Essays
Michel de Montaigne
Translated by John Florio (1603)

Book 3 Chapter 6
Of Coaches

It is easie to verifie, that excellent authors, writing of causes, doe not onely make use of those which they imagine true, but eftsoones of such as themselves beleeve not: alwayes provided they have some invention and beautie. They speake sufficiently, trulie and profitably, if they speake ingeniouslie. We cannot assure our selves of the chiefe cause: we hudle up a many together, to see whether by chaunce it shall be found in that number,

Namque unam dicere causam, Non satis est, uerum plures unde una tamen sit.

Enough it is not one cause to devise, But more, whereof that one may yet arise,

Will you demand of me, whence this custome ariseth, to blesse and say God helpe to those that sneese? We produce three sortes of winde; that issuing from belowe is too undecent; that from the mouth, implieth some reproach of gourmandise; the third is sneesing: and because it commeth from the head, and is without imputation, we thus kindly entertaine it: Smile not at this subtiltie, it is (as some say) Aristotles. Me seemeth to have read in Plutarch (who of all the authors I know, hath best commixt arte with nature, and coupled judgement with learning) where he yeeldeth a reason, why those which travell by sea, doe sometimes feele such qualmes and risings of the stomack, saying, that it proceedeth of a kinde of feare: having found-out some reason, by which he proveth, that feare may cause such an effect. My selfe who am much subject unto it, know well, that this cause doth nothing concerne me. And I know it, not by argument, but by necessarie experience, without alleadging what some have tolde me, that the like doth often happen unto beasts, namely unto swine, when they are farthest from apprehending any danger: and what an acquaintance of mine hath assured me of himselfe, and who is greatly subject unto it, that twice or thrice in a tempestuous storme, being surprised with execeeding feare, all manner of desire or inclination to vomit had left him. As to that ancient good fellow; Peius uexabar quàm ut periculum mihi succurreret. I was worse vexed then that daunger could helpe me. I never apprehended feare upon the water; nor any where els (yet have I often had just cause offred me, if death it selfe may give it) which eyther might trouble or astonie me. It proceedeth sometimes as well from want of judgement, as from lacke of courage. All the dangers I have had, have beene when mine eyes were wide-open, and my sight cleare, sound and perfect: For, even to feare, courage is required. It hath sometimes steaded me, in respect of others, to direct and keepe my flight in order, that so it might be, if not without feare, at least without dismay and astonishment. Indeede it was mooved, but not amazed nor distracted. Undanted mindes marche further, and represent flight, not onely temperate, setled and sound, but also fierce and bolde. Report we that which Alcibiades relateth of Socrates his companion in armes. I found (saith he) after the route and discomfiture of our armie, both him and Lachez in the last ranke of those that ranne away, and with all safetie and leasure considered him, for I was mounted upon an excellent good horse, and he on foote, and so had we combatted all day. I noted first, how in respect of Lachez, he shewed both discreete judgement and undanted resolution: then I observed the undismaide braverie of his march, nothing different from his ordinarie pace: his looke orderly and constant, duly observing and heedily judging what ever passed round about him: sometimes viewing the one, and sometimes looking on the other, both friends and enemies, with so composed a maner, that he seemed to encourage the one and menace the other, signifying, that whosoever should attempt his life, must purchase the same, or his blood at a high-valued rate; and thus they both saved themselves; for, men doe not willingly graple with these; but follow such as shew or feare or dismay. Loe heare the testimonie of that renowmed Captaine, who teacheth us what wee daily finde by experience, that there is nothing doth sooner cast us into dangers, then an inconsiderate greedinesse to avoide them. Quo timoris minus est, eo minus fermè periculi est. The lesse feare there is most commonly, the lesse danger there is. Our people is to blame, to say, such a one feareth death, when it would signifie, that he thinkes on it, and doth foresee the same. Foresight doth equally belong as well to that which concerneth us in good, as touche us in evill. To consider and judge danger, is in some sort, not to be danted at it. I doe not finde my selfe sufficiently strong to withstand the blow and violence of this passion of feare, or of any other impetuosity, were I once therewith vanquished and deterred, I could never safely recover my selfe. He that should make my minde forgoe hir footing, could never bring her unto her place againe. She doth over lively sound, and over deepely search into hirselfe: And therefore never suffers the wound which pierced the same, to be throughly cured and consolidated. It hath bin happy for me, that no infirmity could ever yet displace her. I oppose and present my selfe in the best warde I have, against all charges and assaults that beset me. Thus the first that should beare me away, would make me unrecoverable. I encounter not two: which way soever spoile should enter my holde, there am I open, and remedilesly drowned. Epicurus saith, that a wise man can never passe from one state to its contrary. I have some opinion answering his sentence, that he who hath once bin a very foole, shall at no time proove very wise. God sends my colde answerable to my clothes, and passions answering the meanes I have to indure them. Nature having discovered me on one side, hath covered me one the other. Having disarmed me of strength, she hath armed me with insensibility, and a regular or soft apprehension. I cannot long endure (and lesse could in my youth) to ride either in coach or litter, or to go in a boate; and both in the Citty and country I hate all manner of riding, but a horse-back: And can lesse endure a litter, then a coach, and by the same reason, more easily a rough agitation uppon the water, whence commonly proceedeth feare, then the soft stirring a man shall feele in calme weather. By the same easie gentle motion, which the oares give, convaying the boate under us, I wot not how, I feele both my head intoxicated and my stomacke distempered: as I cannot likewise abide a shaking stoole under me. When as either the saile, or the gliding course of the water doth equally carry us away, or that we are but towed, that gentlie gliding and even agitation, doth no whit distemper or hurte mee. It is an interrupted and broken motion, that offendes me; and more when it is languishing. I am not able to displaye it’s forme. Phisitions have taught me to binde and guird my selfe with a napkin or swath round about the lower part of my belly, as a remedy for this accident; which as yet I have not tride, being accustomed to wrestle and withstand such defects as are in me; and tame them by my selfe. Were my memory sufficientlye informed of them, I would not thinke my time lost, heere to set downe the infinite variety, which histories present unto us, of the use of coaches in the service of warre: divers according to the nations, and different according to the ages: to my seeming of great effect and necessitye. So that it is wondrouslye strange, how wee have lost all true knowledge of them; I will onely aleadge this, that even lately in our fathers time, the Hungarians did very availefully bring them into fashion, and profitablie set them a worke