OF LEVITY OF MIND

There is not in the scale of nature a more inseparable connection
of cause and effect, than in the case of happiness and virtue; nor
anything that more naturally produces the one, or more necessarily
presupposes the other. For what is it to be happy, but for a man to
content himself with his lot, in a cheerful and quiet resignation to
the appointments of God? All the actions of our lives ought to be
governed with respect to good and evil: and it is only reason that
distinguishes; by which reason we are in such manner influenced, as
if a ray of the Divinity were dipt in a mortal body, and that is the
perfection of mankind. It is true, we have not the eyes of eagles
or the sagacity of hounds: nor if we had, could we pretend to value
ourselves upon anything which we have in common with brutes. What
are we the better for that which is foreign to us, and may be given
and taken away? As the beams of the sun irradiate the earth, and yet
remain where they were; so is it in some proportion with a holy mind
that illustrates all our actions, and yet it adheres to its original.
Why do we not as well commend a horse for his glorious trappings, as a
man for his pompous additions? How much a braver creature is a lion,
(which by nature ought to be fierce and terrible) how much braver (I
say) in his natural horror than in his chains? so that everything in
its pure nature pleases us best. It is not health, nobility, riches,
that can justify a wicked man: nor is it the want of all these that
can discredit a good one. That is the sovereign blessing, which makes
the possessor of it valuable without anything else, and him that wants
it contemptible, though he had all the world besides. It is not the
painting, gilding, or carving, that makes a good ship; but if she be
a nimble sailer, tight and strong to endure the seas; that is her
excellency. It is the edge and temper of the blade that makes a good
sword, not the richness of the scabbard: and so it is not money or
possessions, that makes a man considerable, but his virtue.

It is every man’s duty to make himself profitable to mankind—if he
can, to many—if not, to fewer—if not so neither, to his neighbor—but,
however, to himself. There are two republics: a great one, which is
human nature; and a less, which is the place where we were born. Some
serve both at a time, some only the greater, and some again only the
less. The greater may be served in privacy, solitude, contemplation,
and perchance that way better than any other; but it was the intent
of Nature, however, that we should serve both. A good man may serve
the public, his friend, and himself in any station: if he be not for
the sword, let him take the gown; if the bar does not agree with him,
let him try the pulpit; if he be silenced abroad, let him give counsel
at home, and discharge the part of a faithful friend and a temperate
companion. When he is no longer a citizen, he is yet a man; but the
whole world is his country, and human nature never wants matter to work
upon: but if nothing will serve a man in the _civil government_ unless
he be _prime minister_, or in the _field_ but to _command in chief_, it
is his own fault.

The common soldier where he cannot use his hands, fights with his
looks, his example, his encouragement, his voice, and stands his ground
even when he has lost his hands, and does service too with his very
clamor, so that in any condition whatsoever, he still discharges the
duty of a good patriot—nay, he that spends his time well even in a
retirement, gives a great example.

We may enlarge, indeed, or contract, according to the circumstances
of time, place, or abilities; but above all things we must be sure to
keep ourselves in action, for he that is slothful is dead even while
he lives. Was there ever any state so desperate as that of Athens
under the thirty tyrants—where it was capital to be honest, and the
senate-house was turned into a college of hangmen? Never was any
government so wretched and so hopeless; and yet Socrates at the same
time preached _temperance_ to the _tyrants_, and courage to the rest,
and afterwards died an eminent example of faith and resolution, and a
sacrifice for the common good.

It is not for a wise man to stand shifting and fencing with fortune,
but to oppose her barefaced, for he is sufficiently convinced that
she can do him no hurt; she may take away his servants, possessions,
dignity, assault his body, put out his eyes, cut off his hands, and
strip him of all the external comforts of life. But what does all this
amount to more than the recalling of a trust which he has received,
with condition to deliver it up again upon demand? He looks upon
himself as precarious, and only lent to himself, and yet he does not
value himself ever the less because he is not his own, but takes such
care as an honest man should do of a thing that is committed to him in
trust. Whensoever he that lent me myself and what I have, shall call
for all back again, it is not a loss but a restitution, and I must
willingly deliver up what most undeservedly was bestowed upon me, and
it will become me to return my mind better than I received it.

