BECK index

by Boethius

Book III

1. Philosophy Promises Happiness
I. "Whoever Wants to Plant"
2. The Highest Good
II. "How Many Reins of Things"
3. Wealth and Need
III. "Although Rich"
4. Positions and Respect
IV. "However Much the Arrogant Nero"
5. Royalty and Power
V. "Whoever Wishes Oneself to be Powerful"
6. Glory and Nobility
VI. "The Birth of Every Person on Earth"
7. Pleasures and Family
VII. "Every Pleasure Has This"
8. False Motives to Happiness
VIII. "Alas, What Ignorance Leads Away"
9. The Unity of True Good
IX. "O You Who Rule the Universe"
10. God is the Good and Happiness
X. "Come Here Equally All the Caught"
11. Everything Seeks the Good
XI. "Whoever with a Deep Mind"
12. God Guides All by Goodness
XII. "Happy, the One Who Can See"

She had already finished the song,
while the soothing of the poetry bewitched me
eager and amazed with the ears of listening still roused.
And so after a moment I said,
"O highest solace of tired spirits, how you have revived me
either by the weight of the sentences
or else by the delight of the singing,
so much that now after this
I should not think myself
to be unequal to the blows of fortune!
And so not only am I not trembling at the remedies
which you were saying are a little sharper,
but quite eager of hearing I urgently demand it."

Then she said, "I sensed it,
when silent and attentive you seized upon our words,
and either I was waiting for that condition of your mind
or, what is more true, I caused it;
such are certainly the ones which remain
though in fact biting to the taste,
yet taken inside they should become sweet.
But because you mention your desire of hearing,
in how much ardor would you be blazing
if you recognized where I am undertaking to lead you!"

"Where?" I asked.

"To true happiness," she said,
"about which your soul dreams too,
but in being busy near the images
the sight cannot look at that itself."

Then I said, "Do it, I implore,
and explain what that truth may be without delay."

"I'll do so," she said, "for your sake gladly;
but what is better known to you,
before that I'll try to sketch and define in words,
so that from this perspective
when you have turned your eyes on the opposite side
you may be able to recognize the form of true happiness.

"Whoever wants to plant the native land
first clears the fields from bushes,
cuts back with a sickle brambles and the fern,
so that Ceres may go heavy under new fruit.

"The labor of the bees is all the more sweeter
if previously the mouth should eat a bad taste.
Stars shine with more grace where the south wind
has ceased to bring rainy sounds.
As soon as the lightbringer has pushed away the shadows
the beautiful day drives the rosy horses.

"You too having looked on false good previously
begin to draw back your neck from the yoke:
truths next will come to the soul."

Then under concentrated sight for a short moment
and just as she got back into the majestic seat of her mind
she began as follows:
"Every care of mortals
which the labor of various studies exercises
advances in fact by a different path,
but it is striving to reach
all the same toward the one end of happiness.

"Now the good is that in which
anyone in having attained it
should be able to desire nothing further.
Which in fact is the highest of all goods
and containing all goods within itself;
in which if anything is missing it could not be the highest,
since something is left outside that could be wished for.
Then it is clear that happiness is a state
perfected by the union of all goods.

"This, as we said, by a different trail
all mortals are trying to attain;
for there is inserted in human minds by nature
desire of the true good,
but devious error leads them away to the false.

"Some of them in fact are believing
the highest good is to need nothing,
so that they work hard for abundant riches,
while others the good they depend on is
what may be most worthy of respecting
judging by veneration for their civic honors attained.

"There are some who decide that the highest good
is in the highest power;
these either wish to rule themselves
or they try to adhere to the ones ruling.
And these for whom a certain celebrity seems best
hurry to propagate a glorious name
either by the arts of war or peace.

"While most measure the fruit of the good
by enjoyment and delight;
these think it happiest to melt away in pleasure.
There are even some who exchange
the aims and causes of these one with the other,
as those who desire riches
for the sake of power and pleasures
or who seek power whether for the purpose of money
or of publishing a name.

"In these then and others like them
human motives and the intention of prayers are engaged
such as nobility and popular favor,
which seem to provide some distinction,
wife and children, which are sought for the charm of delight;
while of friends the kind which is in fact most sacred
is not to be counted in fortune but in virtue,
while what is left is taken
either for the purpose of power or of amusement.

"Then truly it is evident that the body's goods
may be ascribed to the ones above;
for strength and size seem to be better for vigor,
beauty and speed for celebrity, health for pleasure.

"By all these happiness alone is clearly desired;
for what each aims at before the rest
one judges it to be the highest good.
But we have defined the highest good to be happiness;
therefore one judges to be a happy state
what everyone desires before the rest.

"Then you have before your eyes almost
the proposed form of human happiness:
wealth, honors, power, glory, pleasure.
Considering these in fact alone Epicurus accordingly
determined for himself the highest good to be pleasure,
because all others seemed to bring enjoyment to the soul.

"But to return to human inclinations,
their soul even though memory is fading
nevertheless goes back to the highest good,
but like a drunk doesn't know on which trail to return home.

"Surely these do not seem to err
who are striving to need nothing?
Yet there is nothing else which could complete happiness
as well as the plentiful situation of all goods
and not needing of another but providing for oneself.

"While surely these are not wavering
who may think what is best
may also be most worthy of respect by the cultivated?
Not at all; nor is it something being disparaged by the poor
because the intention of almost all mortals
labors to attain it.

"Or is power not being counted among the good?
Why then, surely it is not valued as weak and without force
what of all things is agreed to be pre-eminent?
Or is distinction being thought of as nothing?
But it cannot follow but that
what may be most excellent to all
it also seems to be most distinguished.

"For what is important to say is that
happiness is not troubled and sad
nor is it subject to sorrows and annoyances,
since in the smallest things too is it not trying to get
what is a delight to have and enjoy?

"Yet these are what humans wish to attain
and for this reason they desire
riches, positions, domains, glory and pleasures
because through these they believe
sufficiency, respect, power, celebrity, joy
may be coming to them.

"It is the good then that humans seek
by such different pursuits;
it is easily demonstrated
how much strength of nature may be in that,
since in spite of various and disagreeing opinions
all the same they agree on the goal
in the choosing of the good.

