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ment of himself, and is tossed hither and thither by his fury, as by a tempest? the executioner and the murderer of his nearest friends? The smallest matter moves it, and makes us unsociable and inaccessible. It does all things by violence, as well upon itself as others; and it is, in short, the master of all passions.
7 A vice that carries along with it neither pleasure nor profit, neither honor nor security; but on the contrary, destroys us to all the comfortable and glorious purposes of our reasonable being. Some there are, that will have the root of it to be the greatness of mind.
8 And, why may we not as well entitle impudence to courage, whereas the one is proud, the other brave; the one is gracious and gentle, the other rude and furious? At the same rate, we may ascribe magnanimity to avarice, luxury, and ambition, which are all but splendid impotences, without measure and without foundation.
9 There is nothing great but what is virtuous, nor indeed truly great, but what is also composed and quiet. Anger, alas! is but a wild impetuous blast, an empty tumor, the very infirmity of children; a brawling, clamorous evil: and the more noise the less courage; as we find it commonly, that the boldest tongues have the faintest hearts.
Anger is neither warrantable nor useful.
1 In the first place, anger is unwarrantable, as it is unjust for it falls many times upon the wrong person, and discharges itself upon the innocent instead of the guilty.
2 Secondly, It is unsociable to the highest point; for it spares neither friend nor foe; but tears all to pieces, and casts human nature into a perpetual state of war.
3 Thirdly, It is to no purpose. "It is a sad thing,' we cry, "to put up these injuries, and we are not able to bear them;" as if any man that can bear anger could not bear an injury, which is much more supportable. Nor is it for the dignity of virtue to be either angry or sad.
4 It is with a tainted mind as with an ulcer, not only the touch, but the very offer at it, makes us shrink and complain; when we come once to be carried off from our poise, we are lost. Besides, that the greatest punishment of an injury is the consciousness of having done it; and no man suffers more than he that is turned over to the pain of a repentance.
5 But "may not an honest man then be allowed to be
angry at the murdering of his father, or the ravishing of his sister or his daughter before his face?" No, not at all. I will defend my parents, and I will repel the injuries that are done them; but it is my piety, and not my anger, that moves me to it. I will do my duty without fear or confusion; I will not rage, I will not weep; but discharge the office of a good man without forfeiting the dignity of a man.
6 If my father be assaulted, I will endeavor to rescue him; if he be killed, I will do right to his memory; and all this, not in any transport of passion, but in honor and conscience. Neither is there any need of anger where reason does the same thing. A man may be temperate, and yet vigorous, and raise his mind according to the occasion, more or less, as a stone is thrown according to the discretion and intent of the caster.
7 If anger were sufferable in any case, it might be allowed against an incorrigible criminal under the hand of justice: but punishment is not matter of anger, but of caution. The law is without passion, and strikes malefactors as we do serpents, and venomous creatures, for fear of greater mischief.
8 It is not for the dignity of a judge, when he comes to pronounce the fatal sentence, to express any emotions of anger in his looks, words or gestures; for he condemns the vice, not the man; and looks upon the wickedness without anger. Justice cannot be angry; nor is there any need of an angry magistrate for the punishment of foolish and wicked men. The power of life and death must not be managed with passion. We give a horse the spur that is restiff or jadish, and tries to cast his rider: but this is without anger too, and only to take down his stomach, and bring him, by correction, to obedience.
9 The end of all correction is either the amendment of wicked men, or to prevent the influence of ill example: for men are punished with a respect to the future; not to expiate offences committed, but for fear of worse to come. There are no greater slaves certainly, than those that serve anger; for they improve their misfortunes by an impatience more insupportable than the calamity that causes it.
10 Nor does it rise by degrees, as other passions, but flashes like gunpowder, blowing up all in a moment. Neither does it only press to the mark, but overbears every thing in the way to it. Other vices drive us, but this hurries us headlong; other passions stand firm themselves, though perhaps we cannot resist them; but this consumes and destroys
itself; it falls like thunder or a tempest, with an irrevocable violence, that gathers strength in the passage, and then evaporates in the conclusion.
11 Other vices are unreasonable, but this is unhealthful too; other distempers have their intervals and degrees, but in this we are thrown down as from a precipice: there is not any thing so amazing to others, or so destructive to itself: so proud and insolent, if it succeeds, or so extravagant, if it be disappointed.
12 We find that elephants will be made familiar; bulls will suffer children to ride upon their backs, and play with their horns; bears and lions, by good usage, will be brought to fawn upon their masters; how desperate a madness is it then for men, after the reclaiming the fiercest of beasts, and the bringing of them to be tractable and domestic, to become yet worse than beasts one to another?
13 Alexander had two friends, Clytus and Lysimachus; the one he exposed to a lion, the other to himself; and he that was turned loose to the beast escaped. Why do we not rather make the best of a short life, and render ourselves amiable to all while we live, and desirable when we die?
