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On the Study of Philosophy, Virtue, and the Fear of Death.


no longer, my Lucilius, under any great concern for your welfare. What God then, you say, do I depend upon for your safety? Why truly on one that deceiveth no man; viz. A mind, that pursues what is right and fit with pure affection. Hence the better part of you is in full security. Fortune perhaps may do you some mischief; but what is of much greater moment, I have no fear lest you


prove your own enemy. Go on as you have begun. Fix yourself in such a habit of life as may shew complacency, not effeminate delicacy. I had Father, you should live ill, than in soft idleness: by ill I mean here, an hard, rough, and laborious life.' We often hear the lives of some men praised, (being much envied tou) after this fort, such a one lives most delicately. Now, what is this but saying He is a bad man ? For the mind is rendered effeminate by degrees, and soften'd down, as it were, into the likeness of that indolence and idleness wherein it lies buried. And would it not be better for a man to be quite stiff, and senseless ? But the delicate are afraid of death, however like it they render life: though I allow there is some difference between repose and the grave. And is it not better, perhaps you will say, so to live, than be tossed about in the whirlpools of officious business? They are indeed alike fatal, both the convulsion of the nerves and the languor of the mind. I think him as truly dead, who lies buried in his perfumes (a), as he that is drawn about the streets with a hook (6). Retirement without study is death, and the sepulchre of a living man.

Besides, what does it avail a man to have retired? As if the causes of follicitude and trouble would not follow him, even beyond the seas? What so secret place is there, excludes the fear of death? What place


of reft so well guarded as to be raised above the dread of pain and grief? Whereever you hide yourself, human miseries will alarm you. There are many external things which surround us, and either deceive us, or press hard upon us: there are many internal pasiions which enflame us in the midst of solitude. We must therefore throw ourselves into the arms of philosophy; it is an impregnable wall (c), which fortune with all her engines cannot penetrate. The mind that hath once disclaim'd all external things, and is determined to quit the field, stands upon an insuperable eminence, protecting itself in its own citadel: while every hostile weapon falls beneath it. Fortune hath not such long hands, as she is generally suppos’d to have ; she seizeth on none but such as willingly cleave to her. Let us leap from her as far as we can. But it is the knowledge of self and nature that can enable us to do this. Let a man therefore know and consider, from whence he came: and whither he is going ; what is good for him, what the contrary: what to pursue, and what to avoid: what that reason is which can distinguish between such things as are desireable, and such as are to be efchewed: and which can affuage the madness of lust, and soften the severity of fear.


There are some indeed who think that even without philosophy, such a mastery, is to be gained over the passions; but their security being once put to the trial, they are forced too late to confess the truth. Their big words fail them, when the executioner takes them by the hand, and death stares them in the face. We may justly say to them; 'Twas an easy matter to bid defiance to absent evils: behold the pains now threaten which you boasted were tolerable: behold death, against whom you have often Spoke fo courageously: the whips yerk; the sword glitters;

Nunc animis opus, Ænea, nunc pectore firmo.
Now is the time firm courage to affume.

Virg. Ib. 261. And nothing but daily meditation can inspire this constancy; if you exercise not the tongue, but the mind; if you are prepared against death; which

you cannot be sufficiently exhorted or strengthen’d against; by those who, with certain cavils would fain persuade you, that. Death is

no evil,

And here, Lucilius, best of men, I have a mind to ridicule some trifling argumentations among the Greeks, which, as much as you wonder at them, I have not quite discarded: our Zeno, for instance, thus argues fyllogistically;

No evil is glorious,

But Death is glorious ; Therefore, Death is no evil. You have prevailed, Zeno, you have deliver'd me from the fear of death. I fall most willingly stretch out my neck to the sword. Will you not speak more seriously, but make even a dying man to smile? But truly I cannot easily say which I take to be the more silly of the two: he who thought by this question to extinguish the fear of death, or he who pretends to answer it, as if it was at all pertinent to the matter.

