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To those then who are discreet and cautious, the most malignant and worst part of enmity becomes advantageous and useful. But what is this you talk of all this whileAn enemy is ever diligent and watchful to contrive stratagems and lay snares for us, not omitting any opportunity whereby he may carry on his malicious purposes. He lays siege to our whole life, and turns spy into the most minute action of it; not as Lynceus is said to look into oaks and stones, but by arts of insinuation he gets to the knowledge of our secrets, by our bosom friend, domestic servant, and intimate acquaintance. As much as possibly he can, he enquires what we have done, and labors to dive into the most hidden counsels of our minds. Nay, our friends do often escape our notice, either when they die or are sick, because we are careless and neglect them; but we are apt to examine and pry curiously almost into the very dreams of our enemies.

[p. 284] Now our enemy (to gratify his ill-will towards us) doth acquaint himself with the infirmities both of our bodies and mind, with the debts we have contracted, and with all the differences that arise in our families, all which he knows as well, if not better, than ourselves. He sticks fast to our faults, and chiefly makes his invidious remarks upon them. Nay, our most depraved affections, that are the worst distempers of our minds, are always the subjects of his inquiry; just as vultures pursue putrid flesh, noisome and corrupted carcasses, because they have no perception of those that are sound and in health. So our enemies catch at our failings, and then they spread them abroad by uncharitable and ill-natured reports.

Hence we are taught this useful lesson for the direction and management of our conversations in the world, that we be circumspect and wary in every thing we speak or do, as if our enemy always stood at our elbow and overlooked every action. Hence we learn to lead blameless and inoffensive lives. This will beget in us vehement desires and earnest endeavors of restraining disorderly passions. This will fill our minds with good thoughts and meditations, and with strong resolutions to proceed in a virtuous and harmless course of life.

For as those commonwealths and cities know best how to value the happiness of having good and wholesome laws, and most admire and love the safety of a quiet and peaceable constitution of things, which have been harassed by wars with their neighbors or by long expeditions; so those persons who have been brought to live soberly by tile fear and awe of enemies, who have learned to guard against negligence and idleness, and to do every thing with a view to some profitable end, are by degrees (they know not how) drawn into a habit of living so as to offend nobody, and their manners are composed and fixed in their obedience to virtue by custom and use, with very little help from the [p. 285] reason. For they always carry in their minds that saying of Homer, if we act any thing amiss,

Priam will laugh at us, and all his brood;
our enemies will please themselves and scoff at our defects; therefore we will do nothing that is ridiculous, sinful, base, or ignoble, lest we become a laughing-stock to such as do not love us.

In the theatre we often see great artists in music and singing very supine and remiss, doing nothing as they should, whilst they play or sing alone; but whenever they challenge one another and contend for mastery, they do not only rouse up themselves, but they tune their instruments more carefully, they are more curious in the choice of their strings, and they try their notes in frequent and more harmonious consorts. Just so a man who hath an adversary perpetually to rival him in the well ordering of his life and reputation is thereby rendered more prudent in what he does, looks after his actions more circumspectly, and takes as much care of the accurateness of them as the musician does of his lute or organ. For evil hath this peculiar quality in it, that it dreads an enemy more than a friend. For this cause Nasica, when some thought the Roman affairs were established for ever in peace and safety, after they had razed Carthage and enslaved Greece, declared that even then they were in the greatest danger of all and most likely to be undone, because there were none left whom they might still fear and stand in some awe of.

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load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1928)
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