« PreviousContinue »
for he makes up his fortunes out of the corruptions of the age.
2 To proceed now from the most prostitute of all vices, sensuality and avarice, to that which passes in the world for the most generous, the thirst of glory and dominion. If they that run mad after wealth and honor, could but look into the hearts of them that have already gained these points, how would it startle them to see those hideous cares and crimes that wait upon ambitious greatness: all those acquisitions that dazzle the eyes of the vulgar are but false pleasares, slippery and uncertain. They are achieved with labor, and the very guard of them is painful...
3 He that had subdued so many princes and nations, upon the killing of Clytus (one friend) and the loss of Hyphestion (another,) delivered himself up to anger and sadness: and when he was master of the world, he was yet a slave to his passions. Look into Cyrus, Cambyses, and the whole Persian line, and you shall not find so much as one man of them that died satisfied with what he had gotten.
4 Ambition aspires from great things to greater; and propounds matters even impossible, when it has at once arrived at things beyond expectation. It is a kind of dropsy ; the more a man drinks, the more he covets. But all superfluities are hurtful.
SECTION XI. The blessings of temperance and moderation. 1 There is not any thing that is necessary to us but we have it either cheap or gratis: and this is the provision that our heavenly Father has made for us, whose bounty was never wanting to our needs. It is true, the appetite craves and calls upon us, but then a small matter contents it.
2 As for meat, clothes, and lodging, a little feeds the body, and as little covers it; so that if mankind would only attend human nature, without gaping at superfluities, a cook would be found as needless as a soldier: for we may have necessaries upon "very easy terms; whereas, we put ourselves to great pains for excesses.
3 It is pride and curiosity that involves us in difficulties: if nothing will serve a man but rich clothes and furniture, statues and plate, a numerous train of servants, and the rarities of all nations, it is not fortune's fault, but his own, that he is not satisfied; for his desires are insatiable, and this is not a thirst, but a disease.
4. While nature lay in common, and all her benefits were promiscuously enjoyed, what could be happier than the state of mankind, when people lived without avarice or envy?
5 Happy is that man that eats only for hunger, and drinks only for thirst; that stands upon his own legs, and lives by reason, not example; and provides for use and necessity, not for ostentation and pomp. - Let us curb our appetites, encourage virtue, and rather be beholden to ourselves for riches, than to fortune; who, when a man draws himself into a narrow compass, has the least mark at him.
6 Let my bed be plain and clean, and my clothes so too: my meat without much expense, or many waiters, and neither a burden to my purse nor to my body. That which is too little for luxury, is abundantly enough for nature.
SECTION XII. Constancy of mind gives a man reputation, and makes
him happy in despite of all misfortune. 1 We have examples in all ages, and in all cases, of great men that have triumphed over all misfortune. Metellus suffered exile resolutely, Rutilius cheerfully; Socrates disputed in the dungeon; and though he might have made his :: escape, refused it; to show the world how easy a thing it was to subdue the two great terrors of mankind, death and a jail. : - 2 Let us but consult history, and we shall find, even in the most effeminate of nations, and the most dissolute of times, men of all degrees, ages, and fortunes, nay, even women themselves, that have overcome the fear of death : which, in truth, is so little to be feared, that duly considered, it is one of the greatest benefits of nature. .
3 If we turn our backs once, we are routed and pursued; that man only is happy that draws good out of evil, that stands fast in his judgment, and unmoved with any external violence; or, however, so little moved, that the keenest arrow in the quiver of fortune is but as the prick of a needle to him rather than a wound; and all her other weapons fall upon him only as hail upon the roof of a house, that crackles and skips off again, without any damage to the inhabitant.
4 Not that I pretend to exempt a wise man out of the number of men, as if he had no sense of pain; but I reckon him as compounded of body and soul; the body is irrational, and may be galled, burnt, tortured; but the rational part is fearless, invincible, and not to be shaken.
5 Whatsoever is necessary, we must bear patiently. It is no new thing to die, no new thing to mourn, and no new thing to be merry again. Must I be poor? I shall have company: If I die, I shall be no more sick; and it is a thing I cannot do but once.
6 Let us never wonder at any thing we are born to; for no man has reason to complain, where we are all in the same condition. He that escapes might have suffered; and it is but equal to submit to the law of mortality. We must un. dergo the colds of winter, the heats of summer: the distem. per of the air, and the diseases of the body.
7 A wild beast meets us in one place, and a man that is more brutal in another: we are here assaulted by fire, there by water. Demetrius was reserved by Providence for the age he lived in, to show, that neither the times could corrupt him, nor he reform the people. It is the part of a great mind to be temperate in prosperity, resolute in adversity, and to prefer a mediocrity to an excess.
