The Temple Classics, edited by Israel Golancz M.A
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'To pleasant songs my work was erstwhile given, and bright were all my labours then; but now in tears to sad refrains am I compelled to turn. Thus my maimed Muses guide my pen, and gloomy songs make no feigned tears bedew my face. Then could no fear so overcome to leave me companionless upon my way. They were the pride of my earlier bright-lived days: in my later gloomy days they are the comfort of my fate; for hastened by unhappiness has age come upon me without warning, and grief hath set within me the old age of her gloom. White hairs are scattered untimely on my head, and the skin hangs loosely from my worn-out limbs.
'Happy is that death which thrusts not itself upon men in their pleasant years, yet comes to them at the oft-repeated cry of their sorrow. Sad is it how death turns away from the unhappy with so deaf an ear, and will not close, cruel, the eyes that weep. Ill is it to trust to
'Why, O my friends, did ye so often puff me up, telling me that I was fortunate? For he that is fallen low did never firmly stand.'
While I was pondering thus in silence, and using my pen to set down so tearful a complaint, there appeared standing over my head a woman's form, whose countenance was full of majesty, whose eyes shone as with fire and in power of insight surpassed the eyes of men, whose colour was full of life, whose strength was yet intact though she was so full of years that none would ever think that she was subject to such age as ours. One could but doubt her varying stature, for at one moment she repressed it to the common measure of a man, at another she seemed to touch with her crown the very heavens: and when she had raised higher her head, it pierced even the sky and baffled the sight of those who would look upon it. Her clothing was wrought of the finest thread by subtle workmanship brought to an indivisible piece. This had she woven with her own hands, as I afterwards did learn by her own shewing. Their beauty was somewhat dimmed by the dulness of long neglect, as is seen in the smoke-grimed masks of our ancestors. On the border below was inwoven the symbol II, on
When she saw that the Muses of poetry were present by my couch giving words to my lamenting, she was stirred a while; her eyes flashed fiercely, and said she, ' Who has suffered these seducing mummers to approach this sick man? Never do they support those in sorrow by any healing remedies, but rather do ever foster the sorrow by poisonous sweets. These are they who stifle the fruit-bearing harvest of reason with the barren briars of the passions: they free not the minds of men from disease, but accustom them thereto. I would think it less grievous if your allurements drew away from me some uninitiated man, as happens in the vulgar herd. In such an one my labours would be naught harmed, but this man has been nourished in the lore of Eleatics and Academics; and to him have ye reached? Away with you, Sirens, seductive unto destruction! leave him to my Muses to be cared for and to be healed.'
Their band thus rated cast a saddened glance
3:1 -- and are the first letters of the Greek words denoting Practical and Theoretical, the two divisions of philosophy.
'Ah me! how blunted grows the mind when sunk below the o'erwhelming flood! Its own true light no longer burns within, and it would break forth to outer darknesses. How often care, when fanned by earthly winds, grows to a larger and unmeasured bane. This man has been free to the open heaven: his habit has it been to wander into the paths of the sky: his to watch the light of the bright sun, his to inquire into the brightness of the chilly moon; he, like a conqueror, held fast bound in its order every star that makes its wandering circle, turning its peculiar course. Nay, more, deeply has he searched into the springs of nature, whence came the roaring blasts that ruffle the ocean's bosom calm: what is the spirit that makes the firmament revolve; wherefore does the evening star sink into the western wave but to rise from the radiant East; what is the
'Now he lies there; extinct his reason's light, his neck in heavy chains thrust down, his countenance with grievous weight downcast; ah! the brute earth is all he can behold.
'But now,' said she,' is the time for the physician's art, rather than for complaining.' Then fixing her eyes wholly on me, she said, ' Are you the man who was nourished upon the milk of my learning, brought up with my food until you had won your way to the power of a manly soul? Surely I had given you such weapons as would keep you safe, and your strength unconquered; if you had not thrown them away. Do you know me? Why do you keep silence? Are you dumb from shame or from dull amazement? I would it were from shame, but I see that amazement has overwhelmed you.'
When she saw that I was not only silent, but utter]y tongue-tied and dumb, she put her hand gently upon my breast, and said,' There is no danger: he is suffering from drowsiness, that disease which attacks so many minds which have been deceived. He has forgotten himself for a moment and will quickly remember, as
Then was dark night dispelled, the shadows fled away, and my eyes received returning power as before. 'Twas just as when the heavenly bodies are enveloped by the west wind's rush, and the sky stands thick with watery clouds; the sun is hidden and the stars are not yet come into the sky, and night descending from above o'erspreads the earth: but if the north wind smites this scene, launched forth from the Thracian cave, it unlocks the imprisoned daylight; the sun shines forth, and thus sparkling Phoebus smites with his rays our wondering eyes.
In such a manner were the clouds of grief scattered. Then I drew breath again and engaged my mind in taking knowledge of my physician's countenance. So when I turned my eyes towards her and fixed my gaze upon her, I recognised my nurse, Philosophy, in whose chambers I had spent my life from earliest manhood. And I asked her,' Wherefore have you, mistress of all virtues, come down from heaven above to visit my lonely place of banishment? Is it that you, as well as I, may be harried, the victim of false charges? ' 'Should I,' said she,' desert you, my nursling?
'He who has calmly reconciled his life to fate,
and set proud death beneath his feet, can
8:1 -- Socrates was executed by the Athenian state, B.C. 399.
8:2 -- Zeno of Elea was tortured by Nearchus, tyrant of Elea, about 440 B.C.
8:3 -- Canius was put to death by Caligula, c. A.D. 40.
8:4 -- Seneca was driven to commit suicide by Nero, A.D. 66.
8:5 -- Soranus was condemned to death by Nero, A.D. 66.
'Are such your experiences, and do they sink into your soul?' she asked.' Do you listen only as "the dull ass to the lyre"? Why do you weep? Wherefore flow your tears? " Speak, nor keep secret in thine heart." If you expect a physician to help you, you must lay bare your wound.' Then did I rally my spirit till it was strong again, and answered,' Does the savage bitterness of my fortune still need recounting? Does it not stand forth plainly enough of itself? Does not the very aspect of this place strike you? Is this the library which you had chosen
'Would you learn the sum of the charges against me? It was said that "I had desired the safety of the Senate." You would learn in what way. I was charged with "having hindered an informer from producing papers by which the Senate could be accused of treason." What think you, my mistress? Shall I deny it lest it shame you? Nay, I did desire the safety of the Senate, nor shall ever cease to desire it. Shall I confess it? Then there would have been no need to hinder an informer. Shall I call it a crime to have wished for the safety of that order? By its own decrees concerning myself it has established that this is a crime. Though want of foresight often deceives itself, it cannot alter the merits of facts, and, in obedience to the Senate's command, I cannot think it right to hide the truth or to assent to falsehood.
'However, I leave it to your judgment and that of philosophers to decide how the justice of this may be; but I have committed to writing for history the true course of events, that posterity may not be ignorant thereof. I think it unnecessary to speak of the forged letters through which I am accused of " hoping for the freedom of Rome." Their falsity would have been apparent if I had been free to question the evidence of the informers themselves, for their confessions have much force in all such business.
'But what avails it? No liberty is left to hope for. Would there were any! I would answer in the words of Canius, who was accused
'And in this matter grief has not so blunted my powers that I should complain of wicked men making impious attacks upon virtue: but at this I do wonder, that they should hope to succeed. Evil desires are, it may be, due to our natural failings, but that the conceptions of any wicked mind should prevail against innocence while God watches over us, seems to me unnatural. Wherefore not without cause has one of your own followers asked, " If God is, whence come evil things? If He is not, whence come good? "
'Again, let impious men, who thirst for the blood of the whole Senate and of all good citizens, be allowed to wish for the ruin of us too whom they recognise as champions of the Senate and all good citizens: but surely such as I have not deserved the same hatred from the members of the Senate too?
'Since you were always present to guide me in
my words and my deeds, I think you remember what happened at Verona. When King
Theodoric, desiring the common ruin of the Senate, was for extending to the
whole order the charge of treason laid against Albinus, you remember how I
laboured to defend the innocence of the order without any care for my own
danger? You know that I declare this truthfully and with no boasting praise of
14:1 -- The Emperor Caligula.
'Founder of the star-studded universe, resting on Thine eternal throne whence Thou turnest the swiftly rolling sky, and bindest the stars to keep Thy law; at Thy word the moon now shines brightly with full face, ever turned to her brother's light, and so she dims the lesser lights; or now she is herself obscured, for nearer to the sun her beams shew her pale horns alone. Cool rises the evening star at night's first drawing nigh: the same is the morning star who casts off the harness that she bore
While I grieved thus in long-drawn pratings,
Philosophy looked on with a calm countenance, not one whit moved by my
complaints Then said she,' When I saw you in grief and in tears I knew thereby
that you were unhappy and in exile, but I knew not how distant was your exile
until your speech declared it. But you have not been driven so far from your
home; you have wandered thence yourself: or if you would rather hold that you
have been driven, you have been driven by yourself rather than by any other. No
other could have done so to you. For if you recall your true native country, you
know that it is not under the rule of the many-headed people, as was Athens of
old, but there is one Lord, one King, who rejoices in the greater number of his
subjects, not in their banishment. To be guided by his reins, to bow to his
justice, is the highest liberty. Know you not that sacred and ancient law of
your own state by which it is enacted that no man, who would establish a
dwelling-place for himself therein, may lawfully be put forth? For there is no
fear that any man should merit exile, if he be kept safe therein by its
protecting walls. But any man that may no longer wish to dwell there, does
equally no longer deserve to be there. Wherefore it is your looks rather than
the aspect of this place which disturb me.l
19:1 -- Cp. Prose iv. of this book,p. 9.
'When the sign of the crab doth scorch the field, fraught with the sun's most grievous rays, the husbandman that has freely intrusted his seed to the fruitless furrow, is cheated by the faithless harvest-goddess; and he must turn him to the oak tree's fruit.
'When the field is scarred by the bleak north winds, wouldst thou seek the wood's dark carpet to gather violets? If thou wilt enjoy the grapes, wouldst thou seek with clutching hand to prune the vines in spring? 'Tis in autumn Bacchus brings his gifts. Thus God marks out the times and fits to them peculiar works: He has set out a course of change, and lets no confusion come. If aught betake itself to headlong ways, and leaves its sure design, ill will the outcome be thereto.
'First then,' she continued,' will you let me find out and make trial of the state of your mind by a few small questions, that so I may understand what should be the method of your treatment? '
'Ask,' said I,' what your judgment would have you ask, and I will answer you.'
Then said she,' Think you that this universe is guided only at random and by mere chance? or think you there is any rule of reason constituted in it? '
'No, never would I think it could be so, nor
'So is it,' she said,' and even so you cried just now, and only mourned that mankind alone has no part in this divine guardianship: you were fixed in your belief that all other things are ruled by reason. Yet, how strange! how much I wonder how it is that you can be so sick though you are set in such a health-giving state of mind! But let us look deeper into it: I cannot but think there is something lacking. Since you are not in doubt that the universe is ruled by God, tell me by what method you think that government is guided? '
'I scarcely know the meaning of your question; much less can I answer it.'
'Was I wrong,' said she,' to think that something was lacking, that there was some opening in your armour, some way by which this distracting disease has crept into your soul? But tell me, do you remember what is the aim and end of all things? what the object to which all nature tends? '
'I have heard indeed, but grief has blunted my memory.'
'But do you not somehow know whence all things have their source? '
'Yes,' I said; ' that source is God.'
'Is it possible that you, who know the beginning of all things, should not know their end?
'How can I but remember that? '
'Can you then say what is a man? '
'Need you ask? I know that he is an animal, reasoning and mortal; that I know, and that I confess myself to be.'
'Know you naught else that you are? ' asked Philosophy.
'Naught,' said I.
'Now,' said she,' I know the cause, or the chief cause, of your sickness. You have forgotten what you are. Now therefore I have found out to the full the manner of your sickness, and how to attempt the restoring of your health. You are overwhelmed by this forgetfulness of yourself: hence you have been thus sorrowing that you are exiled and robbed of all your possessions. You do not know the aim and end of all things; hence you think that if men are worthless and wicked, they are powerful and fortunate. You have forgotten by what methods the universe is guided; hence you think that the chances of good and bad fortune are tossed about with no ruling hand. These things may lead not to disease only, but even to death as well. But let us thank the Giver of all health, that your nature has not altogether left you. We have yet the chief
'When the stars are hidden by black clouds, no light can they afford. When the boisterous south wind rolls along the sea and stirs the surge, the water, but now as clear as glass, bright as the fair sun's light, is dark, impenetrable to sight, with stirred and scattered sand. The stream, that wanders down the mountain's side, must often find a stumbling-block, a stone within its path torn from the hill's own rock. So too shalt thou: if thou wouldst see the truth in undimmed light, choose the straight road, the beaten path; away with passing joys! away with fear! put vain hopes to flight! and grant no place to grief! Where these distractions reign, the mind is clouded o'er, the soul is bound in chains.'