against the Turkes; every one of them containing a Targattier and a Muskettier, with a certaine number of harquebuses or calivers, ready charged; and so ranged, that they might make good use of them: and all over covered with a pavesado, after the manner of a Galliotte. They made the front of their battaile with three thousand such coaches: and after the Cannon had playde, caused them to discharge and shoote off volie of smale shotte uppon their enemies, before they shoulde know or feele, what the rest of their forces could doe: which was no smale advancement; or if not this, they mainely drove those coaches amidde the thickest of their enemies squadrons, with purpose to breake, disroute and make waye through them. Besides the benefit and helpe they might make of them, in any suspicious or dangerous place, to flanke their troupes marching from place to place: or in hast to encompasse, to embarricado, to cover or fortifie any lodgement or quarter. In my time, a gentleman of quality, in one of our frontieres, unwealdy and so burly of bodye, that hee coulde finde no horse able to beare his waight, and having a quarrell or deadly fude in hand, was wont to travaile up and downe in a coach made after this fashion, and found much ease and good in it. But leave wee these warlike coaches, as if their nullity were not sufficientlie knowne by better tokens; The last kings of our first race were wont to travell in chariots drawne by foure oxen. Marke Antonie was the first, that caused himselfe, accompanied with a minsterell harlot to be drawne by Lyons fitted to a coach. So did Heliogabalus after him, naming himselfe Cibele the mother of the Gods; and also by Tigers, counterfetting God Bacchus: who sometimes would also bee drawne in a coach by two Stagges: and another time by foure mastive Dogs: and by foure naked wenches, causing himselfe to be drawne by them in pompe and state, he being all naked. The Emperour Firmus, made his coach to be drawne by Estriges of exceeding greatnesse, so that he rather seemed to flye, then to roule on wheeles. The strangenesse of theis inventions, doth bring this other thing unto my fantasie. That it is a kinde of pusilanimity in Monarkes, and a testimony that they doe not sufficiently know what they are, when they labour to show their worth, and endevour to appeare unto the world, by excessive and intollerable expences. A thing, which in a strange country might somewhat be excused; but amongst his native subjects, where he swayeth all in all, he draweth from his dignity the extreamest degree of honour, that he may possible attaine unto. As for a gentleman, in his owne private house to apparrell himself richly and curiously, I deeme it a matter vaine and superfluous; his house, his houshold, his traine and his kitchin doe sufficiently answere for him. The counsell which Isocrates giveth to his King (in my conceite) seemeth to carry some reason: when he willeth him to be ritchly-stored and stately adorned with mooveables and housholde-stuffe, forsomuch as it is an expence of continuance, and which descendeth even to his posterity or heires: And to avoyde all magnificences, which presently vanish both from custome and memory. I loved when I was a yonger brother to set my selfe foorth and be gaye in cloathes, though I wanted other necessaries; and it became mee well: There are some on whose backes their ritch Robes weepe, or as wee saye their ritch cloathes are lyned with heavye debts. Wee have divers strange tales of our auncient kings frugality about their owne persons, and in their guiftes: great and farre renouned Kings both in credit, in valour and in fortune. Demosthenes mainely combates the law of his Cittie, who assigned their publique money to be imployed about the stately setting forth of their playes and feastes: He willeth that their magnificence should be seene in the quantity of talle ships well manned and appointed, and armies well furnished. And they have reason to accuse Theophrastus, who in his booke of ritches established a contrarye opinion, and upholdeth such a quality of expences, to be the true friute of wealth and plenty. They are pleasures (saieth Aristotle) that onely touch the vulgar and basest communalty, which as soone as a man is satisfied with them, vanish out of minde; and whereof no man of sound judgement of gravity can make any esteeme. The imployment of it, as more profitable, just and durable would seeme more royal, worthy and commendable, about portes, havens, fortifications and walles; in sumptuous buildings, in churches, hospitales, colledges, mending of heighwayes and streetes, and such like monuments: in which things Pope Gregory the thirteenth shal leave aye-lasting and cõmendable memory unto his name: and wherein our Queene Catherin should witnes unto succeeding ages her naturall liberality and exceeding bounty, if her meanes were answerable to her affection. Fortune hath much spighted me to hinder the structure and breake-off the finishing of our new-bridge in our great Citty; and before my death to deprive me of all hope to see the great necessity of it set forwarde againe. Moreover, it appeareth unto subjects, spectators of these triumphs, that they have a showe made them of their owne ritches, and that they are feasted at their proper charges: For, the people doe easily presume of their kings, as we doe of our servants; that they should take care plentiously to provide us of whatsoever we stand in neede of, but that on their behalfe they should no way lay handes on it. And therefore the Emperor Galba, sitting at supper, having taken pleasure to heare a musicion play and sing before him, sent for his casket, out of which he tooke a handful of Crownes and put them into his hand, with these wordes; Take this, not as a guift of the publique money, but of mine owne private store. So is it, that it often commeth to passe, that the common people have reason to grudge, and that their eyes are fedde, with that which he should feede their belly. Liberality it selfe, in a soveraigne hand is not in her owne luster: pryvate men have more right, and may challenge more interest in her. For, taking the matter exactlye as it is, a King hath nothing that is properlye his owne; hee oweth even himselfe to others. Authority is not given in favour of the authorising, but rather in favour of the authorised. A superiour is never created for his owne profit, but rather for the benefit of the inferiour: And a Phisition is instituted for the sicke, not for himselfe. All Magistracie, even as each arte, rejecteth her end out of her selfe. Nulla ars in se uersatur. No arte is all in it selfe. Wherefore the governours and overseers of Princes childhood or minoritie, who so earnestly endevour to imprint this vertue of bounty and liberality in them; and teach them not to refuse any thing, and esteeme nothing so well imployed, as what they shall give (an instruction which in my dayes I have seene in great credit) eyther they preferre and respect more their owne profit then their maisters; or else they understand not aright to whome they speake. It is too easie a matter to imprint liberallity in him, that hath wherewith plentiously to satisfie what he desireth at other mens charges. And his estimation beeing directed not according to the measure of the present, but according to the quality of his meanes, that exerciseth the same, it commeth to proove vaine in so puissant handes. They are found to be prodigall, before they be liberall. Therefore is it but of smale commendation, in respect of other royall vertues. And the onely, (as saide the tyrant Dionisius) that agreede and squared well with tiranny it selfe. I would rather teach him the verse of the auncient labourer,

