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When hempe is sponne
whereby it was generally conceived, that after the princes had reigned which had the principal letters of that word hempe (which were Henry, Edward,1 Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth), England should come to utter confusion; which, thanks be to God, is verified only in the change of the name; for that 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,
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,6
Octogesimus octavus mirabilis annus,7
1 Edward VI., 1537-1553, King of England, 1547-1553, son of Henry VIII. by his third queen, Jane Seymour.
2 Mary Tudor, called 'Bloody Mary,' 1516-1558, Queen of England, 1553-1558, daughter of Henry VIII. and Catherine of Aragon.
3 Philip II., 1527-1598, King of Spain, 1556-1598, married Queen Mary in 1554.
Other persons besides Bacon "do not well understand" this prophecy. Mr. W. Aldis Wright thinks that "the Baugh and the May" are Bass Rock and the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, where some ships of the Armada were wrecked in 1588.
The Invincible Armada.
Johann Müller, surnamed Regiomontanus, 1436-1476, German mathematician and astronomer, Archbishop of Ratisbon.
Eighty-eight, the wonderful year.
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's1 dream, I think it was a jest. It was, that he was devoured of 2 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 fireside. 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
1 The Knights of Aristophanes is a satire on Cleon, an Athenian demagogue. In the comedy Demos, or the State, is represented as an old man who has put himself into the hands of a rascally Paphlagonian steward. Nicias and Demosthenes, slaves of Demos, contrive that the Paphlagonian shall be supplanted by a sausageseller. No sooner has Demos been thus rescued than his youthfulness and his good sense return together. Cleon, who was a tanner's son, was killed at Amphipolis, Macedon, in 422 B.C.
2 Of in this use introduces the agent after a passive verb, and is now superseded by by, except as a biblical, poetic, or stylistic archaism.
"I have been told so of many."
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 mought be probably conceived not to be all sea: and adding thereto the tradition in Plato's Timæus,1 and his Atlanticus, it mought 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.
XXXVI. 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 his way, it becometh
1 Of the Dialogues of Plato, the Republic, Timaeus, and Critias were meant to form a trilogy. The interlocutors of Timaeus are Socrates, Critias, Timaeus the Pythagorean philosopher, and Hermocrates. Critias begins the main line of thought by recalling some of the myths of ancient Athens, and then proposes to regard the ideal state of Socrates in the Republic as this ancient Athenian state. Timaeus is to carry on the discourse with the history of creation down to the birth of mankind, when Critias will make a further application of the story to the ideal Republic. The third dialogue, Critias, is brt a fragment relating the legend of prehistoric Athens and Atlantis. In Timaeus and Critias Atlantis is a mythical island somewhere northwest of Africa, which, with its inhabitants, disappeared in a convulsion of nature. Bacon calls the dialogue Critias, 'Atlanticus.'
adust,1 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,2 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 order3 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
1 Adust. Parched; fiery.
"High in front advanc't,
Milton. Paradise Lost. XII. 632-636.
3 Take order. To take measures or steps; to make arrange
"Now will we take some order in the town,
will take that part, except he be like a seeled1 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 Macro2 in the pulling down of Sejanus.3 Since therefore they must be used in such cases, there resteth1 to speak how they are to be bridled, 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 grown cunning5 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
1 Seel. To close the eyes of. The eyes of a newly taken hawk were 'seeled' in training it.
2 Naevius Sertorius Macro, killed 38 A.D., was prefect of the Roman pretorians under Tiberius and Caligula.
3 Aelius Sejanus, died 31 A.D., Roman courtier under Augustus and Tiberius. His story is the subject of Ben Jonson's tragedy, Sejanus his Fall; when this play was first acted, in 1603, Shakspere was one of the "principal Tragoedians" who took part in the representation.
Rest. To be left; to remain.
"Well then; nought rests
But that she fit her love now to her fortune."
Cunning. Skilful. "And the boys grew: and Esau was 8 cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents." Genesis xxv. 27.
• Pleasure. To give pleasure to; to please.
"I count it one of my greatest afflictions, say, that I cannot pleasure such an honourable gentleman." Shakspere. Timon of Athens. iii. 2.
Displeasure. To displease, annoy.