Front Page Titles (by Subject) XXX - The Consolation of Philosophy
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XXX - 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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P. 73. WHEN Philosophy had sung this stave she began again to make a discourse, and said: ‘Very unseemly and very false is the glory of this world; and of this a poet once sang, and in his contempt for this present life said, “O worldly glory, why do foolish men falsely call thee glory, when such thou art not?” For men’s great fame and glory and honour are owing more to the belief of the foolish crowd than to their own deserving. Now tell me, what can be more perverse than this, and why are not men rather ashamed than glad of such things when they hear men speaking falsely about them? Though a good man be rightly praised, and truly spoken of, yet he must not for all that rejoice too unboundedly in what the people say of him; still, he may be glad that they speak the truth of him. Though he may rejoice in that they spread his fame, yet is it not so widely spread as he supposes, for they cannot spread it far and wide over the whole earth, though they may over certain countries. For though he be praised by some men, yet he will be without praise among others; though in one land famous, he will not be famous in another. Therefore is the applause of the people to be held as nothing, since it comes not to every man by his deserving, nor yet remains with him always. Again, consider first as to high birth: if a man boast thereof, what a vain and unprofitable thing his boast is, for every one knows that all men are come of one father and one mother. Or again, as to people’s applause and praise: I do not know why we take pleasure in it. Though they be famous whom the people praise, yet are they more famous and more rightly praised that are made honourable by virtues, for no man is by right the more famous and praiseworthy by reason of another’s goodness and virtues, if he himself possess them not. Art thou the fairer for another’s fair looks? A man is very little the better for having a good father, if he himself have nothing in him. Wherefore my teaching is that thou shouldst rejoice in the goodness and high heritage of other men so far as not to take it for thine own, for a man’s goodness and high heritage are rather of the mind than of the flesh. The only good I know in being highly born is that many a man is ashamed to become worse than his elders were, and therefore endeavours with all his might to attain to the gifts and virtues of one among the best of them.’
When Philosophy had finished this speech she began to sing concerning the same matters, and said: ‘Lo! all men had the like beginning, coming from one father and one mother, and they are still brought forth alike. This is not wonderful, for one God is the Father of all creatures; He made them and ruleth them all. He giveth the sun his light, and to the moon hers, and ordereth all the stars. He created men on earth, bringing souls and bodies together in His might, and in the beginning created all men of like birth. Why then do ye men pride yourselves above others without cause for your high birth, seeing ye can find no man but is high-born, and all men are of like birth, if ye will but bethink you of their beginning and their Creator, and also the manner of birth of each among you? Now true high birth is of the mind, not of the flesh, as we have said before, and every man that is utterly given over to vices forsaketh his Creator, and his origin, and his noble birth, and then loseth rank till he be of low degree.’
[P. 73. ]O worldly glory, &c. This is an incorrect rendering of a Greek quotation. It may be mentioned that the Greek quotations in the Latin MSS. of the De Consolatione suffered in transcription.