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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 5

Of Aduersitie.
1 IT was an high speech of Seneca, ( after the manner of the Stoickes ) That the good things, which belong to Prosperity, are to be wished; but the good things, that belong to Aduersity, are to be admired. Bona Rerum Secundarum, Optabilia; Aduersarum, Mirabilia. Certainly if Miracles, be the Command ouer Nature, they appeare most in Aduersity. It is yet a higher speech of his, then the other, ( much too high for a Heathen ) It is true greatnesse, to haue in one, the Frailty of a Man, & the Security of a God. Verè magnum, habere Fragilitatem Hominis, Securitatem Dei. This would haue done better in Poesy; where Transcendences are more allowed. And the Poets indeed, haue beene     busy with it; For it is, in effect, the thing, which is figured in that Strange Fiction, of the Ancient Poets, which seemeth not to be without mystery; Nay, and to haue some approach, to the State of a Christian: That Hercules, when hee went to vnbinde Prometheus, ( by whom Humane Nature is represented ) sailed the length of the great Ocean, in an Earthen Pot, or Pitcher: Liuely describing Christian Resolution; that saileth, in the fraile Barke of the Flesh, thorow the Waues of the World. But to speake in a Meane. The Vertue of Prosperitie, is Temperance; The Vertue of Aduersity, is Fortitude: which in Morals is the more Heroicall Vertue. Prosperity is the Blessing of the Old Testament; Aduersity is the Blessing of the New; which carrieth the greater Benediction, and the Clearer Reuelation of Gods Fauour. Yet, euen in the old Testament, if you Listen to Dauids Harpe, you shall heare as many Herselike Ayres, as Carols: And the Pencill of the holy Ghost, hath laboured more, in describing, the Afflictions of Iob, then the Felicities of Salomon. Prosperity is not without many Feares and Distastes; And Aduersity is not without Comforts and Hopes. Wee see in Needle-workes, and Imbroideries, It is more pleasing, to haue a Liuely Worke, vpon a Sad and Solemne Ground; then to haue a Darke and Melancholy Worke, vpon a Lightsome Ground: Iudge therfore, of the Pleasure of the Heart, by the Pleasure of the Eye. Certainly, Vertue is like pretious Odours, most fragrant, when they are incensed, or crushed: For Prosperity doth best discouer Vice; But Aduersity doth best discouer Vertue.

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Edited by Ian Lancashire (Dept. of English, University of Toronto) Assisted by Allison Hay.
As published in I. Lancashire, in collaboration with J. Bradley, W. McCarty, M. Stairs, and T. R. Wooldridge. Using TACT and Electronic Texts: Text-Analysis Computing Tools Vers. 2.1 for MS-DOS and PC DOS. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1996. CD-ROM.
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