Demetrius, upon the taking of Megara, asked Stilpo, the philosopher,
what he had lost. “Nothing,” said he, “for I had all that I could call
my own about me.” And yet the enemy had then made himself master of
his patrimony, his children, and his country; but these he looked upon
as only adventitious goods, and under the command of fortune. Now, he
that neither lost any thing nor feared any thing in a public ruin, but
was safe and at peace in the middle of the flames, and in the heat of a
military intemperance and fury—what violence or provocation imaginable
can put such a man as this out of the possession of himself? Walls
and castles may be mined and battered, but there is no art or engine
that can subvert a steady mind. “I have made my way,” says Stilpo,
“through fire and blood—what has become of my children I know not; but
these are transitory blessings, and servants that are bound to change
their masters; what was my own before is my own still. Some have lost
their estates, others their dear-bought mistresses, their commissions
and offices: the usurers have lost their bonds and securities: but,
Demetrius, for my part I have saved all, and do not imagine after
all this, either that Demetrius is a conqueror, or that Stilpo is
overcome—it is only thy fortune has been too hard for mine.”

Alexander took Babylon, Scipio took Carthage, the capitol was burnt;
but there is no fire or violence that can discompose a generous mind;
and let us not take this character either for a chimera, for all ages
afford some, though not many, instances of this elevated virtue.

A good man does his duty, let it be never so painful, so hazardous, or
never so great a loss to him; and it is not all the money, the power,
and the pleasure in the world; not any force of necessity, that can
make him wicked: he considers what he is to do, not what he is to
suffer, and will keep on his course, though there should be nothing
but gibbets and torments in the way. And in this instance of Stilpo,
who, when he had lost his country, his wife, his children, the town
on fire over his head, himself escaping very hardly and naked out of
the flames; “I have saved all my goods,” says he, “my justice, my
courage, my temperance, my prudence;” accounting nothing his own, or
valuable, and showing how much easier it was to overcome a nation than
one wise man. It is a certain mark of a brave mind not to be moved
by any accidents: the upper region of the air admits neither clouds
nor tempests; the thunder, storms, and meteors, are formed below; and
this is the difference betwixt a mean and an exalted mind; the former
is rude and tumultuary; the latter is modest, venerable, composed,
and always quiet in its station. In brief, it is the conscience that
pronounces upon the man whether he be happy or miserable. But, though
sacrilege and adultery be generally condemned, how many are there
still that do not so much as blush at the one, and in truth that
take a glory in the other? For nothing is more common than for great
thieves to ride in triumph when the little ones are punished. But
let “wickedness escape as it may at the bar, it never fails of doing
justice upon itself; for every guilty person is his own hangman.”

Whoever observes the world, and the order of it, will find all the
motions in it to be only vicissitudes of falling and rising; nothing
extinguished, and even those things which seem to us to perish are in
truth but changed. The seasons go and return, day and night follow in
their courses, the heavens roll, and Nature goes on with her work: all
things succeed in their turns, storms and calms; the law of Nature
will have it so, which we must follow and obey, accounting all things
that are done to be well done; so that what we cannot mend we must
suffer, and wait upon Providence without repining. It is the part of
a cowardly soldier to follow his commander groaning: but a generous
man delivers himself up to God without struggling; and it is only
for a narrow mind to condemn the order of the world, and to propound
rather the mending of Nature than of himself. No man has any cause
of complaint against Providence, if that which is right pleases him.
Those glories that appear fair to the eye, their lustre is but false
and superficial; and they are only vanity and delusion: they are rather
the goods of a dream than a substantial possession: they may cozen us
at a distance, but bring them once to the touch, they are rotten and
counterfeit. There are no greater wretches in the world than many of
those which the people take to be happy. Those are the only true and
incorruptible comforts that will abide all trials, and the more we turn
and examine them, the more valuable we find them; and the greatest
felicity of all is, not to stand in need of any. What is _poverty_? No
man lives so poor as he was born. What is _pain_? It will either have
an end itself, or make an end of us. In short, Fortune has no weapon
that reaches the mind: but the bounties of Providence are certain and
permanent blessings; and they are the greater and the better, the
longer we consider them; that is to say, “the power of contemning
things terrible, and despising what the common people covet.” In the
very methods of Nature we cannot but observe the regard that Providence
had to the good of mankind, even in the disposition of the world, in
providing so amply for our maintenance and satisfaction. It is not
possible for us to comprehend what the Power is which has made all
things: some few sparks of that Divinity are discovered, but infinitely
the greater part of it lies hid. We are all of us, however, thus far
agreed, first, in the acknowledgement and belief of that almighty
Being; and, secondly, that we are to ascribe to it all majesty and
goodness.

