1. Nothing bears a closer likeness to strong conviction than perverse infatuation: this is the cause of cliques, cabals and heresies.
2. We seldom think consistently on any subject: aversion follows close on the heels of infatuation.
3. Great things astonish us and little things discourage us; we grow familiar with either of these through habit.
4. We are equally prejudiced in favour of two quite opposite qualities, familiarity and novelty.
5. Nothing is meaner, and more typical of the mob, than to speak in glowing terms of those whom one held in little account before their rise to eminence.
6. The favour of princes does not preclude merit, but neither does it imply it.
7. It is surprising that, for all the pride with which we are puffed up, and our high opinion of ourselves and of the soundness of our judgement, we never think of using this when pronouncing on the merit of others. Fashion, popularity or royal favour sweep us away like a torrent: we praise what others praise, rather than what is praiseworthy.
8. I do not know if there is anything in the world harder to commend and praise than those things that most deserve commendation and praise, and whether virtue, merit, beauty, good deeds, great works are not naturally and surely more effective than envy, jealousy and aversion. A religious hypocrite will speak well, not of a saint, but of another hypocrite. If a handsome woman commends another's beauty, you may conclude that her own is superior. If a poet praises another poet's verses, you may wager that these are slight and worthless.
9. Men find it difficult to appreciate one another, and are little inclined to mutual approval; nothing can please or satisfy them about another man's deeds, behaviour, thoughts and expressions; they are less concerned with what is being told them or read to them than with what they would have done themselves in like circumstances, or what they would think or write on such a subject, and they are so full of their own ideas that there is no further room for anyone else's.
10. The great majority of men are so much given to dissoluteness and frivolity, and society is so full of examples that are either pernicious or ridiculous, that I am inclined to think that the spirit of singularity, if it could only be kept within bounds and not carried to excess, would come very close to sound reason and right behaviour.
`One must do as others do': a suspect maxim, which nearly always means: `one must do wrong' as soon as it is applied to anything beyond those purely external matters which are of no consequence, but depend on custom, fashion or convention.
11. If men are men, rather than bears and panthers, if they are equitable, if they deal justly with themselves and with others, what happens to laws, their texts and their prodigious accumulation of commentaries? what becomes of the pétitoire and the possessoire, and all that we know as jurisprudence? What becomes, indeed, of those who owe all their prominence and pride to the authority with which they are invested to enforce these laws? If these same men are upright and sincere, and have rid themselves of prejudice, what trace is left of theologians' quarrels, of scholasticism and controversy? If they are temperate, chaste and self-restrained, what use have they for the mysterious jargon of medicine, which is a gold mine for those who choose to speak it? Jurists, theologians, physicians, you would be ruined if we could all come to an agreement to behave wisely!
How many great men in different fields of activity, both in peace and in war, ought to have been superfluous! To what a point of perfection and refinement have we carried certain arts and certain sciences which should not have been necessary, and which are considered as remedies for all the ills whose sole source is our own evil nature!
How many things have been discovered since Varro's time, of which Varro was ignorant! Should it not be enough for us to be no more learned than Plato or Socrates?
12. At a sermon, at a concert, or in a picture gallery, you may hear precisely contrary opinions uttered to right and to left of you, about precisely the same thing. This inclines me to think that in any sort of work one may venture to include what is good and what is bad; some will like the good things and some the bad. One may just as safely introduce what is abominable: that, too, has its partisans.
13. The phoenix of sung poetry has been reborn from his ashes; he has seen his reputation die and revive in a single day. Even that infallible and unwavering judge, the public, has varied in its verdict on him: either it is mistaken now, or it was mistaken then. The man who would assert today that Q*** is a bad poet in his own line, would be saying the wrong thing almost as surely as if he had said some time ago: 'He is a good poet.'
14. Chapelain was very rich, and Corneille was not: La Pucelle and Rodoqune each deserved a different fare. Thus people have always wondered why, in such or such a profession, one man makes his fortune and another fails to do so; and in so doing they are seeking to account for their own caprice, which, under the pressure of affairs, their pleasures, their health and their daily life, often leads them to neglect the best and choose the worst.
15. The actors' profession was branded with infamy by the Romans and honoured by the Greeks: what is its status among ourselves? We think of actors as the Romans did, and we live with them like the Greeks.
16. Bathyllus merely had to be a mime to be sought after by all the Roman ladies: Rhöe to dance on the stage, Roscia and Nerina to sing in the chorus, to attract a host of lovers. Vanity and boldness, the results of excessive power, had deprived the Romans of a taste for secrecy and mystery; they took pleasure in making the public stage the scene of their own love affairs; they were not jealous of the pit, and they shared their mistress's charms with the mob. Their taste merely showed that their love was not for a beautiful woman or an excellent actress, but merely for an actress.
17. Nothing reveals more clearly men's attitude to learning and literature, and what use they think these are to the State, than the low price they put on them, and their opinion of those who have chosen to practise them. There is no craft, however mean, which does not yield quicker, more reliable and substantial advantages. The actor, sprawling in his carriage, splashes mud in the face of Corneille, who goes on foot. For many men, scholar is another name for pedant.
Often, when the rich man talks, and talks about learned matters, the learned must keep silence, listen and applaud, if they want to be considered nothing worse than learned.
18. It takes some courage to endure the shame of being learned, in the presence of certain people: we find in them a rooted prejudice against scholars, to whom they deny polite manners, good breeding and any social sense, dismissing them, thus denuded, to their studies and their books. Since ignorance is a peaceful and unexacting condition, it finds a host of adherents, and forms a popular faction at Court and in town, outnumbering that of the scholars. If these cite in their own favour the nines of d'Estrées, Harlay, Bossuet, Seguier, Moutausier, Wardes, Chevreuse, Novion, Lamoiguon, Scudéry, Pélisson and so many other eminent persons, as erudite as they are civilized; if they even venture to mention the great names of Chartres, Condé, Conti, Bourbon, Maine and Vendôme, princes who combined learning of the finest and highest sort with the Attic wit of the Greeks and the urbanity of the Romans, they are unhesitatingly told that these are exceptional examples; and should they have recourse to sound arguments, these prove powerless against public opinion. Yet surely the issue should be weighed more carefully, and people might take the trouble to ask themselves whether the same intelligence which brings about such great progress in the sciences, and enables men to think well, judge well, speak well and write well, may not also help them to acquire refinement.
Refinement of manners requires little solid worth; refinement of mind requires a great deal.
