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Mankind unreasonably complain of their nature, that, being weak and short-lived, it is governed by chance rather than intellectual power;1 for, on the contrary, you will find, upon reflection, that there is nothing more noble or excellent, and that to nature is wanting rather human industry than ability or time.

The ruler and director of the life of man is the mind, which, when it pursues glory in the path of true merit, is sufficiently powerful, efficient, and worthy of honor,2 and needs no assistance from fortune, who can neither bestow integrity, industry, or other good qualities, nor can take them away. But if the mind, ensnared by corrupt passions, abandons itself3 to indolence and sensuality, when it has indulged for a season in pernicious gratifications, and when bodily strength, time, and mental vigor, have been wasted in sloth, the infirmity of nature is accused, and those who are themselves in fault impute their delinquency to circumstances.4

If man, however, had as much regard for worthy objects, as he has spirit in the pursuit of what is useless,5 unprofitable, and even perilous, he would not be governed by circumstances more than he would govern them, and would attain to a point of greatness, at which, instead of being mortal,6 he would be immortalized by glory.

1 I. Intellectual power] “Virtute.” See the remarks on virtus, at the commencement of the Conspiracy of Catiline. A little below, I have rendered via virtutis, "the path of true merit."

2 Worthy of honor] “clarus.” “"A person may be called clarus either on account of his great actions and merits; or on account of some honor which he has obtained, as the consuls were called clarissimi viri; or on account of great expectations which are formed from him. But since the worth of him who is clarus is known by all, it appears that the mind is here called clarus because its nature is such that pre-eminence is generally attributed to it, and the attention of all directed toward it."” Dietsch.

3 Abandons itself] “Pessum datus est.” Is altogether sunk and over-whelmed.

4 Impute their delinquency to circumstances, etc.] “Suam quisque culpam ad negotia transferunt.” Men excuse their indolence and inactivity, by saying that the weakness of their faculties, or the circumstances in which they are placed, render them unable to accomplish any thing of importance. But, says Seneca, Satis natura homini dedit roboris, si illo utamur ;--nolle in causâ, non posse prœtenditur. "Nature has given men sufficient powers, if they will but use them; but they pretend that they can not, when the truth is that they will not." “"Negotia is a common word with Sallust, for which other writers would use res, facta."” Gerlach."Cujus rei nos ipsi sumus auctores, ejus culpam rebus externis attribuimus."Müller. "Auctores" is the same as the Greek ἄιτιοι.

5 Useless] “Aliena.” Unsuitable, not to the purpose, not contributing to the improvement of life.

6 Instead of being mortal] “Pro mortalibus.” There are two senses in which these words may be taken: as far as mortals can, and instead of being mortals. Kritz and Dietsch say that the latter is undoubtedly the true sense. Other commentators are either silent or say little to the purpose. As for the translators, they have studied only how to get over the passage delicately. The latter sense is perhaps favored by what is said in c. 2, that "the illustrious achievements of the mind are, like the mind itself, immortal."

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