SYLLA. Those painters, O Fundanus, in my opinion do very wisely, who never finish any piece at the first sitting, but take a review of it at some convenient distance of time; because the eye, being relieved for a time, renews its power by making frequent and fresh judgments, and becomes able to observe many small and critical differences which continual poring and familiarity would prevent it from noticing. Now, because it cannot be that a man should stand off from himself and interrupt his consciousness, and then after some interval return to accost himself again (which is one principal reason why a man is a worse judge of himself than of other men), the next best course that a man can take will be to inspect his friends after some time of absence, and also to offer himself to their examination, not to see whether he be grown old on the sudden, or whether the habit of his body be become better or worse than it was before, but that they may take notice of his manner and behavior, whether in that time he hath made any advance in goodness, or gained ground of his vices. Wherefore, being after two years' absence returned to Rome, and having since conversed with thee here again for these five months, I think it no great matter of wonder that those good qualities which, by the advantage of a good natural disposition, you were formerly possessed of [p. 34] have in this time received so considerable an increase. But truly, when I behold how that vehement and fiery disposition which you had to anger is now through the conduct of reason become so gentle and tractable, my mind prompts me to say, with Homer,—
O wonder! how much gentler is he grown!

Nor hath this gentleness produced in thee any laziness or irresolution; but, like cultivation in the earth, it hath caused an evenness and a profundity very effectual unto fruitful action, instead of thy former vehemency and over-eagerness. And therefore it is evident that thy former proneness to anger hath not been withered in thee by any decay of vigor which age might have effected, or spontaneously; but that it hath been cured by making use of some mollifying precepts.

And indeed, to tell you the truth, when I heard our friend Eros say the same thing, I had a suspicion that he did not report the thing as it was, but that out of mere good-will he testified those things of you which ought to be found in every good and virtuous man. And yet you know he cannot be easily induced to depart from what he judges to be true, in order to favor any man. But now, truly, as I acquit him of having therein made any false report of thee, so I desire thee, being now at leisure from thy journey, to declare unto us the means and (as it were) the medicine, by use whereof thou hast brought thy mind to be thus manageable and natural, thus gentle and obedient unto reason.

FUNDANUS. But in the mean while, O most kind Sylla, you had best beware, lest you also through affection and friendship may be somewhat careless in making an estimate of my affairs. For Eros, having himself also a mind oft-times unable to keep its ground and to contain itself [p. 35] within that obedience which Homer mentions, but subject to be exasperated through an hatred of men's wickedness, may perhaps think I am grown more mild; just as in music, when the key is changed, that note which before was the base becomes a higher note with respect to others which are now below it.

SYLLA. Neither of these is so, Fundanus; but, I pray you, gratify us all by granting the request I made.

1 Il. XXII. 378.

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