19.`He is learned,' says a politician, `so he is useless in practical matters; I wouldn't trust him to make a list of my wardrobe'; and he is quite right. Ossat, Ximénès, Richelieu were learned men; were they clever? were they reputed to be good ministers? `He knows Greek,' the statesman goes on, `he's a pedagogue, a philosopher.' And of course an Athenian greengrocer's wife presumably spoke Greek, and was therefore a philosopher. The Bignons and the Lamoignons were mere pedagogues, no doubt about it; they knew Greek. And that wise, judicious man, great Antoninus, was surely raving when he said that a nation would be happy if its Emperor practised philosophy, or if philosophers and pedagogues should rule the empire!
Languages are the key, the introduction to knowledge, and nothing more; contempt for the one reflects on the other. The question is not whether languages are ancient or modern, dead or living, but whether they are crude or cultivated, whether the books produced in them are in good or in bad taste. Suppose our own tongue were some day to suffer the same fate as Greek and Latin, would one be a pedant, if some few centuries after French was no longer spoken, one still read Molière and La Fontaince?
20. I mention Eurypylus, and you say: `He's a wit, a bel esprit.' You say, too, of a man sawing a beam: `He's a carpenter', and of one who is rebuilding a wall: `He's a mason.' Tell me then, where does this craftsman, this wit, have his workshop, what is his sign? by what dress can we recognize him? what tools does he use? the wedge, or the hammer and anvil? where does he hack or hammer out his work? where does he display it for sale? A craftsman prides himself on being a craftsman; does Eurypylus pride himself on being a wit? In that case, you are describing a conceited fool, who degrades the name of wit, a base and vulgar soul to whom the notions of beauty and wit cannot be applied seriously; and if the truth is that he does not pride himself on anything at all, then I understand you: he is a man of sense, who is also witty. Don't you say of the third-rate scholar: `He's a bel esprit', and the same of the poetaster? And what about yourself? do you think yourself devoid of wit? and if not, your wit is surely apt and polite; so you, too, are a bel esprit; or if you are about to take the name for an insult, I'll allow you to go on applying it to Eurypylus, using the term ironically as fools do, with an utter lack of discrimination, or like ignorant people, who find therein consolation for their own lack of a certain culture which they see only in others.
21. Never talk to me of ink, paper, pens, of style, of printers or presses, never venture to say to me: `You write so well, Antisthenes, keep on writing, when are we going to see a folio volume of yours? deal with all the virtues and vices in a sustained, systematic work, which will have no end'; and they should add: 'and no popularity'. I renounce all books, past, present and to come. Beryllus falls into a faint at the sight of a cat, and so do I at the sight of a book. Am I better and more warmly clad, is my room sheltered from the north wind, do I sleep on a feather bed, after being sold in the market place for full twenty years? I have won a great reputation, you tell me, and a great deal of glory: say rather that I've acquired a great deal of useless wind. Have I a single grain of that metal that procures everything? The meanest attorney puffs out his statement, and gets refunded for expenses he has not incurred; he marries his daughter to a count or a magistrate. A man in coloured livery becomes a clerk, and is soon richer than his master; he leaves him a plebeian, and buys himself a title. B*** gets rich by showing puppets in a salon, BB*** by selling river-water in bottles. Another charlatan arrives here from over the mountains with his pack; he has no sooner unloaded it than rewards pour down on him, and he's ready to go back to where he came from equipped with mules and vans. Mercury is Mercury, and nothing more; gold cannot pay for his services as go-between and intriguer, so favour and distinctions are added. And to speak only of licit gains, the tile-maker is paid for his tiles and the workman for his time and labour; is an author paid for what he thinks and writes? and if his thoughts are excellent, does he get paid generously? Can he furnish his house, acquire nobility by thinking and writing well? Men need clothes, they have to be shaved; and when they are sitting at home, they need a door that shuts properly; but do they need to be taught? It's sheer folly, naiveté, imbecility, continues Antisthenes, to set up one's sign as author or philosopher! One should have, if possible, a lucrative job that makes life pleasant, enables one to lend to one's friends and give to those who cannot pay one back; and then write for fun, out of idleness, as Tityrus the shepherd whistles or plays the flute; that or nothing; on these conditions, I will write, yielding to the pressure of those who take me by the throat, saying: `You've got to write.' The title of my new book shall read: `OF THE GOOD, THE BEAUTIFUL, THE TRUE, OF IDEAS, OF FIRST PRINCIPLES', by Antisthenes, fishmonger.
22. If the ambassadors of foreign princes were monkeys who had been trained to walk on their hind legs and make themselves understood through interpreters, we could not show greater astonishment than we feel at the aptness of their replies and the good sense which is sometimes shown in their conversation. Prejudice in favour of one's own country, combined with national pride, makes us forget that reason is found in every land, and sound thoughts wherever there are men. We should not like to be thus treated by those whom we call barbarians; and if we ourselves display a certain barbarism, this consists in being panic-stricken at seeing men of another nation reason as we do ourselves.
Not all foreigners are barbarians, and not all our compatriots are civilized; in the same way not all country folk are uncouth, nor all citizens well-bred. There is, in Europe, a certain coastal province of a great kingdom where the villager is gentle and obliging, while the bourgeois and the magistrate, on the other hand, are coarse and boorish by inherited tradition.
23.Despite our great purity of language, our elegance of dress, our cultured manners, our fine laws and our white faces, we seem barbarians to some nations.
24. If we heard it said of Orientals that they habitually drank a liquor which went to their heads, deprived them of reason and made them vomit, we should say: `How very barbarous!'
25.A certain prelate rarely shows himself at Court, does not frequent society and is never seen in the company of women; he plays no card games, attends neither festivities nor entertainments, belongs to no clique and lacks any spirit of intrigue; he is always to be found in his diocese, where he is in regular residence, and thinks only of instructing his flock by his words and edifying it by his example; he spends all his substance in alms, and wears out his frame by penance; he submits entirely to the rule, and imitates the zeal and piety of the Apostles. Times have changed, and tinder the present reign he is threatened with a more eminent title.
26. Could it not be conveyed to people of a certain character, whose profession is a serious one, to say the least, that they are not bound to have it said of them that they play, sing and jest like other men; and that to see them so amusing and agreeable, one would scarcely credit them with strictness and austerity in another sphere? Dare one even insinuate to them that such behaviour is foreign to the politeness on which they pride themselves, which requires, on the contrary, a certain harmony and conformity between a man's condition and his manners, and is averse to contrasts, to showing the same man under different aspects which make of him a bizarre composite figure, a grotesque?
27. We must not judge men as we do a painting or a statue, by a first and single impression: they have an inner self and a heart to be explored. The veil of modesty conceals merit, and the mask of hypocrisy hides malevolence. There are only a very small number of connoisseurs who can see clearly and have the right to pass judgement; it is by slow degrees, and as an inevitable result of time and circumstances, that perfect virtue and consummate vice declare themselves openly in the end.
