The Consolation of Philosophy


Who on power sets his aim,

First must his own spirit tame;

He must shun his neck to thrust

'Neath th' unholy yoke of lust.

For, though India's far-off land

Bow before his wide command,

Utmost Thule homage pay--

If he cannot drive away

Haunting care and black distress,

In his power, he's powerless.


'Again, how misleading, how base, a thing ofttimes is glory! Well does the tragic poet exclaim:

'"Oh, fond Repute, how many a time and oft

Hast them raised high in pride the base-born churl!"

For many have won a great name through the mistaken beliefs of the multitude--and what can be imagined more shameful than that? Nay, they who are praised falsely must needs themselves blush at their own praises! And even when praise is won by merit, still, how does it add to the good conscience of the wise man who measures his good not by popular repute, but by the truth of inner conviction? And if at all it does seem a fair thing to get this same renown spread abroad, it follows that any failure so to spread it is held foul. But if, as I set forth but now, there must needs be many tribes and peoples whom the fame of any single man cannot reach, it follows that he whom thou esteemest glorious seems all inglorious in a neighbouring quarter of the globe. As to popular favour, I do not think it even worthy of mention in this place, since it never cometh of judgment, and never lasteth steadily.

'Then, again, who does not see how empty, how foolish, is the fame of noble birth? Why, if the nobility is based on renown, the renown is another's! For, truly, nobility seems to be a sort of reputation coming from the merits of ancestors. But if it is the praise which brings renown, of necessity it is they who are praised that are famous. Wherefore, the fame of another clothes thee not with splendour if thou hast none of thine own. So, if there is any excellence in nobility of birth, methinks it is this alone--that it would seem to impose upon the nobly born the obligation not to degenerate from the virtue of their ancestors.'