The Theological Tractates and The Consolation of Philosophy
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Part 4 out of 7
which have them? So that virtues are not honoured by dignities, but
dignities by virtue. But what is this excellent power which you esteemed
so desirable? Consider you not, O earthly wights, whom you seem to
excel? For if among mice thou shouldst see one claim jurisdiction and
power to himself over the rest, to what a laughter it would move thee!
And what, if thou respectest the body, canst thou find more weak than
man, whom even the biting of little flies or the entering of creeping
worms doth often kill? Now, how can any man exercise jurisdiction upon
anybody except upon their bodies, and that which is inferior to their
bodies, I mean their fortunes? Canst thou ever imperiously impose
anything upon a free mind? Canst thou remove a soul settled in firm
reason from the quiet state which it possesseth? When a tyrant thought
to compel a certain free man by torments to bewray his confederates of a
conspiracy attempted against him, he bit off his tongue, and spit it out
upon the cruel tyrant's face, by that means wisely making those
tortures, which the tyrant thought matter of cruelty, to be to him
occasion of virtue. Now, what is there that any can enforce upon another
which he may not himself be enforced to sustain by another? We read that
Busiris, wont to kill his guests, was himself slain by his guest
Hercules. Regulus had laid fetters upon many Africans taken in war,
but ere long he found his own hands environed with his conqueror's
chains. Wherefore thinkest thou the power of that man to be
anything worth, who cannot hinder another from doing that to him which
he can do to another? Moreover, if dignities and power had any natural
and proper good in them, they would never be bestowed upon the worst
men, for one opposite useth not to accompany another; nature refuseth to
have contraries joined. So that, since there is no doubt but that men of
the worst sort often enjoy dignities, it is also manifest that they are
not naturally good which may follow most naughty men. Which may more
worthily be thought of all fortune's gifts which are more plentifully
bestowed upon every lewd companion. Concerning which, I take that also
to be worthy consideration, that no man doubteth him to be a valiant man
in whom he seeth valour, and it is manifest that he which hath swiftness
is swift. So, likewise, music maketh musicians, physic physicians, and
rhetoric rhetoricians. For the nature of everything doth that which is
proper unto it, and is not mixed with contrary effects but repelleth all
opposites. But neither can riches extinguish unsatiable avarice, nor
power make him master of himself whom vicious lusts keep chained in
strongest fetters. And dignity bestowed upon wicked men doth not only
not make them worthy but rather bewrayeth and discovereth their
unworthiness. How cometh this to pass? Because in miscalling things that
are otherwise, you take a pleasure which is easily refuted by the effect
of the things themselves. Wherefore, by right, these things are not to
be called riches, this is not to be called power, that is not to be
called dignity. Lastly, we may conclude the same of all fortunes in
which it is manifest there is nothing to be desired, nothing naturally
good, which neither are always bestowed upon good men, nor do make them
good whom they are bestowed upon.
 The subject of _deferantur_ is _dignitates potentiaque_.
 The free man was the philosopher Anaxarchus: the tyrant, Nicocreon
the Cypriote. For the story see Diogenes Laertius ix. 59.
 Cf. Apollod. ii. 5. 11; Claudian xviii. 159; Virg. _Georg._ iii. 4.
 Cf. Cicero, _De Off._ iii. 99.
Nouimus quantas dederit ruinas
Vrbe flammata patribusque caesis
Fratre qui quondam ferus interempto
Matris effuso maduit cruore
Corpus et uisu gelidum pererrans 5
Ora non tinxit lacrimis, sed esse
Censor extincti potuit decoris.
Hic tamen sceptro populos regebat
Quos uidet condens radios sub undas
Phoebus extremo ueniens ab ortu, 10
Quos premunt septem gelidi triones,
Quos Notus sicco uiolentus aestu
Torret ardentes recoquens harenas.
Celsa num tandem ualuit potestas
Vertere praui rabiem Neronis? 15
Heu grauem sortem, quotiens iniquus
Additur saeuo gladius ueneno!"
We know what stirs he made
Who did the Senate slay and Rome with fire invade,
Who did his brother kill,
And with his mother's blood his moistened hand did fill;
Who looked on that cold face
Tearless, and nicely marked her members' several grace.
Yet his dread power controlled
Those people whom the sun doth in the east behold,
And those who do remain
In western lands or dwell under Booetes' wain
And those whose skins are tanned
With southern winds, which roast and burn the parched sand.
What? Could this glorious might
Restrain the furious rage of wicked Nero's spite?
But oh! mishap most bad,
Which doth the wicked sword to cruel poison add!"
 Literally, "but could be the critic of her dead beauty." Cf. Suet.
_Nero_ 24; Tac. _Ann._ xiv. 9.
Tum ego: "Scis," inquam, "ipsa minimum nobis ambitionem mortalium rerum
fuisse dominatam. Sed materiam gerendis rebus optauimus quo ne uirtus
tacita consenesceret." Et illa: "Atqui hoc unum est quod praestantes quidem
natura mentes sed nondum ad extremam manum uirtutum perfectione perductas
allicere possit, gloriae scilicet cupido et optimorum in rem publicam fama
meritorum; quae quam sit exilis et totius uacua ponderis, sic considera.
Omnem terrae ambitum, sicuti astrologicis demonstrationibus accepisti, ad
caeli spatium puncti constat obtinere rationem, id est ut, si ad caelestis
globi magnitudinem conferatur, nihil spatii prorsus habere iudicetur. Huius
igitur tam exiguae in mundo regionis quarta fere portio est, sicut
Ptolomaeo probante didicisti, quae nobis cognitis animantibus incolatur.
Huic quartae, si quantum maria paludesque premunt quantumque siti uasta
regio distenditur cogitatione subtraxeris, uix angustissima inhabitandi
hominibus area relinquetur. In hoc igitur minimo puncti quodam puncto
circumsaepti atque conclusi de peruulganda fama, de proferendo nomine
cogitatis? Aut quid habeat amplum magnificumque gloria tam angustis
exiguisque limitibus artata? Adde quod hoc ipsum breuis habitaculi saeptum
plures incolunt nationes lingua, moribus, totius uitae ratione distantes,
ad quas tum difficultate itinerum tum loquendi diuersitate tum commercii
insolentia non modo fama hominum singulorum sed ne urbium quidem peruenire
queat. Aetate denique Marci Tullii, sicut ipse quodam loco significat,
nondum Caucasum montem Romanae rei publicae fama transcenderat, et erat
tunc adulta Parthis etiam ceterisque id locorum gentibus formidolosa.
Videsne igitur quam sit angusta, quam compressa gloria quam dilatare ac
propagare laboratis? An ubi Romani nominis transire fama nequit, Romani
hominis gloria progredietur? Quid quod diuersarum gentium mores inter se
atque instituta discordant, ut quod apud alios laude apud alios supplicio
dignum iudicetur. Quo fit ut si quem famae praedicatio delectat, huic in
plurimos populos nomen proferre nullo modo conducat. Erit igitur peruagata
inter suos gloria quisque contentus et intra unius gentis terminos
praeclara illa famae inmortalitas coartabitur.
Sed quam multos clarissimos suis temporibus uiros scriptorum inops deleuit
obliuio! Quamquam quid ipsa scripta proficiant, quae cum suis auctoribus
premit longior atque obscura uetustas? Vos uero inmortalitatem uobis
propagare uidemini, cum futuri famam temporis cogitatis. Quod si
aeternitatis infinita spatia pertractes, quid habes quod de nominis tui
diuturnitate laeteris? Vnius etenim mora momenti, si decem milibus
conferatur annis, quoniam utrumque spatium definitum est, minimam, licet,
habet tamen aliquam portionem. At hic ipse numerus annorum eiusque
quamlibet multiplex ad interminabilem diuturnitatem ne comparari quidem
potest. Etenim finitis ad se inuicem fuerit quaedam, infiniti uero atque
finiti nulla umquam poterit esse collatio. Ita fit ut quamlibet prolixi
temporis fama, si cum inexhausta aeternitate cogitetur, non parua sed plane
nulla esse uideatur. Vos autem nisi ad populares auras inanesque rumores
recte facere nescitis et relicta conscientiae uirtutisque praestantia de
alienis praemia sermunculis postulatis. Accipe in huiusmodi arrogantiae
leuitate quam festiue aliquis inluserit. Nam cum quidam adortus esset
hominem contumeliis, qui non ad uerae uirtutis usum sed ad superbam gloriam
falsum sibi philosophi nomen induerat, adiecissetque iam se sciturum, an
ille philosophus esset, si quidem illatas iniurias leniter patienterque
tolerasset, ille patientiam paulisper adsumpsit acceptaque contumelia uelut
insultans: 'Iam tandem,' inquit, 'intellegis me esse philosophum?' Tum ille
nimium mordaciter: 'Intellexeram,' inquit, 'si tacuisses.' Quid autem est
quod ad praecipuos uiros, de his enim sermo est, qui uirtute gloriam
petunt, quid, inquam, est quod ad hos de fama post resolutum morte suprema
corpus attineat? Nam si, quod nostrae rationes credi uetant, toti moriuntur
homines, nulla est omnino gloria, cum is cuius ea esse dicitur non exstet
omnino. Sin uero bene sibi mens conscia terreno carcere resoluta caelum
libera petit, nonne omne terrenum negotium spernat quae se caelo fruens
terrenis gaudet exemptam?
Then I said: "Thou thyself knowest that the ambition of mortal things
hath borne as little sway with me as with any, but I desired matter of
action, lest old age should come upon me ere I had done anything." To
which she answered: "This is the only thing which is able to entice such
minds as, being well qualified by nature, are not yet fully brought to
full excellence by the perfecting of virtues, I mean desire of glory,
and fame of best deserts towards their commonwealth, which how slender
it is, and void of all weight, consider this: thou hast learnt by
astronomical demonstrations that the compass of the whole earth compared
to the scope of heaven is no bigger than a pin's point, which is as much
as to say that, if it be conferred with the greatness of the celestial
sphere, it hath no bigness at all. And of this so small a region in the
world only the fourth part is known to be inhabited by living creatures
known to us, as Ptolemy proveth. From which fourth part, if thou
takest away in imagination the seas, the marsh grounds, and all other
desert places, there will scarcely be left any room at all for men to
inhabit. Wherefore, enclosed and shut up in this smallest point of that
other point, do you think of extending your fame and enlarging your
name? But what great or heroical matter can that glory have, which is
pent up in so small and narrow bounds? Besides that the little compass
of this small habitation is inhabited by many nations, different in
language, fashions, and conversation, to which by reason of the
difficulties in travelling, the diversity of speech, and the scarcity of
traffic, not only the Fame of particular men but even of cities can
hardly come. Finally, in the age of Marcus Tullius, as he himself
writeth, the fame of the Roman Commonwealth had not passed the
mountain Caucasus, and yet it was then in the most flourishing estate,
fearful even to the Parthians and to the rest of the nations about.
Seest thou therefore how strait and narrow that glory is which you
labour to enlarge and increase? Where the fame of the Roman name could
not pass, can the glory of a Roman man penetrate? Moreover, the customs
and laws of diverse nations do so much differ the one from the other,
that the same thing which some commend as laudable, others condemn as
deserving punishment. So that if a man be delighted with the praise of
fame, it is no way convenient for him to be named in many countries.
Wherefore, every man must be content with that glory which he may have
at home, and that noble immortality of fame must be comprehended within
the compass of one nation.
Now, how many, most famous while they lived, are altogether forgotten
for want of writers! Though what do writings themselves avail which
perish, as well as their authors, by continuance and obscurity of time?
