網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

which commonly have a few pleasing receipts whereupon they are confident and adventurous, but know neither the causes of diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the true method of cures: we see it is a like error to rely upon advocates or lawyers, which are only men of practice and not grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised when matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the causes they handle: so by like reason it cannot be but a matter of doubtful consequence if states be managed by empiric Statesmen, not well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrariwise, it is almost without instance contradictory that ever any government was disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For howsoever it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and disable learned men by the names of Pedantes; yet in the records of time it appeareth, in many particulars, that the governments of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of that kind of state) have nevertheless excelled the government of princes of mature age, even for that reason which they seek to traduce, which is, that by that occasion the state hath been in the hands of Pedantes; for so was the state of Rome for the first five years, which are so much magnified, during the minority of Nero, in the hands of Seneca, a Pedanti; so it was again, for ten years' space or more, during the minority of Gordianus the younger, with great applause and contentation in the hands of Misitheus, a Pedanti: so was it before that, in the minority of Alexander Severus, in like happiness, in hands not much unlike, by reason of the rule of the women, who were aided by the teachers and preceptors. Nay, let a man look into the government of the bishops of Rome, as, by name, into the government of Pius Quintus, and Sextus Quintus, in our times, who were both at their entrance esteemed but as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such popes do greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of estate, than those which have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in affairs of estate and courts of princes; for although men bred in learning are perhaps to seek in points of convenience and accommodating for the present, which the Italians call Ragioni di stato, whereof the same Pius Quintus could not hear spoken

with patience, terming them inventions against religion and the moral virtues; yet on the other side, to recompense that, they are perfect in those same plain grounds of religion, justice, honor, and moral virtue, which if they be well and watchfully pursued, there will be seldom use of those other, no more than of physic in a sound or well dieted body. Neither can the experience of one man's life furnish examples and precedents for the events of one man's life: for, as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild, or other descendant, resembleth the ancestors more than the son; so many times occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples than with those of the latter or immediate times; and lastly, the wit of one man can no more countervail learning than one man's means can hold way with a common purse.

And as for those particular seducements, or indispositions of the mind for policy and government, which Learning is pretended to insinuate; if it be granted that any such thing be, it must be remembered withal, that Learning ministereth in every of them greater strength of medicine or remedy than it offereth cause of indisposition or infirmity. For if by a secret operation it make men perplexed and irresolute, on the other side by plain precept it teacheth them when and upon what ground to resolve; yea, and how to carry things in suspense without prejudice, till they resolve; if it make men positive and regular, it teacheth them what things are in their nature demonstrative, and what are conjectural, and as well the use of distinctions and exceptions, as the latitude of principles and rules. If it mislead by disproportion or dissimilitude of examples, it teacheth men the force of circumstances, the errors of comparisons, and all the cautions of application; so that in all these it doth rectify more effectually than it can pervert. And these medicines it conveyeth into men's minds much more forcibly by the quickness and penetration of examples. For let a man look into the errors of Clement the seventh, so lively described by Guicciardine, who served under him, or into the errors of Cicero, painted out by his own pencil in his Epistles to Atticus, and he will fly apace from being irresolute. Let him look into the errors of Phocion, and he will beware how he be obstinate or inflexible. Let him but read the fable of Ixion, and it will hold him from

Let him

being vaporous or imaginative. look into the errors of Cato the second, and he will never be one of the Antipodes, to tread opposite to the present world.

And for the conceit that Learning should dispose men to leisure and privateness, and make men slothful; it were a strange thing if that which accustometh the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation should induce slothfulness: whereas contrariwise it may be truly affirmed, that no kind of men love business for itself but those that are learned; for other persons love it for profit, as a hireling, that loves the work for the wages; or for honor, as because it beareth them up in the eyes of men, and refresheth their reputation, which otherwise would wear; or because it putteth them in mind of their fortune, and giveth them occasion to pleasure and displeasure; or because it exerciseth some faculty wherein they take pride, and so entertaineth them in good humor and pleasing conceits towards themselves; or because it advanceth any other their ends.

So that, as it is said of untrue valors, that some men's valors are in the eyes of them that look on; so such men's industries are in the eyes of others, or at least in regard of their own designments: only learned men love business as an action according to nature, as agreeable to health of mind as exercise is to health of body, taking pleasure in the action itself, and not in the purchase: for that of all men they are the most indefatigable, if it be towards any business which can hold or detain their mind.

And that Learning should take up too much time or leisure; I answer, the most active or busy man that hath been or can be, hath, no question, many vacant times of leisure, while he expecteth the times and returns of business (except he be either tedious and of no dispatch, or lightly and unworthily ambitious to meddle in things that may be better done by others) and then the question is but how these spaces and times of leisure shall be filled and spent; whether in pleasures or in studies; as was well answered by Demosthenes to his adversary

schines, that was a man given to pleasure, and told him, That his orations did smell of the lamp: Indeed (said Demosthenes) there is a great difference between the things that you and I do by lamp-light. So as no man need doubt that learning will expulse business, but rather it will keep and

defend the possession of the mind against idleness and pleasure, which otherwise at unawares may enter to the prejudice of both.