τῇ χειρὶ δεῖ σπείρειν ἀλλὰ μὴ ὃλῳ τῶ θυλακῷ.

Not whole sackes, but by the hand A man should sow his seede i’the land.

That whosoever will reape any commodity by it, must sowe with his hand, and not powre out of the sacke: that corne must be discreetely scattered, and not lavishly dispersed: And that beeing to give, or to say better, to paye and restore to such a multitude of people, according as they have deserved, he ought to be a loyall, faithfull, and advised distributor thereof. If the liberallity of a Prince be without heedy discretion and measure, I woulde rather have him covetous and sparing. Princely vertue seemeth to consist most in justice. And of all partes of justice, that dooth best and most belong to Kings, which accompanyeth liberallity. For, they have it particularly reserved to their charge; whereas all other justice, they happily exercise the same by the intermission of others. Immoderate bountie, is a weake meane to acquire them good-will: for, it rejecteth more people, then it obtaineth: Quo in plures usus sis, minus in multos uti possis. Quid autem est stultitius, quam, quod libenter facias, curare ut id diutius facere non possis? The more you have used it to many, the lesse may you use it to many more: And what is more fond, then what you willingly would doe, to provide you can no longer doe it? And if it be imployed without respect of merite, it shameth him that receiveth the same, and is received without grace. Some Tirants have beene sacrificed to the peoples hatred, by the very handes of those, whom they had rashly preferred and wrongfully advanced: such kinde of men, meaning to assure the possession of goods unlawfullye and indirectly gotten, if they showe to holde in contempt and hatred, him from whome they held them, and in that combine themselves unto the vulgar judgement and common opinion. The subjects of a Prince, rashly excessive in his gifts become impudently excessive in begging: they adheere, not unto reason, but unto example. Verily we have often just cause to blush, for our impudencie. We are over-paid according to justice, when the recompence equalleth our service: for, doe we not owe a kinde of naturall duty to our Princes? If he beare our charge, he doeth over much; it sufficeth if hee assist it: the overplus is called a benefit, which cannot be exacted; for the very name of liberalytie, implyeth libertie. After our fashion, we have never done; what is received is no more reaconed of: onely future liberallitie is loved: Wherefore the more a Prince doeth exhaust himselfe in giving, the more friendes he impoverisheth. How shoulde he satisfie intemperate desires, which increase according as they are replenished? Who so hath his minde on taking, hath it no more on what he hath taken. Covetousnesse hath nothing so proper, as to be ungratefull. The example of Cirus shall not ill fit this place, for the behoofe of our kings of these dayes, as a touch-stone, to know whether their guifts be well or ill employed; and make them perceive, how much more happily that Emperour did wound and oppresse them, then they doe. Whereby they are afterward forced to exact and borrow of their unknowne subjects, and rather of such as they have wronged and agreeved, then of those they have enritched and done good unto: and receive no aydes, where any thing is gratitude, except the name. Cræsus upbraided him with his lavish bounty, and calculated what his treasure would amount unto, if he were more sparing and close-handed. A desire surprised him to justify his liberallity, and dispatching letters over all partes of his dominions, to such great men of his estate, whome he had particularlye advanced, entreated every one to assist him with as much money as they coulde, for an urgent necessity of his; and presently to send it him by declaration: when all these count-bookes or notes were brought him, each of his friendes supposing that it sufficed not, to offer him no more then they had received of his bountious liberallity, but adding much of their owne unto it, it was found, that the saide summe amounted unto much more, then the niggardly sparing of Crœsus. Whereupon Cyrus saide, I am no lesse greedy of ritches, then other Princes, but am rather a better husband of them. You see with what small venter I have purchased the unvaluable treasure of so many friendes, and how much more faithfull treasurers they are to me, then mercenary men would be, without obligation and without affection: and my exchequer or treasury better placed then in paltery coafers; by which I draw uppon me the hate, the envie and the contempt of other Princes. The auncient Emperours were wont to draw some excuse, for the superfluitie of their sportes and publique showes, for so much as their authority, did in some sorte depend (at least in apparance) from the will of the Romane people; which from all ages was accustomed to be flattered by such kindes of spectables and excesse.

