This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



autres membres, ses compaignons, de luy estre allé dresser, par belle envie de l’importance et douceur de son usage, cette querelle apostée, et avoir par complot arme le monde à l’encontre de luy: le chargeant malignement seul de leur faute commune.[1] For I ask you to consider whether there is one of the parts of our body that does not often refuse to work at our will, and does not often exert itself contrary to our will. They all have passions of their own, which awaken them and put them to sleep without our permission. How often do the involuntary movements of our features testify to the thoughts that we hold secret, and betray us to those about us! The same cause that animates the male member animates also, without our choice, the heart, the lungs, and the pulse, the sight of a charming object imperceptibly diffusing within us the flame of a feverish emotion. Is it those muscles and those veins alone that rise and subside, without the consent, not only of our will, but even of our thought? We do not command our hair to stand on end and our skin to quiver with desire or with fear; the hand often goes where we do not send it; the tongue becomes tied and the voice choked at their own time; the appetite for food and drink, even when, having nothing to cook, we would gladly forbid it, does not fail to stir up those parts that are subject to it, neither more nor less than this other appetite, and it abandons us as unseasonably, whenever it pleases. The organs that serve to discharge the bowels have their own dilatations and compressions, outside of and contrary to our wishes, as those have that serve to discharge our kidneys. And although, to establish the supreme power of our will, St. Augustine declares that he had seen a man who obliged his hinder parts to break wind as often as he chose, — which fact Vivès, his commentator, caps with another case in his own day, of systematised explosions, following the measure of verses which were pronounced,[2] — this does not imply

  1. M. Pierre Villey points out that Montaigne was here inspired by a chapter of St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, XIV, 24), and replies to it. In M. Villey’s words: La thèse est que c’est par suite du péché original que la volonté n’est plus obéié de ce membre comme des autres.
  2. See St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei, XIV, 24, and the commentary of Vivès thereon.