ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
The happiness and blessedness which shines in virtue fills all her avenues and approaches, even to the first entrance and the furthest gate. Now, among the chief benefactions of virtue is the contempt of death, a means of supplying our life with placid tranquillity and giving to it a pure and agreeable savour, without which all other delight is abolished.
(a) That is why all doctrines meet and agree on this article; and although they all with common accord lead us also to despise pain, poverty, and other calamities to which human life is liable, it is not with equal painstaking; not only because these calamities are not of the same necessity (the greater number of men pass their lives without a taste of poverty, and some even without feeling pain or illness, as Xenophilus the musician, who lived a hundred and six years in perfect health), but also because, at the worst, death whenever we please can put an end to all other mishaps, and cut them short. But death itself is inevitable:
(b) Omnes eodem cogimur; omnium
Versatur urna, serius ocius
Sors exitura et nos in æternum
Exsilium impositura cymbæ.
And consequently, if it terrifies us, it is a constant source of anguish, which can in no wise be allayed. (c) It may come upon us from everywhere. We may turn our heads incessantly this way and that, as in a suspicious country: queæ quasi saxum Tantalo semper impendet. (a) Our parliaments often send criminals back for execution to the place where the crime was committed; on the road, take them to fine houses, give them all the good cheer you please, —
- In 1580—1588, Voylà pourquoy toutes les sectes des philosophes … à cet article de nous instruire à la mespriser.
- See Pliny, Natural History, VII, 51.
- We are all driven to the same end; for all of us our lot is shaken in the urn, and sooner or later will come forth to launch us on our everlasting exile. — Horace, Odes, II, 3.25.
- See Seneca, Epistle 74.
- This, like the rock of Tantalus, ever hangs overhead. — Cicero, De Fin., I, 18.