"How many reins of things
powerful nature may turn, by which laws
providence serves the immeasurable world
and may draw together tying it tight
by a single bond, it is pleasing to produce
melodious music with lingering lyres.

"Although the Punic lions may wear
beautiful chains and may try to catch
food given by hands and may fear
the savage master to bear the lashes of custom,
if blood soaks their shaggy mouth,
once idle spirits return
and by serious roaring to remember themselves,
they undo the knots freeing the neck
and first torn by their bloody teeth
the tamer wets the raving anger.

"The babbling bird which sings on high branches
is confined in a hollow cage;
in this it is allowed a bedaubed cup of honey
and ample meals with sweet affection
the playing care of humans supply;
yet if leaping from the restricted web
it should see the welcome shadows of forests,
having scattered it with its feet it tramples the food,
it misses the woods with so much sadness,
it murmurs for the woods in a sweet voice.

"Once driven downward by strong forces
the tree-top twig bends;
if arching the right hand releases this,
as an upright pole it faces the sky.

"The sun falls into the western waves,
but by a secret trail back
it turns the car toward the usual risings.

"All go back to their own recourse
and are pleased by their individual return,
nor does the entrusted order stay with any
unless that has joined the rising with the end
and has made its orbit steady.

"You too, o terrestrial creatures, although poor
imagine nevertheless your beginning in dreams
and you perceive that true goal of happiness
though in the least sharp awareness all the same,
and by it natural intention leads you both to true good
and manifold error leads away from the same.

"Consider for example whether through these
by which humans think they may attain happiness
they will be able to arrive at the determined goal.
For if either money or honors and the rest of such
bring that to someone who seems to lack none of the goods,
let us also acknowledge that
some do become happy by the attainment of these.
But if they are not able to accomplish what they promise
and are missing many goods,
clearly is not a false pretense of happiness caught in them?

"First then you yourself,
who a little before was abundant with riches I ask:
during that most abundant wealth
did anxiety never confuse your spirit
out of any concept of injustice?"

"Yes," I said, "I cannot remember in my spirit
ever to have been free but that there was some distress."

"Was it not because either
what you were not wishing to be missing was missing
or what you did not wish to be present was present?"

"It is so," I said.

"Then were you desiring the presence of the former
and the absence of the latter?"

"I admit it," I said.

"Is everyone really," she asked,
"in want of what one desires?"

"Everyone is in want," I said.

"While the one who is in want of something at every moment
is not providing for oneself."

"Not at all," I said.

"And so you full of this insufficiency," she asked,
"were you supported by wealth?"

"Of course not," I said.

"Then wealth could do nothing for need and sufficiency,
and this was what it seemed to promise.
Yet this too I am especially thinking of considering
that money may have nothing in its own nature
so that from these by whom it is possessed
it could not be carried off against their will."

"I acknowledge it," I said.

"Why not acknowledge it, since any day
someone stronger may rob it against one's will?
From where are public complaints,
unless moneys which were stolen either by force or by fraud
are being reclaimed from the unwilling ?"

"It is so," I said.

"Then everyone will be in want," she said,
"from the outside in asking for protection
from one who will guard their money."

"Who would deny it?" I said.

"Yet one would not be in want from it
unless one were possessing money, which one could lose."

"I cannot doubt it," I said.

"Then the matter is fallen back into the opposite;
for wealth which was thought to make one self-sufficient
rather makes a need for the protection of another.
But what is the method by which
need may be expelled by riches?
For surely the rich are not unable to be hungry,
or unable to be thirsty,
or don't the limbs of the moneyed feel the cold of winter?

"But there is support, you may say, for the wealthy
by which they may satisfy hunger,
by which they may remove thirst and cold.
Though need in fact can be consoled in this way by riches,
they cannot take it away entirely;
for though this is ever gaping
and requiring that something be filled up by wealth,
there must be remaining what could be filled up.

"I do not mention that the least is enough for nature,
that nothing is enough for greed.
Therefore if wealth cannot remove need
and makes its own for itself,
why is it that you should believe
it is responsible for sufficiency?

"Although rich from an affluent flood of gold
the greedy may not compel wealth to be filled up
and may load necks with pearls from the Red Sea's shores
and may plow a hundred fat estates by the ox,
nor will biting care abandon the surviving
and at death easy wealth will not be accompanying.

"But positions give back honor and respect
to the one whom they might have prospered.
Surely this power is not with the offices
so that into the minds of the employed
they should insert virtues or expel vices?

"Yet they are accustomed not to banish them,
but rather to make famous the worthless.
Thus it is that we are indignant
that these often came to the worst people;
so although Nonius was sitting as a magistrate
Catullus nevertheless calls him a tumor.

"Don't you see how much disgrace
positions may add to the bad?
Yet their unworthiness will be less exposed
if they are not made famous by any honors.

"You too surely could not finally
have been led into so many dangers
while you were thinking to manage the office with Decoratus,
since you were looking back so long
into the mind of the worst jester and informer?
For we cannot on account of honors judge worthy of respect
those whom we judge unworthy of honors themselves.
But if you see someone endowed with wisdom,
surely you cannot but consider them worthy of either respect
or at least the wisdom with which one is endowed?"

"At least."

"For then the position is appropriate to the virtue,
which it transmits directly into those
in whom the connection is made.
Because popular honors cannot create that,
it is clear
they don't have the position's proper excellence.

"On which that is paying more attention:
for if one is more degraded from it
by which everyone is more despised by more people,
since it cannot make respected those whom it shows to more,
position makes the dishonest more despicable.
True not with impunity;
for indeed the dishonest give back
an equal recompense to the positions,
which they stain by their contamination.

"And so that you may recognize that true respect
cannot be reached through these shadowy positions:
if one who functioned as consul many times
came by chance into foreign nations,
would honor make him venerated by foreigners?
Yet if this service were natural in positions,
they would in no way be remiss from their duty
anywhere in the world,
just as the fire of lands everywhere never stops being hot.

"But since it is not a proper power for them
but the false opinion of humans connects it,
they disappear instantly when they might have come
to those who do not value these as positions.

