A preface and introduction; also a complaint of the troubles of the
A few years past, as I traveled toward Vienna in Austria, I
turned aside, not without God's direction, to the town of Liege,
being not far out of my way, and where I had some friends, whom
both for custom, and good will I was persuaded to salute. Among
whom was Charles Languis, a man, simply and without boasting be
it spoken, for virtue and learning the chief of the Flemings. Who
having received me into his house, tempered mine entertainment,
not only with courtesy and good will, but also with such
communication as was profitable unto me, and will be while I live.
For he was the man that opened mine eyes by driving away the
clouds of some vulgar opinions: he showed me the pay-way
whereby I might directly come, as Lucretius says,
For, as we walked in the porch of his house after noon, the hot sun
toward the end of June, being in his full force, he asked me friendly
of my journey, and the causes thereof. To whom when I had spoken
much of the troubles of the Low Countries, of the insolence of the
government and soldiers, I added lastly that I pretended other
excuses, but this in truth was the cause of my departure. For, said I,
who is of so hard and flinty a heart that can any longer endure these
evils? We are tossed, as you see, these many years with the tempest
of civil wars: and like sea-faring men are we beaten with sundry
blasts of troubles and sedition. If I love quietness and rest, the
trumpets and rattling of armor interrupts me. If I take solace in my
country gardens and farms, the soldiers and murderers force me
into the town. Therefore, Langius, I am resolved, leaving this
unfortunate and unhappy Belgica [Flanders]--pardon me my dear
country--to change land for land, and to fly into some other part of
the world, where I may neither hear of the name, nor facts of a
Pelops brood [a legendary family among whom incest and murder
Hereat Langius much marveling and moved: yea, friend Lipsius, and will you thus leave us? Yes truly said I, I will either leave you, or this life. How can I fly from these evils but only by flight? For to see and suffer these things daily as heretofore, I cannot, Langius, neither have I any plate of steel about my heart. Langius sighed at these words, and therewithal said unto me, O fond youth, what childishness is this? Or what mindest thou to seek safety by flying away? Thus country, I confess, is tossed and turmoiled grievously: What part of Europe is at this day free? So as thou mayest conjecture that saying of Aristophanes to prove true:
Wherefore, Lipsius, thou must not forsake thy country, but the
affections [Lipsius' term for what the ancient Stoics called the
pathe or passions]. Our minds must be so confirmed and
conformed, that we may be at rest in troubles, and have peace even
in the midst of war. Hereto I, rashly enough, replied: Nay surely, I
will forsake my country, knowing that it is less grief to hear report
of evils than to be an eyewitness unto them: Besides that, thereby
we ourselves shall be without danger of the lists: Mark you not
what Homer wisely warns? Be out of the weapon's reach; lest that
happily [perchance] some man add one wound unto another.
That traveling into foreign countries is not available against the
inward maladies of the mind: that it is a testimony of them but not
a remedy against them, except only in slight and first motions of
Langius beckoning somewhat with his head, I hear thee,
Lipsius, but I had rather thou wouldst hearken to the voice of
wisdom and reason. For these mists and clouds that thus compass
thee, do proceed from the smoke of opinions. Wherefore, I say with
Diogenes, Thou has more need of reason than of a rope. That
bright beam of reason, I mean, which may illuminate the obscurity
of thy brain. Behold, thou forsakest thy country: Tell me in good
sooth, in forsaking it, canst thou forsake thyself also? See that the
contrary not fall out: And that whithersoever thou go thou carry
not in thy breast the fountain and food of thine own grief. As they
that be holden with a fever, do toss and turn themselves unquietly,
and often change their beds through a vain hope of remedy: In like
case are we, who being sick in our minds do without any fruit
wander from one country to another. This is indeed to bewray our
grief, but not to allay it. To discover this inward flame, but not to
quench it: very fitly said that wise Roman [Seneca]:
it is proper to a sick person not to suffer anything long, but to use mutations instead of medicines: Hereof proceed wandering peregrinations, and walkings on sundry shores: And our inconstancy, always loathing things present, one while will be upon the sea, and incontinent desires the land.
Therefore you fly from troubles always, but never escape them, not unlike the hind that Virgil speaks of:
Whom ranging through the chase, some hunter shooting far by chance
All unaware has smit, and in her side has left his lance,
She fast to wilderness and woods does draw, and there complains,
But all in vain: because as the poet adds,
That underneath her ribs the deadly dart remains.
So that you are wounded with this dart of affections, do not shake it out, but in traveling carry it with you to another place. He that hath broken his thigh or his arm, is not inclined, I think, to go on horseback or into his chariot but to a surgeon. And what madness is this in thee, to seek remedy of this inward wound by motion and trudging from place to place?
It is the mind that is wounded, and all this external imbecility, despair, and languishing, spring from this fountain, that the mind is thus prostrated and cast down. The principal and sovereign part hath let the scepter fall and is become so vile and abject that it willingly serves its own servants. Tell me, what can any place or peregrination work in this case? Except happily [perhaps] there be some region in the world which can temperate [bring order of out?] fear, bridle hope, and draw out these evil dregs of vice, which we have sucked from our infancy. But none such is there, no not in the fortunate Islands: Or if there be, show it unto us, and we will all hasten thither in troupes.
But you will say that mutation and change itself has that force in it: And that the daily beholding of strange fashions, men, and places do refresh and lighten the mind loaded with oppressions. No, Lipsius, you are deceived. For, to tell you the truth plainly, I do not so much derogate from peregrination and traveling as though [the text has "through"] it bare no sway over men and their affections: Yes verily it avails, but yet thus far to the expelling of some small tediousness and weariness of our minds, not to the curing of maladies rooted so deeply, as that these external medicines cannot pluck them up [out]. Music, wine, and sleep have oftentimes quenched the first enkindled sparks of anger, sorrow, and love: but never weeded out any settled or deep rooted grief. Likewise I say, that traveling might perhaps cure superficial scars, but not substantial sores. For these first motions having their original from the body do stick in the body or at the most do but cleave to the utter velme [outer limit?] of the mind (as a man may say). And therefore no marvel is it, through [though] with a sponge they be lightly washed away: Otherwise it is of old festered affections, which hold their seat, yea and scepter in the castle of the mind. When thou has gone far, and wandered every sea and shore, thou shalt neither drown them in the deep sea, nor bury them in the bowels of the earth. They will follow thee at an inch: And, as the poet says, foul care will sit close in the skirts of footman and horseman.
One demanding of Socrates how it came to pass that his traveling did him no good. Because, said he, thou forsookest not thy self. So say I, that wherever thou flee, thou carriest with thee a corrupt mind, no good companion. And would to God he [it, the corrupt mind] were but as thy companion, I fear lest he be thy captain, in that thine affections follow not thee, but thou them.
But deep settled diseases of the mind are not taken away thereby, no nor any whit mitigated: But rather revived. That it is the mind which is sick in us, which must seek remedy from wisdom and constancy.
You will say then, what? Does traveling detract nothing at all from these great evils? Does not the sight of fair fields, rivers, and mountains put a man out of his pains? It may be they with us from them, but yet for a very short time, and to no good end. Even as a picture be it never so exquisite, delights the eye a little while: So all this variety of persons and places pleases us with the novelty, yet but only for a short season. This is a certain declining from evils, but no avoiding of them: And peregrination may well be said to slack the bands of sorrow, but not to lose them What does it boot me to behold the sun for a season, and immediately to be shut up in a close prison? So it comes to pass that these external pleasures do beguile the mind, and under pretense of helping do greatly hurt us.
Like as medicines that be weak in operation do not purge ill humors, but provoke them: So these vain delights do kindle and inflame in us the fuel of affections. The mind strays not long from itself, but whether it will or not, is soon driven home to his [its] old harbor of adversities, Those very towns and hills which thou shalt behold for thy comfort will reduce thee in conceit into thine own country: And even in the midst of thy joys thou shalt either see or hear something that will rub raw the old gall of thy griefs: Or else if it be so that thou take thy ease awhile, it will be but short as a slumber, and when thou awakest they fever will be as it was, or more fervent. For wee see that some lusts do increase by intermitting them and by delays gather deeper root. Therefore, Lipsius, let pass these vain, yes noisome, not remedies but poisons: and be content to endure the true curing corrasives [caustic medicines]. Would you fain change countries? May rather change your own mind wrongfully subjected to affections, and withdrawn from the natural obedience of his [its] lawful lady, I mean reason. The corruption and defiling whereof causes in thee this despair and languishing. The mind must be changed, not the place. Thou hast an earnest desire to see the fruitful country of Austria, the good strong town of Vienna, Danube the chief [of?] rivers, with many other rare novelties which may work admiration in the hearers. How much better is it that thine affection were as firmly settled to the obtaining of wisdom? That thou wouldst search out the very fountain of all human perturbations? That thou wouldst erect forts and bulwarks wherewith thou mightest be able to withstand and repulse the furious assules [assaults?] of lusts? These be the true remedies of thy disease, all the residue do but feed and foster the same. This thy wandering into other countries shall not avail thee, it shall nothing boot thee.
To pass so many towns of Greekish land
Or scape by flight through midst of hostile band
For thou shalt still find an enemy in thee, yea even in that closet of thine. (And therewithal he struck [poked?] me on the breast) what good will it do thee to be settled in a peaceable place? Thou carriest war with thee. What can a quiet habitation benefit thee? Troubles are ever about thee yea in thee. For this distracted mind of thine wars, and ever will be at war with itself, in coveting, in flying, in hoping, in despairing. And as they that for fear turn their backs to their enemies are in the greater danger, having their face from their foe, and their backs unarmed. So fares it with these ignorant novices, who never have made any resistance against their affections: but by flight yielded unto them. But thou young man, if thou be advised by me, shalt stand to it, and set sure footing against this thy adversary, sorrow. Above all things it behooves thee to be constant; for by fighting many man has gotten the victory, but none by flying.
The definitions of constancy, patience, right reason, opinion: also how obstinacy differs from constancy, and baseness of mind from patience.
