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Of eloquence.

A book will always be read with more pleasure and ease, if it be written in fair characters; and so every one will the more easily attend to discourses likewise, if ornamented with proper and beautiful expressions. It ought not then to be said, that there is no such thing as the faculty of eloquence; for this would be at once the part of an impious and timid person, - impious, because he dishonors the gifts of God; just as if he should deny any use in the faculties of sight, hearing, and speech itself. Has God then given you eyes in vain? Is it in vain that he has infused into them such a strong and active spirit as to be able to represent the forms of distant objects? What messenger is so quick and diligent? Is it in vain that he has made the intermediate air [p. 1207] so yielding and elastic that sight penetrates through it? And is it in vain that he has made the light, without which all the rest would be useless? Man, be not ungrateful, nor, on the other hand, unmindful of your superior advantages; but for sight and hearing, and indeed for life itself, and the supports of it, as fruits and wine and oil, be thankful to God; but remember that he has given you another thing, superior to them all, which uses them, proves them, estimates the value of each. For what is it that pronounces upon the value of each of these faculties? Is it the faculty itself? Did you ever perceive the faculty of sight or hearing to say anything concerning itself; or wheat, or barley, or horses, or dogs? No. These things are appointed as instruments and servants, to obey that which is capable of using things as they appear. If you inquire the value of anything, of what do you inquire? What is the faculty that answers you? How then can any faculty be superior to this, which uses all the rest as instruments, and tries and pronounces concerning each of them? For which of them knows what itself is, and what is its own value? Which of them knows when it is to be used, and when not? Which is it that opens and shuts the eyes, and turns them away from improper objects? Is it the faculty of sight? No; but that of Will. Which is it that opens and shuts the ears? Which is it by which they are made curious and inquisitive, or, on the contrary, deaf, and [p. 1208] unaffected by what is said? Is it the faculty of hearing? No; but that of Will. This, then, recognizing itself to exist amidst other faculties, all blind and deaf, and unable to discern anything but those offices in which they are appointed to minister and serve, itself alone sees clearly, and distinguishes the value of each of the rest. Will this, I say, inform us that anything is supreme but itself? What can the eye, when it is opened, do more than see? But whether we ought to look upon the wife of any one, and in what manner, what is it that decides us? The faculty of Will. Whether we ought to believe, or disbelieve what is said; or whether, if we do believe, we ought to be moved by it, or not, what is it that decides us? Is it not the faculty of Will? Again, the very faculty of eloquence, and that which ornaments discourse, if any such peculiar faculty there be, what does it more than merely ornament and arrange expressions, as curlers do the hair? But whether it be better to speak or to be silent, or better to speak in this or in that manner, whether this be decent or indecent, and the season and use of each, what is it that decides for us, but the faculty of Will? What, then; would you have it appear, and bear testimony against itself? What means this? If the case be thus, then that which serves may be superior to that to which it is subservient; the horse to the rider, the dog to the hunter, the instrument to the musician, or servants to the king. What is [p. 1209] it that makes use of all the rest? The Will. What takes care of all? The Will. What destroys the whole man, at one time, by hunger; at another, by a rope or a precipice? The Will. Has man, then, anything stronger than this? And how is it possible that what is liable to restraint should be stronger than what is not? What has a natural power to restrain the faculty of sight? The Will and its workings. And it is the same with the faculties of hearing and of speech. And what has a natural power of restraining the Will? Nothing beyond itself, only its own perversion. Therefore in the Will alone is vice; in the Will alone is virtue.

