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false objects; witness lap-dogs and the like; witness the blows and kicks given by children, and grown-up children, to inanimate things; Witness inane curses. For another class of actions, due to unconscious bewilderment, consider-the tearing of the hair, the beating of the breast, the knocking one’s head against a wall, the defiance of the gods and of Fortune; all the déréglements of our human intelligence.

A GENTLEMAN of our day, who was terribly subject to gout, being urged by his physicians to abstain altogether from salt meats, was wont to reply jocosely that in the paroxysms and torture of the disease, he wanted to have something to lay the blame on; and that, storming and cursing at one time about sausage, at another about tongue, and again about ham, he felt greatly relieved. But in all seriousness, as, when the arm is raised to strike, it annoys us if the blow meets no object but is wasted on the air; and as, to make a view pleasant to the eye, it must not be lost and spread out to the dim horizon, but should have rising ground to limit it within a reasonable distance, —

(b) Ventus ut amittit vires, nisi robore densæ
Occurrant silvæ spatio diffusus inani,[1]

(a) so it would seem that the mind, when disturbed and excited, goes astray of itself, if we do not give it something to lay hold of; and it must always be supplied with some object to seize and work upon. Plutarch says,[2] speaking of those who become attached to monkeys and little dogs, that the affectionate part of us, in this way, for lack of a legitimate object, fashions a false and frivolous one rather than remain useless. And we see that the mind, when most excited, deceives itself, setting up a false and fanciful object, even contrary to its own belief, rather than not act against something. (b) So the anger of wild animals drives them to attack the stone or the spear which has wounded them, and to take vengeance on themselves with their own teeth for the pain they suffer.

  1. As a wind loses its strength, meeting with no opposition from a dense forest, and is dissipated in the void. — Lucan, III, 362.
  2. In the Life of Pericles.