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.
HOSE which write the life of Augustas Cæsar note this in his military discipline, that he was exceeding liberal and lavish in his gifts to such as were of any desert; but as sparing and strait-handed in meere recompences of honour. Yet so it is that himselfe had beene liberally gratified by his Unkle with militarie rewards, before ever he went to warres. It hath beene a witty invention, and received in most parts of the worlds Common-wealths, to establish and ordaine certaine vaine and worthles markes, therewith to honour and recompence vertue: As are the wreathes of Lawrell, the Chaplets of Oake, and the Garlands of Myrtle, the forme of a certaine peculiar garment; the privilege to ride in Coach thorow the City; or by night to have a Torch carried before one: Some particular place to sit in in common assemblies; the prerogatives of certaine surnames and titles, and proper additions in armes, and such like things; the, use whereof hath beene diversly received according to the opinion of nations which continueth to this day. We have for our part, together with divers of our neighbour-nations, the orders of knighthood, which only were established to this purpose. Verily it is a most laudable use and profitable custome, to find means to reward the worth and acknowledge the valour of rare and excellent men, to satisfie and content them with such payments as in no sort charge the commonwealth, and put the prince to no cost at all. And that which was ever knowne by ancient experience, and at other times we have plainly perceived amongst ourselves, that men of qualitie were ever more jealous of such recompences than of others wherein was both gaine and profit, which was not without reason and great apparence. If to the prize, which ought simply to be of honour, there be other commodities and riches joyned, this kinde of commixing, instead of encreasing the estimation thereof, doth empaire, dissipate, and abridge it. The order of the Knights of Saint Michæl in France, which of so long continuance hath beene in credit amongst as, had no greater commoditie than that it had no manner of communication with any other advantage or profit, which hath heretofore beene the cause that there was no charge or state of what quality soever, whereto the nobilitie pretended with so much desire, or aspired with more affection, as it did to obtaine that order; nor calling that was followed with more respect or greatnesse. Vertue embracing with more ambition, and more willingly aspiring after a recom pense, that is meerely and simply her owne, and which is rather glorious than profitable. For, to say truth, other gifts have no use so worthy, inasmuch as they are imployed to all manner of occasions. With riches a man doth reward the service of a groome, the diligence of a messenger, the hopping of a dancer, the tricks of a vaulter, the breath of a lawyer, and the basest offices a man may receive; yea, with the same paultry pelfe mony, vice is payed and sin requited, as flattery, murther, treason , Maquerelage, and what not? It is then no marvel, if vertue doth lesse willingly desire this kinde of common trash, mony, than that which is only proper and peculiar to her selfe, and is altogether noble and generous. Augustus had therefore reason to be much more niggardly amd sparing of this last than of the former, forasmuch as honour is a privilege that draws his preincipall essence from rareness; and so doth verture it selfe.Cui malus est nemo, quis bonus esse potest? -- MART. xii. Epig. lxxxiiWe shall not see a man highly regarded, or extraordinarily commended, that is curiously carefull to have his children well nurtured, because it is a common action, how just and worthy praise soever it be, no more than one great tree, where the forrest is full of such. I doe not thinke that any Spartane Citizen did boastingly glorifie himselfe for his valour, because it was a popular vertue in that nation, and as, little for his fidelity and contempt of riches. There is no recompence falls unto vertue, how great soever it be, if it once have past into custome; and I wot not whether we might call it great, being common. Since then the rewards of honour have no other prise and estimation than that few enjoy it, there is no way to disannul them but to make a largesse of them. Were there now more men found deserving the same than in former ages, yet should not the reputation of it be corrupted. And it may easily happen that more deserve it, for there is no vertue doth so easily spread it selfe as military valiancie. There is another true, perfect, and philosophicall, whereof I speake not (I use this word according to our custome), farre greater and more full than this,, which is a force and assurance of the soule, equally contemning all manner of contrarie accidents, upright, uniforme, and constant, whereof ours is but an easie and glimmering raie. Custome, institution, example and fashion, may effect what ever they list in the establishing of that I speake of, and easily make it vulgare, as may plainely be seene by the experience our civill warres give us of it. And whosoever could now joyne us together, and eagerly flesh all our people to a common enterprise, we should make our ancient military name and chivalrous credit to flourish againe. It is most certaine that the recompense of our order did not in former times only concerne prowis and respect valour; it had a further aime. It was never the reward or payment of a valiant souldier, but of a famous Captaine. The skill to obey could not deserve so honorable an hire; for, cast we back our eyes to antiquity, we shall perceive that for the worthy obtaining thereof, there was required more universal warrelike expertnesse, and which might embrace the greatest part, and most parts of a military man. Neque enim eædem militares et imperatoriæ artes sunt, 'For the same arts and parts belong not to a generall and common Souldier;' and who besides that should also be of a fit and accommodable condition for such a dignitie. But I say, that if more men should now adayes be found worthy of it than have been heretofore, yet should not ounr princes be more liberall of it, and it had beene much better not to bestow it upon all them to whom it was due, than for ever to lose, as of late we have done, the use of so profitable an invention. No man of courage vouchsafeth to advantage himselfe of that which is common unto many. And those which in our dayes bee least merited that honourable recompence, seeme, in all apparence, most to disdaine it, by that meanes place themselves in the ranke of those to whom the wrong is offered by unworthy bestowing and vilifying of that badge which particularly was due unto them. Now by defacing and abolishing this to suppose, suddenly to be able to bring into credit and renue a semblable custome, is no convenient enterprise in so licentious, so corruptedi and so declining age, as is this wherein we now live. And it will come to passe that the last shall even from her birth incur the incommodities which have lately ruined and overthrowne the other. The rules of this new orders dispensation had need to be otherwise wrested and constrained for to give it authority, and this tumultuous season is not capable of a short and ordered bridle. Besides, before a man is able to give credit unto it, it is requisite a man lose the memory of the first, and of the contempt whereinto it is fallen. This place might admit some discourse upon the consideration of valour, and difference betweene this virtue and others. But Plutarch having often spoken of this matter, it were in vaine here for me to repeat what he says of it. This is worthy to be considered, that our nation giveth the chiefe preheminence of all vertue unto valiancie, as the etymology of the word sheweth, which cometh of valour or worth; and that according to our received custome, when after the phrase of our court and nobility we speake of a worthy man, or of an honest man, we thereby inferre no other thing than a valiant man; after the usuall Roman fashion. For the generall denomination of vertue doth amongst them take her etymology of force or might. The only proper and essentiall forme of our nobility in France is military vocation. It is very likely that the first vertue that ever appeared amongst men, and which to some hath given preheminence over others, hath beene this by which the strongest and most courageous have become masters over the weakest, and purchased a particular ranke and reputation to themselves. Whereby this honour and dignity of speech is left unto it: or else these nations, being very warlike, have given the price unto that of vertues, which was the worthiest and more familiar unto them. Even as our pa ssion, and this heart-panting and mind-vexing carefull diligence, and diligent carefulnesse, which we continually apprehend about woman's chastity, causeth also that a good woman, an honest woman, a woman of honour and vertue, doth in effect and substance signifle no other thing unto us than a chaste wife or woman; as if to bind them to this duty, we did neglect all others, and give them free liberty to commit any other fault, to covenant with them never to quit or forsake this duty.
To him who good can seeme,
Who doth none bad esteeme?