"But this is among outside nations:
while between these among whom they are born
surely they do not endure forever?
Though the great praetor was once powerful,
now it is an empty name
and a heavy burden on a senator's property;
whoever might be administering the people's grain market
was once held great;
now why is this superintendence more degraded?

"For as we said a little before,
what has no elegance of its own,
by the opinion of those employing it
sometimes receives luster, sometimes loses it.

"If then positions cannot cause respect,
if besides they become dirty
by the contamination of the dishonest,
if by the change of times they stop shining,
if they are cheap in the estimation of nations,
why is it that they should have
covetings of excellence in themselves,
much less may they be better than others?

"However much the arrogant Nero might dress himself
in the proud purple of Tyre and in snowy gems,
hated nevertheless by all he was thriving
in the cruelties of luxury;
but once the dishonest was giving to venerable
senators indecent offices.
Who then would consider those honors blessed
which the wretched bestow?

"Perhaps sovereignties and familiarity with royalty
can really bring about power?
Why not, when their happiness endures forever?
Yet antiquity is full of examples,
full also is the present age,
with monarchs who changed happiness to calamity.
O brilliant power, which is not found
capable enough even for its own preservation!

"But if this power of rulers is the author of happiness,
may it not, if it has failed in any part,
be reducing happiness, bringing in misery?
But however widely human empires may be spread,
there must remain more nations
over whom not any monarch may command.
While in whatever part power stops making them blessed
there comes in by this impotence what makes them wretched;
in this way then there must belong to monarchs
a greater portion of misery.

"A tyrant having experienced the fear
of the dangers of one's royal fate represented it
by the terror of hanging a sword above the head.
What then is this power,
which cannot expel the bite of anxieties,
nor avoid the stings of horrors?
Yet they themselves might wish to have lived in security,
but they cannot;
then immediately they boast about power.

"Perhaps you rate powerful one whom you may see
might wish for what one could not bring about,
or do you rate powerful
one who walks abroad with an attendant
who oneself is more afraid of those one terrifies,
who so that one may seem to be powerful
is lying in the hand of those serving?

"For why should I discuss the intimates of royalty,
when monarchies themselves
are proven full of so much weakness?
These in fact the royal power ruins often while unharmed,
often on the other hand when fallen.

"Nero forced his intimate and mentor Seneca
toward picking the decision of death;
Papinianus long a power among the courtiers
Antoninus threw to the soldiers' swords.
Yet both were willing to renounce their powers,
of whom Seneca even tried to transfer his wealth to Nero
and go into retirement;
but as long as the bulk itself draws things to be ruined,
neither accomplished what he wanted.

"What then is your power, which alarms those having it,
which when you may wish to have it you are not safe
and when you may desire to lay it down
you may not be able to get rid of it?

"Or are friends for protection
whom not virtue but fortune reconciles?
But a friend whom happiness made misfortune makes hostile.
While what plague is more effective in harming
than an intimate enemy?

"Whoever wishes oneself to be powerful,
should tame the insolent spirits
nor collared by lust
should one submit to vile reins;
and although in far off India
the country may be afraid of your laws
and most remote Thule may serve,
nevertheless it is not power
not to be able to drive out black cares
and banish wretched complaints.

"Truly how deceptive glory often is, how ugly!
Thus not wrongly the tragedian exclaims:

'O glory, glory, thousands of mortals
of no live substance have you puffed up great.'

For many often obtained a great name
from the false opinions of the public.
What can be contrived uglier than that?
For those who are praised falsely
must themselves blush at their praises.

"Even if they may be collected by merit,
what could they add to the conscience of the wise,
who measures one's good not by popular rumor
but by the truth of conscience?
But if this seems beautiful to have spread a name,
it is logical that not to have extended it is judged vile.

"But since, as I explained a little before,
it may be necessary for there to be many nations
to whom the fame of a single person cannot come,
it arises that the one whom you estimate to be glorious
seems inglorious in the next part of the world.
While between these I think popular favor
is not even worth mentioning,
which neither comes by judgment nor ever remains stable.

"Now really who could not see how empty it may be,
how futile a name of nobility?
Which if it is ascribed to distinction, it is another's;
for nobility seems to be a kind of praise
coming from the merits of parents.

"But if commendation causes distinction,
those must be distinguished who are commended;
therefore if you don't have your own brilliance,
the distinction of others doesn't cause it.

"But if there is anything good in nobility,
I think it is this alone,
that the necessity imposed on the noble ones seems
not to degenerate from the virtue of the ancestors.

"The birth of every person on earth
arises from a similar origin.
For there is one father of things; one serves all.
That gives to the sun rays, and gives horns to the moon;
that also gives humans to lands as stars to the sky;
this imprisoned in members fallen souls from a high abode:
then it produced all mortals from a noble germ.
Why should you rattle on about birth and ancestors?
If you should look at your beginning and author, God,
no one is degenerate unless cherishing worse faults
one should desert one's proper source.

"Now what should I speak about the body's pleasures,
of which the craving is in fact full of anxiety,
while the satiety is full of remorse?
How many diseases, how much unbearable sorrow
as if those are accustomed to return to bodies
some fruit of the enjoying evils!
Of these I am ignorant
what impulse of delight it might have;
the outcome of pleasures being truly sad,
whoever is willing to remember their passions understands.

"If these can open up blessings,
there is no reason why sheep too may not be called blessed,
whose every intention hurries
toward filling up a bodily pit.

"The enjoyment of marriage and children
may in fact be most honored;
but too much from nature is the proverb for the ignorant
who have found their sons to be tormentors.
However bitter the condition of those may be
it is not necessary to advise you
since you neither experienced it at one time
nor is it a worry now.
In that I prove the sentence of my Euripides,
who said being unfortunate in lacking children is lucky.

"Every pleasure has this:
the stimulus drives the ones enjoying
and like the bee flying
where it scattered pleasing honey
it fled and with too much grip
it hit the struck hearts with a sting.

"Then there is no doubt but that
these roads to happiness may be kind of devious,
nor are they able to lead anyone through it to what
they may be promising to lead them through themselves.
I'll show very briefly with how many evils
they may really be entangled.

