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.
HE Emperour Vespasian, lying sicke of the disease whereof he died, omitted not to endeavour to understand the state of the empire; and lying in his bed, uncessantly dispatched many affaires of great consequence; and his physicians chiding him, as of a thing hurtfull of his health, he answered that an Emperour should die standing upright. Loe heere a notable saying, fitting my humour, and worthy a great prince. Adrian the Emperour used the same afterward to like purpose. And Kings ought often to be put in minde of it, to make them feele that this great charge which is given them of the commandement over so many men is no idle charge: and that there is nothing may so justly distaste a subject from putting himselfe in paine and danger for the service of his Prince then therewhilst to see him given to lazinesse, to base and vaine occupations, and to have care of his conservation, seeing him so carelesse of ours. If any shall go about to maintaine that it is better for a Prince to manage his wars by others then by himself. Fortune will store him with sufficient examples of those whose lieutenants have achieved great enterprises, and also of some whose presence would have been more hurtfull then profitable. But no vertuous and coragious Prince will endure to be entertained with so shame-full instructions. Under colour of preserving his head (as the statue of a Saint) for the good fortune of his estate, they degrade him of his office, which is altogether in military actions, and declare him uncapable of it. I know one would rather choose to be beaten then sleepe whilst others fight for him; and who without jealousie never saw his men performe any notable act in his absence. And Selim the first had reason to say that he thought victories gotten in the masters absence not to be complete. So much more willingly would he have said that such a master ought to blush for shame, who onely by his name should pretend any share in it, having thereunto employed nothing but his thought and verbal direction. Nor that since in such a busines the advices and commandements which bring honour are only those given in the field and even in the action. No Pilot exerciseth his office standing still. The Princes of Otomans race (the chiefest race in the world in warlike fortune) have earnestly embraced this opinion. And Baiazeth the second, with his sonne, who, ammusing themselves about sciences and other private home matters, neglected the same, gave diverse prejudiciall blowes unto their Empire. And Amurath the third of that name, who now raigneth, following their example, beginneth very wel to feele their fortunes. Was it not the King of England, Edward the third, who spake these words of our King Charles the fifth: 'There was never King that lesse armed himselfe; and yet Was never King that gave me so much so doe, and put me to so many plunges.' He had reason to thinke it strange, as an effect of fortune, rather than of reason. And let such as will number the Kings of Castile and Portugall amongst the warlike and magnanimous conquerors, seeke for some other adherent then my selfe, forsomuch as twelve hundred leagues from their idle residence they have made themselves masters of both Indias, onely by the conduct and direction of their factors, of whom it would be knowne whether they durst but goe and enjoy them il person. The Emperour Julian said moreover that a Philosopher and gallant minded man ought not so much as breathe; that is to say, not to give corporall necessities, but what may not be refused them; ever holding both minde and bodie busied about notable, great and vertuous matters. He was ashamed any man should see him spitte or sweate before peo ple (which is also said of the Lacedemonian youths, and Xenophon reporteth it of the Persian) forsomuch as he thought that continuall travell, exercise, and sobriety should have concocted and dried up all such superfluities. What Seneca saith shall not impertinently be alleadged here; that the ancient Romans kept their youth upright, and taught their children nothing that was to be learned sitting. It is a generous desire to endevor to die both profitable and manlike: but the effect consisteth no t so much in our good resolution, as in our good fortune. A thousand have resolved to vanquish or to die fighting, which have missed both the one and other: Hurts or imprisonment crossing their desseigne and yeelding them a forced kinde of life. There are diseases which vanquish our desires and knowledge. Fortune should not have seconded the vanitie of the Romane Legions, who by oath bound themselves either to die or conquer. Victor, Marce Fabi, revertur ex acie: Si fallo, Iovem patrem Gradinum que Martem aliosque iratos invoco Deos: (dec. i. lib. 2). 