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We are not therefore to lament those who die in the bloom of their years, as if they were spoiled of things which we call enjoyments in a longer life; for it is uncertain, as we have often said, whether they are deprived of good or evil, for the evil in the world far exceeds the good. The good we obtain hardly and with anxious endeavor, but the evil easily befalls us; for they say evils are linked together, and by a mutual dependence of causes follow one another, but the good lie scattered and disjoined, and with great difficulty are brought within the compass of our life. Therefore we seem to have forgot our condition; for not only is it true, as Euripides hath it, that
The things we do possess are not our own;
but in general no man can claim a strict propriety in any thing he hath:—
When Gods do riches lend, it is but just
That when they please we should resign our trust.
We ought not therefore to take it amiss if they demand those things which they lent us only for a small time; for even your common brokers, unless they are unjust, will not be displeased if they are called upon to refund their pawns, and if one of them is not altogether so ready to deliver them, thou mayst say to him without any injury, Hast thou forgot that thou receivedst them upon the condition to restore them? The same parity of reason holds amongst all men. The Gods have put life into our hands by a fatal [p. 328] necessity, and there is no prefixed time when what is so deposited will be required of us, as the brokers know not when their pawns will be demanded. If therefore any one is angry when he is dying himself, or resents the death of his children, is it not very plain, that he hath forgot that he himself is a man and that he hath begotten children as frail as himself? For a man that is in his wits cannot be ignorant that he is a mortal creature, and born to this very end that he must die. If Niobe, as it is in the fable, had had this sentence always at hand, that she must at length die, and could not
In the ever-flowering bloom of youth remain,
Nor loaded with children, like a fruitful tree,
Behold the sun's sweet light,—
she would never have sunk to such a degree of desperation as to desire to throw off her life to ease the burthen of her sorrow, and call upon the Gods to hurry her into the utmost destruction. There are two sentences inscribed upon the Delphic oracle, hugely accommodated to the usages of man's life, KNOW THYSELF, and NOTHING TOO MUCH; and upon these all other precepts depend. And they themselves accord and harmonize with each other, and each seems to illustrate the energy of the other; for in Know thyself is included Nothing too much; and so again in the latter is comprised Know thyself. And Ion hath spoken of it thus:—
This sentence, Know thyself, is but a word;
But only Jove himself could do the thing.
And thus Pindar:—
This sentence briet, Do nothing to excess,
Wise men have always praised exceedingly.

1 Eurip. Phoeniss. 555.

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