Chapter 4 from Michaell de Montaigne, The Essayes, 1603, translated by John
A Gentleman of ours exceedingly ſubject to the gowt, being inſtantly ſolicited by his
Phiſitions, to leave all manner of ſalte-meates, was wont to anſwere pleaſantly, that
when the fittes or pangs of the deſeaſe tooke him, hee would have ſome body to quarell
with; and that crying and curſing, now againſt Bolonie-ſauſege, and ſometimes by railing
againſt ſalt neates-tongues, and gammons of bakon, he found ſome eaſe.
But in good earneſt, euen as the arme being lifted vp to ſtrike, if the ſtroke hit not,
but fall voide, we feele
ſome paine in it, and many times ſtrike it out of joynt; and that to yeeld our ſight pleaſant,
it muſt not bee loſt and diſpierced in the vaſte ayre, but ought rather to have a limited
bound to ſuſtaine it by a reaſonable diſtance.
Ventus ut amittit vires, niſi robore denſae,
So ſeemes it that the ſoule moved and toſſed,
Occurrant ſiluae ſpatio diffuſus inani.
As windes in emptie ayre diffus’de, ſtrength loſe.
Vnleſſe thick-old-growne woods their ſtrength oppoſe.
if ſhe have not ſome holde to take, looſeth it ſelfe in it ſelfe,
and muſt ever be ſtored with ſome obiect, on which it may light and
worke.Plutarke ſaieth fitly of thoſe who affectionate themſelves to Monkies and little
Dogges, that the louing parte which is in vs, for want of a lawefull holde, rather then it
will be idle, doth forge a falſe and friuolous holde vnto it ſelfe. And wee ſee that the (ſ)oule
in her paſſions doth rather deceive it ſelfe, by framing a falſe and fantaſticall ſubiect vnto
it ſelfe, yea againſt her owne conceite, then not to worke vpon ſomething. So doth their
owne rage tranſport beaſtes, to ſet vpon the ſtone or weapon that hath hurt them; yea
and ſometimes with ireful teeth to revenge themſelves againſt themſelves, for the hurt or
ſmart they feele.
What cauſes doe wee not invent, for the croſſes that happen vnto vs? bee it right, or
Pannonis haud aliter post ictum ſauior vrſa
Cui iaculum parua Lybis amentauit habena,
Se rotat in vulnus, telumque irata receptum
Impetit, & ſecum fugientem circuit haſtam.
Even ſo the wound enraged Auſtrian beare,
On whom a Moore hath thirl’d his flinged ſpeare,
Wheeles on her wound, and raging bites the darte.
Circling that flies with her, and can not parte.
wrong: what take we not holde of, to have ſomething to ſtrive withall?It is not the golden
locks thou teareſt, nor the whiteneſſe of the breaſt, which thou through vexation ſo cruelly
doeſt ſmite, that have by meanes of an vnluckie bullet, loſt thy deere-beloved brother, on
ſomething elſe ſhouldeſt thou wreake thy ſelfe.Linius ſpeaking of the Romane army in
Spaine, after the loſſe of two great Captaines that were brethren. Flere omnes repente, & offenſare capita:
They all wept and often beat their heades.It is an ordinarie cuſtome: And
the Philoſopher Byon, was very pleaſant with the king, that for griefe he tore his haire, when
he ſaid, Doth this man thinke, that baldeneſſe will aſſwage his griefe? who hath not ſeene ſome
to chew and ſwallow cardes, and well-nigh checke themſelves with bales of dice, only to be
revenged for the loſſe of ſome mony? Xerxes whipped the Sea, and writ a cartell of defiance
to the hill Athos : And Cyrus for manie daies together ammuſed his whole armie to bee
revenged of the river Cyndus, for the feare hee tooke paſſing over the ſame: And Caligula
cauſed a verie faire houſe to be defaced, for the pleaſure his mother had received in the ſame.
When I was young, my countrimen were wont to ſay, That one of your neighbour-Kings,
having received a blowe at Gods hand, ſware to be revenged on him, and ordained, that for
tenne years ſpace no man ſhould pray vnto him, nor ſpeake of him, nor ſo long as hee were in authoritie,
beleeve in him.By which report, they doe not ſo much publiſh the ſottiſhneſſe,
as the ambitious glorie, peculiar vnto that nation of whom it was ſpoken. They are vices
that ever goe togither: But in trueth ſuch actions encline rather vnto ſelfe-conceit, then to
fondnes.Auguſtus Caeſar having beene beaten by a tempeſt on the ſea, defied the God
Neptune, & in the celebration of the Circenſian games, that ſo he might be avenged on him,
he cauſed his image to be remooved from out the place, where it ſtood amongeſt the other
Gods;wherein he is alſo leſſe excuſable, then the former, and leſſe
then he was afterwarde, when having loſt a battell, vnder Quntilius Varro in Germanie, all in a rage and deſperate,
he went vp and downe beating his head againſt the walles, mainely crying out: Oh Varro,
reſtore me my Souldiers againe:For, thoſe exceede all follie, (forſomuch as impietie is joy-
ned vnto it) that will wreake themſelves againſt God, or fortune, as if ſhe had eares ſubject
to our batterie:In imitation of the Thracians, who when it lightens or thunders, begin
with a Titanian revenge to ſhoote againſt heaven, thinking by ſhooting of arrowes to
drawe God to ſome reaſon. Now, as ſaith that auncient Poet in Plutarch
Point ne ſe faut corroucer aux affaires,
But we ſhal never raile inough againſt the diſorder and vnrulineſſe of our minde.
Il ne leur chaut de toutes noz choleres.
We ought not angry be at what God dooth,
For he cares not who beares an angry tooth.