THEN for a while she held her peace. But when her silence, so discreet, made my thoughts to cease from straying, she thus began to speak: 'If I have thoroughly learned the causes and the manner of your sickness, your former good fortune has so affected you that you are being consumed by longing for it. The change of one of her this alone has overturned your peace of mind through your own imagination. I understand the varied disguises of that unnatural state. I know how Fortune is ever most friendly and alluring to those whom she strives to deceive, until she overwhelms them with grief beyond bearing, by deserting them when least expected. If you recall her nature, her ways, or her deserts, you will see that you never had in her, nor have lost with her, aught that was lovely. Yet, I think, I shall not need great labour to recall this to your memory. For then too, when she was at your side with all her flattery, you were wont to reproach her in strong and manly terms; and to revile her with the opinions that you had gathered in worship of me with my favoured ones. But no sudden change of outward affairs can ever come without some upheaval in the mind. Thus has it followed
'What is it, mortal man, that has cast you down into grief and mourning? You have seen something unwonted, it would seem, something strange to you. But if you think that Fortune has changed towards you, you are wrong. These are ever her ways: this is her very nature. She has with you preserved her own constancy by her very change. She was ever changeable at the time when she smiled upon you, when she was mocking you with the allurements of false good fortune. You have discovered both the different faces of the blind goddess. To the eyes of others she is veiled in part: to you she has made herself wholly known. If you find her welcome, make use of her ways, and so make no complaining. If she fills you with horror by her treachery, treat her with despite; thrust her away from you, for she tempts you to your ruin. For though she is the cause of this great trouble for you, she ought to have been the subject of
'As thus she turns her wheel of chance with haughty hand, and presses on like the surge of Euripus's tides, fortune now tramples fiercely on a fearsome king, and now deceives no less a conquered man by raising from the ground his humbled face. She hears no wretch's cry, she heeds no tears, but wantonly she mocks the sorrow which her cruelty has made. This is her sport: thus she proves her power; if in the selfsame hour one man is raised to happiness, and cast down in despair,' tis thus she shews her might.
' Now would I argue with you by these few words which Fortune herself might use: and do you consider whether her demands are fair "Why, O man," she might say, " do you daily accuse me with your complainings? What injustice have I wrought upon you? Of what good things have I robbed you? Choose your judge whom you will, and before him strive with me for the right to hold your wealth and honours. If you can prove that any one of these does truly belong to any mortal man, readily will I grant that these you seek to regain were yours. When nature brought you forth from your mother's womb, I received you in my arms naked and bare of all things; I cherished you
"'If Plenty with o'erflowing horn scatter her
wealth abroad, abundantly, as in the storm-tossed sea the sand is cast around,
or so beyond all measure as the stars shine forth upon the studded sky in
cloudless nights; though she
30:1 -- The proverbially rich and happy king; defeated and condemned to death by Cyrus, king of Media, in 546 B.C., but spared by him.
30:2 -- The last king of Macedonia, defeated at Pydna, 168.c., by L.Æmilius Paulus.
'If Fortune should thus defend herself to you,' said Philosophy,' you would have naught, I think, to utter on the other part. But if you have any just defence for your complaining, you must put it forward. We will grant you the opportunity of speaking.'
Then I answered,' Those arguments have a fair form and are clothed with all the sweetness of speech and of song. When a man listens to them, they delight him; but only so long. The wretched have a deeper feeling of their misfortunes. Wherefore when these pleasing sounds fall no longer upon the ear, this deep-rooted misery again weighs down the spirit.'
'It is so,' she said.' For these are not the remedies for your sickness, but in some sort are the applications for your grief which chafes against its cure. When the time comes, I will apply those which are to penetrate deeply. with Boethius
'While Fortune then favoured you, it seems you flaunted her, though she cherished you as her own darling. You carried off a bounty which she had never granted to any citizen before. Will you then balance accounts with Fortune? This is the first time that she has looked upon you with a grudging eye. If you think of your happy and unhappy circumstances both in number and in kind, you will not be able to say that you have not been fortunate until now. And if you think that you were not fortunate because these things have passed away which then seemed to bring happiness, these things too are passing away, which you now hold to be miserable, wherefore you cannot think that you are wretched now. Is this your first entrance upon the stage of life? Are you come here unprepared and a stranger to the scene? Think you that there is any certainty in the affairs of mankind, when you know that often one swift hour can utterly destroy a man? For though the chances of life may seldom be depended upon, yet the last day of a lifetime seems to be the end of Fortune's power, though it perhaps would stay. What, think you, should we therefore say; that you desert her by dying, or that she deserts you by leaving you? '
'When o'er the heaven Phoebus from his rose-red car begins to shed his light abroad, his flames oppress the paling stars and blunt their whitened rays. When the grove grows bright in spring with roses 'neath the west wind's warming breath, let but the cloudy gale once wildly blow, and their beauty is gone, the thorns alone remain. Often the sea is calmly glistening bright with all untroubled waves, but as often does the north wind stir them up, making the troubling tempest boil. If then the earth's own covering so seldom constant stays, if its changes are so great, shalt thou trust the brittle fortunes of mankind, have faith in fleeting good? For this is sure, and this is fixed by everlasting law, that naught which is brought to birth shall constant here abide.'
Then I answered her,' Cherisher of all the virtues, you tell me but the truth: I cannot deny my rapid successes and my prosperity. But it is such remembrances that torment me more than others. For of all suffering from Fortune, the unhappiest misfortune is to have known a happy fortune.'
'But,' said Philosophy,' you are paying the him penalty for your mistaken expectations, and with this you cannot justly charge your life's circumstances. If you are affected by this empty name of Fortune's gift of happiness, you must listen while I recall how many and how great are your sources of happiness: and thus, if you have possessed that which is the most
'And may they continue to hold fast,' said I,' that is my prayer: while they are firm, we will reach the end of our voyage, however things may be. But you see how much my glory has departed.'
And she answered,' We have made some progress, if you are not now weary entirely of your present lot. But I cannot bear this dallying so softly, so long as you complain that your happiness lacks aught, so long as you are full of sorrow and care. Whose happiness is so firmly established that he has no quarrel from any side with his estate of life? For the condition of our welfare is a matter fraught with care: either its completeness never appears, or it never remains. One man's wealth is abundant, but his birth and breeding put him to shame. Another is famous for his noble birth, but would rather be unknown because he is hampered by his narrow means. A third is blessed with wealth and breeding, but bewails his life because he has no wife. Another is happy in his marriage, but has no children, and saves his wealth only for an heir that is no son of his. Another is blessed with children, but weeps tears of sorrow for the misdeeds of son or daughter. So none is readily at peace with the lot his fortune sends him. For in each case there is that which is unknown to him who has not experienced it, and which brings horror to him who has experienced it. Consider further, that the feelings of the most fortunate men are the most easily affected, wherefore, unless all
their desires are supplied, such men, being unused to all adversity, are cast down by every little care: so small are the troubles which can rob them of complete happiness.
'How many are they, think you, who would think themselves raised to heaven if the smallest part of the remnants of your good fortune fell to them? This very place, which you call a place of exile, is home to those who live herein. Thus there is nothing wretched unless you think it to be so: and in like manner he who bears all with a calm mind finds his lot wholly blessed. Who is so happy but would wish to change his estate, if he yields to impatience of his lot? With how much bitterness is the sweetness of man's life mingled! For even though its enjoyment seem pleasant, yet it may not be surely kept from departing when it will. It is plain then how wretched is the happiness of mortal life which neither endures for ever with men of calm mind, nor ever wholly delights the care-ridden. Wherefore, then, O mortal men, seek ye that happiness without, which lies within yourselves? Ye are confounded by error and ignorance. I will shew you as shortly as I may, the pole on which turns the highest happiness. Is there aught that you value more highly than your own self? You will answer that there is nothing. If then you are master of yourself, you will be in possession of that which you will never wish to lose, and which Fortune will never be able to take from you. Yet consider this further, that you may
'He that would build on a lasting resting-place; who would be firm to resist the blasts of the storming wind; who seeks, too, safety where he may contemn the surge and threatening of the sea; must leave the lofty mountain's top, and leave the thirsting sands. The hill is swept by all the might of the headstrong gale: the sands dissolve, and will not bear the load upon them. Let him fly the danger in a lot which is pleasant rest unto the eye: let him be mindful to set his house surely upon the lowly rock. Then let the wind bellow, confounding wreckage in the sea, and thou wilt still be founded upon unmoving peace, wilt be blessed in the strength of thy defence: thy life will be spent in calmness, and thou mayest mock the raging passions of the air.
'But now,' she continued,' the first remedies of reasoning are reaching you more deeply, and I think I should now use those that are somewhat stronger. If the gifts of Fortune fade not nor pass quickly away, even so, what is there in them which could ever be truly yours, or which would not lose its value when examined or thought upon?
'Are riches valuable for their own nature, or on account of your and other men's natures? Which is the more valuable, the gold itself or the power of the stored up-money? Surely wealth shines more brightly when spent than when put away in masses. Avarice ever brings hatred, while generous spending brings honour.
'Think again of precious stones: does their gleam attract your eyes? But any excellence they have is their own brilliance, and belongs not to men: wherefore I am amazed that men so strongly admire them. What manner of thing can that be which has no mind to influence, which has no structure of parts, and yet can justly seem to a living, reasoning mind to be beautiful? Though they be works of their creator, and by their own beauty and adornment have a certain low beauty, yet are they in rank lower than your own excellence, and have in no wise deserved your admiration.
'Does the beauty of landscape delight you? '
'Surely, for it is a beautiful part of a beautiful creation: and in like manner we rejoice at times in the appearance of a calm sea, and we admire the sky, the stars, the sun, and the moon.
'Does any one of these,' said she,' concern you? Dare you boast yourself of the splendid beauty of any one of such things? Are you yourself adorned by the flowers of spring? Is it your richness that swells the fruits of autumn? Why are you carried away by empty rejoicing. Why do you embrace as your own the good things which are outside yourself? Fortune will never make yours what Nature has made to belong to other things. The fruits of the earth should doubtless serve as nourishment for living beings, but if you would satisfy your need as fully as Nature needs, you need not the abundance of Fortune. Nature is content with very little, and if you seek to thrust upon her more than is enough, then what you cast in will become either unpleasing or even harmful
'Again, you think that you appear beautiful in many kinds of clothing. But if their form is pleasant to the eyes, I would admire the nature of the material or the skill of the maker. Or are you made happy by a long line of attendants? Surely if they are vicious, they are but . a burden to the house, and full of injury to their master himself; while if they are honest, how can the honesty of others be counted among your possessions?
'Out of all these possessions, then, which you reckon as your wealth, not one can really be shown to be your own. For if they have no beauty for you to acquire, what have they for which you should grieve if you lose them, or in keeping which you should rejoice? And if
Is there then no good which belongs to you and is implanted within you, that you seek your good things elsewhere, in things without you and separate from you? Have things taken such a turn that the animal, whose reason gives it a claim to divinity, cannot seem beautiful to itself except by the possession of. lifeless trappings? Other classes of things are satisfied by their intrinsic possessions; but men, though made like God in understanding, seek to find among the lowest things adornment for their higher nature: and you do not understand that you do a great wrong thereby to your Creator. He intended that the human race should be above all other earthly beings; yet you thrust down your honourable place below the lowest.
For if every good thing is allowed to be more valuable than that to which it belongs, surely you are putting yourselves lower than them in your estimation, since you think precious the most worthless of things; and this is indeed a just result. Since, then, this is the condition of human nature, that it surpasses other classes only when it realises what is in itself; as soon as it ceases to know itself, it must be reduced to a lower rank than the beasts. To other animals ignorance of themselves is natural; in men it is a fault. How plainly and how widely do you err by thinking that anything can be adorned by ornaments that belong to others! Surely that cannot be. For if anything becomes brilliant by additions thereto, the praise for the brilliance belongs to the additions. But the subject remains in its own vileness, though hidden and covered by these externals.
'Again, I say that naught can be a good thing which does harm to its possessor. Am I wrong? "No," you will say. Yet many a time do riches harm their possessors, since all base men, who are therefore the most covetous, think that they themselves alone are worthy to possess all gold and precious stones. You therefore, who now go in fear of the cudgel and sword of the robber, could laugh in his face if you had entered upon this path with empty pockets. l How wonderful is the
43:1 -- This is an application of Juvenal's lines (Sat. x. 19)which contrast the terror of the money-laden traveller
'O happy was that early age of men, contented with their trusted and unfailing fields, nor ruined by the wealth that enervates. Easily was the acorn got that used to satisfy their longwhile fast. They knew not Bacchus' gifts, nor honey mixed therewith. They knew not how to tinge with Tyre's purple dyes the sheen of China's silks. Their sleep kept health on rush and grass; the stream gave them to drink as it flowed by: the lofty pine to them gave shade. Not one of them yet clave the ocean's depths, nor, carrying stores of merchandise, had visited new shores. Then was not heard the battle's trump, nor had blood made red with bitter hate the bristling swords of war. For why should any madness urge to take up first their arms upon an enemy such ones as knew no sight of cruel wounds nor knew rewards that could be reaped in blood? Would that our times could but return to those old ways! but love of gain and greed of holding burn more fiercely far than Ætna's fires. Ah! who was the wretch who first unearthed the mass of hidden gold, the gems that only longed to lie unfound? For full of danger was the prize he found.
