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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.




B EHOLD, I am now become a Gramarian, I, who never learn't tongue but by way of roat, and that yet know not what either Adjective, Conjunctions or Ablative meaneth. As far as I remember, I have sometimes had certaine horses which they call Funales, or Dextrarios, which on the right hand were led by, as spare horses, to take them fresh at any time of need and thence it commeth that we call horses of service Destriers; and our ancient Romanes doe ordinarily say to Adexter, in steed of to accompanie. They also called Desultorios equos certaine horses that were so taught, that mainly-running with all the speed they had, joyning sides to one another, without either bridle or saddle, the Roman gentlemen, armed at all assays, in the middest of their running race would cast and recast themselves from one to another horse. The Numidian men at armes were wont to have a second spare-horse led by hand, that in the greatest furie of the battell they might shift and change horse: Quibus, desultorum in modum, binos trahentibus equos, inter acerrimam sæpe pugnam in recentem equum ex fesso armatis transsultare, mos erat. Tanta velocitas ipsis, tamque docile equorum genus (Liv. Bel. Pun. dec. iii. 3.) Whose manner was as if they had beene vaulters, leading two horses with them in armour to leap from their tired horse to the fresh-one, even in the hottest of the fight. So great agilitie was in themselves, and so apt to be taught was the race of their horses. There are many horses found that are taught to helpe their master, to run upon any man shall offer to draw a naked sword upon them; furiously to leap upon any man, both with feet to strike and with teeth to bite, that shall affront them; but that for the most part they rather hurt their friends than their enemies. Considering also, that if they once be grapled, you cannot easily take them off and you must needs stand to the mercie of their combat. Artibius, Generall of the Persian armie had very ill luck to be mounted upon a horse fashioned in this schoole, at what time he fought man to man against Onesilus King of Salamis; for he was the cause of his death, by reason the shieldbearer or squire of Onesilus cut him with a faulchon betweene the two shoulders, even as he was leaping upon his master. And if that which the Italians report be true, that in the battell of Fornovo, King Charles his horse, with kicking, winching, and flying, rid both his master and himselfe from the enemies that encompast him, to dismount or kill him, and without that, he had beene lost: He committed himselfe to a great hazard, and scap't a narrow scowring. The Mammalukes boast that they have the nimblest and readiest horses of any men at armes in the world. That both by nature they are instructed to discerne, and by custome taught to distinguish their enemie, on whom they must leepe and wince with feet and bite with teeth, according to the voice their master speaketh or rider giveth them. And are likewise taught to take up from the ground, lances, darts, or any other weapons with their mouths, and as he commandeth to present them to their rider. It is said of Cæsar, and of Pompey the Great, that amongst their many other excellent qualities, they were also most cunning and perfect horsemen; and namely of Cæsar, that in his youth being mounted upon a horse, and without any bridle, he made him run a fall cariere, make a sodaine stop, and with his hands behind his backe, performe what ever can be expected of an excellent ready horse. And even as nature was pleased to make both him and Alexander two matchlesse miracles in militarie profession, so would you say she hath also endevoured, yea, enforced herselfe to arme them extraordinarily; For all men know that Alexanders horse, called Bucephalus, had a head shaped like unto that of a bull; that he suffered no man to get-on and sit him but his master; that none could weald and manage him but he; what honours were done him after his death all know, for he had a Citie erected in his name. Cæsar likewise had another who had his fore-feet like unto a mans, with hoofs cloven in forme of fingers, who could never be handled, drest, or mounted but by Cæsar, who when he died dedicated his image to the Goddesse Venus. If I be once on horse-backe, I alight very unwillingly; for it is the seat I like best, whether I be sound or sicke. Plato commendeth it to be availefull for health: And Plinie affirmeth the same to be healthfull for the stomacke and for the joynts. And sithence we be falne into this subject, let us a little follow it I pray you. We read of a law in Xenophon, by which all men that either had or were able to keepe a horse were expresly forbidden to travell and goe a foot. Trogus and Justinus report that the Parthians were not only accustomed to warre on horse-backe, but also to dispatch all their businesse, and negotiate their affaires, both publike and privat; as to bargaine, to buy, to sell, to parly, to meet, to entertaine one another, and to converse and walke together; and that the chiefest difference betweene free men and servants amongst them is that the first ever ride, and the other goe alwaies on foot: an institution first devised by King Cyrus. There are many examples in the Romane histories (and Suetonius doth more particularly note it in Cæsar) of Captaines that commanded their horsemen to alight whensoever by occasion they should be urged unto it, thereby to remove all manner of hope from their Souldiers to save themselves by flight, and for the advantage they hoped for in this manner of fight: Quo haud dubie superat Romanus: (Liv. dec. 1. 