The Consolation of Philosophy



CH. I. The mystery of the seeming moral confusion. Philosophy

engages to make this plain, and to fulfil her former promise to the

full.--CH. II. Accordingly, (a) she first expounds the paradox that

the good alone have power, the bad are altogether powerless.--CH.

III. (b) The righteous never lack their reward, nor the wicked

their punishment.--CH. IV. (c) The wicked are more unhappy when

they accomplish their desires than when they fail to attain them.

(d) Evil-doers are more fortunate when they expiate their crimes by

suffering punishment than when they escape unpunished. (e) The

wrong-doer is more wretched than he who suffers injury.--CH. V.

Boethius still cannot understand why the distribution of happiness

and misery to the righteous and the wicked seems the result of

chance. Philosophy replies that this only seems so because we do

not understand the principles of God's moral governance.--CH. VI.

The distinction of Fate and Providence. The apparent moral

confusion is due to our ignorance of the secret counsels of God's

providence. If we possessed the key, we should see how all things

are guided to good.--CH. VII. Thus all fortune is good fortune; for

it either rewards, disciplines, amends, or punishes, and so is

either useful or just.



Softly and sweetly Philosophy sang these verses to the end without losing aught of the dignity of her expression or the seriousness of her tones; then, forasmuch as I was as yet unable to forget my deeply-seated sorrow, just as she was about to say something further, I broke in and cried: 'O thou guide into the way of true light, all that thy voice hath uttered from the beginning even unto now has manifestly seemed to me at once divine contemplated in itself, and by the force of thy arguments placed beyond the possibility of overthrow. Moreover, these truths have not been altogether unfamiliar to me heretofore, though because of indignation at my wrongs they have for a time been forgotten. But, lo! herein is the very chiefest cause of my grief--that, while there exists a good ruler of the universe, it is possible that evil should be at all, still more that it should go unpunished. Surely thou must see how deservedly this of itself provokes astonishment. But a yet greater marvel follows: While wickedness reigns and flourishes, virtue not only lacks its reward, but is even thrust down and trampled under the feet of the wicked, and suffers punishment in the place of crime. That this should happen under the rule of a God who knows all things and can do all things, but wills only the good, cannot be sufficiently wondered at nor sufficiently lamented.'

Then said she: 'It would indeed be infinitely astounding, and of all monstrous things most horrible, if, as thou esteemest, in the well-ordered home of so great a householder, the base vessels should be held in honour, the precious left to neglect. But it is not so. For if we hold unshaken those conclusions which we lately reached, thou shall learn that, by the will of Him of whose realm we are speaking, the good are always strong, the bad always weak and impotent; that vices never go unpunished, nor virtues unrewarded; that good fortune ever befalls the good, and ill fortune the bad, and much more of the sort, which shall hush thy murmurings, and stablish thee in the strong assurance of conviction. And since by my late instructions thou hast seen the form of happiness, hast learnt, too, the seat where it is to be found, all due preliminaries being discharged, I will now show thee the road which will lead thee home. Wings, also, will I fasten to thy mind wherewith thou mayst soar aloft, that so, all disturbing doubts removed, thou mayst return safe to thy country, under my guidance, in the path I will show thee, and by the means which I furnish.'