“Who wrought my studious numbers
Smoothly once in happier days,
Now perforce in tears and sadness
Learn a mournful strain to raise.
Lo, the Muses, grief-dishevelled,
Guide my pen and voice my woe;
Down their cheeks unfeigned the tear drops
To my sad complainings flow!
These alone in danger’s hour
Faithful found, have dared attend
On the footsteps of the exile
To his lonely journey’s end.”
This book is a dialog, a poem, a religious and philosophical treatise, and kind of a fantasy novel written by Boethius, which is a very fun name to say. Boethius was imprisoned by the king Theodoric, after serving in some capacity as an advisor to the court. He was executed for treason. In between he wrote this book which explores the question of metaphysics, and serves in a way as a transitional space between late antiquity philosophy and early Christian philosophy. Unlike something late like Pascal’s Pensees, this is trying to really reckon with the split in the world brought on the changing dominant religion across the continent. The form here is a combination of a poem in which the speaker (more or less Boethius) addresses his plight in prison. This leads to the physical form of “Philosophy” (Lady Philosophy) the embodiment of the concept taking him through a kind of Socratic dialog (although, I would say she provides a little more shape and analysis to the question than just dialog) in which she questions what Boethius has placed value in throughout his life, and he looks for some kind of peace in the real likelihood of impending death. The dialog cover a lot of different topics, and what I find very interesting is the the driving force behind most of the revelations is humility, which certainly goes against a lot of the ways we see Christianity interact with politics in the world today. The lessons on power and wealth are good reminders of what both seems sensical and righteous compared to the ways in which Christianity is wielded as a weapon of hate in fascist and aspirationally fascist politicians now.