But you imagine that you make yourselves immortal when you cast your
eyes upon future fame. Whereas, if thou weighest attentively the
infinite spaces of eternity, what cause hast thou to rejoice at the
prolonging of thy name? For if we compare the stay of one moment with
ten thousand years, since both be limited, they have some proportion,
though it be but very small. But this number of years, how oft so ever
it be multiplied, is no way comparable to endless eternity. For limited
things may in some sort be compared among themselves, but that which is
infinite admitteth no comparison at all with the limited. So that the
fame of never so long time, if it be compared with everlasting eternity,
seemeth not little but none at all. But without popular blasts and vain
rumours you know not how to do well, and, rejecting the excellency of a
good conscience and of virtue, you choose to be rewarded with others'
tattling. Hear how pleasantly one jested at this vain and contemptible
arrogancy. For having assaulted with reproachful speeches a certain
fellow who had falsely taken upon him the name of a philosopher, not for
the use of virtue but for vainglory, and having added that now he would
know whether he were a philosopher or no by his gentle and patient
bearing of injuries, the other took all patiently for a while, and
having borne his contumely, as it were, triumphing, said: 'Dost thou now
at length think me a philosopher?' To which he bitingly replied: 'I
would have thought thee one if thou hadst holden thy peace.' But what
have excellent men (for of these I speak) who seek for glory by virtue,
what have we, I say, to expect for these by fame after final death hath
dissolved the body? For if, contrary to our belief, men wholly perish,
there is no glory at all, since he to whom it is said to belong is
nowhere extant. But if a guiltless mind freed from earthly imprisonment
goeth forthwith to heaven, will she not despise all earthly traffic who,
enjoying heaven, rejoiceth to see herself exempted from earthly affairs?
 Claudius Ptolemaeus, mathematician, astronomer, geographer, fl.
 Cf. _Somn. Scip._ 6. 14 ap. Macr. _Comment._ ii. 10.
Quicumque solam mente praecipiti petit
Summumque credit gloriam,
Late patentes aetheris cernat plagas
Artumque terrarum situm.
Breuem replere non ualentis ambitum 5
Pudebit aucti nominis.
Quid o superbi colla mortali iugo
Frustra leuare gestiunt?
Licet remotos fama per populos means
Diffusa linguas explicet 10
Et magna titulis fulgeat claris domus,
Mors spernit altam gloriam,
Inuoluit humile pariter et celsum caput
Aequatque summis infima.
Vbi nunc fidelis ossa Fabricii manent, 15
Quid Brutus aut rigidus Cato?
Signat superstes fama tenuis pauculis
Inane nomen litteris.
Sed quod decora nouimus uocabula,
Num scire consumptos datur? 20
Iacetis ergo prorsus ignorabiles
Nec fama notos efficit.
Quod si putatis longius uitam trahi
Mortalis aura nominis,
Cum sera uobis rapiet hoc etiam dies, 25
Iam uos secunda mors manet.
He that to honour only seeks to mount
And that his chiefest end doth count,
Let him behold the largeness of the skies
And on the strait earth cast his eyes;
He will despise the glory of his name,
Which cannot fill so small a frame.
Why do proud men scorn that their necks should bear
That yoke which every man must wear?
Though fame through many nations fly along
And should be blazed by every tongue,
And houses shine with our forefathers' stories,
Yet Death contemns these stately glories,
And, summoning both rich and poor to die,
Makes the low equal with the high.
Who knows where faithful Fabrice' bones are pressed,
Where Brutus and strict Cato rest?
A slender fame consigns their titles vain
In some few letters to remain.
Because their famous names in books we read,
Come we by them to know the dead?
You dying, then, remembered are by none,
Nor any fame can make you known.
But if you think that life outstrippeth death,
Your names borne up with mortal breath,
When length of time takes this away likewise,
A second death shall you surprise.
 Caius Luscinus Fabricius, Consul 282 B.C., opponent of Pyrrhus;
Lucius Iunius Brutus, Consul 509 B.C., founder of the Republic; Marcus
Porcius Cato (Cato maior). Consul 195 B.C., great-grandfather of M.
Porcius Cato (Uticensis).
Sed ne me inexorabile contra fortunam gerere bellum putes, est aliquando
cum de hominibus illa, fallax illa nihil, bene mereatur, tum scilicet cum
se aperit, cum frontem detegit moresque profitetur. Nondum forte quid
loquar intellegis. Mirum est quod dicere gestio, eoque sententiam uerbis
explicare uix queo. Etenim plus hominibus reor aduersam quam prosperam
prodesse fortunam. Illa enim semper specie felicitatis cum uidetur blanda,
mentitur; haec semper uera est, cum se instabilem mutatione demonstrat.
Illa fallit, haec instruit, illa mendacium specie bonorum mentes fruentium
ligat, haec cognitione fragilis felicitatis absoluit. Itaque illam uideas
uentosam, fluentem suique semper ignaram, hanc sobriam succinctamque et
ipsius aduersitatis exercitatione prudentem. Postremo felix a uero bono
deuios blanditiis trahit, aduersa plerumque ad uera bona reduces unco
retrahit. An hoc inter minima aestimandum putas quod amicorum tibi fidelium
mentes haec aspera, haec horribilis fortuna detexit, haec tibi certos
sodalium uultus ambiguosque secreuit, discedens suos abstulit, tuos
reliquit? Quanti hoc integer, ut uidebaris tibi fortunatus, emisses! Nunc
et amissas opes querere; quod pretiosissimum diuitiarum genus est amicos
But lest thou shouldst think that I am at implacable war with Fortune,
there is a time when this thy goddess ceasing to deceive deserveth of
men, to wit, when she declareth herself, when she discovereth her face
and showeth herself in her own colours. Perhaps thou understandest not
yet what I say. I would utter a wonderful thing, insomuch as I can
scarcely explicate my mind in words. For I think that Fortune, when she
is opposite, is more profitable to men than when she is favourable. For
in prosperity, by a show of happiness and seeming to caress, she is ever
false, but in adversity when she showeth herself inconstant by changing,
she is ever true. In that she deceiveth, in this she instructeth; in
that she imprisoneth the minds of men with falsely seeming goods, which
they enjoy, in this she setteth them at liberty by discovering the
uncertainty of them. Wherefore, in that thou shalt alway see her puffed
up, and wavering, and blinded with a self-conceit of herself, in this
thou shalt find her sober, settled, and, with the very exercise of
adversity, wise. Finally, prosperity with her flatterings withdraweth
men from true goodness, adversity recalleth and reclaimeth them many
times by force to true happiness. Dost thou esteem it a small
benefit that this rough and harsh Fortune hath made known unto thee the
minds of thy faithful friends? She hath severed thy assured from thy
doubtful friends; prosperity at her departure took away with her those
which were hers, and left thee thine. How dearly wouldst thou have
bought this before thy fall, and when thou seemedst to thyself
fortunate! Now thou dost even lament thy lost riches; thou hast found
friends, the most precious treasure in the world.
 Literally, "pulleth them back with a hook."
Quod mundus stabili fide
Concordes uariat uices,
Quod pugnantia semina
Foedus perpetuum tenent,
Quod Phoebus roseum diem 5
Curru prouehit aureo,
Vt quas duxerit Hesperos
Phoebe noctibus imperet,
Vt fluctus auidum mare
Certo fine coerceat, 10
Ne terris liceat uagis
Latos tendere terminos,
Hanc rerum seriem ligat
Terras ac pelagus regens
Et caelo imperitans amor. 15
Hic si frena remiserit,
Quidquid nunc amat inuicem
Bellum continuo geret
Et quam nunc socia fide
Pulchris motibus incitant*, 20
Certent soluere machinam.
Hic sancto populos quoque
Iunctos foedere continet,
Hic et coniugii sacrum
Castis nectit amoribus, 25
Hic fidis etiam sua
Dictat iura sodalibus.
O felix hominum genus,
Si uestros animos amor
Quo caelum regitur regat." 30
That this fair world in settled course her several forms should vary,
That a perpetual law should tame the fighting seeds of things,
That Phoebus should the rosy day in his bright chariot carry,
That Phoebe should govern the nights which Hesperus forth brings,
That to the floods of greedy seas are certain bounds assigned,
Which them, lest they usurp too much upon the earth, debar,
Love ruling heaven, and earth, and seas, them in this course doth bind.
And if it once let loose their reins, their friendship turns to war,
Tearing the world whose ordered form their quiet motions bear.
By it all holy laws are made and marriage rites are tied,
By it is faithful friendship joined. How happy mortals were,
If that pure love did guide their minds, which heavenly spheres
ANICII MANLII SEVERINI BOETHII
V.C. ET INL. EXCONS. ORD. PATRICII
LIBER SECVNDVS EXPLICIT
INCIPIT LIBER III.
Iam cantum illa finiuerat, cum me audiendi auidum stupentemque arrectis
adhuc auribus carminis mulcedo defixerat. Itaque paulo post: "O," inquam,
"summum lassorum solamen animorum quam tu me uel sententiarum pondere uel
canendi etiam iucunditate refouisti! Adeo ut iam me post haec inparem
fortunae ictibus esse non arbitrer. Itaque remedia quae paulo acriora esse
dicebas, non modo non perhorresco, sed audiendi auidus uehementer
efflagito." Tum illa "Sensi," inquit, "cum uerba nostra tacitus attentusque
rapiebas, eumque tuae mentis habitum uel exspectaui uel, quod est uerius,
ipsa perfeci. Talia sunt quippe quae restant, ut degustata quidem mordeant,
interius autem recepta dulcescant. Sed quod tu te audiendi cupidum dicis,
quanto ardore flagrares, si quonam te ducere aggrediamur agnosceres!"
"Quonam?" inquam. "Ad ueram," inquit, "felicitatem, quam tuus quoque
somniat animus, sed occupato ad imagines uisu ipsam illam non potest
intueri." Tum ego: "Fac obsecro et quae illa uera sit, sine cunctatione
demonstra." "Faciam," inquit illa, "tui causa libenter. Sed quae tibi causa
notior est, eam prius designare uerbis atque informare conabor ut ea
perspecta cum in contrariam partem flexeris oculos, uerae beatitudinis
speciem possis agnoscere.
THE THIRD BOOK OF BOETHIUS
Though she had ended her verse, yet the sweetness of it made me remain
astonished, attentive, and desirous to hear her longer. Wherefore, after
a while, I said: "O most effectual refreshment of wearied minds, how
have I been comforted with thy weighty sentences and pleasing music!
Insomuch that I begin to think myself not unable to encounter the
assaults of Fortune. Wherefore, I am not now afraid, but rather
earnestly desire to know those remedies, which before thou toldest me
were too sharp." To which she answered: "I perceived as much as thou
sayest, when I saw thee hearken to my speeches with so great silence and
attention, and I expected this disposition of thy mind, or rather more
truly caused it myself. For the remedies which remain are of that sort
that they are bitter to the taste, but being inwardly received wax
sweet. And whereas thou sayest that thou art desirous to hear; how much
would this desire increase if thou knewest whither we go about to bring
thee!" "Whither?" quoth I. "To true felicity," quoth she, "which thy
mind also dreameth of, but thy sight is so dimmed with phantasies that
thou canst not behold it as it is." Then I beseeched her to explicate
without delay wherein true happiness consisteth. To which she answered:
"I will willingly do so for thy sake, but first I will endeavour to
declare in words and to give shape to that which is better known unto
thee, that, having thoroughly understood it, by reflecting of the
contrary thou mayest discover the type of perfect blessedness.
Qui serere ingenuum uolet agrum,
Liberat arua prius fruticibus,
Falce rubos filicemque resecat,
Vt noua fruge grauis Ceres eat.
Dulcior est apium mage labor, 5
Si malus ora prius sapor edat.
Gratius astra nitent ubi Notus
Desinit imbriferos dare sonos.
Lucifer ut tenebras pepulerit
Pulchra dies roseos agit equos. 10
Tu quoque falsa tuens bona prius
Incipe colla iugo retrahere.
Vera dehinc animum subierint."
