god, a discrete looter

“Indeed, of all the dreams that have ever been told to me – and I am not a willing audience – I think that only one was worth the hearing. It was a dream which came to that good gentleman of Rome, Flaminio Tomarozzo, who was by no means uninstructed or unimaginative, but was an enlightened man of shrewd intelligence. He dreamed that he was seated in the house of one of his neighbours, a rich chemist. After he had been there a little while, for some reason or other the mob began to riot and set about looting everything. They seized the pills and potions, some taking one thing and some another, and swallowed them there and then, so that in a short time there was not a phial or a jar, a beaker or a bowl, that was not drained dry. Only one little flask, full of a clear liquid, remained, and though many of the people put it to their noses none would dare to taste it. Presently there came upon the scene an old man of great stature and venerable appearance. He looked around gravely at the chemist’s bottles and gallipots, which were empty or spilled and for the most part broken, until his eye fell upon the small flask which I have mentioned. He lifted it to his lips and at once drank all the liquid until not a drop remained. Then he went out of the house just as all the others had done.

Flaminio was greatly intrigued by this and turning to the chemist asked ‘Master chemist, who is this man and why did he drink all the liquid in the flask with such relish after all the others had refused it?’ ‘My friend’, replied the chemist, ‘that was Almighty God. The water which, as you saw, He alone drank and everyone else rejected was discretion, which men will not taste at any price, as perhaps you are aware.’ ”

(Giovanni della Casa, Galateo, translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin, chapter 12 (“The reprehensible habit of telling one’s dreams”), pp. 43–44.)

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