The Ship of Fools. Sebastian Brant.

The Ship of Fools.
Sebastian Brant.
Dover: 1962/1944/1494

Originally written in 1494, this book is comprised of 112 poems, each describing a particular “foolishness” in an insightful and frequently humorous way.  This book has been both influential and well read over the centuries, and I decided to read it more out of curiousity and/or an educational impulse than for enjoyment.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I not only found the book very enjoyable, but even inspiring, as I read about my own foibles and why I should try to improve myself.

Brant was a conservative Catholic in Reformation-era Germany, and some of the sins he takes on are a little outdated in today’s America, but the vast majority of the book covers general faults of humanity: bad manners, causing discord, complacency, adultery, sloth, etc.

The translation is among the best poetry translations I’ve read–smooth reading, and the poems even rhyme still.  Perhaps the original is easy to read as well, but this English translation is definitely so.  I had not intended to keep this, but it is worth rereading certain of these poems which are most applicable to my own faults.

Trivia note: this is the first book to refer to the discovery of America.