Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/335

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313
Of the Plurality of Friends


Thus Theseus, when Perithous his friend was punished and lay bound in prison,

With fetters sure to him tied was,
Far stronger than of iron or brass.

Thucydides also writeth; That in the great pestilence at Athens, the best men and such as made greatest profession of virtue, were they who died most with their friends that lay sick of the plague: for that they never spared themselves, but went to visit and look to all those whom they loved and were familiarly acquainted with. And therefore it is not meet to make so little regard and reckoning of virtue, as to hang and fasten it upon others, without respect, and (as they say) hand over head, but to reserve the communication thereof to those who be worthy; that is to say, unto such who are able to love reciprocally, and know how to impart the like again. And verily, this is the greatest contrariety and opposition which crosseth plurality of friends, in that amity in deed is bred by similitude and conformity: for considering that the very brute beasts not endued with reason, if a man would have to engender with those that are of divers kinds, are brought to it by force, and thereto compelled, insomuch as they shrink, they couch down upon their knees, and be ready to flee from one another; whereas contrariwise, they take pleasure and delight to be coupled with their like and of the same kind, receiving willingly and entertaining their company in the act of generation, with gentleness and good contentment: how is it possible that any sound and perfect friendship should grow between those who are in behaviour quite different, in affections diverse, in conditions opposite, and whose course of life tendeth to contrary or sundry ends? True it is that the harmony of music, whether it be in song or. instrument, hath symphony by antiphony, (that is to say) the accord ariseth from discord and of contrary notes is composed a sweet tune, so as the treble and the base concur, after a sort (I wot not how), and meet together, bringing forth by their agreement that sound which pleaseth the ear: but in this consonance and harmony of friendship there ought to be no part unlike or unequal, nothing obscure and doubtful, but the same should be composed of all things agreeable, to wit, the same will, the same opinion, the same counsel, the same affection, as if one soul were parted into many bodies.

And what man is he, so laborious, so mutable, so variable, and apt to take every fashion and form? who is able to frame