When I listen to great guitarists like Joe Satriani or Rik Emmett I’m occationally struck by a modicom of jealously. A friend once called it “Guitar Envy.” I think ‘man! I wish I could play like that.’ Of course, I never will; I don’t really work at it.

There are times when the futility of a particular endeavor strikes me somewhat harder than that. I’ve wanted to be able to write for a while now, but I constantly struggle to make myself clear in prose. So when I read master wordsmiths like Beryl Markham’s in her West With The Night or Charles Dickens, rather than being motivated, I’m all too often discouraged; nothing I write would ever come close.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the aforementioned authors but last night, while reading the English translation of an ancient Latin text, I found myself in the same situation.

There the gently rippling wave was smoothing the outside sands as if it would level them for a promenade; and as the sea is always restless, even when the winds are lulled, it came up on the shore, although not with waves crested and foaming, yet with waves crisped and curling. Just then we were excessively delighted at its vagaries, as on the very threshold of the water we were wetting the soles of our feet, and it now by turns approaching broke upon our feet, and now the wave retiring and retracing its course, sucked itself back into itself.

From the writings of Minucius Felix, an early (200 AD or so) Christian. Interestingly, the introduction states:

the primary place in Latin Christianity being necessarily adjudged to the commanding genius and fertile mind of Tertullian, while it is no discredit to assign to Minucius his proper but secondary credit

Second maybe in importance. But I’ve read much of Tertullian and in style and skill in prose, Minucius, in my mind, is primary.

Schaff, the writer of the Introduction does say:

but in Minucius we find, at the very fountain-head of Christian Latinity, a disciple of Cicero and a precursor of Lactantius in the graces of style

In our author’s style and thought there is a charm and a fragrance which associate him, in my mind, with the pure spirit of “Mathetes,”

Finally, a late 2nd century or early third century description of a familiar pastime – some things never change :-):

And when we came to that place where the little ships, drawn up on an oaken framework, were lying at rest supported above the (risk of) ground-rot, we saw some boys eagerly gesticulating as they played at throwing shells into the sea. This play is: To choose a shell from the shore, rubbed and made smooth by the tossing of the waves; to take hold of the shell in a horizontal position with the fingers; to whirl it along sloping and as low down as possible upon the waves, that when thrown it may either skim the back of the wave, or may swim as it glides along with a smooth impulse, or may spring up as it cleaves the top of the waves, and rise as if lifted up with repeated springs. That boy claimed to be conqueror whose shell both went out furthest, and leaped up most frequently.