Montaigne's Essays/Book I/Chapter XXXIII

Essays by Michel de Montaigne, translated by John Florio
The Three and Thirtieth Chapter: That Fortune is oftentimes met withall in pursuit of Reason

The inconstancie of Fortunes diverse wavering is the cause shee should present us with all sorts of visages. Is there any action of justice more manifest than this? Cesar Borgia, Duke of Valentinois, having resolved to Adrian, Cardinall of Cornetto, with whom Pope Alexander the sixth, his father, and he were to sup that night in Vaticane, sent certaine bottles of empoysoned wine before, and gave his butler great charge to have a speciall care of it. The Pope comming thither before his sonne, and calling for some drinke, the butler supposing the wine had beene so carefully commended unto him for the goodnesse of it, immediately presented some unto the Pope, who whilest he was drinking his sonne came in, and never imagining his bottles had beene toucht, tooke the cup and pledged his father, so that the Pope died presently; and the sonne, after he had long time been tormented with sicknesse, recovered to another worse fortune. It somtimes seemeth that when we least think on her, shee is pleased to sport with us. The Lord of Estree, then guidon to the Lord of Vandosme, and the Lord of Liques, Lieutenant to the Duke of Ascot, both servants to the Lord of Foungueselles sister, albeit of contrarie factions (as it hapneth among neigbouring bordurers) the Lord of Liques got her to wife: But even upon his wedding day, and which is worse, before his going to bed, the bridegroome desiring to breake a staffe in favour of his new Bride and Mistris, went out to skirmish neere to Saint Omer where the Lord of Estree being the stronger, tooke him prisoner, and to endeare his advantage, the Lady her selfe was faine,

   Conjugis ante coacta novi dimittere collum,
   Quam veniens una atque altera rursus heyems.
   Noctib us in longis avidum saturraset amorem, --Catul. Ele. iv. 81.
   Her new feeres necke forced was she to forgoe,
   Ere winters one and two, returning sloe,
   In long nights had ful-fil'd
   Her love so eager wil'd,

in courtesie, to sue unto him for the deliverie of his prisoner, which he granted; the French Nobilitie never refusing Ladies any kindnesse. Seemeth she not to be a right artist? Constantine, the sonne of Helen, founded the Empire of Constantinople, and so, many ages after, Constantine the sonne of Helen ended the same. She is sometimes pleased to envie our miracles: we hold an opinion, that King Clovis besieging Angoulesme, the wals by a divine favour fell of themselves. And Bouchet borroweth of some author, that King Robert beleagring a Citie, and leaving secretly stolne away from the siege to Orleans, there to solemnize the feasts of Saint Aignan, as he was in his earnest devotion, upon a certaine passage of the Masse, the walles of the towne, besieged without any batterie, fell flat to the ground. She did altogether contrarie in our warres of Millane; for, Captaine Rense, beleagring the Citie of Eronna for us, and having caused a forcible mine to be wrought under a great curtine of the walls, by force whereof, it being violently flowne up from out the ground, did notwithstanding, whole and unbroken, fall so right into his foundation againe, that the besieged found no inconvenience at all by it. She sometimes playeth the Physitian. Jason Phereus, being utterly forsaken of all Physitians, by reason of an impostume he had in his breast, and desirous to be rid of it, though it were by death, as one of the forlorne hope, rusht into a battel amongst the thickest throng of his enemies, where he was so rightly wounded acrosse the body, that his impostume brake, and he was cured. Did shee not exceed the Painter Protogenes in the skill of his trade? who having perfected the image of a wearie and panting dog, and in all parts over-tired, to his content, but being unable, as he desired, lively to represent the drivel or slaver of his mouth, vexed against his owne worke, took his spunge, and, moist as it was with divers colours, threw it at the picture, with purpose to blot and deface all hee had done, fortune did so fitly and rightly carrie the same towards the dogs chaps that there it perfectly finished what his art could never attaine unto. Doth she not sometimes addres e and correct our counsels? Isabell Queene of England, being to repasse from Zeland into her Kingdome with an armie, in favour of her sonne against her husband, had utterly beene cast away had she come unto the port intended, bemg there expected by her enemies; but fortune, against her will, brought her to another place, where shee safely landed. And that ancient fellow, who, hurling a stone at a dog, misst him, and there withall hit and slew his step-dame, had [he] not reason to pronounce this verse,

   Ταυτοαμτον ημων καλλιω βονλευται
   Chance of it selfe, than wee,
   Doth better say and see?

Fortune hath better advice than wee. Icetas had practised and suborned two souldiers to kill Timoleon, then residing at Adrane in Sicily. They appointed a time to doe, as he should be assisting at some sacrifice; and scattering themselves amongst the multitude, as they were winking one upon another, to shew how they had a verie fit opportunitie to doe the deed, loe here a third man, that with a huge blow of a sword striketh one of them over the head, and fels him dead to the ground and so runs away. His fellow, supposing himselfe discovered and undone, runs to the altar, suing for sanctuarie, with promise to confesse the truth even as he was declaring the conspiracie, behold the third man, who had likewise beene taken, whom as a murtherer the people tugged and haled through the throng toward Timoleon and the chiefest of the assembly, where he humbly calleth for mercy, alleaging that he had justly murthered the murtherer of his father, whom his good chance was to finde there, averring by good witnesses before them all, that in the Citie of the Leontines, his father had beene proditoriously slaine by him on whom he had now revenged himseIfe. In neede whereof, because he had been so fortunate in seeking to right his fathers untimely death, to save the common father of the Sicilians from so imminent a danger, he had ten Attike mines awarded him. Thus Fortune in her directions exceedeth all the rules of humane wisdome. But to conclude: is not an expresse application of her favour, goodnesse, and singular pietie manifestly discovered in this action? Ignatius, the Father and the Sonne, both banished by proscription by the Triumvirs of Rome, resolved on this generous act, to yeeld their lives one into anothers hands, and therebi frustrate the tyrants cruelty. They furiously, with their keene rapiers drawne, ran one against another: Fortune so directed their points that each received his mortall stroke; adding to the honour of seld-seene an amity, that they had just so much strength left them to draw their armed and bloudy hands from out their goared wounds, in that plight so fast to embrace and so hard to claspe one another, that the hangmen were forced, at one stroke and together, to cut off both their heads; leaving their bodies for ever tied in so honourable a knot, and their wounds so joined, that they lovingly drew and suckt each others bloud, breath, and life.