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Seeing then an absolute apathy or freedom from all passions whatsoever is a great and divine perfection, and, withal, considering that progress seems to consist in a certain remission and moderation of those very passions we carry about us, it unavoidably follows, that if we will observe our passions, with relation to one another and also to themselves, we may easily find out their differences. For example, first, we may observe from the passions compared with themselves whether our desires be now more moderate [p. 470] than they used to be, fear and anger less and more calm, and whether or no we are more able to quench the heat and flame of our passions than we used to be.

Secondly, by comparing them with one another, we may observe whether we now have a greater share of shame than of fear, whether emulation be without any mixture of envy, whether we have greater desire of glory than of riches, whether we offend (as the musicians term it) in the Dorian or base or in the Lydian or treble notes,—that is, whether we are more inured to abstinence and hardship than otherwise,—whether we are unwilling rather than forward to appear in public, and, lastly, whether we are undue admirers of the persons or performances of others, or despisers both of them and what they can do.

As it is a good sign of recovery of a sick person if the distemper lie in the less principal parts of the body; so in proficiency, if vicious habits be changed into more tolerable passions, it is a symptom that they are going off and ready to be quenched. Phrynis the musician, to his seven strings adding two more, was asked by the magistrates, whether he had rather they should cut the upper or lower of them, the base or treble. Now it is our business to cut off (as it were) both what is above and below, if we would attain to the true medium and equality; for proficiency in the first place remits the excess, and sweetens the harmony of the evil affections, which is (according to Sophocles)

The madman's greatest pleasure and disease.

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load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1927)
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