Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/379

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357
Of Proceeding in Virtue


our words so, that for ourselves they may do good; and in regard of others make no shew of vainglory nor ambitious desire to be known abroad, but only of an intention rather to hear, or else to teach.

But principally we are to observe whether our wrangling humour and desire to be cavilling about questions disputable be allayed in us or no, as also whether we have yet given over to devise reasons and arguments to assail others; like as champions armed with hurlbats of tough leather about their arms, and balls in their hands, to annoy their concurrents, taking more pleasure and delight to fell and astonish with one rap our adversary, and so to lay him along on the earth, than to learn or teach him: for surely modesty, mildness, and courtesy in this kind will do well; and when a man is not willing to enter into any conference or disputation, with a purpose to put down and vanquish another, nor to break out into fits of choler, nor having evicted his adversary, to be ready as they say to tread and trample him under foot, nor to seem displeased and discontent if himself have the foil and be put to the worst, be all good signs of one that hath sufficiently profited. And this shewed Aristippus very well upon a time when he was so hardly pressed and overlaid in a certain disputation, that he knew not what answer to make presently unto his adversary, a jolly bold and audacious sophister, but otherwise a brainsick fool and without all judgment: for Aristippus seeing him to vaunt himself, puffed up with vainglory, that he had put him to a non plus: Well (quoth he), I see that for this time I go away with the worse, but surely when I am gone I will sleep more soundly and quietly than you that have gotten the better.

Moreover, we may also prove and sound ourselves, whether we have profited or no, even whiles we speak in public place; namely, if neither upon the sight of a greater audience than we looked for we shrink not for fear and false heart, nor contrariwise be discouraged to see fewer come to hear our exercises than we hoped for; nor yet when we are to make a speech to the people, or before a great magistrate, we lose the opportunity thereof, for that we have not well premeditated thereof before, nor come provided of apt words to declare our mind, a thing that by report befell unto Demosthenes and Alcibiades: for Alcibiades, as he was passing ingenious and inventive of matter, so he wanted audacity, and was not so ready as some other to utter the same, but troubled eftsoons in his pleading and delivery of it, insomuch as many times in the very midst of his