The Only Thing That Never Fails

Merlyn’s advice to young Wart, soon to be King Arthur, from TH White’s The Once and Future King:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something.
That is the only thing that never fails.
You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies.
You may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins.
You may miss your only love.
You may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics.
Or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.
There is only one thing for it then.
To learn.
Learn why the world wags and what wags it.
That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust.
Never alienate.
Never be tortured by.
Never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.
Learning is the thing for you.
Look at what a lot of things there are to learn.
Pure science, the only purity there is.
You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six.
And then, after you have exhausted a million lifetimes in biology.
And medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics.
Why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood.
Or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing.
After that you can start again on mathematics.
Until it is time to learn to plow.”
I thank Madeline for passing this quote along to me.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sara Baker says:

    Wonderful, wonderful!

  2. terry camp says:

    Faulkner, when he received the Nobel Prize said, “The writer must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed- – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice”.

    love you

  3. David Paulk says:

    *Love* this book and this passage.

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