I being somewhat emboldened with these speeches of Langius, said unto him, that truly these admonitions of his were notable and worthy to be esteemed, and that I began now to lift up my self a little, but yet in vain, as it were a man in a slumber. For surely, Langius, to tell you the truth, my cogitations do slide back again to my country, and the cares of the same both private and public fast in my mind. But if you be able, chase away these evil birds that thus feed upon me, and loose those bands of cares wherewith I am tied fast to the Caucasus [an allusion to the fable of Prometheus, whose heart (according to the marginal note) is continually fed upon by eagles and yet not consumed--JG].
Hereto Langius with a smiling countenance replied: I will drive them away, and like a newborn Hercules will set at liberty this chained Prometheus: only give attentive care to that which I shall say unto thee. I have exhorted thee to constancy, and placed therein all hope of thy safety. First therefore we must know what it is. constancy is a right and immovable strength of the mind, neither lifted up nor pressed down with external or casual accidents. By strength I understand a steadfastness not from opinion, but from judgment and sound reason. For I would in any case exclude obstinacy (or as I may more fitly term it, frowardness) which is a certain hardness of a stubborn mind, proceeding from pride or vainglory. And this hardness is only in one respect incident to the f[r]oward and obstinate. For they can hardly be pressed down but are lifted up, not unlike to a blown bladder [balloon], which you cannot without much ado thrust under water, but is ready to leap upwards of itself without help. Even such is the lighthardiness of those men, springing of pride and too much estimation of themselves, and therefore from opinion. But the true mother of constancy is patience, and lowliness of mind, which is a voluntary sufferance without grudging of all things whatsoever can happen to or in a man. This being regulated by the rule of right reason is the very root whereupon is settled the high and mighty body of that fair oak constancy. Beware here, lest opinion beguile thee, presenting unto thee instead of patience a certain abjection and baseness of a dastardly mind. Being a foul vice, proceeding from the vile unworthiness of a man's own person. But virtue keeps the mean, not suffering any excess or defect in her actions, because it weighs all things in the balance of Reason, making it the rule and squire of all her trials. Therefore we define right reason to be a true sense and judgment of things human and divine (so far as the same pertains to us). But opinion being the contrary to it is defined to be a false and frivolous conjecture of those things.
From whence reason and opinion do spring. The force and effects of them both. That one leads to constancy: this other to inconstancy.
Now for as much as out of this twofold fountain of opinion and reason flows not only hardiness and weakness of mind, but all things that deserve either praise or dispraise in this life: It seems to me that it will be labor well bestowed to discourse somewhat at large of the original and nature of them both. For as wool before it be endued with the perfect colors of dying is first prepared thereunto with some other kind of liquors: even so am I to deal with thy mind, Lipsius, before I adventure to dye it with this perfect purple in grain of constancy.
First you are not ignorant that man consists of two parts, soul and body. That being the nobler part resembles the nature of a spirit and fire. This more base is compared to the earth. These two are joined together, but yet with a jarring concord, as I may say, neither do they easily agree, especially when controversy arises about sovereignty and subjection. For either of them would bear sway and chiefly that part which ought not. The earth advances itself above the fire, and the dirty nature about that which is divine. Here hence arise in man dissensions, stirs, and a continual conflict of these parts warring together. The captains are reason and opinion. That fights for the soul, being in the soul: this for, and in the body. Reason has her offspring from heaven, yea from God: and Seneca gave it a singular commendation, saying that there was in hidden man part of the divine spirit. This reason is an excellent power or faculty of understanding and judgment, which is the perfection of the soul, even as the soul is of man. The Greeks call it noun, the Latins mentem, and as we may say jointly, the mind of the soul. For you are deceived if you think all the soul to be right reason, but that only which is uniform, simple, without mixture, separate from all filth or corruption: and in one word, as much as is pure and heavenly. For albeit the soul be infected and a little corrupted with the filth of the body and contagion of the senses: yet it retains some relics of his first offspring, and is not without certain clear sparks of that pure fiery nature from whence it proceeded.
Here hence come those sings of conscience in wicked men: here hence those inward gnawings and scourges: herehence also comes it that the wicked even against their wills approve virtuous living and commend it. For this good part in man may sometimes be pressed down, but never oppressed: and these fiery sparks may be covered, but not wholly extinguished. Those little coals do always shine and show forth themselves, lightening our darkness, purging our uncleanness, directing our doubtfulness, guiding us at the last to constancy and virtue. As the marigold and other flowers are by nature always inclined towards the sun: so hath reason a respect unto God, and to the fountain from whence it spring. It is resolute and immovable in a good purpose, not variable in judgment, even shunning and seeking one and the selfsame thing: the fountain and lively spring of wholesome counsel and sound judgment. To obey is to bear rule, and to be subject thereunto is to have the sovereignty in all human affairs. Whoso obeys her is lord of all lusts and rebellious affections: whoso hath this thread of Theseus may pass without straying through all the labyrinths of this life. God by this image of his comes into us, yea (which more is) even unto us. And well said one whosoever he were, that there is no good mind without God.
But the other part (I mean Opinion) has its offspring of the body, that is, of the earth. And therefore savors nothing but of it. For though the body be senseless and immovable of itself, yet it takes life and motion from the soul: And on the other side, it represents to the soul the shapes and forms of things through the windows of the senses. Thus there grows a communion and society between the soul and the body, but a society (if you respect [pay attention to] the end) not good for the soul. For she is thereby little and little [by degrees] deprived of her dignity, addicted and coupled unto the senses, and of this impure commixtion [mixture] opinion is engendered in us, which is naught else but a vain image and shadow of reason whose seat is the senses [and] whose birth is the earth. Therefore being vile and base it tends downward and savors nothing of high and heavenly matters. It is vain, uncertain, deceitful, evil in counsel, evil in judgment. It deprives the mind of constancy and verity. Today it desires a thing, tomorrow it defies the same. It commends this, it condemns that. It has no respect to sound judgment, but to please the body and content the senses. And as the eye that beholds a thing through water or through a mist mistakes it, so does the mind which discerns by the clouds of opinions. This is unto men the mother of mischiefs, the author of a confused and troublesome life. By the means of it we are troubled with cares, distracted with perturbations, overruled by vices. Therefore as they which would banish tyranny out of a city do above all things overthrow castles and forts therein: so if we bear an earnest desire to have a good mind, we must case down even by the foundation this castle of opinions. For they will cause us to be continually floating on the waves of doubtfulness, without any certain resolution, murmuring, troublesome, injurious to God and men. As an empty ship without ballast is tossed and tumbled on the sea with the least blast of wind, even so is it with a light wandering mind, not kept steady and poised with the ballast of reason.
The praise of constancy: and an earnest exhortation thereto.
Thou seest then, Lipsius, that inconstancy is the companion of opinion and that the property of it is to be soon changed, and to wish that undone, which a little before it caused to be done. But constancy is a mate always matched with reason. Unto this therefore I do earnestly exhort thee. Why flyest thou to these vain outward things? This is only that fair beautiful Helena which will present unto thee a wholesome cup of counterpoison, wherewith thou shalt expel the memory of all cares and sorrows, and whereof when thou hast once taken a taste, being firmly settled against all casualties, bearing thyself upright in all misfortunes, neither puffed up nor pressed down with either fortune, thou mayest challenge to thy self that great title, the nearest that man can have to God, to be immovable.
Hast thou not seen in the arms and targets of some men of our time that lofty poesy? Neither with hope, nor with fear. It shall agree to thee: Thou shalt be a king, indeed free indeed, only subject unto God, enfranchised from the servile yoke of fortune and affections. As some rivers are said to run through the sea and yet keep their stream fresh, so shalt thou pass through the confused tumults of this world, and not be infected with any briny saltiness of this sea of sorrows. Are thou like to be cast down? Constancy will lift thee up. Dost thou stagger in doubtfulness? She holds thee fast. Art thou in danger of fire or water? She will comfort thee and bring the back from the pit's brink: only take unto thee a good courage, steer thy ship into this port, where is security and quietness, a refuge and sanctuary against all turmoils and troubles: where if thou hast once moored thy ship, let thy country not only be troubled, but even shaken at the foundation, thou shalt remain unmoved: let showers, thunders, lightnings, and tempests fall round about thee, thou shalt cry boldly with a loud voice, I lie at rest amid the waves.
What and how many things do disturb constancy. That outward good and evil things do it. Evils are of two sorts, public and private. Of these two, public evils seem more grievous and dangerous.
Langius having uttered these words with a more earnest voice and countenance than accustomed, I was somewhat inflamed with a spark of this good fire. And then, my Father, I said, let me rightly without dissimulation call you so, lead me and learn me as you list: direct and correct me: I am your patient prepared to admit any kind of curing, be it by razor or fire, to cut or sear. I must use both those means, said Langius, for that one while the stubble of false opinions is to be burned away, and another while the tender slips of affections to be off by the root. But tell me whether had you rather walk or sit? Sitting would please me best, quoth I, for I begin to be hot. So then Langius commanded stools to be brought into the porch, and I sitting close by him, he turned himself toward me and began his talk in this manner.
Hitherto, Lipsius, have I laid the foundation whereupon I might erect the building of my future communication. Now, if it please you, I will come nearer the matter, and inquire the causes of your sorry, for I must touch the sore with my hand. There be two things that do assault this castle of constancy in us, false goods, and false evils: I define them both to be such things as are not in us but about us: and which properly do not help nor hurt the inner man, that is, the mind. Wherefore I may not call those things good or evil simply in subject and in definition: but I confess they are such in opinion, and by the judgment of the common people. In the first rank [false goods] I place riches, honor, authority, health, long life. In the second [false evils], poverty, infamy, lack of promotion, sickness, death. And to comprehend all in one word, whatsoever else is accidental and happens outwardly.
