne acknowledged this debt, and how fully he tried to repay it. In the preface he sets out the implicit assumptions underlying his narrative: that diversity, not uniformity, “is the higher law and the more desirable state”; that everything has its own generic perfection, attainable by the realization of its own potentialities, not by the adoption of the attributes of something else; and that the destruction of a distinctive type “is a loss to the universe and therefore an evil.” Browne regarded the events of 1905-06 as an attempt to preserve the distinctive Persian civilization, and his book was designed to “arouse in the hearts of my countrymen some sympathy for a people who have . . . hitherto received less than they deserve.”

Even though a plea for sympathy, Browne’s book also purports to narrate a sequence of events. The events had taken place some four or five years before the book was published, but even in 1910, it would have been clear to anyone swayed neither by sympathy nor antipathy that here was a most confused story in which a multitude of agents, moved by a great variety of ambitions and cupidities, by illusions and half-baked plans, some devoid of scruple and others lacking courage, fought it out, to no conclusive result, on that darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night. And even if this was not clear in 1910, the whole course of Persian history would have led a skeptical historian to set the demand for a constitution, made by a handful of Westernized intellectuals and ambitious divines, and conceded by a feeble and hesitant Shah, against the political traditions of a country whose subjects were for generations inured to passivity, and their rulers accustomed to indulge every despotic whim. Browne’s readers, however, would come away with the impression that the sole guilt for the morass lay with Great Britain and Russia. Yet while these two Great Powers had substantial and rival interests in Persia, which they were naturally intent on defending, they had had no hand in creating the political traditions of Persia, in the demand for a constitution, in the elections which followed, or in the anarchy which supervened immediately thereafter.

The failure of Browne’s book as history stems in turn from three causes: from the romantic belief that exquisite mosques and beautiful carpets are proof of political virtue; from the belief that virtue and its opposite are easily distinguished in political quarrels; and from the belief that the historian must take the side of persecuted virtue. This last is what Benda called a Christian romanticism. Commitment to the claims of misfortune is admirable in a Mother Teresa, but becomes a dangerous hindrance to the work of a scholar.



The religion of misfortune found a much devoted votary in Louis Massignon (1883-1962), the influential scholar of Islam who occupied an important chair at the College de France between 1926 and his retirement in 1954. Massignon made his name with his doctoral dissertation on Hallaj, a Muslim mystic executed by the Muslim authorities in Baghdad in 922. The work is a remarkable one, and Massignon’s knowledge of Islam and its literature, and of the medieval Muslim world, is both minute and massive. Hallaj, however, was by no means a central figure in Muslim religious history, and neither was Islamic mysticism a central feature in the life of the Islamic community. It was Massignon to whom Hallaj was enormously significant, not only in himself but also as an abiding symbol of Islam and indeed of all religious life.

Massignon’s preoccupation with Hallaj and his fate became intertwined with his own religious life which, curiously enough, was revolutionized by a very intense experience he underwent in the vicinity of Baghdad in 1908, when he was twenty-five years old. He had gone to Mesopotamia on an archeological expedition and in the course of it was arrested by the Ottoman authorities as a suspected spy and sent under escort to Baghdad. Near Baghdad, at Salman Pak, where stand the remains of a Sassanid palace destroyed by the Muslim conquerors, Massignon, believing himself to be in mortal danger, had some kind of revelation or visitation. It shook him to the core, and changed him from a lukewarm Catholic to a most devout and fervent believer. This intense form of Catholicism and Hallaj’s mysticism thereafter became almost indistinguishable. For Massignon, Hallaj was not a historical figure but the archetype of the highest experience men can aspire to; and Islam itself, improbably enough, merged in Massignon’s mind with the ascetic Catholicism he practiced, with its accent on suffering and on redemption through suffering.

