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- The Advancement of Learning - 10/42 -


Cymini Sector, a carver or a divider of cummin seed, which is one of the least seeds. Such a patience he had and settled spirit to enter into the least and most exact differences of causes, a fruit no doubt of the exceeding tranquillity and serenity of his mind, which being no ways charged or encumbered, either with fears, remorses, or scruples, but having been noted for a man of the purest goodness, without all fiction or affectation, that hath reigned or lived, made his mind continually present and entire. He likewise approached a degree nearer unto Christianity, and became, as Agrippa said unto St. Paul, "half a Christian," holding their religion and law in good opinion, and not only ceasing persecution, but giving way to the advancement of Christians.

(5) There succeeded him the first Divi fratres, the two adoptive brethren--Lucius Commodus Verus, son to AElius Verus, who delighted much in the softer kind of learning, and was wont to call the poet Martial his Virgil; and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus: whereof the latter, who obscured his colleague and survived him long, was named the "Philosopher," who, as he excelled all the rest in learning, so he excelled them likewise in perfection of all royal virtues; insomuch as Julianus the emperor, in his book entitled Caersares, being as a pasquil or satire to deride all his predecessors, feigned that they were all invited to a banquet of the gods, and Silenus the jester sat at the nether end of the table and bestowed a scoff on everyone as they came in; but when Marcus Philosophus came in, Silenus was gravelled and out of countenance, not knowing where to carp at him, save at the last he gave a glance at his patience towards his wife. And the virtue of this prince, continued with that of his predecessor, made the name of Antoninus so sacred in the world, that though it were extremely dishonoured in Commodus, Caracalla, and Heliogabalus, who all bare the name, yet, when Alexander Severus refused the name because he was a stranger to the family, the Senate with one acclamation said, Quomodo Augustus, sic et Antoninus. In such renown and veneration was the name of these two princes in those days, that they would have had it as a perpetual addition in all the emperors' style. In this emperor's time also the Church for the most part was in peace; so as in this sequence of six princes we do see the blessed effects of learning in sovereignty, painted forth in the greatest table of the world.

(9) But for a tablet or picture of smaller volume (not presuming to speak of your Majesty that liveth), in my judgment the most excellent is that of Queen Elizabeth, your immediate predecessor in this part of Britain; a prince that, if Plutarch were now alive to write lives by parallels, would trouble him, I think, to find for her a parallel amongst women. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular, and rare even amongst masculine princes--whether we speak of learning, of language, or of science, modern or ancient, divinity or humanity--and unto the very last year of her life she accustomed to appoint set hours for reading, scarcely any young student in a university more daily or more duly. As for her government, I assure myself (I shall not exceed if I do affirm) that this part of the island never had forty-five years of better tines, and yet not through the calmness of the season, but through the wisdom of her regiment. For if there be considered, of the one side, the truth of religion established, the constant peace and security, the good administration of justice, the temperate use of the prerogative, not slackened, nor much strained; the flourishing state of learning, sortable to so excellent a patroness; the convenient estate of wealth and means, both of crown and subject; the habit of obedience, and the moderation of discontents; and there be considered, on the other side, the differences of religion, the troubles of neighbour countries, the ambition of Spain, and opposition of Rome, and then that she was solitary and of herself; these things, I say, considered, as I could not have chosen an instance so recent and so proper, so I suppose I could not have chosen one more remarkable or eminent to the purpose now in hand, which is concerning the conjunction of learning in the prince with felicity in the people.

(10) Neither hath learning an influence and operation only upon civil merit and moral virtue, and the arts or temperature of peace and peaceable government; but likewise it hath no less power and efficacy in enablement towards martial and military virtue and prowess, as may be notably represented in the examples of Alexander the Great and Caesar the Dictator (mentioned before, but now in fit place to be resumed), of whose virtues and acts in war there needs no note or recital, having been the wonders of time in that kind; but of their affections towards learning and perfections in learning it is pertinent to say somewhat.

(11) Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle, the great philosopher, who dedicated divers of his books of philosophy unto him; he was attended with Callisthenes and divers other learned persons, that followed him in camp, throughout his journeys and conquests. What price and estimation he had learning in doth notably appear in these three particulars: first, in the envy he used to express that he bare towards Achilles, in this, that he had so good a trumpet of his praises as Homer's verses; secondly, in the judgment or solution he gave touching that precious cabinet of Darius, which was found among his jewels (whereof question was made what thing was worthy to be put into it, and he gave his opinion for Homer's works); thirdly, in his letter to Aristotle, after he had set forth his books of nature, wherein he expostulateth with him for publishing the secrets or mysteries of philosophy; and gave him to understand that himself esteemed it more to excel other men in learning and knowledge than in power and empire. And what use he had of learning doth appear, or rather shine, in all his speeches and answers, being full of science and use of science, and that in all variety.

