'To pleasant songs my work was erstwhile given, and bright were all my

labours then; but now in tears to sad refrains am I compelled to turn.

Thus my maimed Muses guide my pen, and gloomy songs make no feigned

tears bedew my face. Then could no fear so overcome to leave me

companionless upon my way. They were the pride of my earlier

bright-lived days: in my later gloomy days they are the comfort of my

fate; for hastened by unhappiness has age come upon me without

warning, and grief hath set within me the old age of her gloom. White

hairs are scattered untimely on my head, and the skin hangs loosely

from my worn-out limbs.

'Happy is that death which thrusts not itself upon men in their

pleasant years, yet comes to them at the oft-repeated cry of their

sorrow. Sad is it how death turns away from the unhappy with so deaf

an ear, and will not close, cruel, the eyes that weep. Ill is it to

trust to


Page 2

Fortune's fickle bounty, and while yet she smiled upon me, the hour of

gloom had well-nigh overwhelmed my head. Now has the cloud put off its

alluring face, wherefore without scruple my life drags out its

wearying delays.

'Why, O my friends, did ye so often puff me up, telling me that I was

fortunate? For he that is fallen low did never firmly stand.'

While I was pondering thus in silence, and using my pen to set down so

tearful a complaint, there appeared standing over my head a woman's

form, whose countenance was full of majesty, whose eyes shone as with

fire and in power of insight surpassed the eyes of men, whose colour

was full of life, whose strength was yet intact though she was so full

of years that none would ever think that she was subject to such age

as ours. One could but doubt her varying stature, for at one moment

she repressed it to the common measure of a man, at another she seemed

to touch with her crown the very heavens: and when she had raised

higher her head, it pierced even the sky and baffled the sight of

those who would look upon it. Her clothing was wrought of the finest

thread by subtle workmanship brought to an indivisible piece. This had

she woven with her own hands, as I afterwards did learn by her own

shewing. Their beauty was somewhat dimmed by the dullness of long

neglect, as is seen in the smoke-grimed masks of our ancestors. On the

border below was inwoven the symbol II, on


Page 3

that above was to be read a a and w ; And between the two letters there

could be marked degrees, by which, as by the rungs of a ladder, ascent

might be made from the lower principle to the higher. Yet the hands of

rough men had torn this garment and snatched such morsels as they

could therefrom. In her right hand she carried books, in her left was

a sceptre brandished.

When she saw that the Muses of poetry were present by my couch giving

words to my lamenting, she was stirred a while; her eyes flashed

fiercely, and said she, ' Who has suffered these seducing mummers to

approach this sick man? Never do they support those in sorrow by any

healing remedies, but rather do ever foster the sorrow by poisonous

sweets. These are they who stifle the fruit-bearing harvest of reason

with the barren briars of the passions: they free not the minds of men

from disease, but accustom them thereto. I would think it less

grievous if your allurements drew away from me some uninitiated man,

as happens in the vulgar herd. In such an one my labours would be

naught harmed, but this man has been nourished in the lore of Eleatics

and Academics; and to him have ye reached? Away with you, Sirens,

seductive unto destruction ! leave him to my Muses to be cared for and

to be healed.'

Their band thus rated cast a saddened glance

are the first letters of the Greek words denoting

Practical and Theoretical, the two divisions of philosophy.]


Page 4

upon the ground, confessing their shame in blushes, and passed forth

dismally over the threshold. For my part, my eyes were dimmed with

tears, and I could not discern who was this woman of such commanding

power. I was amazed, and turning my eyes to the ground I began in

silence to await what she should do. Then she approached nearer and

sat down upon the end of my couch: she looked into my face heavy with

grief and cast down by sorrow to the ground, and then she raised her

complaint over the trouble of my mind in these words.

'Ah me ! how blunted grows the mind when sunk below the o'erwhelming

flood ! Its own true light no longer burns within, and it would break

forth to outer darknesses. How often care, when fanned by earthly

winds, grows to a larger and unmeasured bane. This man has been free

to the open heaven: his habit has it been to wander into the paths of

the sky: his to watch the light of the bright sun, his to inquire into

the brightness of the chilly moon ; he, like a conqueror, held fast

bound in its order every star that makes its wandering circle, turning

its peculiar course. Nay, more, deeply has he searched into the

springs of nature, whence came the roaring blasts that ruffle the

ocean's bosom calm: what is the spirit that makes the firmament

revolve ; wherefore does the evening star sink into the western wave

but to rise from the radiant East ; what is the


Page 5

cause which so tempers the season of Spring that it decks the earth

with rose-blossoms; whence comes it to pass that Autumn is prolific in

the years of plenty and overflows with teeming vines: deeply to search

these causes was his wont, and to bring forth secrets deep in Nature


' Now he lies there ; extinct his reason's light, his neck in heavy

chains thrust down, his countenance with grievous weight downcast; ah

! the brute earth is all he can behold.

' But now,' said she, 'is the time for the physician's art, rather

than for complaining.' Then fixing her eyes wholly on me, she said, '

Are you the man who was nourished upon the milk of my learning,

brought up with my food until you had won your way to the power of a

manly soul ? Surely I had given you such weapons as would keep you

safe, and your strength unconquered ; if you had not thrown them away.

Do you know me? Why do you keep silence ? Are you dumb from shame or

from dull amazement? I would it were from shame, but I see that

amazement has overwhelmed you.'

When she saw that I was not only silent, but utter]y tongue-tied and

dumb, she put her hand gently upon my breast, and said, ' There is no

danger: he is suffering from drowsiness, that disease which attacks so

many minds which have been deceived. He has forgotten himself for a

moment and will quickly remember, as


Page 6

soon as he recognises me. That he may do so, let me brush away from

his eyes the darkening cloud of thoughts of matters perishable.' So

saying, she gathered her robe into a fold and dried my swimming eyes.

Then was dark night dispelled, the shadows fled away, and my eyes

received returning power as before. 'Twas just as when the heavenly

bodies are enveloped by the west wind's rush, and the sky stands thick

with watery clouds; the sun is hidden and the stars are not yet come

into the sky, and night descending from above o'erspreads the earth:

but if the north wind smites this scene, launched forth from the

Thracian cave, it unlocks the imprisoned daylight ; the sun shines

forth, and thus sparkling Phœbus smites with his rays our

wondering eyes.

In such a manner were the clouds of grief scattered. Then I drew

breath again and engaged my mind in taking knowledge of my physician's

countenance. So when I turned my eyes towards her and fixed my gaze

upon her, I recognised my nurse, Philosophy, in whose chambers I had

spent my life from earliest manhood. And I asked her, ' Wherefore have

you, mistress of all virtues, come down from heaven above to visit my

lonely place of banishment? Is it that you, as well as

[Note: , may be harried, the victim of false charges ? '' Should I,'

said she, ' desert you, my nursling ?]


Page 7

Should I not share and bear my part of the burden which has been laid

upon you from spite against my name ? Surely Philosophy never allowed

herself to let the innocent go upon their journey unbefriended. Think

you I would fear calumnies ? that I would be terrified as though they

were a new misfortune ? Think you that this is the first time that

wisdom has been harassed by dangers among men of shameless ways ? In

ancient days before the time of my child, Plato, have we not as well

as nowadays fought many a mighty battle against the recklessness of

folly ? And though Plato did survive, did not his master, Socrates,

win his victory of an unjust death, with me present at his side ? When

after him the followers of Epicurus, and in turn the Stoics, and then

others did all try their utmost to seize his legacy, they dragged me,

for all my cries and struggles, as though to share me as plunder ;

they tore my robe which I had woven with mine own hands, and snatched

away the fragments thereof: and when they thought I had altogether

yielded myself to them, they departed. And since among them were to be

seen certain signs of my outward bearing, others ill-advised did think

they wore my livery: thus were many of them undone by the errors of

the herd of uninitiated. But if you have not heard of the exile of


[Note: Anaxagoras went into exile from Athens about 450 B.C.]


Page 8

nor the poison drunk by Socrates,1 nor the torture of Zeno,2 which all

were of foreign lands, yet you may know of Canius,3 Seneca,4 and

Soranus,5 whose fame is neither small nor passing old. Naught else

brought them to ruin but that, being built up in my ways, they

appeared at variance with the desires of unscrupulous men. So it is no

matter for your wonder if, in this sea of life, we are tossed about by

storms from all sides ; for to oppose evil men is the chief aim we set

before ourselves. Though the band of such men is great in numbers, yet

is it to be contemned: for it is guided by no leader, but is hurried

along at random only by error running riot everywhere. If this band

when warring against us presses too strongly upon us, our leader,

Reason, gathers her forces into her citadel, while the enemy are

busied in plundering useless baggage. As they seize the most worthless

things, we laugh at them from above, untroubled by the whole band of

mad marauders, and we are defended by that rampart to which riotous

folly may not hope to attain.

'He who has calmly reconciled his life to fate, and set proud death

beneath his feet, can

[Note: Socrates was executed by the Athenian state,B.C. 399.]

[Note: Zeno of Elea was tortured by Nearchus, tyrantof Elea, about 440


[Note: Canius was put to death by Caligula, c. A.D.40. ]

[Note: Seneca was driven to commit suicide byNero, A.D. 66.]

[Note: Soranus was condemned to death by Nero,A.D. 66.]


Page 9

look fortune in the face, unbending both to good and bad: his

countenance unconquered he can shew. The rage and threatenings of the

sea will not move him though they stir from its depths the upheaving

swell: Vesuvius's furnaces may never so often burst forth, and he may

send rolling upwards smoke and fire ; the lightning, whose wont it is

to smite down lofty towers, may flash upon its way, but such men shall

they never move. Why then stand they wretched and aghast when fierce

tyrants rage in impotence ? Fear naught, and hope naught: thus shall

you have a weak man's rage disarmed. But whoso fears with trembling,

or desires aught from them, he stands not firmly rooted, but

dependent: thus has he thrown away his shield ; he can be rooted up,

and he links for himself the very chain whereby he may be dragged.

'Are such your experiences, and do they sink into your soul?' she

asked. 'Do you listen only as "the dull ass to the lyre " ? Why do you

weep ? Wherefore flow your tears ? " Speak, nor keep secret in thine

heart." If you expect a physician to help you, you must lay bare your

wound.' Then did I rally my spirit till it was strong again, and

answered, ' Does the savage bitterness of my fortune still need

recounting ? Does it not stand forth plainly enough of itself? Does

not the very aspect of this place strike you ? Is this the library

which you had chosen


Page 10

for yourself as your sure resting-place in my house ? Is this the room

in which you would so often tarry with me expounding the philosophy of

things human and divine ? Was my condition like this, or my

countenance, when I probed with your aid the secrets of nature, when

you marked out with a wand the courses of the stars, when you shaped

our habits and the rule of all our life by the pattern of the

universe?1 Are these the rewards we reap by yielding ourselves to you

? Nay, you yourself have established this saying by the mouth of

Plato, that commonwealths would be blessed if they were guided by

those who made wisdom their study, or if those who guided them would

make wisdom their study.2 By the mouth of that same great man did you

teach that this was the binding reason why a commonwealth should be

governed by philosophers, namely that the helm of government should

not be left to unscrupulous or criminal citizens lest they should

bring corruption and ruin upon the good citizens.3 Since, then, I had

learned from you in quiet and inaction of this view, I followed it

further, for I desired to practise it in public government. You and

God Himself, who has grafted you in the minds of philosophers, are my

witnesses that never have I applied myself to any office of state

except that I might work for the

[Note: Boethius means that his chief ' philosophical ' studies had

been physics, astronomy, and ethics.]

[Note: Plato, Repub. v 473.]

[Note: Plato, Repub. vi, 488, 489.]


Page 11

common welfare of all good men. Thence followed bitter quarrels with

evil men which could not be appeased, and, for the sake of preserving

justice, contempt of the enmity of those in power, for this is the

result of a free and fearless conscience. How often have I withstood

Conigastus 1 to his face, whenever he has attacked a weak man's

fortune ! How often have I turned by force Trigulla,1 the overseer of

the Emperor's household, from an unjust act that he had begun or even

carried out ! How many times have I put my own authority in danger by

protecting those wretched people who were harried with unending false

charges by the greed of barbarian Goths which ever went unpunished !

Never, I say, has any man depraved me from justice to injustice. My

heart has ached as bitterly as those of the sufferers when I have seen

the fortunes of our subjects ruined both by the rapacity of persons

and the taxes of the state. Again, in a time of severe famine, a

grievous, intolerable sale by compulsion was decreed in Campania, and

devastation threatened that province. Then I undertook for the sake of

the common welfare a struggle against the commander of the Imperial

guard ; though the king was aware of it, I fought against the

enforcement of the sale, and fought successfully. Paulinus was a man

who had been consul: the jackals of the court had

[Note: Conigastus and Trigulla were favourite officersof the Emperor,

Theodoric, the Goth: they used their influence with him for the

oppression of the weak. ]


Page 12

in their own hopes and desires already swallowed up his possessions,

but I snatched him from their very gaping jaws. I exposed myself to

the hatred of the treacherous informer Cyprian, that I might prevent

Albinus, also a former consul, being overwhelmed by the penalty of a

trumped-up charge. Think you that I have raised up against myself

bitter and great quarrels enough ? But I ought to have been safer

among those whom I helped ; for, from my love of justice, I laid up

for myself among the courtiers no resource to which I might turn for

safety. Who, further, were the informers upon whose evidence I was

banished ? One was Basilius: he was formerly expelled from the royal

service, and was driven by debt to inform against me. Again, Opilio

and Gaudentius had been condemned to exile by the king for many unjust

acts and crimes: this decree they would not obey, and they sought

sanctuary in sacred buildings, but when the king was aware of it, he

declared that if they departed not from Ravenna before a certain day,

they should be driven forth branded upon their foreheads. What could

be more stringent than this ? Yet upon that very day information

against me was laid by these same men and accepted. Why so ? Did my

character deserve this treatment? Or did my prearranged condemnation

give credit and justification to my accusers ? Did Fortune feel no

shame for this ? If not for innocence calumniated, at any rate for the

baseness of the calumniators ?


Page 13

' Would you learn the sum of the charges against me? It was said that

"I had desired the safety of the Senate." You would learn in what way.

I was charged with "having hindered an informer from producing papers

by which the Senate could be accused of treason." What think you, my

mistress ? Shall I deny it lest it shame you? Nay, I did desire the

safety of the Senate, nor shall ever cease to desire it. Shall I

confess it ? Then there would have been no need to hinder an informer.

Shall I call it a crime to have wished for the safety of that order ?

By its own decrees concerning myself it has established that this is a

crime. Though want of foresight often deceives itself, it cannot alter

the merits of facts, and, in obedience to the Senate's command, I

cannot think it right to hide the truth or to assent to falsehood.

' However, I leave it to your judgment and that of philosophers to

decide how the justice of this may be ; but I have committed to

writing for history the true course of events, that posterity may not

be ignorant thereof. I think it unnecessary to speak of the forged

letters through which I am accused of " hoping for the freedom of

Rome." Their falsity would have been apparent if I had been free to

question the evidence of the informers themselves, for their

confessions have much force in all such business.

' But what avails it ? No liberty is left to hope for. Would there

were any! I would answer in the words of Canius, who was accused


Page 14

by Gaius Cæsar,1 Germanicus's son, of being cognisant of a plot

against himself: " If I had known of it, you would not have."

' And in this matter grief has not so blunted my powers that I should

complain of wicked men making impious attacks upon virtue: but at this

I do wonder, that they should hope to succeed. Evil desires are, it

may be, due to our natural failings, but that the conceptions of any

wicked mind should prevail against innocence while God watches over

us, seems to me unnatural. Wherefore not without cause has one of your

own followers asked, " If God is, whence come evil things? If He is

not, whence come good ? "

' Again, let impious men, who thirst for the blood of the whole Senate

and of all good citizens, be allowed to wish for the ruin of us too

whom they recognise as champions of the Senate and all good citizens:

but surely such as I have not deserved the same hatred from the

members of the Senate too ?

' Since you were always present to guide me in my words and my deeds,

I think you remember what happened at Verona. When King Theodoric,

desiring the common ruin of the Senate, was for extending to the whole

order the charge of treason laid against Albinus, you remember how I

laboured to defend the innocence of the order without any care for my

own danger? You know that I declare this truthfully and with no

boasting praise of self.

[Note: The Emperor Caligula.]


Page 15

For the secret value of a conscience, that approves its own action, is

lessened somewhat each time that it receives the reward of fame by

displaying its deeds. But you see what end has fallen upon my

innocency. In the place of the rewards of honest virtue, I am

suffering the punishments of an ill deed that was not mine. And did

ever any direct confession of a crime find its judges so well agreed

upon exercising harshness, that neither the liability of the human

heart to err, nor the changeableness of the fortune of all mankind,

could yield one dissentient voice? If it had been said that I had

wished to burn down temples, to murder with sacrilegious sword their

priests, that I had planned the massacre of all good citizens, even so

I should have been present to plead guilty or to be convicted, before

the sentence was executed. But here am I, nearly five hundred -miles

away, without the opportunity of defending myself, condemned to death

and the confiscation of my property because of my tao great zeal for

the Senate. Ah ! well have they deserved that none should ever be

liable to be convicted on such a charge ! Even those who laid

information have seen the honour of this accusation, for, that they

might blacken it with some criminal ingredient, they had need to lie,

saying that I had violated my conscience by using unholy means to

obtain offices corruptly. But you, by being planted within me,

dispelled from the chamber of my soul all craving for that which

perishes, and


Page 16

where your eyes were looking there could be no place for any such

sacrilege. For you instilled into my ears, and thus into my daily

thoughts, that saying of Pythagoras, " Follow after God." Nor was it

seemly that I, whom you had built up to such excellence that you made

me as a god, should seek the support of the basest wills of men. Yet,

further, the innocent life within my home, my gathering of most

honourable friends, my father-in-law Symmachus,l a man esteemed no

less in his public life than for his private conscientiousness, these

all put far from me all suspicion of this crime. But--O the shame of

it!--it is from you that they think they derive the warrant for such a

charge, and we seem to them to be allied to ill-doing from this very

fact that we are steeped in the principles of your teaching, and

trained in your manners of life. Thus it is not enough that my deep

respect for you has profited me nothing, but you yourself have

received wanton contumely from the hatred that had rather fallen on

me. Yet besides this, is another load added to my heap of woes: the

judgment of the world looks not to the deserts of the case, but to the

evolution of chance, and holds that only this has been intended which

good fortune may chance to foster: whence it comes that the good

opinion of the world is the first to desert the unfortunate. It is

wearisome to recall what were the tales by people told, or how little

[Note: Symmachus was executed by Theodoric at the same time as



Page 17

their many various opinions agreed. This alone I would fain say: it is

the last burden laid upon us by unkind fortune, that when any charge

is invented to be fastened upon unhappy men, they are believed to have

deserved all they have to bear. For kindness I have received

persecutions ; I have been driven from all my possessions, stripped of

my honours, and stained for ever in my reputation. I think I see the

intoxication of joy in the sin-steeped dens of criminals: I see the

most abandoned of men intent upon new and evil schemes of spying: I

see honest men lying crushed with the fear which smites them after the

result of my perilous case: wicked men one and all encouraged to dare

every crime without fear of punishment, nay, with hope of rewards for

the accomplishment thereof: the innocent I see robbed not merely of

their peace and safety, but even of all chance of defending

themselves. So then I may cry aloud:--

' Founder of the star-studded universe, resting on Thine eternal

throne whence Thou turnest the swiftly rolling sky, and bindest the

stars to keep Thy law ; at Thy word the moon now shines brightly with

full face, ever turned to her brother's light, and so she dims the

lesser lights ; or now she is herself obscured, for nearer to the sun

her beams shew her pale horns alone. Cool rises the evening star at

night's first drawing nigh: the same is the morning star who casts off

the harness that she bore


Page 18

before, and paling meets the rising sun. When winter's cold doth strip

the trees, Thou settest a shorter span to day. And Thou, when summer

comes to warm, dost change the short divisions of the night. Thy power

doth order the seasons of the year, so that the western breeze of

spring brings back the leaves which winter's north wind tore away ; so

that the dog-star's heat makes ripe the ears of corn whose seed

Arcturus watched. Naught breaks that ancient law: naught leaves undone

the work appointed to its place. Thus all things Thou dost rule with

limits fixed: the lives of men alone dost Thou scorn to restrain, as a

guardian, within bounds. F or why does Fortune with her fickle hand

deal out such changing lots ? The hurtful penalty is due to crime, but

falls upon the sinless head: depraved men rest at ease on thrones

aloft, and by their unjust lot can spurn beneath their hurtful heel

the necks of virtuous men. Beneath obscuring shadows lies bright

virtue hid: the just man bears the unjust's infamy. They suffer not

for forsworn oaths, they suffer not for crimes glozed over with their

lies. But when their will is to put forth their strength, with triumph

they subdue the mightiest kings whom peoples in their thousands fear.

O Thou who dost weave the bonds of Nature's self, look down upon this

pitiable earth! Mankind is no base part of this great work, and we are

tossed on Fortune's wave. Restrain, our Guardian, the engulfing surge,

and as Thou dost the unbounded


Page 19

heaven rule, with a like bond make true and firm these lands.'

While I grieved thus in long-drawn pratings, Philosophy looked on with

a calm countenance, not one whit moved by my complaints Then said she,

' When I saw you in grief and in tears I knew thereby that you were

unhappy and in exile, but I knew not how distant was your exile until

your speech declared it. But you have not been driven so far from your

home; you have wandered thence yourself: or if you would rather hold

that you have been driven, you have been driven by yourself rather

than by any other. No other could have done so to you. For if you

recall your true native country, you know that it is not under the

rule of the many-headed people, as was Athens of old, but there is one

Lord, one King, who rejoices in the greater number of his subjects,

not in their banishment. To be guided by his reins, to bow to his

justice, is the highest liberty. Know you not that sacred and ancient

law of your own state by which it is enacted that no man, who would

establish a dwelling-place for himself therein, may lawfully be put

forth ? For there is no fear that any man should merit exile, if he be

kept safe therein by its protecting walls. But any man that may no

longer wish to dwell there, does equally no longer deserve to be

there. Wherefore it is your looks rather than the aspect of this place

which disturb me.l It

[Note: Cp. Prose iv. of this book,p. 9.]


Page 20

is not the walls of your library, decked with ivory and glass, that I

need, but rather the resting-place in your heart, wherein I have not

stored books, but I have of old put that which gives value to books, a

store of thoughts from books of mine. As to your services to the

common weal, you have spoken truly, though but scantily, if you

consider your manifold exertions. Of all wherewith you have been

charged either truthfully or falsely, you have but recorded what is

well known. As for the crimes and wicked lies of the informers, you

have rightly thought fit to touch but shortly thereon, for they are

better and more fruitfully made common in the mouth of the crowd that

discusses all matters. You have loudly and strongly upbraided the

unjust ingratitude of the Senate: you have grieved over the charges

made against myself, and shed tears over the insult to my fair fame:

your last outburst of wrath was against Fortune, when you complained

that she paid no fair rewards according to deserts: finally, you have

prayed with passionate Muse that the same peace and order, that are

seen in the heavens, might also rule the earth. But you are

overwhelmed by this variety of mutinous passions: grief, rage, and

gloom tear your mind asunder, and so in this present mood stronger

measures cannot yet come nigh to heal you. Let us therefore use

gentler means, and since, just as matter in the body hardens into a

swelling, so have these disquieting influences, let these means soften

by kindly handling the


Page 21

unhealthy spot, until it will bear a sharper remedy.

' When the sign of the crab doth scorch the field, fraught with the

sun's most grievous rays, the husbandman that has freely intrusted his

seed to the fruitless furrow, is cheated by the faithless

harvest-goddess ; and he must turn him to the oak tree's fruit.

' When the field is scarred by the bleak north winds, wouldst thou

seek the wood's dark carpet to gather violets ? If thou wilt enjoy the

grapes, wouldst thou seek with clutching hand to prune the vines in

spring ? 'Tis in autumn Bacchus brings his gifts. Thus God marks out

the times and fits to them peculiar works: He has set out a course of

change, and lets no confusion come. If aught betake itself to headlong

ways, and leaves its sure design, ill will the outcome be thereto.

