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ΝΗΦΑΛΙοΝ ΣϒΜΠοΣΙοΝ. The SOBER FEAST. - Desiderius Erasmus, The Colloquies vol. 2 
The Colloquies of Erasmus. Translated by Nathan Bailey. Edited with Notes, by the Rev. E. Johnson, M.A. (London: Reeves and Turner, 1878). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Colloquies 2 vols.
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ΝΗΦΑΛΙοΝ ΣϒΜΠοΣΙοΝ. The SOBER FEAST.
The Sober Feast produces Symbols (Motto’s, Devices) learned Arguments, and other curious Things. The Patience of Phocion. The Justice of Aristides, who was forced away (from his own Country) by the Ostracism: His great Patience. Socrates, a very patient Man. The Way of overcoming Injuries. The Patience of Cato. How Diogenes avenged himself upon an Enemy. The Saying of Phocion, when he had defended a wicked Man by his Patrociny. Demochares, the Nephew of Demosthenes, treats Philip of Macedon unhandsomly. The Way of getting a good Name. The witty Answer of a certain Laconian Damsel, when she was selling in an Auction. The Moderation of Philip of Macedon, when three great Felicities befel him upon one and the same Day.
ALBERT, BARTHOLINE, CHARLES, DENNIS, ÆMILIUS, FRANCIS, GYRALDUS, JEROM, JAMES, LAURENCE.
Did you ever, in your Life, see any Thing more pleasant than this Garden?
I scarce think that there is a pleasanter Spot of Ground in all the fortunate Islands.
I can’t but fancy myself viewing that Paradise that God plac’d Adam in.
Even a Nestor or a Priamus might grow young again, if they were here.
Nay, if a Man was dead, it would fetch him to Life again.
If it was possible I would add to your Hyperbole.
Upon my Word, all Things look wonderful Pleasant.
In short, this Garden ought to be dedicated with a drinking Match.
Our James speaks much to the Purpose.
This Place has been formerly initiated with such Ceremonies. But I would have you observe by the Way, that I have nothing here to make you a Dinner, except you’ll be content with a Collation without Wine. I’ll treat you with Lettices without either Salt, Vinegar, or Oil; here’s not a Drop of Wine, but what flows out of this Fountain. I have here neither Bread (to eat with the Sallad) nor Cup (to drink out of.) And the Season of the Year is such, that it is more proper for feeding the Eyes than the Belly.
But I suppose you have gotten playing Tables, or Bowls, we’ll dedicate the Garden with Playing, if we can’t with Feasting.
Since there is such a Set of jolly Fellows of us met together, I have something to propose, as to the Consecration of the Garden, that, I am of Opinion, you’ll confess is far before either Gaming or Banquetting.
Let every one furnish his Quota, and I dare engage we shall have a noble and delicate Feast.
What can we furnish, that are come hither unprovided?
Unprovided, who have your Intellectuals so well furnished!
We long to hear what you would be at.
Let every one produce the neatest Observation, that his Week’s Reading has furnished him with.
Very well proposed; nothing can be more agreeable to such Guests, such an Entertainment, and such a Place. Do you begin, we’ll all follow you.
If you agree to it, I won’t stick out. I was mightily pleased to Day to find so Christian-like a Sentence in a Man who was no Christian; it was that of Phocion, a Man, than whom there was not a more divine one, nor more regardful of the publick Utility in all Athens. When he had been invidiously sentenc’d to Death, and was about to drink his Poison, being ask’d by his Friends, what Message he had to send to his Children; he answered, he only requir’d of them, that they would ever banish this Injury out of their Memories.
You will scarce find an Example of such notable Patience amongst either the Dominicans or Franciscans. And I’ll present you with one Instance that is something like this, tho’ it does not come up to it. Aristides was very like Phocion for Integrity, so that the common People gave him the Surname of the Just; which Appellation raised him so much Envy, that this good Man, that deserv’d so well of the Common-Wealth, was banish’d for ten Years from his native Country. When he understood that the People was offended at nothing but that Appellation, tho’ that had always been to their Advantage, he patiently submitted. Being in Banishment, his Friends asking him what Punishment he wish’d to the ungrateful City, he reply’d, I wish them nothing, but so much Prosperity, that they may never once remember Aristides.
I wonder that Christians are not asham’d of themselves, that are in a Rage upon the Occasion of every trifling Affront, and will have Revenge, cost it what it will. The whole Life of Socrates, in my Opinion, is but one continued Example of Temperance and Patience. And that I may not be scot-free, I’ll mention one Instance that pleases me above the rest. As he was going along the King’s Highway, a saucy Fellow hit him a Slap on the Face; Socrates said nothing to him, but his Friends that were with him, advised him to be reveng’d on him. To which he reply’d, What would you have me do to him? They reply’d, Arrest him in an Action of Assault and Battery. A foolish Story indeed, says he; What, says he, suppose an Ass had given me a Kick, must I sue him upon the same Action, and subpœna you for Evidences of the Injury offered? intimating, that that saucy Fellow was no better than an Ass; and that it was the Part of a mean Soul, not to be able to bear such an Affront from a Numb’d-Skull, as he would from a brute Animal.