28.Fragment ... He said that wit, in this fair creature, was like a diamond finely set, and went on to speak thus of her: `There is a subtle blend of sense and charm that conquers the eyes and hearts of those who talk to her; you don't know whether you feel more love or admiration for her; she has qualities which would make her a perfect friend, and others that would lead you far beyond friendship. Too young and lovely not to attract men, but too modest to think of attracting them, she is concerned only with their merits and thinks of them purely as friends. Quick-witted and capable of forming her own opinions, she surprises and interests you; and although fully mistress of the most delicate and subtle aspects of conversation, she can delight you with those apt sallies that need no answering. She talks to you as one who is not learned, who is uncertain and seeks enlightenment; and she listens to you like one who knows a great deal, who appreciates the value of what you are telling her, and on whom your most casual remarks are not wasted. Far from striving to contradict you wittily, like Elvire, who is more anxious to be thought a witty woman than to show good sense and right judgement, she takes over your opinions, makes them her own, develops and improves them; you are pleased with yourself for having thought so truly and expressed your thoughts better than you had realized. She is incapable of vanity, whether in speaking or writing; she forgets cleverness, where arguments are needed; and she has already understood that simplicity is eloquent. If it's a matter of helping somebody and of enlisting your support, unlike Elvire who produces pretty speeches and literary allusions on every occasion, Arthenice employs only sincerity, warmth, eagerness and persuasiveness. Her chief delight is in reading, and in meeting people of name and of note, in order to know them rather than to be known by them. We may praise her in anticipation for all the wisdom she will show some day, and for all the good qualities she is preparing to have, since her conduct is virtuous, her aspirations even higher, and her principles sound, a useful safeguard to those who, like herself, are exposed to gallantry and flattery; and since, being of a somewhat retiring nature without being unsociable, having indeed a certain bent towards seclusion, she will perhaps lack only opportunity, a suitable stage, to display her qualities in all their brilliance.'
29.A lovely woman is pleasing in her natural state; she loses nothing by a certain carelessness in dress, with no adornment save those she derives from her beauty and youth. An unstudied grace shines in her face and animates her least movements; she would be less irresistible, clad in all the trappings of fashion. In the same way a good man wins respect on his own account, independently of all the outward accessories by means of which he might seek to make his person more impressive and his virtue more apparent. An air of affected austerity, an exaggerated modesty, eccentricity in dress and a huge calotte add nothing to a man's probity, do not enhance his merit; they mask it under specious colours, and thus make it less pure and natural.
An over-studied gravity becomes absurd; here, extremes meet, true dignity being the mean between them. This is not being grave, but aping the appearance of gravity; the man who sets out to attain it will never do so; where gravity exists at all, it comes naturally; and it is easier to sink from it than to rise to it.
30. A man of talent and reputation, if he is crabbed and austere, scares the young, makes them think ill of virtue and suspect it to be excessively severe and too tedious to practise. If on the other hand he is good company, he may teach them a useful lesson; he will show them that one can live cheerfully and yet industriously, and have serious opinions without giving up harmless pleasures; he becomes an example that they can follow.
31.A man's looks provide no infallible guide to his character; they merely enable us to guess at it.
32. An intelligent look is, for a man, what regularity of features is for a woman; it is the sort of beauty to which the vainest can aspire.
33. A man of great intelligence and ability, and who is recognized as such, is not ugly, even though his features be ill shaped; or else one does not notice his ugliness.
34. How much art it takes to retrieve the case of nature! how much time, how many rules, what attention and what labour are needed to dance with the same freedom and grace as one walks; to sing as one speaks; to speak and express oneself as one thinks; to infuse as much strength, vivacity, passion and persuasiveness into a prepared speech, delivered in public, as one sometimes shows naturally and spontaneously in familiar conversation!
35. Those who think ill of us without really knowing us do us no harm; they are not in fact attacking us, but some figment of their imagination.
36. There are certain petty rules, duties and conventions associated with different places, times and persons, which cannot be guessed at by the cleverest men, but which are easily acquired through habit; to judge men by the mistakes they make in this sort of thing before they have learnt enough, is to judge them by their fingernails or the tips of their hair; one is bound to be undeceived some day.
37. I question whether we have the right to judge men by a single offence, and whether one should not make allowances for extreme need, or violent passion, or a hasty impulse.
38. The reverse of the rumours current about affairs and people is often the truth.
39. Unless we keep a close and continual watch on all our words, we run the risk of saying yes and then no, within an hour, about one and the same subject or person, swayed mcrcly by a sense of social politeness which naturally deters us from contradicting this man and that man, who speak of it in quite different terms.
40. A biassed man runs the risk of petty mortifications; for since it is equally impossible that those he favours should invariably be fortunate or good, and that those whom he dislikes should always be wrong or unfortunate, it follows that he must often lose face in public, either when his friends are unlucky or when those whom he dislikes acquire fresh honour.
41. A man subject to prejudice, if he dares to occupy a high position, whether secular or ecclesiastic, is like a blind man who tries to paint, a mute who undertakes to make a speech or a deaf man criticizing a symphony; these weak images imperfectly suggest the deplorable results of prejudice. Moreover it is a desperate, incurable illness, which infects all those who come near the sick man, driving away his equals, his inferiors, his relatives and friends, the very doctors themselves; for these have little hope of curing him, unless they can get him to acknowledge his sickness or accept the remedies, which would be to listen, to question, to seek information and enlightenment. Flatterers, deceivers, slanderers, all those who lie to him through selfinterest, are the quacks in whom he puts his trust, and who make him swallow whatever they please: it is they, too, who poison him and kill him.
42. Descartes' rule, that one should not makeup one's mind about the smallest truths before knowing them clearly and distinctly, is so fine and so true that it should be extended to the judgement we pass on people.
43. Our best indemnity for the poor opinion men may hold of our minds, morals and manners is the mean and unworthy character of those they admire.
The mind that can despise a man of merit is none the less ready to admire a fool.
44. A blockhead is one who has not even wit enough to be a coxcomb.
45. A coxcomb is one whom blockheads think clever.
46. An impertinent fool carries coxcombry to excess. A coxcomb wearies you, bores you, repels you: an impertinent fool repels you, irritates you, shocks you: he begins where the other leaves off.
The coxcomb is somewhere between the impertinent fool and the blockhead; he is a mixture of both.
47. Vices spring from a corrupt heart; defects from a vice of temperament; ridiculousness from a defective intelligence.
While a man is being ridiculous, he appears to be a fool.
A fool never stops being ridiculous, it's in his nature; a clever man may sometimes be ridiculous, but not for long.