“If there be a Providence,” say some, “how comes it to pass that
good men labor under affliction and adversity, and wicked men enjoy
themselves in ease and plenty?” My answer is, that God deals by us as a
good father does by his children; he tries us, he hardens us, and fits
us for himself. He keeps a strict hand over those that he loves; and by
the rest he does as we do by our slaves; he lets them go on in license
and boldness.

As the master gives his most hopeful scholars the hardest lessons, so
does God deal with the most generous spirits; and the cross encounters
of fortune we are not to look upon as a cruelty, but as a contest: the
familiarity of dangers brings us to the contempt of them, and that part
is strongest which is most exercised: the seaman’s hand is callous, the
soldier’s arm is strong, and the tree that is most exposed to the wind
takes the best root: there are people that live in a perpetual winter,
in extremity of frost and penury, where a cave, a lock of straw, or a
few leaves, is all their covering, and wild beasts their nourishment;
all this by custom is not only made tolerable, but when it is once
taken up upon necessity, by little and little, it becomes pleasant to
them. Why should we then count that condition of life a calamity which
is the lot of many nations? There is no state of life so miserable
but that there are in it remissions, diversions, nay, and delights
too; such is the benignity of Nature towards us, even in the severest
accidents of human life. There were no living if adversity should hold
on as it begins, and keep up the force of the first impression. We are
apt to murmur at many things as great evils, that have nothing at all
of evil in them besides the complaint, which we should more reasonably
take up against ourselves. If I be sick, it is part of my fate; and
for other calamities, they are usual things; they ought to be; nay,
which is more, they must be, for they come by divine appointment. So
that we should not only submit to God, but assent to him, and obey him
out of _duty_, even if there were no _necessity_. All those terrible
appearances that make us groan and tremble are but the tribute of life;
we are neither to wish, nor to ask, nor to hope to escape them; for
it is a kind of dishonesty to pay a tribute unwillingly. Am I troubled
with the stone, or afflicted with continual losses? nay, is my body in
danger? All this is no more than what I prayed for when I prayed for
old age. All these things are as familiar in a long life, as dust and
dirt in a long way. Life is a warfare; and what brave man would not
rather choose to be in a tent than in shambles? Fortune does like a
swordsman, she scorns to encounter a fearful man: there is no honor in
the victory where there is no danger in the way to it; she tries Mucius
by _fire_; Rutilius by _exile_; Socrates by _poison_; Cato by _death_.

It is only in adverse fortune, and in bad times, that we find great
examples. Mucius thought himself happier with his hand in the flame,
than if it had been in the bosom of his mistress. Fabricius took more
pleasure in eating the roots of his own planting than in all the
delicacies of luxury and expense. Shall we call Rutilius miserable,
whom his very enemies have adored? who, upon a glorious and a public
principle, chose rather to lose his country than to return from
banishment? the only man that denied any thing to Sylla the dictator,
who recalled him. Nor did he only refuse to come, but drew himself
further off: “Let them,” says he, “that think banishment a misfortune,
live slaves at Rome, under the imperial cruelties of Sylla: he that
sets a price upon the heads of senators; and after a law of his own
institution against cut-throats, becomes the greatest himself.” Is it
not better for a man to live in exile abroad than to be massacred at
home? In suffering for virtue, it is not the torment but the cause,
that we are to consider; and the more pain, the more renown. When any
hardship befalls us, we must look upon it as an act of Providence,
which many times suffers particulars to be wounded for the conservation
of the whole: beside that, God chastises some people under an
appearance of blessing them, turning their prosperity to their ruin as
a punishment for abusing his goodness. And we are further to consider,
that many a good man is afflicted, only to teach others to suffer; for
we are born for example; and likewise that where men are contumacious
and refractory, it pleases God many times to cure greater evils by
less, and to turn our miseries to our advantage.