"Well? Will you not try to collect money?
But you rip it off from the one having it.
Do you wish to be illustrious in positions?
You will entreat with the one granting them,
and if you desire to precede others in honor
you are cheapened by the humility of asking.

"Are you not longing for power?
In ambushes of neighbors
you are liable to be connected to dangers.
Do you aim at glory?
But having been distracted through all the violent things
you cease to be secure.
Would you live a pleasurable life?
But who would not spurn and abandon slavery
to the most cheap and fragile thing, the body?

"While already those who display the goods of the body,
how brief, how fragile the possession they depend on!
For surely you will not be able to surpass
elephants in bulk, bulls in strength,
nor will you outstrip tigers in speed?

"Look again at heaven's space, stability, quickness
and for a while stop admiring the cheap.
Because in fact heaven is not more admired for these
than for its reason by which it is guided.
While the form's sleekness is as swift, as fast
and more fleeting than the changeability of spring flowers!

"But if, as Aristotle says,
humans could use the eyes of Lynceus,
so that their sight might penetrate obstructions,
in having looked into the organs might not
that superficially most beautiful body of Alcibiades
seem most ugly?

"Then you do not seem beautiful by your nature,
but the weakness of the eyes looking represent it.
But estimate how excessive are the goods of the body's face,
as long as you know that however much you admire this
it can be destroyed by the fire of three days' fever.

"Out of all these to reduce that into a summary
it is admitted that
these cannot perform the good which they promise
nor are they perfected by the union of all goods,
nor do they lead to happiness as if by a sort of path
nor do they make them blessed.

"Alas, what ignorance leads away on a trail
the devious wretched!
You do not search for gold on a green tree
nor from the vine do you pick gems,
nor do you hide nets on high mountains
so that you may feast on a fish banquet,
nor if it would please you to follow goats
do you catch them in the Tyrrhenian Seas;
rather they know also places hidden by the waves
in the recess of the sea,
which waters are more productive with snowy gems
or which of the red purple-fish
and which shores not with delicate fish or with bitter ones
provide sea-urchins.
But where it may escape notice that they desire good
the blind maintain they are ignorant,
and sunk in the ground they seek
what goes beyond the starry pole.
What should I invoke fitting for stupid minds?
They may court wealth and honors,
and when they may have procured the false in a heavy bulk
then they may recognize true goods.

"Thus far it has been enough
to have exposed the form of deceptive happiness;
which if you have observed clearly,
next in order is to demonstrate what may be the true."

"Yes, I see," I said,
"it is not possible to reach sufficiency by wealth
nor power by monarchies nor respect by positions
nor celebrity by glory nor joy by pleasures."

"Perhaps also you detected the reason why it may be so?"

"I grasped it in fact just as I seem to observe a crack,
but I would rather learn it more clearly from you."

"Yet the reason is most obvious.
For what is simple and by nature indivisible,
human error separates and transforms
from the true and thus perfect
to the false and imperfect.

"Or do you think that what may need nothing lacks power?"

"Not at all," I said.

"You are correct in fact;
for whatever may be weaker in anything though strong,
in this it must be lacking in support from another."

"So it is," I said.

"Then the nature of sufficiency and power
is one and the same."

"It seems like it."

"Truly do you think that such should be rejected
or on the contrary be most worthy of all things in respect?"

"But this," I said, "cannot be doubted at any rate."

"Then let us add respect to sufficiency and power,
so that we may judge these three to be one."

"Let us add it,
if in fact we wish to acknowledge the truth."

"What," she asked, "do you really think this is
dark and unknown or most bright in every celebrity?
Consider truly, it is conceded
that it needs nothing, that it is most powerful,
that in honor it is most worthy,
whether it is lacking in brightness,
which it could not provide for itself,
and so on account of it
it should seem somehow partly more contemptible."

"I cannot," I said, "but confess this
granted that it is even so most celebrated."

"Then it is logical that we should acknowledge that
brightness does not differ from the previous three."

"It is logical," I said.

"Then what should be in need of nothing from another,
what could be whole in its own powers,
what should be bright and so venerable,
is it not also established this is most joyful?"

"But I cannot in fact imagine from where," I said,
"any sadness might creep into such a thing;
thus it is necessary to confess that it is full of joy,
if in fact the previous qualities will remain."

"Yet that is also necessary by the same reason,
the names of sufficiency, power, brightness,
respect, enjoyment in fact being different,
that the substance does not really disagree in any way."

"It is necessary," I said.

"This then which is one and single by nature
human depravity divides
and while one tries to acquire a part
of a thing which is lacking in parts,
one does not attain a portion, which does not exist,
nor itself, which it is not aspiring to at all."

"How is that?" I asked.

"The one who seeks riches," she said,
"by the avoidance of want, does nothing for power,
prefers to be cheap and unknown,
and deprives oneself of many natural pleasures too,
lest one lose the money which one has procured.
But in this way not even sufficiency
comes to one whom strength abandons, whom trouble stings,
whom cheapness degrades, whom obscurity hides.

"While the one who desires ability alone spends wealth,
despises pleasures and honor lacking power,
also values glory as nothing.
But you see this too how much they may forsake;
for it happens that sometimes one may need necessities,
that one may be bit by anxieties,
may not be able to remove these at any time,
besides what one is aiming at most,
to be powerful, may stop.

"One may argue similarly about honors, glory, pleasures;
but since each one of these should be the same as the others,
anyone aiming at one of these without the others
does not even take hold of that in fact which one wants."

"Then what," I asked, "if one should desire
to acquire all at the same time?"

"That one wants in fact the sum of happiness;
but surely one will not find it in these
which we have demonstrated
cannot confer what they promise?"

"Not at all," I said.

"Then in these which are believed to provide individually
certain of the things being coveted
in no way is happiness being discovered."

"I admit it," I said, "and nothing truer could be said."

"Then you have," she said,
"both the false form of happiness and the causes.
Now turn the mind's observation into the opposite;
for there you will see at once
the truth which we have promised."

"Yet this," I said, "is even clear to the blind,
and you showed it a little before
when you tried to explain the false causes.
For unless I am mistaken,
true and perfect happiness is that which may make one
sufficient, powerful, respected, celebrated, and joyful.
And so that you may learn
that I have paid attention inwardly,
I know which one of these, since they are all the same,
truthfully can prove this to be
full happiness without ambiguity.