' First then,' she continued, ' will you let me find out and make

trial of the state of your mind by a few small questions, that so I

may understand what should be the method of your treatment ? '

'Ask,' said I, ' what your judgment would have you ask, and I will

answer you.'

Then said she, ' Think you that this universe is guided only at random

and by mere chance ? or think you there is any rule of reason

constituted in it ? '

' No, never would I think it could be so, nor


Page 22

believe that such sure motions could be made at random or by chance. ~

know that God, the founder of the universe, does overlook His work ;

nor ever may that day come which shall drive me to abandon this belief

as untrue.'

'So is it,' she said, 'and even so you cried just now, and only

mourned that mankind alone has no part in this divine guardianship:

you were fixed in your belief that all other things are ruled by

reason. Yet, how strange ! how much I wonder how it is that you can be

so sick though you are set in such a health-giving state of mind ! But

let us look deeper into it: I cannot but think there is something

lacking. Since you are not in doubt that the universe is ruled by God,

tell me by what method you think that government is guided ? '

' I scarcely know the meaning of your question ; much less can I

answer it.'

' Was I wrong,' said she, ' to think that something was lacking, that

there was some opening in your armour, some way by which this

distracting disease has crept into your soul ? But tell me, do you

remember what is the aim and end of all things ? what the object to

which all nature tends ? '

' I have heard indeed, but grief has blunted my memory.'

' But do you not somehow know whence all things have their source ? '

' Yes,' I said ; ' that source is God.'

' Is it possible that you, who know the beginning of all things,

should not know their end ?


Page 23

But such are the ways of these distractions, such is their power, that

though they can move a man's position, they cannot pluck him from

himself or wrench him from his roots. But this question would I have

you answer: do you remember that you are a man ? '

'How can I but remember that ? '

'Can you then say what is a man ? '

'Need you ask ? I know that he is an animal, reasoning and mortal ;

that I know, and that I confess myself to be.'

'Know you naught else that you are ? ' asked Philosophy.

'Naught,' said I.

'Now,' said she, ' I know the cause, or the chief cause, of your

sickness. You have forgotten what you are. Now therefore I have found

out to the full the manner of your sickness, and how to attempt the

restoring of your health. You are overwhelmed by this forgetfulness of

yourself: hence you have been thus sorrowing that you are exiled and

robbed of all your possessions. You do not know the aim and end of all

things ; hence you think that if men are worthless and wicked, they

are powerful and fortunate. You have forgotten by what methods the

universe is guided ; hence you think that the chances of good and bad

fortune are tossed about with no ruling hand. These things may lead

not to disease only, but even to death as well. But let us thank the

Giver of all health, that your nature has not altogether left you. We

have yet the chief


Page 24

spark for your health's fire, for you have a true knowledge of the

hand that guides the universe: you do believe that its government is

not subject to random chance, but to divine reason. Therefore have no

fear. From this tiny spark the fire of life shall forthwith shine upon

you. But it is not time to use severer remedies, and since we know

that it is the way of all minds to clothe themselves ever in false

opinions as they throw off the true, and these false ones breed a dark

distraction which confuses the true insight, therefore will I try to

lessen this darkness for a while with gentle applications of easy

remedies, that so the shadows of deceiving passions may be dissipated,

and you may have power to perceive the brightness of true light.'

'When the stars are hidden by black clouds, no light can they afford.

When the boisterous south wind rolls along the sea and stirs the

surge, the water, but now as clear as glass, bright as the fair sun's

light, is dark, impenetrable to sight, with stirred and scattered

sand. The stream, that wanders down the mountain's side, must often

find a stumbling-block, a stone within its path torn from the hill's

own rock. So too shalt thou: if thou wouldst see the truth in undimmed

light, choose the straight road, the beaten path ; away with passing

joys ! away with fear ! put vain hopes to flight ! and grant no place

to grief ! Where these distractions reign, the mind is clouded o'er,

the soul is bound in chains.'


Page 25



THEN for a while she held her peace. But when her silence, so

discreet, made my thoughts to cease from straying, she thus began to

speak: 'If I have thoroughly learned the causes and the manner of your

sickness, your former good fortune has so affected you that you are

being consumed by longing for it. The change of one of her this alone

has overturned your peace of mind through your own imagination. I

understand the varied disguises of that unnatural state. I know how

Fortune is ever most friendly and alluring to those whom she strives

to deceive, until she overwhelms them with grief beyond bearing, by

deserting them when least expected. If you recall her nature, her

ways, or her deserts, you will see that you never had in her, nor have

lost with her, aught that was lovely. Yet, I think, I shall not need

great labour to recall this to your memory. For then too, when she was

at your side with all her flattery, you were wont to reproach her in

strong and manly terms ; and to revile her with the opinions that you

had gathered in worship of me with my favoured ones. But no sudden

change of outward affairs can ever come without some upheaval in the

mind. Thus has it followed


Page 26

that you, like others, have fallen somewhat away from your calm peace

of mind. But it is time now for you to make trial of some gentle and

pleasant draught, which by reaching your inmost parts shall prepare

the way for yet stronger healing draughts. Try therefore the assuring

influence of gentle argument which keeps its straight path only when

it holds fast to my instructions. And with this art of orators let my

handmaid, the art of song, lend her aid in chanting light or weighty

harmonies as we desire.

' What is it, mortal man, that has cast you down into grief and

mourning ? You have seen something unwonted, it would seem, something

strange to you. But if you think that Fortune has changed towards you,

you are wrong. These are ever her ways: this is her very nature. She

has with you preserved her own constancy by her very change. She was

ever changeable at the time when she smiled upon you, when she was

mocking you with the allurements of false good fortune. You have

discovered both the different faces of the blind goddess. To the eyes

of others she is veiled in part: to you she has made herself wholly

known. If you find her welcome, make use of her ways, and so make no

complaining. If she fills you with horror by her treachery, treat her

with despite ; thrust her away from you, for she tempts you to your

ruin. For though she is the cause of this great trouble for you, she

ought to have been the subject of


Page 27

calmness and peace. For no man can ever make himself sure that she

will never desert him, and thus has she deserted you. Do you reckon

such happiness to be prized, which is sure to pass away? Is good

fortune dear to you, which is with you for a time and is not sure to

stay, and which is sure to bring you unhappiness when it is gone? But

seeing that it cannot be stayed at will, and that when it flees away

it leaves misery behind, what is such a fleeting thing but a sign of

coming misery ? Nor should it ever satisfy any man to look only at

that which is placed before his eyes. Prudence takes measure of the

results to come from all things. The very changeableness of good and

bad makes Fortune's threats no more fearful, nor her smiles to be

desired. And lastly, when you have once put your neck beneath the yoke

of Fortune, you must with steadfast heart bear whatever comes to pass

within her realm. But if you would dictate the law by which she whom

you have freely chosen to be your mistress must stay or go, surely you

will be acting without justification ; and your very impatience will

make more bitter a lot which you cannot change. If you set your sails

before the wind, will you not move forward whither the wind drives

you, not whither your will may choose to go? If you intrust your seed

to the furrow, will you not weigh the rich years and the barren

against each other? You have given yourself over to Fortune's rule,

and you must bow yourself to


Page 28

your mistress's ways. Are you trying to stay the force of her turning

wheel? Ah! dull- witted mortal, if Fortune begin to stay still, she is

no longer Fortune.

'As thus she turns her wheel of chance with haughty hand, and presses

on like the surge of Euripus's tides, fortune now tramples fiercely on

a fearsome king, and now deceives no less a conquered man by raising

from the ground his humbled face. She hears no wretch's cry, she heeds

no tears, but wantonly she mocks the sorrow which her cruelty has

made. This is her sport: thus she proves her power ; if in the

selfsame hour one man is raised to happiness, and cast down in

despair, 'tis thus she shews her might.

' Now would I argue with you by these few words which Fortune herself

might use: and do you consider whether her demands are fair "Why, O

man," she might say, " do you daily accuse me with your complainings ?

What injustice have I wrought upon you ? Of what good things have I

robbed you ? Choose your judge whom you will, and before him strive

with me for the right to hold your wealth and honours. If you can

prove that any one of these does truly belong to any mortal man,

readily will I grant that these you seek to regain were yours. When

nature brought you forth from your mother's womb, I received you in my

arms naked and bare of all things ; I cherished you


Page 29

with my gifts, and I brought you up all too kindly with my favouring

care, wherefore now you cannot bear with me, and I surrounded you with

glory and all the abundance that was mine to give. Now it pleases me

to withdraw my hand: be thankful, as though you had lived upon my

loans. You have no just cause of complaint, as though you had really

lost what was once your own. Why do you rail against me ? I have

wrought no violence towards you. Wealth, honours, and all such are

within my rights. They are my handmaids ; they know their mistress ;

they come with me and go when I depart. Boldly will I say that if

these, of whose loss you complain, were ever yours, you would never

have lost them at all. Am I alone to be stayed from using my rightful

power ? The heavens may grant bright sunlit days, and hide the same

beneath the shade of night. The year may deck the earth's countenance

with flowers and fruits, and again wrap it with chilling clouds. The

sea may charm with its smoothed surface, but no less justly it may

soon bristle in storms with rough waves. Is the insatiate discontent

of man to bind me to a constancy which belongs not to my ways? Herein

lies my very strength ; this is my unchanging sport. I turn my wheel

that spins its circle fairly; I delight to make the lowest turn to the

top, the highest to the bottom. Come you to the top if you will, but

on this condition, that you think it no unfairness to sink when the

rule of my game demands it. Do


Page 30

you not know my ways? Have you not heard how Crœsus,1 king of

Lydia, who filled even Cyrus with fear but a little earlier, was

miserably put upon a pyre of burning faggots, but was saved by rain

sent down from heaven? Have you forgotten how Paulus shed tears of

respect for the miseries of his captive, King Perses?2 For what else

is the crying and the weeping in tragedies but for the happiness of

kings overturned by the random blow of fortune ? Have you never learnt

in your youth the ancient allegory that in the threshold of Jove's

hall there stand two vessels, one full of evil, and one of good? What

if you have received more richly of the good ? What if I have not ever

withheld myself from you ? What if my changing nature is itself a

reason that you should- hope for better things ? In any way, let not

your spirit eat itself away: you are set in the sphere that is common

to all, let your desire therefore be to live with your own lot of

life, a subject of the kingdom of the world.

"'If Plenty with o'erflowing horn scatter her wealth abroad,

abundantly, as in the storm- tossed sea the sand is cast around, or so

beyond all measure as the stars shine forth upon the studded sky in

cloudless nights; though she

[Note: The proverbially rich and happy king; defeatedand condemned to

death by Cyrus, king of Media, in 546 B.C., but spared by him.]

[Note: The last king of Macedonia, defeated at Pydna,168.c., by

L.Æmilius Paulus.]


Page 31

never stay her hand, yet will the race of men Met II. still weep and

wail. Though God accept their prayers freely and give gold with

ungrudging hand, and deck with honours those who deserve them, yet

when they are gotten, these gifts seem naught. Wild greed swallows

what it has sought, and still gapes wide for more. What bit or bridle

will hold within its course this headlong lust, when, whetted by

abundance of rich gifts, the thirst for possession burns? Never call

we that man rich who is ever trembling in haste and groaning for that

he thinks he lack

' If Fortune should thus defend herself to you,' said Philosophy, '

you would have naught, I think, to utter on the other part. But if you

have any just defence for your complaining, you must put it forward.

We will grant you the opportunity of speaking.'

Then I answered, ' Those arguments have a fair form and are clothed

with all the sweetness of speech and of song. When a man listens to

them, they delight him ; but only so long. The wretched have a deeper

feeling of their misfortunes. Wherefore when these pleasing sounds

fall no longer upon the ear, this deep- rooted misery again weighs

down the spirit.'

' It is so,' she said. ' For these are not the remedies for your

sickness, but in some sort are the applications for your grief which

chafes against its cure. When the time comes, I will apply those which

are to penetrate deeply. with Boethius


Page 32

But that you may not be content to think yourself wretched, remember

how many and how great have been the occasions of your good fortune. I

will not describe how, when you lost your father, men of the highest

rank received you into their care: how you were chosen by the chief

men in the state to be allied to them by marriage ; 1 and you were

dear to them before you were ever closely related; which is the most

valuable of all relationships. Who hesitated to pronounce you most

fortunate for the greatness of your wives' families, for their

virtues, and for your blessings in your sons too? I need not speak of

those things that are familiar, so I pass over the honours which are

denied to most old men, but were granted to you when yet young. I

choose to come to the unrivalled crown of your good fortune. If the

enjoyment of anything mortal can weigh at all in the balance of good

fortune, can your memory of one great day ever be extinguished by any

mass of accumulated ills ? I mean that day when you saw your two sons

proceed forth from your house as consuls together, amid the crowding

senators, the eager and applauding populace: when they sat down in the

seats of honour and you delivered the speech of congratulation to the

king, gaining

[Note: Boethius's first wife was Elpis, daughter of Festus: his second

was Rusticiana, daughter of Symmachus, a senator and consul, A.D. 485.

His second wife was the mother of the two sons mentioned below. (See

Appendix,, p. 169.)]


Page 33

thereby glory for your talent and your eloquence: when in the circus

you sat in the place of honour between the consuls, and by a display

of lavishness worthy of a triumphing general, you pleased to the full

the multitude who were crowded around in expectation.

' While Fortune then favoured you, it seems you flaunted her, though

she cherished you as her own darling. You carried off a bounty which

she had never granted to any citizen before. Will you then balance

accounts with Fortune ? This is the first time that she has looked

upon you with a grudging eye. If you think of your happy and unhappy

circumstances both in number and in kind, you will not be able to say

that you have not been fortunate until now. And if you think that you

were not fortunate because these things have passed away which then

seemed to bring happiness, these things too are passing away, which

you now hold to be miserable, wherefore you cannot think that you are

wretched now. Is this your first entrance upon the stage of life? Are

you come here unprepared and a stranger to the scene ? Think you that

there is any certainty in the affairs of mankind, when you know that

often one swift hour can utterly destroy a man? For though the chances

of life may seldom be depended upon, yet the last day of a lifetime

seems to be the end of Fortune's power, though it perhaps would stay.

What, think you, should we therefore say ; that you desert her by

dying, or that she deserts you by leaving you ? '


Page 34

'When o'er the heaven Phœbus from his rose-red carbegins to shed

his light abroad, his flames oppress the paling stars and blunt their

whitened rays. When the grove grows bright in spring with roses 'neath

the west wind's warming breath, let but the cloudy gale once wildly

blow, and their beauty is gone, the thorns alone remain. Often the sea

is calmly glistening bright with all untroubled waves, but as often

does the north wind stir them up, making the troubling tempest boil.

If then the earth's own covering so seldom constant stays, if its

changes are so great, shalt thou trust the brittle fortunes of

mankind, have faith in fleeting good ? For this is sure, and this is

fixed by everlasting law, that naught which is brought to birth shall

constant here abide.'

Then I answered her, ' Cherisher of all the virtues, you tell me but

the truth: I cannot deny my rapid successes and my prosperity. But it

is such remembrances that torment me more than others. For of all

suffering from Fortune, the unhappiest misfortune is to have known a

happy fortune.'

' But,' said Philosophy, ' you are paying the him penalty for your

mistaken expectations, and with this you cannot justly charge your

life's circumstances. If you are affected by this empty name of

Fortune's gift of happiness, you must listen while I recall how many

and how great are your sources of happiness: and thus, if you have

possessed that which is the most


Page 35

precious among all Fortune's gifts, and if that is still safe and

unharmed in your possession, you will never, while you keep these

better gifts, be able to justly charge Fortune with unkindness.

Firstly, your wife's father, Symmachus, is still living and hale ; and

what more precious glory has the human race than him ? And he, because

your worth is undiminished and your life still so valuable, is

mourning for the injustice you suffer, this man who is wholly made up

of wisdom and virtue. Again, your wife lives, a woman whose character

is full of virtue, whose modesty excels its kind ; a woman who (to put

in a word the gifts she brought you) is like her father. She lives,

and, hating this life, for your sake alone she clings to it. Herein

only will I yield to allow you unhappiness ; she pines with tears and

grief through her longing for you. Need I speak of your sons who have

both been consuls, and whose lives, as when they were boys, are yet

bright with the character of their grandfather and their father?

Wherefore, since mortals desire exceedingly to keep a hold on life,

how happy you should be, knew you but your blessings, since you have

still what none doubts to be dearer than life itself? Wherefore now

dry your tears. For- tune's hatred has not yet been so great as to

destroy all your holds upon happiness: the tempest that is fallen upon

you is not too great for you: your anchors hold yet firm, and they

should keep ever nigh to you confidence in the present and hope for

future time.


Page 36

' And may they continue to hold fast,' said I, 'that is my prayer:

while they are firm, we will reach the end of our voyage, however

things may be. But you see how much my glory has departed.'

And she answered, ' We have made some progress, if youare not now

weary entirely of your present lot. But I cannot bear this dallying so

softly, so long as you complain that your happiness lacks aught, so

long as you are full of sorrow and care. Whose happiness is so firmly

established that he has no quarrel from any side with his estate of

life ? For the condition of our welfare is a matter fraught with care:

either its completeness never appears, or it never remains. One man's

wealth is abundant, but his birth and breeding put him to shame.

Another is famous for his noble birth, but would rather be unknown

because he is hampered by his narrow means. A third is blessed with

wealth and breeding, but bewails his life because he has no wife.

Another is happy in his marriage, but has no children, and saves his

wealth only for an heir that is no son of his. Another is blessed with

children, but weeps tears of sorrow for the misdeeds of son or

daughter. So none is readily at peace with the lot his fortune sends

him. For in each case there is that which is unknown to him who has

not experienced it, and which brings horror to him who has experienced

it. Consider further, that the feelings of the most fortunate men are

the most easily affected, wherefore, unless all


Page 37

their desires are supplied, such men, being unused to all adversity,

are cast down by every little care: so small are the troubles which

can rob them of complete happiness.

' How many are they, think you, who would thinkthemselves raised to

heaven if the smallest part of the remnants of your good fortune fell

to them ? This very place, which you call a place of exile, is home to

those who live herein. Thus there is nothing wretched unless you think

it to be so: and in like manner he who bears all with a calm mind

finds his lot wholly blessed. Who is so happy but would wish to change

his estate, if he yields to impatience of his lot ? With how much

bitterness is the sweetness of man's life mingled ! For even though

its enjoyment seem pleasant, yet it may not be surely kept from

departing when it will. It is plain then how wretched is the happiness

of mortal life which neither endures for ever with men of calm mind,

nor ever wholly delights the care-ridden. Wherefore, then, O mortal

men, seek yethat happiness without, which lies within yourselves? Ye

are confounded by error and ignorance. I will shew you as shortly as I

may, the pole on which turns the highest happiness. Is there aught

that you value more highly than your own self ? You will answer that

there is nothing. If then you are master of yourself, you will be in

possession of that which you will never wish to lose, and which

Fortune will never be able to take from you. Yet consider this

further, that you may


Page 38

be assured that happiness cannot be fixed in matters of chance: if

happiness is the highest good of a man who lives his life by reason,

and if that which can by any means be snatched away, is not the

highest good (since that which is best cannot be snatched away), it is

plain that Fortune by its own uncertainty can never come near to

reaching happiness. Further, the man who is borne along by a happiness

which may stumble, either knows that it may change, or knows it not:

if he knows it not, what happiness can there be in the blindness of

ignorance ? If he knows it, he must needs live in fear of losing that

which he cannot doubt that he may lose ; wherefore an ever-present

fear allows not such an one to be happy. Or at any rate, if he lose it

without unhappiness, does he not think it worthless ? For that, whose

loss can be calmly borne, is indeed a small good. You, I know well,

are firmly persuaded that men's understandings can never die; this

truth is planted deep in you by many proofs: since then it is plain

that the happiness of fortune is bounded by the death of the body, you

cannot doubt that, if death can carry away happiness, the whole race

of mortals is sinking into wretchedness to be found upon the border of

death. But we know that many have sought the enjoyment of happiness

not only by death, but even by sorrow and sufferings: how then can the

presence of this life make us happy, when its end cannot make us

unhappy ?


Page 39

' He that would build on a lasting resting-place ; who wouldbe firm to

resist the blasts of the storming wind ; who seeks, too, safety where

he may contemn the surge and threatening of the sea ; must leave the

lofty mountain's top, and leave the thirsting sands. The hill is swept

by all the might of the headstrong gale: the sands dissolve, and will

not bear the load upon them. Let him fly the danger in a lot which is

pleasant rest unto the eye: let him be mindful to set his house surely

upon the lowly rock. Then let the wind bellow, confounding wreckage in

the sea, and thou wilt still be founded upon unmoving peace, wilt be

blessed in the strength of thy defence: thy life will be spent in

calmness, and thou mayest mock the raging passions of the air.

' But now,' she continued, ' the first remedies of reasoningare

reaching you more deeply, and I think I should now use those that are

somewhat stronger. If the gifts of Fortune fade not nor pass quickly

away, even so, what is there in them which could ever be truly yours,

or which would not lose its value when examined or thought upon ?

' Are riches valuable for their own nature, or on account of your and

other men's natures ? Which is the more valuable, the gold itself or

the power of the stored up-money ? Surely wealth shines more brightly

when spent than when put away in masses. Avarice ever brings hatred,

while generous spending brings honour.


Page 40

But that cannot remain with one person which is handed over to

another: therefore money becomes valuable to its possessor when, by

being scattered, it is transferred to others, and ceases to be

possessed. And if all that is heaped together among mankind comes to

one man, it makes the others all poor. A voice indeed fills equally

the ears of all that hear: but your riches cannot pass to others

without being lessened: and when they pass, they make poor those whom

they leave. How strait then and poor are those riches, which most men

may not have, and which can only come to one by making others poor !

' Think again of precious stones: does their gleam attractyour eyes ?

But any excellence they have is their own brilliance, and belongs not

to men: wherefore I am amazed that men so strongly admire them. What

manner of thing can that be which has no mind to influence, which has

no structure of parts, and yet can justly seem to a living, reasoning

mind to be beautiful? Though they be works of their creator, and by

their own beauty and adornment have a certain low beauty, yet are they

in rank lower than your own excellence, and have in no wise deserved

your admiration.

' Does the beauty of landscape delight you ? '

' Surely, for it is a beautiful part of a beautiful creation: andin

like manner we rejoice at times in the appearance of a calm sea, and

we admire the sky, the stars, the sun, and the moon.


Page 41

' Does any one of these,' said she, ' concern you ? Dareyou boast

yourself of the splendid beauty of any one of such things ? Are you

yourself adorned by the flowers of spring ? Is it your richness that

swells the fruits of autumn ? Why are you carried away by empty

rejoicing. Why do you embrace as your own the good things which are

outside yourself ? Fortune will never make yours what Nature has made

to belong to other things. The fruits of the earth should doubtless

serve as nourishment for living beings, but if you would satisfy your

need as fully as Nature needs, you need not the abundance of Fortune.

Nature is content with very little, and if you seek to thrust upon her

more than is enough, then what you cast in will become either

unpleasing or even harmful

' Again, you think that you appear beautiful in many kindsof clothing.

But if their form is pleasant to the eyes, I would admire the nature

of the material or the skill of the maker. Or are you made happy by a

long line of attendants? Surely if they are vicious, they are but . a

burden to the house, and full of injury to their master himself; while

if they are honest, how can the honesty of others be counted among

your possessions ?

' Out of all these possessions, then, which you reckon asyour wealth,

not one can really be shown to be your own. For if they have no beauty

for you to acquire, what have they for which you should grieve if you

lose them, or in keeping which you should rejoice ? And if


Page 42

they are beautiful by their own nature, how are you the richer thereby

? For these would have been pleasing of themselves, though cut out

from your possessions. They do not become valuable by reason that they

have come into your wealth ; but you have desired to count them among

your wealth, because they seemed valuable. Why then do you long for

them with such railing against Fortune ? You seek, I believe, to put

want to flight by means of plenty. But you find that the opposite

results. The more various is the beauty of furniture, the more helps

are needed to keep it beautiful ;and it is ever true that they who

have much, need much ; and on the other hand, they need least who

measure their wealth by the needs of nature, not by excess of display.