How many casualties and difficulties are there that we dread as
insupportable mischiefs, which, upon farther thoughts, we find to
be mercies and benefits? as banishment, poverty, loss of relations,
sickness, disgrace. Some are cured by the lance; by fire, hunger,
thirst; taking out of bones, lopping off limbs, and the like: nor do
we only fear things that are many times beneficial to us; but, on the
other side, we hanker after and pursue things that are deadly and
pernicious: we are poisoned in the very pleasure of our luxury, and
betrayed to a thousand diseases by the indulging of our palate. To lose
a child or a limb, is only to part with what we have received, and
Nature may do what she pleases with her own. We are frail ourselves,
and we have received things transitory—that which was given us may be
taken away—calamity tries virtue as the fire does gold, nay, he that
lives most at ease is only delayed, not dismissed, and his portion is
to come. When we are visited with sickness or other afflictions we are
not to murmur as if we were ill used—it is a mark of the general’s
esteem when he puts us upon a post of danger: we do not say “My
captain uses me ill,” but “he does me honor;” and so should we say that
are commanded to encounter difficulties, for this is our case with God
Almighty.

What was Regulus the worse, because Fortune made choice of him for
an eminent instance both of faith and patience? He was thrown into a
case of wood stuck with pointed nails, so that which way soever he
turned his body, it rested upon his wounds; his eyelids were cut off
to keep him waking; and yet Mecænas was not happier upon his _bed_
than Regulus upon his _torments_. Nay, the world is not yet grown so
wicked as not to prefer Regulus before Mecænas: and can any man take
that to be an evil of which Providence accounted this brave man worthy?
“It has pleased God,” says he, “to single me out for an experiment of
the force of human nature.” No man knows his own strength or value but
by being put to the proof. The pilot is tried in a storm; the soldier
in a battle; the rich man knows not how to behave himself in poverty:
he that has lived in popularity and applause, knows not how he would
bear infamy and reproach: nor he that never had children how he would
bear the loss of them. Calamity is the occasion of virtue, and a spur
to a great mind. The very apprehension of a wound startles a man when
he first bears arms; but an old soldier bleeds boldly, because he
knows that a man may lose blood, and yet win the day. Nay, many times
a calamity turns to our advantage; and great ruins have but made way
to greater glories. The crying out of _fire_ has many times quieted
a fray, and the interposing of a wild beast has parted the thief and
the traveller; for we are not at leisure for less mischiefs while we
are under the apprehensions of greater. One man’s life is saved by a
disease: another is arrested, and taken out of the way, just when his
house was falling upon his head.

To show now that the favors or the crosses of fortune, and the
accidents of sickness and of health, are neither good nor evil, God
permits them indifferently both to good and evil men. “It is hard,” you
will say, “for a virtuous man to suffer all sorts of misery, and for
a wicked man not only to go free, but to enjoy himself at pleasure.”
And is it not the same thing for men of prostituted impudence and
wickedness to sleep in a whole skin, when men of honor and honesty
bear arms; lie in the trenches, and receive wounds? or for the vestal
virgins to rise in the night to their prayers, when common strumpets
lie stretching themselves in their beds? We should rather say with
Demetrius, “If I had known the will of Heaven before I was called to
it, I would have offered myself.” If it be the pleasure of God to take
my children, I have brought them up to that end: if my fortune, any
part of my body, or my life, I would rather present it than yield it
up: I am ready to part with all, and to suffer all; for I know that
nothing comes to pass but what God appoints: our fate is decreed, and
things do not so much happen, as in their due time proceed, and every
man’s portion of joy and sorrow is predetermined.