He that a fruitful field will sow,
Doth first the ground from bushes free,
All fern and briars likewise mow,
That he his harvest great may see.
Honey seems sweeter to our taste,
If cloyed with noisome food it be.
Stars clearer shine when Notus' blast
Hath ceased the rainy storms to breed.
When Lucifer hath night defaced,
The day's bright horses then succeed.
So thou, whom seeming goods do feed,
First shake off yokes which so thee press
That Truth may then thy mind possess."
Tum defixo paululum uisu et uelut in augustam suae mentis sedem recepta sic
coepit: "Omnis mortalium cura quam multiplicium studiorum labor exercet,
diuerso quidem calle procedit, sed ad unum tamen beatitudinis finem nititur
peruenire. Id autem est bonum quo quis adepto nihil ulterius desiderare
queat. Quod quidem est omnium summum bonorum cunctaque intra se bona
continens, cui si quid aforet summum esse non posset, quoniam relinqueretur
extrinsecus quod posset optari. Liquet igitur esse beatitudinem statum
bonorum omnium congregatione perfectum. Hunc, uti diximus, diuerso tramite
mortales omnes conantur adipisci. Est enim mentibus hominum ueri boni
naturaliter inserta cupiditas, sed ad falsa deuius error abducit. Quorum
quidem alii summum bonum esse nihilo indigere credentes ut diuitiis
affluant elaborant; alii uero bonum quod sit dignissimum ueneratione
iudicantes adeptis honoribus reuerendi ciuibus suis esse nituntur. Sunt qui
summum bonum in summa potentia esse constituant; hi uel regnare ipsi uolunt
uel regnantibus adhaerere conantur. At quibus optimum quiddam claritas
uidetur, hi uel belli uel pacis artibus gloriosum nomen propagare
festinant. Plurimi uero boni fructum gaudio laetitiaque metiuntur; hi
felicissimum putant uoluptate diffluere. Sunt etiam qui horum fines
causasque alterutro permutent, ut qui diuitias ob potentiam uoluptatesque
desiderant uel qui potentiam seu pecuniae causa seu proferendi nominis
appetunt. In his igitur ceterisque talibus humanorum actuum uotorumque
uersatur intentio, ueluti nobilitas fauorque popularis quae uidentur
quandam claritudinem comparare, uxor ac liberi quae iucunditatis gratia
petuntur; amicorum uero quod sanctissimum quidem genus est, non in fortuna
sed in uirtute numeratur, reliquum uero uel potentiae causa uel
delectationis assumitur. Iam uero corporis bona promptum est ut ad
superiora referantur. Robur enim magnitudoque uidetur praestare ualentiam,
pulchritudo atque uelocitas celebritatem, salubritas uoluptatem; quibus
omnibus solam beatitudinem desiderari liquet. Nam quod quisque prae ceteris
petit, id summum esse iudicat bonum. Sed summum bonum beatitudinem esse
definiuimus; quare beatum esse iudicat statum quem prae ceteris quisque
Habes igitur ante oculos propositam fere formam felicitatis humanae--opes,
honores, potentiam, gloriam, uoluptates. Quae quidem sola considerans
Epicurus consequenter sibi summum bonum uoluptatem esse constituit, quod
cetera omnia iucunditatem animo uideantur afferre. Sed ad hominum studia
reuertor, quorum animus etsi caligante memoria tamen bonum suum repetit,
sed uelut ebrius domum quo tramite reuertatur ignorat. Num enim uidentur
errare hi qui nihilo indigere nituntur? Atqui non est aliud quod aeque
perficere beatitudinem possit quam copiosus bonorum omnium status nec
alieni egens sed sibi ipse sufficiens. Num uero labuntur hi qui quod sit
optimum, id etiam reuerentiae cultu dignissimum putent? Minime. Neque enim
uile quiddam contemnendumque est quod adipisci omnium fere mortalium
laborat intentio. An in bonis non est numeranda potentia? Quid igitur? Num
imbecillum ac sine uiribus aestimandum est, quod omnibus rebus constat esse
praestantius? An claritudo nihili pendenda est? Sed sequestrari nequit quin
omne quod excellentissimum sit id etiam uideatur esse clarissimum. Nam non
esse anxiam tristemque beatitudinem nec doloribus molestiisque subiectam
quid attinet dicere, quando in minimis quoque rebus id appetitur quod
habere fruique delectet? Atqui haec sunt quae adipisci homines uolunt eaque
de causa diuitias, dignitates, regna, gloriam uoluptatesque desiderant quod
per haec sibi sufficientiam, reuerentiam, potentiam, celebritatem,
laetitiam credunt esse uenturam. Bonum est igitur quod tam diuersis studiis
homines petunt; in quo quanta sit naturae uis facile monstratur, cum licet
uariae dissidentesque sententiae tamen in diligendo boni fine consentiunt.
Then, for a while looking steadfastly upon the ground, and, as it were,
retiring herself to the most secret seat of her soul, she began in this
manner: "All men's thoughts, which are turmoiled with manifold cares,
take indeed divers courses, but yet endeavour to attain the same end of
happiness, which is that good which, being once obtained, nothing can be
further desired. Which is the chiefest of all goods, and containeth in
itself whatsoever is good, and if it wanted anything it could not be the
chiefest, because there would something remain besides it which might be
wished for. Wherefore, it is manifest that blessedness is an estate
replenished with all that is good. This, as we said, all men endeavour
to obtain by divers ways. For there is naturally ingrafted in men's
minds an earnest desire of that which is truly good; but deceitful error
withdraweth it to that which falsely seemeth such. So that some,
esteeming it their greatest good to want nothing, labour by all means to
abound with riches; others, deeming that to be good which is most
deserving of honour, hunt after preferments, to be respected by their
fellow-citizens. Others think it the greatest felicity to have great
power and authority, and these will either reign themselves or at least
procure to be great with princes. But they who think fame better than
all these, make all speed possible to spread their names far and near,
by achieving some worthy enterprise either in war or peace. Many measure
good by joy and mirth, and their chiefest care is how they may abound
with pleasure. Some interchange the ends and means of these things one
with the other, wanting now riches for the sake of power and pleasure,
now power for the sake of wealth and fame. At these and such other do
men's actions and desires aim, as nobility and popularity, which make
men esteemed; wife and children, which bring pleasure and delight. But
friendship, that most sacred thing, is rather to be attributed to virtue
than to fortune. Other things for the most part are desired either for
power or pleasure. And it is an easy matter to reduce all corporal goods
to the former heads. For strength and greatness give ability; beauty and
swiftness, fame; and health yieldeth pleasure. By all which we
manifestly seek for nothing else but happiness. For that which every man
seeketh most after, is by him esteemed his greatest good. Which is all
one with happiness. Wherefore he esteemeth that estate happy which he
preferreth before all other.
And thus thou hast in a manner seen the form of human felicity--riches,
honour, power, glory, pleasure. Which Epicurus only considering,
consequently took pleasure for his chiefest good, because all the rest
seemed to delight the mind. But I return to the careful thoughts of men,
whose minds, though obscured, yet seek after the greatest good, but like
a drunken man know not the way home. For seem they to err who endeavour
to want nothing? But nothing can cause happiness so much as the
plentiful possession of all that is good, needing the help of none, but
is sufficient of itself. Or do they err who take that which is best to
be likewise most worthy of respect? No. For it is no vile or
contemptible thing which almost all men labour to obtain. Or is not
power to be esteemed good? Why, then, is that to be accounted feeble and
of no force, which manifestly surpasses all other things? Or is fame to
be contemned? But it cannot be ignored that the most excellent is also
most famous. For to what purpose should I say that happiness is not sad
or melancholy, or subject to grief and trouble, when even in smallest
matters we desire that which we delight to have and enjoy? And these be
the things which men desire to obtain, and to this end procure riches,
dignities, kingdoms, glory, and pleasures, because by them they think to
have sufficiency, respect, power, fame, delight, and joy. Wherefore,
that is good which men seek after by divers desires, in which the force
of nature is easily descried, since though there be many and different
opinions, yet they agree in choosing for their end that which is good.
Quantas rerum flectat habenas
Natura potens, quibus inmensum
Legibus orbem prouida seruet
Stringatque ligans inresoluto
Singula nexu, placet arguto 5
Fidibus lentis promere cantu.
Quamuis Poeni pulchra leones
Vincula gestent manibusque datas
Captent escas metuantque trucem
Soliti uerbera ferre magistrum, 10
Si cruor horrida tinxerit ora,
Resides olim redeunt animi
Fremituque graui meminere sui;
Laxant nodis colla solutis
Primusque lacer dente cruento 15
Domitor rabidas imbuit iras.
Quae canit altis garrula ramis
Ales caueae clauditur antro;
Huic licet inlita pocula melle
Largasque dapes dulci studio 20
Ludens hominum cura ministret,
Si tamen arto saliens texto
Nemorum gratas uiderit umbras,
Sparsas pedibus proterit escas,
Siluas tantum maesta requirit, 25
Siluas dulci uoce susurrat.
Validis quondam uiribus acta
Pronum flectit uirga cacumen;
Hanc si curuans dextra remisit,
Recto spectat uertice caelum. 30
Cadit Hesperias Phoebus in undas,
Sed secreto tramite rursus
Currum solitos uertit ad ortus.
Repetunt proprios quaeque recursus
Redituque suo singula gaudent 35
Nec manet ulli traditus ordo
Nisi quod fini iunxerit ortum
Stabilemque sui fecerit orbem.
How the first reins of all things guided are
By powerful Nature as the chiefest cause,
And how she keeps, with a foreseeing care,
The spacious world in order by her laws,
And to sure knots which nothing can untie,
By her strong hand all earthly motions draws--
To show all this we purpose now to try
Our pliant string, our musick's thrilling sound.
Although the Libyan lions often lie
Gentle and tame in splendid fetters bound,
And fearing their incensed master's wrath,
With patient looks endure each blow and wound,
Yet if their jaws they once in blood do bathe,
They, gaining courage, with fierce noise awake
The force which Nature in them seated hath,
And from their necks the broken chains do shake;
Then he that tamed them first doth feel their rage,
And torn in pieces doth their fury slake.
The bird shut up in an unpleasing cage,
Which on the lofty trees did lately sing,
Though men, her want of freedom to assuage,
Should unto her with careful labour bring
The sweetest meats which they can best devise,
Yet when within her prison fluttering
The pleasing shadows of the groves she spies,
Her hated food she scatters with her feet,
In yearning spirit to the woods she flies,
The woods' delights do tune her accents sweet.
When some strong hand doth tender plant constrain
With his debased top the ground to meet,
If it let go, the crooked twig again
Up toward Heaven itself it straight doth raise.
Phoebus doth fall into the western main,
Yet doth he back return by secret ways,
And to the earth doth guide his chariot's race.
Each thing a certain course and laws obeys,
Striving to turn back to his proper place;
Nor any settled order can be found,
But that which doth within itself embrace
The births and ends of all things in a round.
 Literally, "and take food offered by the hand."
 Literally, "their spirits, hitherto sluggish, return."
Vos quoque, o terrena animalia, tenui licet imagine uestrum tamen
principium somniatis uerumque illum beatitudinis finem licet minime
perspicaci qualicumque tamen cogitatione prospicitis eoque uos et ad uerum
bonum naturalis ducit intentio et ab eodem multiplex error abducit.
Considera namque an per ea quibus se homines adepturos beatitudinem putant
ad destinatum finem ualeant peruenire. Si enim uel pecuniae uel honores
ceteraque tale quid afferunt cui nihil bonorum abesse uideatur, nos quoque
fateamur fieri aliquos horum adeptione felices. Quod si neque id ualent
efficere quod promittunt bonisque pluribus carent, nonne liquido falsa in
eis beatitudinis species deprehenditur? Primum igitur te ipsum qui paulo
ante diuitiis affluebas, interrogo: Inter illas abundantissimas opes
numquamne animum tuum concepta ex qualibet iniuria confudit anxietas?"