A factual error may make even a wise man ridiculous.
Foolishness is inherent in a fool, coxcombry in a coxcomb, impertinence in an impertinent fellow; but ridiculousness lies sometimes in the man who is in fact ridiculous, and sometimes in the imagination of those who laugh at what is not and never can be ridiculous.
48. Rudeness, uncouthness and brutality may be the vices of an intelligent man.
49. A dull-witted man is a fool who does not talk, and hence is more endurable than the fool who does.
50. The same thing may sound natural or witty when said by an intelligent man which, when said by a fool, sounds foolish.
51. If the coxcomb were to be afraid of saying foolish things he would be out of character.
52. One mark of a second-rate mind is to be always telling stories.
53. The fool feels awkward; the coxcomb has a free and selfconfident air; the impertinent fellow displays effrontery; men of worth are modest.
54. The self-satisfied man is one who combines experience in certain trivial matters, honoured by the name of business, with a very second-rate mind.
A grain of intelligence and an ounce of experience more than are comprised in the make-up of the self-satisfied man produce the selfimportant man.
So long as we merely laugh at the self-important man, he has no other name; as soon as we complain of him, he becomes an arrogant man.
55. The well-bred man stands somewhere between the astute man and the good man, although at an unequal distance from these two extremes.
The distance between the well-bred man and the astute man dwindles day by day, and is on the point of disappearing.
The astute man is one who conceals his passions, understands his own interests, sacrifices a great deal to them, and has succeeded in acquiring wealth or in retaining it.
The well-bred man is one who commits neither highway robbery nor murder, whose vices, in short, cause no scandal.
Everyone knows that a good man is well-bred, but it is amusing to reflect that not every well-bred man is good.
The good man is one who is neither a saint nor a hypocrite, and who has confined himself to being merely virtuous.
56. Talent, taste, intelligence, good sense are different but not incompatible things.
Between good sense and good taste there lies the difference between a cause and its effect.
Between intelligence and talent there is the ratio of the whole to its part.
Shall I call that man intelligent who, limited and confined within some art or even within some branch of learning which he practises to perfection, displays outside of it neither good judgement nor memory, nor quickness, nor manners, nor propriety of behaviour; who does not understand what I say, does not think, and cannot express himself; a musician, for instance, who, having held me spellbound with his harmonies, seems to have put himself away with his lute into its case, and appears to be, without that instrument, nothing but a piece of clockwork that has run down, in which something is lacking, and from which one dare hope for nothing more?
What can I say about skill at games? can anyone define it for me? Are not foresight, subtlety and shrewdness needed to play ombre and chess? and if they are, why do we find some imbeciles excelling at these games and other, highly gifted, men unable to play them even moderately well, so disconcerted that their sight fails them as soon as they hold a chessman or a card in their hands?
Society has witnessed something even stranger. A certain man appears uncouth, awkward and stupid; he cannot talk, nor describe what he has just seen; as soon as he begins to write, he is the model of good story-tellers; he makes animals, trees, stones, all dumb things speak; his writings are all lightness, elegance, natural beauty and delicacy.
Another man is simple, shy, boring to talk to; he mistakes one word for another, and judges the worth of one of his plays only by the money it brings in; he cannot recite it, nor read his own writing. Let him take wing in composition: he proves himself equal to Augustus, Pompey, Nicomedes and Heraclius; he is a king, and a great king; he is a statesman, a philosopher; he undertakes to make heroes speak and act; he depicts Romans; they are greater and more Roman in his verse than in their own history.
Shall I show you another prodigy? Suppose a man to be amiable, gentle, easy-going and obliging, who suddenly becomes violent, choleric, fiery and capricious. Imagine a man who is simple, ingenuous, credulous, merry, flighty, a child with grey hair; let him but retire within himself, or rather yield to some spirit within him that acts, I venture to say, without his participation and without his knowledge; what verve he displays, what loftiness, what imagery, what Latinity! `Are you speaking of the same man?' you will ask me. Yes, of the same, of none other than Theodas. He shouts, rushes about, rolls on the ground, gets up again, thunders, flares up; and from the midst of this storm there shines forth a brilliance that delights us. To speak without metaphor: he talks like a madman, and thinks like a sage; he says true things in a ridiculous way, and sensible and rational ones in a crazy way; one is surprised to find good sense emerge and blossom in the midst of buffoonery, accompanied by grimaces and contortions. What shall I add? He speaks and acts better than he knows, as though there were within him two souls unacquainted with one another, independent of each other, acting in turn or performing quite separate functions. One thing would be lacking to this odd picture if I forgot to say that he is at one and the same time insatiably eager for praise, ready to fly in the face of his critics, and yet at heart docile enough to profit by their censures. I am beginning to convince myself that I have been describing two quite different people. It would not be impossible, indeed, to find yet a third in Theodas; for he is a kind man, an agreeable man, and an excellent man.
57. The rarest things in the world, after the gift of discrimination, are diamonds and pearls.
58. One man, famous in society for his great talents, honoured and cherished wherever he goes, is insignificant in his own home, and among his close kindred, from whom he has failed to win recognition; another, on the contrary, prophet in his own country, enjoys great popularity among his relatives and within the four walls of his house, congratulates himself on the rare and exceptional merits ascribed to him by his family who idolize him, which however he leaves behind him when he goes out, and takes nowhere with him.
59. Everyone is against a man with a growing reputation; even those whom he calls his friends can scarcely forgive him for his nascent abilities, and for those first signs of popularity that seem to associate him with that fame which they have already acquired; they give way only as a last resort, and after the King has pronounced in his favour by rewarding him; then they all seek him out, and it is only from that day that he takes rank as a man of merit.
60. We often make a point of over-praising very ordinary men, and putting them, if that were possible, on a level with those who are far superior to them; either because we are tired of continually admiring the same people, or because their glory, thus divided, hurts our eyes less, and becomes milder and more endurable.
61. We see some men whom the wind of favour at first drives forward under full sail; in one instant they are out of sight of land, and on their way; everything smiles on them, everything goes right for them; their deeds, their works, are crowned with praises and rewards; wherever they go they are met with endearments and congratulations. An immovable rock stands close to one coast; the waves break at its foot; power, wealth, violence, flattery, authority, favour, none of these can shake it: it is public opinion, on which these people founder.
62. It is common and quite natural to judge another's work solely in relation to one's own. Thus the poet, fall of lofty and sublime ideas, has a poor opinion of the orator, whose speech is often concerned with purely factual matters; and the man who is writing the history of his country cannot understand how a reasonable person can spend his life imagining fictions, or hunting for rhymes; so, too, the student of theology, deep in the first four centuries, treats any other sort of learning as dreary, vain and useless, while he himself may be despised by the geometrician.
