-=  Facta & Verba  =-

Translation Cons. Phil. Book 2 Prosa 5

Prosa 5

1 `But now,' she continued, ' the first remedies of reasoning are reaching you more deeply, and I think I should now use those that are somewhat stronger. 2 If the gifts of Fortune fade not nor pass quickly away, even so, what is there in them which could ever be truly yours, or which would not lose its value when examined or thought upon? 3 `Are riches valuable for their own nature, or on account of your and other men's natures? Which is the more valuable, the gold itself or the power of the stored up-money? 4 Surely wealth shines more brightly when spent than when put away in masses. Avarice ever brings hatred, while generous spending brings honour. 5 But that cannot remain with one person which is handed over to another: therefore money becomes valuable to its possessor when, by being scattered, it is transferred to others, and ceases to be possessed. 6 And if all that is heaped together among mankind comes to one man, it makes the others all poor. A voice indeed fills equally the ears of all that hear: but your riches cannot pass to others without being lessened: and when they pass, they make poor those whom they leave. 7 How strait then and poor are those riches, which most men may not have, and which can only come to one by making others poor!

8 Think again of precious stones: does their gleam attract your eyes? But any excellence they have is their own brilliance, and belongs not to men: wherefore I am amazed that men so strongly admire them. 9 What manner of thing can that be which has no mind to influence, which has no structure of parts, and yet can justly seem to a living, reasoning mind to be beautiful? 10 Though they be works of their creator, and by their own beauty and adornment have a certain low beauty, yet are they in rank lower than your own excellence, and have in no wise deserved your admiration.

11 `Does the beauty of landscape delight you?' `Surely, for it is a beautiful part of a beautiful creation: 12 and in like manner we rejoice at times in the appearance of a calm sea, and we admire the sky, the stars, the sun, and the moon. `Does any one of these,' said she, `concern you? Dare you boast yourself of the splendid beauty of any one of such things? 13 Are you yourself adorned by the flowers of spring? Is it your richness that swells the fruits of autumn? 14 Why are you carried away by empty rejoicing. Why do you embrace as your own the good things which are outside yourself? Fortune will never make yours what Nature has made to belong to other things. 15 The fruits of the earth should doubtless serve as nourishment for living beings, but if you would satisfy your need as fully as Nature needs, you need not the abundance of Fortune. 16 Nature is content with very little, and if you seek to thrust upon her more than is enough, then what you cast in will become either unpleasing or even harmful.

17 `Again, you think that you appear beautiful in many kinds of clothing. But if their form is pleasant to the eyes, I would admire the nature of the material or the skill of the maker. 18 Or are you made happy by a long line of attendants? Surely if they are vicious, they are but a burden to the house, and full of injury to their master himself; while if they are honest, how can the honesty of others be counted among your possessions? 19 Out of all these possessions, then, which you reckon asyour wealth, not one can really be shown to be your own. For if they have no beauty for you to acquire, what have they for which you should grieve if you lose them, or in keeping which you should rejoice? 20 And if they are beautiful by their own nature, how are you the richer thereby? For these would have been pleasing of themselves, though cut out from your possessions. 21 They do not become valuable by reason that they have come into your wealth; but you have desired to count them among your wealth, because they seemed valuable.

22 `Why then do you long for them with such railing against Fortune? You seek, I believe, to put want to flight by means of plenty. 23 But you find that the opposite results. The more various is the beauty of furniture, the more helps are needed to keep it beautiful; and it is ever true that they who have much, need much; and on the other hand, they need least who measure their wealth by the needs of nature, not by excess of display. 24 Is there then no good which belongs to you and is implanted within you, that you seek your good things elsewhere, in things without you and separate from you? 25 Have things taken such a turn that the animal, whose reason gives it a claim to divinity, cannot seem beautiful to itself except by the possession of lifeless trappings? 26 Other classes of things are satisfied by their intrinsic possessions; but men, though made like God in understanding, seek to find among the lowest things adornment for their higher nature: and you do not understand that you do a great wrong thereby to your Creator. 27 He intended that the human race should be above all other earthly beings; yet you thrust down your honourable place below the lowest. 28 For if every good thing is allowed to be more valuable than that to which it belongs, surely you are putting yourselves lower than them in your estimation, since you think precious the most worthless of things; and this is indeed a just result. 29 Since, then, this is the condition of human nature, that it surpasses other classes only when it realises what is in itself; as soon as it ceases to know itself, it must be reduced to a lower rank than the beasts. To other animals ignorance of themselves is natural; in men it is a fault. 30 How plainly and how widely do you err by thinking that anything can be adorned by ornaments that belong to others! 31 Surely that cannot be. For if anything becomes brilliant by additions thereto, the praise for the brilliance belongs to the additions. But the subject remains in its own vileness, though hidden and covered by these externals. 32 Again, I say that naught can be a good thing which doesharm to its possessor. Am I wrong? "No," you will say. 33 Yet many a time do riches harm their possessors, since all base men, who are therefore the most covetous, think that they themselves alone are worthy to possess all gold and precious stones. 34 You therefore, who now go in fear of the cudgel and sword of the robber, could laugh in his face if you had entered upon this path with empty pockets. 35 How wonderful is the surpassing blessing of mortal wealth! As soon as you have acquired it, your cares begin!

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