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Renascence Editions

Montaigne's Essays: Book II.


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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.



THOSE who compare Cato the Censor to Cato the Younger that killed himselfe, compare two notable natures, and in forme neare one unto another. The first exploited his sundrie waies and excelleth in military exploits and utilitie of his publike vacations. But the youngers vertue (besides that it were blasphemy in vigor to compare any unto him) was much more sincere and unspotted. For who will discharge the Censors of envie and ambition that durst counterchecke the honour of Scipio in goodnes and all other parts of excellencie, farre greater and better than him or any other man living in his age? Amongst other things reported of him, this is one, that in his eldest a he gave himselfe with so earnest a longing to the Greek tong, as if it had been to quench a long burning thirst, a thing in mine opinion not very honourable in him. It is properly that which we call doting, or to become a childe againe. All things have their season yea the good and all. And I may say my Paternoster out of season. As T. Quintius Flaminius was accused, forasmuch as being generall of an army, even in the houre of the conflict he was seene to withdraw himselfe apart, ammusing,himselfe to pray God, although he gained the battell.
Imponit finem sapiens et rebus honestis. -- JUVEN. Sat. vi. 344

A wise-man will use moderation,
Even in things of commendation.

  Eudemonidas seeing Xenocrates very old laboriously apply himselfe in his schoole-lectures, said, When will this man know something, since he is yet learning? And Philopoemen, to those who highly extolled King Ptolomey because he daily hardened his body to the exercise of armes: It is not (said he) a matter commendable in a King of his age in them to exercise himselfe, he should now really and substantially imploy them. Wise men say that young men should make their preparations and old men enjoy them. And the greatest vice they note in us is, that our desires do uncessantly grow yonger and yonger. We are ever beginning anew to live. Our studies and our desires should sometimes have a feeling of age. We have a foote in the grave, and our appetites and pursuits are but new-borne.
Tu secanda marmora
Locas sub ipsum funus, et sepulcri
Immemor, struis domos.  -- HOR. Car. 1. ii. ed. xviii.

You, when you should be going to your grave,
Put marble out to worke, in houses brave,
Unmindfull of the buriall you must have.

  The longest of my desseignes doth not extend to a whole yeare: now I only apply my selfe to make an end: I shake off all my new hopes and enterprises: I bid my last farewell to all the places I leave, and daily dispossess my selfe of what I have. Olim jam nec perit quicquam mihi, nec acquiritur. Plus superest viatici quam viæ (17. 2 SEN. Epist. lxxvii.) 'It is a good while since I neither loose nor get any thing: I have more to beare my charges then way to goe.'
Vixi, et quem de derat cursum fortuna peregi. --VIRG. Æn. 1. iv. 653.

I have liv'd, and the race have past
Wherein my fortune had me plac't.

  To conclude, it is all the case I finde in my age, and that it suppresseth many cares and desires in me wherewith life is much disquieted. The care of  the worlds course, the care of riches, of greatnesse, of knowledge, of health, and of my selfe. This man learneth to speake when he should rather learne to hold his peace for ever. A man may alwaies continue his study, but not schooling. O fond-foolish for an old man to be ever an Abecedarian.
Diversos diversa iuvant, non omnibus annis
Omnia conveniunt. ----- CATUL. Eleg. i. 103.

Diverse delights to diverse nor to all
Do all things at all yeares convenient fall.

  If we must needs study, let us study something sorteable to our condition, that we may answer as he did, who being demanded what his studies would stead him in his decrepity, answered that he might the better and with more ease leave this world. Such a study was yong Catoes in forefeeling his approaching end, who lighted upon Platoes discourse on the soules immortality. Not as it may be supposed that long before he had not stored himselfe with all sorts of munition for such a dislodging. Of assurance, of constancy and instruction, he had more than Plato hath in all his writings. His science and his courage were in this respect above all Philosophy. Hee undertook this occupation, not for the service of his death, but as one who did not so much as interrupt his sleep in a deliberation of such consequence, who ever without choice or change continued his wonted studies, and all other accustomed actions of his life. The same night wherein the Pretorship was refused him he passed over in play. That wherein he must die, he spent in reading. The losse of life or office was all one to him.

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