ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
when they would have a man’s whole life be but a discipline or preparation to die, they must needs make men think that it is a terrible enemy, against whom there is no end of preparing.” (Advancement of Learning, II, 21.5.)
This criticism is of precisely opposite tone to that made by Pascal (Pensées), who, speaking directly of Montaigne, says: “His somewhat free and light feelings about some passages of life can be excused, but his wholly pagan feelings about death cannot be excused; for one must relinquish all piety, if one does not desire to die, at least, in a Christian manner; now, throughout his book he has in mind only to die weakly and gently.” — No, not lachement et mollement, but quietement et sourdement; or, in still better phrase, constamment et tranquillement.
CICERO says that to think as a philosopher is nothing else than to make ready for death. This is inasmuch as study and contemplation to some degree withdraw our soul outside of us and set it at work apart from the body, which is a sort of apprenticeship and likeness to death; or, indeed, it is because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world finally comes at last to the point of teaching us not to be afraid to die. In truth, either our reason fools itself, or it must aim only at our satisfaction, and the sum of all its labour should tend to make us live rightly and at our ease, as says Holy Writ. All the beliefs in the world agree in this, (c) that pleasure is our goal, (a) although they take divers means to attain it; otherwise we should reject them at once, for who would listen to that argument which should set our, affliction and discomfort as its end?
(c) The disagreements of the philosophical sects about this matter are verbal. Transcurramus solertissimas nugas. There is more opinionativeness and wrangling than befits so godly a calling. But whatever part in the world’s drama a man undertakes to play, he always plays his own nature too. Whatever they may say, in virtue herself the final ob-
- See Tusc. Disp., I, 30. In this whole passage Cicero follows very closely the Phædo of Plato.
- See Ibid., 31.
- See Cicero, De Fin., II, 27.
- See Ecclesiastes, III, 12.
- Let us pass quickly over these trifling subtleties. — Seneca, Epistle 117.
- Mais quelque personnage que l’home entrepreigne, il joue tousjours le sien parmy.