Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF VIRTUE AND VICE. - The Morals, vol. 2
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OF VIRTUE AND VICE. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 2 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 2.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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OF VIRTUE AND VICE.
1. It is apparent that clothes make a man warm, not by warming him themselves or by imparting heat to him (for every garment is of itself cold, which is the reason that we see those that are very hot and in a fever often shifting and changing one thing for another), but what heat a man exhales out of himself, that the garment lying close to his body keeps together and contracts, and when it hath driven it inward, it will not suffer it again to dissipate. This being the very case of external affairs too, it is this that cheats vulgar heads, by making them think that, if they might but enclose themselves in great houses and heap together abundance of slaves and riches, they might then live to their own minds. But an agreeable and gay life is not to be found without us; on the contrary, it is man that out of his own temper, as out of a spring, adds pleasure and gayety to the things about him:
The house looks merrier when the fire burns.
And wealth is the more agreeable, and fame and power the more resplendent, when they have the joy of the mind to accompany them; since we see how that through a mild and tame disposition men can bear poverty, banishment, and old age easily and sweetly.
2. For as odors perfume threadbare coats and poor rags, while Prince Anchises’s ulcer sent forth a loathsome purulence,
When the foul tent dript on his purple robe,
even so every state and condition of life, if accompanied with virtue, is undisturbed and delightful. But when vice is intermixed, it renders even the things that appear splendid, sumptuous, and magnificent most distasteful, nauseous, and unacceptable to the possessors.
Though one may without any great difficulty get rid of a wicked cross-grained wife, if he be but a man and not a slave. But a man cannot write a bill of divorce to his vice, and thereby free himself from further trouble, and procure his own repose by living apart; but it still cohabits with him, and dwells in his very bowels, and cleaves to him both by night and by day;
It burns without a torch, and hastens crude old age,*
being through its vain glory a burthensome fellow-traveller, and through its voracity a chargeable table-companion, and a troublesome bed-fellow by breaking and spoiling one’s sleep at night with cares, anxieties, and surmises. For when he does sleep his body is indeed at rest and quiet, but his mind is through superstition in terrors, dreams, and frights.
saith one; just thus envy, fear, anger, and lust affect us. For by day-time our vice, by looking abroad and fashioning herself to the manner of others, grows shamefaced, and finds herself obliged to mask her own disorders, and does not yield herself up wholly to her appetites, but oftentimes resists and struggles with them. But in times of sleep, when it escapes both the opinions of men and the laws, and is at the remotest distance from awe and respect, it stirs every desire, and raises up its malignity and lewdness. For it attempts (as Plato speaks) the embraces of a mother, it purveys unlawful meats, and refrains from no sort of action, enjoying villany, as far as it is practicable, in shades and phantoms, that end in no real pleasure or accomplishment of desire, but have only power to stir up and enrage disorders and distempers.
3. Where then is the pleasure of vice, if there be nowhere to be found either freedom from care or exemption from trouble, or satisfaction or undisturbedness or repose? A sound complexion and good health of body give indeed both place and birth to the flesh’s pleasures; but there cannot be engendered a gayety and cheerfulness in the mind, unless undauntedness, assurance, or an immovable serenity be the foundation. Nay, if some hope or satisfaction should simper a little, this would be soon puddled and disturbed by some sudden eruption of care, like a smooth sea by a rock.
4. Heap up gold, gather together silver, raise up walks, fill your house with slaves and the town with debtors; if you do not appease the disorders of your own mind, and stint your unsatiable desire, and deliver yourself from fears and cares, you do but rack wine for a man in a fever, and administer honey to a man disturbed with bile, and prepare meat and good cheer for people that have the flux or gripes, who can neither retain it nor be strengthened by it, but are over and above spoiled by it. Do you not see how sick persons loathe, spit out, and refuse the finest and most costly meats, though they be proffered and forced upon them; and how again, when their complexion alters, and good spirits, sweet blood, and a connatural heat are engendered, they get up and gladly and willingly eat brown bread, cheese, and cresses? Such a disposition as this is it that reason works in the mind. And you will have sufficiency, if you will but learn what a notable and generous mind is. You will live luxuriously in poverty, and be a prince; and you will be as much in love with a vacant and private life as with that of a general or king. If you once apply to philosophy, you will never live without pleasure, but you will learn to be everywhere pleased, and with every thing. You will be pleased with wealth for making you beneficial to many, and with poverty for not having much to care for; with fame for being honored, and with obscurity for being unenvied.
[* ]Hesiod, Works and Days, 705.