From these two roots do spring four principal affections which do greatly disquiet the life of man: desire and joy, fear and sorrow. The first two have respect to some supposed or imagined good, the two latter unto [some supposed or imagined] evil. All of them do hurt and distemper the mind, and without timely prevention do bring it out of all order, yet not each of them in like sort [way]. For whereas the quietness and constancy of the mind rests, as it were, in an even balance, these affections do hinder this upright poise and evenness; some of them by puffing up the mind, others by pressing it down too much. But here I will let pass to speak of false goods, which lift up the mind above measure (because thy diseases proceeds from another humor) and will come to false evils, which are of two sorts, public and private. Public are those, the sense and feeling whereof touches many persons at one time. Private do touch some private men. Of the first kind are war, pestilence, famine, tyranny, slaughters, and such like. Of the second be sorrow, poverty, infamy, death and whatsoever else of like nature that may befall any one man.
I take it there is good cause for me thus to distinguish them, because we sorrow after another sort at the misery of our country, the banishment and a destruction of a multitude, than of one person alone. Besides that, the griefs that grow of public and private adversities are different, but yet the first sort are more heavy and take deeper root in us. For we are all subject to those common calamities, either for that they come together in heaps, and so with the multitude oppress such as oppose themselves against them, or rather because they beguile us by subtlety, in that we perceive not how our mind is diseased by the apprehension of them. Behold if a man be overcome with any private grief, he must confess therein his frailty and infirmity, especially if he reclaim not himself, then is he without excuse. Contrarily, we are so far from confessing a fault in being disquieted at public calamities, that some will boast thereof, and account it for a praise: for they term it piety and compassion. So that this common contagion is now reckoned among the catalog of virtues, yea and almost honored as a God. Poets and orators do everywhere extol to the skies a fervent affection to our country; neither do I disallow it, but hold and maintain that it ought to be tempered with moderation: otherwise it is a vice, a note of intemperance, a deposing of the mind from his right seat. On the other side I confess it to be a grievous malady, and of great force to move a man, because the sorrow that proceeds therehence is manifold, in respect of thyself and of others. And to make the matter more plain by example: see how thy country of Belgica [Flanders] is afflicted with sundry calamities, and swung on every side with the scorching flame of civil wars: the fields are wasted and spoiled, towns are overthrown and burned, men taken captive and murdered, women defiled, virgins deflowered, with such other like miseries as follow after wars. Art thou not grieved herewith? Yes I am sure, and grieved diversely, for thy self, for thy countrymen, and for thy country. Thine own losses trouble thee; the misery and slaughter of thy neighbors; the calamity and overthrow of thy country. One where thou mayest cry out with the poet, "O unhappy wretch, that I am." Another while, "O my father, O my country." And who is not so moved with these matters, nor oppressed with the multitude of so many and manifold miseries must either be very stayed and wise, or else very hardhearted.
A prevention against public evils: But first of all, three affections are restrained. And of those three, particularly in this chapter is repressed a kind of vainglorious dissimulation, whereby men that lament their own private misfortunes would seem that they bewail the common calamities.
What think you, Lipsius, have I not betrayed constancy into your hands in pleading the cause of your sorrow? Not so. But herein I have played the part of a good captain, in training [drawing] out all your troops into the field to the end that I might fight it out manfully with them. But first I will begin with light skirmishes and afterward join with you in plain battle. In skirmishing I am to assault foot by foot, as the ancients speak, three affections utter enemies to this our constancy. Dissimulation, piety, commiseration or pity. I will begin with the first of them. Thou sayest thou cants not endure to see these public miseries, that it is a grief, yea even a death unto thee. Speak you that from your heart, or only from the teeth outward? Herewithal I being somewhat angry, asked whether he jested or gibed with me. Nay, quoth Langius. I speak in good earnest for that many of your crew do beguile the physicians, making them believe that the public evils do grieve them when their private losses are the true cause. I demand therefore again, whether the care which now doth boil and bubble in thy breast, be for thy country's sake or for thy own? What, said I, do you make question of that? Surely, Langius, for my country's sake alone am I thus disquieted. See it be so, quoth he, for I marvel that there should be in thee such an excellent sincere duty which few attain unto. I deny not but that most men do complain of common calamities, neither is there any kind of sorrow so usual as this in the tongues of people. But examine the matter to the quick, and you shall find many times great difference betwixt the tongue and the heart. These words, "my country's calamity afflicts me," carry with them more vainglory than verity. And as it is recording in histories of Polus a notable stage-player, that playing his part on the stage wherein it behooved him to express some great sorrow, he brought with him privily the bones of his dead son, and so the remembrance thereof caused him to fill the theater with true tears indeed. Even so may I say by the most part of you. You play a comedy, and under the person your country, you bewail with tears your private miseries. One says "The whole world is a stage-play." Truly in this case it is so. Some cry out, "These civil wars torment us, the blood of innocents spilt, the loss of laws and liberty. Is it so? I see your sorrow indeed, but the cause I must search out more narrowly. Is it for the commonwealth's sake? O player, put off thy vizard [mask]: thy self are the cause thereof. We see oftentimes the country boors trembling and running together with earnest prayers when any sudden misfortune or insurrection approaches, but as soon as the danger is past, examine them well and you shall perceive that every one was afraid of his own field and corn. If fire should happen to be kindled in this city, we should have a general outcry: the lame and almost the blind would hasten to help quench it. What think you? For their country's sake? Ask them and you shall see, it was, because the loss would have redounded to all, or at the least, the fear thereof. So falls it out in this case. Public evils do move and disquiet many men, not for that [not because] the harm touches a great number, but because [they] themselves are of that number.
The vizard of dissimulation is more plainly discovered, by examples. By the way mention is made of our true country. Also the malice of men rejoicing at other men's harms when they themselves be without danger thereof.
Wherefore yourself shall sit as judge in this cause, but yet with the veil removed from your face. You fear the war. I know it. Why? Because war draws with it punishment and destruction. To whom? To others at this present, but it may be shortly to you. Behold the head, behold the fountain of thy grief. For as a thunderbolt having stricken one man, makes all that stood near him to tremble: So in these universal and public calamities, the loss touches few, the fear redounds to all, which fear if it were away, there would be no place for sorrow. Behold, if war be among the Ethiopians or Indians, it moves thee not (thou art out of danger): if it be in Belgica thou weepst, criest out rubbest thy forehead, and smitest thy thigh. But now if it were so that thou didst bewail the public evils as public, and for themselves, there should be no difference had of thee between those countries and this.
Thou wilt say, It is none of my country. O fool: Are not they men, sprung first out of the same stock with thee? Living under the same globe of heaven? Upon the same mold of earth? Thinks thou that this little plot of ground environed by such and such mountains, compassed with this or that river, is thy country? Thou art deceived. The whole world is our country, wheresoever is the race of mankind sprung of that celestial seed. Socrates being asked of what country he was, answered: Of the world. [This is a doubtful attribution; it is with greater probability attributed to Diogenes the Cynic.--JG] For a high and lofty mind will not suffer itself to be penned by opinion within such narrow bounds but conceives and knows the whole world to be his own. We scorn and laugh at fools, who suffer their masters to tie them with a straw or small thread to a post, where they stand as if they were fettered fast with iron. Our folly is not inferior to theirs, who with the weak link of opinion are wedded to one corner of the world.
But to let pass these deep arguments (which I doubt how thou wilt conceive of them) I demand, if God would assure thee in the midst of these broils, that they field should be unspoiled, thy house and substance in safety, and thyself on some high mountain placed out of all danger: wouldst thou lament for all this? I am loath to affirm it of thee, but certain I am there be many that would be glad thereof, and feed their eyes greedily with the spectacle of such blood butcheries. Why turnest thou aside? Why marvelest thou hereat? Such is the natural corruption of man, that, as the poet says, it rejoices at other men's harms. And as some apples there be though bitter in the belly yet relishing sweet in taste: so are other men's miseries, we ourselves being free from them. Suppose a man be on the shore beholding a shipwreck, it will move him somewhat, yet truly not without an inward tickling of his mind, because he sees other men's danger, himself being in security. But if he in person were in that distressed ship, he would be touched with another manner of grief. Even so verily is it in this case, let us say, or make what show we list to the contrary. For we bewail our own misfortunes earnestly and from the heart, but public calamities in words only and for fashion's sake. Wherefore, Lipsius, take away these stage-hangings, draw back the curtain that is afore thee, and without all counterfeiting or dissimulation, acquaint us with the true cause of thy sorrow.
A complaint against the former sharp reprehension of Langius. But he adds that it is the part of a philosopher so to speak freely. He endeavors to confute the former disputation speaking of duty and love to our country.
This first skirmish seemed to me very hot, wherefore interrupting him I replied, what liberty of speech is this that you use? Yea, what bitter taunting? Do you in this wise pinch and prick me? I may well answer you with Euripides' words,
Add not more grief unto my strong disease,
I suffer more (God wot) than is mine ease.
Langius smiling at this, I perceive then, said he, you expect wafer cakes or sweet wine at my hands; but ere whiles you desired either fire or razor: and therein you did well. For I am a philosopher, Lipsius, not a fiddler: my purpose is to teach, not to entice thee; to profit, not to please thee; to make thee blush, rather than smile; and to make thee penitent, not insolent. The school of a philosopher is as a physician's shop, so said Rufus [Musonius?] once, wh[i]ther we must repair for health, not for pleasure. That physician dallies not, neither flatters but pierces, pricks, razes, and with the savory salt of good talk sucks out the filthy corruption of the mind. Wherefore look not hereafter of me for roses, oils, or pepper, but for thorns, lancing tools, wormwood, and sharp vinegar.
