Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/360

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Plutarch's Morals


that which loveth is always blind in the thing that is loved; whereas he who hateth us, besides that he is very curious and inquisitive into our imperfections, he is not meal-mouthed (as they say), nor will spare to speak, but is ready enough to divulge and blaze all abroad. King Hiero chanced upon a time, being at words with one of his enemies, to be told in reproachful manner by him of his stinking breath; whereupon being somewhat dismayed in himself, he was no sooner returned home to his own house but he chid his wife: How comes this to pass (quoth he)? what say you to it? how happeneth it that you never told me of it? The woman being a simple, chaste, and harmless dame: Sir (saith she), I had thought all men's breath had smelled so. Thus it is plain that such faults as be object and evident to the senses, gross and corporal, or otherwise notorious to the world, we know by our enemies sooner than by our friends and familiars.

Over and besides, as touching the continence and holding of the tongue, which is not the least point of virtue, it is not possible for a man to rule it always, and bring it within the compass and obedience of reason, unless by use and exercise, by long custom and painful labour he have tamed and mastered the worst passions of the soul, such as anger is: for a word that hath escaped us against our wills, which we would gladly have kept in; of which Homer saith thus:

Out of the mouth a word did fly
For all the range of teeth fast-by.

And a speech that we let fall at aventure (a thing happening oftentimes, and especially unto those whose spirits are not well exercised, and who want experience, who run out, as it were, and break forth into passions), this (I say) is ordinary with such as be hasty and choleric, whose judgment is not settled and staid, or who are given to a licentious course of life: for such a word, being (as divine Plato saith) the lightest thing in the world, both gods and men have many a time paid a most grievous and heavy penalty; whereas silence is not only (as Hippocrates saith) good against thirst, but also is never called to account, nor amerced to pay any fine; and that which more is, in the bearing and putting up of taunts and reproaches, there is observed in it a kind of gravity beseeming the person of Socrates, or rather the magnanimity of Hercules, if it be true that the poet said of him:

Of bitter words he less account did make
Than doth the fly, which no regard doth take.