But they were particular-ones who had bread this custome, to gratifie their con-cittizens and fellowes: especially with their purse, by such profusion and magnifficence. It was cleane altered, when the Maisters and chiefe rulers came once to immitate the same. Pecuniarum translatio a iustis dominis ad alienos non debet liberalis uideri. The passing of money from right owners to strangers shoulde seeme liberality.1 Philip, because his sonne endevored by guifts to purchase the good will of the Macedonians, by a letter seemed to be dispalesed and chid him in this manner: What? Wouldest thou have thy subjects to accoumpt thee for their purse-bearer, and not repute thee for their King? Wilt thou frequent and practise them? then doe it with the benefites, of thy vertue, not with those of thy coafers: Yet was it a goodly thing, to cause a great quantitye of great trees, all branchie and greene, to bee farre brought and planted in plots yeelding nothing but drye gravell, representing a wilde shady forrest, devided in due seemely proportion: And the first daye, to put into the same a thousand Estriges, a thousand Stagges, a thousand wilde Boares, and a thousand Buckes, yeelding them over to bee hunted and killed by the common people: the next morrow in the presence of all the assembly to cause a hundred great Lyons, a hundred Leopardes, and three hundred huge Beares to be baited and tugde in peeces: and for the third day, in bloody manner and good earnest to make three hundred couple of Gladiatores or fencers, to combat and murther one another; as did the Emperour Probus. It was also a goodlye showe, to see those wondrous huge Amphitheaters all enchased with ritch marble, on the outside curiously wrought with carved statues, and all the inner side glittering with precious and rare embellishments,

Baltheus en gemmis, en illita porticus auro.

A belte beset with gemmes beholde, Beholde a walke bedawb’d with golde.

All the sides rounde about that great voyde, replenished and environed from the ground unto the very toppe, with three or foure score rankes of steps and seates, likewise all of marble covered with faire cushions,

exeat, inquit, Si pudor est, et de puluino surgat equestri, Cuius res legi non sufficit.

If shame there be, let him be gone, he cries, And from his knightly cushion let him rise, Whose substance to the law doth not suffice.

Where might conveniently be placed a hundred thousand men, and all sit at ease. And the plaine-ground-worke of it, where sportes were to be acted, first by arte to cause the same to open and chap in sunder with gaps and cranishes, representing hollow caverns which vomited out the beasts appointed for the spectacle: That ended, immediatlie to overflowe it all with a maine deepe sea, fraught with store of sea-monsters and other strange fishes, all over-laide with goodly tall ships, ready rigd and appointed to represent a Sea-fight; and thirdly, suddenly to make it smoothe and drye againe, for the combat of Gladiatores: and fourthlie being forthwith cleansed, to strewe it over with Vermillion and Storax, insteed of gravell, for the erecting of a solemne banket, for all that infinite number of people: the last acte of one onely day.

quoties nos descendentis arenæ Uidimus in partes, ruptáque uoragine terræ Emersisse feras, et iisdem sæpe latebris Aurea cum croceo creuerunt arbuta libro. Nec solum nobis siluestria cernere monstra Contigit, æquoreos ego cum certantibus ursis Spectaui uitulos, et equorum nomine dignum, Sed deforme pecus.

How oft have we beheld wilde beasts appeare From broken gulfes of earth, upon some parte Of sande that did not sinke? how often there And thence did golden boughs oresaffron’d starte? Nor onely saw we monsters of the wood, But I have seene Sea-calves whom Beares withstood, And such a kinde of beast as might be named A horse, but in most foule proportion framed.

They have sometimes caused an high steepie mountaine to arise in the midst of the sayde Amphitheaters, all over-spred with fruitfull and flourishing trees of all sortes, on the top whereof gushed out streames of water, as from out the source of a purling spring. Other times they have produced therein a great tall Ship floating up and downe, which of it selfe opened and split asunder, and after it had disgorged from out it’s bulke foure or five hundred wilde beasts to be baited, it closed and vanished away of itselfe, without any visible helpe. Sometimes from out the bottome of it, they caused streakes and purlings of sweete water to spoute up, bubling to the highest top of the frame, and gentlye watring, sprinkling and refreshing that infinite multitude. To keepe and cover themselves from the violence of the wether, they caused that huge compasse to bee all over-spred, sometimes with purple sailes, all curiouslie wrought with the needle, sometimes of silke, and of some other collour, in the twinkling of an eye, as they pleased, they displaide and spred, or drewe and pulled them-in againe.

Quamuis non modico caleant spectacula sole Vela reducuntur cum uenit Hermogenes.

Though fervent Sunne make’t hotte to see a playe, When linnen-thieves come, sailes are kept away.

The nets likewise, which they used to put before the people, to save them from harme and violence of the baited beasts, were woven with golde.

auro quoque torta refulgent Retia.

Nets with golde enterlaced, Their showes with glittring graced.