There is nothing falls amiss to a good man that can be charged upon
Providence; for wicked actions, lewd thoughts, ambitious projects,
blind lusts, and insatiable avarice—against all these he is armed by
the benefit of reason: and do we expect now that God should look to
our luggage too? (I mean our bodies.) Demetrius discharged himself of
his treasure as the clog and burden of his mind: shall we wonder then
if God suffers that to befall a good man which a good man sometimes
does to himself? I lose a son, and why not, when it may sometimes so
fall out that I myself may kill him? Suppose he be banished by an order
of state, is it not the same thing with a man’s voluntarily leaving
his country never to return? Many afflictions may befall a good man,
but no evil, for contraries will never incorporate—all the rivers in
the world are never able to change the taste or quality of the sea.
Prudence and religion are above accidents, and draw good out of every
thing—affliction keeps a man in use, and makes him strong, patient, and
hardy. Providence treats us like a generous father, and brings us up
to labors, toils, and dangers; whereas the indulgence of a fond mother
makes us weak and spiritless.

God loves us with a masculine love, and turns us loose to injuries
and indignities: he takes delight to see a brave and a good man
wrestling with evil fortune, and yet keeping himself upon his legs,
when the whole world is in disorder about him. And are not we ourselves
delighted, to see a bold fellow press with his lance upon a boar or
lion? and the constancy and resolution of the action is the grace and
dignity of the spectacle. No man can be happy that does not stand firm
against all contingencies; and say to himself in all extremities, “I
should have been content, if it might have been so or so, but since it
is otherwise determined, God will provide better.” The more we struggle
with our necessities, we draw the knot the harder, and the worse it
is with us: and the more a bird flaps and flutters in the snare, the
surer she is caught: so that the best way is to submit and lie still,
under this double consideration, that “the proceedings of God are
unquestionable, and his decrees are not to be resisted.”

Now, to sum up what is already delivered, we have showed what happiness
is, and wherein it consists: that it is founded upon wisdom and virtue;
for we must first know what we ought to do, and then live according to
that knowledge. We have also discoursed the helps of philosophy and
precept toward a _happy life_; the blessing of a good conscience; that
a good man can never be miserable, nor a wicked man happy; nor any
man unfortunate that cheerfully submits to Providence. We shall now
examine, how it comes to pass that, when the certain way to happiness
lies so fair before us, men will yet steer their course on the other
side, which as manifestly leads to ruin.

There are some that live without any design at all, and only pass
in the world like straws upon a river; they do not go, but they are
carried. Others only deliberate upon the parts of life, and not upon
the whole, which is a great error: for there is no disposing of the
circumstances of it, unless we first propound the main scope. How shall
any man take his aim without a mark? or what wind will serve him that
is not yet resolved upon his port? We live as it were by chance, and
by chance we are governed. Some there are that torment themselves
afresh with the memory of what is past: “Lord! what did I endure? never
was any man in my condition; everybody gave me over; my very heart
was ready to break,” etc. Others, again, afflict themselves with the
apprehension of evils to come; and very ridiculously: for the _one_
does not _now_ concern us, and the _other_ not _yet_: beside that,
there may he remedies for mischiefs likely to happen; for they give us
warning by signs and symptoms of their approach. Let him that would be
quiet take heed not to provoke men that are in power, but live without
giving offence; and if we cannot make all great men our friends, it
will suffice to keep them from being our enemies. This is a thing we
must avoid, as a mariner would do a storm.

A rash seaman never considers what wind blows, or what course he
steers, but runs at a venture, as if he would brave the rocks and the
eddies; whereas he that is careful and considerate, informs himself
beforehand where the danger lies, and what weather it is like to be:
he consults his compass, and keeps aloof from those places that are
infamous for wrecks and miscarriages; so does a wise man in the common
business of life; he keeps out of the way from those that may do him
hurt: but it is a point of prudence not to let them take notice that
he does it on purpose; for that which a man shuns he tacitly condemns.
Let him have a care also of _listeners_, _newsmongers_, and _meddlers_
in other people’s matters; for their discourse is commonly of such
things as are never profitable, and most commonly dangerous either to
be spoken or heard.

Levity of mind is a great hindrance of repose, and the very change
of wickedness is an addition to the wickedness itself; for it is
inconstancy added to iniquity; we relinquish the thing we sought, and
then we take it up again; and so divide our lives between our lust and
our repentances. From one appetite we pass to another, not so much
upon choice as for change; and there is a check of conscience that
casts a damp upon all our unlawful pleasures, which makes us lose the
day in expectation of the night, and the night itself for fear of the
approaching light.

