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NATURAM ARS NON
MUTAT.

EDUCATION HAS NO EFFECT ON NATURE

Indocile ingenium si pergas velle docere:[1]
Infoelix operam perdas, ut si quis asellum
In campum doceat parentem currere freno.
Qui cm quadrupedum in morem videatur equorum
Tollere posse caput: gressus glomerare superbos:
Hunc tamen aut frenis, aut si calcaribus urges:
Auriculas demittit iniquae mentis asellus
In terram, & pedibus posticis calcitrat. Ergo
Desine. Nam nunqum Ars Naturam vincet. Equusque
Nunquam ex degeneri fiet generosus asello.
Et nunquam ex stolido cordatus fiet, ab arte.

If you want to teach someone who’s unteachable you’re wasting your labour, as if someone in the field were to try to teach an ass to take the bit between his teeth and run obediently. Although he’s clearly able to raise his head as four-footed horses* do and take proud steps, still, if you urge him with your heels or the bridle he flips his little ass’s ears in anger down to the ground and kicks with his hind legs. So stop! Education will never conquer nature, just as a degenerate ass will never become a noble horse, just so a stupid man will never be intelligent.†
* The word quadrupes is a common kenning for ‘horse’ in Roman epic poetry; so the sentence is less absurd in Latin than in English.
cordatus, the heart being the seat of the intellect for the Romans.

Notes:

1. Epic hexameters.



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