If any thing be excusable in such lavish excesse, it is, where the invention and strangenesse breedeth admiration, and not the costlie charge. Even in those vanities, we may plainely perceive how fertile and happie those former ages were of other manner of wittes, then ours are. It hapneth of this kinde of fertilitie, as of all other productions of nature. Wee may not say what nature employed then the utmost of hir powre. Wee goe not, but rather creepe and stagger here and there: wee goe our pace. I imagine our knowledge to be weake in all sences: wee neither discerne far-forward, nor see much backward. It embraceth little, and liveth not long: It is shorte both in extension of time, and in amplenesse of matter or invention.

Uixere fortes ante Agamemnona Multi, sed omnes illachrymabiles Vrgentur, ignotíque longa Nocte.

Before great Agamemnon and the rest, Many liv’d valiant, yet are all supprest, Unmoan’d, unknowne, in darke oblivions nest.

Et supera bellum Troianum et funera Troiæ, Multi alias alii quoque res cecinere poetæ.

Beside the Troian warre, Troyes funerall night, Of other things did other Poëts write.

And Solons narration, concerning what he had learned of the Egiptian Priests, of their states long-life, and manner how to learne and preserve strange or forraine histories, in mine opinion is not a testimonie to be refused in this consideration. Si interminatam in omnes partes magnitudinem regionum uideremus, et temporum, in quam se iniiciens animus et intendens, ita latè longeque peregrinatur, ut nullam oram ultimi uideat, in qua possit insistere: In hæc immensitate infinita, uis innumerabilium appareret formarum. If we beholde an unlimited greatnesse on all sides both of religions and times, whereupon the minde casting it selfe and intentive doth travell farre and neare, so as it sees no bounds of what is last, whereon it may insist; in this infinite immensitie there would appeare a multitude of innumerable formes. If whatsoever hath come unto us by report of what is past were true, and knowne of any body, it would be lesse then nothing, in respect of that which is unknowne. And even of this image of the world, which whilest we live therein, glideth and passeth away, how wretched, how weake and how shorte is the knowledge of the most curious? Not onely of the particulare events, which fortune often maketh exemplare and of consequence: but of the state of mightie common-wealths, large Monarkies and renowned nations, there escapeth our knowledge a hundred times more, then commeth unto our notice. We keepe a coyle, and wonder at the miraculous invention of our artillerie, and rest amazed at the rare devise of Printing: when as unknowne to us, other men, and an other end of the worlde named China, knew and had perfect use of both, a thousand yeares before. If wee sawe as much of this vaste worlde, as wee see but a least parte of it, it is very likely we should perceive a perpetuall multiplicitie, and ever-rouling vicissitude of formes. Therein is nothing singulare, and nothing rare, if regarde be had unto nature, or to say better, if relation be had unto our knowledge: which is a weake foundation of our rules, and which dooth commonlye present us a right-false Image of things. How vainelie doe wee now-adayes conclude the declination and decrepitude of the worlde, by the fond arguments wee drawe from our owne weakenesse, drooping and declination:

Iamque adeo affecta est ætas, affectáque tellus:

And now both age and land, So sicke affected stand.

And as vainely did another conclude it’s birth and youth, by the vigor he perceived in the wits of his time, abounding in novelties and invention of divers artes;

Verùm, ut opinor, habet nouitatem, summa, recensque Natura est mundi, neque pridem exordia cepit: Quare etiam quædam nunc artes expoliuntur, Nunc etiam augescunt, nunc addita navigiis sunt Multa.

But all this world is new, as I suppose Worlds nature fresh, nor lately it arose: Whereby some artes refined are in fashion, And many things now to our navigation Are added, dayly growne to augmentation.

Our world hath of late discovered another (and who can warrant us whether it be the last of his brethren, since both the Dæmons, the Sybilles, and all wee have hetherto beene ignorant of this?) no lesse large, fully-peopled, all-things-yeelding, and mighty in strength, then ours: neverthelesse so newe and infantine, that hee is yet to learne his a. b. c. It is not yet full fiftie yeares that he knewe neither letters, nor waight, nor measures, nor apparell, nor corne, nor Vines. But was all naked, simply-pure, in Natures lappe, and lived but with such meanes and food as his mother-nurce afforded him. If we conclude aright of our ende, and the foresayde Poet of the infancie of his age, this late-worlde shall but come to light, when ours shall fall into darknesse. The whole Univers shall fall into a palsey or convulsion of sinnowes: one member shalbe maymed or shrunken, another nimble and in good plight. I feare, that by our contagion, wee shall directlie have furthered his declination, and hastned his ruine; and that wee shall too dearely have soulde him our opinions, our new-fangles and our artes. It was an unpoluted, harmelesse infant world; yet have wee not whipped and submitted the same unto our discipline, or schooled him by the advantage of our valour or naturall forces; nor have wee instructed him by our justice and integritie; nor subdued by our magnanimitie. Most of their answers, and a number of the negotiations wee have had with them, witnesse that they were nothing shorte of us, nor behoulding to us for any excellencie of naturall witte or perspicuitie, concerning pertinencie. The wonderfull, or as I may call it amazement-breeding magnificence of the never-like seene Citties of Cusco and Mexico, and amongst infinite such lyke things, the admirable Garden of that King, where all the Trees, the Fruites, the Hearbes and Plantes, according to the order and greatnesse they have in a Garden, were most artificiallye framed in golde: as also in his Cabinet, all the living creatures that his Countrie or his Seas produced, were cast in golde; and the exquisite beautie of their workes, in precious Stones, in Feathers, in Cotton and in Painting; showe that they yealded as little unto us in cunning and industrie. But concerning unfayned devotion, awefull observance of lawes, unspotted integritie, bounteous liberalitye, due loyaltie and free libertie, it hath greatlye avayled us, that wee had not so much as they: By which advantage, they have lost, cast-away, soulde, undone and betrayde themselves.