All this might have remained a private preoccupation or obsession had it not carried over into his writing and teaching. A French author who used to go and hear Massignon at the College de France wrote that his lectures, supposedly about Muslim law or Arabic literature, would turn into savage attacks on industrial trusts, on rulers, on the Moloch State, all delivered with a sovereign lack of restraint. Massignon’s writings confirm and fill out this sketch. Since the time of Hagar, whom Abraham sent away with her son Ishmael, Muslims, Massignon declared, have been the most deprived of human beings. Islam, he also affirmed, does not kneel down before gold, or before the cruelty of police techniques. Muslims have an insurmountable repugnance for banking capital, for state loans, for international cartels, alcoholic drinks, white slavery, or the “nationalization of labor.” Red-light districts were introduced into Muslim lands by the colonialists. Although Massignon concedes that homosexuality is known among the Arabs, he insists that it was Europeans, and particularly European Jews, who taught them its abject and sadistic aspects. And so forth.

All of this leaves one wide-eyed in astonishment, coming as it does from the Professor of Islamic Sociology and Sociography who might be expected to know that until very recent times Muslims looked upon themselves as masters and not as victims, that Islam was par excellence a civilization in which business flourished, and that red-light districts did not suddenly appear in Muslim countries with the advent of the Christian West. What has taken place here is an intermixing of mystique and politique, to the loss of both, as well as to the detriment of the academic enterprise. Furthermore, this impossible and desperate jump from mystique to politique lands Massignon in a crude Marxism where he is utterly out of his depth. Thus, he paints a lurid scenario in which Jewish bankers, beginning in medieval Baghdad and Cairo and then moving on to Lisbon, Amsterdam, and New York, organize and finance first the slave trade and then the oil business, until they now control in secret the entire Anglo-American policy of colonial exploitation, as well as the Arab-Jewish conflict from which it benefits.



We may say of Massignon that, out of pro-Muslim fervor, he ended up a Marxist without knowing it. In the case of another professor at the College de France, political commitment was much more conscious and much more articulate. Jacques Berque was born in 1910 in Algeria, the son of a French father who had become a high official in the Algerian administration. He himself served as an official in Morocco between 1934 and 1953. In leisure snatched from his official duties, he wrote an anthropological study of Berber tribal society which in 1956 simultaneously earned him his doctorate and the chair in the Social History of Contemporary Islam, which he held until his retirement in 1981. Like Massignon, therefore, he occupied one of the highest and most influential academic posts in France dealing with the Muslim world today.

From Berque’s prolific writings, and particularly from his autobiography, Memoirs of Two Shores (1989), we get quite a full picture of his teaching, and the reasons that made it what it was. During his years as an official in the Maghreb, there seems to have been slowly brewing within him a rebellion against the attitudes and the outlook of his parents, a rebellion which came to be also directed against French rule and French settlers in North Africa. Like Burrows, Browne, and Massignon, Berque had a deeply romantic vision of the foreign society which had become the object of his affections. In his case it was Arab society, above all in the Maghreb.

As he says in a book published in 1980, the place of Arabs in his life has been primordial. The Maghreb constituted for him a quest for that which had been lost by the French of North Africa. The Arabs were primordial, also, as friends and especially, he adds, “as women to whom I owe, through the revelation of [sexual] pleasure, the healing of my adolescence.” In his memoirs Berque describes how as a young man doing his military service in Morocco he used to frequent the red-light district in company with the native soldiers of his battalion. There he had his “official” girlfriend, his amie attitrée, Zohra, who had a body with the curves of a cello and a milk-white smile on a lightly bronzed face. “What a horrible word is whore,” he writes. “Our relationship . . . went far beyond the mercenary, it belonged to the category of gift and counter-gift.”

Later, when he was an administrator in the Moroccan countryside, Berque would travel on weekends to Casablanca, a journey which took a whole day by bus, in order to visit its red-light district. Encounters there between occupiers and colonized were, he felt, frank and equal, unlike more “decent” ones which partook of the hypocritical and infamous. The red-light district had the effect of liberating a truth, the truth of desire, revealed also through the beauty of the girls with their copper-colored flesh, heavy like statues by Maillol. To Berque, these girls had “an ageless nobility and an integrity which nothing could soil.”

It was through Berque’s own inner rebellion that the revolutionary program of the liberation movements would eventually touch him. Berque’s teaching thus seems to have derived from strong and intimate passions, and from the guilt he felt at being part of the French implantation in North Africa. He suffered in his innermost being the torment of an importunate guest who had installed himself as a master in the hearth of Islam. As the poet Yeats put it: “Come fix upon me that accusing eye, I thirst for accusation.” To escape the guilt, he had to take sides.

