Reprehensio

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“Barbarismis, soloecismis obsitae sunt, inquit, res vestrae et vitiorum deformitate pollutae.” puerilis sane atque angusti pectoris reprehensio, quam si admittemus ut vera sit, abiciamus ex usibus nostris quorundam fructuum genera, quod cum spinis nascuntur et purgamentis aliis, quae nec alere nos possunt nec tamen impediunt perfrui nos eo, quod principaliter antecedit et saluberrimum nobis voluit esse natura. quid enim officit, o quaeso, aut quam praestat intellectui tarditatem, utrumne quid grave an hirsuta cum asperitate promatur, inflectatur quod acui an acuatur quod oportebat inflectis? aut qui minus id quod dicitur verum est, si in numero peccetur aut casu, praepositione, participio, coniunctione? pompa ista sermonis et oratio missa per regulas contionibus litibus foro iudiciisque servetur deturque illis immo qui, voluptatum delinimenta quaerentes, omne suum studium verborum in lumina contulerunt. cum de rebus agitur ab ostentatione summotis, quid dicatur spectandum est, non quali cum amoenitate dicatur, nec quid aures commulceat, sed quas adferat audientibus utilitates: maxime cum sciamus etiam quosdam sapientiae deditos non tantum abiecisse sermonis cultum verum etiam, cum possent ornatius atque uberius eloqui, trivialem studio humilitatem secutos, ne corrumperent scilicet gravitatis rigorem et sophistica se potius ostentatione iactarent.
(Arnobius, Adversus Nationes 1.59.1-5)

Your narratives, my opponent says, are overrun with barbarisms and solecisms, and disfigured by monstrous blunders. A censure, truly, which shows a childish and petty spirit; for if we allow that it is reasonable, let us cease to use certain kinds of fruit because they grow with prickles on them, and other growths useless for food, which on the one hand cannot support us, and yet do not on the other hinder us from enjoying that which specially excels, and which nature has designed to be most wholesome for us. For how, I pray you, does it interfere with or retard the comprehension of a statement, whether anything be pronounced smoothly or with uncouth roughness? whether that have the grave accent which ought to have the acute, or that have the acute which ought to have the grave? Or how is the truth of a statement diminished, if an error is made in number or case, in preposition, participle, or conjunction? Let that pomposity of style and strictly regulated diction be reserved for public assemblies, for lawsuits, for the forum and the courts of justice, and by all means be handed over to those who, striving after the soothing influences of pleasant sensations, bestow all their care upon splendour of language. But when we are discussing matters far removed from mere display, we should consider what is said, not with what charm it is said nor how it tickles the ears, but what benefits it confers on the hearers, especially since we know that some even who devoted themselves to philosophy, not only disregarded refinement of style, but also purposely adopted a vulgar meanness when they might have spoken with greater elegance and richness, lest forsooth they might impair the stern gravity of speech and revel rather in the pretentious show of the Sophists. (tr. Hamilton Bryce & Hugh Campbell)

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