"O you, pupil, by this opinion are happy," she said,
"if in fact you may have added this!"

"What?" I asked.

"Do you think there is anything
in these mortal and perishable things
that could bring about such a state as this?"

"Not at all," I said, "and I think it is proved by you,
so that nothing more is desired."

"These then seem to give to mortals
either images of the true good or a kind of incomplete good,
but they cannot confer the true and complete good."

"I agree," I said.

"Then since you have known that which may be true,
the ones which moreover imitate happiness,
now it remains that you recognize
from where you could aim at this true one."

"For that in fact," I said,
"already I have been waiting eagerly for a long time."

"But since, as in the Timaeus it pleased our Plato,"
she said, "in the smallest things too
one should invoke divine assistance,
what now do you think we should be doing
so that we may deserve to find out
the foundation of that highest good?"

"Call upon," I said, "the father of all things,
so that in having neglected nothing
the beginning is properly secured."

"Correct," said she;
and at once the following was sung:

"O you who rule the universe by perpetual reason,
sower of earth and heaven,
you who from eternity order time to pass
and remaining stable permit all things to be moved,
whom no external causes pushed to form
a true work of flowing material by an innate form
of the highest good free of envy, by a celestial example
you lead all, the most beautiful itself managing by mind
a beautiful universe and shaping it in a similar image;
and ordering the perfect to finish the perfect parts,
you bind the elements with numbers, as winters with flames,
the dry lands harmonize with waters, purer fire
may not fly off nor do weights bring down sunken lands.

"You released an intermediary soul of triple nature
connecting together the moving through concordant members;
which when cut gathered movement into two circles,
in self returning it passes and goes round the vast mind
and turns heaven in a similar image.

"From like causes you carry forward souls and lesser lives
and fitting the sublime with the light vehicles
you plant in heaven and earth, which converted by benign law
you cause to be led back to you by fire returned.

"Permit, father, the mind to mount this majestic throne,
permit it to scan the source of good,
permit discoveries by light
to concentrate perceptive visions of the soul on you.

"Scatter the mists of earth and the massive burdens
and so sparkle in your splendor; for you are fair,
you are the tranquil rest of the pious,
to perceive you is the goal,
beginning, carrier, leader, way, likewise the boundary.

"Then since you have seen
what may be the form of the imperfect,
as well as the form of the perfect good,
now I am thinking of explaining
where the perfection of this happiness may be established.

"In this I think first it must be inquired whether
any good of this kind as defined a little before
could exist in the nature of things,
lest an empty image of thought
deceive us about the truth of the subject matter.

"But it cannot be denied but it should exist
and may be this as a kind of source of all goods;
for everything that is said to be imperfect
is held to be imperfect by the impairment of the perfect.

"Thus, if in any class whatever
something may seem to be imperfect,
it may be necessary for something perfect to be in it too;
unless raised by perfection somehow or other
that which is held imperfect cannot even come to be formed.

"For the nature of things does not take initiative
from the diminished and uncompleted,
but progressing from the whole and complete
it disintegrates into these extremes and so is exhausted.
But if, as we have shown a little before,
there is a kind of imperfect happiness of a fragile good,
it cannot be doubted that something is solid and perfect."

"Most sure," I said, "and most true is the conclusion."

"While as to where it lives," she said, "consider this.
The common conception of the human spirit proves that
God, the principle of all things, is good;
for since nothing better than God can be thought of,
who may doubt that what nothing is better than is good?

"So reason demonstrates that God is really good
so that one may be convinced that the perfect is in it too.
For if it were not such,
it could not be the principle of all things;
for there would be something more outstanding in it
possessing the perfect good,
which may seem to be before this and so more ancient;
for all the perfect ones have become clear
to be prior to the less complete ones.

"Therefore lest the argument proceed into infinity,
it is being acknowledged that the highest God
is most full of the highest and perfect good;
but we established perfect good to be true happiness:
then it is necessary for true happiness
to be situated in the highest God."

"I accept it," I said,
"nor is it what can be spoken against in any way."

"But," she said, "I ask you,
see that you approve it solemnly and so inviolably
what we said about the highest God
being most full of the highest good."

"In what way?" I asked.

"It is not asserted that this father of all things
either has received from outside
that highest good of which it is full
nor should you presume it keeps so naturally
as if you should think the substance of the God having it
and the condition of happiness to be different.

"For if you should think it received from outside,
you could judge that which gave it more outstanding
than that which received it;
but we most properly acknowledge this to be
the most excellent of all things.
Because if in fact it belongs by nature
but is different by reason,
when we speak of God as the principle of things,
one may imagine what can have joined these differences.

"Finally, what is different from any thing
is not that from which it is understood to be different;
therefore what is different from the highest good
by its own nature, that is not the highest good;
because it is wrong to think that about it,
when it is established that nothing is more outstanding.

"For surely the nature of any thing
could not be better than its principle;
therefore I would conclude by the truest reasoning
that what may be the principle of all
is actually by its essence the highest good."

"Most correct," I said.

"But the highest good is conceded to be happiness."

"So it is," I said.

"Then," she said, "it must be acknowledged
that God is happiness itself."

"I cannot," I said,
"oppose the preceding with any propositions,
and from those I perceive this to be logically inferred."

"Look again," she said, "whether from this too
the same is more strongly proven,
because there cannot be two highest goods
which may be different from each other.
For it is evident that goods which disagree with each other
are not what the other may be;
therefore neither could be perfect,
since each is lacking the other.

"But it is obvious that
what may not be perfect is not the highest;
then in no way can those
which are the highest goods be different.
Yet we inferred both happiness and God
to be the highest good;
therefore it must be the highest happiness itself
which should be the highest divinity."

"Nothing," I said, "can actually be concluded that is
truer or stronger in reasoning or more worthy of God."

"Beyond this," she said,
"then as geometricians are accustomed
to infer something from proven propositions,
which they themselves call deductions,
so I too shall give one to you as a corollary.