Here I took him up, saying: Truly, Langius, if I may be so bold as to be plain with you, you deal scarce well or charitably with me: neither do you like a stout champion overcome me in lawful striving, but undermine me by slights and subtleties, saying that I bewail my country's calamities fainedly, and not for good will to it; wherein you do me wrong. For let me confess freely that I have some manner of regard to myself, yet not wholly. I lament the cause of m y country principally, although the danger she is in extend not in any sort unto me. Good reason is there why I should do so. For she it is that first received me into this world, and after that nourished and bred me, being, by common consent of all nations, our most ancient and holiest mother. But you assign me the whole world for my country. Who denies that? Yet withal you may not gainsay, that besides this large and universal country, there is another more near and dear unto me, to the which I am tied by a secret bond of nature, except you think there be no virtue persuasive nor attractive in that native soil which we first touched with our bodies and pressed with our feet; where we first drew our breath; where we cried in our infancy, played in our childhood, and exercised ourselves in manhood; where our eyes are acquainted with the firmament, floods, and fields; where have been by a long continuance of descents our kinsfolk, friends, and companions, and to many occasions of joy besides, which I may expect in vain in another part of the world. Neither is all this the slander packthread of opinion, as you would have it seem, but the strong fetters of nature herself. Look upon all other living creatures. The wild beasts do both known and love their dens; and birds their nests. Fishes in the great and endless ocean sea, desire to enjoy some certain part thereof. What need I speak of men who, whether they be civil or barbarous, are so addicted to this their native soil that whosoever bears the face of a man will never refuse to die for and in it. Therefore Langius this newfound curious philosophy of yours, I neither perceive as yet the depth of it, nor mind to make profession thereof. I will listen rather to the true saying of Euripides,
Necessity forces every wight
To love his country with all his might
Here is confuted the second affection of too much love to our country; which love is falsely termed piety. Whence this affection springs, and what is our country properly and truly.
Then Langius smiling replied: Certes you are a marvelous pious young man: and I fear me that the brother of Marcus Antonius [apparently he means Antoninus Pius, who adopted Marcus Aurelius and made him his heir and successor--JG] is now in danger to be deprived of his surname. But it falls out fitly that this affection offers itself in sallying before his ensign: I will assault him therefore, and overthrow him lightly. And first will I take from him the spoil of that precious garment wherewith he is unworthily attired. This affection to our country is commonly called pietas, that is piety: why it should be so named I neither see nor can suffer it. For wherefore should we call it by the name of piety, which is an excellent virtue, and properly nothing else but a lawful and due honor and love towards God and our parents. Why should our country be placed in the mids[t] between these? Because, say they, it is our most ancient and holiest mother. O fools, injurious to reason and nature herself: is she our mother? How? Or wherefore? Truly I see no such reason: And if thou, Lipsius, if thou be sharper sighted than I, lighten my dark senses. Is it because she first received us into this word? (For so thou seemest to affirm before) So might any taverner or innkeeper. Is it because she cherishes us? Much better does some silly maid or nurse. Is it because she nourishes us? So do cattle, trees, and corn daily: And, among the greater substances which do borrow nothing of the earth, the firmament, air, and water. Finally, change thou thy habitation, and every other part of the world will do thus much for thee. These are floating and fleeing words, savoring of nothing, but an unpleasant juice of popular opinion. They alone are our parents that began, shaped, and bore us: we be see of their seed, blood of their blood, and flesh of their flesh. If any of these things agree any ways to our country, then I confess that I go about wrongfully to bereave it of this duty of piety.
You will say that great learned clerics have so spoken of it. They have indeed so spoken, following the common opinion, but not that they were so persuaded themselves. But if thou wilt follow the truth, thou shalt attribute that sacred and high title to God, and also, if thou think good, to our parents; but as for this affection to our country, being first bridled and restrained to a mean, let it be contented in god's name with the title of Love or Charity.
Yet is this only a contention about the name; let us come nearer to the thing itself. Which I do not wholly take away, but temperate [temper], and, as it were, scarify it with the lancelot of right reason. For as a vine if it be not pruned, spreads itself too far abroad, so do affections fly about with full sail being blown with the plausible puffs of popularity.
And notwithstanding here by the way I confess--for I am not degenerated from a man, nor from a citizen--I confess, I say, that every one of us has an inclination and good will to his lesser country, the causes whereof I perceive are to you unknown. You would have it to be from nature: but the truth is, it grows of custom, or of some decree and ordinance. For after that men forsook their wild and savage manner of living, and began to build houses and walled towns, to join in society, and to use means offensive and defensive, behold then a certain communion necessarily began among them, and a social participation of diverse things. They parted the earth between them with certain limits and bounds; they had temples in common; also marketplaces, treasuries, seats of judgment; and principally ceremonies, rites, laws. All which things our greediness began in time so to esteem and make account of, as if they were our own in particular, and so they be in some sort, for that every private citizen had some interest in them, neither did they differ from private possessions, saving that they were not wholly in one man's power. This consociation and fellowship gave the form and fashion to a new erected state, which now we call properly the commonwealth, or our country. Wherein when men saw the chiefest stay of each person's safety to consist, laws were enacted for the succor and defense thereof; or at the least such customs were received by tradition from the predecessors to their posterity, that grew to be of like force as laws. Herehence it comes to pass that we rejoice at the good of the commonwealth, and be sorry for her harm; because our own private goods are secure by her safety, and are lost by her overthrow. From this fountain do spring the streams of our goodwill and love toward her; which affection in respect of the common good (the secret providence of God leading thereunto) our ancestors increased, by all possible means establish and maintaining the majesty of their country.
It appears therefore in my judgment, that this affection had his beginning from custom, and not from nature, as you pretend. Else why should not the same measure of that affection be indifferently in all men? Why should the nobility and rich men have more care of their country than the poor people, who commonly take care for their private matters but none at all for the public affairs? Which thing falls out otherwise in all passions that be governed by the instinct of nature. Finally what reason can you allege that so small and light an occasion should oftentimes assuage, yea wholly extinguish it? See how every day some for anger, some for love, some for ambition forsake their country? And what a multitude are drawn away by that idol lucre? How many Italians forsaking Italy the queen of countries only for greed0iness of gain have removed their dwellings into France, Germany, yea even into Sarmatia? How many thousand Spaniards do ambition draw daily into another world from us? These arguments prove invincibly that the band whereby we are linked thus to our country is but external and accidental, in that it is so easily broken by one inordinate lust.
Moreover, Lipsius, you are greatly deceived in describing this country of ours: for you tie it very narrowly to that native soil where we were born and had our education, with other like frivolous allegations, from whence you labor in vain to pick out natural causes of our affection toward her. And if ti be the native soil where we were born that deserves this title of our country then were Brussels only my country, and Iscanum yours; and to some other man, a poor cottage or cell; yea unto many, not so much as a cottage, but a wood, or else the open field; what then? Shall my good will and affections be shut up within those narrow walls? Shall I settle my disposition and love upon one town or house as my country? What folly were that? You see also that by your description none are happier than those that are born in the woods and open fields, which are always flourishing, and seldom or never be subject to desolation or wasting. No, no, our country is not as you take it, but it is, some one state, or as it were one common ship, under the regiment of one prince, or one law: which I confess we ought to love, to defend, and to die for it; yet must it not drive us to lament, wail and despair. Well said the poet,
A happy quarrel is it and a good,
For country's cause to spend our dearest blood.
He said not that we should weep and lament, but die for our country. For we must so far forth be good commonwealth's men, that we also retain the person of good and honest men, which we lose if we betake us to childish and womanlike [sic] lamentations.
Last of all, Lipsius, I have thee learn this one hidden and deep mystery, that if we respect the whole nature of man, all these earthly countries are vain and falsely so termed, except only in respect of the body, and not of the mind or soul, which descending down from that highest habitation , deems all the whole earth as a jail or prison, but heaven is our true and rightful country, wh[i]ther let us advance all our cogitations, that we may freely say with Anaxagoras to such as foolishly ask us whether we have no regard to our country? Yes verily but yonder is our country, lifting our finger and mind up toward heaven.
The third affection bridled, which is commiseration or pitying, being a vice. It is distinguished from mercy. How, and how far forth we ought to use it.
Langius with this conference having scattered abroad some dark mists from my mind, I bespake him thus. My father, what by admonitions, and what by instructions you have done me great good; so that it seems that I am now able to moderate my affection toward the native soil, or commonwealth wherein I was born, but not toward the persons of my fellow citizens and countrymen. For how should I not be touched and tormented with the calamities of my country for my countrymen's sake, who are tossed in this sea of adversities, and do perish by sundry misfortunes? Langius taking my tale by the end, This is not, quoth he, properly sorrow, but rather commiseration or pitying, which must be despised of him that is wise and constant; whom nothing so much beseems as steadiness and steadfastness of courage, which he cannot retain, if he be cast down not only with his own mishaps, but also at other men's. What Stoical subtleties are these? Said I. Will you not have me to pity another man's case? Surely it is a virtue among good men, and such as have any religion in them?
I deny that, said Langius, and I trust no good man will be offended with me, if I purge the mind of this malady, for it is a very dangerous contagion, and I judge him not far from a pitiful state that is subject to pitying of others. As it is a token of naughty eyes to wax watery when they behold other blear eyes, so is it of the mind that mourns at every other man's mourning. It is defined to be, The fault of an object and base mind, cast down at the show of another's mishap. When then? Are we so unkind and void of humanity that we would have no man to be moved at another's misery? Yes, I allow that we be moved to help them, not to bewail or wail with them. I permit mercy, but not pitying I call mercy, an inclination of the mind to succor the necessity or misery of another. This is that virtue, Lipsius, which thou seest through a cloud, and instead whereof pity intrudes herself unto thee.
But thou wilt say, it is incident to man's nature to be moved with affection and pity. Be it so, yet certainly it is not decent and right. Thinkst thou that any virtue consists in softness and abjection of the mind? In sorrowing? In sighing? In sobbing together with such as weep? It cannot be so. For I will show thee some greedy old wives and covetous misers from whose eyes thou mayest sooner wring a thousand tears than one small penny out of their purses. But he that is truly merciful in deed will not bemoan or pity the condition of distressed persons but yet will do more to help and succor them than the other. He will behold men's miseries with the eye of compassion yet ruled and guided by reason. He will speak unto them with a sad countenance but not mourning or prostrate. He will comfort heartily, and help literally. He will perform more in works than in words: and he will stretch out unto the poor and needy his hand rather than his tongue. All this will he do with discretion and care, that he not infect himself with other men's contagion, and that, as fencers use to say, he bear not other's blows upon his own ribs. What is here savoring of inhumanity or churlishness? Even so all the wisdom seems austere and rigorous at the first view. But if you consider thoroughly of it, you shall find the same to be meek, gentle; yea more mild and amiable than Venus herself. Let this suffice touching the three fore-rehearsed affections; whom if I have in part expelled from thee, it will greatly avail me to get the victory in the battle that shall ensue.
