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Leuconoe :

' Strain your wine, and prove your wisdom ; life is short ;

should hope be more ?
In the moment of our talking envious time has slipped

Seize the present, trust to-morrow e'en as little as you may.' "

Passing on to the second book of the treatise, we
hear the advocate of the counter-doctrine. Why, ex-
claims the Stoic, introduce Pleasure to the councils of
Virtue ? Why uphold a theory so dangerous in prac-
tice ? Your Epicurean soon turns Epicure, and a class


of men start up who have never seen the sun rise or
set, who squander fortunes on cooks and perfumers,
on costly plate and gorgeous rooms, and ransack sea
and land for delicacies to supply their feasts. Epicurus
gives his disciples a dangerous discretion in their choice.
There is no harm in luxury (he tells us) provided it be
free from inordinate desires. But who is to fix the
limit to such vague concessions ?

Nay, more, he degrades men to the level of the
brute creation. In his view, there is nothing admir-
able beyond this pleasure no sensation or emotion of
the mind, no soundness or health of body. And what
is this pleasure which he makes of such high account ?
How short-lived while it lasts ! how ignoble when we
recall it afterwards ! But even the common feeling
and sentiments of men condemn so selfish a doctrine.
We are naturally led to uphold truth and abhor
deceit, to admire Regulus in his tortures, and to
despise a lifetime of inglorious ease. And then fol-
lows a passage which echoes the stirring lines of

" Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife !

To all the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name."

Do not then (concludes the Stoic) take good words in
your mouth, and prate before applauding citizens of
honour, duty, and so forth, while you make your
private lives a mere selfish calculation of expediency.
We were surely born for nobler ends than this, and none


who is worthy the name of a man would subscribe to
doctrines which destroy all honour and all chivalry.
The heroes of old time won their immortality not by
weighing pleasures and pains in the balance, but by
being prodigal of their lives, doing and enduring all
things for the sake of their fellow-men.

The opening scene in the third book is as lively and
dramatic as (what was no doubt the writer's model)
the introduction of a Platonic dialogue. Cicero has
walked across from his Tusculan villa to borrow some
manuscripts from the well -stocked library of his
young friend Lucullus * a youth whose high promise
was sadly cut short, for he was killed at Philippi,
when he was not more than twenty-three. There,
"gorging himself with books," Cicero finds Marcus
Cato a Stoic of the Stoics who expounds in a high
tone the principles of his sect.

Honour he declares to be the rule, and " life accord-
ing to nature " the end of man's existence. And wrong
and injustice are more really contrary to this nature
than either death, or poverty, or bodily suffering, or
any other outward evil."t Stoics and Peripatetics
are agreed at least on one point that bodily plea-
sures fade into nothing before the splendours of
virtue, and that to compare the two is like holding
a candle against the sunlight, or setting a drop of

* See p. 43.

t So Bishop Butler, in the preface to his Sermons upon ' Hu-
man Nature,' says they were " intended to explain what is
meant by the nature of man, when it is said that virtue con-
sists in following, and vice in deviating from it. "


brine against the waves of the ocean. Your Epi-
curean would have each man live in selfish isolation,
engrossed in his private pleasures and pursuits. "VVe,
on the, other hand, maintain that " Divine Providence
has appointed the world to be a common city for men
and gods," and each one of us to be a part of this vast
social system. And thus every man has his lot and
place in life, and should take for his guidance those
golden rules of ancient times^-"0bey God; know
thyself; shun excess." Then, rising to enthusiasm,
the philosopher concludes : " Who cannot but admire
the incredible beauty of such a system of morality?
What character in history or in fiction can be grander
or more consistent than the ' wise man ' of the Stoics ?
All the riches and glory of the world are his, for he
alone can make a right use of all things. He is ' free,'
though he be bound by chains; 'rich,' though in the
midst of poverty j ' beautiful,' for the mind is fairer
than the body; 'a king,' for, unlike the tyrants of
the world, he is lord of himself; 'happy,' for he has
no need of Solon's warning to ' wait till the end,' since
a life virtuously spent is a perpetual happiness."