(12) And herein again it may seem a thing scholastical, and somewhat idle to recite things that every man knoweth; but yet, since the argument I handle leadeth me thereunto, I am glad that men shall perceive I am as willing to flatter (if they will so call it) an Alexander, or a Caesar, or an Antoninus, that are dead many hundred years since, as any that now liveth; for it is the displaying of the glory of learning in sovereignty that I propound to myself, and not a humour of declaiming in any man's praises. Observe, then, the speech he used of Diogenes, and see if it tend not to the true state of one of the greatest questions of moral philosophy: whether the enjoying of outward things, or the contemning of them, be the greatest happiness; for when he saw Diogenes so perfectly contented with so little, he said to those that mocked at his condition, "were I not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes." But Seneca inverteth it, and saith, "Plus erat, quod hic nollet accipere, quam quod ille posset dare." There were more things which Diogenes would have refused than those were which Alexander could have given or enjoyed.

(13) Observe, again, that speech which was usual with him,--"That he felt his mortality chiefly in two things, sleep and lust;" and see if it were not a speech extracted out of the depth of natural philosophy, and liker to have come out of the mouth of Aristotle or Democritus than from Alexander.

(14) See, again, that speech of humanity and poesy, when, upon the bleeding of his wounds, he called unto him one of his flatterers, that was wont to ascribe to him divine honour, and said, "Look, this is very blood; this is not such a liquor as Homer speaketh of, which ran from Venus' hand when it was pierced by Diomedes."

(15) See likewise his readiness in reprehension of logic in the speech he used to Cassander, upon a complaint that was made against his father Antipater; for when Alexander happened to say, "Do you think these men would have come from so far to complain except they had just cause of grief?" and Cassander answered, "Yea, that was the matter, because they thought they should not be disproved;" said Alexander, laughing, "See the subtleties of Aristotle, to take a matter both ways, pro et contra, &c."

(16) But note, again, how well he could use the same art which he reprehended to serve his own humour: when bearing a secret grudge to Callisthenes, because he was against the new ceremony of his adoration, feasting one night where the same Callisthenes was at the table, it was moved by some after supper, for entertainment sake, that Callisthenes, who was an eloquent man, might speak of some theme or purpose at his own choice; which Callisthenes did, choosing the praise of the Macedonian nation for his discourse, and performing the same with so good manner as the hearers were much ravished; whereupon Alexander, nothing pleased, said, "It was easy to be eloquent upon so good a subject; but," saith he, "turn your style, and let us hear what you can say against us;" which Callisthenes presently undertook, and did with that sting and life that Alexander interrupted him, and said, "The goodness of the cause made him eloquent before, and despite made him eloquent then again."

(17) Consider further, for tropes of rhetoric, that excellent use of a metaphor or translation, wherewith he taxeth Antipater, who was an imperious and tyrannous governor; for when one of Antipater's friends commended him to Alexander for his moderation, that he did not degenerate as his other lieutenants did into the Persian pride, in uses of purple, but kept the ancient habit of Macedon, of black. "True," saith Alexander; "but Antipater is all purple within." Or that other, when Parmenio came to him in the plain of Arbela and showed him the innumerable multitude of his enemies, specially as they appeared by the infinite number of lights as it had been a new firmament of stars, and thereupon advised him to assail them by night; whereupon he answered, "That he would not steal the victory."

(18) For matter of policy, weigh that significant distinction, so much in all ages embraced, that he made between his two friends Hephaestion and Craterus, when he said, "That the one loved Alexander, and the other loved the king:" describing the principal difference of princes' best servants, that some in affection love their person, and other in duty love their crown.

(19) Weigh also that excellent taxation of an error, ordinary with counsellors of princes, that they counsel their masters according to the model of their own mind and fortune, and not of their masters. When upon Darius' great offers Parmenio had said, "Surely I would accept these offers were I as Alexander;" saith Alexander, "So would I were I as Parmenio."

(20) Lastly, weigh that quick and acute reply which he made when he gave so large gifts to his friends and servants, and was asked what he did reserve for himself, and he answered, "Hope." Weigh, I say, whether he had not cast up his account aright, because hope must be the portion of all that resolve upon great enterprises; for this was Caesar's portion when he went first into Gaul, his estate being then utterly overthrown with largesses. And this was likewise the portion of that noble prince, howsoever transported with ambition, Henry Duke of Guise, of whom it was usually said that he was the greatest usurer in France, because he had turned all his estate into obligations.

(21) To conclude, therefore, as certain critics are used to say hyperbolically, "That if all sciences were lost they might be found in Virgil," so certainly this may be said truly, there are the prints and footsteps of learning in those few speeches which are reported of this prince, the admiration of whom, when I consider him


The Advancement of Learning - 10/42

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