Nay, he himself, hath opposed thereto a contrary argument, taken from our placing death among things indifferent, which the Greeks call αδιαφορα :

Nothing that is indifferent is glorious:

But Death is glorious; Therefore Death is not an indifferent thing. You see where this question halts, and would impose upon us. Death in itself is not glorious; but to die bravely is glorious. And when he faith, nothing that is indifferent is glorious, I grant it, but with this restriction, that nothing is glorious but what hath some connection with things indifferent: by things indifferent, I mean such, as are neither good nor bad, consider'd in themselves, as sickness, pain, poverty, punishment, death: and I maintain, that none of these things are glorious; but may be made so by their connexion. Poverty is not commendable; but it is commendable not to be dejected and bowed down by it: fo neither is banishment; but he that is not grieved at suffering it, is praife-worthy. No man praiseth death; but he is justly praised, who is deprived of life, before death could give him any perturbation.

All these things therefore are neither honourable, nor glorious in themselves; but whenever virtue joins herself thereto, and hath the management of them, they are indeed both honourable and glorious. They are, as it were in common, and have no other difference than what they obtain by their connection with virtue or the contrary disposition. For death which in Cato was glorious, was soon after vile and shameful in Brutus: I mean that Brutus (d), who when he was about to die, fought all possible means to delay the time; nay he pretended to go afide to ease himself (e), and when called forth to die, and commanded to lay his head


upon the block; I will, says he, so I may but live. What madness is it to fly when it is impossible to escape? I will bow my neck, says he, so I may but live: he had almost saidmeven a save to Anthony. O worthy man to have thy life given thee! but as I was saying; from hence you may observe, that death, considered in itself, is neither good por evil; seeing that Cata made a glorious use of it; and Brutus a most dishonourable one.

Every thing not honourable in itself is ennobled by the accession of virtue. We say such a room is light and magnificent: but how dark and dull is the same by night? It is the day that gives it all its splendour, which the night soon deprives it of: so of those things which we call common and indifferent, as riches, strength, beauty, honours, a kingdom; and on the other hand, banishment, sickness, pain, death, and the like, which we dread more or less, a virtuous or vicious behaviour under them, gives them the title of good or evil. A mass of iron, is neither hot nor cold in itself. It grows hot in the furnace, and is soon made cold by being thrown into the water. Death is honourable, through such means as are honourable, in virtue: and a mind exalting, itself above the gifts of fortune. There is also, my Lucilius, a great. difference even in these common things; for death is not so indifferent a thing, as whether our hair be cut even or not. Death is one of those things, which are not evil, but have the appearance of evil.

There is implanted in every breast a certain felf-love, an innate defire of self-preservation, and a dread of diffolution; which threatens to deprive us of many good things, and the enjoyment of such as we have been long accustomed to. This alfo is what alienates our minds from death; we know the things we enjoy at present; but we know


not what we shall meet with, whither we are going (f), and always apt to dread things unknown. Besides, nothing is more natural than the fear of darkness; and this is what death seems to threaten us with. And therefore, however indifferent a thing death may be, yet it is not to be reckon’d among those which may easily be slighted and contemn'd: the mind must be strengthen’d and harden'd by continual exercise against the sight and approach of death; not that it ought to be dreaded so much as it generally is. Many strange things are believ'd concerning it, and many a genius hath been employ'd in encreasing the infamy (8). What a terrible description is given of the infernal prison, and the difmal region that labours under perpetual night, where the monstrous keeper of Hell- gates

Ofsa super recubans antro semesa cruento. Virg. 8. 297.
Æternum latrans exangues territat umbras. 6. 401.
I he triple porter of the stygian feat,
Now seiz'd with fear forgot his mangled meat-

the dog his wandring troops constrain,

Of airy ghosts, and vex the guilty train. Dryden. Nay, though you should be persuaded that these are mere fictions and idle stories; and that the dead have nothing to fear, yet very far is this persuasion from taking away all fear; for men are as much afraid of annihilation, as of dwelling in the infernal region. Seeing then that these thoughts often affail us, which long persuasion hath made habitual, to suffer death courageously, cannot but be glorious, and worthy a place amongst the strongest efforts of the human mind. The mind can never rise to virtue, so long as it thinks death an evil: but thither it will rise, if it looks upon death merely as an indifferent thing.

It is not in the nature of things for any one to address with magnanįmity what he thinks an evil; flothful and dilatory will be his approach thereto. Now, that cannot be glorious, which is done untowardly, and with an unwilling mind. Virtue does nothing by constraint. Add also that nothing can be done decently and well, to which the whole mind hath not bent its strongest application, and efforts, and is in no. respect whatever repugnant. But when an evil is set before us, it often happens, that the patient fuffering of one lingle evil, shall be swallow'd


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