Some people are _never_ at quiet, others are _always_ so, and they are
both to blame: for that which looks like vivacity and industry in the
one is only a restlessness and agitation; and that which passes in the
other for moderation and reserve is but a drowsy and unactive sloth.
Let motion and rest both take their turns, according to the order of
Nature, which makes both the day and the night. Some are perpetually
shifting from one thing to another; others, again, make their whole
life but a kind of uneasy sleep: some lie tossing and turning until
very weariness brings them to rest; others, again, I cannot so properly
call inconstant as lazy. There are many proprieties and diversities of
vice; but it is one never-failing effect of it to live displeased. We
do all of us labor under inordinate desires; we are either timorous,
and dare not venture, or venturing we do not succeed; or else we cast
ourselves upon uncertain hopes, where we are perpetually solicitous,
and in suspense. In this distraction we are apt to propose to ourselves
things dishonest and hard; and when we have taken great pains to no
purpose, we come then to repent of our undertakings: we are afraid to
go on, and we can neither master our appetites nor obey them: we live
and die restless and irresolute; and, which is worst of all, when we
grow weary of the public, and betake ourselves to solitude for relief,
our minds are sick and wallowing, and the very house and walls are
troublesome to us; we grow impatient and ashamed of ourselves, and
suppress our inward vexation until it breaks our heart for want of
vent. This is it that makes us sour and morose, envious of others, and
dissatisfied with ourselves; until at last, betwixt our troubles for
other people’s successes and the despair of our own, we fall foul upon
Fortune and the times, and get into a corner perhaps, where we sit
brooding over our own disquiets. In these dispositions there is a kind
of pruriginous fancy, that makes some people take delight in labor and
uneasiness, like the clawing of an itch until the blood starts.

This is it that puts us upon rambling voyages; one while by land; but
still disgusted with the present: the town pleases us to-day, the
country to-morrow: the splendors of the court at one time, the horrors
of a wilderness at another, but all this while we carry our plague
about us; for it is not the place we are weary of, but ourselves. Nay,
our weakness extends to everything; for we are impatient equally of
toil and of pleasure. This trotting of the ring, and only treading
the same steps over and over again, has made many a man lay violent
hands upon himself. It must be the change of the mind, not of the
climate, that will remove the heaviness of the heart; our vices go
along with us, and we carry in ourselves the causes of our disquiets.
There is a great weight lies upon us, and the bare shocking of it
makes it the more uneasy; changing of countries, in this case, is not
travelling, but wandering. We must keep on our course, if we would gain
our journey’s end. “He that cannot live happily anywhere, will live
happily nowhere.” What is a man the better for travelling? as if his
cares could not find him out wherever he goes? Is there any retiring
from the fear of death, or of torments? or from those difficulties
which beset a man wherever he is? It is only philosophy that makes the
mind invincible, and places us out of the reach of fortune, so that
all her arrows fall short of us. This it is that reclaims the rage of
our lusts, and sweetens the anxiety of our fears. Frequent changing of
places or councils, shows an instability of mind; and we must fix the
body before we can fix the soul. We can hardly stir abroad, or look
about us, without encountering something or other that revives our
appetites. As he that would cast off an unhappy love avoids whatsoever
may put him in mind of the person, so he that would wholly deliver
himself from his beloved lusts must shun all objects that may put them
in his head again, and remind him of them. We travel, as children run
up and down after strange sights, for novelty, not profit; we return
neither the better nor the sounder; nay, and the very agitation hurts
us. We learn to call towns and places by their names, and to tell
stories of mountains and of rivers; but had not our time been better
spent in the study of wisdom and of virtue? in the learning of what
is already discovered, and in the quest of things not yet found out?
If a man break his leg, or strain his ankle, he sends presently for a
surgeon to set all right again, and does not take horse upon it, or put
himself on ship-board; no more does the change of place work upon our
disordered minds than upon our bodies. It is not the place, I hope,
that makes either an orator or a physician. Will any man ask upon the
road, Pray, which is the way to prudence, to justice, to temperance,
to fortitude? No matter whither any man goes that carries his
affections along with him. He that would make his travels delightful
must make himself a temperate companion.

