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It is another very good argument to prove that by labor and exercise you have shaken off all stupidity and sluggishness of temper, and that you are arrived at a perfection of virtue, if for the future your resolutions be more firm and your application more intense than they were when you first set out. This appears true, if you but observe its contrary; for it is a very bad sign if, after a small time spent in trial, you find many and repeated intermissions, [p. 451] or your affections yielding or cool in the pursuit. This may be illustrated by what is observable in the growth of a cane. At first it appears above ground with a full and pleasing sprout, which by little and little, taper-wise, by a continued and equal distribution of matter, rises to a very great height. Towards the root you may observe that there are formed certain steps and joints, which are at a considerable distance from one another, because (there) the juice is plentiful and strong. But toward the top the nutrimentive particles vibrate and palpitate, as if they were quite spent with the length of their journey, and thereupon, you see, they form themselves many small, weak, and tender joints, as so many supports and breathing-places. So it happens with those that study philosophy: at first setting out they take long steps and make great advances; but if, after some attempts, they perceive not in themselves any alteration for the better, but meet with frequent checks and avocations the further they go, ordinarily they faint, make any excuses to be off from their engagement, despond of ever going through with it, and thereupon proceed no farther. But, on the contrary, he that is winged with desire flies at the proposed advantage, and by a stout and vigorous pursuit cuts off all pretences of delay from crowding in upon him or hindering his journey.

In love, it is a sign the passion is predominant, if the lover be not only pleased in the enjoyment of the beloved object (for that's ordinary), but also troubled and grieved at the absence of it. After a manner not unlike this, many youngsters (as I've observed) stand affected at the study of philosophy. At first, they buckle to their work with the greatest concern and emulation imaginable; but as soon as ever they are diverted, either by business or any little pretences, the heat of their affection immediately flies off, and they sit down ignorant and very well content. But [p. 452]

He that perceives the pleasing sting of love,
Whose poignant joy his trembling heart doth move,

will not only show that he is a proficient by his virtuous demeanor and agreeableness in all company and discourse; but if he be called from his business, you may perceive him all on fire, in pain, and uneasy in whatsoever he does, whether alone or in company, and so concerned that he is unmindful of his best friends till he is restored to the quest of his beloved philosophy. All of us ought to imitate such a noble example in all our studies. We must not be affected with good discourse only while we are in place, as we are with rich fragrant perfumes (which we never mind, but while we are a smelling to them); but if by chance marriage, an estate, love, or a campaign take us from our business, we must still hunger and thirst after virtue; and the more our proficiency is advanced, by so much the more ought our desire to know what we have not attained disquiet and excite us to the further pursuit and knowledge of it.

1 From Sophocles, Frag. 757.

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