« AnteriorContinuar »
avert: so that after a perpetual course of disappointments and repulses, finding himself unable to pursue his old way any farther instead of taking a new one
he was driven by his philosophy to put an end to his life.
But as the Stoics exalted human nature too high, so the Epicureans depressed it too low ; as those raised it to the heroic , these debased it to the brutal state ; they held pleasure to be the chief good of man; death the extinction of his being; and placed their happiness, consequently, in the secure enjoyment of a pleasurable life , esteeming virtue on no other account than as it was a handmaid to pleasure, and helped to ensure the possession of it, by preserving health and conciliating friends. Their wise man, therefore, had no other duty, but to provide for his own ease , to decline all struggles, to retire from public affairs ; and to imitate the life of their gods, by passing his days in a calm, contemplative , undisturbed repose , in the midst of rural shades and pleasant gardens. This was the scheme that Atticus followed : he had all the talents that could qualisy a man to be useful to society ; great parts , learning,
judgment, candor, benevolence , generosity, the same love of his country, and the same sentiments in politics with Cicero; whom he was always advising and urging to act, yet determined never to act himself: or never, at least, so far as to disturb his ease, or endanger his safety. For though he was sa strictly united with Cicero , and valued him above all men , yet he managed an interest all the while with the opposite faction, and a friendship even with his mortal enemies, Clodius and Antony; that he might secure , against all events ,
the grand point which he had in view, the peace and tranquillity of his life. Thus two excellent men , by their mistaken notions of virtue , drawn from the principles of their philosophy, were made useless in a manner to their country , each in a different extreme of life : the one always acting and exposing himself to dangers , without the prospect of doing good; the other, without attempting to do any , resolving never to act at all.
Cicero chose the middle way, between the obstinacy of Cato and the indolence of Atticus; he preferred always the readiest road to what was right, if it lay open to him ; if not
he took the next
that seemed likely to bring him to the same end ; and in politics as in morality, when he could not arrive at the true, contented himself with the probable. He often compares the statesman to the pilot, whose art consists in managing every turn of the winds, and applying even the most perverse to the
progress of his voyage ; so as by changing his course and enlarging his circuit of sailing, to arrive with safety , though later , at his destined port. He mentions likewise an observation which long experience had confirmed to him, that none of the popular and ambitious, who aspired to extraordinary commands, and to be leaders in the republic, ever chose to obtain their ends from the people , till they had first been repulsed by the senate. This was verified by all their civil dissensions , from the Gracchi down to Cæsar : so that when he saw men of this spirit at the head of the government, who, by the splendor of their lives and actions, had acquired an ascendant over the populace , it was his constant advice to the senate , to gain them by gentle compliances, and to gratify their thirst of power by voluntary grants of it, as the best way to moderate their ambition, and reclaim them from desperate councils. He declared contention to be no longer prudent than while it either did service, or at least no hurt ; but when faction was grown too strong to be withstood , that it was time to give over fighting; and nothing left but to extract some good out of the ill, by mitigating that power by patience, which they could not reduce by force, and conciliating it, if possible , to the interest of the state. This was what he advised, and what he practised; and it will account , in a great measure for those parts of his conduct which are the most liable to exception, on the account of that complaisance which he is supposed to have paid, at different times, to the several usurpers of illegal power.
JUNIUS BRUTUS OVER THE DEAD
BODY OF LUCRETIA,
Yes, noble lady, I swear by this blood which was once so pure, and which nothing but royal villainy could have polluted, that I will pursue Lucius Tarquinius the proud,
his I call you
his wicked wife, and their children, with fire and sword : nor will I ever suffer any of that family, or of any other whatsoever , to be King in Rome. Ye Gods, I call to witness this my oath !- There, Romans, turn your eyes to that sad spectacle the daughter of Lucretius , Collatinus's wife she died by her own hand. See there a noble lady , whom the lust of a Tarquin reduced to the necessity of being her own executioner , to attest her innocence. Hospitably, entertained by her as a kinsman of her husband's, Sextus, the perfidious guest, became her brutal ravisher. The chaste, the generous Lucretia could not survive the insult. Glorious woman! But once only treated as slave, she thought life no longer to be endured. Lucretia , a woman , disdained a life that depended on a tyrant's will, and shall we , shall men, with such an example before our eyes, and after five-and-twenty, years of ignominious servitude , shall we, through a fear of dying, defer one single instant to assert our liberty ? No, Romans now is the time; the favourable moment we have so long waited for is come. Tarquin is not at Rome. The Patricians are at the head of the enterprise. The city is abun