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



Diriguisse malis,[1]

to express that sombre, dumb, and deaf torpor that paralyses us when events surpassing our capability overwhelm us. In truth, the effect of an affliction, if it be extreme, must wholly stun the mind and deprive it of freedom of action; as, on the startling alarm of some very ill news, it happens to us to feel dazed and deadened, and, as it were, completely paralysed, in such wise that the mind, upon giving way later to tears and lamentations, seems to relax and disperse itself, and take a wider sweep, more at its ease.

(b) Et via vix tandem voci laxata dolore est.[2]

(c) In the war that King Ferdinand waged against the widow of King John of Hungary, near Buda, Raïsciac, a German lord, remarking the salvage of the body of a horse-trooper whom every one had noticed as having borne himself with exceeding gallantry, joined in the universal commiseration; but, sharing the general interest in seeing who he might be, after his armour was removed, he found that he was his own son. Amid the universal lamentation, he alone stood erect, without uttering a word or shedding a tear, his eyes fixed, gazing steadfastly upon him, until the violence of his grief congealed his vital powers, and felled him, stone dead, to the ground.[3]

(a) Chi può dir com’ egli arde è in picciol fuoco,[4]

say the lovers who would describe an unendurable passion.

Misero quod omnes
Eripit sensus mihi. Nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
Quod loquar amens.

  1. As having been petrified by calamity.—Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI, 304. Montaigne adapted the original form of the verb (diriguitque) to his context.
  2. And at last, with difficulty, a passage for words is opened by grief. —Virgil, Æneid, XI, 151.
  3. About 1556. See Paulus Jovius, Historiæ sui Temporis, XXXIX. In 1595, the phraseology of these last sentences was changed somewhat, without changing the sense.
  4. He who can say how he burns is in no hot fire. — Petrarch, Sonnet 137.