Let us curiously test new ideas and court new impressions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy. Philosophy may help us gather up what might otherwise pass unregarded, for philosophy is the microscope of thought;
But theory which requires the sacrifice of any part of this experience, in consideration of some interest we cannot enter, has no claim upon us. It is life itself that has the first and last claim, and it is the fresh light and clear air that wisdom brings to life that answers it,
For to love and to strive, to seek to know, to attend to the best that has been thought, said and done in the world, and to learn from it, is wisdom: and wisdom is life.
To seek the good is the first demand we should make upon ourselves; but next to the good, and to it alone, the greatest of all things is friendship.
Lycurgus’ next task, and indeed the most hazardous, was a new division of lands. For there was an extreme inequality among the people; their state was overloaded with indigent and necessitous persons, while its whole wealth had centred upon very few.
To expel from the state arrogance and envy, luxury and crime, and those yet more inveterate diseases of want and superfluity, Lycurgus therefore persuaded rich and poor alike to renounce their properties, and to accept a new division of the land, so that all should live together on an equal footing;
Merit to be their only road to eminence, and the disgrace of evil, and credit of worthy acts, the one measure of difference between man and man.
Unless you enter upon things with forethought and resolution to do your best, but instead rashly and with a cold inclination only, you will be a mimic and a playing child merely in all you do.
Here on the steppe is a forgotten grave.
It is not a memorial to anyone now,
Except to an affection that once was,
That lifted and piled stones one on another,
Many stones, so that wolves could not feed here,
Nor vultures. On the cold steppe there is a song
Sung for ever by the wind, neither ballad nor lament,
But the steppe song, that sings to those who live and die
With its huge horizon before their faces,
And its pure air that carries the wolf’s howl
Far to the world’s edge.
The stones’ only visitor now is the steppe wind
Singing to them neither ballad nor lament.
Death is no different from being unborn. It is the sleep without dreams, it is rest, the final escape from all ills and passions. It is immunity from wrong, from calumny, error and spite. Who would not welcome this, who can think clearly and without fear?
They know nothing of their homelands who know only their homelands.
In the face of a true friend we see as it were a second self. So that where a man’s friend is, he is; if his friend be rich, he is not poor; though he be weak, his friend’s strength is his; and in his friend’s life he enjoys a second life after his own is finished.
This last is perhaps the most difficult to understand. But such is the effect of the respect, the loving remembrance, and the regret of friends which follow us to the grave. While they take the sting out of death, they add a glory to the life of the survivors.
The mighty man is he who conquers himself.
After they had routed an enemy, they pursued till they were assured of victory, and then sounded a retreat, thinking it unworthy of Grecians to kill men who had yielded.
This manner of dealing with enemies not only showed magnanimity, but policy; for, knowing that they killed only those who resisted, and gave quarter to the rest, opponents generally thought their best safety was surrender.
- If you long for pleasure you must labour to get it.
- Follow pleasure and it will flee, flee pleasure and it will follow.
- Pleasure is the greatest incentive to vice.
- Rarity gives zest to pleasure.
A man finds himself, to his great astonishment, suddenly existing, after millions of years of non-existence:
He lives for a while, and then again comes an equally long period when he exists no more. The heart rebels against this, and suffers at the thought.
Of every event in life we can say only for one moment that it is; for ever after, that it was. Every evening we are poorer by a day. It makes us mad to see how rapidly our short span of time ebbs away;
This might lead us to believe that the greatest wisdom is to make the enjoyment of the present the supreme object of life, because that is the only reality, all else being merely the play of thought.
Yet such a course might as well be called the greatest folly: for that which in the next moment exists no more, and vanishes utterly, like a dream, can never be worth serious consideration.
How great a thing is a cup of wine!
A single cup makes us tell the story of our lives.
By the willows that gaze at themselves in the pond
We drank and talked of our schooldays together,
Amazed at our folly then, and our ignorance:
We were ambitious, and never paused to sit quietly,
To look at the moon, to listen to the oriole sing,
To appreciate the shapes of oak leaves and acorns.
Now I listen to the water falling in the stream,
And if I have you and a cup of wine with me there
I can tell the story of my life again, and listen to yours.
Let this be laid down as the first law of friendship, that we should ask from friends, and do for friends, only what is good. But do not let us wait to be asked either: let there always be an eager readiness, and an absence of hesitation. Let us have the courage to give advice with candour.