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In general, every one should meditate seriously with himself, and have the concurrence of other men's opinions with his own, that it is not the longest life which is the best, but that which is the most virtuous. For that musician is not to be commended who plays upon varietyof instruments, nor that orator that makes multiplicity of speeches, nor the pilot that conducts many ships, but he of each faculty that doth one of them well; for the beauty of a thing doth not [p. 318] consist in length of time, but in the virtue and seasonable moderation wherewith it is transacted. This is that which is called happy and grateful to the Gods. And for this reason it is that poets celebrate those who have died before they have become old, and propose them for examples, as the most excellent men and of divine extraction, as him for instance,
Beloved by Jove and him who gilds the skies,
Yet short his date of life.1

And we see in every thing that preference is not given so much to age as to maturity. For amongst trees and plants, those are accounted the most generous which bring forth abundance of fruit, and that early ripe. And amongst living creatures too, those are the most valued which supply us with the accommodations of life in a short time. Be sides, if we compare the space of our life with eternity we shall find no difference betwixt long and short; for according to Simonides, thousands and millions of years are but as a point to what is infinite, or rather the smallest part of that point. They report that about Pontus there are some creatures of such an extempore being that the whole term of their life is confined within the space of a day; for they are brought forth in the morning, are in the prime of their existence at noon, grow old at night, and then die. Dost thou not think that if these had the soul and reason of a man, they would be so affected, and that things would happen to them after the same manner as to us?—that those who died before the meridian would be lamented with tears and groans?—and that we should call them happy who lived their day out? For the measure of a man's life is the well spending of it, and not the length.

1 Odyss. XV. 245.

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