In the fourth book, Cicero himself proceeds to
vindicate the wisdom of the ancients the old Aca-
demic school of Socrates and his pupils against what
he considers the novelties of Stoicism. All that the
Stoics have said has been said a hundred times before
by Plato and Aristotle, but in nobler language. They
merely " pick out the thorns" and " lay bare the bones "
of previous syste*ms, using newfangled terms and misty
arguments with a " vainglorious parade." Their fine


talk about citizens of the world and the ideal wise
man is rather poetry than philosophy. They rightly
connect happiness with virtue, and virtue with wisdom;
but so did Aristotle some centuries before them.

But their great fault (says Cicero) is, that they
ignore the practical side of life. So broad is the line
which they draw between the " wise " and " foolish,"
that they would deny to Plato himself the possession
of wisdom. They take no account of the thousand
circumstances which go to form our happiness. To a
spiritual being, virtue might be the chief good ; but
in actual life our physical is closely bound up with
our mental enjoyment, and pain is one of those stern
facts before which all theories are powerless. ' Again,
by their fondness for paradox, they reduce all offences
to the same dead level. It is, in their eyes, as impious
to beat a slave as to beat a parent : because, as they
say, " nothing can be more virtuous than virtue,
nothing more vicious than vice." And lastly, this
stubbornness of opinion affects their personal char-
acter. They too often degenerate into austere critics
and bitter partisans, and go far to banish from among
us love, friendship, gratitude, and all the fair humani-
ties of life.

The fifth book carries us back some twenty years,
when we find Cicero once more at Athens, taking his
afternoon walk among the deserted groves of the
Academy. "With him are his brother Quintus, his
cousin Lucius, and his friends Piso and Atticus. The
scene, with its historic associations, irresistibly carries
their minds back to those illustrious spirits who had


once made the place their own. Among these trees
Plato himself had walked ; under the shadow of that
Porch Zeno had lectured to his disciples ; * yonder
Quintus points out the " white peak of Colonus," de-
scribed by Sophocles in " those sweetest lines ; " while
glistening on the horizon were the waves of the Phaleric
harbour, which Demosthenes, Cicero's own great proto-
type, had outvoiced with the thunder of his declama-
tion. So countless, indeed, are the memories of the
past called up by the genius of the place, that (as one
of the friends remarks) " wherever we plant our feet,
we tread upon some history." Then Piso, speaking
at Cicero's request, begs his friends to turn from the
degenerate thinkers of their own day to those giants
of philosophy, from whose writings all liberal learning,
all history, and all elegance of language may be de-
rived. More than all, they should turn to the leader
of the Peripatetics, Aristotle, who seemed (like Lord
Bacon after him) to have taken all knowledge as
his portion. From these, if from no other source, we
may learn the secret of a happy life. But first we must
settle what this ' chief good ' is this end and object of
our efforts and not be carried to and fro, like ships
without a steersman, by every blast of doctrine.

* The Stoics took their name from the ' stoa,' or portico in
the Academy, where they sat at lecture, as the Peripatetics (tha
school of Aristotle) from the little knot of listeners who fol-
lowed their master as he walked. Epicurus's school were
known as the philosophers of 'the Garden,' from the place
where he taught. The ' Old Academy ' were the disciples of
Plato ; the ' New Academy ' (to whose tenets Cicero inclined)
revived the great principle of Socrates of affirming nothing.

A. c. vol. ix. L


If Epicurus was wrong in placing Happiness
" In corporal pleasure and in careless ease,"

no less wrong are they who say that " honour " requires
pleasure to be added to it, since they thus make honour
itself dishonourable. And again, to say with others
that happiness is tranquillity of mind, is simply to beg
the question.

Putting, then, all such theories aside, we bring the
argument to a practical issue. Self-preservation is
the first great principle of nature ; and so strong is
this instinctive love of life both among men and
animals, that we see even the iron-hearted Stoic shrink
from the actual pangs of a voluntary death. Then
comes the question, What is this nature that is so
precious to each of us ? Clearly it is compounded of
body and mind, each with many virtues of its own ;
but as the mind should rule the body, so reason, as
the dominant faculty, should rule the mind. Virtue
itself is only " the perfection of this reason," and, call it
what you will, genius or intellect is something divine.