14 For does any man know but that he that is now our enemy, may come hereafter to be our friend, over and above the reputation of clemency and good nature? And what can be more honorable or comfortable, than to exchange a feud for a friendship?
15 But, however, if it be our fortune to transgress, let not our anger descend to the children, friends, or relations, even of our bitterest enemies. The very cruelty of Sylla was heightened by that instance of incapacitating the issue of the proscribed. It is inhuman, to entail the hatred we have for the father, upon his posterity.
16 A good and a wise man is not to be an enemy of wicked men, but a reprover of them; and he is to look upon all the drunkards, the licentious, the thankless, covetous, and ambitious, that he meets with, no otherwise than as a physieian looks upon his patients. Democritus laughed, and Heraclitus wept, at the folly and wickedness of the world, but we never read of an angry philosopher.
17 To take a farther view, now, of the miserable consequences and sanguinary effects of this hideous distemper; from hence come slaughters and poisons, wars, and desolations, the razing and burning of cities: the unpeopling of nations, and the turning of populous countries into deserts:
public massacres and regicides: princes led in triumph: some murdered in their bed-chambers: others stabbed in the senate, or cut off in the security of their spectacles and pleasures.
18 It was a severe instance, that of Piso too. A soldier that had leave of absence to go abroad with his comrade, came back to the camp at his time, but without his companion. Piso condemns him to die, as if he had killed him, and appoints a centurion to see the execution. Just as the headsman was ready to do his office, the other soldier appeared, to the great joy of the whole field, and the centurion, bade the executioner hold his hand.
19 Hereupon. Piso, in a rage, mounts the tribunal, and sentences all three to death; the one because he was condemned, the other because it was for his sake that his fellowsoldier was condemned, the centurion for not obeying the order of his superior. An ingenious piece of inhumanity, to contrive how to make three criminals where effectually there were none.
20 There was a Persian king that caused the noses of a whole nation to be cut off, and they were to thank him that he spared their heads. And this, perhaps, would have been the fate of the Macrobii, (if Providence had not hindered it,) for the freedom they used to Cambyses' ambassadors, in not accepting the slavish terms that were offered them.
21. This put Cambyses into such a rage, that he presently enlisted into his service every man that was able to bear arms; and, without either provisions or guides, marched immediately through dry and barren deserts, and where never any man had passed before him, to take his revenge. Before he was a third part of the way, his provisions failed him.
22 His men, at first, made shift with the buds of trees, boiled leather, and the like; but soon after there was not so much as a root or a plant to be gotten, nor a living creature to be seen; and then by lot every tenth man was to die for a nourishment to the rest, which was still worse than the famine.
23 But yet this passionate king went on so far, until one part of his army was lost, and the other devoured, and until he feared that he himself might come to be served with the same sauce. So that at last he ordered a retreat, wanting no delicates all this while for himself, while his soldiers were taking their chance who should die miserably, or live worse. Here was an anger taken up against a whole nation, that neither deserved any ill from him, nor was so much as known to him.
Advice in the cases of contumely and revenge.
1 Of provocations to anger there are two sorts; there is an injury, and there is a contumely. The former, in its own nature, is the heavier; the other, slight in itself, and only troublesome to a wounded imagination. And yet some there are that will bear blows, and death itself, rather than contumelious words. A contumely is an indignity below the consideration of the very law; and not worthy either of a revenge, or so much as a complaint.
2 It is only the vexation and infirmity of a weak mind, as well as the practice of a haughty and insolent nature, and signifies no more to a wise and sober man than an idle dream, that is no sooner past than forgotten. It is true, it implies contempt; but what needs any man care for being contemptible to others, if he be not so to himself?
3 It is a wretched condition to stand in awe of every body's tongue; and whosoever is vexed at a reproach, would be proud if he were commended. We should look upon contumelies, slanders, and ill words, only as the clamor of enemies, or arrows shot at a distance, that make a clattering upon our arms, but do no execution.
4 A man makes himself less than his adversary by fancying that he is contemned. Things are only ill that are ill taken; and it is not for a man of worth to think himself better or worse for the opinion of others.
5 A physician is not angry at the intemperance of a mad patient; nor does he take it ill to be railed at by a man in a fever: just so should a wise man treat vicious men, as a physician does his patient. In these cases, the rule is to pardon all offences, where there is any sign of repentance, or hope of amendment. It does not hold in injuries as in benefits, the requiting of the one with the other; for it is a shame to overcome in the one, and in the other to be overcome.
6 It is the part of a great mind to despise injuries; and it is one kind of revenge to neglect a man as not worth it; for it makes the first aggressor too considerable. Our philosophy, methinks, might carry us up to the bravery of a generous mastiff, that can hear the barking of a thousand curs without taking any notice of them.
7 Fidus Cornelius (a tall, slim fellow,) fell downright a crying in the senate house at Corbulo's saying that "he looked like an ostrich."