3 & 7). Wherein undauntedly the Romane is superiour to all, saith Titus Livius: yet shall we see, that the first provision and chiefe meanes they used to bridle rebellion amongst their new conquered nations was to deprive them of all armes and horses. Therefore finde we so often in Cæsar: Arma proferri, jumenta produci, obsides dari jubat: (Cæs. Comment. vii.) He commands all their armour should be brought forth, all their cattell should be driven out, and hostages should be delivered. The great Turke doth not permit, at this day, any Christian or Jew, to have or keepe any horse for himselfe throughout all his large empire. Our ancestors, and especially at what time we had warres with the English, in all solemne combats or set battles, would (for the most part) alight from their horses, and fight on foot, because they would not adventure to hazard so precious a thing as their honour and life, but on the trust of their owne proper strength and vigour of their undanted courage, and confidence of their limbs. Let Chrisanthes in Xenophon say what be pleaseth: whosoever fighteth on horse-backe engageth his valour and hazardeth his fortune on that of his horse; his hurts, his stumbling, his death, drawes your life and fortune into consequence, if he chance to startle or be afraid, then are you induced to doubt or feare: if to leape forward, then to become rash and fond-hardy: if he want a good mouth or a timely spurre, your honour is bound to answer for it. And therefore doe not I finde it strange, that those combats were more firme and furious than those which now we see foughten on horse-backe.
   -- cedebant pariter, pariterque ruebant
Victores, victique, neque his fuga nota, neque illis.  Virg. Æn. x. 756.
The victors and the vanquisht both together
Gave backe, came on: the flight was knowne in neither.
    Their battels are seene much better compact and contrived: they are now but bickerings and routs: Primus clamor atque impetus rem decernit. The first shout and shocke makes an end of the matter. And the thing we call to help us, and keepe us company in so great and hazardous an adventure, ought, as much as possible may be, lie still in our disposition and absolute power. As I would counsell a gentleman to chuse the shortest weapons, and such as he may best assure himselfe of: It is most apparant that a man may better assure himselfe of a sword he holdeth in his hand, than of a bullet shot out of a pistoll, to which belong so many severall parts, as powder, stone, locke, snap-hanse, harrell, stocke, scowring-peece, and many others, whereof if the least faile, or chance to breake, and be distempered, it is able to overthrow, to hazard, or miscarry your fortune. Seldome doth that blow come or light on the marke it is aymed at, which the ayre doth carry.
Et quo ferre velint permittere vulnera ventis,
Ensis habet vires et gens guæcunque virorum est,
Bella gerit gladius.  Lucan. viii, 384.
Giving windes leave to give wounds as they list,
But swords have strength, and right men never mist
With sword t'assault, and with sword to resist.
    But concerning that weapon, I shall more amply speake of it where I will make a comparison betweene ancient and moderne armes: And except the astonishment and frighting of the eare, which nowadaies is growne so familiar amongst men, that none doth greatly feare it; I think it to be a weapon of small effect, and hope to see the use of it abolished. That wherewith the Italians were wont to throw with fire in it, was more frightfull and terrour-moving. They were accustomed to name a kinde of javelin, Phalarica, armed at one end with an yron pike of three foot long, that it might pierce an armed man through, which lying in the field they used to lanch or hurle with the hand, and sometimes to shoot out of certaine engines, for to defend besieged places: the staffe whereof being wreath'd about with hemp or flax, all pitched and oiled over, flying in the ayre, would soone be set afire, and lighting upon any body or target, deprived the partie hit therewith of all use of weapons or limbs: Me thinkes neverthelesse, that comming to grapple, it might as well hinder the assailant as trouble the assailed, and that the ground strewed with such burning truncheons, might in a pell-mell confusion produce a common incommoditie.
----- magnum stridens contorta phalarica venit
Fulminis acta modo. -- Virg. Æn. ix. 705.