"Now since humans become blessed
by the attainment of happiness,
while happiness is divinity itself,
it is obvious that they become blessed
by the attainment of divinity.
But just as by the attainment of justice they become just,
by wisdom they become wise,
so it is necessary by similar reasoning
to become gods by having attained divinity.
Then everyone blessed is a god.
But God is one in fact by nature;
while nothing prevents as many as possible
from being it by participation."

"This is both beautiful and so valuable," I said,
"whether it be called either a deduction or a corollary."

"Yet too nothing is more beautiful than this
which reason persuades is to be connected to these."

"What?" I asked.

"Since happiness," she said, "may seem to contain much,
should all these join together as one
like a body of happiness from a kind of variety of parts
or should some of them
which may complete the essence of happiness,
while others may be referred to this?"

I said, "I would like you to make it clear
by recollection of the things themselves."

"Do we not," she said, "think happiness is good?"

"And in fact the highest," I said.

"You may impart this," she said, "to all of them.
For the highest sufficiency is the same,
the highest power the same, respect too,
distinction and pleasure are judged to be happiness.
What then, are all these,
the good, sufficiency, power and the others,
are they like some kind of members of happiness
or are they all referred to the good as to a head?"

"I understand," I said, "what investigating you propose,
but I long to hear what you may decide."

"Take the discernment of that thing as follows.
If these all were members of happiness,
they would in turn disagree with each other too;
for this is the nature of the parts
that different ones may compose one body.
And yet all these are shown to be the same.
Then at least they are not members;
otherwise happiness would seem to be
joined together out of one member, which cannot be."

"That in fact," I said, "is not doubtful,
"but I am waiting for what remains."

"While it is well known the others refer to the good.
For that reason sufficiency is sought,
since it is judged to be good;
for that reason power, since it too is believed to be good;
one may infer the same for respect, distinction, enjoyment.
Then the sum and so the cause of all the aiming is the good;
for that which does not retain in itself any good
whether by reality or imitation can in no way be sought out.

"On the other hand those which are not by nature good
nevertheless they are desired
if they may seem to be as if they were from a true good.
Thus goodness is rightly believed to be
the sum, axis and so the cause of all aiming.

"While the cause of that which is sought out
seems to be chosen most,
just as if someone who wishes to ride for reason of health,
desires the riding not so much for the movement
as much as for the effect of health.
Then since all those are sought for the sake of the good,
not those but rather the good itself is desired by all.

"But on account of what we have conceded happiness to be
the others are chosen;
thus here too happiness alone is sought.
From which it is clearly apparent that
the substance of the good itself and of happiness
is one and so the same."

"I do not see how anyone could disagree."

"But we have shown that God and true happiness
are one and so the same."

"Yes," I said.

"Safely then one may conclude that the essence of God too
is situated in the good itself and nowhere else.

"Come here equally all the caught,
whom the deceptive binds with dishonest chains
lust inhabiting earthly minds:
this will be for you the labors' rest,
this harbor remaining quietly calm,
this single open sanctuary for the wretched.

"Not even the Tagus with its golden sands
bestows nor the reddening Hermus shore
nor the Indus near the torrid zone
mingling green gems with the white
may illuminate the sight and all the more close
blind souls into their darkness.

"This, whatever pleases and excites minds,
earth has nourished in the lowest caves;
the splendor by which heaven is guided and flourishes
avoids the dark ruins of the soul;
whoever will be able to note this light
will decline the bright rays of the sun."

"I agree," I said, "for it all is established
tied by the strongest arguments."

Then she asked, "How highly would you value it,
if you might have recognized what the good itself may be?"

"Infinitely," I said,
"if in fact it brings me at the same time
to recognize God too, who is the good."

"And yet this," she said,
"I may make clear by the truest reasoning,
should what was concluded a little before remain."

"They will remain."

"Have we not shown," she asked,
"that these which are desired by most
for this reason are not true and perfect goods
since they disagree from each other in turn,
at any time one is missing from the other
not being able to bring about full and complete good,
but then to become true good
when they are gathered as into a single form and operation,
so that what sufficiency is may be the same as
power, respect, distinction and enjoyment,
unless they all may be really one and so the same,
does it not hold that
they are to be counted among the things sought out?"

"It is proven," I said,
"nor can it in any way be doubted."

"Which then when they disagree are not at all good,
while when they may have begun to be one become good,
does this not happen so that
they may become good by the attainment of unity?"

"It seems so," I said.

"But do you concede that every good is good
by participation of the good, or not?"

"So it is."

"Then you may concede by a similar reason
that the one and so the good ought to be the same;
for the substance of those of which naturally
it is not a different effect is the same."

"I cannot deny it," I said.

"Then did you not learn," she said, "everything that is
remains and so continues for as long as it may be one,
but perishes and is dissolved at the same time
as soon as it may have ceased to be one?"

"In what way?"

"As in animals," she said,
"while the soul and body combine and persist as one
it is called an animal,
while when this unity is dissolved by separation of both
it is clear the animal perishes and no longer exists;
in the body itself too
while it persists in one form by the union of members
the human appearance is seen,
but if divided and segregated parts of the body
tear apart the unity
it ceases to be what it had been;
and in this way going through the others
beyond a doubt it will be evident that
each one continues as long as it is one,
while when it ceases to be one it perishes."

"In having considered more," I said,
"it seems to me no other."

"Then is there anything," she asked,
"which, in as much as it may act naturally,
having abandoned the craving for continuing
may long to come to destruction and corruption?"

"If I may consider animals," I said,
"which have some nature of willing and refusing,
I find nothing that with no outside forcings
would throw away the intention of remaining
and spontaneously hurry toward destruction.
For every animal labors to protect its welfare,
while it avoids death and ruin.
But what about plants and trees,
what about inanimate things in general?
In short I doubt the agreement for things."

"And yet about this too it is not what you could argue,
since you may observe plants and trees
first grow in places convenient to them,
where, as much as their nature could,
they should not be able to dry up quickly and die.
For some in fact spring up in plains, some in mountains,
marshes produce some, some cling to rocks,
barren sands are fertile for some, which would dry up
if someone tried to transfer them to another place.