'What am I to say of power and of the with the careless happiness of the man who meets highwayman with no purse and empty pockets.
'But what is the power which you seek and esteem so highly? O creatures of the earth, can you not think over whom you are set? If you saw in a community of mice, one mouse asserting his rights and his power over the others, with what mirth you would greet the sight! Yet if you consider the body, what can you find weaker than humanity? Cannot a tiny gnat by its bite, or by creeping into the inmost parts, kill that body? How can any exercise right upon any other except upon the body alone, or that which is below the body, whereby I mean the fortunes? Can you ever impose any law upon a free spirit? Can you eyer disturb the peculiar restfulness which is the property of a mind that hangs together
'Further, if there were any intrinsic good in
the nature of honours and powers themselves, they could never crowd upon the
basest men. For opposites will not be bound together. Nature refuses to allow
contraries to be linked to each other. Wherefore, while it is un-doubted that
for the most part offices of honour are enjoyed by bad men, it is also manifest
that those things are not by nature good, which
46:1 -- This story is told of Anaxagoras and Nicocreon, king of Cyprus, c. B.C. 323.
46:2 -- Regulus was the Roman general in Sicily in the first Punic War, taken prisoner in 255 B.C., and put to death in 250.
'We have heard what ruin Nero wrought when Rome was burnt and senators were slain. We know how savagely he did to death his brother,l how he was stained by the spilling of his own mother's blood, and how he looked upon her cold body and yet no tear fell upon his cheek: yet could this man be judge of the morals that were dead. Nay, he was ruler of the peoples whom the sun looks upon from the time he rises in the east until he hides his rays beneath the waves, and those whom the chilling northern Wain o'errules, and those whom the southern gale burns with its dry blast, as it heats the burning sands. Say, could great power chasten Nero's maddened rage? Ah! heavy fate, how often is the sword of high injustice given where is already most poisonous cruelty!'
Then I said,' You know that the vain-glory of this world has had but little influence over me; but I have desired the means of so managing affairs that virtue might not grow aged in silence.'
'Yes,' said she,' but there is one thing which
can attract minds, which, though by nature excelling, yet are not led by
perfection to the furthest bounds of virtue; and that thing is the love of fame
and reputation for deserving well of one's country. Think then thus upon it, and
see that it is but a slight
48:1 -- Britannicus, son of Nero's father, the Emperor Claudius, put to death A.D. 55.
Further, the manners and customs of different races are so little in agreement, that what is make his name known, because he takes pleasure in a glorious fame. So each man shall be content if his fame travels throughout his own countrymen, and the immortality of his name shall be bounded by the limits of one nation. But how many men, the most famous of their times, are wiped out by oblivion because no man has written of them! 1 And yet what advantage is there in much that is written? For with their authors these writings are overwhelmed in the length and dimness of age. Yet when you think upon your fame in future ages, you seem to think that you are prolonging it to immortality. But if you think upon the unending length of eternity, what enjoyment do you find in the long endurance of Boethius is thinking of Horace, Odes iv. 9. Ere Agamemnon saw the light, There lived brave men: but tearless all Enfolded in eternal night, For lack of sacred minstrels, fall. (Mr.. Gladstone's translation.)
'The mind that rushes headlong in its search for fame, thinking that is its highest good, should look upon the spreading regions of the air, and then upon the bounded tracts that are this world: then will shame enter it; that, though fame grow, yet can it never fill so small a circle. Proud men! why will ye try in vain to free your necks from the yoke mortality has set thereon? Though fame may be wide scattered and find its way through distant lands, and set the tongues there talking; though a splendid house may draw brilliance from famous names and tales; yet death regards not any glory, howsoever great. Alike he overwhelms the lowly and the lofty head, and levels high with low.
'Where are Fabricius's1
bones, that honourable man? What now is Brutus?2
52:1 -- Fabricius -- was the Roman general whom Pyrrhus could neither bribe nor intimidate, B.C. 280.
52:2 -- L. Junius Brutus, who led the Romans to expel the last of the kings, and was elected the first consul, B.C. 509.
'But,' she said,' do not think that I would
urge implacable war upon Fortune. There are times when her deception of men has
certain merits: I mean when she discovers herself, unveils her face, and
proclaims her ways. Perhaps you do not yet understand what I would say. It is a
strange thing that I am trying to say, and for that reason I can scarcely
explain myself in words. I think that ill fortune is of greater advantage to men
than good fortune. Good fortune is ever lying when she seems to favour by an
appearance of happiness. Ill fortune is ever true when by her changes she shews
herself inconstant. The one deceives; the other edifies. The one by a deceitful
appearance of good things enchains the
53:1 -- Probably Cato Major, the great censor, B.C. 184, the rigid champion of the stern old Roman morals; or possibly Cato Minor, who committed suicide at Utica after the battle of Thapsus, B.C. 46, because he considered that Cæsar's victory was fatal to the Republic and the liberty of Rome.
'And do you think that this should be reckoned among the least benefits of this rough, unkind, and terrible ill fortune, that she has discovered to you the minds of your faithful friends? Fortune has distinguished for you your sure and your doubtful friends; her departure has taken away her friends and left you yours. At what price could you have bought this benefit if you had been untouched and, as you thought, fortunate? Cease then to seek the wealth you have lost. You have found your friends, and they are the most precious of all riches.
the universe with constancy makes changes all without discord: earth's elements,
though contrary, abide in treaty bound: Phoebus in his golden car leads up the
glowing day; his sister rules the night that
54:1 -- Boethius in this passage is probably thinking of Empedocles's doctrine of Love which unites, and Strife which divides, the two primal forces in the universe.
Hesperus brought: the greedy sea confines its waves in bounds, lest the earth's borders be changed by its beating on them: all these are firmly bound by Love, which rules both earth and sea, and has its empire in the heavens too. If Love should slacken this its hold, all mutual love would change to war; and these would strive to undo the scheme which now their glorious movements carry out with trust and with accord. By Love are peoples too kept bound together by a treaty which they may not break. Love binds with pure affection the sacred tie of wedlock, and speaks its bidding to all trusty friends. O happy race of mortals, if your hearts are ruled as is the universe, by Love!1'
When she finished her lay, its soothing tones left me spellbound with my ears alert in my eagerness to listen. So a while afterwards I said, 'Greatest comforter of weary minds, how have you cheered me with your deep thoughts and sweet singing too! No more shall I doubt my power to meet the blows of Fortune. So far am I from terror at the remedies which you did lately tell me were sharper, that I am longing to hear them, and eagerly I beg you for them.'
Then said she,' I knew it when you laid hold upon my words in silent attention, and I was waiting for that frame of mind in you, or more truly, I brought it about in you. They that remain are indeed bitter to the tongue, but sweet to the inner man. But as you say you are eager to hear, how ardently you would be burning, if you knew whither I am attempting to lead you! '
Whither is that? ' I asked.
'To the true happiness, of which your soul too dreams; but your sight is taken up in imaginary views thereof, so that you cannot look upon itself.'
Then said I,' I pray you shew me what that truly is, and quickly.'
'I will do so,' she said,' for your sake willingly. But first I will try to picture in words and give you the form of the cause, which is already better known to you, that so, when that picture is perfect and you turn your eyes to the other side, you may recognise the form of true happiness.
'When a man would sow in virgin soil, first he clears away the bushes, cuts the brambles and the ferns, that the corn-goddess may go forth laden with her new fruit. The honey, that the bee has toiled to give us, is sweeter when the mouth has tasted bitter things. The stars shine with more pleasing grace when a storm has ceased to roar and pour down rain. After the morning star has dispersed the shades of night, the day in all its beauty drives its rosy chariot forth. So thou hast looked upon false happiness first; now draw thy neck from under her yoke: so shall true happiness now come into thy soul.'
She lowered her eyes for a little while as though searching the innermost recesses of her mind; and then she continued: -- ' The trouble of the many and various aims of mortal men bring them much care, and herein they go forward by different paths but strive to reach one end, which is happiness. And that good is that, to which if any man attain, he
'Some men believe that the highest good is to lack nothing, and so they are at pains to possess abundant riches. Others consider the true good to be that which is most worthy of admiration, and so they strive to attain to places of honour, and to be held by their fellow-citizens in honour thereby. Some determine that the highest good lies in the highest power;and so they either desire to reign themselves, or try to cleave to those who do reign. Others think that renown is the greatest good, and they therefore hasten to make a famous name by the arts of peace or of war. But more than all measure the fruit of good by pleasure and enjoyment, and these think that the happiest man is abandoned to pleasure.
'Further, there are those who confuse the aims and the causes of these good things: as those who desire riches for the sake of power or of pleasure, or those who seek power for the sake of money or celebrity. In these, then, and
'Again, it is plain that the good things of the body must be accounted to those false causes which we have mentioned; for bodily strength and stature seem to make men more able and strong; beauty and swiftness seem to give renown; health seems to give pleasure. By all these happiness alone is plainly desired. For each man holds that to be the highest good, which he seeks before all others. But we have defined the highest good to be happiness. Wherefore what each man desires above all others, he holds to be a state of happiness.
'Wherefore you have each of these placed before
you as the form of human happiness: wealth, honours, power, glory, and pleasure.
considered these forms alone, and accordingly determined upon pleasure as the
highest good, because all the others seemed but
59:1 -- Epicurus (B.C. 342-270) was the famous founder of the Epicurean school of philosophy. His school had a large following of Romans under the Empire. His own teaching was of a higher nature than might be supposed from this bare statement that he thought 'pleasure was the highest good.'
'But to return to the aims of men: their minds seem to seek to regain the highest good, and their memories seem to dull their powers. It is as though a drunken man were seeking his home, but could not remember the way thither. Can those people be altogether wrong whose aim it is to lack nothing? No, there is nothing which can make happiness so perfect as an abundant possession of good things, needing naught that belongs to others, but in all ways sufficing for itself. Surely those others too are not mistaken who think that what is best is also most worthy of reverence and respect. It cannot be any cheap or base thing, to attain which almost all men aim and strive. And is power not to be accounted a good thing? Surely it is: can that be a weak thing or forceless, which is allowed in all cases to excel? Is renown of no value ? We cannot surrender this; that whatever is most excellent, has also great renown. It is hardly worth saying that happiness has no torturing cares or gloom, and is not subject to grief and trouble; for even in small things, the aim is to find that which it is a delight to have and to enjoy. These, then, are the desires of men: they long for riches, places of honour, kingdoms, glory, and pleasure; and they long for them because they think that thereby they will find satisfaction, veneration, power, renown, and happiness. It is the good then which men seek by their different desires;
and it is easy to shew how great a force nature has put therein, since in spite of such varying and discordant opinions, they are all agreed in the goal they seek, that of the highest good.
'I would to pliant strings set forth a song of how almighty Nature turns her guiding reins, telling with what laws her providence keeps safe this boundless universe, binding and tying each and all with cords that never shall be loosed. The lions of Carthage, though they bear the gorgeous bonds and trappings of captivity, and eat the food that is given them by hand, and though they fear their harsh master with his lash they know so well; yet if once blood has touched their bristling jaws, their old, their latent wills return; with deep roaring they remember their old selves; they loose their bands and free their necks, and their tamer is the first torn by their cruel teeth, and his blood is poured out by their rage and wrath.
'If the bird who sings so lustily upon the high tree-top, be caught and caged, men may minister to him with dainty care, may give him cups of liquid honey and feed him with all gentleness on plenteous food; yet if he fly to the roof of his cage and see the shady trees he loves, he spurns with his foot the food they have put before him; the woods are all his sorrow calls for, for the woods he sings with his sweet tones.
'The bough which has been downward thrust by force of strength to bend its top to
'Phoebus sinks into the western waves, but by his unknown track he turns his car once more to his rising in the east.
'All things must find their own peculiar course again, and each rejoices in his own return. Not one can keep the order handed down to it, unless in some way it unites its rising to its end, and so makes firm, immutable, its own encircling course.
'And you too, creatures of the earth, do dream of your first state, though with a dim idea. With whatsoever thinking it may be, you look to that goal of happiness, though never so obscure your thoughts: thither, to true happiness, your natural course does guide you, and from the same your various errors lead you. For I would have you consider whether men can reach the end they have resolved upon, namely happiness, by these ways by which they think to attain thereto. If money and places of honour and such-like do bring anything of that sort to a man who seems to lack no good thing, then let us acknowledge with them that men do become happy by the possession of these things. But if they cannot perform their promises, and there is still lack of further good things, surely it is plain that a false appearance of happiness is there discovered. You, therefore, who had lately abundant riches, shall first answer me. With all that great wealth, was your mind never
'Yes,' I said; ' I cannot remember that my mind was ever free from some such care.'
Was it not because something was lacking, which you missed, or because something was present to you which you did not like to have? '
'Yes,' I answered.
'You desired, then, the presence of the one, and the absence of the other? '
'I acknowledge it.'
'Then,' said she,' such a man lacks what he desires.'
'But while a man lacks anything, can he possibly satisfy himself? '
'No,' said I.