With monstrous buzzing came a fire-dart thirled
As if a thunder-bolt had there beene whirled.

  They had also other means, to the use of which custome enured them, and that by reason of inexperience seeme incredible to us: wherewith they supplied the defect of our powder and bullets. They with such fury darted their Piles, and with such force hurled their javelins, that they often pierced two targets and two armed men through, as it were with a spit. They hit as sure and as farre with their slings as with any other shot. Saxis globosis funda, mare apertum incessentes. . . coronas modici circuli magno ex intervallo loci assueti trajicere: non capita modo hostium vulnerabant, sed quem locum destinassent Liv. dec. iv. 8). While they were boyes, with round stones in a sling, making ducks and drakes upon the sea, they accustomed to cast through round marks of small compasse a great distance off: whereby they not only hit and hurt the heads of their enemies; but woufd strike any place they aymed at. Their battering or murthering peeces represented as well the effect as the clattering and thundering noise of ours: ad ictus mænium cum terribili sonitu editos, pavor el trepidatio cepit; At the batterie of the walles made with a terrible noise, feare an d trembling began to attach them within. The Gaules, our ancient forefathers in Asia, hated mortally such treacherous and flying weapons, as they that were taught to fight hand to hand, and with more courage. Non tam patentibus plagis moventur, - ubi latior quam altior plaga est, etiam gloriosius se pugnare putant; iidem quum aculeus sagittæ, aut glandis abdita, introrsus tenui vulnere in speciem urit; tum in rabiem et pudorem tam parvæ perimentis pestis versi, prosternunt corpora humi (Liv. dec. iv. 8). They are not so much moved with wide gashes, where the wound is more broad than it is deepe, there they thinke that they fight with more bravery; but when the sting of an arrow or a bullet, with a small wound to shew, gals them inwardly, then falling into rage and shame that so slight a hurt should kill them, they cast their bodies on the ground.
  A model or picture very neere unto an harquebusada. The ten thousand Græcians in their long-lingring and farre-famous retreat, encountered with a certain nation, that exceedingly much endomaged them with stiffe, strong, and great [bowes], and so long arrowes, that taking them up, they might throw them after the manner of a dart, and with them pierce a target and an armed man thorow and thorow. The engines which Dionysius invented in Siracusa, to shoot and cast mightie big arrowes, or rather timber-peaces, and huge-great stones, so farre and with such force, did greatly represent and come very near our moderne invention. We may not also forget the pleasant seat which one named Master Peter Pol, doctor in divinitie, used to sit upon his mule, who, as Monstrelet reporteth, was wont to ride up and downe the streets of Paris, ever sitting sideling, as women use. He also saith in another place, that the Gascoines had certaine horses, so fierce and terrible, taught to turne and stop suddenly in running, whereat the French, the Piccards, the Flemmings, and Brabantins (as they who were never accustomed to see the like) were greatly amazed, and thought it a wonder: I use his very words. Cæsar, speaking of those of Swethen, saithe In any skirmish or fight on horsebacke, they often alight to combat on foot, having so trained and taught their horses, that so long as the fight lasteth they never bouge from their masters side, that if need require, they may suddenly mount up againe: and according to their naturall custome, there is nothing accounted more base or vile than to use saddles or bardels, and they greatly contemne and scorne such as use them: So that a few of them feare not to encounter with a troupe farre exceeding them in number. That which I have other times wondered at, to see a horse fashioned and taught, that a man having but a wand in his hand, and his bridle loose hanging over his eares, might at his p leasure manage, and make him turne, stop, run, carrie, trot, gallop, and whatever else may be expected of all excellent ready horse, was common amongst the Massilians, who never used either bridle or saddle.
Et gens que nudo residens Massilia dorso,
Ora levi flectit, froenorum nescia, virga. --Lucan. iv. 681.

Massilian horsemen on bare horse-backe sit
Manage with light rod, without reynes or bit.

Et Numidæ infroeni cingunt. -- Virg. Æn. iv. 41.