Is there then no good which belongs to you and is implanted within

you, that you seek your good things elsewhere, in things without you

and separate from you ? Have things taken such a turn that the animal,

whose reason gives it a claim to divinity, cannot seem beautiful to

itself except by the possession of. lifeless trappings ? Other classes

of things are satisfied by their intrinsic possessions ; but men,

though made like God in understanding, seek to find among the lowest

things adornment for their higher nature: and you do not understand

that you do a great wrong thereby to your Creator. He intended that

the human race should be above all other earthly beings ; yet you

thrust down your honourable place below the lowest.


Page 43

For if every good thing is allowed to be more valuable than that to

which it belongs, surely you are putting yourselves lower than them in

your estimation, since you think precious the most worthless of things

; and this is indeed a just result. Since, then, this is the condition

of human nature, that it surpasses other classes only when it realises

what is in itself ; as soon as it ceases to know itself, it must be

reduced to a lower rank than the beasts. To other animals ignorance of

themselves is natural ; in men it is a fault. How plainly and how

widely do you err by thinking that anything can be adorned by

ornaments that belong to others! Surely that cannot be. For if

anything becomes brilliant by additions thereto, the praise for the

brilliance belongs to the additions. But the subject remains in its

own vileness, though hidden and covered by these externals.

'Again, I say that naught can be a good thing which doesharm to its

possessor. Am I wrong? "No," you will say. Yet many a time do riches

harm their possessors, since all base men, who are therefore the most

covetous, think that they themselves alone are worthy to possess all

gold and precious stones. You therefore, who now go in fear of the

cudgel and sword of the robber, could laugh in his face if you had

entered upon this path with empty pockets.l How wonderful is the

[Note: This is an application of Juvenal's lines (Sat.x. 19)which

contrast the terror of the money-laden traveller]


Page 44

surpassing blessing of mortal wealth ! As soon as you have acquired

it, your cares begin !

'O happy was that early age of men, contented with their trusted and

unfailing fields, nor ruined by the wealth that enervates. Easily was

the acorn got that used to satisfy their longwhile fast. They knew not

Bacchus' gifts, nor honey mixed therewith. They knew not how to tinge

with Tyre's purple dyes the sheen of China's silks. Their sleep kept

health on rush and grass ; the stream gave them to drink as it flowed

by: the lofty pine to them gave shade. Not one of them yet clave the

ocean's depths, nor, carrying stores of merchandise, had visited new

shores. Then was not heard the battle's trump, nor had blood made red

with bitter hate the bristling swords of war. For why should any

madness urge to take up first their arms upon an enemy such ones as

knew no sight of cruel wounds nor knew rewards that could be reaped in

blood? Would that our times could but return to those old ways ! but

love of gain and greed of holding burn more fiercely far than &’Etna's

fires. Ah ! who was the wretch who first unearthed the mass of hidden

gold, the gems that only longed to lie unfound? For full of danger was

the prize he found.

'What am I to say of power and of the with the careless happiness of

the man who meets highwayman with no purse and empty pockets.


Page 45

honours of office, which you raise to heaven because you know not true

honoured power ? What fires belched forth from &’Etna's flames, what

overwhelming flood could deal such ruin as these when they fall into

the hands of evil men ? I am sure you remember how your forefathers

wished to do away with the consular power, which had been the very

foundation of liberty, because of the overbearing pride of the

consuls, just as your ancestors had too in earlier times expunged from

the state the name of king on account of the same pride. But if, as

rarely happens, places of honour are granted to honest men, what else

is delightful in them but the honesty they practise thereby ?

Wherefore honour comes not to virtue from holding office, but comes to

office from virtues there practised.

' But what is the power which you seek and esteem sohighly? O

creatures of the earth, can you not think over whom you are set ? If

you saw in a community of mice, one mouse asserting his rights and his

power over the others, with what mirth you would greet the sight! Yet

if you consider the body, what can you find weaker than humanity?

Cannot a tiny gnat by its bite, or by creeping into the inmost parts,

kill that body ? How can any exercise right upon any other except upon

the body alone, or that which is below the body, whereby I mean the

fortunes? Can you ever impose any law upon a free spirit ? Can you

eyer disturb the peculiar restfulness which is the property of a mind

that hangs together


Page 46

upon the firm basis of its reason ? When a certain tyrant thought that

by tortures he would compel a free manl to betray the conspirators in

a plot against his life, the philosopher bit through his tongue and

spat it out in the tyrant's face. Thus were the tortures, which the

tyrant intended to have cruel results, turned by the philosopher into

subjects of high courage. Is there aught that one man can do to

another, which he may not suf~er from another in his turn ? We have

heard how Busiris, who used to kill strangers, was killed by Hercules

when he came to Egypt. Regulus,2 who had cast into chains many a

Carthaginian captive, soon yielded himself a prisoner to their chains.

Do you think that power to be any power, whose possessor cannot ensure

his own escape from suffering at another's hands what he inflicts upon

some other ?

' Further, if there were any intrinsic good in the nature of honours

and powers themselves, they could never crowd upon the basest men. For

opposites will not be bound together. Nature refuses to allow

contraries to be linked to each other. Wherefore, while it is un-

doubted that for the most part offices of honour are enjoyed by bad

men, it is also manifest that those things are not by nature ~ood,


[Note: This story is told of Anaxagoras andNicocreon, king of Cyprus,

c. B.C. 323.]

[Note: Regulus was the Roman general in Sicily inthe first Punic War,

taken prisoner in 255 B.C., and put to death in 250.]


Page 47

allow themselves to cling to evil men. And this indeed may worthily be

held of all the gifts of fortune which come with the greatest success

to the most unscrupulous. And in this matter we must also think on

this fact, that no one doubts a man to be brave in whom he has found

by examination that bravery is implanted: and whoever has the quality

of swiftness is plainly swift. So also music makes men musical,

medicine makes men physicians, oratory makes men orators. The nature

of each quality acts as is peculiar to itself: it is not confused with

the results of contrary qualities, but goes so far as to drive out

those qualities which are opposed to it. Wealth cannot quench the

insatiable thirst of avarice: nor can power ever make master of

himself the man whom vicious passions hold fast in un- breakable

chains. Honours, when joined to dishonest men, so far from making them

honour- able, betray them rather, and show them to be dishonourable.

Why is this so ? It is because you rejoice to call things by false

€ames which belong not to them ­ their names are refuted by the

reality of their qualities: wherefore neither riches, nor that kind of

power, nor these honours, can justly so be called. Lastly, we may come

to the same conclusion concerning all the aspects of Fortune: nothing

is to be sought in her, and it is plain she has no innate good, for

she is not always joined with good men, nor does she make good those

with whom she is joined.'


Page 48

' We have heard what ruin Nero wrought when Rome was burnt and

senators were slain. We know how savagely he did to death his

brother,l how he was stained by the spilling of his own mother's

blood, and how he looked upon her cold body and yet no tear fell upon

his cheek: yet could this man be judge of the morals that were dead.

Nay, he was ruler of the peoples whom the sun looks upon from the time

he rises in the east until he hides his rays beneath the waves, and

those whom the chilling northern Wain o'errules, and those whom the

southern gale burns with its dry blast, as it heats the burning sands.

Say,could great power chasten Nero's maddened rage? Ah ! heavy fate,

how often is the sword of high injustice given where is already most

poisonous cruelty ! '

Then I said, ' You know that the vain-glory of this worldhas had but

little influence over me ; but I have desired the means of so managing

affairs that virtue might not grow aged in silence.'

'Yes,' said she, ' but there is one thing which can attract minds,

which, though by nature excelling, yet are not led by perfection to

the furthest bounds of virtue ; and that thing is the love of fame and

reputation for deserving well of one's country. Think then thus upon

it, and see that it is but a slight

[Note: Britannicus, son of Nero's father, the Emperor Claudius, put to

death A.D. 55.]


Page 49

thing of no weight. As you have learnt from astronomers' shewing, the

whole circumference of the earth is but as a point compared with the

size of the heavens. That is, if you compare the earth with the circle

of the universe, it must be reckoned as of no size at all. And of this

tiny portion of the universe there is but a fourth part, as you have

learnt from the demonstration of Ptolemæus,l which is inhabited by

living beings known to us. If from this fourth part you imagine

subtracted all that is covered by sea and marsh, and all the vast

regions of thirsty desert, you will find but the narrowest space left

for human habitation. And do you think of setting forth your fame and

publishing your name in this space, which is but as a point within

another point so closely circumscribed ? And what size or magnificence

can fame have which is shut in by such close and narrow bounds ?

Further, this narrow enclosure of habitation is peopled by many races

of men which differ in language, in customs, and in their whole scheme

of living ;and owing to difficulty of travelling, differences of

speech, and rareness of any intercourse, the fame of cities cannot

reach them, much less the fame of men. Has not Cicero written

somewhere that in his time the fame of Rome had not reached the

mountains of the Caucasus, though the Republic was already well grown


[Note: A mathematician, astronomer, and geographerof Alexandria. Fl.

140-160 A.D. Boethius translated one of his works. ]



Page 50

striking awe among the Parthians and other nations in those parts ? Do

you see then how narrow and closely bounded must be that fame which

you wish to extend more widely ? Can the fame of a Roman ever reach

parts to which the name of Rome cannot come ?

Further, the manners and customs of different races are so little in

agreement, that what is make his name known, because he takes pleasure

in a glorious fame. So each man shall be content if his fame travels

throughout his own countrymen, and the immortality of his name shall

be bounded by the limits of one nation. But how many men, the most

famous of their times, are wiped out by oblivion because no man has

written of them ! 1 And yet what advantage is there in much that is

written ? For with their authors these writings are overwhelmed in the

length and dimness of age. Yet when you think upon your fame in future

ages, you seem to think that you are prolonging it to immortality. But

if you think upon the unending length of eternity, what enjoyment do

you find in the long endurance of Boethius is thinking of Horace, Odes

iv. 9. Ere Agamemnon saw the light, There lived brave men: but

tearless all Enfolded in eternal night, For lack of sacred minstrels,

fall. (Mr.. Gladstone's translation.)


Page 51

your name? For though one moment bears but the least proportion to ten

thousand years, yet there is a definite ratio, because both are

limited spaces of time. But even ten thousand years, or the greatest

number you will, cannot even be compared with eternity. For there will

always be ratio between finite things, but between the finite and the

infinite there can never be any comparison. Wherefore, however long

drawn out may be the life of your fame, it is not even small, but it

is absolutely nothing when compared with eternity. You know not how to

act rightly except for the breezes of popular opinion and for the sake

of empty rumours; thus the excellence of conscience and of virtue is

left behind, and you seek rewards from the tattle of other men. Listen

to the witty manner in which one played once upon the shallowness of

this pride. A certain man once bitterly attacked another who had taken

to himself falsely the name of philosopher, not for the purpose of

true virtue, but for pride of fame ; he added to his attack that he

would know soon whether he was a philosopher, when he saw whether the

other bore with meekness and patience the insults he heaped upon him.

The other showed patience for a while and took the insults as though

he scoffed at them, until he said, " Do you now see that I am a

philosopher ? " " I should have, had you kept silence," said the other

stingingly. But we are speaking of great men: and I ask, what do they

gain from fame, though they seek


Page 52

glory by virtue? what have they after the body is dissolved at death?

For if men die utterly, as our reason forbids us to believe, there is

no glory left to them at all, since they whose it is said to be, do

not exist. If, on the other hand, the mind is still conscious and

working when it is freed from its earthly prison, it seeks heaven in

its freedom and surely spurns all earthly traffic: it enjoys heaven

and rejoices in its release from the of this world.

' The mind that rushes headlong in its search for fame, thinking that

is its highest good, should look upon the spreading regions of the

air, and then upon the bounded tracts that are this world: then will

shame enter it ; that, though fame grow, yet can it never fill so

small a circle. Proud men ! why will ye try in vain to free your necks

from the yoke mortality has set thereon? Though fame may be wide

scattered and find its way through distant lands, and set the tongues

there talking ; though a splendid house may draw brilliance from

famous names and tales; yet death regards not any glory, howsoever

great. Alike he overwhelms the lowly and the lofty head, and levels

high with low.

' Where are Fabricius's1 bones, that honourable man ?What now is

Brutus?2 or un Fabricius was the Roman general whom Pyrrhus could

neither bribe nor intimidate, B.C. 280.

[Note: L. Junius Brutus, who led the Romans to expel the last ofthe

kings, and was elected the first consul, B.C. 509.]


Page 53

bending Cato?1 Their fame survives in this: it has no more than a few

slight letters shewing forth an empty name. We see their noble names

engraved, and only know thereby that they are brought to naught. Ye

lie then all unknown, and fame can give no knowledge of you. But if

you think that life can be prolonged by the breath of mortal fame, yet

when the slow time robs you of this too, then there awaits you but a

second death.

' But,' she said, ' do not think that I would urge implacablewar upon

Fortune. There are VIII times when her deception of men has certain

merits: I mean when she discovers herself, unveils her face, and

proclaims her ways. Perhaps youdo not yet understand what I would say.

It is a strange thing that I am trying to say, and for that reason I

can scarcely explain myself in words. I think that ill fortune is of

greater advantage to men than good fortune. Good fortune is ever lying

when she seems to favour by an appearance of happiness. Ill fortune is

ever true when by her changes she shews herself inconstant. The one

deceives ; the other edifies. The one by a deceitful appearance of

good things enchains the

[Note: Probably Cato Major, the great censor, B.C.184, the rigid

champion of the stern old Roman morals ; or possibly Cato Minor, who

committed suicide at Utica after the battle of Thapsus, B.C. 46,

because he considered that Cæsar's victory was fatal to the Republic

and the liberty of Rome.]


Page 54

minds of those who enjoy them: the other frees VIII them by a

knowledge that happiness is so fragile. You see, then, that the one is

blown about by winds, is ever moving and ever ignorant of its own self

; the other is sober, ever prepared and ever made provident by the

undergoing of its very adversities. Lastly, good fortune draws men

from the straight path of true good by her fawning: ill fortune draws

most men to the true good, and holds them back by her curved staff.

'And do you think that this should be reckoned among theleast benefits

of this rough, unkind, and terrible ill fortune, that she has

discovered to you the minds of your faithful friends ? Fortune has

distinguished for you your sure and your doubtful friends; her

departure has taken away her friends and left you yours. At what price

could you have bought this benefit if you had been untouched and, as

you thought, fortunate ? Cease then to seek the wealth you have lost.

You have found your friends, and they are the most precious of all


' Through Love1 the universe with constancy makeschanges all without

discord: earth's elements, though contrary, abide in treaty bound:

Phœbus in his golden car leads up the glowing day ; his sister

rules the night that

[Note: Boethius in this passage is probably thinking ofEmpedocles's

doctrine of Love which unites, and Strife which divides, the two

primal forces in the universe.]


Page 55

Hesperus brought: the greedy sea confines its waves in bounds, lest

the earth's borders be changed by its beating on them: all these are

firmly bound by Love, which rules both earth and sea, and has its

empire in the heavens too. If Love should slacken this its hold, all

mutual love would change to war ; and these would strive to undo the

scheme which now their glorious movements carry out with trust and

with accord. By Love are peoples too kept bound together by a treaty

which they may not break. Love binds with pure affection the sacred

tie of wedlock, and speaks its bidding to all trusty friends. O happy

race of mortals, if your hearts are ruled as is the universe, by Love

! ' C p. Bk. I. Prose iv, p. 10.]


Page 56



When she finished her lay, its soothing tones left me spellbound with

my ears alert in my eagerness to listen. So a while afterwards I said,

'Greatest comforter of weary minds, how have you cheered me with your

deep thoughts and sweet singing too ! No more shall I doubt my power

to meet the blows of Fortune. So far am I from terror at the remedies

which you did lately tell me were sharper, that I am longing to hear

them, and eagerly I beg you for them.'

Then said she, 'I knew it when you laid hold uponmy words in silent

attention, and I was waiting for that frame of mind in you, or more

truly, I brought it about in you. They that remain are indeed bitter

to the tongue, but sweet to the inner man. But as you say you are

eager to hear, how ardently you would be burning, if you knew whither

I am attempting to lead you ! '

Whither is that ? ' I asked.

'To the true happiness, of which your soul too dreams; but your sight

is taken up in imaginary views thereof, so that you cannot look upon



Page 57

Then said I, ' I pray you shew me what that truly is, and quickly.'

' I will do so,' she said, ' for your sake willingly. But firstI will

try to picture in words and give you the form of the cause, which is

already better known to you, that so, when that picture is perfect and

you turn your eyes to the other side, you may recognise the form of

true happiness.

' When a man would sow in virgin soil, first he clears awaythe bushes,

cuts the brambles and the ferns, that the corn-goddess may go forth

laden with her new fruit. The honey, that the bee has toiled to give

us, is sweeter when the mouth has tasted bitter things. The stars

shine with more pleasing grace when a storm has ceased to roar and

pour down rain. After the morning star has dispersed the shades of

night, the day in all its beauty drives its rosy chariot forth. So

thou hast looked upon false happiness first; now draw thy neck from

under her yoke: so shall true happiness now come into thy soul.'

She lowered her eyes for a little while as though searchingthe

innermost recesses of her mind ; and then she continued:--' The

trouble of the many and various aims of mortal men bring them much

care, and herein they go forward by different paths but strive to

reach one end, which is happiness. And that good is that, to which if

any man attain, he


Page 58

can desire nothing further. It is that highest of all good things, and

it embraces in itself all good things: if any good is lacking, it

cannot be the highest good, since then there is left outside it

something which can be desired. Wherefore happiness is a state which

is made perfect by the union of all good things. This end all men seek

to reach, as I said, though by different paths. For there is implanted

by nature in the minds of men a desire for the true good ; but error

leads them astray towards false goods by wrong paths.

' Some men believe that the highest good is to lack nothing,and so

they are at pains to possess abundant riches. Others consider the true

good to be that which is most worthy of admiration, and so they strive

to attain to places of honour, and to be held by their fellow-

citizens in honour thereby. Some determine that the highest good lies

in the highest power ;and so they either desire to reign themselves,

or try to cleave to those who do reign. Others think that renown is

the greatest good, and they therefore hasten to make a famous name by

the arts of peace or of war. But more than all measure the fruit of

good by pleasure and enjoyment, and these think that the happiest man

is abandoned to pleasure.

' Further, there are those who confuse the aims and thecauses of these

good things: as those who desire riches for the sake of power or of

pleasure, or those who seek power for the sake of money or celebrity.

In these, then, and


Page 59

other things like to them, lies the aim of men's actions and prayers,

such as renown and popularity, which seem to afford some fame, or wife

and children, which are sought for the pleasure they give. On the

other hand, the good of friends, which is the most honourable and holy

of all, lies not in Fortune's but in Virtue's realm. All others are

adopted for the sake of power or enjoyment.

'Again, it is plain that the good things of the body must be accounted

to those false causes which we have mentioned; for bodily strength and

stature seem to make men more able and strong ; beauty and swiftness

seem to give renown; health seems to give pleasure. By all these

happiness alone is plainly desired. For each man holds that to be the

highest good, which he seeks before all others. But we have defined

the highest good to be happiness. Wherefore what each man desires

above all others, he holds to be a state of happiness.

'Wherefore you have each of these placed before you as the form of

human happiness: wealth, honours, power, glory, and pleasure. Epicurus

1 considered these forms alone, and accordingly determined upon

pleasure as the highest good, because all the others seemed but

[Note: Epicurus (B.C. 342-270) was the famousfounder of the Epicurean

school of philosophy. His school had a large following of Romans under

the Empire. His own teaching was of a higher nature than might be

supposed from this bare statement that he thought 'pleasure was the

highest good.']


Page 60

to join with it in bringing enjoyment to the mind.

'But to return to the aims of men: their minds seem to seekto regain

the highest good, and their memories seem to dull their powers. It is

as though a drunken man were seeking his home, but could not remember

the way thither. Can those people be altogether wrong whose aim it is

to lack nothing ? No, there is nothing which can make happiness so

perfect as an abundant possession of good things, needing naught that

belongs to others, but in all ways sufficing for itself. Surely those

others too are not mistaken who think that what is best is also most

worthy of reverence and respect. It cannot be any cheap or base thing,

to attain which almost all men aim and strive. And is power not to be

accounted a good thing ? Surely it is: can that be a weak thing or

forceless, which is allowed in all cases to excel? Is renown of no

value ? We cannot surrender this ; that whatever is most excellent,

has also great renown. It is hardly worth saying that happiness has no

torturing cares or gloom, and is not subject to grief and trouble ;

for even in small things, the aim is to find that which it is a

delight to have and to enjoy. These, then, are the desires of men:

they long for riches, places of honour, kingdoms, glory, and pleasure

;and they long for them because they think that thereby they will find

satisfaction, veneration, power, renown, and happiness. It is the good

then which men seek by their different desires ;


Page 61

and it is easy to shew how great a force nature has put therein, since

in spite of such varying and discordant opinions, they are all agreed

in the goal they seek, that of the highest good.

' I would to pliant strings set forth a song of how almighty Nature

turns her guiding reins, telling with what laws her providence keeps

safe this boundless universe, binding and tying each and all with

cords that never shall be loosed. The lions of Carthage, though they

bear the gorgeous bonds and trappings of captivity, and eat the food

that is given them by hand, and though they fear their harsh master

with his lash they know so well ; yet if once blood has touched their

bristling jaws, their old, their latent wills return ; with deep

roaring theyremember their old selves; they loose their bands and free

their necks, and their tamer is the first torn by their cruel teeth,

and his blood is poured out by their rage and wrath.

'If the bird who sings so lustily upon the high tree-top, be caught

and caged, men may minister to him with dainty care, may give him cups

of liquid honey and feed him with all gentleness on plenteous food ;

yet if he fly to the roof of his cage and see the shady trees he

loves, he spurns with his foot the food they have put before him ; the

woods are all his sorrow calls for, for the woods he sings with his

sweet tones.

' The bough which has been downward thrust by force of strength to

bend its top to


Page 62

earth, so soon as the pressing hand is gone, looks up again straight

to the sky above.

' Phœbus sinks into the western waves, but by hisunknown track

he turns his car once more to his rising in the east.

' All things must find their own peculiar course again, and each

rejoices in his own return. Not one can keep the order handed down to

it, unless in some way it unites its rising to its end, and so makes

firm, immutable, its own encircling course.

'And you too, creatures of the earth, do dream of your first state,

though with a dim idea. With whatsoever thinking it may be, you look

to that goal of happiness, though never so obscure your thoughts:

thither, to true happiness, your natural course does guide you, and

from the same your various errors lead you. For I would have you

consider whether men can reach the end they have resolved upon, namely

happiness, by these ways by which they think to attain thereto. If

money and places of honour and such-like do bring anything of that

sort to a man who seems to lack no good thing, then let us acknowledge

with them that men do become happy by the possession of these things.

But if they cannot perform their promises, and there is still lack of

further good things, surely it is plain that a false appearance of

happiness is there discovered. You, therefore, who had lately abundant

riches, shall first answer me. With all that great wealth, was your

mind never


Page 63

perturbed by torturing care arising from some sense of injustice ? '

' Yes,' I said ; ' I cannot remember that my mind was ever free from

some such care.'

Was it not because something was lacking, which youmissed, or because

something was present to you which you did not like to have ? '

' Yes,' I answered.

' You desired, then, the presence of the one, and theabsence of the

other ? '

' I acknowledge it.'

'Then,' said she, 'such a man lacks what he desires.'

' He does.'

' But while a man lacks anything, can he possibly satisfy himself ? '

' No,' said I.

' Then, while you were bountifully supplied with wealth,you felt that

you did not satisfy yourself ? '

' I did indeed.'

'Then,' said she, 'wealth cannot prevent a man from lackingor make him

satisfied. And this is what it apparently professed to do. And this

point too I feel is most important: money has in itself, by its own

nature, nothing which can prevent its being carried off from those,

who possess it, against their will.'

' It has not,' I said.

' No, you cannot deny that any stronger man may any day snatch it from

them. For how come about the quarrels of the law-courts ? Is it not

because people try to regain money that


Page 64

has been by force or by fraud taken from them ? ' ' Yes,' I answered.

' Then,' said she, ' a man will need to seek from theoutside help to

guard his own money.'

' That cannot be denied,' I said.

'And a man will not need that unless he possesses money which he can


' Undoubtedly he will not.'

