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XLII.—OF YOUTH AND AGE. A MAN that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have lost no time; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like the first cogitations, not so wise as the second ; for there is a youth in thoughts as well as in ages ; and yet the invention of young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations stream into their minds better, and, as it were, more divinely. Natures that have much heat, and great and violent desires and perturbations, are not ripe for action till they have passed the meridian of their years : as it was with Julius Cæsar and Septimius Severus; of the latter of whom it is said, “ Juventutem egit erroribus, imo furoribus plenam ;”1 and yet he was the ablest emperor, almost, of all the list : but reposed natures may do well in youth, as it is seen in Augustus Cæsar, Cosmus Duke of Florence, Gaston de Foix, and others. On the other side, heat and vivacity in age is an excellent composition for business. Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business; for the experience of age, in things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them; but in new things abuseth them. The errors of young men are the ruin of business ; but the errors of aged men amount but to this, that more might have been done, or sooner.
Young men, in the conduct and manage of ac
1“ He passed his youth full of errors, of madness even.” Spartian. 'Vit. Sev.
2 He was nephew of Louis the Twelfth of France, and commanded the French armies in Italy against the Spaniards. After a brilliant career, he was killed at the battle of Ravenna, in
tions, embrace more than they can hold, stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end, without consideration of the means and degrees ; pursue some few principles which they have chanced upon absurdly ; care not to innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences; use extreme remedies at first; and that, which doubleth all errors, will not acknowledge or retract them, like an unready horse, that will neither stop nor turn. Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success. Certainly, it is good to compound employments of both; for that will be good for the present, because the virtues of either age may correct the defects of both; and good for succession, that young men may be learners, while men in age are actors; and, lastly, good for externe accidents, because authority followeth old men, and favor and popularity youth; but, for the moral part, perhaps, youth will have the preëminence, as age hath for the politic. A certain rabbin, upon the text, “ Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams," 1 inferreth that young men are admitted nearer to God than old, because vision is a clearer revelation than a dream; and, certainly, the more a man drinketh of the world, the more it intoxicateth ; and age doth profit rather in the powers of understanding, than in the virtues of the will and affections. There be some have an overearly ripeness in their years, which fadeth betimes ; these are, first, such as have brittle wits, the edge whereof is soon turned ; such as was Hermogenes ? the rhetorician, whose books are exceedingly subtle, who afterwards waxed stupid. A second sort is of those that have some natural dispositions, which have better grace in youth than in age; such as is a fluent and luxuriant speech, which becomes youth well, but not age; so Tully saith of Hortensius : “ Idem manebat, neque idem decebat.” i The third is of such as take too high a strain at the first, and are magnanimous more than tract of years can uphold; as was Scipio Africanus, of whom Livy saith, in effect, “ Ultima primis cedebant.” 2
1 Joel ii. 28, quoted Acts ii. 17.
2 He lived in the second century after Christ, and is said to have lost his memory at the age of twenty-five.
XLIII.-OF BEAUTY. VIRTUE is like a rich stone, best plain set; and surely virtue is best in a body that is comely, though not of delicate features, and that hath rather dignity of presence than beauty of aspect; neither is it almost seen, that very beautiful persons are otherwise of great virtue; as if nature were rather busy not to err, than in labor to produce excellency; and therefore they prove accomplished, but not of great spirit, and study rather behavior than virtue. But this holds not always; for Augustus Cæsar, Titus Vespasianus, Philip le Bel of France, Edward the Fourth of England, Alcibiades of Athens, Ismael
1“ He remained the same, but with the advance of years was not so becoming." – Cic. Brut. 95.
2 " The close was unequal to the beginning." This quotation is not correct; the words are: “ Memorabilior prima pars vitæ quam postrema fuit," — " The first part of his life was more dis tinguished than the latter." — Livy xxxviij. ch. 53.
8 By the context, he would seem to consider “ great spirit” and “virtue" as convertible terms. Edward IV., however, has no claim to be considered as a virtuous or magnanimous man, though he possessed great physical courage.
the Sophy of Persia, were all high and great spirits, and yet the most beautiful men of their times. In beauty, that of favor is more than that of color ; and that of decent and gracious motion, more than that of favor. That is the best part of beauty, which a picture cannot express; no, nor the first sight of the life. There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot tell whether Apelles, or Albert Durer, were the more trifler; whereof the one would make a personage by geometrical proportions ; the other, by taking the best parts out of divers faces to make one excellent. Such personages, I think, would please nobody but the painter that made them : not but I think a painter may make a better face than ever was; but he must do it by a kind of felicity, (as a musician that maketh an excellent air in music,) and not by rule. A man shall see faces, that, if you examine them part by part, you shall find never a good, and yet altogether do well. If it be true that the principal part of beauty is in decent motion, certainly it is no marvel, though persons in years seem many times more amiable ; “ Pulchrorum autumnus pulcher ;” 2 for no youth can be comely but by pardon, and considering the youth as to make up the comeliness. Beauty is as summer fruits, which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last ; and, for the most part, it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine, and vices blush.
DEFORMED persons are commonly even with nature ; for, as nature hath done ill by them, so do they by nature, being for the most part (as the Scripture saith) “ void of natural affection ;”1 and so they have their revenge of nature. Certainly, there is a consent between the body and the mind, and where nature erreth in the one, she ventureth in the other: “Ubi peccat in uno, periclitatur in altero.” 2 But because there is in man an election, touching the frame of his mind, and a necessity in the frame of his body, the stars of natural inclination are sometimes obscured by the sun of discipline and virtue; therefore, it is good to consider of deformity, not as a sign which is more deceivable, but as a cause which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn; therefore, all deformed persons are extreme bold; first, as in their own defence, as being exposed to scorn, but, in process of time, by a general habit. Also, it stirreth in them industry, and especially of this kind, to watch and observe the weakness of others, that they may have somewhat to repay. Again, in their superiors, it quencheth jealousy towards them, as persons that they think they may at pleasure despise; and it layeth their competitors and emulators asleep, as never believing they should be in possibility of advancement till they see them in possession; so that upon the matter, in a great wit, deformity is an advantage to rising.
1 Rom. i. 31; 2 Tim. iii. 3. 2“ Where she errs in the one, she ventures in the other.”