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though not in number, that ever swam upon the
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 Timæus,
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.
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 adust, 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 skreens to princes in matters of danger and envy: for no man will take that part, except he be like a seal'd 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 over-tops : as Tiberius used Macro in pulling down of Sejanus. Since therefore they must be used in such cases, there resteth 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 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
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 having of them obnoxious to ruin, if they be of fearful natures, it may do well; but if they be stout and daring, it may precipitate their designs, and prove dangerous. As for the pulling of them down, if the affairs require it, and that it may not be done with safety suddenly, the only way is, the interchange continually of favours and disgraces ; whereby they may not know what to expect, and be as it were in a wood. Of Ambitions, it is less harmful the Ambition to prevail in great things, than that other to appear in every thing; for that breeds confusion, and mars business. But yet it is less danger, to have an ambitious man stirring in business, than great in dependences. He that seeketh to be eminent amongst able men, hath a great task; but that is ever good for the public: but he that plots to be the only figure amongst cyphers, is the decay of an whole age. Honour hath three things in it: the vantage-ground to do good, the approach to kings and principal persons, and the raising of a man's own fortunes. He that hath the best of these intentions when he aspireth, is an honest
man; and that prince that can discern of these intentions in another that aspireth, is a wise
prince. Generally, let princes and states choose such ministers as are more sensible of duty, than of rising; and such as love business rather upon conscience, than upon bravery; and let them discern a busy nature from a willing mind.
Of Masks and Triumphs. THESE things are but toys, to come amongst such serious observations. But yet, since princes will have such things, it is better they should be graced with elegancy, than daubed with cost. Dancing to song, is a thing of great state and plea
I understand it, that the song be in choir, placed aloft, and accompanied with some broken music, and the ditty fitted to the device. Acting in song, especially in dialogues, hath an extreme good grace; I say acting, not dancing, (for that is a mean and vulgar thing): and the voices of the dialogue would be strong and manly, (a base, and a tenor, no treble) and the ditty high and tragical, not nice or dainty. Several choirs placed one over against another, and taking the voice by catches, anthem-wise, give great pleasure. Turning dances into figure, is a childish curiosity; and generally let it be noted, that those things which I here set down, are such as do naturally take the sense, and not respect petty wonderments. It is true, the al