Touching hardinesse and undaunted courage, and as for matchlesse constancie, unmooved assurednesse, and undismayed resolution against paine, smarting, famine and death it selfe; I will not feare to oppose the examples which I may easily finde amongst them, to the most famous ancient examples, wee may with all our industrie discover in all the Annalles and memories of our knowne olde worlde. For, as for those which have subdued them, let them laye aside the wyles, the pollicies and stratagems, which they have employed to cozen, to cunny-catch and to circumvent them; and the just astonishment which those nations might justlie conceive, by seeing so unexpected an arrivall of bearded men; divers in language, in habite, in religion, in behaviour, in forme, in countenance; and from a part of the world so distant, and where they never heard any habitation was: mounted upon great and unknowne monsters; against those, who had never so much as seene any horse, and lesse any beast whatsoever apte to beare, or taught to carry eyther man or burthen; covered with a shining and hard skinne, and armed with slicing-keene weapons and glittering armor: against them, who for the wonder of the glistring of a looking-glasse or of a plaine knife, would have changed or given inestimable ritches in Golde, Precious Stones and Pearles; and who had neyther the skill nor the matter wherewith at any leasure, they could have pierced our steele: to which you may adde the flashing-fire and thundring roare of our shotte and Harguebuses; able to quell and daunt even Cæsar himselfe, had he beene so suddainelie surprised and as little experienced as they were: and thus to come unto, and assault sillie-naked people, saving where the invention of weaving of Cotton cloath was knowne and used: for the most altogether unarmed, except some bowes, stones, staves and wodden bucklers: unsuspecting poore people, surprised under coulour of amitye and well-meaning faith, over-taken by the curiositie to see strange and unknowne things: I say, take this disparitie from the conquerors, and you deprive them of all the occasions and causes of so many unexpected victories. When I consider that sterne-untamed obstinacie, and undanted vehemence, wherewith so many thousandes of men, of women and children, doe so infinite times present themselves unto inevitable dangers, for the defence of their Gods and libertie: This generous obstinacie to endure all extremities, all difficulties and death, more easilye and willinglye, then baselye to yeelde unto their domination, of whome they have so abhominably beene abused: some of them choosing rather to starve with hunger and fasting, beeing taken, then to accept foode at their enemies handes, so baselie victorious: I perceave, that whosoever had undertaken them man to man, without oddes of armes, of experience or of number, should have had as dangerous a warre, or perhaps more, as any we see amongst us.

Why did not so glorious a conquest happen under Alexander, or during the time of the ancient Greekes and Romanes? or why befell not so great a change and alteration of Empires and people, under such handes as would gentlye have polished, reformed and incivilized, what in them they deemed to bee barbarous and rude: or would have nourished and fostered those good seedes, which nature had there brought foorth: adding not onely to the manuring of their grounds and ornaments of their cities, such artes as we had; and that no further then had beene necessarie for them, but therewithall joyning unto the originall vertues of the countrie, those of the ancient Grecians and Romanes? What reparation and what reformation would all that farre-spredding worlde have found, if the examples, demeanors and pollicies, wherewith we first presented them, had called and allured those uncorrupted nations, to the admiration and imitation of vertue, and had established betweene them and us a brotherly societie and mutuall correspondencie? How easie a matter had it beene, profitablie to reforme, and christianlye to instruct, mindes yet so pure and new, so willing to bee taught, beeing for the most parte endowed with so docile, so apte and so yeelding naturall beginnings? whereas contrarywise, wee have made use of their ignorance and inexperience, to drawe them more easily unto treason, fraude, luxurie, avarice and all manner of inhumanitie and crueltie, by the example of our life, and patterne of our customes. Who ever raysed the service of marchandize and benefite of traffike to so high a rate? So many goodly Citties ransacked and razed; so many nations destroyed and made desolate; so infinite millions of harmelesse people of all sexes, states and ages, massakred, ravaged and put to the sworde; and the richest, the fayrest and the best parte of the worlde topsieturvied, ruined and defaced for the trafficke of Pearles and Pepper: Oh mecanicall victoryes, oh base conquest. Never did blinde ambition, never did greedye revenge, publike wrongs or generall enmities, so moodilye enrage, and so passionatelye incense men against men, unto so horrible hostilities, bloodye dissipation, and miserable calamities.

Certaine Spaniardes coasting alongst the Sea in searche of Mines, fortuned to land in a very fertile, pleasant and well peopled countrye: unto the inhabitants whereof they declared their intent, and showed their accustomed perswasions; saying: That they were quiet and well-meaning-men, comming from farre-countryes, beeing sent from the King of Castile, the greatest King of the habitable earth, unto whome the Pope, representing God on earth, had given the principallitie of all the Indies. That if they would become tributaries to him, they should bee most kindlye used and courteouslie entreated: They required of them victualles for their nourishment; and some golde for the behoofe of certaine Physicall experiments. Moreover, they declared unto them, the believing in one onely God, and the trueth of our religion, which they perswaded them to embrace, adding thereto some minatorie threates. Whose answer was this: That happily they might be quiet and well-meaning, but their countenance shewed them to bee otherwise: As concerning their King, since hee seemed to begge, hee shewed to bee poore and needie: And for the Pope, who had made that distribution, he expressed himselfe a man loving dissention, in going about to give unto a thirde man, a thing which was not his owne, so to make it questionable and litigious amongst the auncient possessors of it. As for victualles, they should have part of their store: And for golde, they had but little, and that it was a thing they made very small accoumpt of, as meerely unprofitable for the service of their life, whereas all their care was but how to passe it happilye and pleasantlye: and therefore, what quantitie soever they should finde, that onelie excepted which was employed about the service of their Gods, they might bouldly take it. As touching one onely God, the discourse of him had very well pleased them: but they would by no meanes change their religion, under which they had for so long time lived so happily: and that they were not accustomed to take any counsell, but of their friendes and acquaintance. As concerning their menaces, it was a signe of want of judgement, to threaten those, whose nature, condition, power and meanes was to them unknowne. And therefore they should with all speede hasten to avoyde their dominions, forsomuch as they were wonte to admit or take in good part the kindenesses and remonstrances of armed people, namely of strangers: otherwise they would deale with them, as they had done with such others, showing them the heads of certaine men sticking uppon stakes about their Cittie, which had lately beene executed. Loe here an example of the stammering of this infancie.

