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WHAT is Truth ?1 said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness; and count it a bondage to fix a belief; 2 affecting3 free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the sects of philosophers of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing wits which are of the same veins, though there be not so much blood in them as was in those of the ancients. But it is not only the difficulty and labour which men take in finding out of truth; nor again that when it is found it imposeth5 upon men's thoughts; that doth bring lies in favour; but a

1 John xviii. 38.

2 Bacon probably had in mind here the sceptical philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, born about 535 B.C., died about 475 B.0. Pyrrho, 360(?)-270(?) B.C., and Carneades, 213 (?)-129 B.C., maintained that certainty could not be affirmed about anything. The reference may be to Democritus, 'the Abderite,' born about 460 B.C., died about 357 B.C., called 'the laughing philosopher.'

"Fleat Heraclitus, an rideat Democritus? ... shall I laugh with Democritus or weep with Heraclitus?" Robert Burton. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Partition 3. Section 4. Member 1.

tion 3.

Afect. To make a show of, be fond of.


•Discoursing. Possibly in the sense of discursive; i.e. roving, unsettled. But the word may mean debating, arguing.

Impose. To exert an influence on.

No natural though corrupt love of the lie itself. One of the later school of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand to think what should be in it, that men should love lies, where neither they make for pleasure, as with poets,1 nor for advantage, as with the merchant; but for the lie's sake. But I cannot tell: this same truth is a naked and open day-light, that doth not shew the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily2 as candle-lights. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that sheweth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond or carbuncle, that sheweth best in varied lights. A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would,3 and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves? One of the Fathers, in great severity, called poesy vinum dæmonum because it filleth the imagination; and yet it is but with the shadow of a lie. But it is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt; such as we spake of before. But howso

1 "There should always be some foundation of fact for the most airy fabric, and pure invention is but the talent of a liar." Byron. Letter to John Murray. April 2, 1817. Letters and Journals. T. Moore. 2 Daintily. Delicately, elegantly, gracefully.

3 As one would. That is, as one willed, or wished. The verb will has here its presentive sense, as in Philippians ii. 13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Wine of devils. Used by St. Augustine, 354-430 A.D., Bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia. The Confessions of Augustine.

I. xvi. 26.

ever1 these things are thus in men's depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth,which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature. The first creature of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the sense; the last was the light of reason; and his sabbath work ever since, is the illumination of his Spirit. First he breathed light upon the face of the matter or chaos; then he breathed light into the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet that beautified the sect that was otherwise inferior to the rest,2 saith yet excellently well: It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of Truth, (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene,) and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below; so always that this prospect be with pity,

1 Howsoever. Notwithstanding that, albeit. "And so will he do; for the man doth fear God, howsoever it seems not in him by some large jests he will make."

Shakspere. Much Ado About Nothing. ii. 3.

2 The poet is Titus Lucretius, born 99 or 98 B.C., died 55 B.C. The sect is the Epicureans. Bacon quotes the thought, not the exact language, of the beginning of the second book of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura. Compare the Advancement of Learning. I. viii. 5. 3 Adventure. Chance, hap, luck, fortune.

In military tactics a high hill commands a lower one near it. 5 So. Provided, or on condition.

• Prospect is active in sense, and means overlooking, looking down upon.

and not with swelling or pride. Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.1


To pass from theological and philosophical truth, to the truth of civil business; it will be acknowledged even by those that practise it not, that clear and round2 dealing is the honour of man's nature; and that mixture of falsehood is like allay3 in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent; which goeth basely upon the belly,5 and not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious. And therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason, why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace and such an odious charge? Saith he, If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth,

1 "The basis of all excellence is truth." Dr. Samuel Johnson. Life of Cowley. Edited by Mrs. A. Napier. Bohn. 1890. p. 8. 2 Round. Plain, downright, straightforward.

"I will a round, unvarnish'd tale deliver
Of my whole course of love."

Shakspere. Othello. i. 3.

8 Allay. Old form of 'alloy,' an inferior metal mixed with one of greater value.

"For fools are stubborn in their way,

As coins are harden'd by th' allay."

Samuel Butler. Hudibras. Part III. Canto II. 481-482. Embase. To reduce from a higher to a lower degree of worth or purity; to debase.

5 "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Genesis iii. 14.

• Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, the celebrated French essayist, was born in 1533 and died in 1592. The first edition of the Essais appeared in 1580. Montaigne's thought will be found in the Essais, II. 18, where he quotes Plutarch's Life of Lysander.

is as much to say, as that he is brave towards God and a coward towards men. For a lie faces God, and shrinks from man. Surely the wickedness of falsehood and breach of faith cannot possibly be so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last peal to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men; it being foretold, that when Christ cometh, he shall not find faith upon the earth.1


MEN fear Death, as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin2 and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes mixture of vanity and of superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification,3 that a man should think with himself what the pain is if he have but his finger's end pressed or tortured, and thereby imagine what the pains of death are, when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved; when many times death passeth with less pain than the torture of a limb: for the most vital parts are not the quickest of sense. And by him that spake only

1 "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke xviii. 8.

2 "For the wages of sin is death." Romans vi. 23.

Mortification. Humiliation, penance.

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