THE HOUR OF PARLEYS IS A DANGEROUS TIME
Again we have consideration of the principles of warfare; the first paragraph more interesting than before because concerned with conditions that occurred in 1569, the siege of the little village of Mussidan in Montaigne’s immediate neighbourhood. Montaigne, it has been observed, disclaims with covert irony the accusation of treason brought against the besieging royalists. In another century, he admits, there might have been some colour in the accusation, but in the present one, “Our ways are entirely unlike former rules of conduct, and we should not expect to place confidence in one another until the last pledge of engagement has been given.”
Later paragraphs narrate other sixteenth-century incidents. Originally the Essay consisted chiefly of these; the classical illustrations were added in 1595.
There are two little personal touches, both expressive of moral feeling. “I am surprised,” he says, “at the extension Xenophon gives these privileges [of war] … and I do not accede to the measure of his dispensation in all things and everywhere” (1595).
On a later page he quotes, in 1580, Ariosto’s lines,
Fu il vincer sempre mai laudabil cosa,
Vincast o per fortuna o per ingegno, —
remarking: “But the philosopher Chrysippus would not have been of that opinion”; in 1588 he added, “and I as little.”
TO continue, I saw lately in my neighbourhood, at Mussidan, that those whom our army expelled thence by force, and also others of their party, cried out on treachery because, during the negotiations and while the parleying was still going on, they had been surprised and cut to pieces — a point of view which might perchance have been reasonable in another age. But, as I Just said, our ways are entirely unlike former rules of conduct, and we should not expect to place confidence in one another until the last pledge of engagement has been given; even then there is enough to look after.
(c) It has always been a dangerous decision to entrust to the unbridled liberty of a victorious army the observance of the faith pledged to a city which has surrendered on mild
- Mussidan was besieged in April, 1569. See de Thou, History, V.