"Atqui," inquam, "libero me fuisse animo quin aliquid semper angerer
reminisci non queo." "Nonne quia uel aberat quod abesse non uelles uel
aderat quod adesse noluisses?" "Ita est," inquam. "Illius igitur
praesentiam huius absentiam desiderabas?" "Confiteor," inquam. "Eget uero,"
inquit, "eo quod quisque desiderat?" "Eget," inquam. "Qui uero eget aliquo,
non est usquequaque sibi ipse sufficiens?" "Minime," inquam. "Tu itaque
hanc insufficientiam plenus," inquit, "opibus sustinebas?" "Quidni?"
inquam. "Opes igitur nihilo indigentem sufficientemque sibi facere nequeunt
et hoc erat quod promittere uidebantur. Atqui hoc quoque maxime
considerandum puto quod nihil habeat suapte natura pecunia ut his a quibus
possidetur inuitis nequeat auferri." "Fateor," inquam. "Quidni fateare, cum
eam cotidie ualentior aliquis eripiat inuito? Vnde enim forenses
querimoniae nisi quod uel ui uel fraude nolentibus pecuniae repetuntur
ereptae?" "Ita est," inquam. "Egebit igitur," inquit, "extrinsecus petito
praesidio quo suam pecuniam quisque tueatur?" "Quis id," inquam, "neget?"
"Atqui non egeret eo, nisi possideret pecuniam quam posset amittere?"
"Dubitari," inquam, "nequit." "In contrarium igitur relapsa res est; nam
quae sufficientes sibi facere putabantur opes, alieno potius praesidio
faciunt indigentes. Quis autem modus est quo pellatur diuitiis indigentia?
Num enim diuites esurire nequeunt? Num sitire non possunt? Num frigus
hibernum pecuniosorum membra non sentiunt? Sed adest, inquies, opulentis
quo famem satient, quo sitim frigusque depellant. Sed hoc modo consolari
quidem diuitiis indigentia potest, auferri penitus non potest. Nam si haec
hians semper atque aliquid poscens opibus expletur, maneat necesse est quae
possit expleri. Taceo quod naturae minimum, quod auaritiae nihil satis est.
Quare si opes nec submouere possunt indigentiam et ipsae suam faciunt, quid
est quod eas sufficientiam praestare credatis?
You also, O earthly creatures, though slightly and as it were in a dream
acknowledge your beginning, and though not perspicuously yet in some
sort behold that true end of happiness, so that the intention of nature
leadeth you to the true good, and manifold error withdraweth you from
it. For consider whether those things, by which men think to obtain
happiness, can bring them to their desired end. For if either money, or
honour, or any of the rest be of that quality that they want nothing
which is good, we will also confess that they are able to make men
happy. But if they neither be able to perform that they promise, and
want many things which are good, are they not manifestly discovered to
have a false appearance of happiness? First then, I ask thee thyself,
who not long since didst abound with wealth; in that plenty of riches,
was thy mind never troubled with any injuries?" "I cannot remember,"
quoth I, "that ever my mind was so free from trouble but that something
or other still vexed me." "Was it not because thou either wantedst
something which thou wouldst have had, or else hadst something which
thou wouldst have wanted?" "It is true," quoth I. "Then thou desiredst
the presence of that, and the absence of this?" "I confess I did," quoth
I. "And doth not a man want that," quoth she, "which he desireth?" "He
doth," quoth I. "But he that wanteth anything is not altogether
sufficient of himself?" "He is not," quoth I. "So that thou feltest this
insufficiency, even the height of thy wealth?" "Why not?" quoth I. "Then
riches cannot make a man wanting nothing nor sufficient of himself, and
this was that they seemed to promise. But this is most of all to be
considered, that money hath nothing of itself which can keep it from
being taken from them which possess it, against their will." "I grant
it," quoth I. "Why shouldst thou not grant it, since that every day
those which are more potent take it from others perforce? For from
whence proceed so many complaints in law, but that money gotten either
by violence or deceit is sought to be recovered by that means?" "It is
so indeed," quoth I. "So that every man needeth some other help to
defend his money?" "Who denies that?" quoth I. "But he should not need
that help, unless he had money which he might lose?" "There is no doubt
of that," quoth I. "Now then the matter is fallen out quite contrary;
for riches, which are thought to suffice of themselves, rather make men
stand in need of other helps. And after what manner do riches expel
penury? For are not rich men hungry? Are they not thirsty? Or doth much
money make the owners senseless of cold in winter? But thou wilt say,
wealthy men have wherewithal to satisfy their hunger, slake their
thirst, and defend themselves from cold. But in this sort, though want
may be somewhat relieved by wealth, yet it cannot altogether be taken
away. For if ever gaping and craving it be satiated by riches, there
must needs always remain something to be satiated. I omit, that to
nature very little, to covetousness nothing is sufficient. Wherefore if
riches can neither remove wants, and cause some themselves, why imagine
you that they can cause sufficiency?
Quamuis fluente diues auri gurgite
Non expleturas cogat auarus opes
Oneretque bacis colla rubri litoris
Ruraque centeno scindat opima boue,
Nec cura mordax deseret superstitem, 5
Defunctumque leues non comitantur opes.
Although the rich man from his mines of gold
Dig treasure which his mind can never fill,
And lofty neck with precious pearls enfold,
And his fat fields with many oxen till,
Yet biting cares will never leave his head,
Nor will his wealth attend him being dead.
Sed dignitates honorabilem reuerendumque cui prouenerint reddunt. Num uis
ea est magistratibus ut utentium mentibus uirtutes inserant uitia
depellant? Atqui non fugare sed illustrare potius nequitiam solent; quo fit
ut indignemur eas saepe nequissimis hominibus contigisse, unde Catullus
licet in curuli Nonium sedentem strumam tamen appellat. Videsne quantum
malis dedecus adiciant dignitates? Atqui minus eorum patebit indignitas, si
nullis honoribus inclarescant. Tu quoque num tandem tot periculis adduci
potuisti ut cum Decorato gerere magistratum putares, cum in eo mentem
nequissimi scurrae delatorisque respiceres? Non enim possumus ob honores
reuerentia dignos iudicare quos ipsis honoribus iudicamus indignos. At si
quem sapientia praeditum uideres, num posses eum uel reuerentia uel ea qua
est praeditus sapientia non dignum putare? Minime. Inest enim dignitas
propria uirtuti, quam protinus in eos quibus fuerit adiuncta transfundit.
Quod quia populares facere nequeunt honores, liquet eos propriam dignitatis
pulchritudinem non habere.
In quo illud est animaduertendum magis. Nam si eo abiectior est quo magis a
pluribus quisque contemnitur, cum reuerendos facere nequeat quos pluribus
ostentat, despectiores potius improbos dignitas facit. Verum non impune;
reddunt namque improbi parem dignitatibus uicem quas sua contagione
commaculant. Atque ut agnoscas ueram illam reuerentiam per has umbratiles
dignitates non posse contingere; si qui multiplici consulatu functus in
barbaras nationes forte deuenerit, uenerandumne barbaris honor faciet?
Atqui si hoc naturale munus dignitatibus foret, ab officio suo quoquo
gentium nullo modo cessarent, sicut ignis ubique terrarum numquam tamen
calere desistit, sed quoniam id eis non propria uis sed hominum fallax
adnectit opinio, uanescunt ilico, cum ad eos uenerint qui dignitates eas
esse non aestimant.
Sed hoc apud exteras nationes. Inter eos uero apud quos ortae sunt, num
perpetuo perdurant? Atqui praetura magna olim potestas nunc inane nomen et
senatorii census grauis sarcina; si quis populi quondam curasset annonam,
magnus habebatur, nunc ea praefectura quid abiectius? Vt enim paulo ante
diximus, quod nihil habet proprii decoris, opinione utentium nunc
splendorem accipit nunc amittit. Si igitur reuerendos facere nequeunt
dignitates, si ultro improborum contagione sordescunt, si mutatione
temporum splendere desinunt, si gentium aestimatione uilescunt, quid est
quod in se expetendae pulchritudinis habeant, nedum aliis praestent?
But dignities make him honourable and reverend on whom they light. Have
offices that force to plant virtues and expel vices in the minds of
those who have them? But they are not wont to banish, but rather to make
wickedness splendid. So that we many times complain because most wicked
men obtain them. Whereupon Catullus called Nonius a scab or impostume
though he sat in his chair of estate. Seest thou what great
ignominy dignities heap upon evil men? For their unworthiness would less
appear if they were never advanced to any honours. Could so many dangers
ever make thee think to bear office with Decoratus, having
discovered him to be a very varlet and spy? For we cannot for their
honours account them worthy of respect whom we judge unworthy of the
honours themselves. But if thou seest any man endued with wisdom, canst
thou esteem him unworthy of that respect or wisdom which he hath? No,
truly. For virtue hath a proper dignity of her own, which she presently
endueth her possessors withal. Which since popular preferments cannot
do, it is manifest that they have not the beauty which is proper to true
In which we are farther to consider that, if to be contemned of many
make men abject, dignities make the wicked to be despised the more by
laying them open to the view of the world. But the dignities go not
scot-free, for wicked men do as much for them, defiling them with their
own infection. And that thou mayst plainly see that true respect cannot
be gotten by these painted dignities, let one that hath been often
Consul go among barbarous nations; will that honour make those barbarous
people respect him? And yet, if this were natural to dignities, they
would never forsake their function in any nation whatsoever; as fire,
wheresoever it be, always remaineth hot. But because not their own
nature, but the deceitful opinion of men attributeth that to them, they
forthwith come to nothing, being brought to them who esteem them not to
And this for foreign nations. But do they always last among them where
they had their beginning? The Praetorship, a great dignity in time past,
is now an idle name, and an heavy burden of the Senate's fortune. If
heretofore one had care of the people's provision, he was accounted a
great man; now what is more abject than that office? For as we said
before, that which hath no proper dignity belonging unto it sometime
receiveth and sometime loseth his value at the users' discretion.
Wherefore if dignities cannot make us respected, if they be easily
defiled with the infection of the wicked, if their worth decays by
change of times, if diversities of nations make them contemptible, what
beauty have they in themselves, or can they afford to others, worth the
 Cf. Catull. lii.
 Decoratus was quaestor _circa_ 508; cf. Cassiod. _Ep_. v. 3 and 4.
Quamuis se Tyrio superbus ostro
Comeret et niueis lapillis,
Inuisus tamen omnibus uigebat
Luxuriae Nero saeuientis.
Sed quondam dabat improbus uerendis 5
Patribus indecores curules.
Quis illos igitur putet beatos
Quos miseri tribuunt honores?
Though fierce and lustful Nero did adorn
Himself with purple robes, which pearls did grace,
He did but gain a general hate and scorn.
Yet wickedly he officers most base
Over the reverend Senators did place.
Who would esteem of fading honours then
Which may be given thus by the wickedest men?
An uero regna regumque familiaritas efficere potentem ualet? Quidni, quando
eorum felicitas perpetuo perdurat? Atqui plena est exemplorum uetustas,
plena etiam praesens aetas, qui reges felicitatem calamitate mutauerint. O
praeclara potentia quae ne ad conseruationem quidem sui satis efficax
inuenitur! Quod si haec regnorum potestas beatitudinis auctor est, nonne si
qua parte defuerit, felicitatem minuat, miseriam inportet? Sed quamuis late
humana tendantur imperia, plures necesse est gentes relinqui quibus regum
quisque non imperet. Qua uero parte beatos faciens desinit potestas, hac
inpotentia subintrat quae miseros facit; hoc igitur modo maiorem regibus
inesse necesse est miseriae portionem. Expertus sortis suae periculorum
tyrannus regni metus pendentis supra uerticem gladii terrore simulauit.