'Then, while you were bountifully supplied with wealth, you felt that you did not satisfy yourself? '
'I did indeed.'
'Then,' said she,' wealth cannot prevent a man from lacking or make him satisfied. And this is what it apparently professed to do. And this point too I feel is most important: money has in itself, by its own nature, nothing which can prevent its being carried off from those, who possess it, against their will.'
'It has not,' I said.
'No, you cannot deny that any stronger man may any day snatch it from them. For how come about the quarrels of the law-courts ? Is it not because people try to regain money that
'Then,' said she,' a man will need to seek from the outside help to guard his own money.'
'That cannot be denied,' I said.
'And a man will not need that unless he possesses money which he can lose.'
'Undoubtedly he will not.'
'Then the argument turns round the other way,' she said.' The riches which were thought to make a man all-sufficient for himself, do really put him in need of other people's help. Then how can need be separated from wealth? Do the rich never feel hunger nor thirst? Do the limbs of moneyed men never feel the cold of winter? You will say, " Yes, but the rich have the wherewithal to satisfy hunger and thirst, and drive away cold." But though riches may thus console wants, they cannot entirely take them away. For, though these ever crying wants, these continual requests, are satisfied, yet there must exist that which is to be satisfied. I need not say that nature is satisfied with little, greed is never satisfied. Wherefore, I ask you, if wealth cannot remove want, and even creates its own wants, what reason is there that you should think it affords satisfaction to a man?
' Though the rich man with greed heap up from ever-flowing streams the wealth that cannot satisfy, though he deck himself with pearls from the Red Sea's shore, and plough
'But,' I urged,' places of honour make the man, to whom they fall, honoured and venerated.'
'Ah! ' she answered,' have those offices their
force in truth that they may instil virtues into the minds of those that hold
them, and drive out vices therefrom? And yet we are too well accustomed to see
them making wickedness conspicuous rather than avoiding it. Wherefore we are
displeased to see such places often falling to the most wicked of men, so that
Catullus called Nonius "a diseased growth,"1
though he sat in the highest chair of office. Do you see how great a disgrace
high honours can add to evil men? Their unworthiness is less conspicuous if they
are not made famous by honours. Could you yourself have been induced by any
dangers to think of being a colleague with Decoratus, 2
when you saw that he had the mind of an unscrupulous buffoon, and a base
informer? We cannot consider men worthy of veneration on account of their high
places, when we hold them to be unworthy of those
65:1 -- Probably Boethius makes a mistake in his interpretation of Catullus (Carm. 52), as Nonius's surname was very likely ' Struma ' (which also means a wen); in which case Catullus cannot at most have intended more to be understood than a play upon the man's true name.
65:2 -- Decoratus was a minion of Theodoric.
'Now I would have you consider the matter thus, that you may recognise that true veneration cannot be won through these shadowy honours. If a man who had filled the office of consul many times in Rome, came by chance into a country of barbarians, would his high position make him venerated by the barbarians? Yet if this were a natural quality in such dignities, they would never lose their effective function in any land, just as fire is never aught but hot in all countries. But since they do not receive this quality of veneration from any force peculiar to themselves, but only from a connexion in the untrustworthy opinions of men, they become as nothing as soon as they are among those who do not consider these dignities as such.
'But that is only in the case of foreign peoples. Among the very peoples where they had their beginnings, do these dignities last for ever? Consider how great was the power in Rome of old of the office of Præfect: now it is an empty name and a heavy burden upon the income of any man of Senator's rank.'The præfect then, who was commissioner of the corn-market, was held to be a great man. Now there is no office more despised. For, as I said before, that which has no intrinsic beauty, sometimes receives a certain glory, sometimes loses it, according to the opinion of those who are concerned with it. If then high offices cannot make men venerated, if furthermore they grow vile by the infection of bad men, if changes of time can end their glory, and, lastly, if they are held cheaply in the estimation of whole peoples, I ask you, so far from affording true beauty to men, what beauty have they in themselves which men can desire?
'Though Nero decked himself proudly with purple of Tyre and snow-white gems, none the less that man of rage and luxury lived ever hated of all. Yet would that evil man at times give his dishonoured offices to men who were revered. Who then could count men blessed, who to such a villain owed their high estate?
'Can kingdoms and intimacies with kings make people powerful? " Certainly," some The may answer, " in so far as their happiness is lasting." But antiquity and our times too are
'Yet these all would willingly live without fear, but they cannot, and yet they boast of their power. Think you a man is powerful when you see that he longs for that which he cannot bring to pass? Do you reckon a man powerful who walks abroad with dignity and attended by servants? A man who strikes fear into his subjects, yet fears them more himself? Damocles, what it was to be a tyrant, by setting him in his own seat at a sumptuous banquet,' but hung a sword above him by a hair.
'Need I speak of intimacies with kings when kingship itself is shewn to be full of weakness? Not only when kings' powers fall are their friends laid low, but often even when their powers are intact. Nero compelled his friend and tutor, Seneca,l to choose how he would die. Papinianus,2 for a long while a powerful courtier, was handed over to the soldiers' swords by the Emperor Antoninus. Yet each of these was willing to surrender all his power. Seneca even tried to give up all his wealth to Nero, and to seek retirement. But the very weight of their wealth and power dragged them down to ruin, and neither could do what he wished.
'What then is that power, whose possessors fear it? in desiring to possess which, you are not safe, and from which you cannot escape, even though you try to lay it down? What help are friends, made not by virtue but by fortune? The friend gained by good fortune becomes an enemy in ill-fortune. And what plague can more effectually injure than an intimate enemy?
'The man who would true power gain, must needs subdue his own wild thoughts: never
69:1 -- Seneca, the philosopher and wise counsellor of Nero, was by him compelled to commit suicide, A.D. 65.
69:2 -- Papinianus, the greatest lawyer of his time, was put to death by the Emperor Antoninus Caracalla, A.D. 212.
'How deceitful is fame often, and how base a thing it is! Justly did the tragic poet cry out,1 "O Fame, Fame, how many lives of men Of naught hast thou puffed up! " For many men have got a great name from the false opinions of the crowd.-And what could be baser than such a thing? For those who are falsely praised, must blush to hear their praises. And if they are justly won by merits, what can they add to the pleasure of a wise man's conscience? For he measures his happiness not by popular talk, but by the truth of his conscience. If it attracts a man to make his name widely known, he must equally think it a shame if it be not made known. But I have already said that there must be yet more lands into which the renown of a single man can never come; wherefore it follows that the man, whom you think famous, will seem to have no such fame in the next quarter of the earth.
'Popular favour seems to me to be unworthy even
of mention under this head, for it comes not by any judgment, and is never
70:1 -- Euriped, Andromache,.319-320.
'Again, who can but see how empty a name, and how futile, is noble birth? For if its glory is due to renown, it belongs not to the man. For the glory of noble birth seems to be praise for the merits of a man's forefathers. But if praise creates the renown, it is the renowned who are praised. Wherefore, if you have no renown of your own, that of others cannot glorify you. But if there is any good in noble birth, I conceive it to be this, and this alone, that the highborn seem to be bound in honour not to show any degeneracy from their fathers' virtue.
'From like beginning rise all men on earth, for there is one Father of all things; one is the guide of everything. 'Tis He who gave the sun his rays, and horns unto the moon. 'Tis He who set mankind on earth, and in the heavens the stars. He put within our bodies spirits which were born in heaven. And thus a highborn race has He set forth in man. Why do ye men rail on your forefathers? If ye look to your beginning and your author, which is God, is any man degenerate or base but he who by his own vices cherishes base things and leaves that beginning which was his?
'And now what am I to say of the pleasures of the body? The desires of the flesh are full of cares, their fulfilment is full of remorse. What terrible diseases, what unbearable griefs,
'All pleasures have this way: those who enjoy them they drive on with stings. Pleasure, like the winged bee, scatters its honey sweet, then flies away, and with a clinging sting it strikes the hearts it touches.
'There is then no doubt that these roads to
happiness are no roads, and they cannot lead any man to any end whither they
profess to take him. I would shew you shortly with
72:1 -- Referring to lines in the Andromache (419-420), where Euripides says: 'The man who complains that he has no children suffers less than he who has them, and is blest in his misfortune.'
'Ah! how wretched are they whom ignorance leads
astray by her crooked path! Ye seek not gold upon green trees, nor gather
precious stones from vines, nor set your nets on mountain tops to catch the
fishes for your feast, nor hunt the Umbrian sea in search of goats. Man knows
the depths of the sea themselves, hidden though they be beneath its waves; he
knows which water best yields him pearls, and which the scarlet dye. But in
their blindness men are content, and know not where lies hid the good which they
desire. They sink in earthly things, and there they seek that which has soared
74:1 -- Alcibiades was the most handsome and brilliantly fascinating of all the public men of Athens in her most brilliant period.
74:2 -- Compare Philosophy's first words about the highest good, p. 58.
'So far,' she continued,' we have been content to set forth the form of false happiness. If you clearly understand that, my next duty is to shew what is true happiness.'
'I do see,' said I,' that wealth cannot satisfy, that power comes not to kingdoms, nor veneration to high offices; that true renown cannot accompany ambition, nor true enjoyment wait upon the pleasures of the body.'
'Have you grasped the reasons why it is so? ' she asked.
'I seem to look at them as through a narrow chink, but I would learn more clearly from you.'
'The reason is to hand,' said she; 'human error takes that which is simple and by nature impossible to divide, tries to divide it, and turns its truth and perfection into falsity and imperfection. Tell me, do you think that anything which lacks nothing, can be without power? '
'Of course not.'
'You are right; for if anything has any weakness in any part, it must lack the help of something else.'
'That is so,' I said.
'Then perfect satisfaction and power have the same nature? '
'Yes, it seems so.'
'And do you think such a thing contemptible, or the opposite, worthy of all veneration? '
'There can be no doubt that it is worthy.'
'Then let us add veneration to that satisfaction and power, and so consider these three as one.'
'Yes, we must add it if we wish to proclaim the truth.'
'Do you then think that this whole is dull and of no reputation, or renowned with all glory? For consider it thus: we have granted that it lacks nothing, that it has all power and is worthy of all veneration; it must not therefore lack the glory which it cannot supply for itself, and thereby seem to be in any direction contemptible.'
'No,' I said,' I must allow that it has glory too.'
'Therefore we must rank this glory equally with the other three.'
'Yes, we must.'
'Then that which lacks nothing from outside itself, which is all-powerful by its own might, which has renown and veneration, must surely be allowed to be most happy too?'
'I cannot imagine from what quarter unhappiness would creep into such a thing, wherefore we must grant that it is full of happiness if the other qualities remain existent.'
'Then it follows further, that though perfect
'This then,' said she,' is a simple, single thing by nature, only divided by the mistakes of base humanity; and while men try to gain a part of that which has no parts, they fail both to obtain a fraction, which cannot exist, and the whole too after which they do not strive.'
'Tell me how they fail thus,' I said.
'One seeks riches by fleeing from poverty, and takes no thought of power,' she answered, 'and so he prefers to be base and unknown, and even deprives himself of natural pleasures lest he should part with the riches which he has gathered. Thus not even that satisfaction reaches the man who loses all power, who is stabbed by sorrow, lowered by his meanness, hidden by his lack of fame. Another seeks power only: he scatters his wealth, he despises pleasures and honours which have no power, and sets no value upon glory. You see how many things such an one lacks. Sometimes he goes without necessaries even, sometimes he feels the bite and torture of care; and as he cannot rid himself of these, he loses the power too which he sought above all things. The same argument may be applied to offices, glory, and pleasure. For since each one of these is the same as each other, any man who seeks one without the others, gains not even that one which he desires.'
'What then? ' I asked.
'If any man desires to obtain all together, he will be seeking the sum of happiness. But will he ever find that in these things which we have shewn cannot supply what they promise?' 'No.
'Then happiness is not to be sought for among these things which are separately believed to supply each thing so sought.'
'Nothing could be more plainly true,' I said.
'Then you have before you the form of false happiness, and its causes; now turn your attention in the opposite direction, and you will quickly see the true happiness which I have promised to shew you.'
'But surely this is clear even to the blindest, and you shewed it before when you were trying to make clear the causes of false happiness. For if I mistake not, true and perfect happiness is that which makes a man truly satisfied, powerful, venerated, renowned, and happy. And (for I would have you see that I have looked deeply into the matter) I realise without doubt that that which can truly yield any one of these, since they are all one, is perfect happiness.
'Ah! my son,' said she,' I do see that you are blessed in this opinion, but I would have you add one thing.'
'What is that? ' I asked.
'Do you think that there is anything among mortals, and in our perishable lives, which could yield such a state? '
'I do not think that there is, and I think that you have shewn this beyond the need of further proof.'
'These then seem to yield to mortals certain appearances of the true good, or some such imperfections; but they cannot give true and perfect good.'
'Since, then, you have seen what is true happiness, and what are the false imitations thereof, it now remains that you should learn whence this true happiness may be sought.'
'For that,' said I,' I have been impatiently waiting.'
'But divine help must be sought in small things as well as great (as my pupil Plato says in his Timoeus)1; so what, think you, must we do to deserve to find the place of that highest good? '
'Call,' I said,' upon the Father of all, for if we do not do so, no undertaking would be rightly or duly begun.'