63. A man may be intelligent enough to excel in a certain subject and hold forth about it, but not enough to see that he ought to keep silence about some other with which he has only a slight acquaintance; he ventures boldly beyond the bounds of his talents, but he goes astray, and in consequence a very distinguished man may talk like a fool.
64. Herillus, whether he is talking, writing, or making a public speech, will always quote; he makes the Prince of Philosophers say that wine intoxicates, and the Roman Orator declare that water dilutes it; if he ventures to moralize, we learn not from himself but from the divine Plato that virtue is admirable and vice odious, or that both of them may become habits. The most common and well known things, such as he might even have thought himself, he insists on attributing to the Ancients, to the Greeks and Romans; it is neither to lend more authority to what he says, nor even, perhaps, to show off his own learning; he just wants to quote.
65. One often jeopardizes a witty remark, and wastes it deliberately, by uttering it as one's own: it is not taken up, it falls flat among clever, or would-be clever people, who did not say it but who feel they ought to have said it. On the other hand, one ensures its success if one attributes it to someone else; then it becomes a mere anecdote, which they do not feel bound to have known; it is said more persuasively and received less enviously; nobody resents it; they laugh, if laughter is called for; if admiration, they admire.
66. It was said of Socrates that he was raving, that he was an inspired madman; but those of the Greeks who spoke thus about so wise a man were themselves considered mad. 'What bizarre portraits this philosopher paints for us, what strange and cxceptional behaviour he describes, where did he dream up, dig up, collect such extraordinary visions? what colours! what a way of painting! these are chimeras.' They were wrong: these monsters were vices painted after nature, so lifelike that they were terrifying. Socrates was far from cynicism: he spared individuals, but blamed their evil ways.
67. A certain man who has grown rich through worldly wisdom knows a philosopher, his precepts, his moral code and his behaviour, and being unable to imagine any man having a different aim than the one lie has followed all his life, says in his heart: `I pity that strict moralist, I consider him a failure; he has gone astray, he's off course; that's not the way to sail with the wind and reach the delightful harbour of success'; and according to his own principles, his argument is sound.
Antisthius says: `I forgive those whom I have praised in my books if they should forget me: what have I done for them? they deserved praise. I should less readily forgive all those whose vices I have attacked without indicting them as individuals, if they owed me so great a benefit as to have reformed; but as there is no evidence of this event, it follows that neither sort have any obligation towards me.
`Men may envy or deny my writings their rewards,' adds this philosopher, `but they cannot diminish their reputation; and if they did, why should I care?'
68. It is good to be a philosopher, but unprofitable to be considered cue. You cannot call a man a philosopher, he will always take it for au insult, until men have pleased to order things otherwise, and by restoring to so fine a name its true and rightful meaning, to win for it all the esteem that is its due.
69. There is one sort of philosophy through which we rise above ambition and fortune, and become equal, nay superior, to those who are rich, great and powerful; which makes us ignore position and the means of procuring it; which exempts us from desiring, asking, begging, soliciting, importuning, and which even saves us from the excitement and excessive delight of having our wishes granted. There is another sort of philosophy which makes us accept and endure these things for the benefit of our friends and neighbours: this is the better sort.
70. One may curtail and avoid endless discussions by assuming that certain people are incapable of talking sense, and by condemning what they say, what they have said and what they are going to say.
71. We esteem, in other people, only those aspects that correspond to something in ourselves; to have a good opinion of another, it seems, is to put him on an equal footing with oneself.
72. The very faults which in other men are oppressive and intolerable seem, in ourselves, to be in their element; they do not weigh upon us, we cannot feel them. A man may paint a shocking portrait of another without seeing that he is depicting himself.
Nothing would correct us of our faults more promptly than if we were capable of admitting them and recognizing them in others: at such a distance, seeing them as they really are, we should hate them as they deserve.
73. Wise conduct turns on two pivots, the past and the future. The man who has a faithful memory and great foresight is in no danger of censuring in others what he may have done himself, or of condemning an action of which, in a similar case and under those circumstances, he would inevitably be guilty himself some day.
74. The warrior and the statesman, like the skilful gambler, do not make opportunities but prepare them, attract them, and seem almost to determine chance. Not only are they, unlike the fool and the coward, adept at making use of opportunities when these occur; they know furthermore how to take advantage, by means of precautions and wise measures, of such and such an opportunity, or of several at once. If one thing happens, they win; if another, they are still the winners; the same circumstance often makes them win in a variety of ways. These prudent men may be praised for their good fortune as well as their good management, and rewarded for their luck as well as for their merits.
75. I rate higher than a great statesman only the man who disdains to become one, and who is increasingly convinced that the world is not worth troubling oneself about.
76. There is something unpleasing even in the best advice. It comes from elsewhere than our own minds: that is enough to make us at first reject it out of vanity and ill-humour, and follow it only from necessity or as an afterthought.
77. What amazing good fortune accompanied this favourite during the whole course of his life; who else enjoyed such constant, uninterrupted success, with never a hint of disfavour? the most prominent posts, the Prince's confidence, immense riches, perfect health, an easy death. But what a fearful account he will have to render for a life spent in fortune's favour, for the counsels he gave, for those he neglected to give or to follow, for good deeds not done, and on the other hand for evil deeds done directly or through others; in a word, for the whole of his prosperity!
78. When we die, we win praise from those who survive us, often for no other merit than that of being no more: the same eulogy serves for Cato or for Piso.
`Rumour has it that Piso is dead: this is a great loss; he was a good man, and deserved a longer life; he had wit and charm, character and courage; he was loyal, generous and faithful.' Add: `provided he's dead.'
79. The way we exclaim in admiration of a few men who are outstanding for sincerity, disinterestedness and probity is not so much to their praise as to the discredit of the human race.
80. One man relieves the destitute, yet neglects his family and leaves his son penniless; another builds a new dwelling before he has paid for the leads on a house finished ten years ago; a third is lavish of gifts, yet ruins his creditors. I ask: are pity, liberality and openhandedness the virtues of an unjust man? are not extravagance and vanity, rather, the causes of injustice?
81. An essential circumstance in rendering justice to others, is to do so promptly and without delay: to make them wait for it is an injustice.
The people who act rightly are those who really do what they ought to. The man about whom people are for ever saying that he is going to act rightly, is acting very wrongly indeed.
82. We say, of a nobleman who sits at table twice a day and spends his life digesting, that he is starving, meaning that he is not wealthy, or that his affairs are in a bad way: it's a figure of speech; the words might be used more literally of his creditors.
