ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
and vehement in persuasion, — or in dissuasion, which were more usual in Socrates, — (b) by which I have allowed myself to be guided so profitably and fortunately, that they might be judged to contain something of divine inspiration.
This Essay was built up from the two examples of escape from danger which made the whole of it in 1580.
The second and third paragraphs, the one beginning “Many very warlike nations,” and the other “Regarding the Scythians,” were inserted in 1595, and break the continuity of thought.
The last sentence was added in 1588, and is one of the indications of Montaigne’s experience as a soldier.
THE rule of firmness and steadiness does not require that we should not protect ourselves, so far as is in our power, from the evils and misfortunes which threaten us, nor, consequently, from the fear of their taking us by surprise. On the contrary, all honourable means of securing ourselves from harm are not only permissible, but praiseworthy. And the character of steadiness is shown mainly by bearing patiently and unshaken the misfortunes for which there is no remedy; so that there is no agility, no motion, which, when armed, we should think ill of, if it serves to ward off the blow about to crush us.
(c) Many very warlike nations use flight in their encounters as their chief means of advantage, and show their backs with more danger to their enemies than their faces. The Turks retain something of this habit, and Socrates, in Plato, makes sport of Laches, who had defined fortitude, “to stand fast in one’s place against the foe.” — “What,” he says, “would it be cowardice, then, to beat them by giving way?” And he cites Homer, who praises Æneas for skill in flight. And because Laches, on further consideration, admits the existence of such a custom among the Scythians, and indeed generally among all peoples that fight on horseback, he cites further the example of the Lacedæmonian
- Et le jeu de la constance se joue.
- See Laches.