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If then it be here demanded, oy what means it should come to pass (the greatest part of the law moral being so easy for all men to know) that so many thousands of men notwithstanding have been ignorant even of principal moral duties, not imagining the breach of them to be sin : I deny not but lewd and wicked custom, beginning perhaps at the first amongst few, afterwards spreading into greater multitudes, and so continuing from time to time, may be of force even in plain things to smother the light of natural understanding; because men will not bend their wits to examine whether things wherewith they have been accustomed be good or evil. For example's sake, that grosser kind of heathenish idolatry, whereby they worshipped the very works of their own hands, was an absurdity to reason so palpable, that the Prophet David comparing idols and idolaters together maketh almost no odds between them, but the one in a manner as much without wit and sense as the other; They that make them are like unto them, and so are all that trust in them. That wherein an idolater doth seem so absurd and foolish is by the Wise Man thus exprest. He is not ashamed to speak unto that which hath no life, he calleth on him that is weak for health, he prayeth for life unto him which is dead, of him which hath no experience he requireth help, for his journey he sueth to him which is not able to go, for gain and work and success in his affairs he seeketh furtherance of him that hath no manner of power. The cause of which senseless stupidity is afterwards imputed to custom. When a father mourned grievously for his son that was taken away suddenly, he made an image for him that was once dead, whom now he worshippeth as a god, ordaining to his servants ceremonies and sacrifices. Thus by process of time this wicked custom prevailed, and was kept as a law; the authority of rulers, the ambition of craftsmen, and such like means thrusting forward the ignorant and increasing their superstition.
Unto this which the Wise Man hath spoken somewhat besides may be added. For whatsoever we have hitherto taught, or shall hereafter, concerning the force of man's natural understanding, this we always desire withal to be understood ; that there is no kind of faculty or power in man or any other creature, which can rightly perform the functions allotted to it, without perpetual aid and concurrence of that supreme cause of all things.
BACON. FRANCIS BACON. Born, 1561 ; died, 1626. He wrote in Latin and English : of his English works the most
important are The Essays (1597) and The Advancement of Learning (1605). He was prominent in political as well as in literary life; but, after becoming Lord Chancellor, was
disgraced upon a charge of accepting bribes. The quotations are from his Essays; which join to wisdom and
a chaste eloquence the rich fancy of the Renaissance.
FRIENDSHIP. It had been hard for him that spåke it, to have put more truth and untruth together, in few words, than in that speech; “Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast, or a god.” For it is most true,
that a natural and secret hatred and aversion towards society, in any man, hath somewhat of the savage beast; but it is most untrue, that it should have any character, at all, of the Divine nature; except it proceed, not out of a pleasure in solitude, but out of a love and desire, to sequester a man's self, for a higher conversation. But little do men perceive what solitude is, and how far it extendeth. For a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love. But we may go further, and affirm most truly, that it is a mere and miserable solitude, to want true friends, without which the world is but a wilder
And even in this sense also of solitude, whosoever in the frame of his nature and affections, is unfit for friendship, he taketh it of the beast, and not from humanity.
A principal fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce. No receipt openeth the heart, but a true friend, to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart, to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession.
The second fruit of friendship, is healthful and sovereign for the understanding, as the first is for the affections. For friendship maketh indeed a fair day in the affections, from storm and tempests; but it maketh daylight in the understanding, out of darkness and confusion of thoughts.
After these two noble fruits of friendship, followeth the last fruit: which is like the pomegranate, full of many kernels. I mean aid and bearing a part in all actions and occasions.
Some in their discourse desire rather commendation of wit in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment in discerning what is true; as if it were a praise to know what might be said, and not what should be thought. Some have certain commonplaces and themes wherein they are good, and want variety ; which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and, when it is once perceived, ridiculous. The honourablest part of talk is to give the occasion; and again to moderate and pass to somewhat else, for then a man leads the dance. It is good in Discourse and speech of conversation to vary, and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments; tales with reasons ; asking of questions with telling of opinions; and jest with earnest; for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade anything too far. As for jest, there be certain things which ought to be privileged from it, namely, religion, matters of state, great persons, any man’s present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity. Yet there be some that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant and to the quick : that is a vein which would be bridled.
And, generally, men ought to find the difference
between saltness and bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others' memory. He that questioneth much shall learn much, and content much; but especially, if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh, for he shall givo them occasion to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome, for that is fit for a poser. And let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak. Nay, if there be any that would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take them off and to bring others on, as musicians use to do, with those that dance too long galliards. If you dissemble sometimes your knowledge, of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought another time to know that you know not. Speech of a man's self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one was wont to say in scorn: “ He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself.” And there is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good grace, and that is in commending virtue in another, especially if it be such a virtue whereunto himself pretendeth. Speech of touch towards others should be sparingly used, for Discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen of the west part of England, whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept ever royal cheer in his house ; the other would ask of those that had been at the other's table: “ Tell truly, was there never a flout or dry blow given ?" To which