"But nature gives to each what is appropriate, and,
as long as they can remain, labors so they may not perish.
Why do they all draw nourishment by the roots
as if from a mouth submerged in the soils,
and so through the pith the wood and bark spreads out?
Why is everything which is most tender,
as in fact the pith is,
always stored away in an interior site,
while by a kind of strength of the wood outside,
the most remote bark is set against intemperate weather
as if it were a patient averter of wrong?

"While now how great is the diligence of nature
that they should all be propagated by seed multiplication!
Who does not know of them all remaining not only for a time,
actually by species too as it were lasting forever
as if to be some kind of machines?

"Even these which are believed to be inanimate
does not each long for what is theirs by a similar reason?
For why does lightness convey flames in fact upwards,
while weight presses down the lands,
unless it is because
these places and motions are appropriate to each one?

"Moreover, the individual preserves
what is in keeping with itself,
just as they ruin things which are unfriendly.
While now things which are hard like stones
stick most persistently with their parts
and resist being easily dissolved;
while fluids which are like air and water
yield easily in fact to being divided,
but quickly glide back again into that
from which they are cut off;
while fire flees every section.

"Now we are not dealing with
the voluntary movements of an understanding soul,
but with natural intention,
just as it is accepted that we digest food without thought,
that unknowing we draw breath in sleep.
For not even in animals does the love of remaining
come out of the will of the soul,
but truly out of the principles of nature.

"For often the will embraces death,
which nature dreads, for compelling reasons,
and on the other hand that by which alone
the long life of mortal things endures,
the work of procreating, which nature always desires,
the will occasionally represses.

"So this love of oneself comes not out of animal motion,
but out of natural intention;
for providence has given to creatures from things themselves
this very greatest cause of remaining
so that naturally they should long
to remain as long as they can.

"Therefore there is no way that you can doubt that
all things which are
naturally desire constancy of persisting, to avoid ruin."

"I confess," I said, "to discerning now without my doubt
what a moment ago seemed uncertain."

"Moreover," she said,
"what seeks to hold out and persist longs to be one;
for if this is removed in fact, nothing will persist."

"It is true," I said.

"Then all," she said, "long for the one."


"But we have shown this one itself to be what is good."

"So it is in fact."

"Then all things seek the good,
which you may in fact describe as being the good itself
which should be longed for by all."

"Nothing," I said, "can be thought out more truthfully;
for either all things are brought back to no one thing
and will flow abandoned as if without one guiding head,
or if there is something universal
toward which they accelerate
it will be the highest of all goods."

And she said, "I am very glad, o pupil;
for you have fixed mentally the note of the central truth.
But in this it has opened to you
what you were saying you didn't know a little before."

"What?" I asked.

"What might be," she said, "the end of all things.
For it is certainly what is longed for by all;
because we have inferred that to be good,
we should acknowledge the end of all things to be the good.

"Whoever with a deep mind investigates the truth
and desires to be deceived by no deviations
should turn back into oneself the light of the inner sight
and bending should force the long movements into a circle
and should teach the soul that whatever is built outside
it possesses withdrawn in its treasures;
what a while ago the gloomy cloud of error covered
will shine more clearly than the sun itself.

"For the body carrying a forgetful bulk
did not expel light from every mind;
there certainly lingers inside the seed of truth
which is awakened by instruction fanning it;
for why when asked do you spontaneously answer correctly
unless sunk in a deep heart a spark might live?
But if the Muse of Plato rings true,
what everyone learns is recalled from the forgotten."

Then I said, "I agree very much with Plato;
for this is already the second time
you have reminded me of these,
the first time I lost the memory by bodily contact,
the next when pressed by a mass of grief."

Then she said,
"If you should look back at previous admissions,
that in fact might no longer be absent
but rather you might recall
what you just now confessed not knowing."

"What?" I asked.

"By which governments," she replied,
"the universe may be guided."

"I remember," I said, "that I had confessed my ignorance,
but what you bring up, may already be foreseen,
nevertheless I long to hear it from you more plainly."

"That this universe," she said, "is guided by God
a little before you were not even thinking of doubting."

"Not even now am I thinking it," I said,
"nor was I ever thinking of doubting it,
and let me briefly explain by which reasons I came to this.
This universe would not have come together into one form
out of such diverse and opposite parts
unless there were one
who might join together such differences.

"While the very diversity of natures in turn discordant
might dissociate and so tear apart the joined
unless there were one who should hold together what it tied.
While so definite an order of nature might not go on,
nor might such arrangements of motion unfold
in places, times, efficiency, spaces, qualities
unless there were one who should arrange
these varieties of changes while remaining itself.
This, whatever it is,
by which created things remain and so are motivated
with the designation usual to all I name God."

Then she said, "Since you may feel this is so,
I think there is little work left for me
so that safely in control of happiness
you may revisit your homeland.
But let us look into what we have proposed.
Have we not included sufficiency in happiness,
and have we not agreed that God is happiness itself?"

"Yes in fact."

"And then," she said, "for guiding the universe
it will not need any supports from outside;
if it should be in need of anything else by which to do so,
it would not have full sufficiency."

I said, "It is so of necessity."

"Through itself then alone does it arrange all things?"

"I cannot deny it," I said.

"And yet God is shown to be the good itself."

"I remember," I said.

"Through the good then it arranges all things,
if in fact it guides all through itself
which we have agreed to be the good,
and this is like a kind of rudder and so a helm by which
the universal machine is preserved stable and uncorrupted."

"I very much agree," I said,
"and a little before though I was restrained by suspicion
I foresaw it would be said by you."

"I believe it," she said; "for already, as I think,
you focus your eyes more carefully on discerning truths.
But what I may say is no less open to being observed."

"What?" I asked.

"Since God," she said, "is rightly believed
to steer all by the rudder of goodness,
and all these, just as I have taught,
by natural intention accelerate toward the good,
surely it cannot be doubted but that
they may be guided voluntarily and by themselves
toward the will of the one arranging
as if harmony and the moderate
should turn round unaided by the guide?"

"It must be so," I said;
"nor would the guidance seem to be blessed,
if in fact it was a yoke of the resisting,
not the welfare of the complying."

"Is there nothing then,
which serving nature attempts to go against God?"