83. The courtesy and consideration of elderly people of both sexes makes me think highly of what are known as 'the old days'.
84. Parents show excessive confidence if they hope for everything from the education of their children, and they make a great mistake if they expect nothing from it and neglect it.
85. Even if it were true, as some people assert, that education cannot give a man a different heart or a different temperament, that it alters nothing basic in him and touches only the surface, I should still maintain that it does him some good.
86. A man has everything to gain from speaking little; people will assume he's intelligent; and if he is indeed no fool, they'll assume he is highly intelligent.
87. To think only of oneself and of the present is a source of error in politics.
88. The greatest misfortune, next to that of having been convicted of a crime, is often to have had to justify oneself of the indictment. Some verdicts may discharge us as Not Guilty which are invalidated by the voice of the people.
89. One man is faithful to certain religious observances, and is seen to perform them conscientiously; no one thinks anything of it. Another returns to them, after having neglected them for ten whole years: he is admired and extolled; it's a matter of opinion: I myself blame him for this long forgetfulness of his duties, and think him happy to have reverted to them.
90. The flatterer does not think highly enough of himself or of others.
91. When certain men are missed out in the distribution of favours, we ask: Why were they missed out? whereas, if they had been remembered, we should have asked: Why were they remembered? What's the cause of this contradiction? is it due to the character of such people, or the uncertainty of our judgement, or even both together?
92. People often say: `After so-and-so, who will be Chancellor? who will be the Primate of Gaul? who will be Pope?' They go further: each, according to his wishes or his fancy, chooses his candidate, usually someone older and feebler than the man in power; and since there is no reason why a dignity should kill the man who has acquired it, since on the contrary it may rejuvenate him, giving new energy to mind and body, it is not unusual for the man who holds the post to bury his successor.
93. Hatred and jealousy do not outlast a man's disgrace. We grant his merits, when he no longer offends us by enjoying great favour; he will be forgiven every talent, every sort of virtue; he can be a hero with impunity.
A man in disgrace can do nothing right; his virtues, his talents, all are despised, or misinterpreted, or imputed to vice; let him have the greatest courage, fear neither steel nor fire, let him face the foe as gallantly as Bayard or Montrevel, he is a braggadocchio, a figure of fun; there's no longer the stuff of a hero in him.
I contradict myself, true; for this you can blame men, whose opinions I report; not even those of different men, but the very different opinions of the same men.
94. It takes less than twenty years to see men change their opinions on the most serious subjects, and on those that once appeared to them the truest and most certain. I dare not venture to assert that fire, in itself and independently of our sensations, contains no heat, that's to say nothing comparable to what we feel ourselves when we go near it, for fear that some day it will prove to be as hot as it ever was. I shall be equally reluctant to say that a straight line meeting another straight line at right angles forms two right angles, for fear lest men may come to discover some plus or minus that will make my proposition seem ridiculous. Again, in another sphere, I dare hardly say, with all France: `Vauban is infallible, there's no disputing it': who's to guarantee that in a short while they won't insinuate that even when it comes to laying siege, which is his forte and where his decisions are final, he sometimes makes mistakes, just like Antiphiles?
95. If you are to believe those who are mutually embittered and swayed by passion, the learned man is a pedantic ass, the magistrate a pettifogging bourgeois, the financier a swindler and the noble a squireen; but it is strange that such insulting names, invented by anger and hatred, should become familiar; and be used in cold-blooded contempt.
96. You bestir yourself, you rush about, especially when the enemy has begun to take flight and victory is no longer in doubt, or in front of a town which has capitulated; in a battle or during a siege, you are fond of appearing in a hundred places at once so as to be nowhere in particular, in forestalling the general's orders for fear of having to obey them, and in seeking out opportunities rather than preparing for them and accepting them: can yours be false valour?
97. Make your men guard some post where they might be killed, but where however they won't be killed; they love both honour and their lives.
98. To sec how men love life, could one have suspected that there is something they love even better? and that glory, which they prefer to life, is often merely a certain opinion of themselves held by a host of people whom they do not know or for whom they have no esteem?
99. Those who, being neither warriors nor courtiers, follow the Court to war, who take no part in a siege but merely watch it, have soon exhausted their curiosity about even the most remarkable fortress, about trenches, raids, the effect of bombs and cannon, the order and success of some attack of which they have caught a glimpse. Resistance goes on, the rains come, weariness grows, they wallow in mud, they have to face the weather as well as the foe, or if the lines are broken they may be pinned between a town and an army; it's beyond all bearing! Then they lose heart, and grumble: `Would it be such a great disaster if the siege were raised? Does the safety of the State depend on one citadel more or less? Would it not be wise to bow to the dictates of Heaven, which seems to have declared itself against us, and put off the attempt to another time?' They cannot understand the resolution, or as they'd like to call it the stubbornness, of the general, who braces himself against all obstacles, who is spurred on by the very difficulty of the enterprise, losing his sleep by night and risking his life by day in order to carry it through. When the enemy capitulates, these men, so lately discouraged, point out the importance of the victory, foretell its results, exaggerate its urgency, the peril and shame that would have ensued from abandoning the project, and prove that the army which protected us all from the enemy was invincible. They come home with the Court, pass through cities and villages; proud of being taken, by the townspeople at their windows, for the very men who capture the stronghold, they think themselves brave. Back at home, they deafen you with talk of flanks, redans, demilunes, bastions and curtains; they describe all the places where their longing to see things took them, and where the danger was considerable; the risks they ran, on the way back, of being taken or killed by the enemy; the only thing they never mention is that they were afraid.
100. To dry up in a sermon or a speech is the most trifling of accidents; it leaves the orator in possession of all his wit, good sense, imagination, principles and doctrine; it robs him of none of these; yet it is astonishing how men, having once attached a kind of shame and ridicule to this misfortune, incur the full risk of it by their long and often useless speechifying.
101. Those who use their time ill are the first to complain of its brevity: as they waste it in dressing, eating, sleeping, in foolish talk, in deciding what they are to do and often doing nothing, they are short of time for their business or their pleasures; those, on the contrary, who make better use of it have time to spare.
No statesman is so busy that he cannot waste two hours a day; this mounts up, by the end of a long life; and if men in other stations do even worse, what an infinite amount the world wastes of so precious a commodity, of which we complain that we have not enough!
102. There are some of God's creatures who are called men, who have a soul which is a spiritual thing, and whose whole life is spent, whose whole attention absorbed, in sawing marble: this is humble and low enough. There are others who wonder at it, but who are themselves completely useless, and who spend their days doing nothing: that's something even lower than sawing marble.
