Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 3

Of Physiognomy
by [?]

“Quae magis gustata quam potata, delectant,”

[“Which more delight in the tasting than in being drunk.”
–Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., v. 5.]

everything that pleases does not nourish:

“Ubi non ingenii, sed animi negotium agitur.”

[“Where the question is not about the wit, but about the soul.”
–Seneca, Ep., 75.]

To see the trouble that Seneca gives himself to fortify himself against death; to see him so sweat and pant to harden and encourage himself, and bustle so long upon this perch, would have lessened his reputation with me, had he not very bravely held himself at the last. His so ardent and frequent agitations discover that he was in himself impetuous and passionate,

“Magnus animus remissius loquitur, et securius . . .
non est alius ingenio, alius ammo color;”

[“A great courage speaks more calmly and more securely. There
is not one complexion for the wit and another for the mind.”
–Seneca, Ep. 114, 115]

he must be convinced at his own expense; and he in some sort discovers that he was hard pressed by his enemy. Plutarch’s way, by how much it is more disdainful and farther stretched, is, in my opinion, so much more manly and persuasive: and I am apt to believe that his soul had more assured and more regular motions. The one more sharp, pricks and makes us start, and more touches the soul; the other more constantly solid, forms, establishes, and supports us, and more touches the understanding. That ravishes the judgment, this wins it. I have likewise seen other writings, yet more reverenced than these, that in the representation of the conflict they maintain against the temptations of the flesh, paint them, so sharp, so powerful and invincible, that we ourselves, who are of the common herd, are as much to wonder at the strangeness and unknown force of their temptation, as at the resisting it.

To what end do we so arm ourselves with this harness of science? Let us look down upon the poor people that we see scattered upon the face of the earth, prone and intent upon their business, that neither know Aristotle nor Cato, example nor precept; from these nature every day extracts effects of constancy and patience, more pure and manly than those we so inquisitively study in the schools: how many do I ordinarily see who slight poverty? how many who desire to die, or who die without alarm or regret? He who is now digging in my garden, has this morning buried his father or his son. The very names by which they call diseases sweeten and mollify the sharpness of them: the phthisic is with them no more than a cough, dysentery but a looseness, the pleurisy but a stitch; and, as they gently name them, so they patiently endure them; they are very great and grievous indeed when they hinder their ordinary labour; they never keep their beds but to die:

“Simplex illa et aperta virtus in obscuram et solertem
scientiam versa est.”

[“That overt and simple virtue is converted into
an obscure and subtle science.”–Seneca, Ep., 95.]

I was writing this about the time when a great load of our intestine troubles for several months lay with all its weight upon me; I had the enemy at my door on one side, and the freebooters, worse enemies, on the other,

“Non armis, sed vitiis, certatur;”

[“The fight is not with arms, but with vices.”–Seneca, Ep. 95.]

and underwent all sorts of military injuries at once:

“Hostis adest dextra laevaque a parte timendus.
Vicinoque malo terret utrumque latus.”

[“Right and left a formidable enemy is to be feared,
and threatens me on both sides with impending danger.”
–Ovid, De Ponto, i. 3, 57.]

A monstrous war! Other wars are bent against strangers, this against itself, destroying itself with its own poison. It is of so malignant and ruinous a nature, that it ruins itself with the rest; and with its own rage mangles and tears itself to pieces. We more often see it dissolve of itself than through scarcity of any necessary thing or by force of the enemy. All discipline evades it; it comes to compose sedition, and is itself full of it; would chastise disobedience, and itself is the example; and, employed for the defence of the laws, rebels against its own. What a condition are we in! Our physic makes us sick!