Front Page Titles (by Subject) XX - The Consolation of Philosophy
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XX - Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy [520 AD]
King Alfred’s Version of the Consolations of Boethius. Done into Modern English, with an Introduction by Walter John Sedgefield Litt.D. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900).
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WHEN she had sung this song, Philosophy began to discourse and spake thus: ‘Do not think that I am too stubborn in my fight against Fate; I fear her not myself, for often it happens that deceitful Fate can neither help nor harm a man. She deserveth no praise, seeing that she herself declares her own nothingness, and in making known her ways she bewrayeth her source. Yet I think thou dost not yet understand what I am saying to thee, for that which I am about to tell thee is so wonderful, that I can hardly set it forth in words as I would. Know that to every man Adversity is more profitable than Prosperity. For Prosperity is ever false and deludeth men to believe that she is true happiness; but Adversity is the real happiness, though we may not think so; for she is steadfast, and her promises always come true. Prosperity is false, and betrays all her friends, for by her changefulness she shows forth her fickleness, but Adversity betters and teaches all those to whom she joins herself. Again, Prosperity takes captive the minds of all them that enjoy her with her cozening pretence that she is good, while Adversity unbinds and sets free all those who are subject to her, by revealing to them how perishable this present happiness is. Prosperity rusheth along in gusts like the wind, but Adversity is ever sober and wary, braced by the prompting of her own peril. By her flattery False Happiness in the end irresistibly leadeth them that consort with her away from true happiness, but Adversity as often forcibly leadeth all them that are subject to her to true happiness, even as the fish is taken by the hook. Does this then seem to thee a poor possession and a slight increase of thine happiness, this advantage that grim and awful Adversity bringeth thee, in readily laying bare the minds of thy true friends and also of thy foes, so that thou canst clearly know them apart? But this False Happiness, when she forsakes thee, takes away her followers with her, and leaves thy few trusty friends with thee. What wouldst thou give to be supremely happy and to know that Fate went wholly at thy will? And how much money wouldst give to be able to clearly know friend from foe? Why, I know well thou wouldst give ever so much to be able to distinguish them. Though thou thinkest thyself to have lost things of great price, thou hast bought a thing of more worth, that is, true friends; these thou canst recognize, and their numbers thou knowest. Surely that is the most precious of all possessions.’