103. Most men are so apt to forget that they have a soul, and dissipate themselves in so many activities and occupations where it seems to be useless, that it is held a great compliment to say of someone that he thinks; such praise has become common, and yet it only sets that man above his dog or his horse.
104.`What do you do for relaxation? how do you spend your time?' you are asked, by fools and by intelligent people. If I reply: in keeping my eyes open and seeing, in listening and hearing, in enjoying health, rest and leisure, it means nothing to them. The great and enduring blessings, the only real blessings, do not count for them, are not appreciated. `Do you play cards? do you go to masked balls?' And you have to reply.
Is leisure a blessing for man if it is so boundless that it only serves to make him wish for one thing, which is to have less leisure?
Leisure is not the same as idleness; it is a free use of one's time, the choice of one's work and occupation. To have leisure, in a word, does not mean doing nothing but being sole arbiter of what one does or does not do. In this sense, what a blessing it is!
105. Caesar was not too old to dream of conquering the universe; he had no other bliss to seek than to lead a noble life, and leave a great name after his death; being proud and ambitious by nature and enjoying good health as he did, he could not spend his time better than in the conquest of the world. Alexander was very young for so grave a project: it is astonishing that, in his youthful prime, he should not have been diverted from his enterprise by wine or women.
106. A YOUNG PRINCE, OF AN AUGUST RACE. BELOVED AND TRUSTED BY HIS SUBJECTS. SENT BY HEAVEN TO EXTEND OUR HAPPINESS ON THIS EARTH. GREATER THAN HIS FOREBEARS. SON OF A HERO WHO IS HIS PATTERN. HAS ALREADY SHOWN THE WORLD, BY HIS DIVINE QUALITIES AND HIS EARLY COURAGE THAT THE CHILDREN OF HEROES ARE MORE NEARLY HEROIC THAN ARE OTHER MEN.
107. Even if the world is only to last for a hundred million years, it is still in its first freshness and has barely begun; we ourselves are close to primitive man and the patriarchs, and are likely to be confused with them in the remote future. But if one can judge of the future by the past, how much is still unknown to us in the arts, in the sciences, in nature and indeed in history! what discoveries are still to be made! what various revolutions will surely take place in States and Empires! how great is our ignorance! and how slight our experience, after six or seven thousand years!
108. No road seems too long to one who travels slowly and unhurriedly: no rewards are too remote for one who prepares for them with patience.
109. To pay court to nobody, nor expect anyone to pay court to oneself: a happy condition, the Golden Age, and man's most natural state!
110. Society is for those who follow the Court or populate cities; nature is only for those who inhabit the country; they alone are alive, or at least know that they are alive.
111. Why do you bear me a grudge, and complain of my chance remarks about certain young men to be found at Court? Are you vicious, Thrasyllus? I did not know, and I have learnt it from yourself; I only know that you are no longer a young man.
And you, who take as a personal insult what I said about certain great nobles, aren't you crying out because someone else is hurt? Are you disdainful, unkind, a spiteful joker, a flatterer, a hypocrite? I did not know, and I was not thinking of you: I referred to great nobles.
112. A sense of moderation and a certain discreetness of behaviour leaves men in obscurity; they need great virtues to be known and admired, or perhaps great vices.
113. Men, in judging the behaviour of others, whether great or small, are favourably prejudiced, seduced and enchanted by success: a crime that succeeds is almost as highly praised as the most virtuous deed, and good luck stands in lieu of all other good qualities. Heinous indeed is the offence, vile and detestable the enterprise that cannot be justified by success.
114. Men, seduced by fine appearances and specious pretexts, are readily attracted to an ambitious project planned by a group of great nobles; they talk of it with interest; it delights them indeed, by the audacity or novelty imputed to it; they have grown used to the idea, and are only awaiting its success when, on its sudden failure, they confidently declare, without any fear of being mistaken, that it was over-rash and could not possibly have succeeded.
115. There are certain ventures which are so sensational and so far-reaching in their effects, which keep men's tongues so busy and arouse such hopes or fears in them, according to their different national interests, that a man seems to have staked his whole fame and fortune on them. Having appeared on the stage with such a fine display, he cannot simply withdraw without a word; whatever dreadful dangers he may have begun to foresee as a consequence of his undertaking, he must embark on it: failure would be the lesser evil.
116. In a bad man, there is not the stuff of a great man. Praise his foresight and his plans, admire his behaviour, exaggerate his skill in using the aptest and quickest way to attain his ends: if his ends are bad, wisdom has no part in them; and where wisdom is lacking, find greatness if you can.
117. An enemy died, at the head of a tremendous army that was about to cross the Rhine; he was adept at war, and his experience might have been seconded by good fortune: did we see bonfires or public rejoicings? There are some men, on the other hand, who are naturally odious, and arouse general aversion; it is not specifically because of the advances they have made, not through fear of those they may make, that popular opinion is loudly voiced at their death, and that the very children thrill with joy when it is whispered in the streets that earth is rid of them at last.
118. `O tempora! O mores!' cried Heraclitus, `O unfortunate age! age rife with bad examples, where virtue suffers, where crime reigns triumphant! If I would emulate Lycaon or Aegisthus, I can wish no better opportunity, no more favourable circumstances, at any rate if I hope to flourish and prosper. A certain man has said: `I will cross the sea, I will despoil my father of his heritage, I will drive him, and his wife, and his heir from his lands and States,' and what he has said he has done. He ought to have dreaded the wrath of a number of kings whom he has outraged in the person of a single king; but they have taken his side, they have almost told him: `Cross the sea, despoil your father, show the whole world that a king may be driven from his kingdom, like a petty nobleman from his estate or a farmer from his land; that there is no longer any difference between private individuals and ourselves; we are weary of these distinctions: let the world know that the nations whom God has set beneath our feet may abandon us, betray us, deliver us and themselves into the hands of a stranger, and that they have less to fear from us than we from them and their power.' Who could behold such sad sights dry-eyed and unmoved? Every office has its privileges, and the man who holds it will argue, bestir himself, go to law to defend these; only the dignity of the throne has now lost its privileges; kings themselves have renounced them. One single monarch, always kind and magnanimous, offered shelter to the afflicted family. All the rest have formed a league as though in revenge against him and against his support for their common cause. The spirit of resentment and jealousy prevails, in them, over the interests of honour, religion and their States, and indeed over their personal interest and that of their families; what's at stake is not their election but their succession, their hereditary rights; in short, in all of them the man outweighs the sovereign. One Prince was about to deliver Europe and himself from a fatal foe, and to reap the glory of having destroyed a great empire; he neglects it for the sake of a dubious war. Our natural arbiters and mediators temporize; and when they might already have mediated usefully, they merely promise to do so. `O shepherds!' adds Heraclitus, `O peasants dwelling in your thatched cottages, if you are still untouched by these events, if you have not been wounded to the heart by human wickedness, if in your countryside the talk is not of men but only of foxes and lynxes, let me dwell among you, eating your black bread and drinking the water of your wells.'