Again for that other conceit that Learning should undermine the reverence of laws and government, it is assuredly a mere depravation and calumny, without all shadow of truth. For to say that a blind custom of obedience should be a surer obligation than duty taught and understood, it is to affirm, that a blind man may tread surer by a guide than a seeing man can by a light. And it is without all controversy, that learning doth make the minds of men gentle, generous, maniable, and pliant to government; whereas ignorance makes them churlish, thwart, and mutinous: and the evidence of time doth clear this assertion, considering that the most barbarous, rude, and unlearned times have been most subject to tumults, seditions, and changes.

It taketh away the wildness and barbarism and fierceness of men's minds. . . . It taketh away all levity, temerity, and insolency, by copious suggestion of all doubts and difficulties, and acquainting the mind to balance reasons on both sides, and to turn back the first offers and conceits of the mind, and to accept of nothing but examined and tried. It taketh away vain admiration of anything, which is the root of all weakness: for all things are admired either because they are new, or because they are great. For novelty, no man that wadeth in learning or contemplation thoroughly, but will find that printed in his heart Nil novi super terram. Neither can any man marvel at the play of puppets, that goeth behind the curtain, and adviseth well of the motion. And for magnitude, as Alexander the Great, after that he was used to great armies, and the great conquests of the spacious provinces in Asia, when he received letters out of Greece, of some fights and services there, which were commonly for a passage or a fort, or some walled town at the most, he said, It seemed to him that he was advertised of the Battle of the Frogs and the Mice, that the old tales went of. So certainly, if a man meditate much upon the universal frame of nature, the earth with men upon it (the divineness of souls except,) will not seem much other than an ant-hill, whereas some ants carry corn, and some carry their young, and some go empty, and all to-and-fro a little heap of dust. It taketh away or mitigateth fear of death, or

adverse fortune; which is one of the greatest impediments of virtue, and imperfections of manners. For if a man's mind be deeply seasoned with the consideration of the mortality and corruptible nature of things, he will easily concur with Epictetus, who went forth one day and saw a woman weeping for her pitcher of earth that was broken; and went forth the next day and saw a woman weeping for her son that was dead, and thereupon said: Heri vidi fragilem frangi, hodie vidi mortalem mori.

Lastly, leaving the vulgar arguments, that by learning man excelleth man in that wherein man excelleth beasts; that by learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where in body he cannot come, and the like; let us conclude with the dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that whereunto man's nature doth most aspire, which is, immortality or continuance: for to this tendeth generation, and raising of houses and families; to this tend buildings, foundations, and monuments; to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration, and in effect the strength of all other human desires. We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time, infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished? It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar; no, nor of the kings or great personages of much later years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but leese of the life and truth. But the images of men's wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages: so that, if the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions the one of the other? Nay further, we see some of the philosophers which were least

divine, and most immersed in the senses, and denied generally the immortality of the soul, yet came to this point, that whatsoever motions the spirit of man could act and perform without the organs of the body, they thought might remain after death, which were only those of the understanding, and not of the affection: so immortal and incorruptible a thing did knowledge seem unto them to be. But we, that know by divine revelation that not only the understanding but the affections purified, not only the spirit but the body changed, shall be advanced to immortality, do disclaim in these rudiments of the senses.

2. Some Defects in Learning

Another error is an impatience of doubt and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.

Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory, and not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort as may be soonest believed, and not easiliest examined. It is true, that in compendious treatises for practice that form is not to be disallowed: but in the true handling of knowledge, men ought not to fall either on the one side into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean: Nil tam metuens, quam ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur; nor on the other side into Socrates his ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a man's own judgment proved more or less.

Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavors; for whereas the more constant and devote kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they convert their labors to aspire to certain second prizes: as to be a profound interpreter or commenter, to be a sharp champion or defender, to be a methodical compounder or abridger; and so the patri

mony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.

But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge: for men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a tarrasse, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate. But this is that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together than they have been; a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets, Saturn, the planet of rest and contemplation, and Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action: howbeit, I do not mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before-mentioned of the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession; for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered;

Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.

Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy down from heaven to converse upon the earth; that is to leave natural philosophy aside, and to apply knowledge only to manners and policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the use and benefit of man; so the end ought to be, from both philosophies to separate and reject vain. speculations, and whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever is solid and fruitful: that knowledge may not be as a courtesan, for pleasure and

vanity only, or as a bondwoman, to acquire and gain to her master's use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and comfort.