But so it is, that neyther in this, nor in infinite other places, where the Spaniardes found not the marchandise they sought for, they neyther made staye or attempted any violence; whatsoever other commoditye the place yeelded: witnesse my Canibales. Of two the most mighty and glorious Monarkes of that world, and peradventure of all our Westerne partes, Kings over so many Kings: the last they deposed and overcame: He of Peru, having by them beene taken in a battell, and set at so excessive a ransome, that it exceedeth all beliefe, and that truely paide: and by his conversation having given them apparrant signes of a free, liberall, undanted and constant courage, and declared to be of a pure, noble, and well composed understanding; a humour possessed the conquerors, after they had most insolentlye exacted from him a Million, three hundred five and twenty thousand, and five hundred waightes of golde; besides the silver and other precious things, which amounted to no lesse a summe (so that their horses were all shoode of massive golde) to discover (what disloyalty or treachery soever it might cost them) what the remainder of this kings treasure might bee, and without controulement enjoy what ever he might have hidden or concealed from them. Which to compasse, they forged a false accusation and proofe against him; That he practised to raise his provinces, and intended to induce his subjects to some insurrection, so to procure his liberty. Whereuppon, by the very judgement of those, who had complotted this forgery and treason against him, he was condemned to be publikely hanged and strangled: having first made him to redeeme the torment of being burned alive, by the baptisme which at the instant of his execution in charitie they bestowed upon him. A horrible and the like never heard-of accident: which neverthelesse hee undismayedlie endured with an unmooved manner, and trulie-royall gravitie, without ever contradicting himselfe eyther in countenance or speeche. And then, somewhat to mittigate and circumvent those sillie unsuspecting people amazed and astonished at so strange a spectacle, they counterfetted a great mourning and lamentation for his death, and appointed his funeralles to be solemnly and sumptuously celebrated.