119. Little men, six feet tall at most, who show yourselves off in fairs as giants and prodigies, that men will pay to stare at, if you reach a greater height; who shamelessly assume the titles of Highness and Eminence, which befit those mountain peaks that touch the sky and behold clouds forming beneath them; proud and arrogant animals, who despise all other species, though you cannot even stand comparison with the elephant or the whale; come, men, answer Democritus's question. Don't your common proverbs say: ravening wolves, raging lions, mischievous as a monkey? And what are you yourselves? I am for ever having dinned into my ears: Man is a rational animal. To whom do you owe this definition? to wolves, monkeys or lions? or did you grant it to yourselves? It is laughable, indeed, that you should have ascribed the worse qualities to the animals, your brethren, and allotted the best to yourselves. Just allow them to define themselves and you'll see how, forgetting their good manners, they will treat you. I shall not dwell, O man, on your fickleness, your folly and capriciousness, which put you far below the mole and the tortoise, who go their little ways quietly and unswervingly follow their natural instincts; but listen to me for a moment. You say of a tercel falcon which is very agile and swoops unerringly on the partridge: `That's a good bird'; and of a greyhound that pounces on the hare: `He's a good dog.' And I'll allow you to say of a man who hunts a wild boar, holds it at bay, strikes and wounds it: `He's a brave man.' But if you see two dogs barking at one another, flying at each other, biting and tearing one another, you say: `What stupid animals', and you take a stick to separate them. If you were told that all the cats in a vast country had gathered together in their thousands on a plain, and after having mewed for all they were worth had rushed at one another furiously, lashing out with tooth and claw; that this affray had left nine or ten thousand cats lying on the field of battle, so that the air for ten leagues around reeked of their stench, wouldn't you say: `That's the most appalling pandemonium ever heard of!' And if wolves were to behave in the same way: `What dreadful howls! what a shambles!' And if any of these creatures told you that they loved glory, would you conclude from this remark that glory for them consists in taking part in this wonderful encounter, and in thus destroying and annihilating their own kind? or, having drawn this conclusion, would you not laugh heartily at the ingenuousness of the poor creatures? Already, as befits rational animals, and in order to distinguish yourselves from those who make use only of their teeth and claws, you have invented lances, pikes, darts, sabres and scimitars, and very wisely, to my mind; for with your bare hands, what could you do to one another except pull out each other's hair, scratch each other's faces or, at the worst, tear out one another's eyes? Whereas now you are supplied with convenient instruments with which to inflict on one another huge wounds from which the blood will flow to the last drop, without any chance of escape. But as you are becoming more rational year by year, you have notably improved on this old method of mutual extermination: you now have little globes that kill you immediately if they so much as touch your head or breast; you have others, weightier and more massive, which cut you in two or disembowel you, not to mention those which, falling on your roofs, crash through the ceilings from attic to cellar, blow up the vaults and send your homes flying into the air, with your wives in labour, your children and their nurses: therein lies glory; it loves confusion, and flourishes in an uproar. You have defensive weapons too, and according to the rules you should go to war dressed in steel, which is undoubtedly a charming garb, and reminds me of those celebrated fleas which a charlatan once showed in a bottle, where this clever craftsman had managed to get them to live: he had put on each of them a helmet and a cuirass, with armlets and knee-pieces, and provided them with lances; thus fully armed, they went leaping about in their bottles. Imagine a man the size of Mount Athos, and why not? would a soul find it hard to inhabit such a body? it would have more room to breathe: if such a man were keensighted enough to discern you somewhere on the earth, with your offensive and defensive weapons, what do you suppose he would think of such grotesque little creatures thus equipped, and of what you call war, cavalry, infantry, memorable sieges, famous battles? Shall I never hear anything else buzzed about among you? is the world now divided only into regiments and companies? has everything become battalions and squadrons? He has taken a town, he has taken another, then a third; he has won a battle, two battles; he is driving out the enemy, he is winning on sea, he is winning on land: are you talking about one of yourselves, or of some giant, some Athos? There is among you, in particular, a pale and livid man who has scarcely ten ounces of flesh on his bones, and whom you'd think you could overthrow with a single breath. None the less he makes more to-do than four others, and sets the whole world on fire: he has plunged a whole island into disorder; elsewhere, indeed, he has been beaten and pursued, but he escapes through the marshes, and will hear no talk of peace or truce. He showed his mettle early: he bit the breast of his nurse, who died of it, poor woman: I need say no more. In a word, he was born a subject, and he is one no longer; on the contrary he is master, and those whom he has tamed and put under his yoke go to plough for him with a good heart; they even seem afraid, good souls, of being able to shake off their fetters and go free, for they have strengthened the leash arid lengthened the whip of the man who drives them; they omit nothing that may increase their bondage; they help him to cross the water to make other vassals and acquire fresh domains: this, indeed, entailed laying hands on his father and mother and flinging them out of their home; and they help him in his praiseworthy undertaking. People on either side of the water club together and each contribute to make him daily more formidable to them all: the Picts and Saxons impose silence on the Batavians, the Batavians on the Picts and Saxons; all can boast of being his humble slaves, as fully as they could wish. But what's that I hear about certain crowned heads, not merely counts or marquises who are thick on the ground, but princes and sovereigns? he whistles and they come to him, they bare their heads in his waiting room and speak only when they are spoken to. Are these the same princes who are so touchy in matters of rank and precedence that they waste whole months settling these at a conference? What will this new archon do to reward them for such blind submission, and to fulfil the lofty notion people have of him? If a battle takes place, he must win it, and in person: if his enemy lays siege to a town he must force them to raise it, to their great humiliation, unless the whole ocean lies between him and his opponent; he cannot do less to please his courtiers. Is not Caesar himself coming to swell their numbers? at any rate, significant help is expected from him; for either the archon will fail, with all his allies, which is utterly impossible to imagine, or if he succeeds and nothing resists him, he is all prepared, with his allies, hostile to Caesar's religion and jealous of his power, to swoop down on him, deprive him of the Eagle, and reduce him and his heirs to a fess argent and his hereditary domain. So now it has happened, they have all surrendered to him voluntarily, to that man whom they should most have mistrusted. Would not Aesop have told them:
The feathered tribe of a certain country is startled and alarmed at the nearby presence of a lion, whose roar is enough to terrify them: they take refuge beside another animal who talks to them of settlement, and ends by devouring them all, one after the other.
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