' Then the argument turns round the other way,' she said. ' The riches

which were thought to make a man all-sufficient for himself, do really

put him in need of other people's help. Then how can need be separated

from wealth ? Do the rich never feel hunger nor thirst ? Do the limbs

of moneyed men never feel the cold of winter ? You will say, " Yes,

but the rich have the wherewithal to satisfy hunger and thirst, and

drive away cold." But though riches may thus console wants, they

cannot entirely take them away. For, though these ever crying wants,

these continual requests, are satisfied, yet there must exist that

which is to be satisfied. I need not say that nature is satisfied with

little, greed is never satisfied. Wherefore, I ask you, if wealth

cannot remove want, and even creates its own wants, what reason is

there that you should think it affords satisfaction to a man ?

' Though the rich man with greed heap up from ever-flowing streams the

wealth that cannot satisfy, though he deck himself with pearls from

the Red Sea's shore, and plough


Page 65

his fertile field with oxen by the score, yet gnawing care will never

in his lifetime leave him, and at his death his wealth will not go

with him, but leave him faithlessly.'

' But,' I urged, ' places of honour make the man, to whom they fall,

honoured and venerated.'

'Ah! ' she answered, ' have those offices their force in truththat

they may instil virtues into the minds of those that hold them, and

drive out vices therefrom? And yet we are too well accustomed to see

them making wickedness conspicuous rather than avoiding it. Wherefore

we are displeased to see such places often falling to the most wicked

of men, so that Catullus called Nonius "a diseased growth," 1 though

he sat in the highest chair of office. Do you see how great a disgrace

high honours can add to evil men? Their unworthiness is less

conspicuous if they are not made famous by honours. Could you yourself

have been induced by any dangers to think of being a colleague with

Decoratus,2 when you saw that he had the mind of an unscrupulous

buffoon, and a base informer ? We cannot consider men worthy of

veneration on account of their high places, when we hold them to be

unworthy of those

[Note: Probably Boethius makes a mistake in his interpretation of

Catullus (Carm. 52), as Nonius's surname was very likely ' Struma '

(which also means a wen) ; in which case Catullus cannot at most have

intended more to be understood than a play upon the man's true name.]

[Note: Decoratus was a minion ofTheodoric.]



Page 66

high places. But if you see a man endowed with wisdom, you cannot but

consider him worthy of veneration, or at least of the wisdom with

which he is endowed. For such a man has the worth peculiar to virtue,

which it transmits directly to those in whom it is found. But since

honours from the vulgar crowd cannot create merit, it is plain that

they have not the peculiar beauty of this worth. And here is a

particular point to be noticed: if men are the more worthless as they

are despised by more people, high position makes them all the worse

because it cannot make venerable those whom it shews to so many people

to be contemptible. And this brings its penalty with it: wicked people

bring a like quality into their positions, and stain them with their


' Now I would have you consider the matter thus, that youmay recognise

that true veneration cannot be won through these shadowy honours. If a

man who had filled the office of consul many times in Rome, came by

chance into a country of barbarians, would his high position make him

venerated by the barbarians ? Yet if this were a natural quality in

such dignities, they would never lose their effective function in any

land, just as fire is never aught but hot in all countries. But since

they do not receive this quality of veneration from any force peculiar

to themselves, but only from a connexion in the untrustworthy opinions

of men, they become as nothing as soon as they are among those who do

not consider these dignities as such.


Page 67

' But that is only in the case of foreign peoples. Among the very

peoples where they had their beginnings, do these dignities last for

ever ? Consider how great was the power in Rome of old of the office

of Præfect: now it is an empty name and a heavy burden upon the income

of any man of Senator's rank. 'The præfect then, who was commissioner

of the corn-market, was held to be a great man. Now there is no office

more despised. For, as I said before, that which has no intrinsic

beauty, sometimes receives a certain glory, sometimes loses it,

according to the opinion of those who are concerned with it. If then

high offices cannot make men venerated, if furthermore they grow vile

by the infection of bad men, if changes of time can end their glory,

and, lastly, if they are held cheaply in the estimation of whole

peoples, I ask you, so far from affording true beauty to men, what

beauty have they in themselves which men can desire ?

' Though Nero decked himself proudly with purple of Tyreand snow-white

gems, none the less that man of rage and luxury lived ever hated of

all. Yet would that evil man at times give his dishonoured offices to

men who were revered. Who then could count men blessed, who to such a

villain owed their high estate ?

'Can kingdoms and intimacies with kings make people powerful ? "

Certainly," some The may answer, " in so far as their happiness is

lasting." But antiquity and our times too are


Page 68

full of examples of the contrary ; examples of men whose happiness as

kings has been exchanged for disaster. What wonderful power, which is

found to be powerless even for its own preservation ! But if this

kingly power is really a source of happiness, surely then, if it fail

in any way, it lessens the happiness it brings, and equally causes

unhappiness. However widely human empires may extend, there must be

still more nations left, over whom each king does not reign. And so,

in whatever direction this power ceases to make happy, thereby comes

in powerlessness, which makes men unhappy ; thus therefore there must

be a greater part of unhappiness in every king's estate. That tyrant 1

had learnt well the dangers of his lot, who likened the fear which

goes with kingship to the terror inspired by a sword ever hanging

overhead. What then is such a power, which cannot drive away the bite

of cares, nor escape the stings of fear ?

'Yet these all would willingly live without fear, but they cannot, and

yet they boast of their power. Think you a man is powerful when you

see that he longs for that which he cannot bring to pass ? Do you

reckon a man powerful who walks abroad with dignity and attended by

servants ? A man who strikes fear into his subjects, yet fears them

more himself? Damocles, what it was to be a tyrant, by setting him in

his own seat at a sumptuous banquet,'but hung a sword above him by a



Page 69

A man who must be at the mercy of those that serve him, in order that

he may seem to have power ?

'Need I speak of intimacies with kings when kingship itselfis shewn to

be full of weakness ? Not only when kings' powers fall are their

friends laid low, but often even when their powers are intact. Nero

compelled his friend and tutor, Seneca,l to choose how he would die.

Papinianus,2 for a long while a powerful courtier, was handed over to

the soldiers' swords by the Emperor Antoninus. Yet each of these was

willing to surrender all his power. Seneca even tried to give up all

his wealth to Nero, and to seek retirement. But the very weight of

their wealth and power dragged them down to ruin, and neither could do

what he wished.

' What then is that power, whose possessors fear it ? in desiring to

possess which, you are not safe, and from which you cannot escape,

even though you try to lay it down? What help are friends, made not by

virtue but by fortune? The friend gained by good fortune becomes an

enemy in ill-fortune. And what plague can more effectually injure than

an intimate enemy ?

' The man who would true power gain, must needs subduehis own wild

thoughts: never

[Note: Seneca, the philosopher and wise counsellor ofNero, was by him

compelled to commit suicide, A.D. 65. ]

[Note: Papinianus, the greatest lawyer of his time,was put to death by

the Emperor Antoninus Caracalla, A.D. 212.]


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must he let his passions triumph and yoke his neck by their foul

bonds. For though the earth, as far as India's shore, tremble before

the laws you give, though Thule bow to your service on earth's

farthest bounds, yet if thou canst not drive away black cares, if thou

canst not put to flight complaints, then is no true power thine.

'How deceitful is fame often, and how base a thing it is!Justly did

the tragic poet cry out,1 "O Fame, Fame, how many lives of men Of

naught hast thou puffed up ! " For many men have got a great name from

the false opinions of the crowd. -And what could be baser than such a

thing ? For those who are falsely praised, must blush to hear their

praises. And if they are justly won by merits, what can they add to

the pleasure of a wise man's conscience ? For he measures his

happiness not by popular talk, but by the truth of his conscience. If

it attracts a man to make his name widely known, he must equally think

it a shame if it be not made known. But I have already said that there

must be yet more lands into which the renown of a single man can never

come ; wherefore it follows that the man, whom you think famous, will

seem to have no such fame in the next quarter of the earth.

' Popular favour seems to me to be unworthy even ofmention under this

head, for it comes not by any judgment, and is never constant.

[Note: Euripeds,Andromache,.319-320.]


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' Again, who can but see how empty a name, and howfutile, is noble

birth ? For if its glory is due to renown, it belongs not to the man.

For the glory of noble birth seems to be praise for the merits of a

man's forefathers. But if praise creates the renown, it is the

renowned who are praised. Wherefore, if you have no renown of your

own, that of others cannot glorify you. But if there is any good in

noble birth, I conceive it to be this, and this alone, that the

highborn seem to be bound in honour not to show any degeneracy from

their fathers' virtue.

' From like beginning rise all men on earth, for there is oneFather of

all things ; one is the guide of everything. 'Tis He who gave the sun

his rays, and horns unto the moon. 'Tis He who set mankind on earth,

and in the heavens the stars. He put within our bodies spirits which

were born in heaven. And thus a highborn race has He set forth in man.

Why do ye men rail on your forefathers ? If ye look to your beginning

and your author, which is God, is any man degenerate or base but he

who by his own vices cherishes base things and leaves that beginning

which was his ?

' And now what am I to say of the pleasures of the body ?The desires

of the flesh are full of cares, their fulfilment is full of remorse.

What terrible diseases, what unbearable griefs,


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truly the fruits of sin, do they bring upon the bodies of those who

enjoy them ! I know not what pleasure their impulse affords, but any

who cares to recall his indulgences of his passions, will know that

the results of such pleasures are indeed gloomy. If any can shew that

those results are blest with happiness, then may the beasts of the

field be justly called blessed, for all their aims are urged toward

the satisfying of their bodies' wants. The pleasures of wife and

children may be most honourable ; but nature makes it all too plain

that some have found torment in their children. How bitter is any such

kind of suffering, I need not tell you now, for you have never known

it, nor have any such anxiety now. Yet in this matter I would hold

with my philosopher Euripides,l that he who has no children is happy

in his misfortune.

'All pleasures have this way: those who enjoy them theydrive on with

stings. Pleasure, like the winged bee, scatters its honey sweet, then

flies away, and with a clinging sting it strikes the hearts it


' There is then no doubt that these roads to VIII happinessare no

roads, and they cannot lead any man to any end whither they profess to

take him. I would shew you shortly with

[Note: Referring to lines in the Andromache(419-420), where Euripides

says: 'The man who complains that he has no children suffers less than

he who has them, and is blest in his misfortune.' ]


Page 73

what great evils they are bound up. Would you heap up money ? You will

need to tear VIII it from its owner. Would you seem brilliant by the

glory of great honours? You must kneel before their dispenser, and in

your desire to surpass other men in honour, you must debase yourself

by setting aside all pride. Do you long for power ? You will be

subject to the wiles of all over whom you have power, you will be at

the mercy of many dangers. You seek fame? You will be drawn to and fro

among rough paths, and lose all freedom from care. Would you spend a

life of pleasure ? Who would not despise and cast off such servitude

to so vile and brittle a thing as your body? How petty are all the

aims of those who put before themselves the pleasures of the body, how

uncertain is the possession of such ? In bodily size will you ever

surpass the elephant? In strength will you ever lead the bull, or in

speed the tiger ? Look upon the expanse of heaven, the strength with

which it stands, the rapidity with which it moves, and cease for a

while to wonder at base things. This heaven is not more wonderful for

those things than for the design which guides it. How sweeping is the

brightness of outward form, how swift its movement, yet more fleeting

than the passing of the flowers of spring. But if, as Aristotle says,

many could use the eyes of lynxes to see through that which meets the

eye, then if they saw into the organs within, would not that body,


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though it had the most fair outside of Alcibiades,

[Note: Alcibiades was the most handsome and brilliantlyfascinating of

all the public men of Athens in her mostbrilliant period.]

seem most vile within ? Whereforeit is not your own nature, but the

weaknessof the eyes of them that see you, which makesyou seem

beautiful. But consider how in excessyou desire the pleasures of the

body, when youknow that howsoever you admire it, it can bereduced to

nothing by a three-days' fever. Toput all these points then in a word:

these thingscannot grant the good which they promise; theyare not made

perfect by the union of all goodthings in them; they do not lead to

happinessas a path thither; they do not make menblessed.

[Note: Compare Philosophy's first words about the highestgood, p. 58.]

' Ah ! how wretched are they whom ignoranceleads astray by her crooked

path ! Ye seeknot gold upon green trees, nor gather preciousstones

from vines, nor set your nets on mountaintops to catch the fishes for

your feast, nor huntthe Umbrian sea in search of goats. Manknows the

depths of the sea themselves, hiddenthough they be beneath its waves;

he knowswhich water best yields him pearls, and whichthe scarlet dye.

But in their blindness menare content, and know not where lies hid

thegood which they desire. They sink in earthlythings, and there they

seek that which has soared


Page 75

above the star-lit heavens. What can I call down upon them worthy of

their stubborn folly ?They go about in search of wealth and

honours;and only when they have by labours vast storedup deception for

themselves, do they at lastknow what is their true good.

'So far,' she continued, ' we have been content to set forth the form

of false happiness.If you clearly understand that, my next dutyis to

shew what is true happiness.'

' I do see,' said I, 'that wealth cannotsatisfy, that power comes not

to kingdoms,nor veneration to high offices; that true renowncannot

accompany ambition, nor true enjoymentwait upon the pleasures of the


' Have you grasped the reasons why it is so ? 'she asked.

' I seem to look at them as through a narrowchink, but I would learn

more clearly fromyou.'

'The reason is to hand,' said she; 'human error takes that which is

simple and by nature impossible to divide, tries to divide it, and

turns its truth and perfection into falsity andimperfection. Tell me,

do you think thatanything which lacks nothing, can be withoutpower ? '

' Of course not.'

' You are right; for if anything has anyweakness in any part, it must

lack the help ofsomething else.'

' That is so,' I said.


Page 76

' Then perfect satisfaction and power havethe same nature ? '

' Yes, it seems so.'

' And do you think such a thing contemptible,or the opposite, worthy

of all veneration ? '

' There can be no doubt that it is worthy.'

'Then let us add veneration to that satisfaction and power, and so

consider these threeas one.'

' Yes, we must add it if we wish to proclaimthe truth.'

'Do you then think that this whole is dulland of no reputation, or

renowned with allglory ? For consider it thus: we have grantedthat it

lacks nothing, that it has all power andis worthy of all veneration;

it must not therefore lack the glory which it cannot supply foritself,

and thereby seem to be in any directioncontemptible.'

'No,' I said, 'I must allow that it hasglory too.'

'Therefore we must rank this glory equallywith the other three.'

'Yes, we must.'

'Then that which lacks nothing from outsideitself, which is

all-powerful by its own might,which has renown and veneration, must

surelybe allowed to be most happy too?'

'I cannot imagine from what quarter unhappiness would creep into such

a thing, whereforewe must grant that it is full of happiness if

theother qualities remain existent.'

'Then it follows further, that though perfect


Page 77

satisfaction, power, glory, veneration, and happiness differ in name,

they cannot differ at all inessence ?'

'They cannot.'

'This then,' said she, 'is a simple, singlething by nature, only

divided by the mistakesof base humanity; and while men try to gain

apart of that which has no parts, they fail bothto obtain a fraction,

which cannot exist, and thewhole too after which they do not strive.'

' Tell me how they fail thus,' I said.

' One seeks riches by fleeing from poverty,and takes no thought of

power,' she answered,'and so he prefers to be base and unknown,and

even deprives himself of natural pleasureslest he should part with the

riches which hehas gathered. Thus not even that satisfactionreaches

the man who loses all power, who isstabbed by sorrow, lowered by his

meanness,hidden by his lack of fame. Another seekspower only: he

scatters his wealth, he despisespleasures and honours which have no

power,and sets no value upon glory. You see howmany things such an one

lacks. Sometimes hegoes without necessaries even, sometimes hefeels

the bite and torture of care; and ashe cannot rid himself of these, he

loses thepower too which he sought above all things.The same argument

may be applied to offices,glory, and pleasure. For since each one

ofthese is the same as each other, any man whoseeks one without the

others, gains not eventhat one which he desires.'


Page 78

' What then? ' I asked.

' If any man desires to obtain all together, hewill be seeking the sum

of happiness. But will heever find that in these things which we

haveshewn cannot supply what they promise?''No.

'Then happiness is not to be sought foramong these things which are

separately believedto supply each thing so sought.'

'Nothing could be more plainly true,' I said.

'Then you have before you the form of falsehappiness, and its causes;

now turn your attention in the opposite direction, and you willquickly

see the true happiness which I havepromised to shew you.'

' But surely this is clear even to the blindest,and you shewed it

before when you were tryingto make clear the causes of false

happiness.For if I mistake not, true and perfect happinessis that

which makes a man truly satisfied,powerful, venerated, renowned, and

happy.And (for I would have you see that I havelooked deeply into the

matter) I realise withoutdoubt that that which can truly yield any

oneof these, since they are all one, is perfecthappiness.

' Ah ! my son,' said she, ' I do see that youare blessed in this

opinion, but I would haveyou add one thing.'

' What is that ? ' I asked.

' Do you think that there is anything amongmortals, and in our

perishable lives, which couldyield such a state ? '


Page 79

'I do not think that there is, and I think that you have shewn this

beyond the need offurther proof.'

' These then seem to yield to mortals certainappearances of the true

good, or some suchimperfections; but they cannot give true andperfect


' No.'

' Since, then, you have seen what is truehappiness, and what are the

false imitationsthereof, it now remains that you should learnwhence

this true happiness may be sought.'

' For that,' said I, ' I have been impatientlywaiting.'

' But divine help must be sought in smallthings as well as great (as

my pupil Plato says inhis Timœ;us);

[Note: Plato, Timœ;us, 27 C. (ch. v.) -- ' All those who have

even the least share of moderation, on undertaking any enterprise,

small or great, always call upon God at the beginning.]

so what, think you, must we do todeserve to find the place of that

highest good ? '

' Call,' I said, ' upon the Father of all, for ifwe do not do so, no

undertaking would berightly or duly begun.'

'You are right,' said she; and thus shecried aloud : --

[Note: This hymn is replete with the highest developmentof Plato's

theory of ideas, as expressed in the Timœ;us,and his theory of

the ideal good being the moving spiritof the material world. Compare

also the speculativeportion of Virgil, Æneid, vi.]

' Thou who dost rule the universe with


Page 80

everlasting law, founder of earth and heavenalike, who hast bidden

time stand forth fromout Eternity, for ever firm Thyself, yet

givingmovement unto all. No causes were withoutThee which could thence

impel Thee to createthis mass of changing matter, but withinThyself

exists the very idea of perfect good,which grudges naught, for of what

can it haveenvy? Thou makest all things follow thathigh pattern. In

perfect beauty Thou movestin Thy mind a world of beauty, making all

ina like image, and bidding the perfect whole tocomplete its perfect

functions. All the firstprinciples of nature Thou dost bind togetherby

perfect orders as of numbers, so that theymay be balanced each with

its opposite: coldwith heat, and dry with moist together ; thusfire

may not fly upward too swiftly because toopurely, nor may the weight

of the solid earthdrag it down and overwhelm it. Thou dostmake the

soul as a third between mind andmaterial bodies: to these the soul

gives lifeand movement, for Thou dost spread it abroadamong the

members of the universe, nowworking in accord. Thus is the soul

dividedas it takes its course, making two circles, asthough a binding

thread around the world.Thereafter it returns unto itself and

passesaround the lower earthly mind; and in likemanner it gives motion

to the heavens to turntheir course. Thou it is who dost carryforward

with like inspiration these souls andlower lives. Thou dost fill these

weak vessels


Page 81

with lofty souls, and send them abroad throughout the heavens and

earth, and by Thy kindlylaw dost turn them again to Thyself and

bringthem to seek, as fire doth, to rise to Theeagain.

' Grant then, O Father, that this mind ofours may rise to Thy throne

of majesty; grantus to reach that fount of good. Grant that wemay so

find light that we may set on Theeunblinded eyes; cast Thou therefrom

theheavy clouds of this material world. Shineforth upon us in Thine

own true glory. Thou art the bright and peaceful rest of all

Thychildren that worship Thee. To see Theeclearly is the limit of our

aim. Thou art ourbeginning, our progress, our guide, our way,our end.

' Since then you have seen the form both of the imperfect and the

perfect good, I think I should now shew you where lies this perfection

of happiness. In this I think our first inquirymust be whether any

good of this kind can exist in the very nature of a subject; for

wemust not let any vain form of thought make usmiss the truth of this

matter. But there canbe no denial of its existence, that it is as

thevery source of all good. For if anything issaid to be imperfect, it

is held to be so bysome loss of its perfection. Wherefore if inany

kind of thing a particular seems imperfect,there must also be a

perfect specimen in thesame kind. For if you take away the perfection,


Page 82

it is impossible even to imagine whencecould come the so-called

imperfect specimen.For nature does not start from degenerate

orimperfect specimens, but starting from theperfect and ideal, it

degenerates to these lowerand weaker forms. If then, as we have

shewnabove, there is an uncertain and imperfecthappiness to be found

in the good, then theremust doubtless be also a sure and

perfecthappiness therein.'

[Note: This reasoning hangs upon Plato's theory of ideasand so is the

opposite of the theory of evolution.]

' Yes,' said I, ' that is quite surely proved tobe true.'

' Now consider,' she continued, ' where itlies. The universally

accepted notion of menproves that God, the fountain-head of all

things,is good. For nothing can be thought of betterthan God, and

surely He, than whom there isnothing better, must without doubt be

good.Now reason shews us that God is so good, thatwe are convinced

that in Him lies also theperfect good. For if it is not so, He

cannotbe the fountain-head; for there must then besomething more

excellent, possessing thatperfect good, which appears to be of

olderorigin than God: for it has been proved thatall perfections are

of earlier origin than theimperfect specimens of the same:

wherefore,unless we are to prolong the series to infinity,we must

allow that the highest Deity must befull of the highest, the perfect

good. But aswe have laid down that true happiness is perfect


Page 83

good, it must be that true happiness is situatedin His Divinity.'

' Yes, I accept that; it cannot be in any waycontradicted.'

' But,' she said, ' I beg you, be sure that youaccept with a sure

conscience and determination this fact, that we have said that the

highestDeity is filled with the highest good.'

' How should I think of it ? ' I asked.

' You must not think of God, the Father ofall, whom we hold to be

filled with the highestgood, as having received this good into Himself

from without, nor that He has it by naturein such a manner that you

might consider Him,its possessor, and the happiness possessed,

ashaving different essential existences. For ifyou think that good has

been received fromwithout, that which gave it must be moreexcellent

than that which received it; but wehave most rightly stated that He is

the mostexcellent of all things. And if you think thatit is in Him by

His nature, but different inkind, then, while we speak of God as

thefountain-head of all things, who could imagineby whom these

different kinds can have beenunited ? Lastly, that which is different

fromanything cannot be the thing from which itdiffers. So anything

which is by its naturedifferent from the highest good, cannot be

thehighest good. And this we must not think ofGod, than whom there is

nothing more excellent, as we have agreed. Nothing in thisworld can

have a nature which is better than


Page 84

its origin, wherefore I would conclude thatthat which is the origin of

all things, accordingto the truest reasoning, is by its essence

thehighest good.'

' Most truly,' I said.

'You agree that the highest good is happiness ? '

' Yes.'

' Then you must allow that God is absolutehappiness ?

' I cannot deny what you put forward before,and I see that this

follows necessarily fromthose propositions.'

' Look then,' she said, 'whether it is provedmore strongly by this

too: there cannot be twohighest goods which are different. For

wheretwo good things are different, the one cannotbe the other;

wherefore neither can be theperfect good, while each is lacking to

theother. And that which is not perfect cannotbe the highest, plainly.

Therefore if twothings are highest good, they cannot be different.

Further, we have proved to ourselvesthat both happiness and God are

each thehighest good. Therefore the highest Deitymust be identical

with the highest happiness.'

' No conclusion,' I said, ' could be truer infact, or more surely

proved by reason, or moreworthy of our God.'

' Besides this let me give you corollary, asgeometricians do, when

they wish to add apoint drawn from the propositions they haveproved.

Since men become happy by


Page 85

acquiring happiness, and happiness is identical with divinity, it is

plain that they become happyby acquiring divinity. But just as men

becomejust by acquiring the quality of justice, and wiseby wisdom, so

by the same reasoning, by acquiring divinity they become divine.