The former impediments or lets being removed, we come in good earnest to the extenuating or taking away of public evils; which is assayed by four principal arguments. First here is spoke of Providence, which is proved to be in and over all human affairs.
I come now from skirmishes to handgrips, and from light bickerings to the main battle. I will lead forth all my soldiers in order under their ensigns, diving them into four troops. First I will prove that these public evils are imposed upon us by God himself. Secondly, that the by necessary and by destiny. Thirdly, that they are profitable for us. Finally, that they be neither grievous nor strange. These troops if they discharge their parts each one in his place, can the whole army of your sorrow make any resistance, or once open the mouth against me? No truly, I must have the victory. In token whereof sound the trumpets and strike up the drums.
Whereas, Lipsius, all affections that do disturb man's life proceed from a mind distempered and void of reason: yet none of them more in my conceit than that sorrow which is conceived for the commonwealth's sake. For all others have some final cause and scope where to they tend: as the lover to enjoy his desire, the angry man to be avenged, the covetous churl to get, and so forth. Only this has no end proposed unto it. And to restrain my talk unto some certainty, thou, Lipsius, bewailest the state of thy country decaying. Tell me to what effect? Or what hopest thou to obtain thereby? To amend that which is amiss? To preserve that which is about to perish? Or by weeping to take away the plague or punishment that hangs over thy country? None of all these but only that thou mayest say with the common sort, I am sorry: In all other respects thy mourning is in vain and to no purpose. For that thing which is past, God himself would not have to be undone again.
Neither is this weeping of thine, vain only, but also wicked and ungodly, if it be rightly considered. For you know well that there is an eternal spirit, whom we call God, which rules, guides, and governs the rolling spheres of heaven, the manifold courses of the stars and planets, the successive alterations of the elements, finally, all things whatsoever in heaven and earth. Thinkest thou that chance or fortune bears any sway in this excellent frame of the world? Or that the affairs of mortal men are carried headlong by chance medley? I wot well thou thinkest not so, nor any man else that has either wisdom or wit in his head. It is the voice of nature itself, and which way soever we turn our eyes or minds, all things both mortal and immortal, heavenly and earthly, sensible and insensible do with open mouth cry out and affirm, that there is somewhat far above us that created and formed these so many wonderful works, which also continually governs and preserves the same. This is God, to whose absolute perfection nothing is more agreeable than to be both able and willing to take the care and charge of his own workmanship. And why should not he be willing, seeing that he is the best of all? Why should he not be able, seeing he is the mightiest of all? In so far y* there is no strength above him, no nor any but that proceeds from him, neither is he letted or troubled with the greatness or variety of all these things. For this eternal light casts forth his bright beams everywhere, and in a moment pierces even into the bosom and bottom of the heavens, earth, and sea. It is not only president over all things, but present in them. And no marvel. What a great part of the world does the Sun lighten at once? What a mass of matter can our mind comprehend at once? O fools: can not he that made this sun and this mind perceive and conceive far more things than they: Well and divinely spake one that had small skill in divinity: As is the pilot in a ship, the carman [driver] to his wain [wagon], the chaunter [cantor?] in a quire [choir], the law in a commonwealth, and the general in an army, so is God in the world. Herein only is the difference, that their charge is to them laborsome, grievous, and painful. But God rules without all pain and labor or bodily striving. Wherefore, Lipsius, there is in God a watchful and continual care, yet without cark [anxiety], whereby he beholds, searches, and knows all things; and knowing them, disposes and orders the same by an immutable course to us unknown. And this is it which here I call providence, whereof some man through infirmity may grudge or complain: but not doubt, except he be benumbed of his senses, and besotted against nature.
That nothing is done but by the beck of this Providence. That by it desolations come upon men and cities; therefore we do not the parts of good and godly men to murmur or mourn for them. Finally, an exhortation to obey God against whom we strive unadvisedly and in vain.
If you conceive this rightly, and do believe heartily that this governing faculty insinuates itself, and, as the poet speaks, passes through every path of sea and eke of shore, I see not what further place can be left for your grief and grudging. For even the selfsame foreseeing intelligence which turns about the heaven daily, which causes the sun to rise and set, which brings forth and shuts up the fruits of the earth, produces all these calamities and changes which thou so much marvelest and mutterest at. Think you that God gives us only pleasing and profitable things? No, he sends likewise noisome and hurtful: neither is anything contrived, tossed or turned (sin only excepted) in this huge theater of the world, the cause and fountain whereof proceeds not from that first cause of causes: for as Pindar says well, The dispensers and doers of all things are in heaven. And there is let down from thence a golden chain, as Homer expresses by a figment, whereto all these inferior things are fast linked. That the earth has opened her mouth and swallowed up some towns, came of God's providence. That [else]where the plague has consumed many thousands of people, proceeds of the same cause. That slaughters, war and tyranny rage in the Low Countries, therehence also comes it to pass. From heaven, Lipsius, from heaven are all these miseries sent. Therefore Euripides said it well and wisely, that all calamities are from God. [Euripides' point may have been that any "god" that is responsible for evil is no god. Lipsius apparently paraphrases Euripides from memory and gives us no reference to check.--JG] The ebbing and flowing of all human affairs depends upon that moon. The rising and fall of kingdoms comes from this sun. Thou therefore in losing the rains thus to thy sorrow, and grudging that they country is so turned and overturned, considerest not what thou art, and against whom thou complainest. What art thou? A man, a shadow, dust? Against whom does thou fret? I fear to speak it, even against God.
The ancients have fained that giants advanced themselves against God, to pull him out of his throne [a reference to the titanomachy, or the struggle of the titans against Zeus and the other Olympians]. Let us omit these fables: In very truth you querulous and murmuring men be these giants. For if it be so that God do not only suffer [i.e., tolerate] but send all these things: then ye which thus strive and struggle, what do you else but, as much as in you lies, take the scepter and sway of government from him. O blind mortality: the sun, the moon, stars, elements, and all creatures else in the world, do willingly obey that supreme law: only man, the most excellent of all God's works lifts up his heel, and spurns against his maker. If thou hoist thy sails to the winds, thou must follow whither thy will force thee, not whither thy will leads thee. And in this great ocean sea of our life wilt thou refuse to following that breathing spirit which governs the whole world? Yet thou strivest in vain. For if thou follow not freely thou shalt be drawn after forcibly. We may laugh at him w ho having tied his boat to a rock, afterwards hauls the rope as though the rock should come to him, when himself goes nearer to it. But our foolishness is far greater, who being fast bound to the rock of God's eternal providence, by our hailing and pulling would have the same to obey us, and not we it. Let us forsake this fondness, and if we be wise let us follow that power which from above draws us, and let us think it good reason that man should be pleased with that which pleases God. The soldier in camp, having a sign of marching forward given him, takes up all his trinkets, but hearing the note of battle lays them down, preparing and making himself ready with heart, eyes, and ears, to execute whatsoever shall be commanded. So let us in this our warfare follow cheerfully and with courage withersoever our general calls us. We are hereunto adjured by oath, says Seneca, even to endure mortality, nor to be troubled with those things which it is not in our power to avoid. We are born in a kingdom, and to obey God is liberty.
A passage to the second argument for constancy, which is taken from necessity. The force and violence thereof, this necessity is considered two ways, and first in the things themselves.
This is a sure brazen target against all outward accidents. This is that gold armor wherewith being fenced, Plato will us to fight against chance and fortune, to be subject to God, and in all events to cast our mind upon that great mind of the world, I mean providence, whose holy and happy troops having orderly trained forth. I will now bring out another band under the banner of necessity. A band valiant, strong, and hard as iron, which I may fitly term the thundering legion. The power of this is stern and invincible, which tames and subdues all things. Wherefore, Lipsius, I marvel if thou withstand it. Thales being asked what was strongest of all things, answered, necessity, for it overcomes all things. And to that purpose there is an old saying, though not so warily spoken of, that the gods cannot constrain necessity. This necessity I join next unto providence, because it is near kin to it, or rather born of it. For from God and his decrees necessity springs: and it is nothing else, as the Greek philosopher defines it, but a firm ordinance and immutable power of providence. That it has a stroke in all public evils that befall, I will prove two ways: from the nature of things themselves and from destiny. And first from the things, in that it is a natural property to all things created, to fall into mutability and alteration: as unto iron cleaves naturally a consuming rust: to wood a gnawing worm, and so a wasting rottenness. Even so to living creatures, cities, and kingdoms, there be certain inward causes of their own decay. Look upon all things high and low, great and small, made with hand, or composed by the mind, they always have decayed, and ever shall. And as the rivers with a continual swift course run into the sea, so all human things through this conduit of wastings and calamities slide to the mark of their desolation. Death and destruction is this mark, and the means to come thither are plague, war, and slaughters. So that if death be necessary, then the means in that respect are as necessary. Which to the end thou mayest the better perceive by examples, I will not refuse in conceit and imagination to wander a whiles with thee through the great university of the world.
Examples of necessary alteration, or death in the whole world. That heaven and the elements are changed, and shall perish; the like is to be seen in towns, provinces, and kingdoms; finally, that all things here do turn about the wheel, and that nothing is stable or constant.