Quae est igitur haec potestas quae sollicitudinum morsus expellere, quae
formidinum aculeos uitare nequit? Atqui uellent ipsi uixisse securi, sed
nequeunt; dehinc de potestate gloriantur. An tu potentem censes quem uideas
uelle quod non possit efficere? Potentem censes qui satellite latus ambit,
qui quos terret ipse plus metuit, qui ut potens esse uideatur, in
seruientium manu situm est? Nam quid ego de regum familiaribus disseram,
cum regna ipsa tantae inbecillitatis plena demonstrem? Quos quidem regia
potestas saepe incolumis saepe autem lapsa prosternit. Nero Senecam
familiarem praeceptoremque suum ad eligendae mortis coegit arbitrium.
Papinianum diu inter aulicos potentem militum gladiis Antoninus obiecit.
Atqui uterque potentiae suae renuntiare uoluerunt, quorum Seneca opes etiam
suas tradere Neroni seque in otium conferre conatus est; sed dum ruituros
moles ipsa trahit, neuter quod uoluit effecit. Quae est igitur ista
potentia quam pertimescunt habentes, quam nec cum habere uelis tutus sis et
cum deponere cupias uitare non possis? An praesidio sunt amici quos non
uirtus sed fortuna conciliat? Sed quem felicitas amicum fecit, infortunium
faciet inimicum. Quae uero pestis efficacior ad nocendum quam familiaris
But can kingdoms and the familiarity of kings make a man mighty? Why
not, when their felicity lasteth always? But both former and present
times are full of examples that many kings have changed their happiness
with misery. O excellent power, which is not sufficient to uphold
itself! And if this strength of kingdoms be the author of blessedness,
doth it not diminish happiness and bring misery, when it is in any way
defective? But though some empires extend themselves far, there will
still remain many nations out of their dominions. Now, where the power
endeth which maketh them happy, there entereth the contrary which maketh
them miserable, so that all kings must needs have less happiness than
misery. That Tyrant, knowing by experience the dangers of his estate,
signified the fears incident to a kingdom, by the hanging of a drawn
sword over a man's head. What power is this, then, which cannot
expel nor avoid biting cares and pricking fears? They would willingly
have lived securely, but could not, and yet they brag of their power.
Thinkest thou him mighty whom thou seest desire that which he cannot do?
Thinkest thou him mighty who dareth not go without his guard; who
feareth others more than they fear him; who cannot seem mighty, except
his servants please? For what should I speak of kings' followers, since
I show that kingdoms themselves are so full of weakness? Whom the power
of kings often standing, but many times falling, doth overthrow. Nero
compelled Seneca, his familiar friend and master, to make choice of his
own death. Antoninus called Papinianus, who had been long a gallant
courtier, to be cut in pieces with his soldiers' swords. Yet they
would both have renounced their power, yea Seneca endeavoured to deliver
up his riches also to Nero, and to give himself to a contemplative life.
But their very greatness drawing them to their destruction, neither of
them could compass that which they desired. Wherefore what power is this
that the possessors fear, which when thou wilt have, thou art not
secure, and when thou wilt leave, thou canst not avoid? Are we the
better for those friends which love us not for our virtue but for our
prosperity? But whom prosperity maketh our friend, adversity will make
our enemy. And what plague is able to hurt us more than a familiar
 Cic. _Tusc. Disp._ v. 21. 62.
 Cf. Tac. _Ann._ xiv. 53, 54.
 Cf. Spartian. _Caracallus_ 8.
Qui se uolet esse potentem
Animos domet ille feroces
Nec uicta libidine colla
Foedis submittat habenis.
Etenim licet Indica longe 5
Tellus tua iura tremescat
Et seruiat ultima Thyle,
Tamen atras pellere curas
Miserasque fugare querelas
Non posse potentia non est. 10
Who would be powerful, must
His own affections check,
Nor let foul reins of lust
Subdue his conquered neck.
For though the Indian land
Should tremble at thy beck,
And though thy dread command
Far Thule's isle obey,
Unless thou canst withstand
And boldly drive away
Black care and wretched moan,
Thy might is small or none.
Gloria uero quam fallax saepe, quam turpis est! Vnde non iniuria tragicus
[Greek: O doxa doxa murioisi dae broton
ouden gegosi bioton onkosas megan.]
Plures enim magnum saepe nomen falsis uulgi opinionibus abstulerunt; quo
quid turpius excogitari potest? Nam qui falso praedicantur, suis ipsi
necesse est laudibus erubescant. Quae si etiam meritis conquisita sit, quid
tamen sapientis adiecerit conscientiae qui bonum suum non populari rumore,
sed conscientiae ueritate metitur? Quod si hoc ipsum propagasse nomen
pulchrum uidetur, consequens est ut foedum non extendisse iudicetur. Sed
cum, uti paulo ante disserui, plures gentes esse necesse sit ad quas unius
fama hominis nequeat peruenire, fit ut quem tu aestimas esse gloriosum, pro
maxima parte terrarum uideatur inglorius. Inter haec uero popularem gratiam
ne commemoratione quidem dignam puto, quae nec iudicio prouenit nec umquam
firma perdurat. Iam uero quam sit inane quam futtile nobilitatis nomen,
quis non uideat? Quae si ad claritudinem refertur, aliena est. Videtur
namque esse nobilitas quaedam de meritis ueniens laus parentum. Quod si
claritudinem praedicatio facit, illi sint clari necesse est qui
praedicantur. Quare splendidum te, si tuam non habes, aliena claritudo non
efficit. Quod si quid est in nobilitate bonum, id esse arbitror solum, ut
inposita nobilibus necessitudo uideatur ne a maiorum uirtute degeneret.
As for glory, how deceitful it is oftentimes, and dishonest! For which
cause the tragical poet deservedly exclaimeth: "O glory, glory, thou
hast raised to honour and dignity myriads of worthless mortals!"
For many have often been much spoken of through the false opinions of
the common people. Than which what can be imagined more vile? For those
who are falsely commended must needs blush at their own praises. Which
glory though it be gotten by deserts, yet what adds it to a wise man's
conscience who measureth his own good, not by popular rumours, but by
his own certain knowledge? And if it seemeth a fair thing to have
dilated our fame, consequently we must judge it a foul thing not to have
it extended. But since, as I showed a little before, there must needs be
many nations to which the fame of one man cannot arrive, it cometh to
pass that he whom thou esteemeth glorious, in the greater part of the
world seemeth to have no glory at all. And here now I think popular
glory not worth the speaking of, which neither proceedeth from judgment,
nor ever hath any firmness. Likewise, who seeth not what a vain and idle
thing it is to be called noble? Which insofar as it concerneth fame, is
not our own. For nobility seemeth to be a certain praise proceeding from
our parents' deserts. But if praising causeth fame, they must
necessarily be famous who are praised. Wherefore the fame of others, if
thou hast none of thine own, maketh not thee renowned. But if there be
anything good in nobility, I judge it only to be this, that it imposeth
a necessity upon those which are noble, not to suffer their nobility to
degenerate from the virtue of their ancestors.
 Eurip. _Androm._ 319.
Omne hominum genus in terris simili surgit ab ortu.
Vnus enim rerum pater est, unus cuncta ministrat.
Ille dedit Phoebo radios dedit et cornua lunae,
Ille homines etiam terris dedit ut sidera caelo,
Hic clausit membris animos celsa sede petitos. 5
Mortales igitur cunctos edit nobile germen.
Quid genus et proauos strepitis? Si primordia uestra
Auctoremque deum spectes, nullus degener exstat,
Ni uitiis peiora fouens proprium deserat ortum.
The general race of men from a like birth is born.
All things one Father have, Who doth them all adorn,
Who gave the sun his rays, and the pale moon her horn,
The lofty heaven for stars, low earth for mortals chose;
He souls fetched down from high in bodies did enclose;
And thus from noble seed all men did first compose.
Why brag you of your stock? Since none is counted base,
If you consider God the author of your race,
But he that with foul vice doth his own birth deface.
Quid autem de corporis uoluptatibus loquar, quarum appetentia quidem plena
est anxietatis; satietas uero poenitentiae? Quantos illae morbos, quam
intolerabiles dolores quasi quendam fructum nequitiae fruentium solent
referre corporibus! Quarum motus quid habeat iucunditatis, ignoro. Tristes
uero esse uoluptatum exitus, quisquis reminisci libidinum suarum uolet,
intelleget. Quae si beatos explicare possunt, nihil causae est quin pecudes
quoque beatae esse dicantur quarum omnis ad explendam corporalem lacunam
festinat intentio. Honestissima quidem coniugis foret liberorumque
iucunditas, sed nimis e natura dictum est nescio quem filios inuenisse
tortorem; quorum quam sit mordax quaecumque condicio, neque alias expertum
te neque nunc anxium necesse est admonere. In quo Euripidis mei sententiam
probo, qui carentem liberis infortunio dixit esse felicem.
Now what should I speak of bodily pleasures, the desire of which is full
of anxiety, and the enjoying of them breeds repentance? How many
diseases, how intolerable griefs bring they forth in the bodies of their
possessors, as it were the fruits of their own wickedness! I know not
what sweetness their beginnings have, but whosoever will remember his
lusts shall understand that the end of pleasure is sadness. Which if it
be able to cause happiness, there is no reason why beasts should not be
thought blessed, whose whole intention is bent to supply their corporal
wants. That pleasure which proceedeth from wife and children should be
most honest; but it was too naturally spoken, that some tormentor
invented children, whose condition, whatsoever it be, how biting it is,
I need not tell thee, who hast had experience heretofore, and art not
now free from care. In which I approve the opinion of Euripides, who
said that they which had no children are happy by being
 Cf. _Androm._ 420.
Habet hoc uoluptas omnis,
Stimulis agit fruentes
Apiumque par uolantum
Vbi grata mella fudit,
Fugit et nimis tenaci 5
Ferit icta corda morsu.
All pleasure hath this property,
She woundeth those who have her most.
And, like unto the angry bee
Who hath her pleasant honey lost,
She flies away with nimble wing
And in our hearts doth leave her sting.
Nihil igitur dubium est quin hae ad beatitudinem uiae deuia quaedam sint
nec perducere quemquam eo ualeant ad quod se perducturas esse promittunt.
Quantis uero implicitae malis sint, breuissime monstrabo. Quid enim?
Pecuniamne congregare conaberis? Sed eripies habenti. Dignitatibus fulgere
uelis? Danti supplicabis et qui praeire ceteros honore cupis, poscendi
humilitate uilesces. Potentiamne desideras? Subiectorum insidiis obnoxius
periculis subiacebis. Gloriam petas? Sed per aspera quaeque distractus
securus esse desistis. Voluptariam uitam degas? Sed quis non spernat atque
abiciat uilissimae fragilissimaeque rei corporis seruum? Iam uero qui bona
prae se corporis ferunt, quam exigua, quam fragili possessione nituntur!
Num enim elephantos mole, tauros robore superare poteritis, num tigres
uelocitate praeibitis? Respicite caeli spatium, firmitudinem, celeritatem
et aliquando desinite uilia mirari. Quod quidem caelum non his potius est
quam sua qua regitur ratione mirandum. Formae uero nitor ut rapidus est, ut
uelox et uernalium florum mutabilitate fugacior! Quod si, ut
Aristoteles ait, Lynceis oculis homines uterentur, ut eorum uisus
obstantia penetraret, nonne introspectis uisceribus illud Alcibiadis
superficie pulcherrimum corpus turpissimum uideretur? Igitur te pulchrum
uideri non tua natura sed oculorum spectantium reddit infirmitas. Sed
aestimate quam uultis nimio corporis bona, dum sciatis hoc quodcumque
miramini triduanae febris igniculo posse dissolui! Ex quibus omnibus illud
redigere in summam licet, quod haec quae nec praestare quae pollicentur
bona possunt nec omnium bonorum congregatione perfecta sunt, ea nec ad
beatitudinem quasi quidam calles ferunt nec beatos ipsa perficiunt.