The other King of Mexico, having a long time manfullie defended his besieged Cittie, and in that tedious siedge, shewed what ever pinching-sufferance and resolute-perseverance can effect, if ever any couragious Prince or warre-like people shewed the same; and his disastrous successe having delivered him alive into his enemyes hands, upon conditions to bee used as beseemed a King: who during the time of his imprisonment, did never make the least showe of any thing unworthye that glorious title. After which victorye, the Spaniards not finding that quantitie of golde, they had promised themselves, when they had ransacked and ranged all corners, they by meanes of the cruellest tortures and horriblest torments they could possiblye devise, beganne to wrest and drawe some more from such prisoners as they had in keeping. But unable to profit any thing that waye, finding stronger hearts then their torments, they in the end fell to such moodie outrages, that contrarie to all lawe of nations, and against their solemne vowes and promises, they condemned the King himselfe and one of the chiefest Princes of his Courte, to the Racke, one in presence of another: The Prince, environed round with whotte burning coales, being overcome with the exceeding torment, at last in most pittious sort turning his dreary eyes toward his Maister, as if he asked mercy of him for that he could endure no longer; The king fixing rigorously and fiercelye his lookes upon him, seeming to upbraide him with his remisnesse and pusilanimity, with a sterne and setled voyce, uttered these few wordes unto him; What? supposest thou I am in a colde bath? am I at more ease then thou art? Whereat the silly wretch imediately fainted under the torture, and yeelded up the ghost. The king halfe rosted, was carryed away: Not so much for pitty (for what ruth could ever enter so barbarous mindes, who upon the surmised information of some odde peece or vessell of golde, they intended to get, would broyle a man before their eyes, and not a man onely, but a king, so great in fortune and so renouned in desert?) but forsomuch as his unmatched constancie did more and more make their inhumane cruelty ashamed: They afterward hanged him, because he had couragiously attempted by armes to deliver himselfe out of so long captivity and miserable subjection; where he ended his wretched life, worthy an high minded and never danted Prince. At another time, in one same fire, they caused to be burned all alive foure hundred common men, and three score principall Lordes of a province, whome by the fortune of warre they had taken prisoners. These narrations we have out of their owne bookes: for they doe not onely avouche, but vauntingly publish them. May it be, they doe it for a testimony of their justice or zeale toward their religion? verily they are wayes over-different, and enemies to so sacred an ende. Had they proposed unto themselves to enlarge and propagate our religion, they would have considered, that it is not amplifide by possession of landes, but of men: and would have beene satisfied with such slaughters, as the necessitie of warre bringeth, without indifferently adding thereunto so bloodie a butcherie, as upon savage beastes; and so universall as fire or sworde could ever attaine unto; having purposelie preserved no more then so many miserable bond-slaves, as they deemed might suffice for the digging, working and service of their mines: So that divers of their chieftaines have beene executed to death, even in the places they had conquered, by the appointment of the Kings of Castile, justly offended at the seld-seene horror of their barbarous demeanours, and well-nighe all disesteemed, contemned and hated. God hath meritoriouslie permitted, that many of their great pillages, and ill gotten goods, have eyther beene swallowed up by the revenging Seas in transporting them, or consumed by the intestine warres and civill broyles, wherewith themselves have devoured one another; and the greatest part of them have beene over-whelmed and buryed in the bowels of the earth, in the very places they found them, without any fruite of their victorie. Touching the objection which some make, that the receipte, namely in the handes of so thriftie, warie and wise a Prince, doth so little answer the fore-conceaved hope, which was given unto his predecessors, and the sayde former aboundance of ritches, they mette withall at the first discoverie of this new-found worlde, (for although they bring home great quantitye of gold and silver, wee perceive the same to be nothing, in respect of what might bee expected thence) it may be answered, that the use of monie was there altogether unknowne; and consequentlie, that all their golde was gathered together, serving to no other purpose, then for showe, state and ornament, as a mooveable reserved from father to sonne by many puissant Kings, who exhausted all their mines; to collect so huge a heape of vessels and statues for the ornament of their Temples, and embellishing of their Pallaces: whereas all our golde employed in commerce and trafficke betweene man and man. We mince and alter it into a thousand formes: wee spend, wee scatter and disperce the same to severall uses. Suppose our Kings should thus gather and heape up all the golde, they might for many ages hoarde up together, and keepe it close and untouch’t. Those of the kingdome of Mexico were somewhat more encivilized, and better artistes, then other nations of that worlde. And as wee doe, so judged they, that this Univers was neare his end: and tooke the desolation wee brought amongst them as an infallible signe of it. They beleeved the state of the worlde, to be devided into five ages, and in the life of five succeeding Sunnes, whereof foure had already ended their course or time; and the same which nowe shined upon them, was the fifth and last. The first perished together with all other creatures, by an universall inundation of waters. The second by the fall of the heavens upon us, which stifled and overwhelmed every living thing: in which age they affirme the Giants to have beene, and showed the Spaniards certaine bones of them, according to whose proportion the stature of men came to be of the height of twentie handfuls. The third, was consumed by a violent fire, which burned and destroyed all. The fourth by a whirling emmotion of the ayre and windes, which with the violent furie of it selfe, remooved and overthrew divers high mountaines: saying, that men dyed not of it, but were transformed into Munkeis. (Oh what impressions doth not the weakenesse of mans beliefe admit?) After the consummation of this fourth Sunne, the world continued five and twentie yeares in perpetuall darkenesse: In the fifteenth of which one man and one woman were created, who renewed the race of man-kinde. Ten yeares after, upon a certaine day, the Sunne appeared as newly created: from which day beginneth ever since the calculation of their yeares. On the third day of whose creation, dyed their ancient Gods, their new ones have day by day beene borne since. In what manner this last Sunne shall perish, my aucthor could not learne of them. But their number of this fourth change, doth jumpe and meete with that great conjunction of the Starres, which eight hundred and odde yeares since, according to the Astrologians supposition, produced divers great alterations and strange novelties in the world. Concerning the proud pompe and glorious magnificence, by occasion of which I am fallen into this discourse, nor Greece, nor Rome, nor Ægipt, can (be it in profit, or difficultie or nobilitie) equall or compare sundrie and divers of their workes. The cawcie or high-way which is yet to be seene in Peru, errected by the Kings of that countrie, stretching from the cittie of Quito, unto that of Cusco (containing three hundred leagues in length) straight, even, and fine, and twentie paces in breadth, curiouslie paved, raysed on both sides with goodly, high masonrie-walles, all alongst which, on the inner side there are two continuall running streames, pleasantly beset with beautious trees, which they call Moly. In framing of which, where they mette any mountaines or rockes, they have cut, raised and levelled them, and filled all hollow places with lime and stone. At the ende of every dayes journey, as stations, there are built stately great pallaces, plentiously stored with all manner of good victuals, apparrell and armes, as well for daylie way-fairing men, as for such armies that might happen to passe that way. In the estimation of which worke I have especially considered the difficulty, which in that place is particularly to be remembred. For they built with no stones that were lesse then ten foote square: They had no other meanes to carry or transport them, then by meere strength of armes to draw and dragge the carriage they needed: they had not so much as the arte to make scaffolds; nor knew other devise, then to raise so much earth or rubish, against their building, according as the worke riseth, and afterwarde to take it a way againe. But returne we to our coaches. In steade of them, and of all other carrying beastes they caused themselves to be carryed by men, and upon their shoulders. This last King of Peru, the same day he was taken, was thus carried upon rafters or beames of massive Golde, sitting in a faire chaire of state, likewise all of golde, in the middle of his battaile. Looke how many of his porters as were slaine, to make him fall (for all their endevour was to take him alive) so many others, in order and as it were anye, tooke and under-went presently the place of the dead: so that he could never be brought down or made to fal, what slaughter so ever was made of those kinde of people, until such time as a horseman furiously ranne to take him by some parte of his body, and so pulled him to the ground.

Notes

  1. 1Florio, or his publisher, left out a not. non debet liberalis videri should be shoulde not seeme liberality.

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  • Montaigne, Michel de. “Of Coaches.” Translated by John Florio. HyperEssays.net. Last modified January 18, 2022. https://hyperessays.net/florio/book/III/chapter/6

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Translation by John Florio (1603, Public domain). • Last modified on January 18, 2022.