In 1953 Berque gave up his Moroccan post to become a UNESCO official in Egypt, and there, he writes, “je me tierre-mondisais”—“I went third world.” The third world with which Berque identified he saw as the violent upsurge of fundamental energies overcoming the superficiality of modern civilization. The restitution of a truly universal humanism would come through violence. Terrorism was an ordeal (in the medieval sense of the word), a rite of initiation necessary for the emancipation of the oppressed—an emancipation which was a preview of a future global society. In each of us, Berque declares, there is a third world, and the future of the third world is our own future.

Berque greatly admired the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which he described as a countrywide Chinese theater, taking the place of the traditional Chinese theater which Mao had banned. He also believed that the one-party state was an obvious necessity. Nkrumah he regarded as a humanist, and Nasser as one who made it possible for the Egyptians to attain the status of adults. Berque saw the Arabs in general as a force of resistance against injustice, and as allies of democracy and of socialism. He supported the Algerian FLN in its revolt against the French; as he saw it, his support allowed him to work simultaneously for the freedom of Algeria and for France’s true, lost self.

Where now are Nkrumah’s humanism, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Arab support for democracy and socialism, freedom in FLN-ruled Algeria? Not the least dismal thing about all these positions is that they render the one who holds them unfit to account for the wreckage left behind by the likes of Nkrumah, Nasser, and the FLN. Why the causes Berque so fervently espoused have ended in failure and heartbreak is a question that has to be answered by others.



The academic enterprise is self-committed, concerned with understanding for the sake of understanding. As an activity it is neither more nor less valuable than other activities; but it is different. Trying to understand for the sake of understanding is, indeed, a fairly recent enterprise of the human mind, taking its place among the great array of activities which strive to create a human world at once intelligible and a source of satisfaction. Political commitment—earnest, sour, joyless—casts a pall over this satisfaction.

In his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, a central document in the annals of the modern European mind, Friedrich Schiller describes artistic creation as something “completely self-contained, and as if existing beyond space, neither yielding nor resisting.” Artistic creation is a fulfillment of what Schiller calls man’s play-drive, and he adds that man is fully a human being only when he plays. In “the joyous kingdom of play,” he says, man is “relieved of the shackles of circumstance, and released from all that might be called constraint, alike in the physical and the moral sphere.” It is in some such words that one may describe scholarly activity and its satisfactions. It is free of the compulsions imposed by nature and the urgencies dictated by the practical, and it is adulterated and ruined by extrinsic commitment.

No man can escape commitment, it is sometimes said. This is justified by the argument that every man is of his own time and place, and is indelibly marked by it. This argument forms the basis of what is called the sociology of knowledge, a kind of inquiry which purports to explain and account for any literary or scholarly production by situating the author within his class, his country, and his time. Yet reductionism of this sort involves itself in a vicious circle, since the conclusions of the sociologists of knowledge would themselves have to be judged not in terms of their truth but simply as exemplifying the attitudes of a particular class in a particular country, and so on ad infinitum. In any case, the notion of freedom from political commitment does not imply that an author floats in some colorless empyrean, removed from all sublunar judgments and references. Such a being is simply unthinkable. Freedom from political commitment signifies what it says—namely, that in his work, the writer is not concerned to defend or attack some political cause in order to ensure either its victory or its defeat.

What the peculiar satisfactions of scholarly activity are we may begin to appreciate if we bring to mind such works as Edward Gibbon on the decline and fall of the Roman empire, Jakob Burckhardt on the Italian Renaissance, Fustel de Coulanges on the ancient city, Gustave von Grunebaum on medieval Islam, or S.D. Goitein on medieval Mediterranean society. These monuments are indeed, in Schiller’s words, “completely self-contained, and as if existing beyond space, neither yielding nor resisting.” By no conceivable stretch of the imagination can they be said to work in favor of a political cause or against it.

We may, by way of conclusion, quote some lines from Yeats’s poem, “An Irish Airman Foresees his Death.” Through the power of the poet’s genius these lines illumine, by analogy, the life of scholarship, and the particular fulfillment which is its reward:

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds.

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