Numidians who their horses ride
Without bit, round about us bide.

  Equi sine froenis, deformis ipse cursus rigida cervice et extento capite currentiam: The horses being without bridles, their course is ill favoured, they running with a stiffe necke, and outstretcht head (like a roasted Pigge:) Alphonsus, King of Spaine that first established the order of Knights called the order of the Bend or skarfe, amongst other rules devised this one, that none of them, upon paine to forfeit a marke of silver for every time offending, should ever ride either mule or mulet; as I lately read in Guevaras epistles, of which. whosoever called them his golden epistles gave a judgment farre different from mine. The Courtier saith, That before his time it was counted a great shame in a gentleman to be seen riding upon a mule: Whereas the Abyssines are of a contrarie opinion, who accordingly as they are advanced to places of honour or dignitie about their Prince, called Prester-John, so do they more and more affect, in signe of pompe and state, to ride upon large-great mules. Xenophon reporteth that the Assirians were ever wont to keepe their horses fast-tied in fetters or gyves, and ever in the stable, they were so wilde and furious. And for that they required so much time to unshackle, and to harnish them (lest protracting of so long time might, if they should chance at unawares, and being un ready, to be surprised by their enemies, endomage them) they never took up their quarter in any place except it were well dyked and intrenched. His Cirus, whom he maketh so cunning in horsemanship, did always keepe his horses at a certaine stint, and would never suffer them to have any meat before they had deserved the same by the sweat of some exercise. If the Scithians in time of warre chanced to be brought to any necessitie of victuals, the readiest remedy they had was to let their horses bloud, and therewithall quenched their thirst and nourished themselves.
Venit et epoto Sarmata pastus equo.  --Mart. Spect. iii. 4.

The Scithian also came, who strangely feedes
On drinking out his horse (or that hee bleedes).

