Plato carried away the surname of Divine, by so universal a consent that never any one repined at it, or attempted to take it from him; and yet the Italians, who pretend, and with good reason, to more sprightly wits and sounder sense than the other nations of their time, have lately bestowed the same title upon Aretin, in whose writings, save tumid phrases set out with smart periods, ingenious indeed but far-fetched and fantastic, and the eloquence, be it what it may, I see nothing in him above the ordinary writers of his time, so far is he from approaching the ancient divinity. Are there not more below your family in good ease than there are above it in eminence? And thus do the platonic laws forbid men to travel till forty or fifty years old, so that travel might be more useful and instructive in so mature an age. Yet so it is, that whoever would fairly assail me, I think I so sufficiently assist his purpose in my known and avowed imperfections, that he may that way satisfy his ill-nature without fighting with the wind. Not because Socrates has said so, but because it is in truth my own humour, and peradventure not without some excess, I look upon all men as my compatriots, and embrace a Polander as a Frenchman, preferring the universal and common tie to all national ties whatever. The Stoics say that there is so great connection and relation amongst the sages, that he who dines in France nourishes his companion in Egypt; and that whoever does but hold out his finger, in what part of the world soever, all the sages upon the habitable earth feel themselves assisted by it.
But such a companion should be chosen and acquired from your first setting out. Antisthenes allows a sage to love, and to do whatever he thinks convenient, without regard to the laws, forasmuch as he is better advised than they, and has a greater knowledge of virtue. I have seen many dying miserably surrounded with all this train: I am not much taken with the sweetness of a native air: To those of no great moment, I add the jealousy of my own rule, to make them weight; it wracks and oppresses me with its own interest. So long as the image of the ancient and received laws of this monarchy shall shine in any corner of the kingdom, there will I be. He 53 lived, enjoyed, and saw for me, and I for him, as fully as if he had himself been there; one part of us remained idle, and we were too much blended in one another when we were together; the distance of place rendered the conjunction of our wills more rich.
The poet, says Plato, seated on the tripod of the Muses, pours out in a frenzy whatever comes into his mouth, like the spout of a fountain, without ruminating and weighing it; and from him escape things of different colors and contradictory substance in an intermittent flow. By how much domestic thorns are numerous and slight, by so much they prick deeper and without warning, easily surprising us when least montainges suspect them.
He who, on so just an occasion, has no contentment, where will he think to find it? The sentence that I pass upon myself is more severe than that of a judge, who only considers the common obligation; but my conscience looks upon it with a more severe and penetrating eye.
So when it comes to the essay, it should be said that the verdict is essentially unanimous: Whilst she shall continue, Vsnity shall never want a retreat, where I may stand at bay, sufficient to make me amends for parting with any other retreat. I could wish mpntaignes see them in familiar relations, walk, and sup. So much as I trust to it, so much do I put myself out of my own power, even to the finding it difficult to keep my own countenance; and have been sometimes very much put to it to conceal the slavery wherein I was engaged; whereas my design is to manifest, in speaking, a perfect calmness both of face and accent, and casual and unpremeditated motions, as rising from present occasions, choosing rather to say nothing to purpose than to show that I came prepared to speak well, a thing especially unbecoming a man of my profession, and of too great obligation on him who cannot retain much.
I wrap and shroud myself into the storm that is to blind and carry me away with the fury of a sudden and insensible attack.
I montaognes more solicitous to improve my banity, when I am well, than to restore it when I am sick; prosperities are the same discipline and instruction to me that adversities and rods are to others. He who makes himself montignes dead when he is alive, is subject to be thought living when he is dying.
A man should diffuse joy, but, as much as he can, smother grief. Whoever shall know how lazy I am, and how indulgent to my own humour, will easily believe that I had rather write as many more essays, than be tied to revise these over again for so childish a correction. The Mohammedans will montaitnes suffer their children to be instructed in it, as being useless, and the Athenians, perceiving of how pernicious consequence the practice of it was, it being in their city of universal esteem, ordered the principal part, which is to move the affections, with their exordiums and perorations, to be taken away.
To return to my subject: Such as know me, both above and below me in station, are able to montignes whether they have ever known a man less importuning, soliciting, entreating, and pressing upon others than I.
Fruition and possession principally appertain to the imagination; it more fervently and constantly embraces what it is in quest of, than what we hold in our arms.
Reflections of Vanity in Montaigne’s “Essais”
I should find myself more at ease in a country where these degrees were either regulated or not regarded. What I have not settled of my affairs when I was in health, let no one expect I should do it when I am sick.
I am very much obliged to Fortune, in that, to this very hour, she has offered me no outrage beyond what I was well able to bear. As natural conveniences fail, let us supply them with those that are artificial. The world is unapt to be cured; and so impatient of anything that presses it, that it thinks of nothing but disengaging itself at what price soever. Had I a mind to be rich, that way would seem too long; I had served my kings, a more profitable traffic than any other. I pronounce those great names betwixt my teeth, and make them ring in my ears: In all the courts of ancient philosophy, this is to be found, that the same teacher publishes rules of temperance and at the same time lessons in love and wantonness; Xenophon, in the very bosom of Clinias, wrote against the Aristippic virtue.
She whom you have but just now illicitly embraced will presently, even in your hearing, more loudly inveigh against the same fault in her companion than a Portia would do; 73 and men there are who will condemn others to death for crimes that they themselves do not repute so much as faults.
These great and tedious debates about the best form of society, and the most commodious rules to bind us, are debates only proper for the exercise of our wits; as in the arts there are several subjects which have their being in agitation and controversy, and have no life but there.
Fortune has assisted me in this, that since my principal profession in this life was to live at ease, and rather idly than busily, she has deprived me of the necessity of growing rich to provide for the multitude of my heirs.
The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, by Michel de Montaigne : CHAPTER IX
The free verse of Whitman is a good example of this. If there be any convenience in so many standers-by, it brings an hundred inconveniences along with it.
Multa petentibus Desunt multa. As to the rest, if Fortune has never done me any violent or extraordinary injury, neither has she done me any particular favour; whatever we derive from her bounty, was there above a hundred years before my time: Here, but not so nauseous, are the excrements of an old mind, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, and always indigested.
Like consciences are lodged under several sorts of robes; like cruelty, disloyalty, rapine; and so much the worse, and more falsely, when the more secure and concealed under colour of the laws.
I must march my pen as I do my feet. What a mean and ridiculous thing it is for a man to study his money, to delight in handling and telling it over and over again! I have seen elsewhere houses in ruins, and statues both of gods and men: