Chapter 11Of Crueltie
Me thinkes vertue is another manner of thing, and much more noble than the inclinations unto Goodnesse, which in us are engendered. Mindes wellborne, and directed by themselves, follow one same path, and in their actions represent the same visage that the vertuous doe. But Vertue importeth and soundeth somewhat I wot not what greater and more active than by an happy complexion, gently and peaceably, to suffer itself to be led or drawne to follow reason. He that through a naturall facilitie and genuine mildnesse should neglect or contemne injuries received, should no doubt performe a rare action, and worthy commendation: but he who being toucht and stung lo the quicke with any wrong or offence received, should arme himselfe with reason against this furiously blind desire of revenge, and in the end after a great conflict yeeld himselfe master over it, should doubtlesse doe much more. The first should doe well, the other vertuously: the one action might be termed Goodnesse, the other Vertue. For it seemeth that the very name of Vertue presupposeth difficulties and inferreth resistance, and cannot well exercise itselfe without an enemy. It is peradventure the reason why we call God good, mightie, liberall, and just, but we term him not vertuous. His workes are all voluntarie, unforced, and without compulsion.
Of Philosophers, not only Stoicks, but also Epicureans (which phrasing I borrow of the common received opinion, which is false, whatsoever the nimble saying or wittie quipping of Arcesilaus implied, who answered the man that upbraided him, how divers men went from his schoole to the Epicureans, but no one came from thence to him: I easily beleeve it (said he) for Of cocks are many capons made, but no man could ever make a cock of a capon. For truly in constancie opinion and strictnesse of precepts, the Epicurean sect doth in no sort yeeld to the Stoicke. And a Stoike acknowledging a better faith than those disputers who, to contend with Epicurus, and make sport with him, make him to infer and say what he never meant, wresting and wyre-drawing his words to a contrarie sense, arguing and silogizing, by the grammarians privilege, another meaning, by the manner of his speech and another opinion than that they knew he had either in his minde or manners, saith that he left to be an Epicurean for this one consideration amongst others, that he findeth their pitch to be over high and inaccessible: Et ij qui φιλήδονοι vocantur, sunt φιλόκαλοι et φιλοδίκαιοι omnesque virtutes et colunt et retinent:And those that are called lovers of pleasures, are lovers of honestie and justice, and doe reverence and retaine all sorts of vertue. Of Stoicke and Epicurean Philosophers, I say, there are divers who have judged that it was not sufficient to have the minde well placed, well ordered, and well disposed unto vertue; it was not enough to have our resolutions and discourse beyond all the affronts and checks of fortune; but that, moreover, it was verie requisite to seeke for occasions whereby a man might come to the triall of it. They will diligently quest and seeke out for paine, smart, necessitie, want, and contempt, that so they may combat them, and keepe their minde in breath: Multum sibi adjicit virtus lacessitæ: Vertue provoked addes much to it selfe. It is one of the reasons why Epaminondas (who was of a third sect) by a verie lawfull way refuseth some riches fortune had put into his hands, to the end (as he saith) he might have cause to strive and resist povertie, in which want and extremitie he ever continued after. Socrates did in my minde more undauntedly enure himselfe to this humor, maintaining for his exercise the peevish frowardnesse of his wife, than which no essay can be more vexfull, and is a continuall fighting at the sharpe. Metellus of all the Roman senators (he onely having undertaken with the power of vertue, to endure the violence of Saturninus Tribune of the people in Rome, who by maine force went about to have a most unjust law passe in favour of the Communaltie: by which opposition, having incurred all the capital paines that Saturninus had imposed on such as should refuse it) entertained those that led him to the place of execution, with such speeches: That to doe evill was a thing verie easie, and too demissely base, and to doe well where was no danger, was a common thing, but to doe well where was both perill and opposition, was the peculiar office of a man of vertue. These words of Metellus doe clearly represent unto us what I would have verified ; which is, that vertue rejecteth facilitie to be her companion: And that an easefull, pleasant, and declining way by which the regular steps of a good inclination of nature are directed is not the way of true vertue. She requireth a craggie, rough, and thornie way. She would either have strange difficulties to wrestle withall (as that of Metellus) by whose meanes fortune her selfe is pleased to breake the roughnesse of his course; or such inward incombrances as the disordinate appetites and imperfections of our condition bring unto her.
Hitherto I have come at good ease; but at the end of this discourse one thing commeth into my minde, which is that the soule of Socrates, which is absolute the perfectest that ever came to my knowledge, would, according to my accompt, prove a soule deserving but little commendation: For I can conceive no manner of violence or vicious concupiscence in him: I can imagine no manner of difficultie or compulsion in the whole course of his vertue. I know his reason so powerfull, and so absolute mistress over him, that she can never give him way in any vicious desire, and will not suffer it so much as to breed in him. To a vertue so exquisite and so high raised as his is, I can perswade nothing. Me thinks I see it march with a victorious and triumphant pace, in pompe and at ease, without let or disturbance. If vertue cannot shine but by resisting contrarie appetites, shall we then say it cannot passe without the assistance of vice, and oweth him this, that by his meanes it attaineth to honour and credit? What should also betide of that glorious and generous Epicurean voluptuousnesse that makes accompt effeminately to pamper vertue in her lap, and there wantonly to entertaine it, allowing it for her recreation, shame, reproch, agues, povertie, death, and tortures? if I presuppose that perfect vertue is knowne by combating sorrow and patiently under going paine, by tolerating the fits and agonies of the gout, without stirring out of his place; if for a necessarie object I appoint her sharpnesse and difficultie, what shall become of that vertue which hath attained so high a degree, as it doth not only despise all manner of paine, but rather rejoyceth at it, and when a strong fit of the collike shall assaile it, to cause it selfe to be tickled, as that is which the Epicureans have established, and whereof divers amongst them have by their actions left most certaine proofes unto us? As also others have, whom ill effect finde to have exceeded the verie rules of their discipline; witnesse Cato the younger; when I see him die, tearing and mangling his entrails, I cannot simply content my selfe to beleeve that at that time he had his soule wholly exempted from all trouble or free from vexation: I cannot imagine be did only maintaine himselfe in this march or course which the rule of the Stoike sect had ordained unto him, setled, without alteration or emotion, and impassible. There was, in my conceit, in this mans vertue overmuch cheerefulnesse and youthfulnesse to stay there. I verily beleeve he felt a kind of pleasure and sensualitie in so noble an action, and that therein he more pleased himself than in any other he ever performed in his life. Sic abiit e vita, ut causam moriendi nactum se esse gauderet:So departed he his life, that he rejoiced to have found an occasion of death. I doe so constantly beleeve it, that I make a doubt whether he would have had the occasion of so noble an exploit taken from him. And if the goodnesse which induced him to embrace publike commodities more than his owne did not bridle me, I should easily fall into this opinion, that he thought himselfe greatly beholding unto fortune to have put his vertue unto so noble a triall, and to have favoured that robber to tread the ancient libertie of his countrie under foot. In which action me thinks I read a kinde of unspeakable joy in his minde, and a motion of extraordinary pleasure, joined to a manlike voluptuousnesse, at what time it beheld the worthinesse, and considered the generositie and haughtinesse of his enterprise,
Deliberata morte ferocior
Then most in fiercenesse did he passe,
When he of death resolved was,
not urged or set-on by any hope of glorie, as the popular and effeminate judgements have judged: For, that consideration is over base, to touch so generous, so haughtie, and so constant a heart; but for the beautie of the thing it selfe, which he, who managed all the springs and directed all the wards thereof, saw much more clearer, and in its perfection, than we can doe.
Philosophie hath done me a pleasure to judge that so honorable an action had been undecently placed in any other life than in Catoes, and that onely unto his it appertained to make such an end. Therefore did he with reason perswade both his sonne and the Senators that accompanied him, to provide otherwise for themselves. Catoni quum incredibilem natura tribuisset gravitatem, eamque ipse perpetua constantia roboravisset, semperque in proposito consilio permansisset: mortendum potius quam tyranni vultus aspiciendus erat:Whereas nature had affoorded Cato an incredible gravitie, and he had strengthened it by continuall constancie, and ever had stood firme in his proposed desseignes, rather to die than behold the Tyrants face.
Each death should be such as the life hath been. By dying we become no other than we were. I ever interpret a mans death by his life. And if a man shall tell me of any one undanted in apparance, joyned unto a weake life; I imagine it to proceed of some weake cause, and sutable to his life.
The ease therefore of his death, and the facilitie he had acquired by the vigor of his minde, shall we say, it ought to abate something of the lustre of his vertue? And which of those that have their spirits touched, be it never so little, with the true tincture of Philosophie, can content himselfe to imagine Socrates, onely, free from feare and passion, in the accident of his imprisonment, of his fetters, and of his condemnation? And who doth not perceive in him, not onely constancie and resolution (which were ever his ordinarie qualities) but also a kinde of I wot not what new contentment, and carelesse rejoycing in his last behaviour, and discourses? By the startling at the pleasure, which he feeleth in clawing of his legges, after his fetters were taken-off; doth he not manifestly declare an equal glee and joy in his soule for being rid of his former incommodities, and entering into the knowledge of things to come? Cato shall pardon me (if he please) his death is more tragicall, and further extended, whereas this in a certaine manner is more faire and glorious.
Aristippus answered those that bewailed the same; when I die, I pray the Gods send me such a death.
A man shall plainly perceive in the minds of these two men, and of such as imitate them (for I make a question whether ever they could be matched) so perfect an habitude unto vertue, that it was even converted into their complexion. It is no longer a painefull vertue, nor by the ordinances of reason, for the maintaining of which their minde must be strengthened: It is the verie essence of their soule; it is her naturall and ordinarie habit. They have made it such, by a long exercise and observing the rules and precepts of Philosophic, having lighted upon a faire and rich nature. Those vicious passions which breed in us finde no entrance in them. The vigor and constancie of their soules, doth suppresse and extinguish all manner of concupiscences so soone as they but begin to move.
Now that it be not more glorious, by an undaunted and divine resolution, to hinder the growth of temptations, and for a man to frame himselfe to vertue, so that the verie seeds of vice be cleane rooted out; than by mayne force to hinder their progresse; and having suffred himselfe to be surprised by the first assaults of passions, to arme and bandie himselfe, to stay their course and to suppresse them: And that this second effect be not also much fairer than to be simply stored with a facile and gentle nature, and of it selfe distasted and in dislike with licentiousnesse and vice, I am perswaded there is no doubt. For this third and last manner seemeth in some sort to make a man innocent, but not vertuous: free from doing ill, but not sufficiently apt to doe well. Seeing this condition is so neere unto imperfection and weaknesses that I know not well how to cleare their confines and distinctions. The verie names of goodnesse and innocencie, are for this respect in some sort names of contempt. I see that many vertues, as chastitie, sobrietie, and temperance, may come unto us by meanes of corporall defects and imbecilities. Constancie in dangers (if it may be termed constancie) contempt of death, patiencie in misfortunes, may happen and are often seen in men, for want of good judgeent in such accidents, and that they are not apprehended for such as they are indeed. Lacke of apprehension and stupiditie counterfeit vertuous effects. As I have often seen come to passe, that some men are commended for things they rather deserve to be blamed.
An Italian gentleman did once hold this position in my presence, to the prejudice and disadvantage of his nation; That the subtiltie of the Italians, and the vivacitie of their conceptions was so great that they foresaw such dangers and accidents as might betide them so far-off that it was not to be deemed strange if in times of warre they were often seene to provide for their safetie, yea, before they had perceived the danger: That we and the Spaniards, who were not so warie and subtill, went further; and that before we could be frighted with any perill, we must be induced to see it with our eyes, and feel it with our hands, and that even then we had no more hold: But that the Germanes and Switzers, more shallow and leaden-headed, had scarce the sense and wit to re-advise themselves, at what times they were even overwhelmed with miserie, and the axe readie to fall on their heads. It was peradventure but in jest that he spake it, yet is it most true that in the art of warre- fare new trained souldlers, and such as are but novices in the trade, doe often headlong and hand over head cast themselves into dangers, with more inconsideration than afterward when they have seene and endured the first shocks, and are better trained in the schoole of perils.
haud iqnarus, quantum nova gloria in armis,
Et prædulce decus primo certamine possit.
Not ignorant, how much in armes new praise,
And sweetest honour, in first conflict weighes.