  Those of Crotta being hardly besieged by Metellus, were reduced to so hard a pinch and strait necessitie of all manner of other beverage, that they were forced to drinke the stale or urine of their horses. To verifie how much better cheape the Turkes doe both levie, conduct, and maintaine their armies than we Christians doe, they report that besides their souldiers never drinke any thing but water, and feed on nothing but rice and drie salt flesh, which they reduce into a kinde of powder (whereof every private man doth commonly carry so much about him as will serve for a months provision), and for a shift will live a long time with the bloud of their horses, wherein they use to put a certaine quantitie of salt, as the Tartars and Moskovites doe. These new discovered people of the Indies, when the Spaniards came first amongst them, esteemed that as well men as horses were either gods or creatures far beyond and excelling their nature in nobilitie. Some of which, after they were vanquished by them, comming to sue for peace and beg pardon at their hands, to whom they brought presents of gold and such viand's as their countrie yeelded, omitted not to bring the same and as much unto their horses, and with as solemne oration as they had made unto men, taking their neighings as a language of truce and composition. In the [he]ther Indies the chiefe and royallest honour was anciently wont to be to ride upon an elephant; the second to goe in coaches drawne with foure horses; the third to ride upon a camell; the last and basest was to be carried or drawne by one horse alone. Some of our moderne writers report to have seene some countries in that climate where the people ride oxen, with packe-saddles, stirrops, and bridles, by which they were carried very easily. Quintus Fabius Maximus Rutilianus, warring against the Samnites, and seeing that his horsemen in three or foure charges they gave had missed to breake and run through his enemies battalion, at last resolved thus, that they should all unbridle their horses, and with maine force of sharpe spurres pricke and broach them; which done, the horses, as enraged, took such a running thorow, and athwart the enemies camp, armes and men, that nought was able to resist them, and with such a furie that by opening, shouldering, and overthrowing the battalion, they made way for his infanterie, which there committed a most bloody slaughter, and obtained a notable victorie. The like was commanded and effected by Quintus Fulvius Flaccus against the Celtiberians: Id cum majore vi equorum facietis, si effrænatos in hostes equos immittitis; quod stæpe Romanos equites cum laude fecisse sua, memoriæ proditum est. Detractisqu e frænis bis ultro citroque cum magna strage hostium, infractis omnibus hastis, transcurrerunt:(Liv. dec. iv. 10). That shall you doe with more violence of horse if you force your horse unbridled on the enemie, which it is recorded the Roman horsemen have often performed with great proofe and praise. So pulling off the bridles they twice ran through forward and backe againe with great slaughter of the enemie, all their launces broken.
  The Duke of Moscovie did anciently owe this reverence unto the Tartars, at what time soever they sent any Ambassadors to him, that he must goe meet them on foot, and present them with a goblet full of mares-milke (a drinke counted very delicious amongst them) which whilst they were drinking, if any drop chanced to be spilt upon their horses haires, he was by dutie hound to licke the same up with his tongue. The armie which the Emperor Bajazeth had sent into Russia, was overwhelmed by so horrible a tempest of snow that to find some shelter, and to save themselves from the extremitie of the cold, many advised to kill and unpanch their horses and enter into their panches to enjoy and find some ease by that vitall heat. Bajazeth after that bloudy and tragical conflict wherein he was overthrowne by the Scithian Tamburlane in seeking to escape, had no doubt saved himselfe by the swiftnesse of an Arabian mare on which he was mounted that day, if unluckily he had not been forced to let her drinke her fill in passing over a river, which made her so faint and floundered that he was easily overtaken and apprehended by those that pursued him. The common saying is, that to let a horse stale after a full cariere doth take downe his speed, but I would never had thought that drinking had done it, but rather strengthened and heartned him.
  Croesus passing alongst the citie of Sardis found certaine thickets, wherein were great store of snakes and serpents, on which his horses fed very hungerly, which thing, as Herodotus saith, was an ill-boding prodigy unto his affaires. We call him an entire horse that hath his full maine and whole eares, and which in shew, or at a muster, doth not exceed others. The Lacedemonians having defeated the Athenians in Sicilie, returning in great pompe and glory from the victorie into the citie of Siracusa, among other bravadoes of theirs, caused such horses as they had taken from their enemies to be shorne all over, and so led them in triumph. Alexander fought with a nation called Dahas, where they went to warre two and two, all armed, upon one horse, but when they come to combat one must alight, and so successively one fought on foot and the other on horsebacke, each in his turne one after another. I am perswaded that in respect of sufficiencie, of comlinesse, and of grace on horseback no nation goeth beyond us. A good horse-man (speaking according to our phrase) seemeth rather to respect an undismayed courage than an affected clean seat. The man most skilfull, best and surest-fitting, comeliest-graced, and nimblest-handed, to sit, to ride, and mannage a horse cunningly that ever I knew, and that best pleased my humor, was Monsieur de Carnavalet, who was Master of the Horse unto our King Henry the second. I have seene a man take his full cariere, standing boult up-right on both his feet on the saddle, leap downe to the ground from it, and turning backe take off the saddle, and presently set it on againe as fast as ever it was, and then leap-into it againe, and al this did he whilst his horse was running as fast as might be with his bridle on his necke. I have also seene him ride over a bonnet or cap, and being gone a good distance from it, with his bow shooting backward, to sticke many arrowes in the same; then sitting still in the saddle to take up any thing from the ground, to set one foot to the ground and keepe the other in the stirrop, and continually running doe a thousand such tumbling and apish tricks, wherewith he got his living. There have in my time two men beene seene in Constantinople, both at once upon one horse, and who in his speediest running would by turnes, first one and then another, leape downe to the ground and then into the saddle againe, the one still taking the others place. And another who only with teeth, and without the helpe of any hand, would bridle, currie, rub, dresse, saddle, girt, and harnish his horse. Another that betweene two horses, and both saddled, standing upright with one foot in the one and the second in the other, did beare another man on his armes standing upright, run a full speedy course, and the uppermost to shoot and hit any marke with his arrowes. Divers have beene seene who, standing on their heads and with their legs ourstretched aloft, having many sharp. pointed cimitaries fastened round about the saddle, to gallop at full speed. While I was a young lad, I saw the Prince of Sulmona at Naples manage a young, a rough and fierce horse, and shew all manner of horsemanship; to hold testons or reals under his knees and toes so fast as if they had beene nayled there, and all to shew his sure, steady, and unmoveable sitting.

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