BOOK I, CHAPTER II
are introduced as symbolising that extremity of grief that cannot be represented. It is Dryden’s thought (in the “Threnodia Augustalis”):—
Sure there’s a lethargy in mighty woe;
Tears stand congealed and cannot flow.
And the sad soul retires into her inmost room,
Tears for a stroke foreseen afford relief.
But unprovided for a sudden blow,
Like Niobe we marble grow
And petrify with grief.
The tearless and fatal grief of a “seigneur allemand” is depicted (an addition in 1595); and then the essayist passes, through the violent emotions of love, to those caused by pleasure; unlooked-for delight may kill, and of this he gives a list of examples. An extreme emotion of shame, of mortification, may be deadly, as proved by Diodorus the Dialectician. And with this the Essay cut itself short in 1580. In 1588 another sentence was added, which, as I have said, echoed the first sentence of the Essay and connects itself with the expression in the “Apologie” (Book II, chapter 12) when, speaking of the evil of excessive sensibility, he says: Il nous faut abestir pour nous assagir.
I AM one of those least subject to this emotion, (c) and I neither like nor respect it, although the world has undertaken, as if by agreement, to favour it with special honour. They clothe with it wisdom and virtue and knowledge: an absurd and deforming garment. The Italians have more aptly baptised malignity with its name; for it is a quality always harmful, always foolish; and as being always cowardly and vile, the Stoics forbid the feeling to their ideal wise man. But (a) the story says that Psammenitus, King of Egypt, having been defeated and captured by Cambyses, King of Persia, seeing his daughter pass by, a prisoner, dressed as a servant sent to draw water, all his friends around him weeping and lamenting, stood motionless and silent, his eyes fixed on the ground; and soon after, seeing his son led to death, he maintained the same demeanour. But, having perceived one of his household among the captives, he beat his head and gave way to extreme lamentation. This might be coupled with what we
- This line first appeared in 1588.
- Tristezza. This word is open to various shades of meaning: sadness, sorrow, melancholy — even a gloomy, melancholy moroseness.
- See especially St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIV, 8.
- See Herodotus, III, 14.