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Renascence Editions

Montaigne's Essays


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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.




I F we shall sometimes ammuse our selves and consider our estate, and the time we spend in controling others, and to know the things that are without us; would we but emploie the same in sounding our selves throughly, we should easily perceive how all this our contexture is built of weake and decaying peaces. Is it not an especiall testimonie of imperfection that we cannot settle our contentment on any one thing, and that even of our owne desire and imagination it is beyond our power to chuse what we stand in need of? Whereof, the disputation that hath ever beene amongst Philosophers beareth sufficient witnes, to finde out the chief felicitie or summum bonum of man, and which yet doth and shall eternally last without resolution or agreement.
-- dum abest quod avemus, id exuperare videtur
Cætera; post aliud, cum contigit illud, avemus,
Et sitis, æqua tenet. --Lucr. iii. 25.
While that is absent which we wish, the rest
That seemes to passe, when ought else is addrest,
That we desire, with equall thirst opprest,
    Whatsoever it be that falleth unto our knowledge and jovissance, we finde it doth not satisfie us, and we still follow and gape after future, uncertaine, and unknowne things, because the present and knowne please us not, and doe not satisfie us. Not (as I thinke) because they have not sufficiently wherewith to satiate and please us, but the reason is that we apprehend and seize on them with an unruly, disordered, and diseased taste and hold-fast.
Nam cum vidit hic ad usum flagitat usus,
Onmia jam ferme mortalibus esse parata,
Divitiis homines et honore et laude potentes
Affluere, atque bona natorum excellere fama,
Nec minus esse donmi cuiquam tamen anxia corda,
Atque animum infestis cogi servire querelis:
Intellexit ibi vitium vas facere ipsum,
Omniaaque illius vitio corrumpier intus
Quæ collata foris et commoda quæque venirent. Lucr. ix.
For when the wiseman saw, that all almost,
That use requires, for men prepared was,
That men enriches, honors, praises boast,
In good report of children others passe,
Yet none at home did beare lesse pensive heart,
But that the minde was forst to serve complaint
He knew, that fault the vessell did empart,
That all was marr'd within by vessels taint,
Whatever good was wrought by any art.
    Our appetite is irresolute and uncertaine; it can neither hold nor enjoy any thing handsomly and after a good fashion. Man supposing it is the vice and fault of things he possesseth, feedeth and filleth himselfe with other things, which he neither knoweth nor hath understanding of, whereto he applyeth both his desires and hopes, and taketh them as an honour and reverence to himselfe; as saith Cæsar, Communi fit vitio naturæ, ut invisis, latitantibus atque incognitis rebus magis confidamus vehementiusque exterreamur: It hapneth by the common fault of nature that both wee are more confident and more terrified by things unseene, things hidden and unknowne.

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