Simonides the poet, my Sossius Senecio, seeing one of the company sit silent and discourse nobody, said: Sir, if you are a fool, it is wisely done; if a wise man, very foolishly. It is good to conceal a man's folly, but (as Heraclitus says) it is very hard to do it over a glass of wine,
Which doth the gravest men to mirth advance,In which lines the poet in my mind shows the difference between being a little heated and downright drunk; for to sing, laugh, and dance may agree very well with those that have gone no farther than a merry cup; but to prattle, and speak what had been better left unsaid, argues a man to be quite gone. Therefore Plato thinks that wine is the most ingenious discoverer of men's humors; and Homer, when he says,
And let them loose to sing. to laugh, and dance,
And speak what had been better left unsaid.
At feasts they had not known each other's minds,2evidently shows that he knew wine was powerful to open men's thoughts, and was full of new discoveries. It is true from the bare eating and drinking, if they say nothing, we can give no guess at the tempers of the men; but because drinking leads them on to discourse, and discourse lays a great many things open and naked which were secret and hid before, therefore to sport a glass of wine together lets us into one another's humors. And therefore a man may [p. 260] reasonably fall foul on Aesop: Why, sir, would you have a window in every man's breast, through which we may look in upon his thoughts? Wine opens and exposes all, it will not suffer us to be silent, but takes off all mask and visor, and makes us regardless of the severe precepts of decency and custom. Thus Aesop, or Plato, or any other that designs to look into a man, may have his desires satisfied by the assistance of a bottle; but those that are not solicitous to pump one another, but to be sociable and pleasant, discourse of such matters and handle such questions as make no discovery of the bad parts of the soul, but such as comfort the good, and, by the help of neat and polite learning, lead the intelligent part into an agreeable pasture and garden of delight. This made me collect and dedicate to you this third dedication of table discourses, the first of which is about chaplets made of flowers.