Everyhappy man then is divine. But while nothingprevents as many men

as possible from beingdivine, God is so by His nature, men becomeso by


'This corollary,' I said, ' or whatever youcall it, is indeed

beautiful and very precious.'

' Yes, but nothing can be more beautiful thanthis too which reason

would have us add to whatwe have agreed upon.'

' What is that ? ' I asked.

'Happiness seems to include many things:do all these join it together

as into a wholewhich is happiness, as though each thing werea

different part thereof, or is any one of thema good which fulfils the

essence of happiness,and do the others merely bear relations to

thisone .? '

' I would have you make this plain by theenunciation of these


' Do we not,' she asked, ' hold that happinessis a good thing ? '

' Yes,' I answered, ' the highest good.'

' But you may apply this quality of happinessto them all. For the

perfect satisfaction is thesame, and the highest power, and

veneration, andrenown, and pleasure; these are all held to



Page 86

' What then ? ' I asked.

' Are all these things, satisfaction, power,and the others, as it

were, members of the body,happiness, or do they all bear their

relation tothe good, as members to a head ? '

' I understand what you propose to examine,but I am waiting eagerly to

hear what youwill lay down.'

'I would have you take the following explanation,' she said. ' If

these were allmembers of the one body, happiness, theywould differ

individually. For this is thenature of particulars, to make up one

body ofdifferent parts. But all these have been shewnto be one and the

same. Therefore they arenot as members; and further, this happiness

willthen appear to be joined together into a wholebody out of one

member, which is impossible.'

' That is quite certain,' said I, ' but I wouldhear what is to come.'

'It is plain that the others have some relation to the good. It is for

that reason,namely because it is held to be good, thatthis

satisfaction is sought, and power likewise,and the others too; we may

suppose the sameof veneration, renown, and pleasure. The goodthen is

the cause of the desire for all of these,and their consummation also.

Such a thing ashas in itself no real or even pretended good,cannot

ever be sought. On the other hand,such things as are not by nature

good, but seemto be so, are sought as though they were trulygood.

Wherefore we may justly believe that


Page 87

their good quality is the cause of the desire for them, the very hinge

on which they turn, andtheir consummation. The really importantobject

of a desire, is that for the sake of whichanything is sought, as a

means. For instance,if a man wishes to ride for the sake of hishealth,

he does not so much desire the motionof riding, as the effect, namely

health. As,therefore, each of these things is desired for thesake of

the good, the absolute good is the aim,rather than themselves. But we

have agreedthat the other things are desired for the sakeof happiness,

wherefore in this case too, it ishappiness alone which is the object

of thedesire. Wherefore it is plain that the essenceof the good and of

happiness is one and thesame. '

' I cannot see how any one can think otherwise.'

' But we have shewn that God and truehappiness are one and the same.'

' Yes.'

'Therefore,' said she, 'we may safely conclude that the essence of God

also lies in theabsolute good and nowhere else.

' Come hither all who are the prey of passions, bound by their

ruthless chains; thosedeceiving passions which blunt the minds ofmen.

Here shall you find rest from yourlabours; here a haven lying in

tranquil peace;this shall be a resting-place open to receivewithin

itself all the miserable on earth. Not


Page 88

all the wealth of Tagus's golden sands, norHermus's gleaming strand,

[Note: The modern Sarabat, in Asia Minor, formerly auriferous.]

nor Indus, nighearth's hottest zone, mingling its emeralds andpearls,

can bring light to the eyes of any soul,but rather plunge the soul

more blindly in theirshade. In her deepest caverns does earthrear all

that pleases the eye and excites themind. The glory by which the

heavens moveand have their being, has nought to do with thedarknesses

which bring ruin to the soul. Whosoever can look on this true light

will scarceallow the sun's rays to be clear.'

'I cannot but agree with that,' I said, ' forit all stands woven

together by the strongestproofs.'Then she said, 'At what would you

valuethis, namely if you could find out what is theabsolute good ? '

'I would reckon it,' I said, 'at an infinitevalue, if I could find out

God too, who is thegood.'

'And that too I will make plain by mosttrue reasoning, if you will

allow to stand theconclusions we have just now arrived at.'

' They shall stand good.'

' Have I not shewn,' she asked, ' that thoseupon the things which most

men seek are for this reasonnot perfect goods, because they differ

betweenthe highest themselves; they are lacking to one another,and so

cannot afford full, absolute good ? But


Page 89

when they are gathered together, as it were, into one form and one

operation, so that complete satisfaction, power, veneration,

renown,and pleasure are all the same, then they becomethe true good.

Unless they are all one andthe same, they have no claim to be

reckonedamong the true objects of men's desires.'

' That has been proved beyond all doubt.'

'Then such things as differ among themselves are not goods, but they

become so whenthey begin to be a single unity. Is it notthen the case

these become goods by the attainment of unity ? '

' Yes,' I said, ' it seems so.'

' But I think you allow that every good isgood by participation in

good ? '

' Yes, I do.'

' Then by reason of this likeness both unityand good must be allowed

to be the same thing;for such things as have by nature the

sameoperation, have the same essence.'

' Undeniably.'

' Do you realise that everything remainsexistent so long as it keeps

its unity, butperishes in dissolution as soon as it loses itsunity ? '

' How so ? ' I asked.

' In the case of animals,' she said, ' so longas mind and body remain

united, you have whatyou call an animal. But as soon as this unityis

dissolved by the separation of the two, theanimal perishes and can

plainly be no longercalled an animal. In the case of the body, too,


Page 90

so long as it remains in a single form by theunion of its members, the

human figure ispresented. But if the division or separation ofthe

body's parts drags that union asunder, it atonce ceases to be what it

was. In this wayone may go through every subject, and it willbe quite

evident that each thing exists individually, so long as it is one, but

perishes sosoon as it ceases to be one.'

' Yes, I see the same when I think of othercases.'

' Is there anything,' she then asked, ' which,in so far as it acts by

nature, ever loses itsdesire for self-preservation, and would

voluntarilyseek to come to death and corruption ? '

' No,' I said; ' while I think of animals whichhave volition in their

nature, I can find in themno desire to throw away their determination

toremain as they are, or to hasten to perish oftheir own accord, so

long as there are noexternal forces compelling them thereto.

Everyanimal labours for its preservation, shunningdeath and

extinction. But about trees andplants, I have great doubts as to what

I shouldagree to in their case, and in all inanimateobjects.'

' But in this case too,' she said, 'you haveno reason to be in doubt,

when you see howtrees and plants grow in places which suitthem, and

where, so far as nature is able toprevent it, they cannot quickly

wither andperish. For some grow in plains, others onmountains; some

are nourished by marshes,


Page 91

others cling to rocks; some are fertilised by otherwise barren sands,

and would wither awayif one tried to transplant them to better

soil.Nature grants to each what suits it, and worksagainst their

perishing while they can possiblyremain alive. I need hardly remind

you thatall plants seem to have their mouths buried inthe earth, and

so they suck up nourishment bytheir roots and diffuse their strength

throughtheir pith and bark: the pith being the softestpart is always

hidden away at the heart andcovered, protected, as it were, by the

strengthof the wood; while outside, the bark, as beingthe defender who

endures the best, is opposedto the unkindness of the weather. Again,

howgreat is nature's care, that they should allpropagate themselves by

the reproduction oftheir seed; they all, as is so well known, arelike

regular machines not merely for lasting atime, but for reproducing

themselves for ever,and that by their own kinds. Things toowhich are

supposed to be inanimate, surely doall seek after their own by a like

process. Forwhy is flame carried upward by its lightness,while solid

things are carried down by theirweight, unless it be that these

positions andmovements are suitable to each ? Further,each thing

preserves what is suitable to itself,and what is harmful, it destroys.

Hard things,such as stones, cohere with the utmost tenacityof their

parts, and resist easy dissolution; whileliquids, water, and air,

yield easily to division,but quickly slip back to mingle their parts


Page 92

which have been cut asunder. And fire cannotbe cut at all.

'We are not now discussing the voluntarymovements of a reasoning mind,

but the naturalinstinct. For instance, we unwittingly digest thefood

we have eaten, and unconsciously breathein sleep. Not even in animals

does this love ofself-preservation come from mental wishes, butfrom

elementary nature. For often the will,under stress of external causes,

embraces theidea of death, from which nature revolts inhorror.

[Note: Boethius is possibly thinking here of passages inPlato's

Republic, Bk. iv. (439-441) where Socrates pointsout the frequent

opposition of reason and instinct.]

And, on the other hand, the willsometimes restrains what nature always

desires,namely the operation of begetting, by whichalone the

continuance of mortal things becomesenduring. Thus far, then, this

love of self- preservation arises not from the reasoninganimal s

intention, but from natural instinct.Providence has given to its

creatures this thegreatest cause of permanent existence,

theinstinctive desire to remain existent so far aspossible. Wherefore

you have no reason todoubt that all things, which exist, seek

apermanent existence by nature, and similarlyavoid extinction.'

'Yes,' I said, 'I confess that I see nowbeyond all doubt what appeared

to me just nowuncertain.'

'But,' she continued, 'that which seeks tocontinue its existence, aims

at unity; for take


Page 93

this away, and none will have any chance of continued existence.'

' That is true.'

' Then all things desire unity,' she said, andI agreed.

'But we have shewn unity to be identicalwith the good ? '

' Yes,' said I.

'Then all things desire the good; and thatyou may define as being the

absolute goodwhich is desired by all.'

' Nothing could be more truthfully reasoned.For either everything is

brought back tonothing, and all will flow on at random withno guiding

head; or if there is any universalaim, it will be the sum of all


'Great is my rejoicing, my son,' said she,'for you have set firmly in

your mind the markof the central truth. And hereby is madeplain to you

that which you a short time agosaid that you knew not.'

'What was that ? '

'What was the final aim of all things,' shesaid, ' for that is plainly

what is desired by all:since we have agreed that that is the good,

wemust confess that the good is the end of allthings.

' If any man makes search for truth with all his penetration, and

would be led astray by nodeceiving paths, let him turn upon himself

thelight of an inward gaze, let him bend by forcethe long-drawn

wanderings of his thoughts into


Page 94

one circle; let him tell surely to his soul,that he has, thrust away

within the treasures ofhis mind, all that he labours to acquire

without.Then shall that truth, which now was hid inerror's darkening

cloud, shine forth more clearthan Phoebus's self. For the body, though

itbrings material mass which breeds forgetfulness,has never driven

forth all light from the mind.The seed of truth does surely cling

within, andcan be roused as a spark by the fanning ofphilosophy. For

if it is not so, how do yemen make answers true of your own

instinctwhen teachers question you ? Is it not that thequick spark of

truth lies buried in the heart'slow depths ? And if the Muse of Plato

sendsthrough those depths the voice of truth, eachman has not

forgotten and is but remindinghimself of what he learns.'

[Note: Plato's doctrine of remembrance is chiefly treated ofin his

Phæ;do and Meno.]

When she made an end, I said, 'I agreevery strongly with Plato; for

this is the secondtime that you have reminded me of thesethoughts. The

first time I had lost themthrough the material influence of the body;

thesecond, when overwhelmed by this weight oftrouble.'

' If,' said she, ' you look back upon what wethat have agreed upon

earlier, you will also soonrecall what you just now said you knew


' What is that ? ' I asked.


Page 95

'The guidance by which the universe is directed.'

'Yes, I remember confessing my ignorance,and though I think I foresee

the answer youwill offer, I am eager to hear you explain itmore


' This world,' she said, ' you thought alittle while ago must without

doubt be guidedby God.'

'And I think so now,' I said, 'and willnever think there is any doubt

thereof; and Iwill shortly explain by what reasoning I arriveat that

point. This universe would never havebeen suitably put together into

one form fromsuch various and opposite parts, unless therewere some

One who joined such different partstogether; and when joined, the very

variety oftheir natures, so discordant among themselves,would break

their harmony and tear themasunder unless the One held together what

itwove into one whole. Such a fixed order ofnature could not continue

its course, could notdevelop motions taking such various directionsin

place, time, operation, space, and attributes,unless there were One

who, being immutable,had the disposal of these various changes.

Andthis cause of their remaining fixed and theirmoving, I call God,

according to the namefamiliar to all.'

Then said she, ' Since these are your feelings,I think there is but

little trouble left me beforeyou may revisit your home with happiness

inyour grasp. But let us look into the matter we


Page 96

have set before ourselves. Have we not shewnthat complete satisfaction

exists in true happiness,and we have agreed that God is

happinessitself, have we not ? '

'We have.'

'Wherefore He needs no external aid ingoverning the universe, or, if

He had any suchneed, He would not have this completesufficiency. '

' That of necessity follows,' I said.

' Then He arranges all things by Himself.'Without doubt He does.'

' And God has been shewn to be theabsolute good.'

' Yes, I remember.'

'Then He arranges all things by good, ifHe arranges them by Himself,

whom we haveagreed to be the absolute good. And so thisis the tiller

and rudder by which the ship of theuniverse is kept sure and


'I feel that most strongly,' I said; 'and Iforesaw that you would say

so before, thoughI had a slight uncertainty.'

' I believe you,' she said, ' for now youbring your eyes more

watchfully to scan thetruth. But what I am going to say is no

lessplain to the sight.'

'What is that; '

' Since we may reasonably be sure that Godsteers all things by the

helm of goodness, and,as I have shewn you, all things have a

naturalinstinct to hasten towards the good, can therebe any doubt that

they are guided according to


Page 97

their own will: and that of their own accord they turn to the will of

the supreme disposer,as though agreeing with, and obedient to,

thehelmsman ? '

'That is so,' I said, 'and the governmentwould not seem happy if it

was a yoke upondiscontented necks, and not the salvation of


' Then nothing need oppose God's way forits own nature's


' No.'

' But if it try to oppose Him, will it everhave any success at all

against One whom wehave justly allowed to be supremely powerful

inmatters of happiness ? '

' Certainly not. '

'Then there is nothing which could havethe will or the power to resist

the highestgood ? 'I think not.'

'Then it is the highest good which isguiding with strength and

disposing withgentleness ? '

Then said I, 'How great pleasure thesethings give me! not only those

which havebeen proved by the strongest arguments, butstill more the

words in which you prove them,which make me ashamed that my folly

hasbragged so loudly.'

' You have heard in mythology how thegiants attacked heaven. It was

this kindlystrength which overthrew them too, as wastheir desert. But

would you care to put these


Page 98

arguments at variance ? For perhaps from sucha friction, some fair

spark of truth may leapforth.'

' As you hold best,' I said.

'Nobody would care to doubt that God isall-powerful ? '

' At any rate, no sane man would doubt it.'

' Being, then, all-powerful, nothing is beyondHis power ? '

' Nothing.'

' Can, then, God do evil ? '

' No.'

' Then evil is nothing, since it is beyond Hispower, and nothing is

beyond His power ? '

' Are you playing with me,' I asked, ' weaving arguments as a

labyrinth out of which I shallfind no way ? You may enter a labyrinth

bythe way by which you may come forth: comenow forth by the way you

have gone in: or areyou folding your reason in some wondrous circleof

divine simplicity ? A little while ago youstarted from happiness, and

said that happinesswas the highest good; and you shewed howthat rested

in the highest Deity. And youreasoned that God too was the highest

good,and the fullest happiness; and you allowed, asthough granting a

slight gift, that none couldbe happy except such as were similarly

divine.Again, you said that the essence of God andof happiness was

identical with the very form ofgood; and that that alone was good

which wassought by all nature. And you argued, too,that God guided

this universe by the helm of


Page 99

goodness; and that all creatures with free willobeyed this guidance,

and that there was nosuch thing as natural evil; and all these

thingsyou developed by no help from without, but byhomely and internal

proofs, each gaining itscredence from that which went before it.'

Then she answered, ' I was not mocking you.We have worked out the

greatest of all mattersby the grace of God, to whom we prayed.For the

form of the divine essence is such thatit is not diffused without, nor

receives aughtinto itself from without. But as Parmenidessays of it, "

It is a mass well rounded upon allsides."

[Note: This is a verse from the poems in which Parmenidesembodied his

philosophy: this was the doctrine of theunity which must have been in

Boethius's mind above.Parmenides, the founder of the Eleatic school

(495 B.C.)was perhaps, considering his early date, the greatest

andmost original of Greek philosophers. Boethius probablydid not make

a clear distinction between the philosopher's own poems and the views

expressed in Plato'sParmenides.]

But if you examine it with reasoning,sought for not externally but by

lying withinthe sphere of the very thing we are handling,you will not

wonder at what you have learnt onPlato's authority,

[Note: Plato in the Timoeus says, ' The language must alsobe akin to

the subjects of which its words are theinterpreters'---(29 B.).]

that our language must beakin to the subjects of which we speak.

' Happy the man who could reach the crystal fount of good: happy he

who could shake off


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the chains of matter and of earth. The singerof Thrace in olden time

lamented his deadwife: by his tearful strains he made the treesto

follow him, and bound the flowing streams tostay: for him the hind

would fearlessly go sideby side with fiercest lions, and the hare

wouldlook upon the hound, nor be afraid, for he wasgentle under the

song's sway. But when thehotter flame burnt up his inmost soul, even

thestrains, which had subdued all other things,could not soothe their

own lord's mind. Complaining of the hard hearts of the gods above,he

dared approach the realms below. Therehe tuned his songs to soothing

tones, and sangthe lays he had drawn from his mother's

[Note: Orpheus's mother was the Muse Calliope, mistressof the

Castalian fount.]

fountof excellence. His unrestrained grief did givehim power, his love

redoubled his grief's power:his mourning moved the depths of hell.

Withgentlest prayers he prayed to the lords of theshades for grace.

The three-headed porter

[Note: The dog Cerberus.]

was taken captive with amazement at his freshsongs. The avenging


[Note: The Furies.]

who hauntwith fear the guilty, poured out sad tears.Ixion's

[Note: Ixion for his crimes was bound upon a rolling wheel]

wheel no longer swiftly turned. Tantalus,

[Note: Tantalus for his crimes was condemned to perpetualhunger and

thirst though surrounded by fruits and waterwhich ever eluded his


so long abandoned unto thirst, could


Page 101

then despise the flowing stream. The vulture, satisfied by his

strains, tore not awhile at Tityos's

[Note: Tityos for his crimes was for ever fastened to theground while

a vulture devoured his entrails.]

heart. At last the lord of the shades

[Note: Pluto.]

in pitycried: "We are conquered; take your bridewith you, bought by

your song; but one condition binds our gift: till she has left

thesedark abodes, turn not your eyes upon her."Who shall set a law to

lovers ? Love is agreater law unto itself. Alack ! at the verybounds

of darkness Orpheus looked upon hisEurydice; looked, and lost her, and

was lost himself.

' To you too this tale refers; you, who seekto lead your thoughts to

the light above. Forwhosoever is overcome of desire, and turns hisgaze

upon the darkness 'neath the earth, he,while he looks on hell, loses

the prize hecarried off.'


Page 102



THUS gently sang the Lady Philosophy withdignified mien and grave

countenance; andwhen she ceased, I, who had not thoroughlyforgotten

the grief within me, interrupted heras she was about to speak further.

' Herald oftrue light,' I said, 'right clear have been theoutpourings

of your speech till now, seeminginspired as one contemplates them, and

invincible through your reasonings. And thoughthrough grief for the

injustices I suffer, I hadforgotten them, yet you have not spoken

ofThey what I knew not at all before. But this onething is the chief

cause of my grief, namelythat, when there exists a good governor of

theworld, evils should exist at all, or, existing,should go

unpunished. I would have you thinkhow strange is this fact alone. But

there is aneven stranger attached thereto: ill-doing reignsand

flourishes, while virtue not only lacks itsreward, but is even

trampled underfoot by wickeddoers, and pays the penalties instead of

crime.Who can wonder and complain enough thatsuch things should happen

under the rule ofOne who, while all-knowing and all-powerful,wills

good alone ? '

Then she answered: ' Yes, it would be mostterrible, monstrous, and

infinitely amazing if


Page 103

it were as you think. It would be as though in a well-ordered house of

a good master, the vilestvessels were cared for while the precious

wereleft defiled. But it is not so. If our former conclusions are

unshaken, God Himself, of whosegovernment we speak, will teach you

that thegood are always powerful, the evil are alwaysthe lowest and

weakest; vice never goes unpunished; virtue never goes without its

ownreward; happiness comes to the good, misfortuneto the wicked: and

when your complaints areset at rest, many such things would most

firmlystrengthen you in this opinion. You have seennow from my

teaching the form of true happiness; you know now its place: let us

goquickly through all that must be lightly passedover, and let me shew

you the road which shalllead you to your home. I will give wings

toyour mind, by which it shall raise itself aloft:so shall disquiet be

driven away, and you mayreturn safe to your home by my guidance, bythe

path I shall shew you, even by myselfcarrying you thither.

' Yea, airy wings are mine to scale the heights of heaven; when these

the mind has donned,swiftly she loathes and spurns this earth.

Shesoars above the sphere of this vast atmosphere,sees the clouds

behind her far; she passeshigh above the topmost fires which seethe

abovethe feverish turmoil of the air,

[Note: This and some of the following lines allude to someof the

theories of the early Physicists.]

until she rises


Page 104

to the stars' own home, and joins her pathunto the sun's; or

accompanies on her path thecold and ancient Saturn, maybe as the

shiningwarrior Mars; or she may take her coursethrough the circle of

every star that decks thenight. And when she has had her fill

ofjourneying, then may she leave the sky andtread the outer plane of

the swift moving air,as mistress of the awful light. Here holds

theKing of kings His sway, and guides the reinsof the universe, and

Himself unmoved Hedrives His winged chariot, the bright disposerof the

world. And if this path brings theeagain hither, the path that now thy

memoryseeks to recall, I tell thee, thou shalt say," This is my home,

hence was I derived, hereshall I stay my course." But if thou choose

tolook back upon the earthly night behind thee,thou shalt see as

exiles from light the tyrantswhose grimness made wretched peoples so


'Wondrous,' I cried; 'what vast things doyou promise ! and I doubt not

that you canfulfil them. I only beg that you will not holdme back with

delays, now that you have excitedme thus far.'

' First, then, you must learn that power isnever lacking to the good,

while the wicked aredevoid of all strength. The proofs of thesetwo

statements hang upon each other. Forgood and bad are opposites, and

therefore, if itis allowed that good is powerful, the weakness


Page 105

of evil is manifest: if the weakness and uncertainty of evil is made

plain, the strength andsureness of good is proved. To gain more

fullcredit for my opinion, I will go on to make myargument sure by

first the one, then the other ofthe two paths, side by side.

' It is allowed that there are two things uponwhich depend the entire

operation of humanactions: they are will and power. For if thewill be

wanting, a man does not even attemptthat which he has no desire to

perform; if thepower be wanting, the will is exercised in

vain.Wherefore, if you see a man wish for that whichhe will in no wise

gain, you cannot doubt thathe lacks the power to attain that which


' That is plain beyond doubt.'

' And if you see a man gain that which hewishes, can you doubt that he

has the power ? '

' No.'

' But wherein a man has power, he is strong;wherein he has not power,

he must be countedweak ? '

' Yes.'

' Do you remember that we agreed from ourearlier reasonings, that the

instinct of all humanwill, though acted upon by different aims,

doeslead with eagerness towards happiness ? '

' Yes,' said I, ' I remember that that too wasproved.'

' Do you remember that happiness is theabsolute good, and that the

good is desired ofall, when in that manner happiness is sought ? '


Page 106

'I need not recall that,' I said, 'since it ispresent fixedly in my


' Then all men, good and bad alike, seek toarrive at the good by no

different instincts ? '

' Yes, that follows necessarily.'

' But it is certain that the good become so bythe attainment of good ?


' Yes.'

' Then the good attain that which they wish ? '

' Yes,' said I, ' it seems so.'

'But if evil men attain the good they seek,they cannot be evil ? '

' No.'

' Since, then, both classes seek the good, whichthe good attain, but

the evil attain not, it isplain that the good are powerful, while the

evilare weak ? '

' If any doubt that, he cannot judge by thenature of the world, nor by

the sequence o~arguments.'