Furthermore, there is in man a gradual progress of
reason, growing with his growth until it has reached
perfection. Even in the infant there are " as it were
sparks of virtue " half-unconscious principles of love
and gratitude ; and these germs bear fruit, as the child
develops into the man. We have also an instinct
which attracts us towards the pursuit of wisdom;
such is the true meaning of the Sirens' voices in the
Odyssey, says the philosopher, quoting from the poet
of all time :


"Turn thy swift keel and listen to our lay;
Since never pilgrim to these regions came,
But heard our sweet voice ere he sailed away,
And in his joy passed on, with ampler mind." *

It is wisdom, not pleasure, which they offer. Hence
it is that men devote their days and nights to litera-
ture, without a thought of any gain that may accrue
from it ; and philosophers paint the serene delights of
a life of contemplation in the islands of the blest.

Again, our minds can never rest. "Desire for
action grows with us ; " and in action of some sort,
be it politics or science, life (if it is to be life at all)
must be passed by each of us. Even the gambler
must ply the dice-box, and the man of pleasure seek
excitement in society. But in the true life of action,
still the ruling principle should be honour.

Such, in brief, is Piso's (or rather Cicero's) vindica-
tion of the old masters of philosophy. Before they
leave the place, Cicero fires a parting shot at the Stoic
paradox that the ' wise man ' is always happy. How,
he pertinently asks, can one in sickness and poverty,
blind, or childless, in exile or in torture, be possibly
called happy, except by a monstrous perversion of
language ? t

Here, somewhat abruptly, the dialogue closes; and
Cicero pronounces no judgment of his own, but leaves
the great question almost as perplexed as when he

* Odyss. xii. 185 ("Worsley).

t In a little treatise called " Paradoxes," Cicero discusses six
of these scholastic quibbles of the Stoics.


started the discussion. But, of the two antagonistic
theories, he leans rather to the Stoic than to the Epi-
curean. Self-sacrifice and honour seem, to his view,
to present a higher ideal than pleasure or expediency.


Fragments of two editions of this work have come
down to us ; for almost before the first copy had
reached the hands of his friend Atticus, to whom it was
sent, Cicero had rewritten the whole on an enlarged
scale. The first hook (as we have it now) is dedicated
to Varro, a noble patron of art and literature. In his
villa at Cumse were spacious porticoes and gardens, and
a library with galleries and cabinets open to all comers.
Here, on a terrace looking seawards, Cicero, Atticus,
and Varro himself pass a long afternoon in discussing
the relative merits of the old and new Academies ; and
hence we get the title of the work. Varro takes the
lion's share of the first dialogue, and shows how from
the " vast and varied genius of Plato" both Academics
and Peripatetics drew all their philosophy, whether it
related to morals, to nature, or to logic. Stoicism
receives a passing notice, as also does what Varro con-
siders the heresy of Theophrastus, who strips virtue
of all its beauty, by denying that happiness depends
upon it.

The second book is dedicated to another illustrious
name, the elder Lucullus, not long deceased half-
statesman, half-dilettante, "with almost as divine a
memory for facts," says Cicero, with something of envy,


" as Hortensius had for words." This time it is at his
villa, near Tusculum, amidst scenery perhaps even now
the loveliest of all Italian landscapes, that the philo-
sophic dialogue takes place. Lucullus condemns the
scepticism of the New Academy those reactionists
against the dogmatism of past times, who disbelieve
their very eyesight. If (he says) we reject the testi-
mony of the senses, there is neither body, nor truth,
nor argument, nor anything certain left us. These
perpetual doubters destroy every ground of our belief.
Cicero ingeniously defends this scepticism, which
was, in fact, the bent of his own mind. After
all, what is our eyesight worth 1 The ship sailing
across the bay yonder seems to move, but to the sailors
it is the shore that recedes from their view. Even the
sun, "which mathematicians affirm to be eighteen
times larger than the earth, looks but a foot in diame-
ter." And as it is with these things, so it is with
all knowledge. Bold indeed must be the man who
can define the point at which belief passes into cer-
tainty. Even the " fine frenzy " of the poet, his pic-
tures of gods and heroes, are as lifelike to himself and
to his hearers as though he actually saw them ;

" See how Apollo, fair-haired god,
Draws in and bends his golden bow,
While on the left fair Dian waves her torch."