Since, then, the Will is such a faculty, and placed in authority over all the rest, suppose it to come forth and say to us that the body is of all things the most excellent! If even the body itself pronounced itself to be the most excellent, it could not be borne. But now, what is it, Epicurus, that pronounces all this? What was it that composed volumes concerning " the End," " the Nature of things," "the Rule;" that assumed a philosophic beard; that as it was dying wrote that it was " then spending its last and happiest day "? 1 Was this the body, or was it the faculty of Will? And can you, then, without madness, admit 1 [p. 1210] anything to be superior to this? Are you in reality so deaf and blind? What, then; does any one dishonor the other faculties? Heaven forbid! Does any one assert that there is no use or excellence in the faculty of sight? Heaven forbid ! It would be stupid, impious, and ungrateful to God. But we render to each its due. There is some use in an ass, though not so much as in an ox; and in a dog, though not so much as in a servant; and in a servant, though not so much as in the citizens; and in the citizens, though not so much as in the magistrates. And though some are more excellent than others, those uses which the last afford are not to be despised. The faculty of eloquence has thus its value, though not equal to that of the Will. When therefore I talk thus, let not any one suppose that I would have you neglect eloquence, any more than your eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet, or clothes, or shoes. But if you ask me what is the most excellent of things, what shall I say? I cannot say eloquence, but a right Will; for it is this which makes use of that and of all the other faculties, whether great or small. If this be set right, a bad man becomes good; if it be wrong, a good man becomes wicked. By this we are unfortunate or fortunate; we disapprove or approve each other. In a word, it is this which, neglected, forms unhappiness; and, well cultivated, happiness.

But to take away the faculty of eloquence, and to [p. 1211] say that it is in reality nothing, is not only ungrateful to those who gave it, but cowardly too. For such a person seems to me to be afraid that, if there be any such faculty, we may on occasion be compelled to respect it. Such are they too, who deny any difference between beauty and deformity. Was it possible, then, to be affected in the same manner by seeing Thersites, as by Achilles; by Helen, as by any other woman? These also are the foolish and clownish notions of those who are ignorant of the nature of things, and afraid that whoever perceives such a difference must presently be carried away and overcome. But the great point is to leave to each thing its own proper faculty, and then to see what the value of that faculty is; to learn what is the principal thing, and upon every occasion to follow that, and to make it the chief object of our attention; to consider other things as trifling in comparison with this, and yet, so far as we are able, not to neglect even these. We ought, for instance, to take care of our eyes; yet not as of the principal thing, but only on account of that which is principal; because that can no otherwise preserve its own nature, than by making a due estimate of the rest, and preferring some to others. What is the usual practice, then? That of a traveller who, returning into his own country, and meeting on the way with a good inn, being pleased with the inn, should remain there. Have you forgotten your intention, man? You were not travelling to this place, but only [p. 1212] through it. "But this is a fine place." And how many other fine inns are there, and how many pleasant fields, yet they are simply as a means of passage. What is the real business? To return to your country; to relieve the anxieties of your family; to perform the duties of a citizen; to marry, have children, and go through the public offices. For you did not travel in order to choose the finest places; but to return, to live in that where you were born, and of which you are appointed a citizen.

Such is the present case. Because, by speech and such instruction, we are to perfect our education and purify our own will and rectify that faculty which deals with things as they appear; and because, for the statement of theorems, a certain diction, and some variety and subtilty of discourse are needful, many, captivated by these very things, -one by diction, another by syllogisms, a third by convertible propositions, just as our traveller was by the good inn, - go no further, but sit down and waste their lives shamefully there, as if amongst the sirens. Your business, man, was to prepare yourself for such use of the semblances of things as nature demands; not to fail in what you seek, or incur what you shun; never to be disappointed or unfortunate, but free, unrestrained, uncompelled; conformed to the Divine Administration, obedient to that; finding fault with nothing, but able to say, from your whole soul, the verses which begin, [p. 1213]

“Conduct me, Zeus; and thou, O Destiny.

A Fragment of Cleanthes, quoted in full in Enchiridion, c. 52.- H.

While you have such a business before you, will you be so pleased with a pretty form of expression, or a few theorems, as to choose to stay and live with them, forgetful of your home, and say, "They are fine things!" Why, who says they are not fine things? But only as a means; as an inn. For what hinders one speaking like Demosthenes from being miserable? What hinders a logician equal to Chrysippus from being wretched, sorrowful, envious, vexed, unhappy? Nothing. You see, then, that these are merely unimportant inns, and what concerns you is quite another thing. When I talk thus to some, they suppose that I am setting aside all care about eloquence and about theorems; but I do not object to that, only the dwelling on these things incessantly, and placing our hopes there. If any one, by maintaining this, hurts his hearers, place me amongst those hurtful people; for I cannot, when I see one thing to be the principal and most excellent, call another so to please you. [p. 1214]


1 These words are part of a letter written by Epicurus, when he was dying, to one of his friends. Diog. Laert. 10.22. -C. The titles previously given are those of treatises by Epicurus. - H.

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