Lo here the reason why when we judge of a particular action, we must first consider many circumstances, and throughly observe the man, that hath produced the same before we name and censure it.
But to speake a word of my selfe: I have sometimes noted my friends to terme that wisdome in me which was but meere fortune, and to deeme that advantage of courage and patience that was advantage of judgement and opinion; and to attribute one title for another unto me, sometimes to my profit, and now and then to my losse. As for the rest, I am far from attaining unto that chiefe and most perfect degree of excellences, where a habitude is made of vertue, that even of the second I have made no great triall. I have not greatly strived to bridle the desires wherewith I have found my selfe urged and pressed. My vertue is a vertue, or to say better innocencie, accidentall and casuall. Had I been borne with a lesse regular complexion, I imagine my state had been verie pittifull, and it would have gon hard with me: for, I could never perceive any great constancie in my soule, to resist and undergoe passions, had they been any thing violent. I cannot foster quarels, or endure contentions in my house. So am I not greatly beholding unto my selfe, in that I am exempted from many vices:
si vitiis mediocribus, et mea paucis
Mendosa est natura, alioqui recta, velut si
Egregio inspersos reprehendas corpore nævos.
If in a few more faults my nature faile,
Right otherwise: as if that you would raile
On prettie moles well placed, on body seemely graced.
I am more endebted to my fortune than to my reason for it: Shee hath made me to be borne of a race famous for integritie and honestie, and of a verie good father. I wot not well whether any part of his humours have descended into me, or whether the domestike examples and good institution of my infancie have insensibly set their helping hand unto it; or whether I were otherwise so borne:
Seu Libra, seu me Scorpius aspicit
Formidolosus, pars violentior
Natalis horæ, seu tyrannus
Hesperiæ Capricornus undæ
Whither the chiefe part of my birth-houre were
Ascendent Libra, or Scorpius full of feare,
Or in my Horoscope were Capricorne,
Whose tyrannie neere westerne seas is borne:
But so it is, that naturally of my selfe I abhorre and detest all manner of vices. The answer of Antisthenes to one that demanded of him which was the best thing to be learned; To unlearne evill, seemed to be fixed on this image, or to have an ayme at this. I abhorre them (I say) with so naturall and so innated an opinion, that the very same instinct and impression which I suckt from my nurse, I have so kept that no occasions could ever make me alter the same: no, not mine owne discourses, which, because they have been somewhat lavish in noting or taxing something of the common course, could easily induce me to some actions which this my naturall inclination makes me to hate.
I will tell you a wonder, I will tell it you indeed: I thereby find in many things more stay and order in my manners than in my opinion: and my concupiscence lesse debauched than my reason.
Aristippus established certaine opinions so bold, in favour of voluptuousnesse and riches, that he made all Philosophie to mutinie against him. But concerning his manners, Dionysius the tyrant, having presented him with three faire young Wenches, that he might chuse the fairest, he answered he would chuse them all three, and that Paris had verie ill successes forsomuch as he had preferred one above her fellowes. But they being brought to his owne house, he sent them backe againe, without tasting them. His servant one day carrying store of money after him, and being so overcharged with the weight of it that he complained, his master commanded him to cast so much thereof away as troubled him.
And Epicurus, whose positions are irreligious and delicate, demeaned himselfe in his life very laboriously and devoutly. He wrote to a friend of his, that he lived but with browne bread and water, and entreated him to send him a piece of cheese, against the time he was to make a solemne feast. May it be true, that to be perfectly good we must be so by an hidden, naturall, and universall proprietie, without law, reason, and example?
The disorders and excesses wherein I have found my selfe engaged are not (God be thanked) of the worst. I have rejected and condemned them in my selfe, according to their worth; for my judgement was never found to be infected by them. And on the other side, I accuse them more rigorously in my selfe than in another. But that is all: as for the rest, I applie but little resistance unto them, and suffer my selfe over-easily to encline to the other side of the Ballance, except it be to order and empeach them from being commixt with others, which (if a man take not good heed unto himselfe) for the most part entertaine and enterchaine themselves the one with the other. As for mine, I have, as much as it hath laine in my power, abridged them, and kept them as single and as alone as I could:
Nor doe I cherish any more,
The error which I bred before.