Again she said, ' If there are two personsbefore whom the same object

is put by naturalinstinct, and one person carries his objectthrough,

working by his natural functions, butthe other cannot put his natural

instinct intopractice, but using some function unsuitable tonature he

can imitate the successful person, butnot fulfil his original purpose,

in this case, which ofthe two do you decide to be the more capable ? '

' I think I guess what you mean, but I wouldhear more explicitly.'

' You will not, I think, deny that the motionof walking is a natural

one to mankind ? '


Page 107

' No, I will not.'

' And is not that the natural function of thefeet ? '

' Yes.'

' If, then, one man walks, being able to advanceupon his feet, while

another, who lacks thenatural function of feet, uses his hands and

sotries to walk, which of these two may justly beheld the more capable

? '

'Weave me other riddles I ' I exclaimed,' for can any one doubt that a

man who enjoyshis natural functions, is more capable than onewho is

incapable in that respect ? '

'But in the case of the highest good,' shesaid, ' it is equally the

purpose set before goodand bad men; good men seek it by the

naturalfunctions of virtue, while bad men seek to attainthe same

through their cupidity, which is not anatural function for the

attainment of good.Think you not so ? '

' I do indeed,' said I; ' this is plain, as alsois the deduction which

follows. For it mustbe, from what I have already allowed, that thegood

are powerful, the wicked weak.'

'Your anticipation is right; and as doctorsare wont to hope, it shews

a lively nature nowfit to withstand disease. But I see that you

arevery ready in understanding, and I will multiplymy arguments one

upon another. See howgreat is the weakness of these wicked men

whocannot even attain that to which their naturalinstinct leads them,

nay, almost drives them.And further, how if they are deprived of this


Page 108

great, this almost invincible, aid of a naturalinstinct to follow?

Think what a powerlessness possesses these men. They are no

lightobjects which they seek; they seek no objectsin sport, objects

which it is impossible that theyshould achieve. They fail in the very

highestof all things, the crown of all, and in this theyfind none of

the success for which they labourday and night in wretchedness. But

herein thestrength of good men is conspicuous. If a mancould advance

on foot till he arrived at anutmost point beyond which there was no

pathfor further advance, you would think him mostcapable of walking:

equally so, if a man graspsthe very end and aim of his search, you

mustthink him most capable. Wherefore also thecontrary is true; that

evil men are similarlydeprived of all strength. For why do theyleave

virtue and follow after vice ? Is it fromignorance of good? Surely

not, for what isweaker or less compelling than the blindness

ofignorance ? Do they know what they ought tofollow, and are they

thrown from the straightroad by passions? Then they must be weaktoo in

self-control if they cannot struggle withtheir evil passions. But they

lose thus not onlypower, but existence all together. For thosewho

abandon the common end of all who exist,must equally cease to exist.

And this mayseem strange, that we should say that evil men,though the

majority of mankind, do not exist atall; but it is so. For while I do

not deny thatevil men are evil, I do deny that they " are,"


Page 109

in the sense of absolute existence. You may say, for instance, that a

corpse is a dead man,but you cannot call it a man. In a like

manner,though I grant that wicked men are bad, Icannot allow that they

are men at all, as regardsabsolute being. A thing exists which keeps

itsproper place and preserves its nature; but whenanything falls away

from its nature, its existencetoo ceases, for that lies in its nature.

Youwill say, " Evil men are capable of evil ": andthat I would not

deny. But this very power oftheirs comes not from strength, but from

weakness. They are capable of evil; but this evilwould have no

efficacy if it could have stayedunder the operation of good men. And

thisvery power of ill shews the more plainly thattheir power is

naught. For if, as we have agreed, evil is nothing, then, since they

are onlycapable of evil, they are capable of nothing '

' That is quite plain.'

'I would have you understand what is thisstrength of power. We have a

little while agolaid down that nothing is more powerful thanthe

highest good ? '

' Yes,' I said.

'But the highest good can do no evil ? '

' No.'

' Is there any one who thinks that men areall-powerful ? '

' No one,' I said, 'unless he be mad.'

' And yet those same men can do evil.'Would to heaven they could not !

' I cried.' Then a powerful man is capable only of all


Page 110

good; but even those who are capable of evil,are not capable of all:

so it is plain that thosewho are capable of evil, are capable of

less.Further, we have shewn that all power is to becounted among

objects of desire, and all objectsof desire have their relation to the

good, as tothe coping-stone of their nature. But the powerof

committing crime has no possible relation tothe good. Therefore it is

not an object ofdesire. Yet, as we said, all power is to bedesired.

Therefore the power of doing evil isno power at all. For all these

reasons thepower of good men and the weakness of evilmen is apparent.

So Plato's opinion

[Note: From Plato's Gorgias (466). Boethius in this andseveral other

passages in this book has the Gorgias inmind; for Plato there

discusses the strength and happiness of good men, and the impotence

and unhappinessof bad men. Socrates is also there represented as

provingthat the unjust man is happier punished than unpunished,as

Boethius does below.]

is plainthat " the wise alone are able to do what theydesire, but

unscrupulous men can only labour atwhat they like, they cannot fulfil

their realdesires." They do what they like so long asthey think that

they will gain through theirpleasures the good which they desire; but

theydo not gain it, since nothing evil ever reacheshappiness.

' Kings you may see sitting aloft upon theirthrones, gleaming with

purple, hedged aboutwith grim guarding weapons, threatening with


Page 111

fierce glances, and their hearts heaving with passion. If any man take

from these proudones their outward covering of empty honour,he will

see within, will see that these greatones bear secret chains. For the

heart of oneis thus filled by lust with the poisons of greed,or

seething rage lifts up its waves and lashes hismind therewith: or

gloomy grief holds themweary captives, or by slippery hopes they

aretortured. So when you see one head thuslabouring beneath so many

tyrants, you knowhe cannot do as he would, for by hard task-masters is

the master himself oppressed.

' Do you see then in what a slough crimes are invo]ved, and with what

glory honesty shines forth ? It is plain from this that reward is

never lacking to good deeds, nor punishment to crime. We may justly

say that the rewardof every act which is performed is the objectfor

which it is performed. For instance, onthe racecourse the crown for

which the runnerstrives is his reward. But we have shewn thathappiness

is the identical good for the sake ofwhich all actions are performed.

Thereforethe absolute good is the reward put before allhuman actions.

But good men cannot bedeprived of this. And further, a man wholacks

good cannot justly be described as agood man; wherefore we may say

that goodhabits pever miss their rewards. Let thewicked rage never so

wildly, the wise man'scrown shall never fail nor wither. And the


Page 112

wickedness of bad men can never take awayfrom good men the glory which

belongs tothem. Whereas if a good man rejoiced in aglory which he

received from outside, thencould another, or even he, may be, who

grantedit, carry it away. But since honesty grants toevery good man

its own rewards, he will onlylack his reward when he ceases to be

good.And lastly, since every reward is sought forthe reason that it is

held to be good, who shallsay that the man, who possesses goodness,

doesnot receive his reward ? And what reward isthis? Surely the

fairest and greatest of all.Remember that corollary

[Note: P.84. ]

which I emphasisedwhen speaking to you a little while ago; andreason

thus therefrom. While happiness is theabsolute good, it is plain that

all good menbecome good by virtue of the very fact thatthey are good.

But we agreed that happy menare as gods. Therefore this is the reward

ofthe good, which no time can wear out, nopower can lessen, no

wickedness can darken;they become divine. In this case, then, no

wiseman can doubt of the inevitable punishment ofthe wicked as well.

For good and evil are soset, differing from each other just as reward

andpunishment are in opposition to each other:hence the rewards, which

we see fall to thegood, must correspond precisely to the punishments

of the evil on the other side. As,therefore, honesty is itself the

reward of thehonest, so wickedness is itself the punishment


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of the wicked. Now whosoever suffers punishment, doubts not that he is

suffering an evil:if, then, they are ready so to judge of themselves,

can they think that they do not receivepunishment, considering that

they are not onlyaffected but thoroughly permeated by wickedness, the

worst of all evils ?

' Then, from the other point of view of thegood, see what a punishment

ever goes with thewicked. You have learnt a little while pastthat all

that exists is one, and that the gooditself is one; it follows

therefrom that all thatexists must appear to be good. In this

way,therefore, all that falls away from the good,ceases also to exist,

wherefore evil men ceaseto be what they were. The form of theirhuman

bodies still proves that they have been men; wherefore they must have

lost theirhuman nature when they turned to evil-doing.But as goodness

alone can lead men forwardbeyond their humanity, so evil of necessity

willthrust down below the honourable estate ofhumanity those whom it

casts down from theirfirst position. The result is that you cannothold

him to be a man who has been, so to say,transformed by his vices. If a

violent manand a robber burns with greed of other men'spossessions,

you say he is like a wolf. Anotherfierce man is always working his

restless tongueat lawsuits, and you will compare him to ahound. Does

another delight to spring uponmen from ambushes with hidden guile ? He

isas a fox. Does one man roar and not restrain


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his rage? He would be reckoned as havingthe heart of a lion. Does

another flee andtremble in terror where there is no cause offear? He

would be held to be as deer. Ifanother is dull and lazy, does he not

live thelife of an ass ? One whose aims are inconstantand ever changed

at his whims, is in no wisedifferent from the birds. If another is in

aslough of foul and filthy lusts, he is kept downby the lusts of an

unclean swine. Thus then aman who loses his goodness, ceases to be a

man,and since he cannot change his condition forthat of a god, he

turns into a beast.

'The east wind wafted the sails which carriedon the wandering ships of

Ithaca's king to theisland where dwelt the fair goddess Circe,

thesun's own daughter. There for her new guestsshe mingled cups

bewitched by charms. Herhand, well skilled in use of herbs, changed

theseguests to different forms. One bears the faceof a boar; another

grows like to an Africanlion with fangs and claws; this one becomes

asa wolf, and when he thinks to weep, he howls;that one is an Indian

tiger, though he walks allharmless round about the dwelling-place.

Theleader alone, Ulysses, though beset by so manydangers, was saved

from the goddess's bane bythe pity of the winged god, Mercury. But

thesailors had drunk of her cups, and now hadturned from food of corn

to husks and acorns,food of swine. Naught is left the same,speech and

form are gone; only the mind remains


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unchanged, to bewail their unnatural sufferings.

'How weak was that hand, how powerlessthose magic herbs which could

change thelimbs but not the heart ! Within lies thestrength of men,

hidden in deep security.Stronger are those dread poisons which candrag

a man out of himself, which work theirway within: they hurt not the

body, but onthe mind their rage inflicts a grievous wound.'

[Note: Cf. St. Matthew x. 28.]

Then I answered: 'I confess that I thinkit is justly said that vicious

men keep only theoutward bodily form of their humanity, and, inthe

attributes of their souls, are changed tobeasts. But I would never

have allowed themwillingly the power to rage in the ruin ofgood men

through their fierce and wickedintentions.'

' They have not that power,' said she, ' as Iwill shew you at a

convenient time. But ifthis very power, which you believe is allowedto

them, were taken from them, the punishmentof vicious men would be to a

great extentlightened. For, though some may scarcelybelieve it, evil

men must be more unhappywhen they carry out their ill desires than

whenthey cannot fulfil them. For if it is pitiableto have wished bad

things, it is more pitiableto have had the power to perform them,

withoutwhich power the performance of this pitiablewill would never

have effect. Thus, when you


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see men with the will and the power to commita crime, and you see them

perform it, theymust be the victims of a threefold misfortune,since

each of those three things brings its ownmisery.

' Yes,' said I,' I agree; but I do wish frommy heart that they may

speedily be rid of oneof these misfortunes, being deprived of

thispower of doing evil.'

' They will be rid of it,' she said, 'morespeedily even than you wish

perhaps, andsooner than they think they will be rid thereof.There is

in the short course of life naughtwhich is so long coming that an

immortal mindcan think it has long to wait for it. Many atime are

their high hopes and great plans forevil-doing cut short by a sudden

and unlooked-for end. This indeed it is that sets a limit totheir

misery. For if wickedness makes a manmiserable, the longer he is

wicked, the moremiserable must he be; and I should hold themmost

miserable of all, if not even death at lastput an end to their

evil-doing. If we havereached true conclusions concerning the

unhappiness of depravity, the misery, which is said tobe eternal, can

have no limit.'

'That is a strange conclusion and hard toaccept. But I see that it is

suited too well bywhat we have agreed upon earlier.'

'You are right,' she said; ' but when onefinds it hard to agree with a

conclusion, oneought in fairness to point out some fault in

theargument which has preceded, or shew that


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the sequence of statements is not so joinedtogether as to effectively

lead to the conclusion;otherwise, if the premises are granted, it is

notjust to cavil at the inference. This too, whichI am about to say,

may not seem less strange,but it follows equally from what has been

takenas fact.'

' What is that ? ' I asked.

'That wicked men are happier when theypay the penalty for their

wickedness than whenthey receive no penalty at the hands of justice.

[Note: Plato, Gorgias, 472 and ff.]

I am not going to urge what may occur to anyone, namely, that depraved

habits are correctedby penalties, and drawn towards the right byfear

of punishment, and that an example ishereby given to others to avoid

all that deservesblame. But I think that the wicked who arenot

punished are in another way the moreunhappy, without regard to the

correctivequality of punishment, nor its value as anexample.'

'And what way is there other than these?'

'We have allowed, have we not,' she said,'that the good are happy, but

the bad aremiserable .

' Yes.'

' Then if any good be added to the misery ofany evil man, is he not

happier than the manwhose miserable state is purely and

simplymiserable without any good at all mingledtherewith?'

' I suppose so.'


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'What if some further evil beyond thoseby which a man, who lacked all

good things,were made miserable, were added to hismiseries ? Should

not he be reckoned far moreunhappy than the man whose misfortune

waslightened by a share in some good ? '

' Of course it is so.'

' Therefore,' she said, ' the wicked whenpunished have something good

added to theirlot, to wit, their punishment, which is good byreason of

its quality of justice; and they also,when unpunished, have something

of furtherevil, their very impunity, which you haveallowed to be an

evil, by reason of its injustice.'

' I cannot deny that,' said I.

' Then the wicked are far more unhappywhen they are unjustly

unpunished, than whenthey are justly punished. It is plain that it

isjust that the wicked should be punished, andunfair that they should

escape punishment.'

' No one will gainsay you.'

' But no one will deny this either, that allwhich is just is good; and

on the other part,all that is unjust is evil.'

Then I said: 'The arguments which wehave accepted bring us to that

conclusion.But tell me, do you leave no punishment of thesoul to

follow after the death of the body?'

' Yes,' she answered, ' heavy punishments,of which some, I think, are

effected by bitterpenalties, others by a cleansing mercy.

[Note: It must not be supposed from the words ' cleansingmercy '

(purgatoria clementia) that Boethius held thesame views as were held

by the Church later concerningpurgatory, and as are now taught by the

Roman CatholicChurch. It is true that St. Augustine had in 407

A.D.hinted at the existence of such a state, but it was

notdogmatically inculcated till 604, in the Papacy ofGregory the




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it is not my intention to discuss these now. My object has been to

bring you to knowthat the power of evil men, which seems toyou so

unworthy, is in truth nothing; and thatyou may see that those wicked

men, of whoseimpunity you complained, do never miss thereward of their

ill-doing; and that you maylearn that their passion, which you

prayedmight soon be cut short, is not long-enduring,and that the

longer it lasts, the more unhappiness it brings, and that it would be

most unhappy if it endured for ever. Further, I havetried to shew you

that the wicked are more tobe pitied if they escape with unjust

impunity,than if they are punished by just retribution.And it follows

upon this fact that they will beundergoing heavier penalties when they

arethought to be unpunished.'

'When I hear your arguments, I feel surethat they are true as

possible. But if I turn tohuman opinions, I ask what man would

notthink them not only incredible, but evenunthinkable ? '

' Yes,' she said, ' for men cannot raise to thetransparent light of

truth their eyes which havebeen accustomed to darkness. They are

likethose birds whose sight is clear at night, butblinded by daylight.

So long as they look not


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upon the true course of nature, but upon theirown feelings, they think

that the freedom ofpassion and the impunity of crime are happythings.

Think upon the sacred ordinances ofeternal law. If your mind is

fashioned afterbetter things, there is no need of a judge toaward a

prize; you have added yourself to thenumber of the more excellent. If

your mindsinks to worse things, seek no avenger fromwithout: you have

thrust yourself downwardto lower things. It is as though you

werelooking at the squalid earth and the heavens inturn; then take

away all that is about you;and by the power of sight, you will seem to

bein the midst now of mud, now of stars. Butmankind looks not to such

things. What thenshall we do ? Shall we join ourselves to thosewhom we

have shewn to be as beasts ? If aman lost utterly his sight, and even

forgot thathe had ever seen, so that he thought he lackednaught of

human perfection, should we thinkthat such a blind one can see as we

do ? Mostpeople would not even allow another point,which rests no less

firmly upon strong reasons,namely, that those who do an injury are

moreunhappy than those who suffer one.'

[Note: Plato, Gorgias, 474 and ff.]

' I would hear those strong reasons,' I said.

' You do not deny that every wicked mandeserves punishment ? '

' No.'

' It is plain for many reasons that the wickedare unhappy ? '


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'Then you doubt not that those who areworthy of punishment are

miserable ? '

' No, I agree.'

' If then you were sitting as a judge, uponwhich would you consider

punishment shouldfall--the man who did the injury, or the manwho

suffered it ? '

' I have no hesitation in saying that I wouldmake amends to the

sufferer at the expense ofthe doer of the injustice.'

' Then the doer of the injustice would seemto you more miserable than

the sufferer ? '

' That follows.'

' Then from this,' said she, ' and othercauses which rest upon the

same foundation,it is plain that, since baseness makes men

moremiserable by its own nature, the misery isbrought not to the

sufferer of an injustice, butto the doer thereof. But the speakers in

law-courts take the opposite course: they try toexcite the pity of the

judges for those whohave suffered any heavy or bitter wrong; butmore

justly their pity would be due to thosewho have committed the wrong.

These guiltymen ought to be brought, by accusers kindlyrather than

angry, to justice, as patients to adoctor, that their disease of crime

may bechecked by punishment. Under such anarrangement the occupation

of advocates fordefence would either come to a complete stand-still,

or if it seemed more to the advantage ofmankind, it might turn to the

work of prosecution.


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And if the wicked too themselvesmight by some device look on virtue

left behindthem, and if they could see that they wouldlay aside the

squalor of vice by the pain ofpunishment, and that they would gain the

compensation of achieving virtue again, they wouldno longer hold it

punishment, but would refusethe aid of advocates for their defence,

andwould intrust themselves unreservedly to theiraccusers and their

judges. In this way therewould be no place left for hatred among

wisemen. For who but the most foolish wouldhate good men? And there is

no cause tohate bad men. Vice is as a disease of themind, just as

feebleness shews ill-health in thebody. As, then, we should never

think thatthose, who are sick in the body, deserve hatred,so are

those, whose minds are oppressed by afiercer disease than feebleness,

namely wickedness, much more worthy of pity than ofpersecution.

'To what good end do men their passionsraise, even to drag from fate

their deaths bytheir own hands ? If ye seek death, she issurely nigh

of her own will; and her wingedhorses she will not delay. Serpents and

lions,bears, tigers and boars, all seek your lives withtheir fangs,

yet do ye seek them with swords ?Is it because your manners are so

wide invariance that men raise up unjust battles andsavage wars, and

seek to perish by each other'sdarts ? Such is no just reason for this



Page 123

Wouldst thou apportion merit to merit fitly? Then love good men as is

their due, and forthe evil shew your pity.'

Then said I, ' I see how happiness and misery lie inseparably in the

deserts of good and bad men. But I am sure that there is some good and

some bad in the general fortune of men. For no wise man even would

wish to be exiled, impoverished, and disgraced rather than full of

wealth, power, veneration, andstrength, and flourishing securely in

his owncity. The operation of wisdom is shewn inthis way more nobly

and clearly, when thehappiness of rulers is in a manner transmittedto

the people who come into contact with theirrule; and especially when

prisons, bonds, andother penalties of the law become the lot of

theevil citizens for whom they were designed. Iam struck with great

wonder why these duesare interchanged; why punishments for crimesfall

upon the good, while the bad citizens seizethe rewards of virtue; and

I long to learn fromyou what reason can be put forward for suchunjust

confusion. I should wonder less if Icould believe that everything was

the confusionof accident and chance. But now the thoughtof God's

guidance increases my amazement;He often grants happiness to good men

andbitterness to the bad, and then, on the otherhand, sends hardships

to the good and grantsthe desires of the wicked. Can we lay ourhands

on any cause ? If not, what can make this state different in any way

from accidentalchance ? '

'It is no wonder,' she answered, ' if one whoknows not the order and

reasons of nature,should think it is all at random and confused.But

doubt not, though you know not the causeof such a great matter of the

world's government, doubt not, I say, that all is rightly done,because

a good Governor rules the universe.

'If any man knows not that the star Arcturus

[Note: Arcturus, the star in Boötes nearest to the Bear,used to be

thought the nearest star to our pole. Boöouteswas also known as the

Arctophylax, or Bearward, andso also as the driver of the Wain.]

has his course nearest the topmost polehow shall he not be amazed that

Bo"tes soslowly takes his wain and is so late to dip hisbrightness in

the ocean, and yet so swiftly turnsto rise again ? The law of heaven

on highwill but bewilder him. When the full moongrows dim to its

horns, darkened by the shadowof dull night, when Phoebe thus lays bare

allthe varying bands of the stars, which she hadhidden by the power of

her shining face: thenare the nations stirred by the errors of

thevulgar, and beat without ceasing brazen cymbals.

[Note: The old superstition was that an eclipse meant thewithdrawal of

the moon, and that by a noise of beatenbrass, etc., she could be


No man is surprised when the blasts ofthe wind beat a shore with

roaring waves, norwhen a solid mass of frozen snow is melted by


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the warmth of Phoebus's rays; for herein the causes are ready at hand

to be understood.But in those other matters the causes arehidden, and

so do trouble all men's hearts, fortime does not grant them to advance

withexperience in such things as seldom recur: thecommon herd is ever

amazed at all that isextraordinary. But let the cloudy errors

ofignorance depart, and straightway these shallseem no longer


' That is true,' I said; 'but it is your kind office to unravel the

causes of hidden matters,and explain reasons now veiled in

darkness;wherefore I beg of you, put forth your decreeand expound all

to me, since this wonder mostdeeply stirs my mind.'

Then said she, smiling, ' Your question callsme to the greatest of all

these matters, and afull answer thereto is well-nigh impossible.For

this is its kind: if one doubt be cut away,innumerable others arise,

as the Hydra's heads;and there can be no limit unless a man

restrainsthem by the most quick fire of the mind. Forherein lie the

questions of the directness ofProvidence, the course of Fate, chances

whichcannot be foreseen, knowledge, divine predestination, and freedom

of judgment. Youcan judge for yourself the weight of thesequestions.

But since it is a part of your treatment to know some of these, I will

attempt tomake some advantage therefrom, though we arepenned in by our

narrow space of time. But


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if you enjoy the delights of song, you mustwait a while for that

pleasure, while I weavetogether for you the chain of reasons.'

' As you will,' said I.Then, as though beginning afresh, she


' The engendering of all things, the wholeadvance of all changing

natures, and everymotion and progress in the world, draw theircauses,

their order, and their forms from theallotment of the unchanging mind

of God,which lays manifold restrictions on all actionfrom the calm

fortress of its own directnessSuch restrictions are called Providence

whenthey can be seen to lie in the very simplicity ofdivine

understanding; but they were calledFate in old times when they were

viewed withreference to the objects which they moved orarranged. It

will easily be understood thatthese two are very different if the

mindexamines the force of each. For Providenceis the very divine

reason which arranges allthings, and rests with the supreme disposer

ofall; while Fate is that ordering which is apart of all changeable

things, and by means ofwhich Providence binds all things together

intheir own order. Providence embraces allthings equally, however

different they may be,even however infinite: when they are assignedto

their own places, forms, and times, Fate setsthem in an orderly

motion; so that thisdevelopment of the temporal order, unified inthe

intelligence of the mind of God, is Providence.


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The working of this unified development in time is called Fate. These

aredifferent, but the one hangs upon the other.For this order, which

is ruled by Fate,emanates from the directness of Providence.Just as

when a craftsman perceives in his mindthe form of the object he would

make, he setshis working power in motion, and brings throughthe order

of time that which he had seendirectly and ready present to his mind.