'You are right,' said she; and thus she cried aloud: -- 2
'Thou who dost rule the universe with
79:1 -- Plato, Timoeus, 27 C. (ch. v.) -- ' All those who have even the least share of moderation, on undertaking any enterprise, small or great, always call upon God at the beginning.
79:2 -- This hymn is replete with the highest development of Plato's theory of ideas, as expressed in the Timoeus, and his theory of the ideal good being the moving spirit of the material world. Compare also the speculative portion of Virgil, Æneid, vi.
'Grant then, O Father, that this mind of ours may rise to Thy throne of majesty; grant us to reach that fount of good. Grant that we may so find light that we may set on Thee unblinded eyes; cast Thou therefrom the heavy clouds of this material world. Shine forth upon us in Thine own true glory. Thou art the bright and peaceful rest of all Thy children that worship Thee. To see Thee clearly is the limit of our aim. Thou art our beginning, our progress, our guide, our way, our end.
'Since then you have seen the form both of the imperfect and the perfect good, I think I should now shew you where lies this perfection of happiness. In this I think our first inquiry must be whether any good of this kind can exist in the very nature of a subject; for we must not let any vain form of thought make us miss the truth of this matter. But there can be no denial of its existence, that it is as the very source of all good. For if anything is said to be imperfect, it is held to be so by some loss of its perfection. Wherefore if in any kind of thing a particular seems imperfect, there must also be a perfect specimen in the same kind. For if you take away the perfection,
'Yes,' said I,' that is quite surely proved to be true.'
'Now consider,' she continued,' where it lies.
The universally accepted notion of men proves that God, the fountain-head of all
things, is good. For nothing can be thought of better than God, and surely He,
than whom there is nothing better, must without doubt be good. Now reason shews
us that God is so good, that we are convinced that in Him lies also the perfect
good. For if it is not so, He cannot be the fountain-head; for there must then
be something more excellent, possessing that perfect good, which appears to be
of older origin than God: for it has been proved that all perfections are of
earlier origin than the imperfect specimens of the same: wherefore, unless we
are to prolong the series to infinity, we must allow that the highest Deity must
be full of the highest, the perfect good. But as we have laid down that true
happiness is perfect
82:1 -- This reasoning hangs upon Plato's theory of ideas and so is the opposite of the theory of evolution.
'Yes, I accept that; it cannot be in any way contradicted.'
'But,' she said,' I beg you, be sure that you accept with a sure conscience and determination this fact, that we have said that the highest Deity is filled with the highest good.'
'How should I think of it? ' I asked.
'You must not think of God, the Father of all, whom we hold to be filled with the highest good, as having received this good into Himself from without, nor that He has it by nature in such a manner that you might consider Him, its possessor, and the happiness possessed, as having different essential existences. For if you think that good has been received from without, that which gave it must be more excellent than that which received it; but we have most rightly stated that He is the most excellent of all things. And if you think that it is in Him by His nature, but different in kind, then, while we speak of God as the fountain-head of all things, who could imagine by whom these different kinds can have been united? Lastly, that which is different from anything cannot be the thing from which it differs. So anything which is by its nature different from the highest good, cannot be the highest good. And this we must not think of God, than whom there is nothing more excellent, as we have agreed. Nothing in this world can have a nature which is better than
'Most truly,' I said.
'You agree that the highest good is happiness? '
'Then you must allow that God is absolute happiness?
'I cannot deny what you put forward before, and I see that this follows necessarily from those propositions.'
'Look then,' she said,' whether it is proved more strongly by this too: there cannot be two highest goods which are different. For where two good things are different, the one cannot be the other; wherefore neither can be the perfect good, while each is lacking to the other. And that which is not perfect cannot be the highest, plainly. Therefore if two things are highest good, they cannot be different. Further, we have proved to ourselves that both happiness and God are each the highest good. Therefore the highest Deity must be identical with the highest happiness.'
'No conclusion,' I said,' could be truer in fact, or more surely proved by reason, or more worthy of our God.'
'Besides this let me give you corollary, as geometricians do, when they wish to add a point drawn from the propositions they have proved. Since men become happy by
'This corollary,' I said,' or whatever you call it, is indeed beautiful and very precious.'
'Yes, but nothing can be more beautiful than this too which reason would have us add to what we have agreed upon.'
'What is that? ' I asked.
'Happiness seems to include many things: do all these join it together as into a whole which is happiness, as though each thing were a different part thereof, or is any one of them a good which fulfils the essence of happiness, and do the others merely bear relations to this one .? '
'I would have you make this plain by the enunciation of these particulars.'
'Do we not,' she asked,' hold that happiness is a good thing? '
'Yes,' I answered,' the highest good.'
'But you may apply this quality of happiness to them all. For the perfect satisfaction is the same, and the highest power, and veneration, and renown, and pleasure; these are all held to be happiness.
'What then? ' I asked.
'Are all these things, satisfaction, power, and the others, as it were, members of the body, happiness, or do they all bear their relation to the good, as members to a head? '
'I understand what you propose to examine, but I am waiting eagerly to hear what you will lay down.'
'I would have you take the following explanation,' she said.' If these were all members of the one body, happiness, they would differ individually. For this is the nature of particulars, to make up one body of different parts. But all these have been shewn to be one and the same. Therefore they are not as members; and further, this happiness will then appear to be joined together into a whole body out of one member, which is impossible.'
'That is quite certain,' said I,' but I would hear what is to come.'
'It is plain that the others have some relation to the good. It is for that reason, namely because it is held to be good, that this satisfaction is sought, and power likewise, and the others too; we may suppose the same of veneration, renown, and pleasure. The good then is the cause of the desire for all of these, and their consummation also. Such a thing as has in itself no real or even pretended good, cannot ever be sought. On the other hand, such things as are not by nature good, but seem to be so, are sought as though they were truly good. Wherefore we may justly believe that
'I cannot see how any one can think otherwise.'
'But we have shewn that God and true happiness are one and the same.'
'Therefore,' said she,' we may safely conclude that the essence of God also lies in the absolute good and nowhere else.
'Come hither all who are the prey of passions, bound by their ruthless chains; those deceiving passions which blunt the minds of men. Here shall you find rest from your labours; here a haven lying in tranquil peace; this shall be a resting-place open to receive within itself all the miserable on earth. Not
'I cannot but agree with that,' I said,' for it all stands woven together by the strongest proofs.' Then she said,' At what would you value this, namely if you could find out what is the absolute good? '
'I would reckon it,' I said,' at an infinite value, if I could find out God too, who is the good.'
'And that too I will make plain by most true reasoning, if you will allow to stand the conclusions we have just now arrived at.'
'They shall stand good.'
'Have I not shewn,' she asked,' that those upon
the things which most men seek are for this reason not perfect goods, because
they differ between the highest themselves; they are lacking to one another, and
so cannot afford full, absolute good? But
88:1 -- The modern Sarabat, in Asia Minor, formerly auriferous.
'That has been proved beyond all doubt.'
'Then such things as differ among themselves are not goods, but they become so when they begin to be a single unity. Is it not then the case these become goods by the attainment of unity? '
'Yes,' I said,' it seems so.'
'But I think you allow that every good is good by participation in good? '
'Yes, I do.'
'Then by reason of this likeness both unity and good must be allowed to be the same thing; for such things as have by nature the same operation, have the same essence.'
'Do you realise that everything remains existent so long as it keeps its unity, but perishes in dissolution as soon as it loses its unity? '
'How so? ' I asked.
'In the case of animals,' she said,' so long as mind and body remain united, you have what you call an animal. But as soon as this unity is dissolved by the separation of the two, the animal perishes and can plainly be no longer called an animal. In the case of the body, too,
'Yes, I see the same when I think of other cases.'
'Is there anything,' she then asked,' which, in so far as it acts by nature, ever loses its desire for self-preservation, and would voluntarily seek to come to death and corruption? '
'No,' I said; ' while I think of animals which have volition in their nature, I can find in them no desire to throw away their determination to remain as they are, or to hasten to perish of their own accord, so long as there are no external forces compelling them thereto. Every animal labours for its preservation, shunning death and extinction. But about trees and plants, I have great doubts as to what I should agree to in their case, and in all inanimate objects.'
'But in this case too,' she said,' you have no reason to be in doubt, when you see how trees and plants grow in places which suit them, and where, so far as nature is able to prevent it, they cannot quickly wither and perish. For some grow in plains, others on mountains; some are nourished by marshes,
'We are not now discussing the voluntary movements of a reasoning mind, but the natural instinct. For instance, we unwittingly digest the food we have eaten, and unconsciously breathe in sleep. Not even in animals does this love of self-preservation come from mental wishes, but from elementary nature. For often the will, under stress of external causes, embraces the idea of death, from which nature revolts in horror.1 And, on the other hand, the will sometimes restrains what nature always desires, namely the operation of begetting, by which alone the continuance of mortal things becomes enduring. Thus far, then, this love of self-preservation arises not from the reasoning animal s intention, but from natural instinct. Providence has given to its creatures this the greatest cause of permanent existence, the instinctive desire to remain existent so far as possible. Wherefore you have no reason to doubt that all things, which exist, seek a permanent existence by nature, and similarly avoid extinction.'
'Yes,' I said,' I confess that I see now beyond all doubt what appeared to me just now uncertain.'
'But,' she continued,' that which seeks to
continue its existence, aims at unity; for take
92:1 -- Boethius is possibly thinking here of passages in Plato's Republic, Bk. iv. (439-441) where Socrates points out the frequent opposition of reason and instinct.
'That is true.'
'Then all things desire unity,' she said, and I agreed.
'But we have shewn unity to be identical with the good? '
'Yes,' said I.
'Then all things desire the good; and that you may define as being the absolute good which is desired by all.'
'Nothing could be more truthfully reasoned. For either everything is brought back to nothing, and all will flow on at random with no guiding head; or if there is any universal aim, it will be the sum of all good.'
'Great is my rejoicing, my son,' said she, 'for you have set firmly in your mind the mark of the central truth. And hereby is made plain to you that which you a short time ago said that you knew not.'
'What was that? '
'What was the final aim of all things,' she said,' for that is plainly what is desired by all: since we have agreed that that is the good, we must confess that the good is the end of all things.
'If any man makes search for truth with all his penetration, and would be led astray by no deceiving paths, let him turn upon himself the light of an inward gaze, let him bend by force the long-drawn wanderings of his thoughts into
'If,' said she,' you look back upon what we that have agreed upon earlier, you will also soon recall what you just now said you knew not.'
'What is that? ' I asked.
94:1 -- Plato's doctrine of remembrance is chiefly treated of in his Phædo and Meno.
'The guidance by which the universe is directed.'
'Yes, I remember confessing my ignorance, and though I think I foresee the answer you will offer, I am eager to hear you explain it more fully.'
'This world,' she said,' you thought a little while ago must without doubt be guided by God.'
'And I think so now,' I said,' and will never think there is any doubt thereof; and I will shortly explain by what reasoning I arrive at that point. This universe would never have been suitably put together into one form from such various and opposite parts, unless there were some One who joined such different parts together; and when joined, the very variety of their natures, so discordant among themselves, would break their harmony and tear them asunder unless the One held together what it wove into one whole. Such a fixed order of nature could not continue its course, could not develop motions taking such various directions in place, time, operation, space, and attributes, unless there were One who, being immutable, had the disposal of these various changes. And this cause of their remaining fixed and their moving, I call God, according to the name familiar to all.'
Then said she,' Since these are your feelings, I think there is but little trouble left me before you may revisit your home with happiness in your grasp. But let us look into the matter we
'Wherefore He needs no external aid in governing the universe, or, if He had any such need, He would not have this complete sufficiency.'
'That of necessity follows,' I said.
'Then He arranges all things by Himself.' Without doubt He does.'
'And God has been shewn to be the absolute good.'
'Yes, I remember.'
'Then He arranges all things by good, if He arranges them by Himself, whom we have agreed to be the absolute good. And so this is the tiller and rudder by which the ship of the universe is kept sure and unbreakable.'
'I feel that most strongly,' I said; 'and I foresaw that you would say so before, though I had a slight uncertainty.'
'I believe you,' she said,' for now you bring your eyes more watchfully to scan the truth. But what I am going to say is no less plain to the sight.'
'What is that; '
'Since we may reasonably be sure that God steers all things by the helm of goodness, and, as I have shewn you, all things have a natural instinct to hasten towards the good, can there be any doubt that they are guided according to
'That is so,' I said,' and the government would not seem happy if it was a yoke upon discontented necks, and not the salvation of the submissive.'
'Then nothing need oppose God's way for its own nature's preservation.'
'But if it try to oppose Him, will it ever have any success at all against One whom we have justly allowed to be supremely powerful in matters of happiness? '
'Then there is nothing which could have the will or the power to resist the highest good? ' I think not.'
'Then it is the highest good which is guiding with strength and disposing with gentleness? '
Then said I,' How great pleasure these things give me! not only those which have been proved by the strongest arguments, but still more the words in which you prove them, which make me ashamed that my folly has bragged so loudly.'
