Oscar Wilde Poems >>
The Teacher Of Wisdom
From his childhood he had been as one filled with the perfect
knowledge of God, and even while he was yet but a lad many of the
saints, as well as certain holy women who dwelt in the free city of
his birth, had been stirred to much wonder by the grave wisdom of
And when his parents had given him the robe and the ring of manhood
he kissed them, and left them and went out into the world, that he
might speak to the world about God. For there were at that time
many in the world who either knew not God at all, or had but an
incomplete knowledge of Him, or worshipped the false gods who dwell
in groves and have no care of their worshippers.
And he set his face to the sun and journeyed, walking without
sandals, as he had seen the saints walk, and carrying at his girdle
a leathern wallet and a little water-bottle of burnt clay.
And as he walked along the highway he was full of the joy that
comes from the perfect knowledge of God, and he sang praises unto
God without ceasing; and after a time he reached a strange land in
which there were many cities.
And he passed through eleven cities. And some of these cities were
in valleys, and others were by the banks of great rivers, and
others were set on hills. And in each city he found a disciple who
loved him and followed him, and a great multitude also of people
followed him from each city, and the knowledge of God spread in the
whole land, and many of the rulers were converted, and the priests
of the temples in which there were idols found that half of their
gain was gone, and when they beat upon their drums at noon none, or
but a few, came with peacocks and with offerings of flesh as had
been the custom of the land before his coming.
Yet the more the people followed him, and the greater the number of
his disciples, the greater became his sorrow. And he knew not why
his sorrow was so great. For he spake ever about God, and out of
the fulness of that perfect knowledge of God which God had Himself
given to him.
And one evening he passed out of the eleventh city, which was a
city of Armenia, and his disciples and a great crowd of people
followed after him; and he went up on to a mountain and sat down on
a rock that was on the mountain, and his disciples stood round him,
and the multitude knelt in the valley.
And he bowed his head on his hands and wept, and said to his Soul,
'Why is it that I am full of sorrow and fear, and that each of my
disciples is an enemy that walks in the noonday?' And his Soul
answered him and said, 'God filled thee with the perfect knowledge
of Himself, and thou hast given this knowledge away to others. The
pearl of great price thou hast divided, and the vesture without
seam thou hast parted asunder. He who giveth away wisdom robbeth
himself. He is as one who giveth his treasure to a robber. Is not
God wiser than thou art? Who art thou to give away the secret that
God hath told thee? I was rich once, and thou hast made me poor.
Once I saw God, and now thou hast hidden Him from me.'
And he wept again, for he knew that his Soul spake truth to him,
and that he had given to others the perfect knowledge of God, and
that he was as one clinging to the skirts of God, and that his
faith was leaving him by reason of the number of those who believed
And he said to himself, 'I will talk no more about God. He who
giveth away wisdom robbeth himself.'
And after the space of some hours his disciples came near him and
bowed themselves to the ground and said, 'Master, talk to us about
God, for thou hast the perfect knowledge of God, and no man save
thee hath this knowledge.'
And he answered them and said, 'I will talk to you about all other
things that are in heaven and on earth, but about God I will not
talk to you. Neither now, nor at any time, will I talk to you
And they were wroth with him and said to him, 'Thou hast led us
into the desert that we might hearken to thee. Wilt thou send us
away hungry, and the great multitude that thou hast made to follow
And he answered them and said, 'I will not talk to you about God.'
And the multitude murmured against him and said to him, 'Thou hast
led us into the desert, and hast given us no food to eat. Talk to
us about God and it will suffice us.'
But he answered them not a word. For he knew that if he spake to
them about God he would give away his treasure.
And his disciples went away sadly, and the multitude of people
returned to their own homes. And many died on the way.
