Keep a fool if you are wise

Here we have Rabelais citing a proverb attesting to the capacity of fools to unravel knotty problems.   See similar examples, including Sima Qian 司馬遷 (c. 145-86 BC), an historian something like the Chinese equivalent of Herodotus, and a 17th century German preacher’s account of great lords need fools. 

Quotation: Rabelais, Le Tiers Livre, in Oeuvres Complètes, vol. 1, p. 558; The Works of Rabelais, trans. by Sir Thomas Urquhart and Peter le Motteux, 2nd edn (London: Bodley Head, 1933), vol. 2, p. 130.

I have often heard it said in a vulgar proverb, the wise may be instructed by a fool.  Seeing the answers and responses of sage and judicious men have in no manner of way satisfied you, take advice of some fool, and possibly by so doing you may come to get that counsel which will be agreeable to your own heart’s desire and contentment.  You know how by the advice and counsel and prediction of fools, many kings, princes, states, and commonwealths have been preserved, several battles gained, and divers doubts of a most perplexed intricacy resolved.

 

(J’ay souvent ouy en proverbe vulguaire qu’un fol enseigne bien un saige.  Puys que par les responses des saiges n’estez à plain satisfaict, conseillez vous à quelque fol.  Pourra estre que, ce faisant, plus à vostre gré serez satisfaict et content.  Par l’advis, conseil et praediction des folz vous scavez quants princes, roys et republicques ont esté conservez, quantes batailles guaignées, quantes perplexitez dissolues.)

Source: Rabelais, Le Tiers Livre, in Oeuvres Complètes, vol. 1, p. 558; The Works of Rabelais, trans. by Sir Thomas Urquhart and Peter le Motteux, 2nd edn (London: Bodley Head, 1933), vol. 2, p. 130.

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