'You have heard in mythology how the giants attacked heaven. It was this kindly strength which overthrew them too, as was their desert. But would you care to put these
'As you hold best,' I said.
'Nobody would care to doubt that God is all-powerful? '
'At any rate, no sane man would doubt it.'
'Being, then, all-powerful, nothing is beyond His power? '
'Can, then, God do evil? '
'Then evil is nothing, since it is beyond His power, and nothing is beyond His power? '
'Are you playing with me,' I asked,' weaving arguments as a labyrinth out of which I shall find no way? You may enter a labyrinth by the way by which you may come forth: come now forth by the way you have gone in: or are you folding your reason in some wondrous circle of divine simplicity? A little while ago you started from happiness, and said that happiness was the highest good; and you shewed how that rested in the highest Deity. And you reasoned that God too was the highest good, and the fullest happiness; and you allowed, as though granting a slight gift, that none could be happy except such as were similarly divine. Again, you said that the essence of God and of happiness was identical with the very form of good; and that that alone was good which was sought by all nature. And you argued, too, that God guided this universe by the helm of
Then she answered,' I was not mocking you. We have worked out the greatest of all matters by the grace of God, to whom we prayed. For the form of the divine essence is such that it is not diffused without, nor receives aught into itself from without. But as Parmenides says of it, " It is a mass well rounded upon all sides."1 But if you examine it with reasoning, sought for not externally but by lying within the sphere of the very thing we are handling, you will not wonder at what you have learnt on Plato's authority,2 that our language must be akin to the subjects of which we speak.
'Happy the man who could reach the crystal
fount of good: happy he who could shake off
99:1 -- This is a verse from the poems in which Parmenides embodied his philosophy: this was the doctrine of the unity which must have been in Boethius's mind above. Parmenides, the founder of the Eleatic school (495 B.C.) was perhaps, considering his early date, the greatest and most original of Greek philosophers. Boethius probably did not make a clear distinction between the philosopher's own poems and the views expressed in Plato's Parmenides.
99:2 -- Plato in the Timoeus says,' The language must also be akin to the subjects of which its words are the interpreters' -- -(29 B.).
'To you too this tale refers; you, who seek to lead your thoughts to the light above. For whosoever is overcome of desire, and turns his gaze upon the darkness 'neath the earth, he, while he looks on hell, loses the prize he carried off.'
THUS gently sang the Lady Philosophy with dignified mien and grave countenance; and when she ceased, I, who had not thoroughly forgotten the grief within me, interrupted her as she was about to speak further.' Herald of true light,' I said,' right clear have been the outpourings of your speech till now, seeming inspired as one contemplates them, and invincible through your reasonings. And though through grief for the injustices I suffer, I had forgotten them, yet you have not spoken of They what I knew not at all before. But this one thing is the chief cause of my grief, namely that, when there exists a good governor of the world, evils should exist at all, or, existing, should go unpunished. I would have you think how strange is this fact alone. But there is an even stranger attached thereto: ill-doing reigns and flourishes, while virtue not only lacks its reward, but is even trampled underfoot by wicked doers, and pays the penalties instead of crime. Who can wonder and complain enough that such things should happen under the rule of One who, while all-knowing and all-powerful, wills good alone? '
Then she answered: ' Yes, it would be most terrible, monstrous, and infinitely amazing if
'Yea, airy wings are mine to scale the heights
of heaven; when these the mind has donned, swiftly she loathes and spurns this
earth. She soars above the sphere of this vast atmosphere, sees the clouds
behind her far; she passes high above the topmost fires which seethe above the
feverish turmoil of the air,1
until she rises
103:1 -- This and some of the following lines allude to some of the theories of the early Physicists.
'Wondrous,' I cried; 'what vast things do you promise! and I doubt not that you can fulfil them. I only beg that you will not hold me back with delays, now that you have excited me thus far.'
'First, then, you must learn that power is never lacking to the good, while the wicked are devoid of all strength. The proofs of these two statements hang upon each other. For good and bad are opposites, and therefore, if it is allowed that good is powerful, the weakness
'It is allowed that there are two things upon which depend the entire operation of human actions: they are will and power. For if the will be wanting, a man does not even attempt that which he has no desire to perform; if the power be wanting, the will is exercised in vain. Wherefore, if you see a man wish for that which he will in no wise gain, you cannot doubt that he lacks the power to attain that which he wishes.'
'That is plain beyond doubt.'
'And if you see a man gain that which he wishes, can you doubt that he has the power? '
'But wherein a man has power, he is strong; wherein he has not power, he must be counted weak? '
'Do you remember that we agreed from our earlier reasonings, that the instinct of all human will, though acted upon by different aims, does lead with eagerness towards happiness? '
'Yes,' said I,' I remember that that too was proved.'
'Do you remember that happiness is the absolute good, and that the good is desired of all, when in that manner happiness is sought? '
'I need not recall that,' I said,' since it is present fixedly in my memory.'
'Then all men, good and bad alike, seek to arrive at the good by no different instincts? '
'Yes, that follows necessarily.'
'But it is certain that the good become so by the attainment of good? '
'Then the good attain that which they wish? '
'Yes,' said I,' it seems so.'
'But if evil men attain the good they seek, they cannot be evil? '
'Since, then, both classes seek the good, which the good attain, but the evil attain not, it is plain that the good are powerful, while the evil are weak? '
'If any doubt that, he cannot judge by the nature of the world, nor by the sequence of arguments.'
Again she said,' If there are two persons before whom the same object is put by natural instinct, and one person carries his object through, working by his natural functions, but the other cannot put his natural instinct into practice, but using some function unsuitable to nature he can imitate the successful person, but not fulfil his original purpose, in this case, which of the two do you decide to be the more capable? '
'I think I guess what you mean, but I would hear more explicitly.'
'You will not, I think, deny that the motion of walking is a natural one to mankind? '
'No, I will not.'
'And is not that the natural function of the feet? '
'If, then, one man walks, being able to advance upon his feet, while another, who lacks the natural function of feet, uses his hands and so tries to walk, which of these two may justly be held the more capable? '
'Weave me other riddles I ' I exclaimed, ' for can any one doubt that a man who enjoys his natural functions, is more capable than one who is incapable in that respect? '
'But in the case of the highest good,' she said,' it is equally the purpose set before good and bad men; good men seek it by the natural functions of virtue, while bad men seek to attain the same through their cupidity, which is not a natural function for the attainment of good. Think you not so? '
'I do indeed,' said I; ' this is plain, as also is the deduction which follows. For it must be, from what I have already allowed, that the good are powerful, the wicked weak.'
'Your anticipation is right; and as doctors are wont to hope, it shews a lively nature now fit to withstand disease. But I see that you are very ready in understanding, and I will multiply my arguments one upon another. See how great is the weakness of these wicked men who cannot even attain that to which their natural instinct leads them, nay, almost drives them. And further, how if they are deprived of this
'That is quite plain.'
'I would have you understand what is this strength of power. We have a little while ago laid down that nothing is more powerful than the highest good? '
'Yes,' I said.
'But the highest good can do no evil? '
'Is there any one who thinks that men are all-powerful? '
'No one,' I said,' unless he be mad.'
'And yet those same men can do evil.' Would to heaven they could not! ' I cried. ' Then a powerful man is capable only of all
'Kings you may see sitting aloft upon their
thrones, gleaming with purple, hedged about with grim guarding weapons,
110:1 -- From Plato's Gorgias (466). Boethius in this and several other passages in this book has the Gorgias in mind; for Plato there discusses the strength and happiness of good men, and the impotence and unhappiness of bad men. Socrates is also there represented as proving that the unjust man is happier punished than unpunished, as Boethius does below.
'Do you see then in what a slough crimes are involved, and with what glory honesty shines forth? It is plain from this that reward is never lacking to good deeds, nor punishment to crime. We may justly say that the reward of every act which is performed is the object for which it is performed. For instance, on the racecourse the crown for which the runner strives is his reward. But we have shewn that happiness is the identical good for the sake of which all actions are performed. Therefore the absolute good is the reward put before all human actions. But good men cannot be deprived of this. And further, a man who lacks good cannot justly be described as a good man; wherefore we may say that good habits pever miss their rewards. Let the wicked rage never so wildly, the wise man's crown shall never fail nor wither. And the
'Then, from the other point of view of the good, see what a punishment ever goes with the wicked. You have learnt a little while past that all that exists is one, and that the good itself is one; it follows therefrom that all that exists must appear to be good. In this way, therefore, all that falls away from the good, ceases also to exist, wherefore evil men cease to be what they were. The form of their human bodies still proves that they have been men; wherefore they must have lost their human nature when they turned to evil-doing. But as goodness alone can lead men forward beyond their humanity, so evil of necessity will thrust down below the honourable estate of humanity those whom it casts down from their first position. The result is that you cannot hold him to be a man who has been, so to say, transformed by his vices. If a violent man and a robber burns with greed of other men's possessions, you say he is like a wolf. Another fierce man is always working his restless tongue at lawsuits, and you will compare him to a hound. Does another delight to spring upon men from ambushes with hidden guile? He is as a fox. Does one man roar and not restrain
'The east wind wafted the sails which carried on the wandering ships of Ithaca's king to the island where dwelt the fair goddess Circe, the sun's own daughter. There for her new guests she mingled cups bewitched by charms. Her hand, well skilled in use of herbs, changed these guests to different forms. One bears the face of a boar; another grows like to an African lion with fangs and claws; this one becomes as a wolf, and when he thinks to weep, he howls; that one is an Indian tiger, though he walks all harmless round about the dwelling-place. The leader alone, Ulysses, though beset by so many dangers, was saved from the goddess's bane by the pity of the winged god, Mercury. But the sailors had drunk of her cups, and now had turned from food of corn to husks and acorns, food of swine. Naught is left the same, speech and form are gone; only the mind remains
'How weak was that hand, how powerless those magic herbs which could change the limbs but not the heart! Within lies the strength of men, hidden in deep security. Stronger are those dread poisons which can drag a man out of himself, which work their way within: they hurt not the body, but on the mind their rage inflicts a grievous wound.'1
Then I answered: 'I confess that I think it is justly said that vicious men keep only the outward bodily form of their humanity, and, in the attributes of their souls, are changed to beasts. But I would never have allowed them willingly the power to rage in the ruin of good men through their fierce and wicked intentions.'
'They have not that power,' said she,' as I
will shew you at a convenient time. But if this very power, which you believe is
allowed to them, were taken from them, the punishment of vicious men would be to
a great extent lightened. For, though some may scarcely believe it, evil men
must be more unhappy when they carry out their ill desires than when they cannot
fulfil them. For if it is pitiable to have wished bad things, it is more
pitiable to have had the power to perform them, without which power the
performance of this pitiable will would never have effect. Thus, when you
115:1 -- Cf. St. Matthew x. 28.
'Yes,' said I,' I agree; but I do wish from my heart that they may speedily be rid of one of these misfortunes, being deprived of this power of doing evil.'
'They will be rid of it,' she said,' more speedily even than you wish perhaps, and sooner than they think they will be rid thereof. There is in the short course of life naught which is so long coming that an immortal mind can think it has long to wait for it. Many a time are their high hopes and great plans for evil-doing cut short by a sudden and unlooked-for end. This indeed it is that sets a limit to their misery. For if wickedness makes a man miserable, the longer he is wicked, the more miserable must he be; and I should hold them most miserable of all, if not even death at last put an end to their evil-doing. If we have reached true conclusions concerning the unhappiness of depravity, the misery, which is said to be eternal, can have no limit.'
'That is a strange conclusion and hard to accept. But I see that it is suited too well by what we have agreed upon earlier.'
'You are right,' she said; ' but when one finds it hard to agree with a conclusion, one ought in fairness to point out some fault in the argument which has preceded, or shew that
'What is that? ' I asked.
'That wicked men are happier when they pay the penalty for their wickedness than when they receive no penalty at the hands of justice.1 I am not going to urge what may occur to any one, namely, that depraved habits are corrected by penalties, and drawn towards the right by fear of punishment, and that an example is hereby given to others to avoid all that deserves blame. But I think that the wicked who are not punished are in another way the more unhappy, without regard to the corrective quality of punishment, nor its value as an example.'
'And what way is there other than these?'
'We have allowed, have we not,' she said, 'that the good are happy, but the bad are miserable .
'Then if any good be added to the misery of any evil man, is he not happier than the man whose miserable state is purely and simply miserable without any good at all mingled therewith?'
'I suppose so.'
117:1 -- Plato, Gorgias, 472 and ff.
'What if some further evil beyond those by which a man, who lacked all good things, were made miserable, were added to his miseries? Should not he be reckoned far more unhappy than the man whose misfortune was lightened by a share in some good? '
'Of course it is so.'
'Therefore,' she said,' the wicked when punished have something good added to their lot, to wit, their punishment, which is good by reason of its quality of justice; and they also, when unpunished, have something of further evil, their very impunity, which you have allowed to be an evil, by reason of its injustice.'
'I cannot deny that,' said I.
'Then the wicked are far more unhappy when they are unjustly unpunished, than when they are justly punished. It is plain that it is just that the wicked should be punished, and unfair that they should escape punishment.'