 Probably from the lost _Protrepticus_ of Aristotle. See Bywater,
_Journal of Philology_, ii. (1869), 59, and Hartlich, _Leipz. Stud._ xi.
Wherefore there is no doubt but that these ways to happiness are only
certain by-paths, which can never bring any man thither whither they
promise to lead him. And with how great evils they are beset, I will
briefly show. For what? Wilt thou endeavour to gather money? But thou
shalt take it away from him who hath it. Wilt thou excel in dignities?
Thou shalt crouch to the giver, and thou who desirest to surpass others
in honour shalt become vile by thy baseness in begging. Wishest thou for
power? Thou shalt be in danger of thy subjects' treacheries. Seekest
thou for glory? But, drawn into many dangers, thou shalt lose thy
safety. Wilt thou live a voluptuous life? But who would not despise and
neglect the service of so vile and frail a thing as his body? Now they
who boast of the habilities of their body, upon how unsteadfast a
possession do they ground themselves! For can you be bigger than
elephants, or stronger than bulls? Or swifter than tigers? Look upon the
space, firmness, and speedy motion of the heavens, and cease at length
to have in admiration these base things. Which heavens are not more to
be admired for these qualities than for the manner of their government.
As for the glittering of beauty, how soon and swiftly doth it vanish
away! As suddenly decaying and changing as the frail flowers in the
spring. And if, as Aristotle saith, men had Lynceus's eyes, that they
could see through stone walls, would not they judge that body of
Alcibiades, seeming outwardly most fair, to be most foul and ugly by
discovering his entrails? Wherefore not thy nature but the weakness of
the beholders' eyes maketh thee seem fair. But esteem the goods of the
body as much as you will, so that you acknowledge this, that whatsoever
you admire may be dissolved with the burning of an ague of three days.
Out of which we may briefly collect this sum; that these goods, which
can neither perform that they promise, nor are perfect by having all
that is good, do neither, as so many paths, lead men to happiness, nor
make men happy of themselves.
Eheu quae miseros tramite deuios
Non aurum in uiridi quaeritis arbore
Nec uite gemmas carpitis,
Non altis laqueos montibus abditis 5
Vt pisce ditetis dapes
Nec uobis capreas si libeat sequi,
Tyrrhena captatis uada.
Ipsos quin etiam fluctibus abditos
Norunt recessus aequoris, 10
Quae gemmis niueis unda feracior
Vel quae rubentis purpurae
Nec non quae tenero pisce uel asperis
Praestent echinis litora.
Sed quonam lateat quod cupiunt bonum, 15
Nescire caeci sustinent,
Et quod stelliferum trans abiit polum,
Tellure demersi petunt.
Quid dignum stolidis mentibus inprecer?
Opes honores ambiant; 20
Et cum falsa graui mole parauerint,
Tum uera cognoscant bona.
Alas, how ignorance makes wretches stray
Out of the way!
You from green trees expect no golden mines
Nor pearls from vines,
Nor use you on mountains to lay your net
Fishes to get,
Nor, if the pleasant sport of hunting please,
Run you to seas.
Men will be skilful in the hidden caves
Of the ocean waves,
And in what coasts the orient pearls are bred,
Or purple red,
Also, what different sorts of fishes store
Each several shore.
But when they come their chiefest good to find,
Then are they blind,
And search for that under the earth, which lies
Above the skies.
How should I curse these fools? Let thirst them hold
Of fame and gold,
That, having got false goods with pain, they learn
True to discern.
"Hactenus mendacis formam felicitatis ostendisse suffecerit, quam si
perspicaciter intueris, ordo est deinceps quae sit uera monstrare." "Atqui
uideo," inquam, "nec opibus sufficientiam nec regnis potentiam nec
reuerentiam dignitatibus nec celebritatem gloria nec laetitiam uoluptatibus
posse contingere." "An etiam causas, cur id ita sit, deprehendisti?" "Tenui
quidem ueluti rimula mihi uideor intueri, sed ex te apertius cognoscere
"Atqui promptissima ratio est. Quod enim simplex est indiuisumque natura,
id error humanus separat et a uero atque perfecto ad falsum imperfectumque
traducit. An tu arbitraris quod nihilo indigeat egere potentia?" "Minime,"
inquam. "Recte tu quidem. Nam si quid est quod in ulla re inbecillioris
ualentiae sit, in hac praesidio necesse est egeat alieno." "Ita est,"
inquam. "Igitur sufficientiae potentiaeque una est eademque natura." "Sic
uidetur." "Quod uero huiusmodi sit, spernendumne esse censes an contra
rerum omnium ueneratione dignissimum?" "At hoc," inquam, "ne dubitari
quidem potest." "Addamus igitur sufficientiae potentiaeque reuerentiam, ut
haec tria unum esse iudicemus." "Addamus, si quidem uera uolumus
"Quid uero," inquit, "obscurumne hoc atque ignobile censes esse an omni
celebritate clarissimum? Considera uero, ne quod nihilo indigere, quod
potentissimum, quod honore dignissimum esse concessum est, egere
claritudine quam sibi praestare non possit atque ob id aliqua ex parte
uideatur abiectius." "Non possum," inquam, "quin hoc uti est ita etiam
celeberrimum esse confitear." "Consequens igitur est ut claritudinem
superioribus tribus nihil differre fateamur." "Consequitur," inquam. "Quod
igitur nullius egeat alieni, quod suis cuncta uiribus possit, quod sit
clarum atque reuerendum, nonne hoc etiam constat esse laetissimum?" "Sed
unde huic," inquam, "tali maeror ullus obrepat ne cogitare quidem possum;
quare plenum esse laetitiae, si quidem superiora manebunt, necesse est
confiteri." "Atqui illud quoque per eadem necessarium est sufficientiae,
potentiae, claritudinis, reuerentiae, iucunditatis nomina quidem esse
diuersa, nullo modo uero discrepare substantiam." "Necesse est," inquam.
"Hoc igitur quod est unum simplexque natura, prauitas humana dispertit et
dum rei quae partibus caret partem conatur adipisci, nec portionem quae
nulla est nec ipsam quam minime affectat assequitur." "Quonam," inquam,
"modo?" "Qui diuitias," inquit, "petit penuriae fuga, de potentia nihil
laborat, uilis obscurusque esse mauult, multas etiam sibi naturales quoque
subtrahit uoluptates, ne pecuniam quam parauit amittat. Sed hoc modo ne
sufficientia quidem contingit ei quem ualentia deserit, quem molestia
pungit, quem uilitas abicit, quem recondit obscuritas. Qui uero solum posse
desiderat, profligat opes, despicit uoluptates honoremque potentia carentem
gloriam quoque nihili pendit. Sed hunc quoque quam multa deficiant uides.
Fit enim ut aliquando necessariis egeat, ut anxietatibus mordeatur cumque
haec depellere nequeat, etiam id quod maxime petebat potens esse desistat.
Similiter ratiocinari de honoribus, gloria, uoluptatibus licet. Nam cum
unumquodque horum idem quod cetera sit, quisquis horum aliquid sine ceteris
petit, ne illud quidem quod desiderat apprehendit." "Quid igitur?" inquam.
"Si qui cuncta simul cupiat adipisci, summam quidem ille beatitudinis
uelit. Sed num in his eam reperiet, quae demonstrauimus id quod pollicentur
non posse conferre?" "Minime," inquam. "In his igitur quae singula quaedam
expetendorum praestare creduntur, beatitudo nullo modo uestiganda est."
"Fateor," inquam, "et hoc nihil dici uerius potest." "Habes igitur,"
inquit, "et formam falsae felicitatis et causas. Deflecte nunc in aduersum
mentis intuitum; ibi enim ueram quam promisimus statim uidebis." "Atqui
haec," inquam, "uel caeco perspicua est eamque tu paulo ante monstrasti,
dum falsae causas aperire conaris. Nam nisi fallor ea uera est et perfecta
felicitas quae sufficientem, potentem, reuerendum, celebrem laetumque
perficiat. Atque ut me interius animaduertisse cognoscas, quae unum horum,
quoniam idem cuncta sunt, ueraciter praestare potest hanc esse plenam
beatitudinem sine ambiguitate cognosco." "O te alumne hac opinione felicem,
si quidem hoc," inquit, "adieceris...." "Quidnam?" inquam. "Essene aliquid
in his mortalibus caducisque rebus putas quod huiusmodi statum possit
afferre?" "Minime," inquam, "puto idque a te, nihil ut amplius desideretur,
ostensum est." "Haec igitur uel imagines ueri boni uel inperfecta quaedam
bona dare mortalibus uidentur, uerum autem atque perfectum bonum conferre
non possunt." "Assentior," inquam. "Quoniam igitur agnouisti quae uera illa
sit, quae autem beatitudinem mentiantur, nunc superest ut unde ueram hanc
petere possis agnoscas." "Id quidem," inquam, "iam dudum uehementer
exspecto." "Sed cum, ut in Timaeo Platoni," inquit, "nostro placet, in
minimis quoque rebus diuinum praesidium debeat implorari, quid nunc
faciendum censes, ut illius summi boni sedem reperire mereamur?"
"Inuocandum," inquam, "rerum omnium patrem, quo praetermisso nullum rite
fundatur exordium." "Recte," inquit, ac simul ita modulata est.
 uti Timaeo _codd. optimi._
"Let it suffice that we have hitherto discovered the form of false
felicity, which if thou hast plainly seen, order now requireth that we
show thee in what true happiness consisteth." "I see," quoth I, "that
neither sufficiency by riches, nor power by kingdoms, nor respect by
dignities, nor renown by glory, nor joy can be gotten by pleasures."
"Hast thou also understood the causes why it is so?" "Methink I have a
little glimpse of them, but I had rather thou wouldst declare them more
"The reason is manifest, for that which is simple and undivided of
itself, is divided by men's error, and is translated from true and
perfect to false and unperfect. Thinkest thou that which needeth
nothing, to stand in need of power?" "No," quoth I. "Thou sayest well,
for if any power in any respect be weak, in this it must necessarily
stand in need of the help of others." "It is true," quoth I. "Wherefore
sufficiency and power have one and the same nature." "So it seemeth."
"Now thinkest thou, that which is of this sort ought to be despised, or
rather that it is worthy to be respected above all other things?" "There
can be no doubt of this," quoth I. "Let us add respect then to
sufficiency and power, so that we judge these three to be one." "We must
add it if we confess the truth."
"What now," quoth she, "thinkest thou this to be obscure and base, or
rather most excellent and famous? Consider whether that which thou hast
granted to want nothing, to be most potent, and most worthy of honour,
may seem to want fame, which it cannot yield itself, and for that cause
be in some respect more abject." "I must needs confess," quoth I, "that,
being what it is, this is also most famous." "Consequently then we must
acknowledge that fame differeth nothing from the former three." "We must
so," quoth I. "Wherefore that which wanteth nothing, which can perform
all things by its own power, which is famous and respected, is it not
manifest that it is also most pleasant?" To which I answered: "How such
a man should fall into any grief, I can by no means imagine. Wherefore
if that which we have said hitherto be true, we must needs confess that
he is most joyful and content." "And by the same reason it followeth
that sufficiency, power, fame, respect, pleasure have indeed divers
names, but differ not in substance." "It followeth indeed," quoth I.