For, as touching the Stoikes opinion, who say, that when the wise man worketh, he worketh with all his vertues together; howbeit, according to the nature of the action, there be one more apparent than other (to which purpose the similitude of mans bodie might, in some sort, serve their turne; for the action of choler cannot exercise it selfe, except all the humours set-to their helping hand, although choler be predominant) if thence they will draw a like consequence, that when the offender trespasseth, he doth it with all the vices together, I doe not so easily beleeve them, or else I understand them not: for, in effect, I feel the contrarie. They are sharpe-wittie subtilties, and without substance, about which Philosophie doth often busie it selfe.
Some vices I shun; but othersome I eschew as much as any Saint can doe.
The Peripatetikes doe also disavow this connexitie and indissoluble knitting together. And Aristotle is of opinion, That a wise and just man may be both intemperate and incontinent.
Socrates avowed unto them, who in his phisiognomie perceived some inclination unto vice, that indeed it was his naturall propension, but that by discipline he had corrected the same.
And the familiar friends of the philosopher Stilpo were went to say, that being borne subject unto wine and women, he had, by studie, brought himself to abstaine from both.
On the other side; what good I have, I have it by the lot of my birth: I have it neither by law nor prescription, nor by any apprentiship. The innocencie that is in me is a kinde of simple- plaine innocencie, without vigor or art. Amongst all other vices, there is none I hate more than Crueltie, both by nature and judgement, as the extremest of all vices. But it is with such an yearning and faint-hartednesse, that if I see but a chickins necke puld off, or a pigge stickt, I cannot chuse but grieve, and I cannot well endure a seelie dew-bedabled hare to groane when she is seized upon by the houndes, although hunting be a violent pleasure.
Those that are to withstand voluptuousnesse doe willingly use this argument, to shew it is altogether vicious and unreasonable: That where she is in her greatest prime and chiefe strength, she doth so over- sway us, that reason can have no accesse unto us, and for a further triall, alleage the experience wee feel and have of it in our acquaintance with women.
cum iam præsagit gaudia corpus
Atque in eo est Venus, ut muliebria conserat arva.
When now the bodie doth light-joyes fore-know,
And Venus set the womans fields to sow.
Where they thinke pleasure doth so far transport us beyond our selves, that our Discourse, then altogether overwhelmed, and our reason wholie ravished in the gulfe of sensualitie, cannot by any meanes discharge her function. I know it may be otherwise: and if a man but please, he may sometimes, even upon the verie instant cast his mind on other conceits. But she must be strained to a higher key, and heedfully pursued. I know a man may gourmandize the earnest and thoughtconfounding violence of that pleasure: for I may with some experience speak of it, and I have not found Venus to be so imperious a Goddesse as many, and more reformed than my selfe, witnesse her to be. I thinke it not a wonder, as doth the Queene of Navarre, in one of the tales of her Heptameron (which, respecting the subject it treateth of, is a verie prettie booke) nor doe I deeme it a matter of extreame difficultie for a man to weare out a whole night, in all opportunitie and libertie, in companie of a faire mistresses long time before sued-unto, and by him desired; religiously keeping his word, if he have engaged himselfe, to be contented with simple kisses and plaine touching. I am of opinion that the example of the sport in hunting would more fit the same: wherein as there is lesse pleasure, so there is more distraction and surprising, whereby our reason being amazed, looseth the leasure to prepare her selfe against it: when as after a long game, the beast doth suddenly start, or rowze up before us, and haply in such a place where we least expected the same. That suddaine motion and the earnestnesse of showting, jubeting and hallowing, still ringing in our eares, would make it verie hard for those who love that kind of close or chamber-hunting, at that verie instant, to withdraw their thoughts elsewhere. And poets make Diana victoriously to triumph both over the firebrand and arrowes of Cupid.
Quis non malarum quas amor curas habet
Hæc inter obliviscitur?
While this is doing, who doth not forget
The wicked cares wherewith Love's heart doth fret?
