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Vauvenargues (1715–1747). Selections from the Characters, Reflexions and Maxims. 1903.


Clazomenes, or Unfortunate Virtue

CLAZOMENES has experienced all the miseries of humanity. Disease took possession of him from his childhood, and deprived him in youth of all the pleasures of a young man. He had too his secret griefs, for despite his poverty, he possessed pride and ambition. He saw himself in his misfortunes despised by those whom he loved. The insult undermined his courage, and he was wounded by those on whom he could not be revenged. His talents, his unceasing industry, his application to good works, could not soften his hard lot. His wisdom could not keep him from committing irreparable faults. He suffered the ills he did not deserve, and those induced by his imprudence. When fortune seemed to tire of persecuting him, when a too tardy hope began to alleviate his misery, death confronted him, surprising him at a period when his affairs were in the greatest disorder. He had the bitter pain of not leaving behind him property enough to pay his debts; he could not save his virtue from that blot. If a reason for so cruel a destiny is sought, I think it would be difficult to find one. Is there any use in asking why very skilful gamblers are ruined at play while other men make their fortunes at it? Or why we see years without spring or autumn in which the fruits of the year wither in their blossoms? However, we must not think that Clazomenes would have wished to exchange his misery for the prosperity of weak men. Fortune can make sport of the wisdom of brave men, but it is not in her power to break their courage.