all dissimulation and luxury and arrogance; failing that, however, the ‘next best course’ is to breathe out his life when his gorge has risen at these things. Or is it thy choice to throw in thy lot with vice, and does not even thy taste of it yet persuade thee to fly from the pestilence? For the corruption of the mind is a pest far worse than any such miasma and vitiation of the air which we breathe around us. The latter is a pestilence for living creatures and affects their life, the former for human beings and affects their humanity.
3. Despise not death,1 but welcome it, for Nature wills it like all else. For dissolution is but one of the processes of Nature,2 associated with thy life’s various seasons, such as to be young, to be old, to wax to our prime and to reach it, to grow teeth and beard and gray hairs, to beget, conceive and bring forth. A man then that has reasoned the matter out should not take up towards death the attitude of indifference, eagerness, or scorn, but await it as one of the processes of Nature.3 Look for the hour when thy soul shall emerge from this its sheath, as now thou awaitest the moment when the child she carries shall come forth from thy wife’s womb.4
But if thou desirest a commonplace solace too that will appeal to the heart, nothing will enable thee to meet death with equanimity better than to observe the environment thou art leaving and the sort of characters with whom thy soul shall no longer be
- 1But cp. Capit. xxviii. § 4 (of Marcus): mortem contemnens.
- 2x. 36, § 2.
- 3cp. Montaigne i. 19 (Florio’s version): “ The same way you came from death to life, returne without passion or amazement from life to death. Your death is but a piece of the world’s order, and but a parcel of the world’s life.”
- 4Hardly a personal touch, as Vibia Aurelia, Faustina’s last child, was born in 166. Besides, ἔμβρυον has no article.