But to returne to my former discourse, I have a verie feeling and tender compassion of other mens afflictions, and should more easily weep for companie sake, if possible for any occasion whatsoever I could shed teares. There is nothing sooner moveth teares in me than to see others weepe, not onely fainedly, but howsoever, whether truly or forcedly. I do not greatly waile for the dead, but rather envie them. Yet doe I much waile and moane the dying. The canibales and savage people do not so much offend me with roasting and eating of dead bodies; as those which torment and persecute the living. Let any man be executed by law, how deservedly soever, I cannot endure to behold the execution with an unrelenting eye. Some one going about to witnesse the clemencie of Iulius Cæsar; He was (saith he) tractable and milde in matters of revenge. Having compelled the pirates to yeeld themselves unto him, who had before taken him prisoner and put him to ransome, forasmuch as he had threatned to have them all crucified, he condemned them to that kind of death, but it was after he had caused them to be strangled. Philomon his secretarie, who would have poysoned him, had no sharper punishment of him than an ordinarie death. Without mentioning the Latin Author, who for a testimonie of clemencie, dared to alleage the onely killing of those by whom a man hath been offended, it may easily be guessed that he is tainted with vile and horrible examples of cruelties such as Romane Tyrants brought into fashion.
As for me, even in matters of justice, whatsoever is beyond a simple death, I deeme it to be meere crueltie: and especiall amongst us, who ought to have a regardfull respect that their soules should be sent to heaven, which cannot be, having first by intolerable tortures agitated, and as it were brought them to dispaire.
A Souldier, not long since, being a prisoner, and perceiving from a loft a Tower, where he was kept, that store of people flocked together on a greene, and Carpenters were busie at worke to erect a skaffold, suppposing the same to be for him, as one desperat, resolved to kill himselfe, and searching up and downe for something to make himselfe away, found nothing but an old rustie cart-naile, which fortune presented him with; he tooke it, and therewithall, with all the strength he had, strooke and wounded himselfe twice in the throat, but seeing it would not rid him of life, he then thrust it into his bellie up to the head, where he left it fast- sticking. Shortly after, one of his keepers coming in unto him, and yet living, finding him in that miserable plight, but weltring in his goare-blood and readie to gaspe his last, told the Magistrates of it, which, to prevent time before he should die, hastned to pronounce sentence against him: which when he heard, and that he was onely condemned to have his head cut off, he seemed to take heart of grace againe, and to be sorie for what be had done, and tooke some comfortable drinks, which before be had refused, greatly thanking the Judges for his unhoped gentle condemnation: And told them, that for feare of a more, sharply-cruell, and intolerable death by law, he had resolved to prevent it by some violent manner of death, having by the preparations he had seen the Carpenters make, and by gathering of people together, conceived an opinion that they would torture him with some horrible torment, and seemed to be delivered from death onely by the change of it.
Were I worthie to give counsell, I would have these examples of rigor, by which superior powers goe about to keep the common people in awe, to be onely exercised on the bodies of criminall malefactors: For, to see them deprived of Christian buriall, to see them haled, disbowelled, parboyled, and quartered, might haply touch the common sort as much as the paines they make the living to endure: howbeit in effect it be little or nothing, as saith God, Qui corpus occidunt, et postea non habent quod faciant.Those that kill the bodie, but have afterwards no more to doe: And Poets make the horror of this picture greatly to prevaile, yea, and above death,
Heu reliquias semiassi Regis, denudatis ossibus,
Per terram sanie delibutas foede divexarier.
O that the reliques of an halfe burnt King, bones bared,
On earth besmear'd with filth, should be so fouly marred.
It was my fortune to be at Rome upon a day that one Catena, a notorious high-way theefe, was executed: at his strangling no man of the companie seemed to be mooved to any ruth; but when he came to be quartered, the Executioner gave no blow that was not accompanied with a piteous voyce and hartie exclamation, as if every man had had a feeling sympathie, or lent his senses to the poor mangled wretch.
Such inhumane outrages and barbarous excesses should be exercised against the rinde, and not practised against the quicke. In a case somewhat like unto this, did Artaxerxes asswage and mitigate the sharpnesse of the ancient lawes of Persia, appointing that the Lords which had trespassed in their estate, whereas they were wont to be whipped, they should be stripped naked, and their clothes whipped for them; and where they were accustomed to have their haire pulled off, they should onely have their hat taken off.
