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PAGE 2

That We Taste Nothing Pure
by [?]

When I religiously confess myself to myself, I find that the best virtue I have has in it some tincture of vice; and I am afraid that Plato, in his purest virtue (I, who am as sincere and loyal a lover of virtue of that stamp as any other whatever), if he had listened and laid his ear close to himself and he did so no doubt–would have heard some jarring note of human mixture, but faint and only perceptible to himself. Man is wholly and throughout but patch and motley. Even the laws of justice themselves cannot subsist without mixture of injustice; insomuch that Plato says, they undertake to cut off the hydra’s head, who pretend to clear the law of all inconveniences:

“Omne magnum exemplum habet aliquid ex iniquo,
quod contra singulos utilitate publics rependitur,”

[“Every great example has in it some mixture of injustice,
which recompenses the wrong done to particular men by the
public utility.”
–Annals, xiv. 44.]

says Tacitus.

It is likewise true, that for the use of life and the service of public commerce, there may be some excesses in the purity and perspicacity of our minds; that penetrating light has in it too much of subtlety and curiosity: we must a little stupefy and blunt them to render them more obedient to example and practice, and a little veil and obscure them, the better to proportion them to this dark and earthly life. And therefore common and less speculative souls are found to be more proper for and more successful in the management of affairs, and the elevated and exquisite opinions of philosophy unfit for business. This sharp vivacity of soul, and the supple and restless volubility attending it, disturb our negotiations. We are to manage human enterprises more superficially and roughly, and leave a great part to fortune; it is not necessary to examine affairs with so much subtlety and so deep: a man loses himself in the consideration of many contrary lustres, and so many various forms:

“Volutantibus res inter se pugnantes, obtorpuerunt…. animi.”

[“Whilst they considered of things so indifferent in
themselves, they were astonished, and knew not what to do.”
–Livy, xxxii. 20.]

‘Tis what the ancients say of Simonides, that by reason his imagination suggested to him, upon the question King Hiero had put to him–[What God was.–Cicero, De Nat. Deor., i. 22.]–(to answer which he had had many days for thought), several sharp and subtle considerations, whilst he doubted which was the most likely, he totally despaired of the truth.

He who dives into and in his inquisition comprehends all circumstances and consequences, hinders his election: a little engine well handled is sufficient for executions, whether of less or greater weight. The best managers are those who can worst give account how they are so; while the greatest talkers, for the most part, do nothing to purpose; I know one of this sort of men, and a most excellent discourser upon all sorts of good husbandry, who has miserably let a hundred thousand livres yearly revenue slip through his hands; I know another who talks, who better advises than any man of his counsel, and there is not in the world a fairer show of soul and understanding than he has; nevertheless, when he comes to the test, his servants find him quite another thing; not to make any mention of his misfortunes.