"Nothing," I said.

"But if one attempts it," she went on,
"surely at last it does not profit
against that which we rightly conceded to be
the greatest power of happiness?"

"Absolutely nothing could," I said.

"Is there not then anything
which either would or could resist this highest good?"

"I don't think so," I said.

"Then it is the highest good," she said,
"which bravely guides and pleasantly arranges all things."

Then I said, "How not only these
which are the highest conclusions of arguments,
truly much more these very words which you used please me,
so that now at last one should be greatly ashamed
of one's foolish abusing!"

"You have heard," she said,
"in fables about Giants challenging heaven;
but it had arranged those too,
as it was appropriate, by a kind courage.
But do you want us to bring these very arguments
into conflict with each other?
Perhaps out of a conflict of this kind
some beautiful spark of truth may fly off."

"By your decision," I said.

She said, "No one would doubt God to be the power of all."

"At any rate," I said,
"no one who depends on a mind would argue."

"While for the one who is all-powerful," she said,
"there is nothing which that one could not do."

"Nothing," I said.

"Then surely God cannot do evil?"

"Not at all," I said.

"Then evil," she said, "is nothing,
since that one could not do it
for whom nothing is impossible."

"Are you playing with me," I asked,
"weaving an inextricable labyrinth with arguments,
which at one time where you may come out you may go in,
while at another where you may have gone in you may come out,
or are you complicating
some wonderful circle of divine simplicity?

"For a little before beginning from happiness
you were saying it is the highest good,
speaking how it is situated in the highest God.
You were explaining that God itself too
is the highest good and full happiness,
out of which you were granting a small present
that no one is to be blessed
except one who might equally be God.

"Again you were saying that the very form of the good
is the essence of God and of happiness,
and you were teaching that the one itself is the good itself
which is sought by all from the nature of things.
You were arguing that God also guides the universe
by the helms of goodness and that all willing things obey
nor does any nature of evil exist.
And you were explaining these with no outside assumptions,
but from one to the other getting credence
with innate and internal approvals."

Then she said, "We were not playing at all,
and we have examined the greatest matter of all
by the grace of God, to whom we were just now praying.
For the form of the divine substance is such
that it is not dissolved in externals
nor would it itself take into itself anything external,
but, as Parmenides puts it,

'well-rounded on all sides like a sphere's mass'

it rotates the mobile circle of things
while it preserves itself immobile.
But if you should seek reasons too not outside
but inside of the matter which we were tossing around
we have deliberated on things established,
there is no reason to be surprised,
since you have learned from Platonic ordaining
that the relations about the matters which are spoken
ought to be the discourses.

"Happy, the one who can see
the clear source of good,
happy, the one who can release
the chains of heavy earth.
Once the prophet of Thrace
mourning his dead wife
when with tearful music
he compelled nimble forests to run,
the rivers to stand
and deer joined unafraid
beside the fierce lions
and the rabbit did not fear the sight
of the dog already calm from the song,
when hotter inside
the fervor of feeling burned
and the measures of the one who had subdued all
could not soothe the master,
lamenting the inexorable gods above
he went to the lower worlds.

"There by sounding strings
moderating charming tunes
whichever he drew
from the special source of the mother goddess,
which powerless lamentation was giving,
which love bewailing lamentation
the lower world moving weeps
and by a sweet prayer asks
the lords of the ghosts for indulgence.

"The threefold porter is astonished
captured by the new song;
the avenging goddesses of crimes
who drive the guilty by fear
next are drenched by tears of grief;
the head of Ixion is not
thrown down by the fast wheel,
and ruined by long thirst
Tantalus spurns the streams;
now the vulture is sated by the music
and does not pull at the liver of Tityos.

"Finally 'We are conquered'
the pitying witness of the ghosts declares.
'We bestow on the man the accompanying
wife bought by a song;
but a law controls the gift,
until she has left the underworld
to turn the eyes would not be allowed.'

"Who would give a law to lovers?
A greater law is love to itself.
Alas, near the boundary of night
Orpheus upon his Eurydice
looked, lost, fell.

"This fable looks back to you
whoever of you into the day above
seeks to lead the mind;
for the one who in the chasm of the underworld
having been conquered has turned the eyes,
whatever special one carries off
one loses when one sees the lower worlds."

Notes to Book 3:

I: Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, was known to the Greeks as Demeter.

4: The poem of Catullus referring to Nonius was published about 60 BC.

4: Decoratus was quaestor in 508 CE.

5: In the 4th century BC the tyrant Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse invited Damocles, who envied royal happiness, to a banquet and seated him beneath a sword hanging by a thread.

5: The philosopher and tragedian Seneca was the tutor and advisor of Nero, but after retiring he was ordered to commit suicide by the emperor in 65 CE.

5: Papinianus (140-212) wrote influential books on Roman law and held office under the emperor Severus, but he was ordered killed by the next emperor Caracalla for refusing to justify Caracalla's fratricidal murder of his brother Geta.

V: To the Romans Thule represented the most remote island in the north or west, possibly Iceland.

6: The tragedy quoted is Andromache (l. 319) by Euripides.

7: The statement of Euripides on children is also found in Andromache (l. 420).

8: Lynceus was an Argonaut famous for his sharp vision.

8: The great philosopher Aristotle lived from 384 to 322 BC.

8: Alcibiades (450-404 BC) was considered quite handsome. (See Alcibiades by Plato.)

XI: How knowledge comes from remembering is discussed in Plato's Meno 82-86 and Phaedo 17-21.

12: Parmenides of Elea lived about 500 BC; his philosophy emphasized the unity of being. He was considered the first to declare that the earth is a sphere.

12: Plato discusses the relation between discourse and subject matter in Timaeus 29b.

XII: The legendary Thracian musician Orpheus descended to the underworld in an attempt to reclaim his dead wife Eurydice, where he charmed the three-headed dog Cerberus by the door, and the avenging goddesses, the Furies, were so moved that they let up on their punishments of Ixion, Tantalus, and Tityos. Because Orpheus violated the condition laid down by the placated Pluto, the god of the underworld, by looking back at Eurydice at the last moment of their departure, she was lost to him.

Book IV Good and Bad

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