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    Chapter XII. Of Constancie Essay

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    The law of resolution and constancy implies not that we should not, as much as lies in our power, shelter ourselves from the chiefs and inconveniences that threaten us, nor by consequence fear that they should surprise us. Contrariwise, all honest means for a man to warrant himself from evils are not only tolerable but commendable. And the part of constancy is chiefly acted in firmly bearing the inconveniences against which no remedy is to be found. So that there is no nimbleness of body, nor wielding of hand weapons, that we will reject if it may in any sort defend us from the blow meant at us.

    Many most warlike nations in their conflicts and fights used retreating and flight as a principal advantage and showed their backs to their enemy much more dangerously than their faces. The Turks, at this day, retain something of that humor. And Socrates in Plato mocks Laches because he had defined fortitude to keep herself steady in her rank against her enemies. “What,” says he, “would it then be cowardice to beat them in giving them place?” And he alleges Homer against him, who commends in Aeneas his skill in flying and giving ground.

    And because Laches, being better advised, avows that custom to be amongst the Scythians, and generally amongst all horsemen, he alleges further unto him the example of the Lacedaemonian footmen, a nation above all others used to fight on foot, who in the battle of Plataea, to open and to put to rout the Persian Phalanx, advised themselves to scatter and put themselves back, that so by the opinion of their flight, they might if they should pursue them, rush in upon them, and put that so combined mass to rout. By which means, they gained the victory. Touching the Scythians, it is reported that when Darius went to subdue them, he sent their king many reproachful speeches for so much as he ever saw him retire and give ground before him and to avoid the main battle.

    To whom Indathirsez, for so was his name, answered that “They did it not for fear of him, nor any other man living, but that it was the fashion of his nation to march thus, as having neither cities nor houses nor manured land to defend, or to fear their enemies should reap any commodity by them. But if he had so great a desire to feed on them, he might draw nearer to view the place of their ancient sepulchers, and there he should meet with whom to speak his belly-full.

    Notwithstanding, when a man is once within reach of cannonshot, and as it were point-blank before them, as the fortune of war does diverse times bring men unto, it ill befits a resolute mind to start aside or be daunted at the threat of a shot because by the violence and suddenness thereof, we deem it inevitable.

    And there are some who, by lifting up a hand or stooping their head, have sometimes given their fellows cause for laughter. Yet, during the voyage that Emperor Charles the Fifth made against us in Provence, we saw the Marquis of Guasto go out to survey the city of Arles. He showed himself out of a windmill, under the guise of which he had come somewhat near the town. He was discovered by the Lord of Bonevall and the Seneschal of Agenois, who were walking upon the Theatre Aux Arenes, so-called in French because it is full of sand. They pointed him out to the Lord of Villiers, the Commissary of the Artillery. He mounted a culverin so level that, had the Marquis not perceived the fire and moved aside, it was constantly affirmed that he would have been shot through the body. Likewise, not many years before, Lorenzo of Medici, Duke of Urbino and father to the Queen-mother of France, was besieging Mondolphe, a place in Italy, in the province named Vicariate. He saw fire given to a piece that stood upright upon him and stooped his head. It befell him well that he played the duck, for otherwise the bullet, which went right over and within a little of his head, would doubtless have shot him through the paunch.

    But to say truth, I will never think these motions were made with discourse, for what judgment can you give of an aim, either high or low, in a matter so sudden? It may rather be thought that fortune favored their fear, and that at another time, it might as well be a means to make them fall into the cannon’s mouth as to avoid it. I cannot help but start at the crack of a musket suddenly striking my ears in a place where I least look for it, which I have seen happen to men of better sort than myself. Nor do the Stoics mean that the soul of their wisest man in any way resists the first visions and sudden fantasies that surprise it but rather consents that, as it were unto a natural subjection, he yields and shrinks unto the loud clattering and roar of heaven or of some violent downfall; for example’s sake, unto paleness and contraction.

    So likewise in other passions, always provided his opinion remains safe and whole, and the situation of his reason admits no tainting or alteration whatsoever, and he not at all consents to his fright and sufferance. Touching the first part, the same happens to him who is not wise, but far otherwise concerning the second. For the impression of passions does not remain superficial in him, but rather penetrates even into the secret of reason, infecting and corrupting the same. He judges according to them and conforms himself to them. Consider precisely the state of the wise Stoic: “Mens immota manet, lachrymæ volvuntur inanes.” His mind doth firm remain, tears are distilled in vain. The wise Peripatetic does not exempt himself from perturbations of the mind but does moderate them.

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    Chapter XII. Of Constancie Essay. (2018, Jun 08). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/chapter-xii-of-constancie-51503/

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