'No one will gainsay you.'
'But no one will deny this either, that all which is just is good; and on the other part, all that is unjust is evil.'
Then I said: 'The arguments which we have accepted bring us to that conclusion. But tell me, do you leave no punishment of the soul to follow after the death of the body?'
'Yes,' she answered,' heavy punishments, of
which some, I think, are effected by bitter penalties, others by a cleansing
118:1 -- It must not be supposed from the words ' cleansing mercy ' (purgatoria clementia) that Boethius held the same views as were held by the Church later concerning purgatory, and as are now taught by the Roman Catholic Church. It is true that St. Augustine had in 407 A.D. hinted at the existence of such a state, but it was not dogmatically inculcated till 604, in the Papacy of Gregory the Great.
'When I hear your arguments, I feel sure that they are true as possible. But if I turn to human opinions, I ask what man would not think them not only incredible, but even unthinkable? '
'Yes,' she said,' for men cannot raise to the transparent light of truth their eyes which have been accustomed to darkness. They are like those birds whose sight is clear at night, but blinded by daylight. So long as they look not
'I would hear those strong reasons,' I said.
'You do not deny that every wicked man deserves punishment? '
'It is plain for many reasons that the wicked
are unhappy? '
120:1 Plato, Gorgias, 474 and ff.
'Then you doubt not that those who are worthy of punishment are miserable? '
'No, I agree.'
'If then you were sitting as a judge, upon which would you consider punishment should fall -- the man who did the injury, or the man who suffered it? '
'I have no hesitation in saying that I would make amends to the sufferer at the expense of the doer of the injustice.'
'Then the doer of the injustice would seem to you more miserable than the sufferer? '
'Then from this,' said she,' and other causes which rest upon the same foundation, it is plain that, since baseness makes men more miserable by its own nature, the misery is brought not to the sufferer of an injustice, but to the doer thereof. But the speakers in law-courts take the opposite course: they try to excite the pity of the judges for those who have suffered any heavy or bitter wrong; but more justly their pity would be due to those who have committed the wrong. These guilty men ought to be brought, by accusers kindly rather than angry, to justice, as patients to a doctor, that their disease of crime may be checked by punishment. Under such an arrangement the occupation of advocates for defence would either come to a complete stand-still, or if it seemed more to the advantage of mankind, it might turn to the work of prosecution.
'To what good end do men their passions raise, even to drag from fate their deaths by their own hands? If ye seek death, she is surely nigh of her own will; and her winged horses she will not delay. Serpents and lions, bears, tigers and boars, all seek your lives with their fangs, yet do ye seek them with swords? Is it because your manners are so wide in variance that men raise up unjust battles and savage wars, and seek to perish by each other's darts? Such is no just reason for this cruelty.
Then said I,' I see how happiness and misery
lie inseparably in the deserts of good and bad men. But I am sure that there is
some good and some bad in the general fortune of men. For no wise man even would
wish to be exiled, impoverished, and disgraced rather than full of wealth,
power, veneration, and strength, and flourishing securely in his own city. The
operation of wisdom is shewn in this way more nobly and clearly, when the
happiness of rulers is in a manner transmitted to the people who come into
contact with their rule; and especially when prisons, bonds, and other penalties
of the law become the lot of the evil citizens for whom they were designed. I am
struck with great wonder why these dues are interchanged; why punishments for
crimes fall upon the good, while the bad citizens seize the rewards of virtue;
and I long to learn from you what reason can be put forward for such unjust
confusion. I should wonder less if I could believe that everything was the
confusion of accident and chance. But now the thought of God's guidance
increases my amazement; He often grants happiness to good men and bitterness to
the bad, and then, on the other hand, sends hardships to the good and grants the
desires of the wicked. Can we lay our hands on any cause? If not, what can make
'It is no wonder,' she answered,' if one who knows not the order and reasons of nature, should think it is all at random and confused. But doubt not, though you know not the cause of such a great matter of the world's government, doubt not, I say, that all is rightly done, because a good Governor rules the universe.
'If any man knows not that the star Arcturus1
has his course nearest the topmost pole how shall he not be amazed that Boötes
so slowly takes his wain and is so late to dip his brightness in the ocean, and
yet so swiftly turns to rise again? The law of heaven on high will but bewilder
him. When the full moon grows dim to its horns, darkened by the shadow of dull
night, when Phoebe thus lays bare all the varying bands of the stars, which she
had hidden by the power of her shining face: then are the nations stirred by the
errors of the vulgar, and beat without ceasing brazen cymbals.2No
man is surprised when the blasts of the wind beat a shore with roaring waves,
nor when a solid mass of frozen snow is melted by
124-1 -- Arcturu:, the star in Boötes nearest to the Bear, used to be thought the nearest star to our pole. Boötes was also known as the Arctophylax, or Bearward, and so also as the driver of the Wain.
124:2 -- The old superstition was that an eclipse meant the withdrawal of the moon, and that by a noise of beaten brass, etc., she could be saved.
'That is true,' I said; 'but it is your kind office to unravel the causes of hidden matters, and explain reasons now veiled in darkness; wherefore I beg of you, put forth your decree and expound all to me, since this wonder most deeply stirs my mind.'
Then said she, smiling,' Your question calls me to the greatest of all these matters, and a full answer thereto is well-nigh impossible. For this is its kind: if one doubt be cut away, innumerable others arise, as the Hydra's heads; and there can be no limit unless a man restrains them by the most quick fire of the mind. For herein lie the questions of the directness of Providence, the course of Fate, chances which cannot be foreseen, knowledge, divine predestination, and freedom of judgment. You can judge for yourself the weight of these questions. But since it is a part of your treatment to know some of these, I will attempt to make some advantage therefrom, though we are penned in by our narrow space of time. But
'As you will,' said I. Then, as though beginning afresh, she spake thus:
'The engendering of all things, the whole advance of all changing natures, and every motion and progress in the world, draw their causes, their order, and their forms from the allotment of the unchanging mind of God, which lays manifold restrictions on all action from the calm fortress of its own directness Such restrictions are called Providence when they can be seen to lie in the very simplicity of divine understanding; but they were called Fate in old times when they were viewed with reference to the objects which they moved or arranged. It will easily be understood that these two are very different if the mind examines the force of each. For Providence is the very divine reason which arranges all things, and rests with the supreme disposer of all; while Fate is that ordering which is a part of all changeable things, and by means of which Providence binds all things together in their own order. Providence embraces all things equally, however different they may be, even however infinite: when they are assigned to their own places, forms, and times, Fate sets them in an orderly motion; so that this development of the temporal order, unified in the intelligence of the mind of God, is Providence.
'But you will ask, " What more unjust confusion could exist than that good men should sometimes enjoy prosperity, sometimes suffer adversity, and that the bad too should sometimes receive what they desire, sometimes what they hate? " Are then men possessed of such infallible minds that they, whom they consider honest or dishonest, must necessarily be what they are held to be? No, in these matters human judgment is at variance with itself, and those who are held by some to be worthy of reward, are by others held worthy of punishment. But let us grant that a man could discern between good and bad characters. Can
'But I see that now you are weighed down by the burden of the question, and wearied by the length of our reasoning, and waiting for the gentleness of song. Take then your draught, be refreshed thereby and advance further the stronger.
'If thou wouldst diligently behold with
unsullied mind the laws of the God of thunder upon high, look to the highest
point of heaven above. There, by a fair and equal compact, do the stars keep
their ancient peace. The sun is hurried on by its whirl of fire, but impedes not
the moon's cool orb. The Bear turns its rushing course around the highest pole
of the universe, and dips not in the western depths,
134:1 -- Homer, Iliad, xii. 176.
'Do you see now,' she continued,' what follows upon all that we have said? '
'What is it?' I asked.
'That all fortune is plainly good,' she answered.
'How can that be? ' said I.
'Consider this,' she said: 'all fortune, whether pleasant or difficult, is due to this cause; it is for the sake of rewarding the good or exercising their virtue, and of punishing and correcting bad men: therefore it is plain that all this fortune which is allowed to be just or expedient, must be good.'
'Yes,' I said,' that is a true argument, and when I think of the Providence or Fate about which you have taught me, the conclusion rests upon strong foundations. But if it please you, let us count it among those conclusions which you a little while ago set down as inconceivable.'
'Why?' she asked.
'Because it is a commonplace saying among men -- indeed an especially frequent one -- that some people have bad fortune.'
'Would you then have us approach more nearly the common conversation of men, lest we should seem to withdraw too far from human ways?'
'If you will,' I said.
'Do you not think that that, which is advantageous, is good?'
'And that fortune, which exercises or corrects, is advantageous? '
'I agree,' said I.
'Then it is good, is it not? '
'It must be so.'
'This is the fortune of those who are either firmly set in virtue and struggling against their difficulties, or of those who would leave their vices and take the path of virtue? '
'That is true,' I said.
'But what of that pleasant fortune which is granted as a reward to good men? Do most people perceive that it is bad? No; but, as is true, they esteem it the best. And what of the last kind of fortune, which is hard and which restrains bad men by just punishment? Is that commonly held to be good? '
'No,' said I,' it is held to be the most miserable of all that can be imagined.'
'Beware lest in following the common conception, we come to some truly inconceivable conclusion.'
'What do you mean? '
'From what we have allowed,' she said,' it results that the fortune of those who are in possession of virtue, or are gaining it, or advancing therein, is entirely good, whatever it be, while for those who remain in wickedness, their fortune is the worst.'
'That is true, but who would dare confess it? '
'For this reason a wise man should never complain, whenever he is brought into strife with fortune; just as a brave man cannot properly be disgusted whenever the noise of battle is heard, since for both of them their very difficulty is their opportunity, for the brave man of increasing his glory, for the wise man of confirming and strengthening his wisdom. From this is virtue itself so named,1 because it is so supported by its strength that it is not overcome by adversity. And you who were set in the advance of virtue have not come to this pass of being dissipated by delights, or enervated by pleasure; but you fight too bitterly against all fortune. Keep the middle path of strength and virtue, lest you be overwhelmed by misfortune or corrupted by pleasant fortune. All that falls short or goes too far ahead, has contempt for happiness, and gains not the reward for labour done. It rests in your own hands what shall be the nature of the fortune which you choose to form for yourself. For all fortune which seems difficult, either exercises virtue, or corrects or punishes vice.
'The avenging son of Atreus strove for full ten
years before he expiated in the fall of Phrygian Troy the wrong done to his
brother's marriage. The same Agamemnon must needs throw off his father's nature,
and himself, an unwilling priest, thrust his knife into his unhappy
138:1 -- The Latin word 'virtus' means by its derivation, manly strength.
'Go forth then bravely whither leads the lofty path of high example. Why do ye sluggards turn your backs? When the earth is overcome, the stars are yours.
HERE she made an end and was for turning the course of her speaking to the handling and explaining of other subjects. Then said I: 'Your encouragement is right and most worthy in truth of your name and weight. But I am learning by experience what you just now said of Providence; that the question is bound up in others. I would ask you whether you think that Chance exists at all, and what you think it is?'
Then she answered: ' I am eager to fulfil my promised debt, and to shew you the path by which you may seek your home. But these things, though all-expedient for knowledge, are none the less rather apart from our path, and we must be careful lest you become wearied by our turnings aside, and so be not strong enough to complete the straight journey.'
'Have no fear at all thereof,' said I.' It will be restful to know these things in which I have so great a pleasure; and when every view of your reasoning has stood firm with unshaken credit, so let there be no doubt of what shall follow.'
'I will do your pleasure,' she made answer, and thus she began to speak:
'If chance is defined as an outcome of random influence, produced by no sequence of causes, I am sure that there is no such thing as chance, and I consider that it is but an empty word, beyond shewing the meaning of the matter which we have in hand. For what place can be left for anything happening at random, so long as God controls everything in order? It is a true saying that nothing can come out of nothing. None of the old philosophers has denied that, though they did not apply it to the effective principle, but to the matter operated upon -- that is to say, to nature; and this was the foundation upon which they built all their reasoning. If anything arises from no causes, it will appear to have risen out of nothing. But if this is impossible, then chance also cannot be anything of that sort, which is stated in the definition which we mentioned.'
'Then is there nothing which can be justly called chance, nor anything "by chance"? ' I asked.' Or is there anything which common people know not, but which those words do suit? '
'My philosopher, Aristotle, defined it in his Physics1 shortly and well-nigh truly.'
'How? ' I asked.
'Whenever anything is done with one intention,
but something else, other than was intended, results from certain causes, that
is called chance: as, for instance, if a man digs
141:1 -- Aristotle, Physics, ii. 3.
'In the land where the Parthian, as he turns in flight, shoots his arrows into the pursuer's breast, from the rocks of the crag of Ach‘menia, the Tigris and Euphrates flow from out one source, but quickly with divided streams are separate. If they should come together and again be joined in a single course, all, that
'I have listened to you,' I said,' and agree that it is as you say. But in this close sequence of causes, is there any freedom for our judgment or does this chain of fate bind the very feelings of our minds too?'
