Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/61

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39
To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend

cruet, but the rich cornfields: that is, it is not for poor men to entertain great horses, but those rather who are landed men and with their revenues able to maintain them: Even so, we see it is ordinary that flattery keepeth not company nor sorteth with poor folk, or such persons as live obscurely and are of no ability: but commonly it is the ruin and decay of great houses, and a malady incident to mighty states; which oftentimes undoeth and overthroweth whole monarchies, realms, and great seignories. In which regard it is no small matter, nor a thing that requireth little or no forecast and providence, to search and consider the nature thereof: lest being so active and busy as it is, and ready to meddle in every place (nothing so much), it do no hurt unto friendship, nor bring it into obloquy and discredit. For these flatterers resemble lice for all the world: And why? These vermin we see never haunt those that be dead, but leave and forsake the corpse so soon as ever the blood (whereof they were wont to feed) is extinct or deprived of vital spirit: Semblably, a man shall never see flatterers so much as approach unto such persons as are in decay, whose state is cracked and credit waxeth cool; but look where there is the glory of the world, where there is authority and power, thither they flock, and there they grow: no sooner is there a change of fortune but they sneak and slink away, and are no more seen.

But we ought not to attend so long and stay for this trial, being unprofitable, or rather hurtful and not without some danger: For it goeth very hard with a man, if at the very instant and not before, even when he hath most need of friendship, to peceive those to be no friends whom he took to be, and namely, when he hath not with him at hand a good and faithful friend, to exchange for him that is untrusty, disloyal and counterfeit. For if a man did well, he should be provided beforehand of an approved and tried friend, ere he have need to employ him, as well as of current and lawful money; and not then to make trial of him and find him faulty, when he is in greatest necessity and standeth in most need: For we ought not to make proof with our loss, and find him to be false to our cost and detriment; but contrariwise to be skilful in the means of smelling out a flatterer, that we receive no damage by him: For otherwise, that might befall us which happeneth unto those who for to know the force of deadly poisons, take the assay and taste first themselves thereof: well may they indeed come to the judgment thereof: but this skill is dearly bought, when they are sure to die for it.