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But if now they prudently bear this reverse of fortune, they may, in a short time, by the assistance of Mercury, recover their sinews again; that is, by becoming moderate and affable ; reconciling the minds and affections of the people to them, by gracious speeches and prudent proclamations, which will win over the subject cheerfully to afford new aids and supplies, and add fresh vigor to authority. But prudent and wary princes here seldom incline to try fortune by a war, yet do their utmost, by some grand exploit, to crush the reputation of the rebels; and if the attempt succeeds, the rebels, conscious of the wound received, and distrustful of their cause, first betake themselves to broken and empty threats, like the hissings of serpents; and next, when matters are grown desperate, to flight. And now, when they thus begin to shrink, it is safe and seasonable for kings to pursue them with their forces, and the whole strength of the kingdom ; thus effectually quashing and suppressing them, as it were by the weight of a mountain.
III.—THE CYCLOPS, OR THE MINISTERS OF
TERROR. EXPLAINED OF BASE COURT OFFICERS. It is related that the Cyclops, for their savageness and cruelty, were by Jupiter first thrown into Tartarus, and there condemned to perpetual imprisonment; but that afterwards Tellus persuaded Jupiter it would be for his service to release them, and employ them in forging thunderbolts. This he accordingly did; and they, with unwearied pains and diligence, hammered out his bolts, and other
instruments of terror, with a frightful and continual din of the anvil.
It happened, long after, that Jupiter was displeased with Æsculapius, the son of Apollo, for having, by the art of medicine, restored a dead man to life; but concealing his indignation, because the action in itself was pious and illustrious, he secretly incensed the Cyclops against him, who, without remorse, presently slew him with their thunderbolts : in revenge whereof, Apollo, with Jupiter's connivance, shot them all dead with his arrows.
EXPLANATION. — This fable seems to point at the behavior of princes, who, having cruel, bloody, and oppressive ministers, first punish and displace them ; but afterwards, by the advice of Tellus, that is, some earthly-minded and ignoble person, employ them again, to serve a turn, when there is occasion for cruelty in execution, or severity in exaction; but these ministers being base in their nature, whet by their former disgrace, and well aware of what is expected from them, use double diligence in their office; till, proceeding unwarily, and over-eager to gain favor, they sometimes, from the private nods, and ambiguous orders of their prince, perform some odious or execrable action : when princes, to decline the envy themselves, and knowing they shall never want such tools at their back, drop them, and give them up to the friends and followers of the injured person; thus exposing them, as sacrifices to revenge and popular odium : whence, with great applause, acclamations, and good wishes to the prince, these miscreants at last meet with their desert.
IV.–NARCISSUS, OR SELF-LOVE. Narcissus is said to have been extremely beautiful and comely, but intolerably proud and disdainful; so that, pleased with himself, and scorning the world, he led a solitary life in the woods ; hunting only with a few followers, who were his professed admirers, amongst whom the nymph Echo was his constant attendant. In this method of life, it was once his fate to approach a clear fountain, where he laid himself down to rest, in the noonday heat; when, beholding his image in the water, he fell into such a rapture and admiration of himself, that he could by no means be got away, but remained continually fixed and gazing, till at length he was turned into a flower, of his own name, which appears early in the spring, and is consecrated to the infernal deities, Pluto, Proserpine, and the Furies.
EXPLANATION. - This fable seems to paint the behavior and fortune of those, who, for their beauty, or other endowments, wherewith nature (without any industry of their own) has graced and adorned them, are extravagantly fond of themselves : for men of such a disposition generally affect retirement, and absence from public affairs ; as a life of business must necessarily subject them to many neglects and contempts, which might disturb and ruffle their minds : whence such persons commonly lead a solitary, private, and shadowy life: see little company, and those only such as highly admire and reverence them ; or, like an echo, assent to all they say.
And they who are depraved, and rendered still fonder of themselves by this custom, grow strangely indolent, inactive, and perfectly stupid. The Nar-) cissus, a spring flower, is an elegant emblem of this
temper, which at first flourishes, and is talked of, but, when ripe, frustrates the expectation conceived of it.
And that this tower should be sacred to the infernal powers, carries out the allusion still further ; because men of this humor are perfectly useless in all respects: for whatever yields no fruit, but passes, and is no more, like the way of a ship in the sea, was by the ancients consecrated to the infernal shades and powers.
V.-THE RIVER STYX, OR LEAGUES.
EXPLAINED OF NECESSITY, IN THE OATHS OR SOLEMN
LEAGUES OF PRINCES. The only solemn oath, by which the gods irrevocably obliged themselves, is a well known thing, and makes a part of many ancient fables. To this oath they did not invoke any celestial divinity, or divine attribute, but only called to witness the River Styx, which, with many meanders, surrounds the internal court of Dis. For this form alone, and none but this, was held inviolable and obligatory; and the punishment of falsifying it, was that dreaded one of being excluded, for a certain number of years, the table of the gods.
*EXPLANATION. — This fable seems invented to show the nature of the compacts and confederacies of princes; which, though ever so solemnly and religiously sworn to, prove but little the more binding for it: so that oaths, in this case, seem used rather for decorum, reputation, and ceremony, than for fidelity, security, and effectuating. And though these oaths were strengthened with the bonds of
affinity, which are the links and ties of nature, and again, by mutual services and good offices, yet we see all this will generally give way to ambition, convenience, and the thirst of power: the rather, because it is easy for princes, under various specious pretences, to defend, disguise, and conceal their ambitious desires and insincerity, having no judge to call them to account. There is, however, one true and proper confirmation of their faith, though no celestial divinity, but that great divinity of princes, Necessity; or, the danger of the state; and the securing of advantage.
This necessity is elegantly represented by Styx, the fatal river that can never be crossed back. And this deity it was, which Iphicrates the Athenian invoked in making a league ; and because he roundly and openly avows what most others studiously conceal, it may be proper to give his own words. Observing that the Lacedæmonians were inventing and proposing a variety of securities, sanctions, and bonds of alliance, he interrupted them thus: “ There may, indeed, my friends, be one bond and means of security between us; and that is, for you to demonstrate you have delivered into our hands, such things as that, if you had the greatest desire to hurt us, you could not be able.” Therefore, if the power of offending be taken away, or if, by a breach of compact, there be danger of destruction or diminution to the state or tribute, then it is that covenants will be ratified, and confirmed, as it were by the Stygian oath, whilst there remains an impending danger of being prohibited and excluded the banquet of the gods; by which expression the ancients denoted the rights and prerogatives, the affluence and the felicities, of empire and dominion.