For, as amongst trees some are very thick with fruit,
and some bear none at all; amongst living creatures some
are very prolific, and some barren; and as in the sea there
is alternate vicissitude of calms and tempests, so in human
life there are many and various circumstances which distract a man into divers changes of fortune. One considering this matter hath not said much from the purpose:—
Think not thyself, O Atreus' son, forlorn;
Thou always to be happy wast not born.
Even Agamemnon's self must be a shade,
For thou of frail materials art made.
Sorrow and joy alternately succeed;
'Spite of thy teeth, the Gods have so decreed.1
These verses are Menander's.
If thou, O Trophimus, of all mankind,
Uninterrupted happiness couldst find;
If when thy mother brought thee forth with pain,
I)idst this condition of thy life obtain,
That only prosperous gales thy sails should fill,
And all things happen 'cording to thy will;
If any of the Gods did so engage,
Such usage justly might provoke thy rage,
Matter for smart resentment might afford,
For the false Deity did break his word.
But if thou unexcepted saw'st the light,
Without a promise of the least delight,
I say to thee (gravely in tragic style)
Thou ought to be more patient all the while.
In short,—and to say more there's no one can,—
Which is a name of frailty, thou'rt a man;
A creature more rejoicing is not found,
None more dejected creeps upon the ground.
Though weak, yet he in politics refines,
Involves himself in intricate designs;
With nauseous business he himself doth cloy,
And so the pleasure of his life destroy.
In great pursuits thou never hast been cross'd
No disappointments have thy projects lost;
Nay, such hath been the mildness of thy fate,
Hast no misfortune had of any rate;
If Fortune is at any time severe,
Serene and undisturbed thou must appear.
But though this be the state of all sublunary things, yet
such is the extravagant pride and folly of some men, that if
they are raised above the common by the greatness of their
riches or functions of magistracy, or if they arrive to any
eminent charge in the commonwealth, they presently swell
with the titles of their honor, and threaten and insult over
their inferiors; never considering what a treacherous Goddess Fortune is, and how easy a revolution it is for things
that are uppermost to be thrown down from their height and
for humble things to be exalted, and that these changes of
Fortune are performed quickly and in the swiftest moments
of time. To seek for any certainty therefore in that which
is uncertain is the part of those who judge not aright of
Like to a wheel that constantly goes round,
One part is up whilst t'other's on the ground.