The Consolation of Philosophy



CH. I. Boethius beseeches Philosophy to continue. She promises to

lead him to true happiness.--CH. II. Happiness is the one end which

all created beings seek. They aim variously at (_a_) wealth, or

(_b_) rank, or (_c_) sovereignty, or (_d_) glory, or (_e_)

pleasure, because they think thereby to attain either (_a_)

contentment, (_b_) reverence, (_c_) power, (_d_) renown, or (_e_)

gladness of heart, in one or other of which they severally imagine

happiness to consist.--CH. III. Philosophy proceeds to consider

whether happiness can really be secured in any of these ways, (_a_)

So far from bringing contentment, riches only add to men's

wants.--CH. IV. (_b_) High position cannot of itself win respect.

Titles command no reverence in distant and barbarous lands. They

even fall into contempt through lapse of time.--CH. V. (_c_)

Sovereignty cannot even bestow safety. History tells of the

downfall of kings and their ministers. Tyrants go in fear of their

lives. --CH. VI. (_d_) Fame conferred on the unworthy is but

disgrace. The splendour of noble birth is not a man's own, but his

ancestors'.--CH. VII. (_e_) Pleasure begins in the restlessness of

desire, and ends in repentance. Even the pure pleasures of home may

turn to gall and bitterness.--CH. VIII. All fail, then, to give

what they promise. There is, moreover, some accompanying evil

involved in each of these aims. Beauty and bodily strength are

likewise of little worth. In strength man is surpassed by the

brutes; beauty is but outward show.--CH. IX. The source of men's

error in following these phantoms of good is that _they break up

and separate that which is in its nature one and indivisible_.

Contentment, power, reverence, renown, and joy are essentially

bound up one with the other, and, if they are to be attained at

all, must be attained _together_. True happiness, if it can be

found, will include them all. But it cannot be found among the

perishable things hitherto considered.--CH. X. Such a happiness

necessarily exists. Its seat is in God. Nay, God is very happiness,

and in a manner, therefore, the happy man partakes also of the

Divine nature. All other ends are relative to this good, since they

are all pursued only for the sake of good; it is _good_ which is

the sole ultimate end. And since the sole end is also happiness, it

is plain that this good and happiness are in essence the same.--CH.

XI. Unity is another aspect of goodness. Now, all things subsist so

long only as they preserve the unity of their being; when they lose

this unity, they perish. But the bent of nature forces all things

(plants and inanimate things, as well as animals) to strive to

continue in life. Therefore, all things desire unity, for unity is

essential to life. But unity and goodness were shown to be the

same. Therefore, good is proved to be the end towards which the

whole universe tends.[E]--CH. XII. Boethius acknowledges that he is

but recollecting truths he once knew. Philosophy goes on to show

that it is goodness also by which the whole world is governed.[F]

Boethius professes compunction for his former folly. But the

paradox of evil is introduced, and he is once more perplexed.


[E] This solves the second of the points left in doubt at the end of bk. i., ch. vi.

[F] This solves the third. No distinct account is given of the first, but an answer may be gathered from the general argument of bks. ii., iii., and iv.



She ceased, but I stood fixed by the sweetness of the song in wonderment and eager expectation, my ears still strained to listen. And then after a little I said: 'Thou sovereign solace of the stricken soul, what refreshment hast thou brought me, no less by the sweetness of thy singing than by the weightiness of thy discourse! Verily, I think not that I shall hereafter be unequal to the blows of Fortune. Wherefore, I no longer dread the remedies which thou saidst were something too severe for my strength; nay, rather, I am eager to hear of them and call for them with all vehemence.'

Then said she: 'I marked thee fastening upon my words silently and intently, and I expected, or--to speak more truly--I myself brought about in thee, this state of mind. What now remains is of such sort that to the taste indeed it is biting, but when received within it turns to sweetness. But whereas thou dost profess thyself desirous of hearing, with what ardour wouldst thou not burn didst thou but perceive whither

it is my task to lead thee!'

'Whither?' said I.

'To true felicity,' said she, 'which even now thy spirit sees in dreams, but cannot behold in very truth, while thine eyes are engrossed with semblances.'

Then said I: 'I beseech thee, do thou show to me her true shape without a moment's loss.'

'Gladly will I, for thy sake,' said she. 'But first I will try to sketch in words, and describe a cause which is more familiar to thee, that, when thou hast viewed this carefully, thou mayst turn thy eyes the other way, and recognise the beauty of true happiness.'