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Furthermore, an exact government of the tongue is a strong evidence of a good mind, and no inconsiderable part of virtue. But since every man naturally is desirous to propagate his conceits, and without a painful force cannot [p. 292] smother his resentments, it is no easy task to keep this unruly member in due subjection, unless such an impetuous affection as anger be thoroughly subdued by much exercise, care, and study. For such things as ‘saying let fall against our will,’ or ‘a word flying by the range of our teeth,’ 1 or ‘a speech escaping us by accident,’ are all likely to happen to those whose ill-exercised minds (as it were) fall and waste away, and whose course of life is licentious; and we may attribute this to hasty passion or to unsettled judgment. For divine Plato tells us that for a word, which is the lightest of all things, both Gods and men inflict the heaviest penalties.2 But silence, which can never be called to account, doth not only, as Hippocrates hath observed, extinguish thirst, but it bears up against all manner of slanders with the constancy of Socrates and the courage of Hercules, who was no more concerned than a fly at what others said or did. Now it is certainly not grander or better than this for a man to bear silently and quietly the revilings of an enemy, taking care not to provoke him, as if he were swimming by a dangerous rock; but the practice is better. For whosoever is thus accustomed to endure patiently the scoffs of an enemy will, without any disturbance or trouble, bear with the chidings of a wife, the rebukes of a friend, or the sharper reproofs of a brother. When a father or mother corrects you, you will not be refractory or stubborn under the rod. Xanthippe, though she was a woman of a very angry and troublesome spirit, could never move Socrates to a passion. By being used to bear patiently this heavy sufferance at home, he was ever unconcerned, and not in the least moved by the most scurrilous and abusive tongues he met withal abroad. For it is much better to overcome boisterous passions and to bring the mind into a calm and even frame of spirit, by contentedly undergoing [p. 293] the scoffs, outrages, and affronts of enemies, than to be stirred up to choler or revenge by the worst they can say or do.

1 Il. IV. 350.

2 Plato, Laws, XI. p. 935 A.

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