"This then, which is one and simple by nature, man's wickedness
divideth, and while he endeavoureth to obtain part of that which hath no
parts, he neither getteth a part, which is none, nor the whole, which he
seeketh not after." "How is this?" quoth I. "He who seeketh after
riches," quoth she, "to avoid want, taketh no thought for power, he had
rather be base and obscure, he depriveth himself even of many natural
pleasures that he may not lose the money which he hath gotten. But by
this means he attaineth not to sufficiency, whom power forsaketh, whom
trouble molesteth, whom baseness maketh abject, whom obscurity
overwhelmeth. Again, he that only desireth power, consumeth wealth,
despiseth pleasures, and setteth light by honour or glory, which is not
potent. But thou seest how many things are wanting to this man also. For
sometimes he wanteth necessaries, and is perplexed with anxieties, and
being not able to rid himself, ceaseth to be powerful, which was the
only thing he aimed at. The like discourse may be made of honours,
glory, pleasures. For since every one of these things is the same with
the rest, whosoever seeketh for any of them without the rest obtaineth
not that which he desireth." "What then?" quoth I. "If one should desire
to have them all together, he should wish for the sum of happiness, but
shall he find it in these things which we have showed cannot perform
what they promise?" "No," quoth I. "Wherefore we must by no means seek
for happiness in these things which are thought to afford the several
portions of that which is to be desired." "I confess it," quoth I, "and
nothing can be more true than this." "Now then," quoth she, "thou hast
both the form and causes of false felicity; cast but the eyes of thy
mind on the contrary, and thou shalt presently espy true happiness,
which we promised to show thee." "This," quoth I, "is evident, even to
him that is blind, and thou showedst it a little before, while thou
endeavouredst to lay open the causes of the false. For, if I be not
deceived, that is true and perfect happiness which maketh a man
sufficient, potent, respected, famous, joyful. And that thou mayest know
that I understood thee aright, that which can truly perform any one of
these because they are all one, I acknowledge to be full and perfect
happiness." "O my scholar, I think thee happy by having this opinion, if
thou addest this also." "What?" quoth I. "Dost thou imagine that there
is any mortal or frail thing which can cause this happy estate?" "I do
not," quoth I, "and that hath been so proved by thee, that more cannot
be desired." "Wherefore these things seem to afford men the images of
the true good, or certain unperfect goods, but they cannot give them the
true and perfect good itself." "I am of the same mind," quoth I. "Now
then, since thou knowest wherein true happiness consisteth, and what
have only a false show of it, it remaineth that thou shouldst learn
where thou mayest seek for this which is true." "This is that," quoth I,
"which I have long earnestly expected." "But since, as Plato teacheth
(in Timaeus), we must implore God's assistance even in our least
affairs, what, thinkest thou, must we do now, that we may deserve to
find the seat of that sovereign good?" "We must," quoth I, "invocate the
Father of all things, without whose remembrance no beginning hath a good
foundation." "Thou sayest rightly," quoth she, and withal sung in this
 Cf. _Tim._ 27.
"O qui perpetua mundum ratione gubernas
Terrarum caelique sator qui tempus ab aeuo
Ire iubes stabilisque manens das cuncta moueri.
Quem non externae pepulerunt fingere causae
Materiae fluitantis opus, uerum insita summi 5
Forma boni liuore carens, tu cuncta superno
Ducis ab exemplo, pulchrum pulcherrimus ipse
Mundum mente gerens similique in imagine formans
Perfectasque iubens perfectum absoluere partes.
Tu numeris elementa ligas ut frigora flammis 10
Arida conueniant liquidis, ne purior ignis
Euolet aut mersas deducant pondera terras.
Tu triplicis mediam naturae cuncta mouentem
Conectens animam per consona membra resoluis.
Quae cum secta duos motum glomerauit in orbes, 15
In semet reditura meat mentemque profundam
Circuit et simili conuertit imagine caelum.
Tu causis animas paribus uitasque minores
Prouehis et leuibus sublimes curribus aptans
In caelum terramque seris quas lege benigna 20
Ad te conuersas reduci facis igne reuerti.
Da pater augustam menti conscendere sedem,
Da fontem lustrare boni, da luce reperta
In te conspicuos animi defigere uisus.
Dissice terrenae nebulas et pondera molis 25
Atque tuo splendore mica! Tu namque serenum,
Tu requies tranquilla piis, te cernere finis,
Principium, uector, dux, semita, terminus idem.
"O Thou, that dost the world in lasting order guide,
Father of heaven and earth, Who makest time swiftly slide,
And, standing still Thyself, yet fram'st all moving laws,
Who to Thy work wert moved by no external cause:
But by a sweet desire, where envy hath no place,
Thy goodness moving Thee to give each thing his grace,
Thou dost all creatures' forms from highest patterns take,
From Thy fair mind the world fair like Thyself doth make.
Thus Thou perfect the whole perfect each part dost frame.
Thou temp'rest elements, making cold mixed with flame
And dry things join with moist, lest fire away should fly,
Or earth, opprest with weight, buried too low should lie.
Thou in consenting parts fitly disposed hast
Th'all-moving soul in midst of threefold nature placed,
Which, cut in several parts that run a different race,
Into itself returns, and circling doth embrace
The highest mind, and heaven with like proportion drives.
Thou with like cause dost make the souls and lesser lives,
Fix them in chariots swift, and widely scatterest
O'er heaven and earth; then at Thy fatherly behest
They stream, like fire returning, back to Thee, their God.
Dear Father, let my mind Thy hallowed seat ascend,
Let me behold the spring of grace and find Thy light,
That I on Thee may fix my soul's well cleared sight.
Cast off the earthly weight wherewith I am opprest,
Shine as Thou art most bright, Thou only calm and rest
To pious men whose end is to behold Thy ray,
Who their beginning art, their guide, their bound, and way.
 This poem is a masterly abridgment of the first part of the
_Timaeus_, and was eagerly fastened on by commentators of the early
Middle Ages whose direct knowledge of Plato was confined to the
translation of that dialogue by Chalcidius.
 Cf. the string of nouns in _Tr._ iv. (_supra_, p. 70 _ad fin._).
Quoniam igitur quae sit imperfecti, quae etiam perfecti boni forma uidisti,
nunc demonstrandum reor quonam haec felicitatis perfectio constituta sit.
In quo illud primum arbitror inquirendum, an aliquod huiusmodi bonum quale
paulo ante definisti in rerum natura possit exsistere, ne nos praeter rei
subiectae ueritatem cassa cogitationis imago decipiat. Sed quin exsistat
sitque hoc ueluti quidam omnium fons bonorum negari nequit. Omne enim quod
inperfectum esse dicitur, id inminutione perfecti inperfectum esse
perhibetur. Quo fit, ut si in quolibet genere inperfectum quid esse
uideatur, in eo perfectum quoque aliquid esse necesse sit. Etenim
perfectione sublata, unde illud quod inperfectum perhibetur exstiterit ne
fingi quidem potest. Neque enim ab deminutis inconsummatisque natura rerum
coepit exordium, sed ab integris absolutisque procedens in haec extrema
atque effeta dilabitur. Quod si, uti paulo ante monstrauimus, est quaedam
boni fragilis inperfecta felicitas, esse aliquam solidam perfectamque non
potest dubitari." "Firmissime," inquam, "uerissimeque conclusum est." "Quo
uero," inquit, "habitet, ita considera. Deum rerum omnium principem bonum
esse communis humanorum conceptio probat animorum. Nam cum nihil deo melius
excogitari queat, id quo melius nihil est bonum esse quis dubitet? Ita uero
bonum esse deum ratio demonstrat, ut perfectum quoque in eo bonum esse
conuincat. Nam ni tale sit, rerum omnium princeps esse non poterit. Erit
enim eo praestantius aliquid perfectum possidens bonum, quod hoc prius
atque antiquius esse uideatur; omnia namque perfecta minus integris priora
esse claruerunt. Quare ne in infinitum ratio prodeat, confitendum est
summum deum summi perfectique boni esse plenissimum. Sed perfectum bonum
ueram esse beatitudinem constituimus; ueram igitur beatitudinem in summo
deo sitam esse necesse est." "Accipio," inquam, "nec est quod contradici
ullo modo queat." "Sed quaeso," inquit, "te uide quam id sancte atque
inuiolabiliter probes quod boni summi summum deum diximus esse
plenissimum." "Quonam," inquam, "modo?" "Ne hunc rerum omnium patrem illud
summum bonum quo plenus esse perhibetur uel extrinsecus accepisse uel ita
naturaliter habere praesumas, quasi habentis dei habitaeque beatitudinis
diuersam cogites esse substantiam. Nam si extrinsecus acceptum putes,
praestantius id quod dederit ab eo quod acceperit existimare possis. Sed
hunc esse rerum omnium praecellentissimum dignissime confitemur. Quod si
natura quidem inest, sed est ratione diuersum, cum de rerum principe
loquamur deo, fingat qui potest: quis haec diuersa coniunxerit? Postremo
quod a qualibet re diuersum est, id non est illud a quo intellegitur esse
diuersum. Quare quod a summo bono diuersum est sui natura, id summum bonum
non est--quod nefas est de eo cogitare quo nihil constat esse praestantius.
Omnino enim nullius rei natura suo principio melior poterit exsistere,
quare quod omnium principium sit, id etiam sui substantia summum esse bonum
uerissima ratione concluserim." "Rectissime," inquam. "Sed summum bonum
beatitudinem esse concessum est." "Ita est," inquam. "Igitur," inquit,
"deum esse ipsam beatitudinem necesse est confiteri." "Nec propositis,"
inquam, "prioribus refragari queo et illis hoc inlatum consequens esse
"Respice," inquit, "an hinc quoque idem firmius approbetur, quod duo summa
bona quae a se diuersa sint esse non possunt. Etenim quae discrepant bona,
non esse alterum quod sit alterum liquet; quare neutrum poterit esse
perfectum, cum alterutri alterum deest. Sed quod perfectum non sit, id
summum non esse manifestum est; nullo modo igitur quae summa sunt bona ea
possunt esse diuersa. Atqui et beatitudinem et deum summum bonum esse
collegimus; quare ipsam necesse est summam esse beatitudinem quae sit summa
diuinitas." "Nihil," inquam, "nec reapse uerius nec ratiocinatione
firmius nec deo dignius concludi potest." "Super haec," inquit, "igitur
ueluti geometrae solent demonstratis propositis aliquid inferre quae
porismata ipsi uocant, ita ego quoque tibi ueluti corollarium dabo. Nam
quoniam beatitudinis adeptione fiunt homines beati, beatitudo uero est ipsa
diuinitas, diuinitatis adeptione beatos fieri manifestum est: sed uti
iustitiae adeptione iusti, sapientiae sapientes fiunt, ita diuinitatem
adeptos deos fieri simili ratione necesse est. Omnis igitur beatus deus,
sed natura quidem unus; participatione uero nihil prohibet esse quam
plurimos." "Et pulchrum," inquam, "hoc atque pretiosum, siue porisma siue
corollarium uocari mauis." "Atqui hoc quoque pulchrius nihil est, quod his
annectendum esse ratio persuadet." "Quid?" inquam.
"Cum multa," inquit, "beatitudo continere uideatur, utrumne haec omnia unum
ueluti corpus beatitudinis quadam partium uarietate coniungant an sit eorum
aliquid quod beatitudinis substantiam compleat, ad hoc uero cetera
referantur?" "Vellem," inquam, "id ipsarum rerum commemoratione
patefaceres." "Nonne," inquit, "beatitudinem bonum esse censemus?" "Ac
summum quidem," inquam. "Addas," inquit, "hoc omnibus licet. Nam eadem
sufficientia summa est, eadem summa potentia, reuerentia quoque, claritas
ac uoluptas beatitudo esse iudicatur. Quid igitur? Haecine omnia
bonum--sufficientia potentia ceteraque--ueluti quaedam beatitudinis membra
sunt an ad bonum ueluti ad uerticem cuncta referuntur?" "Intellego,"
inquam, "quid inuestigandum proponas, sed quid constituas audire desidero."