Amongst so many great foundations of colleges in Europe, I find it strange that they are all dedicated to professions, and none left free to arts and sciences at large. For if men judge that learning should be referred to action, they judge well; but in this they fall into the error described in the ancient fable, in which the other parts of the body did suppose the stomach had been idle, because it neither performed the office of motion, as the limbs do, nor of sense, as the head doth; but yet, notwithstanding, it is the stomach that digesteth and distributeth to all the rest: so if any man think philosophy and universality to be idle studies, he doth not consider that all professions are from thence served and supplied. And this I take to be a great cause that hath hindered the progression of learning, because these fundamental knowledges have been studied but in passage. For if you will have a tree bear more fruit than it hath used to do, it is not anything you can do to the boughs, but it is the stirring of the earth and putting new mould about the roots that must work it. Neither is it to be forgotten, that this dedicating of foundations and dotations to professory learning hath not only had a malign aspect and influence upon the growth of sciences, but hath also been prejudicial to states and governments. For hence it proceedeth that princes find a solitude in regard of able men to serve them in causes of state, because there is no education collegiate which is free; where such as were so disposed might give themselves to histories, modern languages, books of policy and civil discourse, and other the like enablements unto service of estate.

3. Of the Architecture of Fortune

The opinion of Aristotle seemeth to me a negligent opinion, that of those things which consist by nature nothing can be changed by custom; using for example, that if a stone be thrown ten thousand times up, it will not learn to ascend; and that by often seeing or hearing, we do not learn to see or hear the better. For though this principle be true in things wherein nature is peremptory (the reason whereof we cannot now stand to discuss), yet it is other

wise in things wherein nature admitteth a latitude. For he might see that a strait glove will come more easily on with use; and that a wand will by use bend otherwise than it grew; and that by use of the voice we speak louder and stronger; and that by use of enduring heat or cold, we endure it the better, and the like: which latter sort have a nearer resemblance unto that subject of manners he handleth, than those instances which he allegeth. But allowing his conclusion, that virtues and vices consist in habit, he ought so much the more to have taught the manner of superinducing that habit: for there be many precepts of the wise ordering the exercises of the mind, as there is of ordering the exercises of the body; whereof we will recite a few.

The first shall be, that we beware we take not at the first either too high a strain, or too weak: for if too high, in a diffident nature you discourage, in a confident nature you breed an opinion of facility, and so a sloth; and in all natures you breed a farther expectation than can hold out, and so an insatisfaction in the end: if too weak on the other side, you may not look to perform and overcome any great task.

Another precept is, to practice all things chiefly at two several times, the one when the mind is best disposed, the other when it is worst disposed; that by the one you may gain a great step, by the other you may work out the knots and stonds of the mind, and make the middle times the more easy and pleasant.

Another precept is, that which Aristotle mentioneth by the way, which is to bear ever towards the contrary extreme of that whereunto we are by nature inclined; like unto the rowing against the stream, or making a wand straight by bending him contrary to his natural crookedness.

Another precept is, that the mind is brought to anything better, and with more sweetness and happiness, if that whereunto you pretend be not first in the intention, but tanquam aliud agendo, because of the natural hatred of the mind against necessity and constraint. Many other axioms there are touching the managing of exercise and custom; which being so conducted doth prove indeed another nature; but being governed by chance doth commonly prove but an ape of nature, and bringing forth that which is lame and counterfeit.

[ocr errors]

But there is a kind of culture of the

mind that seemeth yet more accurate and elaborate than the rest, and is built upon this ground; that the minds of all men are at some times in a state more perfect, and at other times in a state more depraved. The purpose therefore of this practice is to fix and cherish the good hours of the mind, and to obliterate and take forth the evil. The fixing of the good hath been practiced by two means, vows or constant resolutions, and observances or exercises; which are not to be regarded so much in themselves, as because they keep the mind in continual obedience. The obliteration of the evil hath been practiced by two means, some kind of redemption or expiation of that which is past, and an inception or account de novo, for the time to come. But this part seemeth sacred and religious, and justly; for all good moral philosophy, as was said, is but a handmaid to religion.

Wherefore we will conclude with that last point, which is of all other means the most compendious and summary, and again, the most noble and effectual to the reducing of the mind unto virtue and good estate; which is the electing and propounding unto a man's self good and virtuous ends of his life, such as may be in a reasonable sort within his compass to attain. For if these two things be supposed, that a man set before him honest and good ends, and again, that he be resolute, constant, and true unto them; it will follow that he shall mould himself into all virtue at once. And this indeed is like the work of nature; whereas the other course is like the work of the hand. For as when a carver makes an image, he shapes only that part whereupon he worketh, (as if he be upon the face, that part which shall be the body is but a rude stone still, till such time as he comes to it ;) but, contrariwise, when nature makes a flower or living creature, she formeth rudiments of all the parts at one time: so in obtaining virtue by habit, while a man practiceth temperance, he doth not profit much to fortitude, nor the like: but when he dedicateth and applieth himself to good ends, look, what virtue soever the pursuit and passage towards those ends doth commend unto him, he is invested of a precedent disposition to conform himself there

unto...

Wherein it may appear at the first a new and unwonted argument to teach men how to raise and make their fortune; a doctrine

« 上一頁繼續 »