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Francis Bacon. (1561–1626).  Essays, Civil and Moral.The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.


Of Nature in Men

NATURE is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished. Force maketh nature more violent in the return; 1 doctrine and discourse maketh nature less importune; but custom only doth alter and subdue nature. He that seeketh victory over his nature, let him not set himself too great nor too small tasks; for the first will make him dejected by often failings; and the second will make him a small proceeder, though by often prevailings. And at the first let him practise with helps, as swimmers do with bladders or rushes; but after a time let him practise with disadvantages, as dancers do with thick shoes. For it breeds great perfection, if the practice be harder than the use. Where nature is mighty, and therefore the victory hard, the degrees had need be, first to stay and arrest nature in time; like to him that would say over the four and twenty letters when he was angry; then to go less in quantity; as if one should, in forbearing wine, come from drinking healths to a draught at a meal; and lastly, to discontinue altogether. But if a man have the fortitude and resolution to enfranchise himself at once, that is the best:
        Optimus ille animi vindex lædentia pectus
  Vincula qui rupit, dedoluitque semel.
  • [Wouldst thou be free? The chains that gall thy breast
      With one strong effort burst, and be at rest.]
    Note 1. Reaction. [back]