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Concerning those who seek preferment at Rome.

If we all applied ourselves as heartily to our proper business as the old politicians at Rome to their schemes, perhaps we too might accomplish something. I know a man older than I am, who is now a commissary at Rome. When he passed through this place, on his return from exile, what an account did he give me of his former life; and how did he promise that for the future, when he had returned he would apply himself to nothing but how to spend the remainder of his days in repose and tranquillity. "For how few have I now remaining! " he said. "You will not do it," said I. "When you are once within reach of Rome you will forget all this; and if you can but once gain admittance to court, you will be rejoiced and thank God." "It you ever find me, Epictetus," said he, "putting one foot into the court, think of me whatever you please." Yet, after all, how did he act? Before he entered the city he was met by a letter from Caesar. On receiving it he forgot all his former [p. 1039] resolutions; and has ever since been accumulating affairs upon himself. I should be glad now to have an opportunity of putting him in mind of his discourse upon the road, and of pointing out by how much I was the truer prophet.

What, then, do I say? that man is made for an inactive life? No, surely. But why is not this life of ours fill of action? For my own part, I wake at dawn with my head full of my lessons for the coming day, and then say to myself, quickly, What is it to me how such a one recites? My present business is to sleep.

What comparison can be made between their kind of activity and ours? If you consider what it is they do, you will see; for about what are they employed the whole day but in calculating, contriving, consulting, - about provisions, about an estate, or other interests like these? Is there any likeness, then, between reading a petition, " I entreat you to give me a permission to export corn," and this, " I entreat you to learn from Chrysippus what the administration of the universe is, and what place a reasonable creature holds in it; learn, too, what you yourself are, and wherein your good and evil consist"? Are these things at all alike? Do they require an equal degree of application? And is it no more shameful to neglect the one than the other?

Well, then, are we older men the only idle dreamers?

No, but you young men are so in a greater degree. [p. 1040] And as we old folks, when we see young ones trifling, are tempted to trifle with them; so, much more, if I were to see you earnest and ardent, I should be excited to labor with you.


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