Xo we are sure of nothing ; and we are happy if, like
Socrates, we only know this that we know nothing.
Then, as if in irony, or partly influenced perhaps by the
advocate's love of arguing the case both ways, Cicero


demolishes that grand argument of design which else-
where he so carefully constructs,* and reasons in the
very language of materialism : " You assert that all the
universe could not have been so ingeniously made with-
out some godlike wisdom, the majesty of which you
trace down even to the perfection of bees and ants.
Why, then, did the Deity, when he made everything
for the sake of man, make such a variety (for instance)
of venomous reptiles ? Your divine soul is a fiction ;
it is better to imagine that creation is the result of the
laws of nature, and so release the Deity from a great
deal of hard work, and me from fear ; for which of us,
when he thinks that he is an object of divine care,
can help feeling an awe of the divine power day and
night 1 But we do not understand even our own
bodies ; how, then, can we have an eyesight so pierc-
ing as to penetrate the mysteries of heaven and earth?"
The treatise, however, is but a disappointing frag-
ment, and the argument is incomplete.


The scene of this dialogue is Cicero's villa at Tuscu-
lum. There, in his long gallery, he walks and discus-
ses with his friends the vexed questions of morality.
Was death an evil ? Was the soul immortal 1 How
could a man best bear pain and the other miseries of
life ? Was virtue any guarantee for happiness ?

Then, as now, death was the great problem of hu-
manity " to die and go we know not where." The
* See p. 168.


old belief in Elysium and Tartarus had died away ;
as Cicero himself boldly puts it in another place, such
things were no longer even old wives' fables. Either
death brought an absolute unconsciousness, or the soul
soared into space. "Lex non pcena tnors" "Death
is a law, not a penalty " was the ancient saying. It
was, as it were, the close of a banquet or the fall of
the curtain. " While we are, death is not ] when
death has come, we are not."

Cicero brings forward the testimony of past ages to
prove that death is not a mere annihilation. Man
cannot perish utterly. Heroes are deified; and the
spirits of the dead return to us in visions of the night.
Somehow or other (he says) there clings to our minds
a certain presage of future ages ; and so we plant, that
our children may reap ; we toil, that others may enter
into our labours ; and it is this life after death, the
desire to live in men's mouths for ever, which inspires
the patriot and the martyr. Fame to the Roman,
even more than to us, was " the last infirmity of noble
minds." It was so in a special degree to Cicero. The
instinctive sense of immortality, he argues, is strong
within us ; and as, in the words of the English poet,

" Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,"

so also in death, the Roman said, though in other

" Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither."

Believe not then, says Cicero, those old wives' tales,
those poetic legends, the terrors of a material hell, or


the joys of a sensual paradise. Rather hold -with
Plato that the soul is an eternal principle of life, which
has neither beginning nor end of existence ; for if it
were not so, heaven and earth would "be overset, and
all nature would stand at gaze. " Men say they can-
not conceive or comprehend what the soul can be, dis-
tinct from the body. As if, forsooth, they could
comprehend what it is, when it is in the body, its
conformation, its magnitude, or its position there. . . .
To me, when I consider the nature of the soul, there
is far more difficulty and obscurity in forming a con-
ception of what the soul is while in the body, in
a dwelling where it seems so little at home, than
of what it will be when it has escaped into the
free atmosphere of heaven, which seems its natural
abode." * And as the poet seems to us inspired, as the
gifts of memory and eloquence seem divine, so is the
soul itself, in its simple essence, a god dwelling in the
breast of each of us. What else can be this power
which enables us to recollect the past, to foresee the
future, to understand the present ?

There follows a passage on the argument from design
which anticipates that fine saying of Voltaire "Si
Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait 1'inventer ; mais toute
la nature crie qu'il existe." " The heavens," says even
the heathen philosopher, " declare the glory of God."
Look on the sun and the stars ; look on the alternation
of the seasons, and the changes of day and night ; look
again at the earth bringing forth her fruits for the use
of men; the multitude of cattle; and man himself,
* I. c. 22.


made as it were to contemplate and adore the heavens
and the gods. Look on all these things, and doubt
not that there is some Being, though you see him not,
who has created and presides over the world.

