The Similitudes of Demophilus
The Remedy of Life,
From the PYTHAGOREANS.
Translated by William Bridgman (1804)
1. Flattery is like painted armour, because it affords delight, but is of no use.
2. Learning is similar to a golden crown; for it is both honourable, and advantageous.
3. Flighty men, like empty vessels, are easily laid hold of by the ears.1
4. Life, like a musical instrument, being harmonized by remission and intention, becomes more agreeable.
5. Reason, like a good potter, introduces a beautiful form to the soul.
6. The intellect of wise men, like gold, possesses the greatest weight.
7. Boasting, like gilt armour, is not the same within, as without.
8. Reason has the same power as an ointment; for it benefits us when we are disordered, but delights us when well.
9. Of a bad man, as of a bad dog, the silence is more to be dreaded than the voice.
10. It is neither becoming to prefer a mistress to a wife; nor flattery to a friend.
11. Garrulous men, like magpies,2 by their continued loquacity destroy the pleasures of conversation.
12. The furies pursue the sins of bad men who are impious, and those also of the stupid and daring, when they grow old.
13. It is necessary that a well educated man should depart from life elegantly, as from a banquet.
14. A port is a place of rest to a ship, but friendship, to life.
15. The reproof of a father is a pleasant medicine; for it is more advantageous than severe chastisements.
16. It is necessary that a worthy man, like a good wrestler, should oppose his weight to fortune, when acting the part of an antagonist.
17. The possession of self-sufficiency,3 like a short and pleasant road, has much grace and but little labour.
18. Restive horses are led by the bridle, but irritable minds, by reasoning.
19. Jests, like salt, should be used sparingly.
20. Both a well adapted shoe, and a well harmonized life, are accompanied with but little pain.
21. Garments reaching to the feet impede the body;4 and immoderate riches, the soul.
22. To those who run in the stadium, the reward of victory is in the end of the race; but to those who delight to labour in wisdom, the reward is in old age.
23. It is necessary that he who hastens to behold virtue as his country, should pass by pleasures, as he would the Sirens.
24. As those who sail in fair weather are wont to have things prepared against a storm, so also those who are wise in prosperity, should prepare things necessary for their assistance against adversity.
25. Garments that are made clean and bright become soiled again by use; but the soul being once purified from ignorance, remains splendid for ever.
26. Fugitive slaves, although they are not pursued, are, affrighted; but the unwise suffer perturbation, though they have not yet acted badly.
27. The wealth of the avaricious, like the sun when it has descended under the earth, delights no living thing.
28. The fruits of the earth spring up once a year; but the fruits of friendship at all times.
29. It is the business of a musician to harmonize every instrument; but of a well educated man to adapt himself harmoniously to every fortune.
30. Neither the blows of a sick man, nor the threats of a stupid one, are to be feared.
31. It is necessary to provide an inward garment for the protection of the breast, and intellect as a protection against pain.
32. The diet of the sick, and the soul of the unwise, are full of fastidiousness.
33. Untaught boys confound letters, but uneducated men, things.
34. The intellect derived from philosophy is similar to a charioteer; for it is present with our desires, and always conducts them to the beautiful.
35. Time, indeed, will render the herb absinthium sweeter than honey, but circumstances may sometimes make an enemy preferable to a friend.
36. A good pilot sometimes suffers shipwreck, and a worthy man is sometimes unfortunate.
37. Thunder especially frightens children; but threats, the unwise.
38. Figure adorns a statue; but actions adorn a man.
39. It is the same thing to drink a deadly medicine from a golden cup, and to receive counsel from an injudicious friend.
40. Swallows signify fair weather; but the discourses of philosophy, exemption from pain.
41. Orphan children have not so much need of guardians as stupid men.
42. Fortune is like a depraved rewarder of contests; for she frequently crowns him who accomplishes nothing.
43. There is need of a pilot and a wind for a prosperous navigation; but of reasoning and fortune, to effect a happy life.
44. A timid man bears armour against himself; and a fool employs riches for the same purpose.
45. It is the same thing to moor a boat by an infirm anchor, and to place hope in a depraved mind.
46. Clouds frequently obscure the sun; but the passions, the reasoning power.
47. Neither does a golden bed benefit a sick man; nor splendid fortune, a stupid man.
48. Pure water dissolves inflammation; but mild discourse dissolves anger.
49. Austere wine is not adapted for copious drinking nor rustic manners for conversation.
50. The anger of an ape, and the threats of a flatterer, are to be alike regarded.
51. Of life, the first part is childhood, on which account all men are attentive to it, as to the first part of a drama.
52. It is necessary that we should be cautious in our writings, but splendid in our actions.
53. As in plants, so also in youth, the first blossoms indicate the fruit of virtue.
54. In banquets, he who is not intoxicated with wine is the more pleasant; but in prosperity,5 he who does not conduct himself illegally.
55. It is the same thing to nourish a serpent, and to benefit a depraved man; for gratitude is produced from neither.
56. It is rare to suffer shipwreck in fair weather; and equally so not to suffer shipwreck from want of counsel.
57. Wind inflates empty bladders; but false opinions puff up stupid men.
58. It is necessary that he who exercises himself should avoid fatigue, and he who is prosperous, envy.
59. “Measure is most excellent,” says one of the wise6 men; to which also we being in like manner persuaded, O most friendly and pious Asclepiades, here finish the curations of life.
THE END OF THE SIMILITUDES OF DEMOPHILUS.
1. The handle of a vessel was called an ear by the Greeks.
2. The original is χελιδονες, which is literally swallows; but as no bird of that species is known among us to be loquacious, I have introduced one that is proverbially so.
3. Self-sufficiency must not be considered in the vulgar sense, as consummate arrogance; but as the internal possession of every thing requisite to felicity.
4. Long garments or robes, both by ancients and moderns, have always been worn as marks of distinction; consequently, like riches, they are among the objects of desire; and although not so extensively pernicious, yet the philosopher very properly places them among things that are by no means free from danger; and which are neither to be embraced by every one, nor without the greatest caution.
5. The sense requires that instead of εν τοις αγαθιος, as in the original, we should read εν ταις ευτυχιαις.
6. Cleobulus, one of the seven wise men.