'There is free will,' she answered.'Nor could there be any reasoning nature without freedom of judgment. For any being that can use its reason by nature, has a power of judgment by which it can without further aid decide each point, and so distinguish between objects to be desired and objects to be shunned. Each therefore seeks what it deems desirable, and flies from what it considers should be shunned. Wherefore all who have reason have also freedom of desiring and refusing in themselves. But I do not lay down that this is equal in all beings. Heavenly and divine beings have with them a judgment of great insight, an imperturbable will, and a power which can effect their desires. But human
'Homer with his honeyed lips sang of the bright
sun's clear light; yet the sun cannot burst with his feeble rays the bowels of
the earth or the depths of the sea. Not so with the Creator of this great
sphere. No masses of earth can block His vision as He looks over all. Night's
cloudy darkness cannot resist Him. With one glance of His intelligence He sees
all that has been, that is, and that is to come.
144:1 -- A phrase from Homer (Iliad, iii. 277, and Odyssey, xi. 1O9), where it is said of the sun.
Then said I,' Again am I plunged in yet more doubt and difficulty.'
'What are they,' she asked,' though I have already my idea of what your trouble consists?
'There seems to me,' I said,' to be such
incompatibility between the existence of God's universal foreknowledge and that
of any freedom of judgment. For if God foresees all things and cannot in
anything be mistaken, that, which His Providence sees will happen, must result.
Wherefore if it knows beforehand not only men's deeds but even their designs and
wishes, there will be no freedom of judgment For there can neither be any deed
done, nor wish formed, except such as the infallible Providence of God has
foreseen. For if matters could ever so be turned that they resulted otherwise
than was foreseen of Providence, this foreknowledge would cease to be sure. But,
rather than knowledge, it is opinion which is uncertain; and that, I deem, is
not applicable to God. And, further, I cannot approve of an argument by which
some men think that they can cut this knot; for they say that a result does not
145:1 -- This sentence, besides referring to the application of Homer's words used above, contains also a play on words in the Latin, which can only be clumsily reproduced in English by some such words as ' The sole power which can see all is justly to be called the solar.'
'Yet how absurd it is that we should say that the result of temporal affairs is the cause of eternal foreknowledge! And to think that God foresees future events because they are about to happen, is nothing else than to hold events of past time to be the cause of that highest Providence. Besides, just as, when I know a present fact, that fact must be so; so also when I know of something that will happen, that must come to pass. Thus it follows that the fulfilment of a foreknown event must be inevitable.
'Lastly, if any one believes that any matter is otherwise than the fact is, he not only has not knowledge, but his opinion is false also, and that is very far from the truth of knowledge Wherefore, if any future event is such that its fulfilment is not sure or necessary, how can it possibly be known beforehand that it will occur? For just as absolute knowledge has no taint of falsity, so also that which is conceived by knowledge cannot be otherwise than as it is conceived. That is the reason why knowledge cannot lie, because each matter must be just as knowledge knows that it is. What then How can God know beforehand these uncertain future events? For if He thinks inevitable the
'What cause of discord is it breaks the
149:1 -- Supra, Book IV. Met. vi. p. 135.
Then said she,' This is the old plaint concerning Providence which was so strongly urged Philosophy by Cicero when treating of Divination,1 and you yourself have often and at length questioned the same subject. But so far, none of you have explained it with enough diligence or certainty. The cause of this obscurity is that the working of human reason cannot approach the directness of divine foreknowledge. If this could be understood at all, there would be no doubt left. And this especially will I try to make plain, if I can first explain your difficulties.
'Tell me why you think abortive the reasoning
of those who solve the question thus; they argue that foreknowledge cannot be
held to be a cause for the necessity of future results, and therefore free will
is not in any way shackled by foreknowledge.2
Whence do you draw your proof of the necessity of future results if not from
the fact that such things as are known beforehand cannot but come to pass? If,
then (as you yourself admitted just now), foreknowledge brings no necessity to
bear upon future events, how is it that the voluntary results of such events are
bound to find a fixed end? Now for the sake of the argument, that you may turn
your attention to what follows, let us state that there is no foreknowledge at
all. Then are the events which are decided by free will, bound by any necessity,
so far as this goes?
151:1 -- Cicero, De Divinatione, II.
151:2 -- Referring to Boethius's words in Prose iii. of this book, p.145.
'But you will say that there is no doubt of this too, whether there can be any foreknowledge of things which have not results bounden by necessity. For they do seem to lack harmony: and you think that if they are foreseen, the necessity follows; if there is no necessity, then they cannot be foreseen; nothing can be perceived certainly by knowledge, unless it be certain. But if things have uncertainty of result, but are foreseen as though certain, this is plainly the obscurity of opinion, and not the truth of knowledge. For you believe that to think aught other than it is, is the opposite of true knowledge. The cause of this error is that every man believes that all the subjects, that he knows, are known by their own force or
'Do you see then, how in knowledge of all things, the subject uses its own standard of capability, and not those of the objects known? And this is but reasonable, for every judgment formed is an act of the person who judges, and therefore each man must of necessity perform
'With regard to feeling the effects of bodies, natures which are brought into contact from without may affect the organs of the senses, and the body's passive affection may precede the active energy of the spirit, and call forth to itself the activity of the mind; if then, when the effects of bodies are felt, the mind is not marked in any way by its passive reception thereof, but declares that reception subject to the body of its own force, how much less do those subjects, which are free from all affections of bodies, follow external objects in their perceptions, and how much more do they make clear the way for the action of their mind? By this argument many different manners of understanding have fallen to widely different natures of things. For the senses are incapable of any knowledge but their own, and they alone fall to those living beings which are incapable of motion, as are sea shell-fish, and other low forms of life which live by clinging to rocks; while imagination is granted to animals with the power of motion, who seem to be affected by some desire to seek or avoid certain things.
'Let us therefore raise ourselves, if so be that we can, to that height of the loftiest intelligence. For there reason will see what it cannot of itself perceive, and that is to know how even such things as have uncertain results are perceived definitely and for certain by foreknowledge; and such foreknowledge will not be mere opinion, but rather the single and direct form of the highest knowledge unlimited by any finite bounds.
'In what different shapes do living beings move upon the earth! Some make flat their bodies, sweeping through the dust and using their strength to make therein a furrow without break; some flit here and there upon light wings
'Since then all that is known is apprehended, as we just now shewed, not according to its nature but according to the nature of the knower, let us examine, so far as we lawfully may, the character of the divine nature, so that we may be able to learn what its knowledge is.
'The common opinion, according to all men living, is that God is eternal. Let us therefore consider what is eternity. For eternity will, I think, make clear to us at the same time the divine nature and knowledge. ' Eternity is the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life. This will appear more clearly if we compare it with temporal
'And further, God should not be regarded as older than His creations by any period of time, but rather by the peculiar property of His own single nature. For the infinite changing of temporal things tries to imitate the ever simultaneously present immutability of His life: it cannot succeed in imitating or equailing this, but sinks from immutability into change, and falls from the single directness of the present into an infinite space of future and past. And since this temporal state cannot possess its life completely and simultaneously, but it does in the same manner exist for ever without ceasing, it therefore seems to try in some degree to rival that which it cannot fulfil or represent, for it binds itself to some sort of present time out of this small and fleeting moment; but inasmuch as this temporal present bears a certain appearance of that abiding present, it somehow makes
'Since then all judgment apprehends the subjects of its thought according to its own nature, and God has a condition of ever-present eternity, His knowledge, which passes over every change of time, embracing infinite lengths of past and future, views in its own direct comprehension everything as though it were taking place in the present. If you would weigh the foreknowledge by which God distinguishes all things, you will more rightly hold it to be a knowledge of a never-failing constancy in the present, than a foreknowledge of the future. Whence Providence is more rightly to be understood as a looking forth than a looking forward, because it is set far from low matters and looks forth upon all things as from a lofty mountain-top above all. Why then do you demand that all things occur by necessity, if divine light rests upon them, while men do not render necessary such things as they can see? Because you can see things of the present, does your sight therefore put upon them any necessity?
'"What then," you may ask, " is the difference
The present translation of 'THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY' is the work of Mr. W. V. COOPER, B.A., King's College, Cambridge, who has thus carried on the tradition of English renderings of Boethius's famous work, the list of translators beginning with the illustrious name of Alfred the Great. The recent Millenary, celebrated at Winchester, has perhaps justified the issue of this first of twentieth-century versions. The Frontispiece, taken from an Elzevir Sallust printed in 1634, has been chosen by way of illustrating both the fortune of the author and his famous idea of the changeableness of Fortune's Wheel.
BOETHIUS'S first wife was Elpis, daughter of Festus. The following epitaph has been handed down as that of Elpis, and has been said by some to have been written by Boethius himself: --
THE incompatibility of the sufferings of good men, the impunity and success of bad men, with the government of the world by a good God, has been a subject of thought alllong men ever since religion and abstract questions have occupied the thoughts of mankind. The poetical books of the Bible are full of it, particularly, of course the book of Job, which is a dramatic poem entirely devoted to the subject. The New Testament contains much teaching on the same question. Among the Greeks the tragedians and later philosophers delighted in working out its problems. But from the sixth to the seventeenth centuries of our era the De Consolatione of Boethius, in its original Latin and in many translations, was in the hands of almost all the educated people of the world. The author's personal history was well known. He was a man whose fortunes had risen to the highest pitch possible under the Roman Empire; who had himself experienced the utter collapse of those fortunes, and was known to have sustained himself through imprisonment and even to torture and an unjust death by the thoughts which he left to mankind in this book.
It is a work which appealed to Pagan and Christian alike. There is no Christian doctrine relied upon throughout the work, but there is also nothing which could be in conflict with Christianity. Even the personification of Philosophy, though after the form of a pagan goddess, is precisely like the 'Wisdom' of Solomon in the Apocrypha; and the same habit of thought led the Jews to personify the 'Word' of God, and use it as identical with God Himself; and the same led to that identifying of the ' Word with Christ, which we find in the first chapter of St. John's Gospel.
For though some have held that the Christianity of Boethius was foisted upon him, with his canonisation as St. Severinus, after his death by those who thought he must have been too good a man to have been a heathen, and though the authenticity of his theological works also has therefore been doubted, yet we may now be almost certain that he was a Christian, and an orthodox Christian, for if it is true that he wrote those works, he combated Arianism during his life, and during his imprisonment he was engaged upon a treatise on the Unity of the Trinity, as well as upon this work. Here perhaps lies an explanation of what must seem strange to us at first sight, namely, that a Christian should apparently look to Philosophy rather than to his religion for comfort in persecution and support at the approach of death. But it is to be feared that in his day, and in the society in which he moved, Christianity meant to many who professed it little more than a subject for rivalry and argument among sects and for the combating of heresies. With many of the contemporaries of Boethius, therefore, a new book of comfort sought for in Christian doctrine would not have had much influence, and there seems to be no reason why people of our own day, even those who draw the greatest help from their religion, should not enjoy the additional comfort which solaced an honest and pious thinker in a time of apparently intolerable and incredible misfortune.
The wide learning of Boethius may be partly shewn by a list of some of his writings, which included original works and translations in many branches of study. For instance, he translated into Latin a great number of Aristotle's works on different subjects, such as those on Rhetoric, Logic, the Categories, etc. He translated three books of Euclid, and wrote other mathematical works. He translated and wrote books upon Music and Mechanics, and one upon Astronomy. His theological
But his Consolation is the work upon which his fame rests. The veneration in which this book was held in the middle ages and onward is abundantly shewn by the numerous translations made of it. It was very early rendered into German, and later on translated into the French of the day by Jehan de Meun and others in later times; into Greek by Maximus Planudes, into Italian and Spanish. In England translations have appeared at intervals during the last thousand years. For just that space of time has passed since that noble educator of his people, Alfred the Creat, translated it with Asser's help, thinking, it would seem, that this work was most worthy of his people's reading of all books after the Bible. But his version does not give us a very true knowledge either of Boethius or his Consolation. It is of the greatest value to the student of Alfred, because there are many indisputably genuine sayings and opinions of that wise man. There are wise thoughts upon kingly duty and many definitely Christian maxims. These were outside the theme of Boethius, though wise themselves and deeply interesting as Alfred's own work. Furthermore, the more abstruse parts are wholly omitted, probably as being of little use for King Alfred's subjects.
In later times that most versatile scholar, Queen Elizabeth translated it. Chaucer, Sir Thomas More, and Leslie, Bishop of Ross, the adviser of Mary, Queen of Scots, wrote imitations of it. Robert of Lincoln (Grossetˆte) commented upon it. In the sixteenth century appeared Colville's very fine translation. Translations in verse appeared in the seventeenth century by Harry Coningsby and Lord Preston; others followed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its influence is to be found perhaps even in the oldest English poetry of pre-Conquest times; it is certainly very marked in Chaucer, Gower, Spenser, and many another later poet. And in Italy, Dante makes St. Thomas Aquinas point out the spirit of Boethius in Paradise with these words: --
Paradiso, x. 121 ff (Wright's translation.)
A few words on Theodoric may conclude this note.
Theodoric was born A.D. 455, educated at Constantinople as a hostage of the Emperor Leo, and succeeded his father as King of the Ostrogoths in 475. His