"Cuius discretionem rei sic accipe. Si haec omnia beatitudinis membra
forent, a se quoque inuicem discreparent. Haec est enim partium natura ut
unum corpus diuersa componant. Atqui haec omnia idem esse monstrata sunt;
minime igitur membra sunt. Alioquin ex uno membro beatitudo uidebitur esse
coniuncta--quod fieri nequit." "Id quidem," inquam, "dubium non est, sed
id quod restat exspecto." "Ad bonum uero cetera referri palam est. Idcirco
enim sufficientia petitur quoniam bonum esse iudicatur, idcirco potentia
quoniam id quoque esse creditur bonum; idem de reuerentia, claritudine,
iucunditate coniectare licet. Omnium igitur expetendorum summa atque causa
bonum est. Quod enim neque re neque similitudine ullum in se retinet bonum,
id expeti nullo modo potest. Contraque etiam quae natura bona non sunt,
tamen si esse uideantur, quasi uere bona sint appetuntur. Quo fit uti
summa, cardo atque causa expetendorum omnium bonitas esse iure credatur.
Cuius uero causa quid expetitur, id maxime uidetur optari, ueluti si
salutis causa quispiam uelit equitare, non tam equitandi motum desiderat
quam salutis effectum. Cum igitur omnia boni gratia petantur, non illa
potius quam bonum ipsum desideratur ab omnibus. Sed propter quod cetera
optantur, beatitudinem esse concessimus; quare sic quoque sola quaeritur
beatitudo. Ex quo liquido apparet ipsius boni et beatitudinis unam atque
eandem esse substantiam." "Nihil uideo cur dissentire quispiam possit."
"Sed deum ueramque beatitudinem unum atque idem esse monstrauimus." "Ita,"
inquam. "Securo igitur concludere licet dei quoque in ipso bono nec usquam
alio sitam esse substantiam.
 reapse uerius _Schepss_: re ab seuerius _uel_ re ipsa uerius _codd.
Wherefore since thou hast seen what is the form of perfect and imperfect
good, now I think we must show in what this perfection of happiness is
placed. And inquire first whether there can be any such good extant in
the world, as thou hast defined; lest, contrary to truth, we be deceived
with an empty show of thought. But it cannot be denied that there is
some such thing extant which is as it were the fountain of all goodness.
For all that is said to be imperfect is so termed for the want it hath
of perfection. Whence it followeth that if in any kind we find something
imperfect, there must needs be something perfect also in the same kind.
For if we take away perfection we cannot so much as devise how there
should be any imperfection. For the nature of things began not from that
which is defective and not complete, but, proceeding from entire and
absolute, falleth into that which is extreme and enfeebled. But if, as
we showed before, there be a certain imperfect felicity of frail goods,
it cannot be doubted but that there is some solid and perfect happiness
also." "Thou hast," quoth I, "concluded most firmly and most truly."
"Now where this good dwelleth," quoth she, "consider this. The common
conceit of men's minds proveth that God the Prince of all things is
good. For, since nothing can be imagined better than God, who doubteth
but that is good than which is nothing better? And reason doth in such
sort demonstrate God to be good that it convinceth Him to be perfectly
good. For unless He were so, He could not be the chief of all things.
For there would be something better than He, having perfect goodness,
which could seem to be of greater antiquity and eminence than He. For it
is already manifest that perfect things were before the imperfect.
Wherefore, lest our reasoning should have no end, we must confess that
the Sovereign God is most full of sovereign and perfect goodness. But we
have concluded that perfect goodness is true happiness, wherefore true
blessedness must necessarily be placed in the most high God." "I agree,"
quoth I, "neither can this be any way contradicted." "But I pray thee,"
quoth she, "see how boldly and inviolably thou approvest that which we
said, that the Sovereign God is most full of sovereign goodness." "How?"
quoth I. "That thou presumest not that this Father of all things hath
either received from others that sovereign good with which He is said to
be replenished, or hath it naturally in such sort that thou shouldst
think that the substance of the blessedness which is had, and of God who
hath it, were diverse. For if thou thinkest that He had it from others,
thou mayest also infer that he who gave it was better than the receiver.
But we most worthily confess that He is the most excellent of all
things. And if He hath it by nature, but as a diverse thing, since we
speak of God the Prince of all things, let him that can, invent who
united these diverse things. Finally, that which is different from
anything, is not that from which it is understood to differ. Wherefore
that which is naturally different from the sovereign good, is not the
sovereign good itself. Which it were impious to think of God, than whom,
we know certainly, nothing is better. For doubtless the nature of
nothing can be better than the beginning of it. Wherefore I may most
truly conclude that which is the beginning of all things to be also in
His own substance the chiefest good." "Most rightly," quoth I. "But it
is granted that the chiefest good is blessedness?" "It is," quoth I.
"Wherefore," quoth she, "we must needs confess that blessedness itself
is God." "I can neither contradict," quoth I, "thy former propositions,
and I see this illation followeth from them."
"Consider," saith she, "if the same be not more firmly proved hence,
because there cannot be two chief goods, the one different from the
other. For it is manifest that of those goods which differ, the one is
not the other, wherefore neither of them can be perfect, wanting the
other. But manifestly that which is not perfect, is not the chiefest,
wherefore the chief goods cannot be diverse. Now we have proved that
both blessedness and God are the chiefest good, wherefore that must
needs be the highest blessedness which is the highest divinity." "There
can be nothing," quoth I, "concluded more truly than this, nor more
firmly in arguing, nor more worthy God himself." "Upon this then," quoth
she, "as the geometricians are wont, out of their propositions
which they have demonstrated, to infer something which they call
_porismata_ (deductions) so will I give thee as it were a
_corollarium_. For since that men are made blessed by the obtaining
of blessedness, and blessedness is nothing else but divinity, it is
manifest that men are made blessed by the obtaining of divinity. And as
men are made just by the obtaining of justice, and wise by the obtaining
of wisdom, so they who obtain divinity must needs in like manner become
gods. Wherefore everyone that is blessed is a god, but by nature there
is only one God; but there may be many by participation." "This is,"
quoth I, "an excellent and precious _porisma_ or
_corollarium_." "But there is nothing more excellent than that
which reason persuadeth us to add." "What?" quoth I.
"Since," quoth she, "blessedness seemeth to contain many things, whether
do they all concur as divers parts to the composition of one entire body
of blessedness, or doth some one of them form the substance of
blessedness to which the rest are to be referred?" "I desire," quoth I,
"that thou wouldst declare this point, by the enumeration of the
particulars." "Do we not think," quoth she, "that blessedness is good?"
"Yea, the chiefest good," quoth I. "Thou mayest," quoth she, "add this
to them all. For blessedness is accounted the chiefest sufficiency, the
chiefest power, respect, fame, and pleasure. What then? Are all these--
sufficiency, power, and the rest--the good, in the sense that they are
members of it, or rather are they referred to good as to the head?" "I
understand," quoth I, "what thou proposest, but I desire to hear what
thou concludest." "This is the decision of this matter. If all these
were members of blessedness, they should differ one from another. For
this is the nature of parts, that being divers they compose one body.
But we have proved that all these are one and the same thing. Wherefore
they are no members, otherwise blessedness should be compacted of one
member, which cannot be." "There is no doubt of this," quoth I, "but I
expect that which is behind." "It is manifest that the rest are to be
referred to goodness; for sufficiency is desired, because it is esteemed
good, and likewise power, because that likewise is thought to be good.
And we may conjecture the same of respect, fame, and pleasure. Wherefore
goodness is the sum and cause of all that is desired. For that which is
neither good indeed, nor beareth any show of goodness, can by no means
be sought after. And contrariwise those things which are not good of
their own nature, yet, if they seem such, are desired as if they were
truly good. So that the sum, origin, and cause of all that is sought
after is rightly thought to be goodness. And that on account of which a
thing is sought, seemeth to be the chief object of desire. As if one
would ride for his health, he doth not so much desire the motion of
riding, as the effect of health. Wherefore, since all things are desired
in respect of goodness, they are not so much wished for as goodness
itself. But we granted that to be blessedness for which other things are
desired, wherefore in like manner only blessedness is sought after; by
which it plainly appeareth, that goodness and blessedness have one and
the self-same substance." "I see not how any man can dissent." "But we
have showed that God and true blessedness are one and the self-same
thing." "It is so," quoth I. "We may then securely conclude that the
substance of God consisteth in nothing else but in goodness.
 _Vide supra_, _Tr_. iii. p. 40.
Huc omnes pariter uenite capti
Quos fallax ligat improbis catenis
Terrenas habitans libido mentes,
Haec erit uobis requies laborum,
Hic portus placida manens quiete, 5
Hoc patens unum miseris asylum,
Non quidquid Tagus aureis harenis
Donat aut Hermus rutilante ripa
Aut Indus calido propinquus orbi
Candidis miscens uirides lapillos, 10
Inlustrent aciem magisque caecos
In suas condunt animos tenebras.
Hoc quidquid placet excitatque mentes,
Infimis tellus aluit cauernis;
Splendor quo regitur uigetque caelum, 15
Vitat obscuras animae ruinas.
Hanc quisquis poterit notare lucem,
Candidos Phoebi radios negabit."
Come hither, all you that are bound,
Whose base and earthly minds are drowned
By lust which doth them tie in cruel chains:
Here is a seat for men opprest,
Here is a port of pleasant rest;
Here may a wretch have refuge from his pains.
No gold, which Tagus' sands bestow,
Nor which on Hermus' banks doth flow,
Nor precious stones which scorched Indians get,
Can clear the sharpness of the mind,
But rather make it far more blind,
And in the farther depth of darkness set.
For this that sets our souls on work
Buried in caves of earth doth lurk.
But heaven is guided by another light,
Which causeth us to shun the dark,
And who this light doth truly mark,
Must needs deny that Phoebus' beams are bright."
 For the discussion on the nature of good in this poem and the next
piece of prose cf. _supra_, pp. 38 ff.
 Literally, "Nor Indus, neighbour of the torrid zone, blending its
green and white pebbles."
 Literally, "The light which gives guidance and vigour to the sky
shuns the darkness of ruined minds."
"Assentior," inquam, "cuncta enim firmissimis nexa rationibus constant."
Tum illa, "Quanti," inquit, "aestimabis, si bonum ipsum quid sit
agnoueris?" "Infinito," inquam, "si quidem mihi pariter deum quoque qui
bonum est continget agnoscere." "Atqui hoc uerissima," inquit, "ratione
patefaciam, maneant modo quae paulo ante conclusa sunt." "Manebunt."
"Nonne," inquit, "monstrauimus ea quae appetuntur pluribus idcirco uera
perfectaque bona non esse quoniam a se inuicem discreparent cumque alteri
abesset alterum, plenum absolutumque bonum afferre non posse? Tum autem
uerum bonum fieri cum in unam ueluti formam atque efficientiam colliguntur,
ut quae sufficientia est, eadem sit potentia, reuerentia, claritas atque
iucunditas, nisi uero unum atque idem omnia sint, nihil habere quo inter
expetenda numerentur?" "Demonstratum," inquam, "nec dubitari ullo modo
potest." "Quae igitur cum discrepant minime bona sunt, cum uero unum esse
coeperint, bona fiunt; nonne haec ut bona sint, unitatis fieri adeptione
contingit?" "Ita," inquam, "uidetur." "Sed omne quod bonum est boni
participatione bonum esse concedis an minime?" "Ita est." "Oportet igitur
idem esse unum atque bonum simili ratione concedas; eadem namque substantia
est eorum quorum naturaliter non est diuersus effectus." "Negare," inquam,
"nequeo." "Nostine igitur," inquit, "omne quod est tam diu manere atque
subsistere quam diu sit unum, sed interire atque dissolui pariter atque
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