ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
Lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
Flamma dimanat, sonitu suopte
Tinniunt aures, gemina teguntur
((b) It is not in the most poignant and penetrating heat of the attack that we are in a fitting state to set forth our lamentations and our persuasions: the mind is then overloaded by intense thought and the body prostrated and languishing with love. (a) Et de la s’engendre parfois la defaillance fortuite, qui surprent les amoureux si hors de saison, et ceste glace qui les saisit, par la force d’une ardeur extreme, au giron mesme de la joüyssance. All passions which suffer themselves to be understood and marshalled in order are but lukewarm.
Curæ leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent.
(b) The surprise of an unhoped-for joy stuns us equally.
Ut me conspexit venientem, et Troia circum
Arma amens vidit, magnis exterrita monstris,
Diriguit visu in medio; calor ossa reliquit;
Labitur, et longo vix tandem tempore fatur.
(a) Besides the Roman woman who died of glad surprise on seeing her son return from the rout of Cannæ, Sophocles and Dionysius the Tyrant who died of joy, and Talva, who died in Corsica on reading the news of the honours which the Roman Senate had bestowed upon him, we learn in our own
- Wretched man that I am, this [delight] deprives me of all my senses; as soon as I look upon thee, Lesbia, I can, in my delirium, utter nothing; my tongue is benumbed; a subtle flame spreads through my veins, my ears ring, darkness covers my eyes. — Catullus, LI, 5.
- Qui se laissent gouster et digerer.
- Light griefs can speak; great ones are dumb. — Seneca, Hippolytus, Act II, sc. 3, v. 607.
- When she beheld me approaching, and saw me surrounded by Trojan arms, she was terror-struck; aghast at the wonder, she fainted at the sight; warmth abandoned her limbs, and she fell; then, after a long time, she spoke with difficulty. — Virgil, Æneid, III, 306.
- These and similar examples of death caused by joy are found collected in many works in Latin of different periods. Montaigne did not take them from their original sources. The “Roman woman” and Dionysius and Diodorus (below) came from Pliny’s Natural History, VII, 54; Sophocles and Talva from Valerius Maximus, IX, 12, ext. 5.