SECTION XIII. Qur happiness depends in a great measure upon the
choice of our company. 1 The comfort of life depends upon conversation. Good offices, and concord, and human society, is like the working of an arch of stone, all would fall to the ground if one piece did not support another. Above all things let us have a tenderness for blood; and it is yet too little not to hurt, unless we profit one another.
2 We are to relieve the distressed; to put the wanderer into his way; and to divide our bread with the hungry: which is but the doing of good to ourselves; for we are only several members of one great body.
3 Nay, we are all of a consanguinity ; formed of the same materials, and designed to the same end; this obliges us to a mutual tenderness and converse; and the other, to live with a regard to equity and justice. The love of society is natural; but the choice of our company is matter of virtue and prudence.
4 Noble examples stir us up to noble actions; and the very history of large and public souls, inspires a man with generous thoughts. It makes a man long to be in action, and doing something that the world may be the better for;, as protecting the weak, delivering the oppressed, punishing the insolent.
5 As an ill air may endanger a good constitution, so may a place of ill example endanger a good man. Nay, there are some places that have a kind of privilege to be licentious; and where luxury and dissolution of manners seem to be lawsul; for great examples give both authority and excuse to wickedness. Those places are to be avoided as dangerous to our manners. Hannibal himself was unmanned by the looseness of Campania; and though a conqueror by his arms, he was overcome by his pleasures. .
6 The best conversation is with the philosophers; that is to say, with such of them as teach us matter, not words; that preach to us things necessary, and keep us to the practice of them. The best way is to retire, and associate only with those that may be the better for us, and we for them. These respects are mutual; for while we teach, we learn. To deal freely, I dare not trust myself in the hands of much company; I never go abroad that I come home again the same man I went out.
The blessings of friendship. 1 Of all felicities, the most charming is that of a firm and gentle friendship. It sweetens all our cares, dispels ou sorrows, and counsels us in all extremities. Nay, if there were no other comfort in it than the bare exercise of so generous a virtue, even for that single reason, a man would not be without it. ..
- 2. But we are not yet to number our friends by the visits that are made us; and to confound the decencies of ceremony and commerce with the offices of united affections. The great difficulty rests in the choice of him : that is to say, in the first place, let him be virtuous, for vice is contagious, and there is no trusting of the sound and the sick together; and he ought to be a wise man too, if a body knew where to find him; but in this case, he that is least ill is best.
3 That friendship where men's affections are cemented by an equal and by a common love of goodness, it is not either hope or fear, or any private interest, that can ever dissolve it; but we carry it with us to our graves, and lay down our lives for it with satisfaction.
4 Paulina’s* good and mine were so wrapped up together
* Seneca's wife.
that in consulting her comfort I provided for my own; and when I could not prevail upon her to take less care for me,
she prevailed upon me to take more care for myself. .; 5 But let us have a care, above all things, that our kind. ness be rightfully founded ; for where there is any other invitation to friendship than the friendship itself, that friendship will be bought and sold. He derogates from the ma. jesty of it, that makes it only dependent upon good fortune.
6 It is a narrow consideration for a man to please himself in the thought of a friend, “because," says he, “I shall have one to help me when I am sick, in prison, or in want." A brave man should rather take delight in the contemplation of doing the same offices for another.
7 He that loves a man for his own sake, is in an error. A friendship of interest cannot last any longer than the interest itself; and this is the reason that men in prosperity are so much followed, and when a man goes down the wind, nobody comes near him. Temporary friends will never stand the test. It is a negotiation, not a friendship, that has an eye to advantages.
2. SECTION XV. He that would be happy must take an account of his time.
1 The shortness of life is the common complaint both of fools and philosophers; as if the time we have were not sufficient for our duties. But it is with our lives as with our estates, a good husband makes a little go a great way: whereas, let the revenue of a prince fall into the hands of a prodigal, it is gone in a moment.
2 So that the time allotted us, if it were well employed, were abundantly enough to answer all the ends and purposes of mankind. You shall have some people perpetually playing with their fingers, whistling, humming, and talking to themselves; and others consume their days in the composing, hearing, or reciting of songs and lampoons.
3 How many precious mornings do we spend in consultation with barbers and tailors, patching and painting, betwixt the comb and the glass ? The truth is, we are more solicitous about our dress than our manners, and about the order of our periwigs than that of the government.
4 While we are young, we may learn; our minds are tractable, and our bodies fit for labor and study; but when age comes on, we are seized with languor and sloth, afflieted with diseases, and at last we leave the world as ignorant as