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their leg to trip him.[1] (b) And even more magnanimously that great Alexander replied to Polypercon, who was urging him to make use of the advantage that the darkness of the night gave him to attack Darius: “No, far be it from me to seek victories by stealth; malo me fortunæ pæniteat quam victoriæ pudeat.”[2]

Atque idem fugientem haud est dignatus Orodem
Sternere nec jacta cæcum dare cuspide vulnus:
Obvius adversoque occurrit, seque viro vir
Contulit, haud furto melior, sed fortibus armis.[3]



The central passage of this Essay, that beginning “We can not be held responsible beyond our strength and our resources,” expresses the thought that it is not the actual result of our actions but what we desire should be the result — our intentions — that is to be judged by the laws of duty. It is a comment on the title.

Stories precede and follow it; the subject of the first is the effect of our death, or other involuntary circumstances, on our promises and pledges. This tragedy was a recent event (1568) when Montaigne was writing, and it made a great sensation. But the special point on which Montaigne dwells — the entreaty of Count Egmont — is mentioned in no account of the event. M. Villey says: “Je crois que Montaigne tient ce fait de la tradition orale. ... Montaigne est ici, probablement, la première source à laquelle nous puissions nous réfèrer.”

Guillaume Bouchet in his “Serees”’ (1597), says: “La Montagne recite du Comte d’Aiguemont” the above fact.

The second story notes the insufficiency of the justice we may do, and the iniquity of the injustice we may do after our death.

  1. See Cicero, De Off., III, 10.
  2. I would rather have a misfortune to regret than a victory that should cause me shame. — Quintus Curtius, IV, 13; Plutarch, Life of Alexander.
  3. And he did not deign to attack Orodes as he fled, nor to wound him from behind with a throw of his lance; he ran in front of him, meeting him face to face, and fought man against man, conquering, not by stealth, but by force of arms. — Virgil, Æneid, X, 732.