Dear women, tell me, with what faceThus is it not reason to believe, that the soul of every wicked man revolves and reasons within itself, how by burying in oblivion former transgressions, and casting from itself the consciousness and the guilt of hitherto committed crimes, to fit frail mortality under her conduct for a new course of life? For there is nothing for a man to confide in, nothing [p. 159] but what vanishes like smoke, nothing durable or constant in whatever impiety proposes to itself,—unless, by Jove, we will allow the unjust and vicious to be sage philosophers,—but wherever eager avarice and voluptuousness, inexorable hatred, enmity, and improbity associate together, there you shall also be sure to find superstition nestling and herding with effeminacy and terror of death, a swift change of the most violent passions, and an arrogant ambition after undeserved honor. Such men as these stand in continual dread of their contemners and backbiters, they fear their applauders, believing themselves injured by their flatteries; and more especially, they are at enmity with bad men, because they are so free to extol those that seem good. However, that which hardens men to mischief soon cankers, grows brittle, and shivers in pieces like bad iron. So that in process of time, coming to understand themselves better and to be more sensible of their miscarriages, they disdain, abhor, and utterly disclaim their former course of life. And when we see how a wicked man who restores a trust or becomes security for his friend, or ambitious of honor contributes more largely to the benefits of his country, is immediately in a condition of repentance and sorry for what he has just done, by reason of the natural inclination of his mind to ramble and change; and how some men, being clapped and hummed upon the theatre, presently fall a weeping, their desire of glory relapsing into covetousness; we surely cannot believe that those which sacrificed the lives of men to the success of their tyrannies and conspiracies, as Apollodorus, or plundered their friends of their treasure and deprived them of their estates, as Glaucus the son of Epicydes, did not repent and abhor themselves, or that they were not sorry for the perpetration of such foul enormities. For my part, if it may be lawful for me to deliver my opinion, I believe there is no occasion either for the [p. 160] Gods or men to inflict their punishment upon the most wicked and sacrilegious offenders; seeing that the course of their own lives is sufficient to chastise their crimes, while they remain under the consternations and torments attending their impiety.
Shall I return to dwell with Athamas,
As if it ne'er had been my luckless fate
The worst of foul misdeeds to perpetrate?
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1 From the Ino of Euripides, Frag. 403.
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