It is an eternal decree, pronounced of the world from the beginning, and of all things therein, to be born and to die, to begin and to end. That supreme judge of all things would have nothing firm and stable but himself alone, as says the tragic poet [Sophocles]
From age and death God only stands free
But all things else by time consumed be
All these things which thou beholdest and admirest either shall perish in their due time, or at least be altered and changed: Seest thou the sun? He faints. The Moon. She labors and languishes. The stars? They fail and fall. And howsoever the wit of man cloaks and excuses these matters, yet there have happened and daily do in the celestial body such things as confound both the rules and wits of the mathematicians. I omit comets strange in form, situation, and motion, which all the universities shall never persuade me to be in the air, or of the air. But behold our astrologers were sore trouble of late with strange motions and new stars. This very year there arose a star whose increasing and decreasing was plainly marked, and we saw (a matter hardly to be credited) even in the heaven itself, a thing to have beginning and end. And Varro (in Augustine) cries out and affirms that the evening star called of Plautus Versperugo and of Homer Hersperus had changed his color, his bigness, his fashion, and his course. Next unto the heaven, behold the air, it is altered daily and passes into winds, clouds, and showers. Go to the waters. Those floods and fountains which we affirm to be perpetual, do sometimes fail altogether, and [at] other [times] . . . change their channel and ordinary course. The huge ocean (a great and secret [mysterious?] part of nature) is ever tossed and tumbled with tempests; and if thy [?] be wanting, yet has it its flowing and ebbing of waters, and that we may perceive it to be subject to decay; it swells and swages daily in its parts.
Behold also the earth which is taken to be immovable, and to stand steady of its own force: it faints and is stricken with an inward secret blast that makes it to tremble: somewhere it is corrupted by the water, [else]where by fire. For these same things do strive among themselves. Neither grudge thou to see war among men, there is likewise between the elements. What great lands have been wasted, yea wholly swallowed up by the sudden deluges, and violent overflowings of the sea? In old time the sea overwhelmed wholly a great island called Atlantis (I think not the story fabulous [fictitious]) and after that the mighty cities Helice and Bura. But to leave ancient examples, here in Belgica [in the parts of Zeland] two islands with the towns and men in them. And even now in our time this lord of the sea Neptune opens to himself new gaps and sweeps up daily the weak banks of Friesland and other countries. Yet does not the earth sit still like a slothful housewife, but sometimes revenges her self and makes new islands in the midst of the sea, though Neptune marvel and be moved thereat. And if these great bodies which to us seem everlasting be subject to mutability and alteration, why much more should not towns, commonwealths, and kingdoms, which must needs be mortal, as they that do compose them? As each particular man has his youth, his strength, old age, and death, so fares it with those other bodies. They begin, they increase, they stand and flourish, and all to this end, that they may decay. One earthquake under the reign of Tiberius overthrew twelve famous towns of Asia. And as many in Campania in Constantine's time. One war of Attila a Scythian prince destroyed a hundred cities. The ancient Thebes of Egypt is scarce held in remembrance in this day. And a hundred towns of Crete not believed ever to have been. To come to more certainty, our elders saw the ruins of Carthage, Numantia, Corinth, and wondered thereat. And ourselves have beheld the unworthy relics of Athens, Sparta, and many renowned cities, yea even that Lady of all things and countries, falsely termed everlasting [Rome is meant], where is she? Overwhelmed, pulled down, burned, overflowed: she is perished with more than one kind of destruction, and at this day she is ambitiously sought for, but not found in her proper soil. Seest thou that noble Byzantium being proud with the seat of two empires? Venice lifted up with the stableness of a thousand years continuance? Their day shall come at length. And thou also our Antwerp, the beauty of cities, in time shalt come to nothing. For this great master builder pulls down, sets up, and if I may so lawfully speak makes a sport of human affairs. And like an image maker, forms and frames to himself sundry sorts of portraitures in his clay.
I have spoke of towns and cities. Countries likewise and kingdoms run the very same race. Once the East flourished. Assyria, Egypt and Jewry excelled in war and peace. That glory was transferred into Europe, which now like a diseased body seems unto me to be shaken, and to have a feeling of her great confusion night at hand. Yea, and that which is more and never enough to be marveled at, this world having now been inhabited these five thousand and five hundred years, is at length come to its dotage. And that we may now approve again the fables of Anaxarchus in old time hissed at, behold now there arises elsewhere new people, and a new world. O the law of necessity, wonderful, and not to be comprehended. All things run into this fatal whirlpool of ebbing and flowing. And some things in this world are long lasting but not everlasting.
Lift up thine eyes and look about with me, for it grieves me not to stand long upon this point, and behold the alterations of all human affairs, and the swelling and swaging of them as of the sea: arise thou; fall thou; rule thou; obey thou; hide thou thy head; lift thou up thine and let this wheel of changeable things run round, so long as this round world remains. Have you Germans in time past been fierce? Be ye now milder than most people of Europe? Have you Britons been uncivil heretofore? Now exceed you the Egyptians and people of Sybaris in delights and riches. Has Greece once flourished? Now let her be afflicted, Hast Italy swayed the scepter? Now let her be in subjection. You Goths, you Vandals, you vilest of the barbarians, peep you out of your lurking holes, and come rule the nations in your turn. Draw near ye rude Scythians, and with a mighty hand hold you a whiles the reins of Asia and Europe; yet you again soon after give place and yield up the scepter to another nation bordering on the ocean. Am I deceived? Or else do I see the sun of another new empire arising in the West?
We come to that necessity which is of destiny. First destiny itself avouched. That there has been a general consent therein of the common people and wise men; but different in part. How many ways destiny has been taken among the ancients.
Thus spake Langius, and with his talk caused the tears to trickle down my cheeks; so clearly seemed he to behold the vanity of human affairs. With that lifting up my voice, alas, quoth I, what are we or all these matters for which we thus toil? What is it to be somebody? Man is a shadow and a dream, as says the poet. Then spake Langius to me, but thou young man do not only contemplate on these things; but contemn them [i.e. regard yourself as above them]. Imprint constancy in thy mind amid this casual and inconstant variableness of all things. I call it inconstant in respect of our understanding and judgment; for that if thou look unto God and his providence, all things succeed [follow in a series] in a steady and immovable order. Now I cast aside my sword and come to my engines; neither will I any longer assault sorrow with handy weapons but with great ordnance; running against it with the strong and terrible ram which no power of man is able to put back nor policy to prevent. This place is somewhat slippery, yet I will enter into it, but warily, slowly, and, as the Grecians speak, with a quiet foot.
And first that there is a kind of fatal destiny in things, I think neither thyself, Lipsius, nor any people or age has ever doubted of. Here I interrupting him said, I pray you pardon me if I hinder you a little in this course. What? Do you oppose destiny unto me? Alas, this is but a weak engine pushed on by the feeble Stoics. I tell you plainly I care not a rush for the destinies nor the ladies of them. [Marginal note: They are called Parcae, and Poets have fained three of them. (Presumably these are the Fates or Moirai of the Greeks.--JG)] And I say with the soldier in Plautus, I will scatter this troupe of old wives with one blast of breath, even as the wind does the leaves. Langius looking sternly on me, wilt thou so rashly and unadvisedly, said he, delude or deny utterly destiny? Thou art not able, except thou can at once take away the divine Godhead and the power thereof, for, if there be a God, there is also providence; if it, a decree and order of things, and of that follows a firm and sure necessity of events. How avoid you this blow? Or with what axe will you cut off this chain? For God and that eternal spirit may not otherwise be considered of [by] us, then [than] that we attribute unto it an eternal knowledge and foresight. We must acknowledge him to be stayed, resolute and immutable, always one, and like himself, not wavering or varying in those things which once he willed and foresaw. For the eternal God never changes his mind, says Homer. Which if thou confess to be true, as indeed thou must if there be in thee any reason or sense, this also must be allowed that all God's decrees are firm and immovable even from everlasting unto all eternity; of this grows necessity, and that some destiny which thou deridest. The truth whereof is so clear and commonly received, that there was never any opinion current among all nations. And whosoever had any light of God himself and his providence, had the like of destiny. The most ancient and wisest poet Homer, believe me, trace his divine muse in none other path than this of destiny. Neither did the other poets his progeny stray from the steps of their father. See Euripides, Sophocles, Pindar, and among the Latins Virgil. Shall I speak of historiographers? This is the voice of them all; that such and such a thing came to pass by destiny, and that by destiny kingdoms are either established or subverted. Would you hear the philosophers, whose chief care was to find out and defend the truth against the common people? As the jarred in many things through an ambitious desire of disputing, so it is a wonder to see how they agreed universally upon the entrance into this way which leads to destiny. I say in the entrance of that way because I deny not but that they follow some by path ways, which may be reduced into these four kinds of destiny, namely, mathematical, natural, violent, and true. All which I will expound briefly, only touching them a little, because that herehence [from such matters] commonly grows [arises] confusion and error.
The first three kinds of destiny briefly explained. The definition or description of them all. The Stoics slightly and briefly excused.
I call mathematical destiny that which ties and knits firmly all actions and events to the power of the planets and dispositions of the stars. Of which the Chaldeans and astrologists were the first authors. And among the philosophers that lofty Mercurius is principal and abettor, who subtly and wisely distinguishing providence, necessity, and destiny, says: Providence is an absolute and perfect knowledge of the celestial God; which has two faculties nearly allied unto it, necessity and destiny. Destiny truly serves and assists providence, and also necessity, but unto destiny itself the stars do minister. For neither may any man avoid the force of fate, neither [sic] beware of the power and influence of the stars. For these be the weapons and armor of destiny, at whose pleasure they do and perform all things to nature and men. In this foolish opinion are not only the common crew of astrologers, but, I shame to speak it, some divines.
I call natural fate the order of natural causes, which, not being hindered, by their force and nature do produce a certain and the selfsame effect. Aristotle is of this sect, if we give credit to Alexander [of] Aphrodisi[a]s his interpreter. Likewise, Theophrastus, who writes plainly, that destiny is the nature of each thing. By their opinion it is destiny that a man begets a man; and so that he dies of inward natural causes and not by violence or force, it is destiny. Contrarily, that a man should engender a serpent or a monster, it is besides destiny: also to be killed with a sword or by fire. This opinion is not very offensive, for that indeed it ascends not so high as the force of fate or destiny. And does not every one escape falling that keeps himself from climbing aloft? Such a one is Aristotle almost everywhere writing ought of celestial matters, except it be in his book of the world, which is a golden treatise savoring of a more celestial air.* I read moreover in a Greek writer that Aristotle thought that fate was no cause, but that chance was in some sort an alteration or change of the cause of such things as were disposed by necessity. O the heart of a philosopher: that dares to account fortune and chance among the number of causes but not destiny. But let him pass: I come to the Stoics my friends (for I profess to hold that sect in estimation and account) who were the authors of violent fate, which with Seneca I define to be a necessity of all things and actions, which no force can withstand or break. And with Chrysippus, a spiritual power, governing orderly the whole world. These definitions swerve not far from the truth if they be soundly and modestly expounded. Neither, happily, their opinion generally, if the common people had not condemned the same already by a prejudicate [hurtful] conceit. They are charged with two impieties, that they make God subject to the wheel of destiny, and also the actions of our will. I cannot boldly acquit them of both these faults: for out of some of their writings (few being at this day extant) we may gather those sayings, and out of some other we collect more wholesome sentences.