So byProvidence does God dispose all that is to bedone, each thing by

itself and unchangeably;while these same things which Providence

hasarranged are worked out by Fate in many waysand in time. Whether,

therefore, Fate worksby the aid of the divine spirits which

serveProvidence, or whether it works by the aid ofthe soul, or of all

nature, or the motions of thestars in heaven, or the powers of angels,

or themanifold skill of other spirits, whether thecourse of Fate is

bound together by any or allof these, one thing is certain, namely

that Providence is the one unchangeable direct powerwhich gives form

to all things which are tocome to pass, while Fate is the changing

bond,the temporal order of those things which arearranged to come to

pass by the direct disposition of God. Wherefore everything which

issubject to Fate is also subject to Providence, towhich Fate is

itself subject. But there arethings which, though beneath Providence,

areabove the course of Fate. Those things arethey which are immovably

set nearest the


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primary divinity, and are there beyond thecourse of the movement of

Fate. As inthe case of spheres moving round the sameaxis, that which

is nearest the centre approachesmost nearly the simple motion of the

centre,and is itself, as it were, an axis around whichturn those which

are set outside it. Thatsphere which is outside all turns through

agreater circuit, and fulfils a longer course inproportion as it is

farther from the central axis;and if it be joined or connect itself

with thatcentre, it is drawn into the direct motionthereof, and no

longer strays or strives to turnaway. In like manner, that which goes

fartherfrom the primary intelligence, is bound themore by the ties of

Fate, and the nearer itapproaches the axis of all, the more free it

isfrom Fate. But that which clings withoutmovement to the firm

intellect above, surpassesaltogether the bond of Fate. As,

therefore,reasoning is to understanding; as that whichbecomes is to

that which is; as time is toeternity; as the circumference is to the

centre:so is the changing course of Fate to the immovable directness

of Providence. That course ofFate moves the heavens and the stars,

moderatesthe first principles in their turns, and alters theirforms by

balanced interchangings. The samecourse renews all things that are

born andwither away by like advances of ofFspring andseed. It

constrains, too, the actions and fortunes of men by an unbreakable

chain of causes:and these causes must be unchangeable, as they


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proceed from the beginnings of an unchangingProvidence. Thus is the

world governed forthe best if a directness, which rests in

theintelligence of God, puts forth an order ofcauses which may not

swerve. This orderrestrains by its own unchangeableness changeable

things, which might otherwise run hitherand thither at random.

Wherefore in disposing the universe this limitation directs all

forgood, though to you who are not strong enoughto comprehend the

whole order, all seems confusion and disorder. Naught is there

thatcomes to pass for the sake of evil, or due towicked men, of whom

it has been abundantlyshewn that they seek the good, but

misleadingerror turns them from the right course; fornever does the

true order, which comes forthfrom the centre of the highest good, turn

anyman aside from the right beginning.

' But you will ask, " What more unjust confusion could exist than that

good men shouldsometimes enjoy prosperity, sometimes sufferadversity,

and that the bad too should sometimes receive what they desire,

sometimes whatthey hate ? " Are then men possessed of suchinfallible

minds that they, whom they considerhonest or dishonest, must

necessarily be whatthey are held to be? No, in these mattershuman

judgment is at variance with itself, andthose who are held by some to

be worthy ofreward, are by others held worthy of punishment. But let

us grant that a man coulddiscern between good and bad characters. Can


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he therefore know the inmost feelings of thesoul, as a doctor can

learn a body's temperature ?For it is no less a wonder to the ignorant

whysweet things suit one sound body, while bitterthings suit another;

or why some sick peopleare aided by gentle draughts, others by

sharpand bitter ones. But a doctor does not wonderat such things, for

he knows the ways andconstitutions of health and sickness. Andwhat is

the health of the soul but virtue ? andwhat the sickness, but vice ?

And who is thepreserver of the good and banisher of the evil,who but

God, the guardian and healer ofminds ? God looks forth from the high

watch-tower of His Providence, He sees what suitseach man, and applies

to him that which suitshim. Hence then comes that conspicuous causeof

wonder in the order of Fate, when a wiseman does that which amazes the

ignorant.For, to glance at the depth of God's workswith so few words

as human reason is capableof comprehending, I say that what you think

tobe most fair and most conducive to justice'spreservation, that

appears different to an all-seeingProvidence. Has not our

fellow-philosopherLucan told us how " the conquering cause didplease

the gods, but the conquered, Cato?"

[Note: Lucan, Pharsalia, i. 128. This famous line refersto the final

triumph of Cæ;‘sar at Thapsus, B.C. 46, whenCato considered that the

Republican cause was finallydoomed and he committed suicide at Utica

rather thansurvive it.]

What then surprises you when done on this


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earth, is the true-guided order of things; it isyour opinion which is

perverted and confused.But if there is any one whose life is so

goodthat divine and human estimates of him agree,yet he must be

uncertain in the strength of hismind; if any adversity befall him, it

mayalways be that he will cease to preserve hisinnocence, by which he

found that he couldnot preserve his good fortune. Thus then awise

dispensation spares a man who might bemade worse by adversity, lest he

should sufferwhen it is not good for him to be oppressed.Another may

be perfected in all virtues, whollyconscientious, and very near to

God: Providence holds that it is not right such an oneshould receive

any adversity, so that it allowshim to be troubled not even by bodily

diseases.As a better man

[Note: The author is supposed to be Hermes Trismegistus,who wrote in

the third century after Christ. The word'powers' was used by many

Neo-Platonic philosophersfor those beings in the scale of nature, with

which theyfilled the chasm between God and man. But Boethiusdoes not

seem to intend the word to have that definitemeaning here.]

than I has said, " The powersof virtues build up the body of a good

man."It often happens that the duty of a supremeauthority is assigned

to good men for thepurpose of pruning the insolent growth

ofwickedness. To some, Providence grants amingled store of good and

bad, according to thenature of their minds. Some she treats

bitterly,lest they grow too exuberant with long


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continued good fortune; others she allows tobe harassed by hardships

that the virtues oftheir minds should be strengthened by thehabit and

exercise of patience. Some havetoo great a fear of sufferings which

they canbear; others have too great contempt for thosewhich they

cannot bear: these she leads on bytroubles to make trial of

themselves. Somehave brought a name to be honoured for alltime at the

price of a glorious death. Someby shewing themselves undefeated by

punishment, have left a proof to others that virtuemay be invincible

by evil. What doubt canthere be of how rightly such things are

disposed,and that they are for the good of those whomwe see them

befall ? The other point tooarises from like causes, that sometimes

sorrows,sometimes the fulfilment of their desires, falls tothe wicked.

As concerns the sorrows, no oneis surprised, because all agree that

they deserveill. Their punishments serve both to deterothers from

crime by fear, and also to amendthe lives of those who undergo them;

theirhappiness, on the other hand, serves as a proofto good men of how

they should regard goodfortune of this nature, which they see

oftenattends upon the dishonest. And anotherthing seems to me to be

well arranged: thenature of a man may be so headstrong andrough that

lack of wealth may stir him tocrime more readily than restrain him;

for thedisease of such an one Providence prescribes aremedy of stores

of patrimony: he may see


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that his conscience is befouled by sin, he may take account with

himself of his fortune, andwill perhaps fear lest the loss of this

property,of which he enjoys the use, may bringunhappiness. Wherefore

he will change hisways, and leave off from ill-doing so long ashe

fears the loss of his fortune. Again, goodfortune, unworthily

improved, has flung someinto ruin. To some the right of punishing

iscommitted that they may use it for the exerciseand trial of the

good, and the punishment ofevil men. And just as there is no

leaguebetween good and bad men, so also the badcannot either agree

among themselves: nay,with their vices tearing their own

consciencesasunder, they cannot agree with themselves, anddo often

perform acts which, when done, theyperceive that they should not have

done.Wherefore high Providence has thus oftenshewn her strange wonder,

namely, that badmen should make other bad men good. Forsome find

themselves suffering injustice at thehands of evil men, and, burning

with hatredof those who have injured them, they havereturned to

cultivate the fruits of virtue,because their aim is to be unlike those

whomthey hate. To divine power, and to thatalone, are evil things

good, when it uses themsuitably so as to draw good results

therefrom.For a definite order embraces all things, sothat even when

some subject leaves the trueplace assigned to it in the order, it

returns toan order, though another, it may be, lest aught


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in the realm of Providence be left to randomchance. But "hard is it

for me to set forthall these matters as a god,"

[Note: Homer, Iliad, xii. 176.]

nor is it right fora man to try to comprehend with his mind allthe

means of divine working, or to explainthem in words. Let it be enough

that wehave seen that God, the Creator of all nature,directs and

disposes all things for good. Andwhile He urges all, that He has made

manifest,to keep His own likeness, He drives out by thecourse of Fate

all evil from the bounds of Hisstate. Wherefore if you look to the

dispositionof Providence, you will reckon naught as badof all the

evils which are held to abound uponearth.

' But I see that now you are weighed downby the burden of the

question, and wearied bythe length of our reasoning, and waiting for

thegentleness of song. Take then your draught,be refreshed thereby and

advance further thestronger.

'If thou wouldst diligently behold with unsullied mind the laws of the

God of thunderupon high, look to the highest point of heavenabove.

There, by a fair and equal compact, dothe stars keep their ancient

peace. The sun ishurried on by its whirl of fire, but impedes notthe

moon's cool orb. The Bear turns itsrushing course around the highest

pole of theuniverse, and dips not in the western depths,


Page 135

and though it sees the other constellations sink,it never seeks to

quench its flames in the oceanstream. In just divisions of time does

theevening star foretell the coming of the lateshadows, and, as

Lucifer, brings back again thewarming light of day. Thus does the

interchanging bond of love bring round their neverfailing courses; and

strife is for ever an exilefrom the starry realms. This unity rules

byfair limits the elements, so that wet yields todry, its opposite,

and it faithfully joins cold toheat. Floating fire rises up on high,

and matterby its weight sinks down. From these samecauses in warm

spring the flowering seasonbreathes its scents; then the hot summer

driesthe grain; then with its burden of fruits comesautumn again, and

winter's falling rain givesmoisture. This mingling of seasons

nourishesand brings forth all on earth that has the breathof life; and

again snatches them away andhides them, whelming in death all that has

arisen.Meanwhile the Creator sits on high, rules alland guides, king

and Lord, fount and sourceof all, Law itself and wise judge of

justice.He restrains all that stirs nature to motion,holds it back,

and makes firm all that wouldstray. If He were not to recall them to

theirtrue paths, and set them again upon the circlesof their courses,

they would be torn from theirsource and so would perish. This is

thecommon bond of love; all seek thus to berestrained by the limit of

the good. In noother manner can they endure if this bond of


Page 136

love be not turned round again, and if thecauses, which He has set,

return not again.

'Do you see now,' she continued, 'whatfollows upon all that we have

said ? '

'What is it?' I asked.

'That all fortune is plainly good,' sheanswered.

'How can that be ? ' said I.

'Consider this,' she said: 'all fortune, whetherpleasant or difficult,

is due to this cause; it is for the sake of rewarding the good or

exercisingtheir virtue, and of punishing and correcting bad men:

therefore it is plain that all thisfortune which is allowed to be just

or expedient, must be good.'

'Yes,' I said, 'that is a true argument, andwhen I think of the

Providence or Fate aboutwhich you have taught me, the conclusionrests

upon strong foundations. But if it pleaseyou, let us count it among

those conclusionswhich you a little while ago set down as


'Why?' she asked.

'Because it is a commonplace saying amongmen -- indeed an especially

frequent one -- thatsome people have bad fortune.'

'Would you then hav e us approach morenearly the common converation of

men, lestwe should seem to withdraw too far from humanways?'

'If you will,' I said.


Page 137

'Do you not think that that, which is advantageous, is good?'


'And that fortune, which exercises or corrects, is advantageous ? '

' I agree,' said I.

' Then it is good, is it not ? '

' It must be so.'

' This is the fortune of those who are eitherfirmly set in virtue and

struggling against theirdifficulties, or of those who would leave

theirvices and take the path of virtue ? '

' That is true,' I said.

' But what of that pleasant fortune which isgranted as a reward to

good men? Do mostpeople perceive that it is bad ? No; but, as istrue,

they esteem it the best. And what ofthe last kind of fortune, which is

hard andwhich restrains bad men by just punishment?Is that commonly

held to be good ? '

' No,' said I, ' it is held to be the mostmiserable of all that can be


' Beware lest in following the common conception, we come to some

truly inconceivableconclusion.'

'What do you mean ? '

' From what we have allowed,' she said, ' itresults that the fortune

of those who are inpossession of virtue, or are gaining it, or

advancing therein, is entirely good, whatever it be,while for those

who remain in wickedness, theirfortune is the worst.'

' That is true, but who would dare confess it ? '


Page 138

'For this reason a wise man should nevercomplain, whenever he is

brought into strifewith fortune; just as a brave man cannotproperly be

disgusted whenever the noise ofbattle is heard, since for both of them

their verydifficulty is their opportunity, for the braveman of

increasing his glory, for the wise manof confirming and strengthening

his wisdom.From this is virtue itself so named,

[Note: The Latin word 'virtus' means by its derivation, manly


because itis so supported by its strength that it is notovercome by

adversity. And you who wereset in the advance of virtue have not come

tothis pass of being dissipated by delights, orenervated by pleasure;

but you fight toobitterly against all fortune. Keep the middlepath of

strength and virtue, lest you be overwhelmed by misfortune or

corrupted by pleasantfortune. All that falls short or goes too

farahead, has contempt for happiness, and gainsnot the reward for

labour done. It rests inyour own hands what shall be the nature of

thefortune which you choose to form for yourself.For all fortune which

seems difficult, eitherexercises virtue, or corrects or punishes vice.

'The avenging son of Atreus strove for fullten years before he

expiated in the fall ofPhrygian Troy the wrong done to his

brother'smarriage. The same Agamemnon must needsthrow off his father's

nature, and himself, anunwilling priest, thrust his knife into his



Page 139

daughter's throat, and buy the winds atthe cost of blood, when he

sought to fill thesails of the fleet of Greece. The King ofIthaca wept

sore for his lost comrades whom thesavage Polyphemus swallowed into

his hugemaw as he lay in his vast cave; but, whenmad for his blinded

eye, he paid back withrejoicings for the sad tears he had

drawn.Hercules became famous through hard labours.He tamed the haughty

Centaurs, and from thefierce lion of Nemea took his spoil. With

hissure arrows he smote the birds of Stymphalus;and from the watchful

dragon took the applesof the Hesperides, filling his hand with

theirprecious gold; and Cerberus he dragged alongwith threefold chain.

The story tells how heconquered the fierce Diomede and set beforehis

savage mares their master as their food.The Hydra's poison perished in

his fire. Hetook the horn and so disgraced the brow of theriver

Achelous, who hid below his bank hishead ashamed. On the sands of

Libya he laidAntæ;‘us lw; Cacus he slew to sate Evander'swrath. The

bristling boar of Erymanthusflecked with his own foam the shoulders

whichwere to bear the height of heaven; for in hislast labour he bore

with unbending neck theheavens, and so won again his place in

heaven,the reward of his last work.

' Go forth then bravely whither leads the loftypath of high example.

Why do ye sluggardsturn your backs? When the earth is overcome,the

stars are yours.


Page 140



HERE she made an end and was for turning thecourse of her speaking to

the handling andexplaining of other subjects. Then said I:'Your

encouragement is right and most worthyin truth of your name and

weight. But I amlearning by experience what you just now saidof

Providence; that the question is bound upin others. I would ask you

whether you thinkthat Chance exists at all, and what you thinkit is?'

Then she answered: ' I am eager to fulfilmy promised debt, and to shew

you the path bywhich you may seek your home. But thesethings, though

all-expedient for knowledge, arenone the less rather apart from our

path, and wemust be careful lest you become wearied by ourturnings

aside, and so be not strong enough tocomplete the straight journey.'

'Have no fear at all thereof,' said I. 'Itwill be restful to know

these things in whichI have so great a pleasure; and when everyview of

your reasoning has stood firm withunshaken credit, so let there be no

doubt ofwhat shall follow.'

' I will do your pleasure,' she made answer,and thus she began to



Page 141

'If chance is defined as an outcome of random influence, produced by

no sequence of causes, I am sure that there is no such thing as

chance, and I consider that it is butan empty word, beyond shewing the

meaningof the matter which we have in hand. Forwhat place can be left

for anything happeningat random, so long as God controls everythingin

order ? It is a true saying that nothingcan come out of nothing. None

of the oldphilosophers has denied that, though they didnot apply it to

the effective principle, but tothe matter operated upon--that is to

say, tonature; and this was the foundation uponwhich they built all

their reasoning. If anything arises from no causes, it will appear

tohave risen out of nothing. But if this isimpossible, then chance

also cannot be anythingof that sort, which is stated in the

definitionwhich we mentioned.'

' Then is there nothing which can be justlycalled chance, nor anything

"by chance" ? 'I asked. ' Or is there anything which commonpeople know

not, but which those words dosuit ? '

' My philosopher, Aristotle, defined it in hisPhysics

[Note: Aristotle, Physics, ii. 3.]

shortly and well-nigh truly.'

' How ? ' I asked.

'Whenever anything is done with one intention, but something else,

other than wasintended, results from certain causes, that iscalled

chance: as, for instance, if a man digs


Page 142

the ground for the sake of cultivating it, and findsa heap of buried

gold. Such a thing is believedto have happened by chance, but it does

notcome from nothing, for it has its own causes,whose unforeseen and

unexpected coincidenceseem to have brought about a chance. For ifthe

cultivator did not dig the ground, if theowner had not buried his

money, the goldwould not have been found. These are thecauses of the

chance piece of good fortune,which comes about from the causes

whichmeet it, and move along with it, not fromthe intention of the

actor. For neither theburier nor the tiller intended that the

goldshould be found; but, as I said, it was acoincidence, and it

happened that the one dugup what the other buried. We may

thereforedefine chance as an unexpected result from thecoincidence of

certain causes in matters wherethere was another purpose. The order of

theuniverse, advancing with its inevitable sequences,brings about this

coincidence of causes. Thisorder itself emanates from its source,

which isProvidence, and disposes all things in theirproper time and


'In the land where the Parthian, as heturns in flight, shoots his

arrows into thepursuer's breast, from the rocks of the crag

ofAch‘menia, the Tigris and Euphrates flow fromout one source, but

quickly with divided streamsare separate. If they should come

togetherand again be joined in a single course, all, that


Page 143

the two streams bear along, would flow in onetogether. Boats would

meet boats, and treesmeet trees torn up by the currents, and

themingled waters would together entwine theirstreams by chance; but

their sloping bedsrestrain these chances vague, and the downward order

of the falling torrent guides theircourses. Thus does chance, which

seems torush onward without rein, bear the bit, andtake its way by


'I have listened to you,' I said,' and agree that it is as you say.

But in this close sequence of causes, is there any freedom for our

judgment or does this chain of fate bind the very feelingsof our minds

too ?'

'There is free will,' she answered. 'Norcould there be any reasoning

nature withoutfreedom of judgment. For any being thatcan use its

reason by nature, has a power ofjudgment by which it can without

further aiddecide each point, and so distinguish betweenobjects to be

desired and objects to be shunned.Each therefore seeks what it deems

desirable,and flies from what it considers should beshunned. Wherefore

all who have reason havealso freedom of desiring and refusing in

themselves. But I do not lay down that this isequal in all beings.

Heavenly and divinebeings have with them a judgment of greatinsight,

an imperturbable will, and a powerwhich can effect their desires. But



Page 144

spirits must be more free when they keep themselves safe in the

contemplation of the mind ofGod; but less free when they sink into

bodies,and less still when they are bound by theirearthly members. The

last stage is mereslavery, when the spirit is given over to vicesand

has fallen away from the possession ofits reason. For when the mind

turns its eyesfrom the light of truth on high to lower darkness, soon

they are dimmed by the clouds ofignorance, and become turbid through

ruinouspassions; by yielding to these passions andconsenting to them,

men increase the slaverywhich they have brought upon themselves,

andtheir true liberty is lost in captivity. But God,looking upon all

out of the infinite, perceivesthe views of Providence, and disposes

each asits destiny has already fated for it according toits merits: "

He looketh over all and hearethall "

[Note: A phrase from Homer (Iliad, iii. 277, and Odyssey,xi. 1O9),

where it is said of the sun.]

' Homer with his honeyed lips sang of thebright sun's clear light; yet

the sun cannotburst with his feeble rays the bowels of theearth or the

depths of the sea. Not so withthe Creator of this great sphere. No

massesof earth can block His vision as He looks overall. Night's

cloudy darkness cannot resist Him.With one glance of His intelligence

He seesall that has been, that is, and that is to come.


Page 145

He alone can see all things, so truly He maybe called the Sun.'

[Note: This sentence, besides referring to the application ofHomer's

words used above, contains also a play on wordsin the Latin, which can

only be clumsily reproduced inEnglish by some such words as ' The sole

power whichcan see all is justly to be called the solar.']

Then said I, ' Again am I plunged in yet more doubt and difficulty.'

'What are they,' she asked, 'though Ihave already my idea of what your

trouble consists ?

' There seems to me,' I said, ' to be suchincompatibility between the

existence of God'suniversal foreknowledge and that of any freedomof

judgment. For if God foresees all thingsand cannot in anything be

mistaken, that, whichHis Providence sees will happen, must

result.Wherefore if it knows beforehand not onlymen's deeds but even

their designs and wishes,there will be no freedom of judgment Forthere

can neither be any deed done, nor wishformed, except such as the

infallible Providenceof God has foreseen. For if matters could everso

be turned that they resulted otherwise thanwas foreseen of Providence,

this foreknowledgewould cease to be sure. But, rather than knowledge,

it is opinion which is uncertain; andthat, I deem, is not applicable

to God. And,further, I cannot approve of an argument bywhich some men

think that they can cut thisknot; for they say that a result does not



Page 146

to pass for the reason that Providence has foreseen it, but the

opposite rather, namely, thatbecause it is about to come to pass,

thereforeit cannot be hidden from God's Providence.In that way it

seems to me that the argumentmust resolve itself into an argument on

theother side. For in that case it is not necessarythat that should

happen which is foreseen, butthat that which is about to happen should

beforeseen; as though, indeed, our doubt waswhether God's

foreknowledge is the certaincause of future events, or the certainty

of futureevents is the cause of Providence. But let ouraim be to prove

that, whatever be the shapewhich this series of causes takes, the

fulfilmentof God's foreknowledge is necessary, even ifthis knowledge

may not seem to induce thenecessity for the occurrence of future

events.For instance, if a man sits down, it must bethat the opinion,

which conjectures that he issitting, is true; but conversely, if the

opinionconcerning the man is true because he is sitting,he must be

sitting down. There is thereforenecessity in both cases: the man must

besitting, and the opinion must be true. But hedoes not sit because

the opinion is true, butrather the opinion is true because his

sittingdown has preceded it. Thus, though thecause of the truth of the

opinion proceeds fromthe other fact, yet there is a common necessityon

both parts. In like manner we must reasonof Providence and future

events. For eventhough they are foreseen because they are about


Page 147

to happen, yet they do not happen because they are foreseen. None the

less it is necessary that either what is about to happen shouldbe

foreseen of God, or that what has beenforeseen should happen; and this

alone isenough to destroy all free will.

'Yet how absurd it is that we should say thatthe result of temporal

affairs is the cause ofeternal foreknowledge ! And to think thatGod

foresees future events because they areabout to happen, is nothing

else than to holdevents of past time to be the cause of thathighest

Providence. Besides, just as, when Iknow a present fact, that fact

must be so; soalso when I know of something that willhappen, that must

come to pass. Thus itfollows that the fulfilment of a foreknownevent

must be inevitable.