And when he was alone he rose up and set his face to the moon, and
journeyed for seven moons, speaking to no man nor making any
answer. And when the seventh moon had waned he reached that desert
which is the desert of the Great River. And having found a cavern
in which a Centaur had once dwelt, he took it for his place of
dwelling, and made himself a mat of reeds on which to lie, and
became a hermit. And every hour the Hermit praised God that He had
suffered him to keep some knowledge of Him and of His wonderful
Now, one evening, as the Hermit was seated before the cavern in
which he had made his place of dwelling, he beheld a young man of
evil and beautiful face who passed by in mean apparel and with
empty hands. Every evening with empty hands the young man passed
by, and every morning he returned with his hands full of purple and
pearls. For he was a Robber and robbed the caravans of the
And the Hermit looked at him and pitied him. But he spake not a
word. For he knew that he who speaks a word loses his faith.
And one morning, as the young man returned with his hands full of
purple and pearls, he stopped and frowned and stamped his foot upon
the sand, and said to the Hermit: 'Why do you look at me ever in
this manner as I pass by? What is it that I see in your eyes? For
no man has looked at me before in this manner. And the thing is a
thorn and a trouble to me.'
And the Hermit answered him and said, 'What you see in my eyes is
pity. Pity is what looks out at you from my eyes.'
And the young man laughed with scorn, and cried to the Hermit in a
bitter voice, and said to him, 'I have purple and pearls in my
hands, and you have but a mat of reeds on which to lie. What pity
should you have for me? And for what reason have you this pity?'
'I have pity for you,' said the Hermit, 'because you have no
knowledge of God.'
'Is this knowledge of God a precious thing?' asked the young man,
and he came close to the mouth of the cavern.
'It is more precious than all the purple and the pearls of the
world,' answered the Hermit.
'And have you got it?' said the young Robber, and he came closer
'Once, indeed,' answered the Hermit, 'I possessed the perfect
knowledge of God. But in my foolishness I parted with it, and
divided it amongst others. Yet even now is such knowledge as
remains to me more precious than purple or pearls.'
And when the young Robber heard this he threw away the purple and
the pearls that he was bearing in his hands, and drawing a sharp
sword of curved steel he said to the Hermit, 'Give me, forthwith
this knowledge of God that you possess, or I will surely slay you.
Wherefore should I not slay him who has a treasure greater than my
And the Hermit spread out his arms and said, 'Were it not better
for me to go unto the uttermost courts of God and praise Him, than
to live in the world and have no knowledge of Him? Slay me if that
be your desire. But I will not give away my knowledge of God.'
And the young Robber knelt down and besought him, but the Hermit
would not talk to him about God, nor give him his Treasure, and the
young Robber rose up and said to the Hermit, 'Be it as you will.
As for myself, I will go to the City of the Seven Sins, that is but
three days' journey from this place, and for my purple they will
give me pleasure, and for my pearls they will sell me joy.' And he
took up the purple and the pearls and went swiftly away.
And the Hermit cried out and followed him and besought him. For
the space of three days he followed the young Robber on the road
and entreated him to return, nor to enter into the City of the
And ever and anon the young Robber looked back at the Hermit and
called to him, and said, 'Will you give me this knowledge of God
which is more precious than purple and pearls? If you will give me
that, I will not enter the city.'
And ever did the Hermit answer, 'All things that I have I will give
thee, save that one thing only. For that thing it is not lawful
for me to give away.'
And in the twilight of the third day they came nigh to the great
scarlet gates of the City of the Seven Sins. And from the city
there came the sound of much laughter.
And the young Robber laughed in answer, and sought to knock at the
gate. And as he did so the Hermit ran forward and caught him by
the skirts of his raiment, and said to him: 'Stretch forth your
hands, and set your arms around my neck, and put your ear close to
my lips, and I will give you what remains to me of the knowledge of
God.' And the young Robber stopped.
And when the Hermit had given away his knowledge of God, he fell
upon the ground and wept, and a great darkness hid from him the
city and the young Robber, so that he saw them no more.
And as he lay there weeping he was ware of One who was standing
beside him; and He who was standing beside him had feet of brass
and hair like fine wool. And He raised the Hermit up, and said to
him: 'Before this time thou hadst the perfect knowledge of God.
Now thou shalt have the perfect love of God. Wherefore art thou
weeping?' And he kissed him.
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Based on Keywords: foolishness, robbeth, water-bottle