A great traveller was complaining that he was never the better for his
travels; “That is very true,” said Socrates, “because you travelled
with yourself.” Now, had not he better have made himself another man
than to transport himself to another place? It is no matter what
manners we find anywhere; so long as we carry our own. But we have all
of us a natural curiosity of seeing fine sights, and of making new
discoveries, turning over antiquities, learning the customs of nations,
etc. We are never quiet; to-day we seek an office, to-morrow we are
sick of it. We divide our lives betwixt a dislike of the present and a
desire of the future: but he that lives as he should, orders himself
so, as neither to fear nor to wish for to-morrow; if it comes, it is
welcome; but if not, there is nothing lost; for that which is come, is
but the same over again with what is past. As levity is a pernicious
enemy to quiet, so pertinacity is a great one too. The one changes
nothing, the other sticks to nothing; and which of the two is the
worse, may be a question. It is many times seen, that we beg earnestly
for those things, which, if they were offered us, we would refuse; and
it is but just to punish this easiness of asking with an equal facility
of granting. There are some things we would be thought to desire, which
we are so far from desiring that we dread them. “I shall tire you,”
says one, in the middle of a tedious story. “Nay, pray be pleased to
go on,” we cry, though we wish his tongue out at half-way: nay, we do
not deal candidly even with God himself. We should say to ourselves
in these cases, “This I have drawn upon myself. I could never be quiet
until I had gotten this woman, this place, this estate, this honor, and
now see what is come of it.”

One sovereign remedy against all misfortunes is constancy of mind: the
changing of parties and countenances looks as if a man were driven with
the wind. Nothing can be above him that is above fortune. It is not
violence, reproach, contempt, or whatever else from without, that can
make a wise man quit his ground: but he is proof against calamities,
both great and small: only our error is, that what we cannot do
ourselves, we think nobody else can; so that we judge of the wise by
the measures of the weak. Place me among princes or among beggars, the
one shall not make me proud, nor the other ashamed. I can take as sound
a sleep in a barn as in a palace, and a bundle of hay makes me as good
a lodging as a bed of down. Should every day succeed to my wish, it
should not transport me; nor would I think myself miserable if I should
not have one quiet hour in my life. I will not transport myself with
either pain or pleasure; but yet for all that, I could wish that I had
an easier game to play, and that I were put rather to moderate my joys
than my sorrows. If I were an imperial prince, I had rather take than
be taken; and yet I would bear the same mind under the chariot of my
conqueror that I had in my own. It is no great matter to trample upon
those things that are most coveted or feared by the common people.
There are those that will laugh upon the wheel, and cast themselves
upon a certain death, only upon a transport of love, perhaps anger,
avarice, or revenge; how much more then upon an instinct of virtue,
which is invincible and steady! If a short obstinacy of mind can do
this, how much more shall a composed and deliberate virtue, whose force
is equal and perpetual.

To secure ourselves in this world, first, we must aim at nothing that
men count worth the wrangling for. Secondly, we must not value the
possession of any thing which even a common thief would think worth the
stealing. A man’s body is no booty. Let the way be never so dangerous
for robberies, the poor and the naked pass quietly. A plain-dealing
sincerity of manners makes a man’s life happy, even in despite of scorn
and contempt, which is every clear man’s fate. But we had better yet
be contemned for simplicity than lie perpetually upon the torture of
a counterfeit; provided that care be taken not to confound simplicity
with negligence; and it is, moreover, an uneasy life that of a
disguise; for a man to seem to be what he is not, to keep a perpetual
guard upon himself, and to live in fear of a discovery. He takes every
man that looks upon him for a spy, over and above the trouble of being
put to play another man’s part. It is a good remedy in some cases for
a man to apply himself to civil affairs and public business; and yet,
in this state of life too, what betwixt ambition and calumny, it is
hardly safe to be honest. There are, indeed, some cases wherein a wise
man will give way; but let him not yield over easily neither; if he
marches off, let him have a care of his honor, and make his retreat
with his sword in his hand, and his face to the enemy. Of all others, a
studious life is the least tiresome: it makes us easy to ourselves and
to others, and gains us both friends and reputation.

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