' Lastly, if any one believes that any matteris otherwise than the

fact is, he not only hasnot knowled~ge, but his opinion is false also,

andthat is very far from the truth of knowledgeWherefore, if any

future event is such that itsfulfilment is not sure or necessary, how

can itpossibly be known beforehand that it willoccur ? For just as

absolute knowledge has notaint of falsity, so also that which is

conceivedby knowledge cannot be otherwise than as it isconceived. That

is the reason why knowledgecannot lie, because each matter must be

just asknowledge knows that it is. What thenHow can God know

beforehand these uncertainfuture events ? For if He thinks inevitable



Page 148

fulfilment of such things as may possibly notresult, He is wrong; and

that we may notbelieve, nor even utter, rightly. But if Heperceives

that they will result as they are insuch a manner that He only knows

that theymay or may not occur, equally, how is thisforeknowledge, this

which knows nothing forsure, nothing absolutely ? How is such a

fore-knowledge different from the absurd prophecywhich Horace puts in

the mouth of Tiresias:" Whatever I shall say, will either come topass,

or it will not " ?

[Note: Horace, Staires, II. v. 59.]

How, too, would God'sProvidence be better than man's opinion, if,

asmen do, He only sees to be uncertain suchthings as have an uncertain

result ? But ifthere can be no uncertainty with God, the mostsure

source of all things, then the fulfilment ofall that He has surely

foreknown, is certain.Thus we are led to see that there is no freedom

for the intentions or actions of men; forthe mind of God, foreseeing

all things withouterror or deception, binds all together and controls

their results. And when we have onceallowed this, it is plain how

complete is thefall of all human actions in consequence. Invain are

rewards or punishments set beforegood or bad, for there is no free or

voluntaryaction of the mind to deserve them ­ and whatwe just now

determined was most fair, willprove to be most unfair of all, namely

to punishthe dishonest or reward the honest, since theirown will does

not put them in the way of


Page 149

honesty or dishonesty, but the unfailing necessity of development

constrains them. Wherefore neither virtues nor vices are anything,

butthere is rather an indiscriminate confusion ofall deserts. And

nothing could be morevicious than this; since the whole order of

allcomes from Providence, and nothing is left tohuman intention, it

follows that our crimes, aswell as our good deeds, must all be held

due tothe author of all good. Hence it is unreasonable to hope for or

pray against aught. Forwhat could any man hope for or pray against,if

an undeviating chain links together all thatwe can desire? Thus will

the only understanding between God and man, the right ofprayer, be

taken away. We suppose that at theprice of our deservedly humbling

ourselvesbefore Him we may win a right to the inestimable reward of

His divine grace: this is theonly manner in which men can seem to

dealwith God, so to speak, and by virtue of prayerto join ourselves to

that inaccessible light,before it is granted to us; but if we allow

theinevitability of the future, and believe that wehave no power, what

means shall we have tojoin ourselves to the Lord of all, or how canwe

cling to Him ? Wherefore, as you sangbut a little while ago,

[Note: Supra, Book IV. Met. vi. p. 135. ]

the human race must becut off from its source and ever fall away.

'What cause of discord is it breaks the


Page 150

bonds of agreement here ? What heavenlypower has set such strife

between two truths ?Thus, though apart each brings no doubt, yetcan

they not be linked together. Comes thereno discord between these

truths? Stand theyfor ever sure by one another ? Yes, 'tis themind,

o'erwhelmed by the body's blindness,which cannot see by the light of

that dimmedbrightness the finest threads that bind the truth.But

wherefore burns the spirit with so strongdesire to learn the hidden

signs of truth?Knows it the very object of its careful search ?Then

why seeks it to learn anew what italready knows ? If it knows it not,

whysearches it in blindness ? For who woulddesire aught unwitting? Or

who could seekafter that which is unknown ? How should hefind it, or

recognise its form when found, ifhe knows it not ? And when the mind

of manperceived the mind of God, did it then knowthe whole and parts

alike ? Now is the mindburied in the cloudy darkness of the body,

yethas not altogether forgotten its own self, andkeeps the whole

though it has lost the parts.Whosoever, therefore, seeks the truth, is

notwholly in ignorance, nor yet has knowledgewholly; for he knows not

all, yet is notignorant of all. He takes thought for thewhole which he

keeps in memory, handlingagain what he saw on high, so that he may

addto that which he has kept, that which he hasforgotten.'


Page 151

Then said she, ' This is the old plaint concerning Providence which

was so strongly urged Philosophyby Cicero when treating of Divination,

[Note: Cicero, De Divinatione, II.]

and you yourself have often and at length questioned the same subject.

But so far, none of you haveexplained it with enough diligence or

certainty.The cause of this obscurity is that the workingof human

reason cannot approach the directnessof divine foreknowledge. If this

could beunderstood at all, there would be no doubt left.And this

especially will I try to make plain, ifI can first explain your


' Tell me why you think abortive the reasoning of those who solve the

question thus; theyargue that foreknowledge cannot be held to bea

cause for the necessity of future results, andtherefore free will is

not in any way shackledby foreknowledge.

[Note: Referring to Boethius's words in Prose iii. of this book,


Whence do you draw yourproof of the necessity of future results if

notfrom the fact that such things as are knownbeforehand cannot but

come to pass ? If, then(as you yourself admitted just now),

foreknowledge brings no necessity to bear uponfuture events, how is it

that the voluntary resultsof such events are bound to find a fixed end

?Now for the sake of the argument, that you mayturn your attention to

what follows, let us statethat there is no foreknowledge at all.

Thenare the events which are decided by free will,bound by any

necessity, so far as this goes ?


Page 152

Of course not. Secondly, let us state thatforeknowledge exists, but

brings no necessity tobear upon events; then, I think, the same

freewill will be left, intact and absolute. " But,"you will say, "

though foreknowledge is nonecessity for a result in the future, yet it

is asign that it will necessarily come to pass."Thus, therefore, even

if there had been noforeknowledge, it would be plain that

futureresults were under necessity; for every sign canonly shew what

it is that it points out; it doesnot bring it to pass. Wherefore we

must firstprove that nothing happens but of necessity, inorder that it

may be plain that foreknowledgeis a sign of this necessity. Otherwise,

if thereis no necessity, then foreknowledge will not bea sign of that

which does not exist. Now it isallowed that proof rests upon firm

reasoning,not upon signs or external arguments; it mustbe deduced from

suitable and binding causes.How can it possibly be that things, which

areforeseen as about to happen, should not occur ?That would be as

though we were to believethat events would not occur which

Providenceforeknows as about to occur, and as though wedid not rather

think this, that though theyoccur, yet they have had no necessity in

theirown natures which brought them about. Wecan see many actions

developing before oureyes; just as chariot drivers see the development

of their actions as they control and guidetheir chariots, and many

other things likewise.Does any necessity compel any of those things


Page 153

to occur as they do ? Of course not. All art, craft, and intention

would be in vain, if everything took place by compulsion. Therefore,

ifthings have no necessity for coming to passwhen they do, they cannot

have any necessityto be about to come to pass before they do.Wherefore

there are things whose results areentirely free from necessity. For I

think notthat there is any man who will say this, thatthings, which

are done in the present, were notabout to be done in the past, before

they aredone. Thus these foreknown events have theirfree results. Just

as foreknowledge of presentthings brings no necessity to bear upon

them asthey come to pass, so also foreknowledge offuture things brings

no necessity to bear uponthings which are to come.

' But you will say that there is no doubtof this too, whether there

can be any foreknowledge of things which have not resultsbounden by

necessity. For they do seem tolack harmony: and you think that if they

areforeseen, the necessity follows; if there is nonecessity, then they

cannot be foreseen; nothingcan be perceived certainly by knowledge,

unlessit be certain. But if things have uncertainty ofresult, but are

foreseen as though certain, this isplainly the obscurity of opinion,

and not thetruth of knowledge. For you believe that tothink aught

other than it is, is the opposite oftrue knowledge. The cause of this

error isthat every man believes that all the subjects,that he knows,

are known by their own force or


Page 154

nature alone, which are known; but it is quitethe opposite. For every

subject, that is known,is comprehended not according to its own

force,but rather according to the nature of those whoknow it. Let me

make this plain to you by abrief example: the roundness of a body may

beknown in one way by sight, in another way bytouch. Sight can take in

the whole body atonce from a distance by judging its radii,while touch

clings, as it were, to the outside ofthe sphere, and from close at

hand perceivesthrough the material parts the roundness of thebody as

it passes over the actual circumference.A man himself is differently

comprehended bythe senses, by imagination, by reason, and

byintelligence. For the senses distinguish theform as set in the

matter operated upon by theform; imagination distinguishes the

appearancealone without the matter. Reason goes evenfurther than

imagination; by a general anduniversal contemplation it investigates

theactual kind which is represented in individualspecimens. Higher

still is the view of theintelligence, which reaches above the sphereof

the universal, and with the unsullied eye ofthe mind gazes upon that

very form of the kindin its absolute simplicity. Herein the chiefpoint

for our consideration is this: the higherpower of understanding

includes the lower, butthe lower never rises to the higher. For

thesenses are capable of understanding naught but thematter;

imagination cannot look upon universalor natural kinds; reason cannot



Page 155

the absolute form; whereas the intelligence seems to look down from

above and comprehendthe form, and distinguishes all that lie below,but

in such a way that it grasps the very formwhich could not be known to

any other thanitself. For it perceives and knows the generalkind, as

does reason; the appearance, as doesthe imagination; and the matter,

as do thesenses, but with one grasp of the mind it looksupon all with

a clear conception of the whole.And reason too, as it views general

kinds, doesnot make use of the imagination nor the senses,but yet does

perceive the objects both of theimagination and of the senses. It is

reasonwhich thus defines a general kind according toits conception:

Man, for instance, is an animal,biped and reasoning. This is a general

notionof a natural kind, but no man denies that thesubject can be

approached by the imaginationand by the senses, just because reason

investigatesit by a reasonable conception and not by theimagination or

senses. Likewise, though imagination takes its beginning of seeing and

formingappearances from the senses, yet without theiraid it surveys

each subject by an imaginativefaculty of distinguishing, not by the

distinguishingfaculty of the senses.

' Do you see then, how in knowledge of allthings, the subject uses its

own standard ofcapability, and not those of the objects known ?And

this is but reasonable, for every judgmentformed is an act of the

person who judges, andtherefore each man must of necessity perform


Page 156

his own action from his own capability and notthe capability of any

other.' In days of old the Porch at Athens

[Note: Zeno, of Citium (342-270 B.C), the founder of theStoic school,

taught in the Stoa Poekile, whence thename of the school. The

following lines refer to theirdoctrine of presentations and


gaveus men, seeing dimly as in old age, who couldbelieve that the

feelings of the senses and theimagination were but impressions on the

mindfrom bodies without them, just as the oldcustom was to impress

with swift-running pensletters upon the surface of a waxen tablet

whichbore no marks before. But if the mind withits own force can bring

forth naught by its ownexertions; if it does but lie passive and

subjectto the marks of other bodies; if it reflects, asdoes, forsooth,

a mirror, the vain reflections ofother things; whence thrives there in

the soulan all-seeing power of knowledge? What isthe force that sees

the single parts, or whichdistinguishes the facts it knows ? What is

theforce that gathers up the parts it has distinguished, that takes

its course in order due,now rises to mingle with the things on

high,and now sinks down among the things below,and then to itself

brings back itself, and, soexamining, refutes the false with truth ?

Thisis a cause of greater power, of more effectiveforce by far than

that which only receives theimpressions of material bodies. Yet does

thepassive reception come first, rousing and stirring


Page 157

all the strength of the mind in the living body When the eyes are

smitten with a light, or theears are struck with a voice's sound, then

isthe spirit's energy aroused, and, thus moved,calls upon like forms,

such as it holds withinitself, fits them to signs without and mingles

theforms of its imagination with those which it hasstored within.

' With regard to feeling the effects of bodies,natures which are

brought into contact from without may affect the organs of the

senses,and the body's passive affection may precede the active energy

of the spirit, and call forth to itself the activity of the mind; if

then, when the effects of bodies are felt, the mind is not marked in

any way by its passive receptionthereof, but declares that reception

subject tothe body of its own force, how much less dothose subjects,

which are free from all affections of bodies, follow external objects

in theirperceptions, and how much more do they makeclear the way for

the action of their mind ?By this argument many different manners

ofunderstanding have fallen to widely differentnatures of things. For

the senses are incapableof any knowledge but their own, and they

alonefall to those living beings which are incapableof motion, as are

sea shell-fish, and other lowforms of life which live by clinging to

rocks;while imagination is granted to animals with thepower of motion,

who seem to be affected bysome desire to seek or avoid certain things.


Page 158

But reason belongs to the human race alone,just as the true

intelligence is God's alone.Wherefore that manner of knowledge is

betterthan others, for it can comprehend of its ownnature not only the

subject peculiar to itself,but also the subjects of the other kinds

ofknowledge. Suppose that the senses andimagination thus oppose

reasoning, saying, " Theuniversal natural kinds, which reason

believesthat it can perceive, are nothing; for what iscomprehensible

to the senses and the imagina-tion cannot be universal: therefore

either thejudgment of reason is true, and that which canbe perceived

by the senses is nothing ­ or, sincereason knows well that there are

many subjectscomprehensible to the senses and imagina-tion, the

conception of reason is vain, for itholds to be universal what is an

individualmatter comprehensible to the senses." To thisreason might

answer, that " it sees from ageneral point of view what is

comprehensibleto the senses and the imagination, but theycannot aspire

to a knowledge of universals,since their manner of knowledge cannot

gofurther than material or bodily appearances;and in the matter of

knowledge it is better totrust to the stronger and more nearly

perfcctjudgment." If such a trial of argumentoccurred, should not we,

who have within usthe force of reasoning as well as the powers ofthe

senses and imagination, approve of the causeof reason rather than that

of the others? Itis in like manner that human reason thinks that


Page 159

the divine intelligence cannot perceive thethings of the future except

as it conceives themitself. For you argue thus: " If there areevents

which do not appear to have sure ornecessary results, their results

cannot be knownfor certain beforehand: therefore there can beno

foreknowledge of these events; for if webelieve that there is any

foreknowledge thereof,there can exist nothing but such as is

broughtforth of necessity." If therefore we, who haveour share in

possession of reason, could gofurther and possess the judgment of the

mindof God, we should then think it most just thathuman reason should

yield itself to the mind ofGod, just as we have determined that

thesenses and imagination ought to yield toreason.

' Let us therefore raise ourselves, if so be thatwe can, to that

height of the loftiest intelligence.For there reason will see what it

cannot ofitself perceive, and that is to know how evensuch things as

have uncertain results are perceived definitely and for certain by

foreknowledge; and such foreknowledge will not bemere opinion, but

rather the single and directform of the highest knowledge unlimited by

anyfinite bounds.

' In what different shapes do living beingsmove upon the earth ! Some

make flat theirbodies, sweeping through the dust and usingtheir

strength to make therein a furrow withoutbreak; some flit here and

there upon light wings


Page 160

which beat the breeze, and they float throughvast tracks of air in

their easy flight. 'Tisothers' wont to plant their footsteps on

theground, and pass with their paces over greenfields or under trees.

Though all these thouseest move in different shapes, yet all havetheir

faces downward along the ground, andthis doth draw downward and dull

their senses.Alone of all, the human race lifts up its headon high,

and stands in easy balance with thebody upright, and so looks down to

spurn theearth. If thou art not too earthly by an evilfolly, this pose

is as a lesson. Thy glance isupward, and thou dost carry high thy

head,and thus thy search is heavenward: then leadthy soul too upward,

lest while the body ishigher raised, the mind sink lower to theearth.

' Since then all that is known is apprehended,as we just now shewed,

not according to itsnature but according to the nature of theknower,

let us examine, so far as we lawfullymay, the character of the divine

nature, so thatwe may be able to learn what its knowledge is.

' The common opinion, according to all menliving, is that God is

eternal. Let us thereforeconsider what is eternity. For eternity will,

Ithink, make clear to us at the same time thedivine nature and

knowledge.' Eternity is the simultaneous and completepossession of

infinite life. This will appearmore clearly if we compare it with



Page 161

things. All that lives under the conditions of time moves through the

present from the pastto the future; there is nothing set in timewhich

can at one moment grasp the wholespace of its lifetime. It cannot yet

comprehend to-morrow; yesterday it has alreadylost. And in this life

of to-day your life is nomore than a changing, passing moment. Andas


[Note: Aristotle, De Cæ;elo, 1.]

said of the universe, so it is of allthat is subject to time; though

it never beganto be, nor will ever cease, and its life is co-extensive

with the infinity of time, yet it is notsuch as can be held to be

eternal. For thoughit apprehends and grasps a space of infinite

lifetime, it does not embrace the whole simultaneously; it has not yet

experienced the future.What we should rightly call eternal is

thatwhich grasps and possesses wholly and simultaneously the fulness

of unending life, whichacks naught of the future, and has lost

naughtof the fleeting past; and such an existencemust be ever present

in itself to control and aiditself, and also must keep present with

itself theinfinity of changing time. Therefore, peoplewho hear that

Plato thought that this universehad no beginning of time and will have

no end,are not right in thinking that in this way thecreated world is

co-eternal with its creator

[Note: .Boethius speaks of people who 'hear that Platothought, etc.,'

because this was the teaching of some ofPlato's successors at the

Academy. Plato himselfthought otherwise, as may be seen in the

Timæ;us, xi. 38 B., 'Time then has come into being alongwith

the universe, that being generated together, togetherthey may be

dissolved, should a dissolution of them evercome to pass; and it was

made after the pattern of theeternal nature that it might be as like

to it as possible.For the pattern is existent for all eternity, but

the copyhas been, and is, and shall be, throughout all

timecontinually.' (Mr. Archer Hind's translation.)]


Page 162

For to pass through unending life, the attributewhich Plato ascribes

to the universe is onething; but it is another thing to grasp

simultaneously the whole of unending life in thepresent; this is

plainly a peculiar property ofthe mind of God.

' And further, God should not be regardedas older than His creations

by any period oftime, but rather by the peculiar property of Hisown

single nature. For the infinite changingof temporal things tries to

imitate the eversimultaneously present immutability of His life:it

cannot succeed in imitating or equailing this,but sinks from

immutability into change, andfalls from the single directness of the

presentinto an infinite space of future and past. Andsince this

temporal state cannot possess its lifecompletely and simultaneously,

but it does inthe same manner exist for ever without ceasing,it

therefore seems to try in some degree to rivalthat which it cannot

fulfil or represent, for itbinds itself to some sort of present time

out ofthis small and fleeting moment; but inasmuchas this temporal

present bears a certain appearance of that abiding present, it somehow



Page 163

those, to whom it comes, seem to be in truth what they imitate. But

since this imitationcould not be abiding, the unending march oftime

has swept it away, and thus we find that ithas bound together, as it

passes, a chain of life,which it could not by abiding embrace in

itsfulness. And thus if we would apply properepithets to those

subjects, we can say, followingPlato, that God is eternal, but the

universe iscontinual.

'Since then all judgment apprehends thesubjects of its thought

according to its ownnature, and God has a condition of

ever-presenteternity, His knowledge, which passes overevery change of

time, embracing infinite lengthsof past and future, views in its own

directcomprehension everything as though it weretaking place in the

present. If you wouldweigh the foreknowledge by which God

distinguishes all things, you will more rightly holdit to be a

knowledge of a never-failing constancyin the present, than a

foreknowledge of thefuture. Whence Providence is more rightly tobe

understood as a looking forth than a lookingforward, because it is set

far from low mattersand looks forth upon all things as from a

loftymountain-top above all. Why then do you demand that all things

occur by necessity, if divinelight rests upon them, while men do not

rendernecessary such things as they can see ? Becauseyou can see

things of the present, does yoursight therefore put upon them any

necessity ?


Page 164

Surely not. If one may not unworthily compare this present time with

the divine, just asyou can see things in this your temporal present,so

God sees all things in His eternal present.Wherefore this divine

foreknowledge does notchange the nature or individual

qualitiesofthings:it sees things present in its understanding just

asthey will result some time in the future. Itmakes no confusion in

its distinctions, and withone view of itS mind it discerns all that

shallcome to pass whether of necessity or not. Forinstance, when you

see at the same time a manwalking on the earth and the sun rising in

theheavens, you see each sight simultaneously, yetyou distinguish

between them, and decide thatone is moving voluntarily, the other of

necessity.In like manner the perception of God looksdown upon all

things without disturbing at alltheir nature, though they are present

to Himbut future under the conditions of time. Wherefore this

foreknowledge is not opinion butknowledge resting upon truth, since He

knowsthat a future event is, though He knows toothat it will not occur

of necessity. If youanswer here that what God sees about tohappen,

cannot but happen, and that whatcannot but happen is bound by

necessity, youfasten me down to the word necessity, I willgrant that

we have a matter of most firm truth,but it is one to which scarce any

man canapproach unless he be a contemplator of thedivine. For I shall

answer that such a thing


Page 165

will occur of necessity, when it is viewed fromthe point of divine

knowledge; but when it isexamined in its own nature, it seems

perfectlyfree and unrestrained. For there are two kindsof necessities;

one is simple: for instance, anecessary fact, "all men are mortal ";

the otheris conditional; for instance, if you know that aman is

walking, he must be walking: for whateach man knows cannot be

otherwise than it isknown to be; but the conditional one is by nomeans

followed by this simple and directnecessity; for there is no necessity

to compela voluntary walker to proceed, though it isnecessary that, if

he walks, he should be proceeding. In the same way, if Providence

seesan event in its present, that thing must be,though it has no

necessity of its own nature.And God looks in His present upon

thosefuture things which come to pass through freewill. Therefore if

these things be looked atfrom the point of view of God's insight,

theycome to pass of necessity under the condition ofdivine knowledge;

if, on the other hand, theyare viewed by themselves, they do not

losethe perfect freedom of their nature. Withoutdoubt, then, all

things that God foreknows docome to pass, but some of them proceed

fromfree will; and though they result by cominginto existence, yet

they do not lose their ownnature, because before they came to pass

theycould also not have come to pass.

'"What then," you may ask, " is the difference


Page 166

in their not being bound by necessity,since they result under all

circumstances as bynecessity, on account of the condition of

divineknowledge ? " This is the difference, as I justnow put forward:

take the sun rising and a manwalking; while these operations are

occurring,they cannot but occur: but the one was boundto occur before

it did; the other was not sobound. What God has in His present,

doesexist without doubt; but of such things somefollow by necessity,

others by their authors'wills. Wherefore I was justified in sayingthat

if these things be regarded from the viewof divine knowledge, they are

necessary, butif they are viewed by themselves, they areperfectly free

from all ties of necessity: justas when you refer all, that is clear

to thesenses, to the reason, it becomes general truth,but it remains

particular if regarded by itself." But," you will say, " if it is in

my power tochange a purpose of mine, I will disregardProvidence, since

I may change what Providenceforesees." To which I answer, " You

canchange your purpose, but since the truth ofProvidence knows in its

present that you cando so, and whether you do so, and in whatdirection

you may change it, therefore youcannot escape that divine

foreknowledge: justas you cannot avoid the glance of a present

eye,though you may by your free will turn yourselfto all kinds of

different actions." "What ? "you will say, " can I by my own action



Page 167

divine knowledge, so that if I choose now one thing, now another,

Providence too will seemto change its knowledge?" No; divine insight

precedes all future things, turning themback and recalling them to the

present timeof its own peculiar knowledge. It does notchange, as you

may think, between this andthat alternation of foreknowledge. It is

constant in preceding and embracing by oneglance all your changes. And

God does notreceive this ever-present grasp of all things andvision of

the present at the occurrence of futureevents, but from His own

peculiar directness.Whence also is that difficulty solved which

youlaid down a little while ago, that it was notworthy to say that our

future events were thecause of God's knowledge. For this power

ofknowledge, ever in the present and embracingall things in its

perception, does itself constrainall things, and owes naught to

following eventsfrom which it has received naught. Thus,therefore,

mortal men have their freedom ofjudgment intact. And since their wills

arefreed from all binding necessity, laws do notset rewards or

punishments unjustly. God is ever the constant foreknowing overseer,

and the ever-present eternity of His sight moves in harmony with the

future nature of our actions, as it dispenses rewards to the good, and

punishments to the bad. Hopes are not vainly put in God, nor prayers in

vain offered: if these are right, they cannot but be answered. Turn


Page 168

therefore from vice: ensue virtue: raise your soul to upright hopes:

send up on high your prayers from this earth. If you would be honest,

great is the necessity enjoined upon your goodness, since all you do is

done before the eyes of an all-seeing Judge.'