Note on the e-text: this Renascence Editions text was provided by Ben R. Schneider, Lawrence University, Wisconsin. It is in the public domain. "Florio's Translation of Montaigne's Essays was first published in 1603. In 'The World's Classics' the first volume was published in 1904, and reprinted in 1910 and 1924." Content unique to this presentation is copyright © 1998 The University of Oregon. For nonprofit and educational uses only.
UDGEMENT is an instrument for all subjects, and medleth every where, and therefore the Essayes I make of it, there is no maner of occasion I seek not to employ therein. If it be a subject I understand not my selfe, therein I make triall of it, sounding afarre off the depth of the ford, and finding the same over deepe for my reach, I keepe my selfe on the shoare. And to acknowledge not to be able to wade through is a part of its effect, yea of such whereof he vanteth most. If I light upon a vaine and idle subject, I assaye to trie and endevour to see whether I may find a good ground to worke upon, and matter to frame a body, and wherewith to build and under-lay it. Sometimes I addresse my judgement and contrive it to a noble and out- worn subject, wherein is nothing found subsisting of itselfe, the high way to it being so bare-trodden that it cannot march but in other steps. There he pleaseth himselfe in chusing the course he thinkes best, and a thousand paths sometimes he saith, this or that was best chosen. I take my first Argument of fortune: All are alike unto me: And I never purpose to handle them throughly: For there is nothing wherein I can perceive the full perfection: Which they doe not that promise to shew it us. Of a hundred parts and visages that every thing hath, I take one, which sometimes I slightly runne over, and other times but cursorily glance at. And yet other whilst I pinch it to the quicke and give it a Stockado, not the widest, but the deepest I can. And for the most part I love to seize upon them by some unwonted lustre. I would adventure to treat and discourse of some matter to the depth; knew I my selfe lesse, or were I deceived in mine owne impuissance; scattering here one and there another word, scantlings taken from their maine groundwork, disorderly dispersed without any well-grounded designe and promise. I am not bound to make it good, nor without varying to keepe my selfe close-tied unto it; whensoever it shall please me to yeeld my selfe to doubt, to uncertaintie, and to my Mistris's forme, which is ignorance. Each motion sheweth and discovereth what we are. The very same minde of Cæsar we see in directing, marshalling, and setting the battel of Pharsalia, is likewise seene to order, dispose, and contrive idle, trifling and amorous devices. We judge of a horse not only by seeing him ridden, and cunningly managed, but also by seeing him trot or pace; yea, if we but looke upon him as he stands in the stable. Amongst the functions of the soule, some are but meane and base. He that seeth her no further, can never know her thorowly. And he that seeth her march her naturall and simple pace, doth peradventure observe her best. The winds or passions take her most in her highest pitch, seeing she entirely coucheth herselfe upon every matter, and wholy therein exerciseth herselfe: and handleth but one at once, not according to it, but according to herselfe. Things severall in themselves have peradventure weight, measure, and condition: But inwardly, in us, she cuts it out for them, as she understandeth the same herselfe. Death is fearefull and ugly unto Cicero; wished for and desired of Cato; and indifferent unto Socrates. Health, wellfare, conscience, authoritie, riches, glorie, beautie, and their contraries are dispoyled at the entrance, and receive a new vesture at the soules hand. Yea, and what coulour she pleaseth: browne, bright, greene, sad, or any hew else; sharpe or sweete, deepe or superficiall, and what each of them pleaseth. For none of them did ever verifie their stiles, their rules, or formes in common; each one severally is a Queene in her owne estate. Therefore let us take no more excuses from externall qualities of things. To us it belongeth to give our selves accoumpt of it. Our good and our evil hath no dependancy but from our selves. Let us offer our vowes and offerings unto it, and not to fortune. She hath no power over our manners. Why should I not judge of Alexander as I am sitting and drinking at table, and talking in good company? Or if hee were playing at Chesse, what string of his wit doth not tone or harpe on this fond-childish and time-consuming play? I lothe and shun it, only because there is no sport enough in it, and that in his recreation he is over serious with us, being ashamed I must apply the attention therunto as might be imployed on some good subject. He was no more busied in levying his forces and preparing for his glorious passage into India; nor this other in disintangling and discovering of a passage whence dependeth the well-fare and safety of mankind. See how much our mind troubleth this ridiculous ammuzing, if all her sinnewes bandy not. How amply she giveth every one Law in that to know and directly to judge of himselfe. I doe not more universally view and feele my selfe in any other posture. What passion doth not exercise us therunto. Choller, spight, hatred, impatience, and vehement ambition to overcome, in a matter wherein it were haply more excusable to be ambitious for to be vanquished. For a rare pre-excellence, and beyond the common reach, in so frivolous a thing, is much mis-seeming a man of honour. What I say of this example may be spoken of all others. Every parcell, every occupation of a man, accuseth and sheweth him equal unto another. Democritus and Heraclitus were two Philosophers, the first of which, finding and deeming humane condition to be vaine and ridiculous, did never walke abroad but with a laughing, scorneful and mocking countenance: Whereas Heraclitus, taking pitie and compassion of the very same condition of ours, was continually seene with a sad, mournfull, and heavie cheere, and with teares trickling downe his blubbered eyes.-- Alter
Ridebat quoties a limine moverat unum
Protuleratque pedem, flebat contrarius alter. Juven. Sat. x. 28.One from his doore, his foote no sooner past,I like the first humor best, not because it is more pleasing to laugh than to weepe; but for it is more disdainfull, and doth more condemne us than the other. And me thinkes we can never bee sufficiently despised according to our merit. Bewailing and commiseration are commixed with some estimation of the thing moaned and wailed. Things scorned and contemned are thought to be of no worth. I cannot be perswaded there can be so much ill lucke in us as there is apparant vanitie, nor so much malice as sottishnesse. We are not so full of evil as of voydnesse and inanitie. We are not so miserable as base and abject. Even so Diogenes, who did nothing but trifle, toy, and dally with himself, in rumbling and rowing of his tub, and flurting at Alexander, accompting us but flies and bladders puft with winde, was a more sharpe, a more bitter, and a more stinging judge, and by consequence more just and fitting my humor than Timon, surnamed the hater of all mankinde. For looke what a man hateth, the same thing he takes to hart. Timon wisht all evill might light on us: He was passionate in desiring our ruine. He shunned and loathed our conversation as dangerous and wicked, and of a depraved nature: Whereas the other so little regarded us, that we could neither trouble nor alter him by our contagion; he forsooke our company, not for feare, but for disdaine of our commerce: He never thought us capable or sufficient to doe either good or evill. Of the same stampe was the answer of Statilius, to whom Brutus spake to win him to take part, and adhere to the conspiracie against Cæsar: He allowed the enterprize to be very just, but disalowed of the men that should performe the same, as unworthy that any man would put himself in any adventure for them: Conformable to the discipline of Hegesias, who said, That a man ought never to doe anything but for himself; forasmuch as he alone is worthy to have any action performed for him: and to that of Theodorus,who thought it an injustice that a wise man would in any case hazard himselfe for the good and benefit of his countrie, or to endanger his wisdome for fooles. Our owne condition is as ridiculous as risible, as much to be laught at as able to laugh.
But straight he taught; the other wept as fast.