The Ægyptians, so devout and religious, thought they did sufficiently satisfie divine Justice, in sacrificing painted and counterfeit hogges unto it: An over-hardy invention to go about with pictures and shadowes to appease God, a substance so essentiall and divine.
I live in an age wherein we abound with incredible examples of this vice, through the licentiousnesse of our civill and intestine warres: and read all ancient stories, be they never so tragicall, you shall find none to equall those we daily see practised. But that hath nothing made me acquainted with it. I could hardly be perswaded before I had seene it, that the world could have afforded so marble-hearted and savage-minded men, that for the onely pleasure of murther would commit it; then cut, mangle, and hacke other members in pieces to rouze and sharpen their wits, to invent unused tortures and unheard-of torments: to devise new and unknowne deaths, and that in cold blood, without any former enmitie or quarrell, or without any gaine or profit; and onely to this end, that they may enjoy the pleasing spectacle of the languishing gestures, pitifull notions, horror-moving yellings, deep fetcht groanes, and lamentable voyces of a dying and drooping man. For that is the extremest point whereunto the crueltie of man may attaine. Ut homo hominem, non iratus, non timens, tantum spectaturus occidat;That one man should kill another, neither being angrie nor afeard, but onely to looke on.
As for me, I could never so much as endure, without remorse or griefe, to see a poore, sillie, and innocent beast pursued and killed, which is harmlesse and void of defence, and of whom we receive no offence at all. And as it commonly hapneth, that when the Stag begins to be embost, and finds his strength to faile him, having no other remedie left him, doth yeeld and bequeath himselfe unto us that pursue him, with teares suing to us for mercie:
Atque imploranti similis:
With blood from throat, and teares from eyes,
It seemes that he for pittie cryes:
was ever a grievous spectacle unto me. I seldom take any beast alive but I give him his libertie. Pythagoras was wont to buy fishes of fishers, and birds of fowlers to set them free againe.
primoque a cæde ferarum
Incaluisse puto maculatum sanguine ferrum.
And first our blades in blood embrude deeme
With slaughter of poore beasts did reeking steeme.
Such as by nature shew themselves bloodie-minded towards harmlesse beasts, witnesse a naturall propension unto crueltie.
After the ancient Romanes had once enured themselves without horror to behold the slaughter of wild beasts in their shewes, they came to the murther of men and Gladiators. Nature (I fear me) hath of her owne selfe added unto man a certaine instinct to inhumanitie. No man taketh delight to see wild beasts sport and wantonly to make much one of another: Yet all are pleased to see them tugge, mangle, and enterteare one another.
And lest any bodie should jeast at this sympathie, which I have with them, Divinitie itselfe willeth us to shew them some favour: And considering that one selfe-same master (I mean that incomprehensible worlds-framer) hath placed all creatures in this his wondrous palace for his service, and that they, as well as we, are of his household: I say it hath some reason to injoyne us to shew some respect and affection towards them. Pythagoras borrowed Metempsychosis of the Ægyptians, but since it hath been received of divers Nations, and especially of our Druides:
Morte carent animæ, semperique priore relicta
Sede, novis domibus vivunt, habitantque receptæ
Our death-lesse soules, their former seats refrained,
In harbors new live and lodge entertained.
The religion of our ancient Gaules inferred, that soules being eternall, ceased not to remove and change place from one bodie to another: to which fantasie was also entermixed some consideration of divine justice. For, according to the soules behaviors, during the time she had been with Alexander, they sayd that God appointed it another bodie to dwell in either more or lesse painfull, and suitable to her condition.
Cogit vincla pati truculentos ingerit ursis,
Prædonesque lupis, fallaces vilpibus addit.
Atque per varios annos per mille figuras
Egit, letheo purgatos flumine tandem
Rursus ad humanæ revocat primordia formæ.
Dumbe hands of beasts he makes men's soules endure,
Blood-thirstie soules he doth to Beares enure,
Craftie to Foxes, to Woolves bent to rapes;
Thus when for many yeares, through many shapes,
He hath them driv’n in Lethe lake at last,
Them purg’d he turns to mans forms whence they past.