'I will, O Marcus Fabius, returne conqueror from the armie. If in this I deceive you, I wish both great Iupiter and Mars, and t he other Gods offended with me.' The Portugalles report that in certain places of their Indian conquests they found some souldiers who with horrible execrations had damned themselves never to enter into any composition, but either they would be killed or remaine victorious; and in signe of their vowe wore their heads and beards shaven. We may hazard and obstinate our selves long enough. It seemeth that blowes shunne them who over-joyfully present themselves unto them; and unwillingly reach those that overwillingly goe to meet them and corrupt their end. Some unable to lose his life by his adversaries force, having assaid all possible meanes, hath been enforced to accomplish his resolution, either to beare away the honour, or not to carry away his life, and even in the fury of the fight to put himselfe to death. There are sundrie examples of it, but note this one. Philistus, chiefe Generall of yong Dionysius his navie against the Siracusans, presented them the battle, which was very sharply withstood, their forces being alike; wherein by reason of his prowesse he had the better in the beginning. But the Siracusans flocking thicke and threefold about his gally to grapple and board him, having performed many worthy exployts with his owne person to ridde himselfe from them, dispairing of all escape, with his owne hand deprived himselfe of that life which so lavishly and in vaine he had abandoned to his enemies hands. Moly Moluch, King of Fez, who not long since obtained that famous victory against Sebastian, King of Portugall, a notable victorie by reason of the death of three Kings, and transmission of so great a Kingdome to the crowne of Castile, chanced to be grievously sicke at what time the Portugales with armed hand entred his dominions, and afterwards, though he foresaw it approaching nearer unto death, empaired worse and worse. Never did man more stoutly or more vigorously make use of an undanted courage than he. He found himselfe very weake to endure the ceremonious pompe which the Kings of that country, at their entrance into the camp are presented withall, which according to their fashion is full of all magnificence and state, and charged with all manner of action; and therefore he resigned that honour to his brother, yet resigned he nothing but the office of the chiefe Captaine. Himselfe most gloriously executed and most exactly perfourmed all other necessary duties and profitable offices: holding his body laid along his cowch, but his minde upright and courage constant, even to his last gasp and in some sort after. He might have undermined his enemies, who were fond-hardily advanced in his dominions, and was exceedingly grieved that for want of a little longer life and a substitute to manage the warre and affaires of so troubled a State, he was enforced to seeke a bloody and hazardous battel, having another pure and undoubted victory in hand. He notwithstanding managed the continuance of his sicknesse so miraculously that he consumed his enemy, diverted him from his sea-fleete and maritime places he held along the coast of Affricke, even untill the last day of his life, which by designe he reserved and employed for so great and renowned a fight. He ranged his battel in a round, on every side besieging the Portugals army, which bending round and coming close, did not onely hinder them in the conflict of (which through the valour of that yong assailant King was very furious), since they were were to turne their faces on all sides, but also hindred them from running away after the rowte. And finding all issues seized, and all passages closed, they were constrained to turne upon themselves: Coacervantur que non solum cede, sed etiam fuga: 'They fall on heapes not only by slaughter but by flight:' And so pel mell to heape on one anothers necke, preparing a most murtherous and compleate victory for the conquerors. When he was even dying he caused himselfe to be carryed and haled where-ever neede called for him; and passing along the files he exhorted the captaines and animated the souldiers one after another. And seeing one wing of the light to have the worst, and in some danger, no man could hold him, but he would needs, with his naked sword in hand, get on hors-backe striving by all possible meanes to enter the throng, his men holding him some by the bridle, some by the gowne, and some by the stirrops. This toyle and straining of himselfe made an end of that Iittle remainder of his life; then was he laid on his bed: but comming to himselfe again, starting up as out of a swown, each other faculty failing him, he gave them warning to conceale his death (which was the necessariest commandement he could give his servants, lest the souldiers, hearing of his death, might fall into despaire) and so yeelded the Ghost, holding his fore-fingers upon his mouth, an ordinary signall to impose silence. What man ever lived so long and so neere death? Who ever died so upright and undaunted? The extreamest degree, and most naturall, courageously to manage death, is to see or front the same, not onely without amazement, but without care; the course of life continuing free even in death. As Cato, who ammused himselfe to studie and sleepe, having a violent and bloudy death present in his heart, and as it were holding it in his hand.