The Roman History is not so well stored with Instances of Moderation, nor so remarkable; for in my Opinion, he does not deserve the Praise of Moderation, that strenuously labours to bring haughty Persons under Subjection, and then spares them when they are in his Power: But yet I think it deserves to be related, what Cato the Elder said, when Lentulus spit in his Face, and threw Snot in it. He said nothing to him but this, Hereafter I shall have an Answer ready for them that shall say, you are a Man that have no Mouth (Os) for the Latins us’d to say, that he that has no Shame in him, has no Os; so that the Joke depends upon the double Meaning of Os (which signifies the Mouth and the Countenance.)
One Man is pleas’d with one Thing, and another with another. But among Diogenes’s Sayings, which are all excellent ones, none charms me more than the Answer he made to one that ask’d him, What was the best Way to be revenged on an Enemy? Says he, By approving yourself an honest good Man. I can’t but admire how so divine a Thought could ever come into his Mind. And, methinks, the Saying of Aristotle is agreeable to St. Paul’s Notion; who being ask’d by a certain Person, What Advantage his Philosophy afforded him, answered him, That by Reason of it, he did those Things voluntarily, which other Persons did by Constraint, and for Fear of the Law: For St. Paul teaches, that those that are endued with the Love of Christ, are not under the Subjection of the Law, in that they do more of their own Accord, than the Law can influence them to do for Fear of Punishment.
Our Saviour, when the Jews murmured against him, because he had Communion at the Table with Publicans and Sinners, answered them, The whole have not need of a Physician, but those that are sick. That which Phocion in Plutarch wittily answer’d, when he was reprehended because he had patronized a Person infamous, and of an ill Character, is not very different from this: Why should I not, says he, when no good Man stands in Need of such a Patronage?
That is a Pattern of Christian Goodness, and according to the Example of God himself, to do Good both to good and bad, as much as may be; For he causes his Sun to shine upon the just and unjust. And perhaps an Example of Moderation in a King will be more admirable. When Demochares, the Nephew of Demosthenes, was sent Ambassador to Philip King of Macedon; and having obtain’d of him what he desired, being about to have his Audience of Leave, was courteously ask’d by the King, if there was any Thing else he requested of him; he answered, Yes, that he would hang himself. This unhandsome Answer was an Argument of Hatred: He to whom this Affront was offered was a King, and a worthy one too; but for all that, he did not fall into a Passion, but only turning to the Ambassador’s Retinue, said, Do you report this to the People of Athens, and then let them judge, which has the greater Soul of the two, I who heard this patiently, or he who spoke it saucily. Where are now our Monarchs, who think themselves equal to the Gods themselves; and for a single Word spoken over a Glass of Wine, will immediately wage War?
The Thirst of Glory is very impetuous, and many are carry’d away by the Violence of it. One of that Number put the Question to Socrates, Which was the shortest Way to get a good Reputation? To whom he answer’d, If you shall behave yourself like such an one as you would be accounted to be.
In Troth I don’t know what could be said more concisely and to the Purpose. A good Name is not to be obtain’d by wishing for, but is a Concomitant of Virtue, as Infamy is of Improbity. You have been admiring of Men; but the Laconian Maid charm’d me, who being to be sold at a Sale, the Person who was to buy her, came to her, and ask’d her, If I buy you, will you be honest? She answered, Yes, I will, whether you buy me or not; intimating, that she retain’d an Affection to Honesty, not upon the Account of any other Person, but was honest of her own Inclination, and upon this Notion, that Virtue was its own Reward.
A very manly Saying, indeed, for a Maid! But after all, this, in my Opinion, is an Example of Constancy against Fortune, flattering to the utmost Degree; That when three extraordinary Felicities were related to Philip of Macedon on the same Day; That he had won the Prize in the Olympic Games, that his General Parmenio had overcome the Dardans in a Battle, and that his Wife Olympia was brought to Bed of a Son; lifting his Hands up to Heaven, he pray’d that God would be pleas’d that so mighty a Prosperity might be expiated by a small Adversity.
Now-a-Days there is no Prosperity so great, that any one fears the Invidiousness of Fortune; but is so puffed up, if any good Luck happens to him, as if Nemesis were either dead, or at least deaf. Well, if you like this Dinner, this Garden shall entertain you as often as you will, since you have consecrated it with this Conversation, that is no less pleasant than profitable.
In short, Apitius himself could not have furnish’d a more dainty Entertainment; so that if you like what we have brought, you may depend upon our Company often, which Things indeed are not worth your hearing, but are such as came into our Minds without any Premeditation: But when we have Time to think before-Hand, we’ll afford you something more exquisite.
You shall be so much the more welcome.