If the soule had been valiant, they placed it in the bodie of a Lion: if Voluptuous, in a swine: if faint-harted, in a stagge or a hare; if malicious, in a foxe; and so of the, rest, untill that being purified by this punishment, it re-assumed and tooke the bodie of some other man againe.
Ipse ego, nam memini, Troiani tempore belli
Panthoides Euphorbus eram.
When Troy was won, I, as I call to mind,Euphorbus was, and Panthus sonne by kind.
As touching that alliance betweene us and beasts, I make no great accompt of it, nor do I greatly admit it, neither of that which divers Nations, and namely of the most ancient and noble, who have not onely received beasts into their societie and companie, but allowed them a place farre above themselves; sometimes deeming them to be familiars and favored of their Gods, and holding them in a certaine awfull respect and reverence more than humane, and others acknowledging no other God nor no other Divinity than they. Belluæ a barbaris propter beneficium consecratæ: Beasts by the Barbarians were made sacred for some benefit.
Pars hæc, illa pavet saturam serpentibus Ibin,
Effigies sacri hic nitet aurea Corcopitheci.
This Country doth the Crocodile adore,
That feares the Storks glutted with serpents goare,
The sacred Babion here,
In gold shape doth appeare.
hic piscem fluminis, illic
Oppida tota canem venerantur.
A fish here whole Townes reverence most,
A Dogge they honour in that coast.
And the very same interpretation that Plutarke giveth unto this error, which is very well taken, is also honourable for t hem. For, he saith, that (for example-sake) it was neither the Cat nor the Oxe that the Ægyptians adored, but that in those beasts they worshipped some image of divine faculties. In this patience and utility, and in that vivacity, or (as our neighbours the Borgonians with all Germany) the impatience to see themselves shut up: Whereby they represented the liberty which they loved and adored beyond all other divine faculty, and so of others. But when amongst the most moderate opinions I meet with some discourses that goe about and labour to shew the neere resemblance betweene us and beasts, and what share they have in our greatest Privileges, and with how much likely-hood they are compared unto us, truly I abate much of our presumption, and am easily removed from that imaginary soveraigntie that some give and ascribe unto us above all other creatures.
If all that were to be contradicted, yet is there a kinde of respect and a generall duty of humanity which tieth us not only unto brute beasts that have life and sense, and are Sensitives, but even unto trees and plants, which are but Vegetavies. Unto men we owe Justice, and to all other creatures that are capable of it, grace and benignity. There is a kinde of enterchangeable commerce and mutual bond betweene them and us. I am not ashamed nor afraid to declare the tendernesse of my childish Nature which is such that I cannot well reject my Dog if he chance (although out of season) to fawne upone me, or beg of me to play with him. The Turkes have almes and certaine Hospitals appointed for brute beasts. The Romans have a publike care to breed and nourish Geese, by whose vigilance their capital had beene saved. The Athenians did precisely ordaine that all manner of Mules which had served or beene imploied about the building of their Temple, called Hecatompedon, should be free and suffered to feed wheresoever they pleased, without any let or impeachment.
The Agrigentines had an ordinary custome seriously and solemnly to bury all such beasts as they had held deare; as horses of rare worth and merit, speciall dogs, choice or profitable birds, or such as had but served to make their children sport. And the sumptnous magnificence which in all other things was ordinary and peculiar unto them, appeared also almost notably in the stately sumptuousnesse and costly number of monuments erected to that end, which many ages after have endured and been maintained in pride and state.
The Ægyptians were wont to bury their Woolves, their Dogges, their Cats, their Beares, and Crocodiles in holy places, embalming their carcasses, and at their deaths, to weare mourning weeds for them.
Cymon caused a stately honourable tombe to be erected for the Mares, wherewith he had three times gained the prize at running in the Olimpike games. Ancient Xantippus caused his Dog to be enterred upon a hill by the sea shore, which ever since hath beene named by him. And Plutarke (as himselfe saith) made it a matter of conscience, in hope of a small gaine to sell or send an Oxe to the shambles that had served him a long time.
How to cite this page
- Montaigne, Michel de. “Of Crueltie.” Translated by John Florio. HyperEssays.net. Last modified November 17, 2020. https://hyperessays.net
Translation by John Florio (1603, Public domain). • Last modified on November 17, 2020.