Seneca a principal pillar of that sect stumbles at the first block of his book on providence where he says, The very same necessity binds God: an irrevocable course carries away both human and divine things. The maker and ruler of all things decreed destinies but now follows them; he commanded once, but he obeys forever. And that same indissoluble chain and linking together of causes which binds all things and persons seems plainly to infer force or constraint. But the true Stoics never professed such doctrines, and if by chance any like sentence passed from them in the vehemency of their writing or disputing, it was more in words than in substance and sense. Chrysippus, who first corrupted that grave sect of philosophers with crabbed subtleties of questions, clears it from depriving man of free liberty. And our Seneca does not make God subject to fate (he was wiser than so) but God to God, after a certain kind of speech. For those Stoics that came nearest the truth do call destiny sometimes providence and sometimes God. Therefore Zeno when he had called destiny a power moving about the same matter, after one and the same manner, he adds, which it boots not whether you call it providence or nature. Likewise Chrysippus elsewhere called destiny the eternal purpose or decree of providence. Panaetius the Stoic said, that God himself was fate, Seneca being of the same mind says, when you list [are so inclined] you may call the author of nature and all things, by this or that name: You may justly term him the best and great Jupiter and thundering and Stator, that is stable and standing, not so called as historians deliver because . . . after a vow undertaken, he stayed the Roman army [from] flying away; but because all things stand by his free benefit, therefore was he named stander or [e]stablisher. If you call him also fate or destiny, you shall not belie him. For sith that destiny is nothing but a folded order of causes, he is the principal and first cause of all whereon the residue do depend. Which last words are so godly spoken that slander itself cannot slander them. In this point dissented not from the Stoics that great writer to a great king: I think that necessity ought not to be called anything else but God, as a steadfast and stable nature. And destiny that which knits together all things and holds his course freely, without let or impediment. Which sayings, if they have any taste of temerity in them, yet not impiety; and being rightly interpreted differ not much from our true fate and destiny. I do in good earnest give this commendation to the Stoics, that no other sect of philosophers avowed more the majesty and providence of God, nor drew men nearer to heaven and eternal things. And if in treading this trace of destiny they went somewhat astray, it was through a laudable and good desire they have to withdraw blind men from the blind goddess, I mean fortune: the nature whereof they did not only mightily hiss out of their company, but even the very name.
*The Aristotelian book De mundo, to which Lipsius apparently refers here, is now regarded by most scholars as a product of the Hellenistic period, after Aristotle's death and the rise of the Stoic school; in it a follower of Aristotle tries to rethink Aristotle's theory of the first mover in response to the Stoic conception of providential Zeus, with the result that attributes of the providential god get attributed to Aristotle's first mover in ways that Aristotle himself probably never intended. Lipsius, a neo-Stoic, naturally finds a Stoicized Aristotelian more congenial than Aristotle himself, although Lipsius does not recognize that the author of the De mundo is not Aristotle!--JG
The fourth and true kind of destiny expounded. The name briefly spoken of, it is lightly defined, and proved to differ from providence.
This much may suffice touching the opinions and dissensions of the ancients. For why should I overcuriously search the secrets of hell (as the proverb is)? I shall have enough to do with true destiny, which now I propound and illustrate, calling it an eternal decree of God's providence, which cannot be taken away no more than providence itself. And let not any man cavil with me about the name, because I say there is not in Latin another proper word to express that thing but fatum. What? Have old writes abused it? Let us use it: and so enlarging this word out of the prison of the Stoics, let us bring it to a better light. It is called in Latin fatum a [from] fando of speaking [this has the same root as the second syllable of infant, which etymologically is one who does not speak--JG] neither is it anything else properly but the saying and commandment of God: And this is it which now I seek for; I define it either with that famous Picus, a rank and order of causes depending upon God's counsel, or with mine own words more obscurely and subtly, an immovable decree of providence inherent in things movable, which firmly effects everything in its order, place, and time. I call it "a decree of providence" because I agree not wholly with the divines if our days (let them give me leave in the free study of the truth) who in name and nature confound it with providence. I know it be a hard matter, and full of temerity to conceive or restrain unto certain words that supernatural and supercelestial essence (I mean God) or ought that belongs to him; yet unto any man's capacity I defend and maintain that providence is one thing properly, and fate or destiny, another. For I consider providence no otherwise then that it be a power and faculty in God of seeing, knowing and governing all things. A power, I say, universal, undivided, guarded, and Lucretius speaks, united together. But destiny seems to descend into the things themselves and to be seen in the particulars of them, being as it were a disposing and bestowing abroad of that universal providence, by particulars. Therefore, providence is in God, and attributed to him alone; destiny in the things, and to them is ascribed. You think I trifle, and (as it is said) bore holes in millet seed; no, Lipsius, I take this out of the talk of the common people, among whom nothing is more usual than to say, "this was my good or evil destiny"; and likewise, "this was the fatal decree of this kingdom, or that town."
But no man speaks so of providence, no man applies it to the things themselves, without impiety and derision. Therefore, I said well, that the one of them was in God, th'other truly from God, and perceived in the self [same] things.
I say, moreover, that though providence be not really divided from destiny, yet it is more excellent and more ancient; even as we are taught in the schools of the wise to say that the sun is more worth than the light; eternity than time; understanding than reason [i.e., the goal rather than the way to it--JG]. But to draw into a short sum[mary] these curious not common matters. Thou seest that I have just cause both to use this distinction and also to retain the name of destiny against the new consistory of divines. For why? Those ancient celebrated [famoused] fathers prohibit me not but that I may use in its right and true sense the word destiny. But now that I may return to make plain my former definition, I said it was, an inherent decree, to show that destiny should be marked in the things to which it comes, and not from whence it proceeds. I added, "in movable things," signifying that although destiny itself be immovable, yet it takes not away motion, nor any natural faculty from things, but works easily and without force even as the marks and signs imprinted by God in each thing do require. In causes (secondary, I mean) that be necessary, it works necessarily; in natural causes, naturally; in voluntary causes, voluntarily; in contingent, contingently. Wherefore in respect of the things it does neither force, nor constrain; but as everything is made to do, or suffer, so it directs and turns all things. But if you recall it to its first original, I mean God and his providence, I affirm constantly and boldly that all things are done necessarily, which are done by destiny.
Lastly, I joined "of the order, place, and time," establishing that which I said before, that providence was of things in universality, destiny by distribution in particularities. By "order," I understand the course and united together of causes which destiny limits. By "place and time" I mean that wonderful and incomprehensible power whereby all events or actions are tied to their certain places and moments of time. It was destiny that Tarquin should be banished [from] his kingdom. Be it so; but first let the adultery be committed. You see the order of the causes. It was destiny that Caesar be killed. So; but in the Senate by the image of Pompey. You see the place. That Domitian should be murdered of [by] his own people. Let him be murdered; but yet at the very hour, even the fifth, which in vain he sought to prevent. Thus you see the time.
It is distinguished by four notes from Stoical destiny. Here is shown more exactly how it does not enforce our will; and also that God is neither coadjutor nor author of evil.
How sayest thou, young man, perceivest thou this? Or must I light a clearer torch to thee? I, striking my head, "yea, Langius, I must have more light, or I shall never come out of this darkness. What slender kind of distinctions be these? Captious jinns of questions are here? I fear treason, believe me, and suspect those mystical and doubtful words of yours as my very enemies. Langius, laughing a little, be of good courage, quoth he, here is no Hannibal. Thou art come into a sure castle, not fallen into any ambush; I will give thee light enough. Tell me where and in what point thou art so ignorant yet? In that, Langius, which concerns force and necessity. For truly I cannot see how this destiny that you describe differs from that of the Stoics, which when you in words shut out at the broad gate, as I may say, in effect you let in afterwards at a postern or backdoor. No, Lipsius, God forbid, for my part I do not so much as dream of any such Stoical destiny, nor study to revive again those old wives long agone dead and buried.* I propose unto thee such a doctrine as may stand with modesty and godliness, distinguished from the violent fate by four marks. They make God himself subject to destiny, and Jupiter in Homer though he were most willing, could not enlarge [free--JG] Sarpedon from his bands [bonds, i.e., fated destiny]. But we do subject destiny unto God, making him a most free author and actor of things, able at his will, and pleasure far to surmount and cut in sunder those linked troupes and bands of destiny. They appoint a successive order of natural causes from all eternity: we do not make the causes always natural (for God is often the cause of wonders and miracles, besides or contrary to nature) nor eternal. For these second causes had the beginning with the world. Thirdly, they take away all contingency from things; we admit it, affirming that as often as the secondary causes are such, chance or hap may be admitted in the events and actions. Lastly, they seemed to intrude a violent force upon our will. This be far from us, who do both allow fate or destiny, and also join hands with liberty or freedom of will. We do so shun the deceitful blasts of fortune, and chance, that we dash not our ship against the rocks of necessity. Is there fate? Yes. But it is the first and principal cause, which is so far from taking away the middle and secondary causes, that ordinarily and for the most part it works not but by them; and thy will is among the number of those secondary causes, think not that God forces it or entirely takes it away; herein is all the error and ignorance in this matter, no man considers how he ought to will that which destiny wills; and I say freely to will it. For God that created all things uses the same without any corruption of them [i.e., divine creativity violates what will later be called the second law of thermodynamics--JG]. As the highest sphere with its motion sways about [rotates around] the rest, yet so as it neither bars nor breaks them of their proper motions; so God by the power of destiny draws all things but takes not away the peculiar faculty or motion of any thing. He would [i.e., if he should will] that trees and corn should grow, so do they, without any force of their own nature. He would that men should use deliberation and choice. So do they without force, of their free will. And yet whatsoever they were in mind to make choice of, God foresaw from all eternity; he foresaw it, I say, not forced it; he knew it, but constrained not; he foretold it, but not prescribed it. Why do our curious Curioes stagger or stumble hereat? O simple creatures! I see nothing more clear than this, except it be so that some busy wanton mind lists to rub and exasperate itself, being infected with a contagious itching of disputation and contention.
