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a judgment, that he should be killed in a duel; at which the queen laughed, thinking her husband to be above challenges and duels: but he was slain spon a course at tilt, the splinters of the staff of Montgomery going in at his beaver. The trivial prophecy which I heard when I was a child, and queen Elizabeth was in the flower of her years, was,
whereby it was generally conceived, that after the princes had reigned which had the principal letters of that word hempe (which were Henry, Edward, Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth), England should come to utter confusion; which, thanks be to God, is verified in the change of the name; for the king's style is now no more of England but of Britain. There was also another prophecy before the year of eighty-eight, which I do not well understand.
“There shall be seen upon a day,
Vol. V. 12
. It was generally conceived to be meant of
the Spanish fleet that came in eighty-eight: for that the king of Spain's surname, as they say, is Norway. "The prediction of Regiomontanus,
“Octogesimus octavus mirabilis annus,”
was thought likewise accomplished in the sending of that great fleet, being the greatest in strength, though not in number, of all that ever swam upon the sea. As for Cleon's dream, I think it was a jest; it was, that he was devoured of a long dragon; and it was expounded of a maker of sausages, that troubled him exceedingly. There are numbers of the like kind: especially if you include dreams, and predictions of astrology; but I have set down these few only of certain credit, for example. My judgment is, that they ought all to be despised, and ought to serve but for winter talk by the fire-side: though when I say despised, I mean it as for belief; for otherwise, the spreading or publishing of them is in no sort to be despised, for they have done much mischief; and I see many severe laws made to suppress them. That that hath given them grace, and some credit, consisteth in three things.
First, that men mark when they hit, and never mark when they miss; as they do, generally, also of dreams. The second is, that probable conjectures, or obscure traditions, many times turn themselves into prophecies: while the nature of man, which coveteth divination, thinks it no peril to foretell that which indeed they do but collect: as that of Seneca's verse; for so much was then subject to demonstration, that the globe of the earth had great parts beyond the Atlantic, which might be probably conceived not to be all sea: and adding thereto the tradition in Plato's Timaeus, and his Atlanticus, it might encourage one to turn it to a prediction. The third and last (which is the great one), is, that almost all of them, being infinite in number, have been impostures, and by idle and crafty brains, merely contrived and feigned, after the event past.
xxxvii. of AMBITION.
AMBITIon is like choler, which is an humour that maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopped: but if it be stopped, and cannot have its way, it becometh a dust, and thereby malign and venomous: so ambitious men, if they find the way open for their rising, and still get forward, they are rather busy than dangerous; but if they be checked in their desires, they become secretly discontent, and look upon men and matters with an evil eye, and are best pleased when things go backward; which is the worst property in a servant of a prince or state: therefore it is good for princes, if they use ambitious men, to handle it so, as they be still progressive, and not retrograde, which, because it cannot be without inconvenience, it is good not to use such natures at all; for if they rise not with their service, they will take order to make their service fall with them. But since we have said, it were good not to use men of ambitious natures, except it be upon necessity, it is fit we speak in what cases they are of necessity. Good commanders in the wars must be taken, be they never so ambitious; for the use of their service dispenseth with the rest; and to take a soldier without ambition, is to pull off his spurs. There is also great use of ambitious, men in being screens to princes in matters of danger and envy; for no man will take that part except he be like a seeled dove, that mounts and mounts, because he cannot see about
him. There is use also of ambitious men in pulling down the greatness of any subject that overtops; as Tiberius used Macro in the pulling down of Sejanus. Since, therefore, they must be used in such cases, there resteth to speak how they are to be riddled, that they may be less dangerous: there is less danger of them if they be of mean birth, than if they be noble; and if they be rather harsh of nature, than gracious and popular: and if they be rather new raised, than growing cunning and fortified in their greatness. It is counted by some a weakness in princes to have favourites; but it is, of all others, the best remedy against ambitious great ones; for when the way of pleasuring and displeasuring lieth by the favourite, it is impossible any other should be over great. Another means to curb them is, to balance them by others as proud as they: but then there must be some middle counsellors, to keep things steady; for without that ballast the ship will roll too much. At the least, a prince may animate and inure some meaner persons to be, as it were, scourges to ambitious men. As for the haying of them obnoxious to ruin, if they be of fearful natures, it may do well; but if they