BOOK I, CHAPTER XXIV
tinise closely the most glorious exploits of war, I see, so it seems to me, that those who conduct them employ in them deliberation and advice only as a matter of form, and the larger part of the enterprise they abandon to fortune; and from the trust they have in her aid, they often go beyond the bounds of all judgement. There result chance outbursts of energy and unlooked-for spasms of wrath in their deliberations, which impel them most frequently to make the choice apparently least well founded, and which swell their courage beyond reason; whence it has happened that several great captains of old, in order to give weight to these rash counsels, declared to their soldiers that they were suggested by some inspiration, by some sign or prognostic. Here is the reason why, in this uncertainty and perplexity caused by our inability to see and choose what is most fitting for the difficulties that the varying casualties and circumstances of every event bring with them, the safest way, even if no other consideration suggested it to us, is, in my opinion, to throw oneself on the side on which are the most uprightness and justice; and when one is in doubt as to the shortest road, to take always the straight one; just as in the two examples which I have set forth there is no doubt that it was nobler and more generous in him who had received the wrong to forgive it, than if he had done otherwise. If for the first there was ill success, it should not be attributed to that good intent of his; and we do not know whether, had he taken the contrary course, he would have escaped the end to which his destiny summoned him; and then he would have lost the glory of such humane conduct.
We see in histories very many men moved by this sort of dread, of which the larger number have followed the method of forerunning, by vengeance and by punishments, the conspiracies against them; but I see very few to whom this remedy has been of use — witness so many Roman emperors. He who finds himself in this danger should not hope much either from his strength or from his vigilance; for how
- Il survient des allegresses fortuites et des fureurs estrangeres.
- This clause — “and when … straight one” — was added in the second edition (1582).
- The duc de Guise.