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.
EASON doth appoint us ever to walke in one path, but not alwaies to keepe one place: and that a wise man should not permit humane passions to stray from the right carrier; he may (without prejudice unto his dutie) also leave it unto them either to hasten or to slow his pace, and not place himselfe in an immoveable and impassive Colossus. Were vertue herselfe corporeall and incarnate, I think her pulse would beat and worke stronger, marching to an assault, than going to dinner: For it is necessarie that she heat and move herselfe. I have therefore markt it as a rare thing to see great personages sometimes, even in their weightiest enterprises and most important affaires, hold themselves so resolutely-assured in their states that they doe not so much as breake their sleep for them. Alexander the Great, on the day appointed for that furious-bloudy battel against Darius, slept so soundly and so long that morning, that Parmenion was faine to enter his chamber, and approching neere unto his bed, twice or thrice to call him by his name, to awaken him, the houre of the battle being at hand, and urging him. Otho the Emperour having determined to kill himselfe, the very same night, after he had given order for his domestical affaires, shared his monie among his servants, and whetted the edge of a sword, wherewith he intended to wound himselfe, expecting no other thing but to know whether all his friends were gone to rest, fell into so sound a sleepe that the groomes of his chamber heard him snort in another roome. This Emperours death hath many parts semblable unto that of great Cato, and namely this: For Cato being prepared to defeat himselfe, whilest he expected to heare newes whether the Senators, whom he caused to retire were lanched out from the haven of Utica, fell so fast asleep that he was heard to snort into the next chamber; and he whom he had sent toward the port having waked him to tell him the storme was so rough that the Senators could not conveniently put out to sea, he sent another, and lying downe anew, fell a sleep again untill the last messenger assured him they were gone. We may also compare him unto Alexander in that great and dangerous storme which threatned him, by the sedition of Metellus the Tribune, who laboured to publish the decree of Pompeys re-appeall unto the Citie, together with his army, at what time the commotion of Catiline was on foot: against which decree only Cato did insist, and to that purpose had Metellus and he had many injurious speeches, and menaced one another in the Senate-house: and it was the next day they were like to come to the execution in the market-place, where Metellus, besides the favour of the common people and of Cæsar, then conspiring and complotting for the advancement of Pompey should come, accompanied with a multitude of strange and forraine slaves and fencers, to doe their utmost. And Cato, strengthened with his only constancie and with unmated resolve: so that his kinsmen, his familiars, and many honest men tooke great care, and were in heavy anxiety and pensivenesse for him: of which many never left him all night, but sat up together without rest, eating, or drinking, by reason of the danger they saw prepared for him; yea, his wife and sisters did nought but weep and waile, and for his sake torment themselves in their house, whereas contrariwise he alone conforted every body, and blamed them for their demissenesse. And after he had supped (as he was wont) he went quietly to his bed, and slept very roundly untill the next morning, that one of his copartners in the Tribune-ship came to call him to go to the skirmish. The knowledge we have of this mans unmated-haughty heart by the rest of his life, may make us judge with all securitie that it only proceeded from a spirit so far elevated above such accidents that he dained not so much as to trouble his minde with them no more than with ordinarie chances. In the sea-fight which Augustus gained against Sextus Pompeius in Sicilie, ev en at the instant he should goe to fight, was surprised with so heavy a sleep that his friends were compelled to awaken him to give the signall of the battell, which afterward gave occasion unto Marcus Antonius to charge him with this imputation, that he had not dared with open eyes to survey the marshalling of his army, and that his heart would not suffice him to present himselfe unto his soldiers untill such time as Agrippa brought him newes of the victorie he had obtained of his enemies. But concerning young Marius, who committed a greater errour (for on the day of his last battell against Sylla, after he had marshalled his army and given the word or signall of the battell) he lay downe in the shadow under a tree a while to rest himselfe, and fell so fast asleep that he could hardly be waked with the rout and flight of his men, having seene no part of the fight, they say it was because he was so exceedingly aggravated with travell, and over-tired with weaknesse and want of sleep, that nature was overcome, and could no longer endure. And touching this point, Phisitians may consider whether sleep be so necessarie that our life must needs depend on it, for we finde that Perseus King of Macedon, prisoner at Rome, being kept from sleep, was made to die; but Plinie aleageth that some have lived a long time without any sleep at all. And Herodotus reporteth there are nations where men sleep and make by halfe yeares. And those that write the life of Epimenides the wise, affirm, that he slept the continuall space of seven and fifty yeares.