" Imitate, therefore, the end of Socrates ; who, with
the fatal cup in his hands, spoke with the serenity of
one not forced to die, but, as it were, ascending into
heaven ; for he thought that the souls of men, when
they left the body, went by different roads ; those pol-
luted by vice and unclean living took a road wide
of that which led to the assembly of the gods ; while
those who had kept themselves pure, and on earth had
taken a divine life as their model, found it easy to
return to those beings from whence they came." Or
learn a lesson from the swans, who, with a prophetic
instinct, leave this world with joy and singing. Yet
do not anticipate the time of death, "for the Deity
forbids us to depart hence without his summons ; but,
on just cause given (as to Socrates and Cato), gladly
should we exchange our darkness for that light, and,
like men not breaking prison but released by the law,
leave our chains with joy, as having been discharged
by God."

The feeling of these ancients with regard to suicide,
we must here remember, was very different from our
own. There was no distinct idea of the sanctity of life ;
no social stigma and consequent suffering were brought
on the family of the suicide. Stoic and Epicurean phil-
osophers alike upheld it as a lawful remedy against the
pangs of disease, the dotage of old age, or the caprices
of a tyrant. Every man might, they contended, choose .


his own route on the last great journey, and sleep well,
when he grew wearied out with life's fitful fever. The
door was always open (said Epictetus) when the play
palled on the senses. You should quit the stage with
dignity, nor drain the flask to the dregs. Some phil-
osophers, it is true, protested against it as a mere de-
vice of cowardice to avoid pain, and as a failure in our
duties as good citizens. Cicero, in one of his latest
works, again quotes with approval the opinion of Py-
thagoras, that "no man should abandon his post in
life without the orders of the Great Commander." But
at Rome suicide had been glorified by a long roll of
illustrious names, and the protest was made in vain.

But why, continues Cicero, why add to the miseries
of life by brooding over death ? Is life to any of us
such unmixed pleasure even while it lasts ? Which of
us can tell whether he be taken away from good or
from evil ? As our birth is but " a sleep and a forget-
ting," so our death may be but a second sleep, as last-
ing as Endymion's. Why then call it wretched, even
if we die before our natural time ? Nature has lent us
life, without fixing the day of payment ; and uncer-
tainty is one of the conditions of its tenure. Compare
our longest life with eternity, and it is as short-lived
as that of those ephemeral insects whose life is meas-
ured by a summer day; and " who, when the sun sets,
have reached old age."

Let us, then, base our happiness on strength of

mind, on a contempt of earthly pleasures, and on the

strict observance of virtue. Let us recall the last noble

. words of Socrates to his judges. " The death," said


he. " to which you condemn me, I count a gain rather
than a loss. Either it is a dreamless sleep that knows
no waking, or it carries me where I may converse with
the spirits of the illustrious dead. I go to death, you
to life ; but which of us is going the better way, God
only knows."

No man, then, dies too soon who has run a course
of perfect virtue ; for glory follows like a shadow in
the wake of such a life. "Welcome death, therefore,
as a blessed deliverance from evil, sent by the special
favour of the gods, who thus bring us safely across a
sea of troubles to an eternal haven.

The second topic Avhich Cicero and his friends dis-
cuss is, the endurance of pain. Is it an unmixed evil 1
Can anything console the sufferer 1 ? Cicero at once
condemns the sophistry of Epicurus. The wise man
cannot pretend indifference to pain ; it is enough that
he endure it with courage, since, beyond all question,
it is sharp, bitter, and hard to bear. And what is
this courage? Partly excitement, partly the impulse
of honour or of shame, partly the habituation which
steels the endurance of the gladiator. Keep, therefore
this is the conclusion stern restraint over the
feminine elements of your soul, and learn not only to
despise the attacks of pain, but also

" The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."

From physical, the discussion naturally passes to
mental, suffering. For grief, as well as for pain, he
prescribes the remedy of the Stoics cequanimitas
" a calm serenity of mind." The wise man, ever serene


and composed, is moved neither by pain or sorrow, by
fear or desire. He is equally undisturbed by the malice
of enemies or the inconstancy of fortune. But what

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