How can they be, say they, if God foresaw that I should sin, and his foresight cannot be deceived, but that I do sin necessarily? Fool! Who denies it? Thou sinnest necessarily, and yet of thine own free will. Forsooth thus much did God foresee, that thou shouldest sin in such sort as he foresaw, but he saw that thou shouldest sin freely, therefore thou sinnest freely and necessarily. Is this plain enough? They urge further and say, is not God in us the author of every motion? He is the author generally, I confess, yet the favorer of good only. Art thou inclined to virtue? He knows it and helps thee. Unto vice? He knows that also, and suffers thee. Neither is there any fault in him. I ride a weak and lame horse, the riding is of me, but the weakness and lameness of himself [the horse itself]. I play upon a harp ill sounding and out of tune: In that it is out of tune is the fault of the instrument, not of me. The earth with one universal and the same juice nourishes all trees and fruits whereof some growth to be profitable, and some poisonable. What then? Shall we say that this proceeds of the earth, and not rather from the nature of the trees that do convert so good nutriment into poison? So in this case it comes of God that thou are moved. But it is of and in thyself that thou art moved to evil. Finally, to conclude of this liberty; destiny is as the first man that leads the round in this dance of the word; but so as we dance our parts too, in willing or nilling, and no further, not in doing, for there is to man only a free will to strive and struggle against God, and not power to perform the same . As it is lawful for me to walk up and down in a ship and to run about the hatches or seats, but this stirring of mine cannot hinder the sailing of the ship; so in this fatal vessel wherein we all sail, let our wills wrangle and wrest as they list, they shall not turn her out of her course, nor any thing hinder the same. That highest will of all wills must hold and rule the reins, and with the turn of a hand direct this chariot whithersoever it pleases.
*Lipsius' reference to "those old wives" are, the 1594 translator explains, "the Ladies of destiny, called generally Parcae," i.e., the Fates--JG.
A conclusion of the treatise of destiny. An admonition that it is doubtful and full of danger; and must not curiously be searched. Lastly, an earnest exhortation to imprint courage in our minds through necessity.
But why do I sail on so long in this course? I will now cast about and avoid this Charybdis, which has swallowed up so many men's wits. Here I behold how Cicero suffered shipwreck, who chose rather to deny providence than to abate one ace of man's liberty. So while he made men free (as it is finely said by one prelate) he made them sacrilegious. Damascene also sails in this gulf and extends providence unto other things but excludes it from those that are in us. By whose harms, Lipsius, I being warned will keep the shore, and not launch out too far into this deep sea. Euclides being demanded many things touching God, answered fitly, "Other things I know not, but of this I am assured, that he hates curious persons. Even so I think of destiny, which must be looked unto, not into; and be credited, not perfectly known. I suppose that saying of Bias, "touching God, believe that he is," may better be applied to destiny, whereof I admonish thee this much, that it suffices to know that it is. If thou be ignorant in other things thereto belonging, it is no offence. This is sufficent to our purpose (for I now return from wandering, into the right way again) that thou believe necessity to be naturally born together with public evils, and therehence seek some solace of thy sorrow. What appertains it unto thee to inquire curiously of the liberty or thralldom of our will? Whether it be enforced or persuaded? Alas poor soul! Thy town is sacked by the enemy, and thou sittest drawing circles in the dust. War, tyranny, slaughter, and death hang over thy head, which are truly things sent from above, and do not in any wise appertain to thy will or pleasure. Thou mayest fear, but not prevent; fly, but not avoid them. Arm thyself against them, and take this fatal weapon in thy hand, which will not only prick but panch [dissolve, as a stomach digests food?] these sorrows; not lighten thee but wholly unload thee of them. As a nettle if you touch it softly stings but loses its force it you handle it roughly; so this grief grows greater by applying soft mollifying plasters but it soon cured with sharp corrasives. Now there is nothing more forcible than necessity, which with one assault overthrows and puts to flight all these weak troops. What meanst thou sorrow? It is no boot to use thee when a thing of necessity must, or reason ought to come to pass. What wilt thou [thy?] querulous complaint do? Thou mayest shake this celestial yoke but not shake it off:
Leave off to think that God's fatal decree
By thy repining may altered be.
There is no other refuge from necessity but to wish what she wills. Well was it said by an excellent wise man, "Thou art sure to be conqueror if thou enter into no conflict but such as in thy power to overcome" (Epictetus Enchiridion). The combat with necessity is not such, wherewith whosoever contends shall be overcome; yea, which more may be marveled at, he is already vanquished before he begin to enter the lists with it.
Some do seek a cloak for their laziness in destiny; but that is taken away. Fate works by secondary causes, therefore they must be applied. How far it behooves us to aid our country, and how not. The end of this first conference and book.
Here Langius, pausing a little, I became the readier to speak my mind, and told him that if this wind blew astern thus awhile, I should think myself very near the haven. For I have now a bold resolution to follow God and obey necessity. Methinks I can say with Euripides, "I had rather do sacrifice unto him, than incensed with ire to kick against the pricks [the adversities he distributes] or that I being a mortal man should contend with God immortal." Yet there is one tempestuous wave of a troubled imagination that tosses me; assuage it, Langius, if you may. For if all public evils come by destiny, which cannot be constrained nor controlled, why then shall we take any care at all for our country? Why do we not leave all to that great masterless Lord, and sit still ourselves with our hands in our bosoms? For you say that all advice and aid is of no force, if destiny be against it. Langius replying, Alas, young man, said he, by willful frowardness thou errest from the truth. Is this the way to obey destiny; and not rather to resist and contemn [show contempt for] it? Thou wilt sit still with thy hands in thy bosom. Well, I would thy tongue had been tied now. Who told thee that destiny works alone without coadjutant and mean [auxiliary and subordinate] causes. It is destiny [that] thou shouldst have children; yet first thou must sow the seed in thy wife's garden. To be cured of thy disease, but so as thou use the physician and good nourishment. So likewise if it be destiny that this weather-beaten ship of thy country shall be saved from drowning, it is destiny withal that she be aided and defended. If thou wilt attain to the haven thou must ply the oars, and hoist thy sails, and not idly expect wind at will from heaven.
Contrarily, if it be destiny that thy country shall be brought to confusion, such things shall come to pass by destiny as will bring her to desolation by human means. The princes and people shall be at variance among themselves; none shall be willing to obey; none able to command; all shall speak proudly and do cowardly. Finally, the chieftains themselves shall have neither counsel nor fidelity. Velleius said truly,
The force of fates is inevitable, whose estate they determine to confound his counsels they corrupt,
The matter is so that God when he will change a man's good estate takes away his understanding. And (which is most wretched of all) he causes that the misery which befalls is reputed to happen most deservedly.
[These quotes seem to be of the same order as the proverb: Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.--JG]
Yet thou must not be driven so into despair, as though at the first assault thy country were in hazard of utter destruction. How knowest thou that? What canst thou tell whether this be only a light fit of fever, or a deeper disease unto death? Therefore put to thy helping hand and, as the proverb is, hope still while breath is in the sick body. But if thou see by certain and infallible tokens that the fatal alteration of the state is come, with me this saying shall prevail,
Not to fight against God.And in such a case I would allege the example of Solon; for when P[e]isistratus had brought the city of Athens under his obedience, Solon seeing that all his labor for the defense of the common liberty was in vain, came and laid down his sword and target before the Senate doors, crying out, "O my country, I have by word and deed defended thee while I could." And so going home he was quiet afterward. So do thou; yield to God, and give place to the time. And if thou be a good citizen or commonwealth's man preserve thyself to a better and happier end. The liberty which is now lost may be recovered hereafter; and they decayed country may flourish in another age; why dost thou lose all courage and fall into despair. Of those two consuls at the battle of Cannes, I account Varro a more excellent citizen who escaped than Paulus that was slain; and so did the Senate and people of Rome judge, giving him thanks publicly for that he had not lost all hope, nor despaired wholly of the commonwealth. Howbeit whether she shake or fall, whether she impair or wholly perish, be thou not afflicted, but take unto thee the noble courage of Crator, who when Alexander asked whether he would have his country restored again to liberty; "why should I?" said he, "for it may be that another Alexander will oppress her." This is the property of wise and valiant hearted men, as Achilles warned in Homer.
Though cause of grief be great, yet let us keep
All to ourselves; it boots not to weep
Else as Creon (mentioned in fables) embracing his daughter being a burning did not help her but cast himself away; so, Lipsius, thou shalt sooner with thy tears quench the light of thine own life than this general flame of thy country.
While Langius was thus speaking, the doors racked with a great noise, and behold there came a lad directly towards us, sent from that worthy personage Torrentius, to put us in mind of the hour of supper; then Langius, as it were one awakening (suddenly) out of a sound sleep, "Oh," said he, "how has this talking beguiled me? How is this day stolen away?" And therewith he rose, taking me by the hand, and said, "Come, Lipsius, let us go to our supper long wished for." "Nay," quoth I, "let us sit still a while longer. I account this the best supper of all others, which I may call as the Grecians do, The meat [food] of the gods. While we are at this banquet, I do always hunger, and am never satisfied."
But Langius drew me along with him, saying, "Let us now have regard to our promise made, and that which is behind [i.e., remains] of our duty to [speak of] constancy, we will , if it please you, perform tomorrow."