II. (1.6) Let us then at once begin and consider the first of these points. To me, then, the well appears to be an emblem of knowledge; for its nature is not superficial, but very deep. Nor does it lie in an open place, but a well is fond of being hidden somewhere in secret. Nor is it found with ease, but only after great labour and with difficulty; and this too is seen to be the case with sciences, not only with such as have great and indescribable subjects of speculation, but even with respect to such as are the most insignificant. (1.7) Choose, therefore, whichever art you please; not the most excellent, but even the must obscure of all, which perhaps no one who has been bred a free man in the whole city would ever study of his own accord, and which scarcely any servant in the field would attend to, who, against his will, was a slave to some morose and ill-tempered master who compelled him to do many unpleasant things. (1.8) For the matter will be found to be not a simple one, but rather one of great complications and variety, not easy to be seized upon, but difficult to discover, difficult to master, hostile to delay, and indolence and indifference, full of earnestness and contention, and sweat, and care. For which reason “those who dig in this well say that they cannot find even water in it;” because the ends of science are not only hard to discover, but are even altogether undiscoverable; (1.9) and it is owing to this that one man is more thoroughly skilled in grammar or in geometry than another, because of its being impossible to circumscribe, increase, and extend one within certain limits; for there is always more that is left behind than what comes to be learnt; and what is left watches for and catches the learner, so that even he who fancies that he has comprehended and mastered the very extremities of knowledge would be considered but half perfect by another person who was his judge, and if he were before the tribunal of truth would appear to be only beginning knowledge; (1.10) for life is short, as some one has said, but art is long; of which that man most thoroughly comprehends the magnitude, who sincerely and honestly plunges deeply into it, and who digs it out like a well. And such a man, when he is at the point of death, being now grey-headed and exceedingly old, it is said, wept, not that he feared death as being a coward, but out of a desire for instruction, as feeling that he was now, for the first time, entering upon it when he was finally departing from life. (1.11) For the soul flourishes for the pursuit of knowledge when the prime vigour of the body is withering away from the lapse of time; therefore, before one has arrived at one’s prime and vigour by reason of a more accurate comprehension of things, it is not difficult to be tripped up. But this accident is common to all people who are fond of learning, to whom new subjects of contemplation are continually rising up and striving after old ones, the soul itself producing many such subjects when it is not barren and unproductive. And nature, also, unexpectedly and spontaneously displaying a great number to those who are gifted with acute and penetrating intellects. Therefore the well of knowledge is shown to be of this kind, having no boundary and no end. (1.12) We must now explain why it was called the well of the oath. Those matters which are doubted about are decided by an oath, and those which are uncertain are confirmed in the same manner, and so, too, those which want certification receive it; from which facts this inference is drawn, that there is no subject respecting which any one can make an affirmation with greater certainty than he can respecting the fact that the race of wisdom is without limitation and without end. (1.13) It is well, therefore, to enrol one’s self under the banners of one who discusses these matters without an oath; but he who is not very much inclined to assent to the assertions of another will at least assent to them when he has made oath to their correctness. But let no one refuse to take an oath of this kind, well knowing that he will have his name inscribed on pillars among those who are faithful to their oaths.