By Harry Blamires (auth.)
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He writes feelingly ofhis own love for the classics, for the delight and consolation he has obtained from them, for the practical wisdom acquired from them. He is equally alive to the need to bring commonsense to bear on interpretation of the bizarre elements of classical literature, and the need to interpret the Bible with attention to metaphorical and allegorical as well as literal meanings. Moreover he recommends alertness in reading to felicitous stylistic touches and effects. But what is most attractive in John of Salisbury's attitude to literature is the flexibility of approach which does not limit itself to systematising technicalities or drawing boundaries around what is good for the soul, but which is acutely sensitive to the value inherent in a continuing literary tradition and sees it as THE MIDDLE AGES 39 a source of both enjoyment and enrichment, intellectual and moral.
7 Here Quintilian insists on the importance of reading. ' In a similar vein, the poet Petronius declared that 'the mind cannot conceive or bring forth its offspring unless it is washed by a vast river of literature'. 8 Both Petronius and Quintilian also had something to say about the practice of 'Declamation'. This was originally a practice for training speakers. Fictional legal cases were imagined and a speaker would be required to speak for the prosecution or the defence in a mock trial or debate.
Under its decadent influence true eloquence disappears. It is clear that as the rhetoricians trained their pupils to the mechanical exploitation of contrived stylistic devices, a notion of rhetoric was encouraged which saw it as a training in the manipulation of descriptive flights, wordy amplifications, epigrammatic turns of phrase, exaggerated paradoxes and ou dan dish expressions. This debased recipe for rhetoric was transmitted to later ages. The fifth century writer Martianus Capella wrote an influential extravaganza De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, the Marriage of Learning and Eloquence.