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


Cyrus, or the Unquiet Mind

CYRUS hid, under a simple and calm exterior, an eager, unquiet mind. Outwardly he had the insensibility and indifference which so often cover a wounded soul, greatly taken up with itself. More unquiet in repose than in action, his stirring, ambitious mind keeps him busy without relaxation, and when he has no business he tires and spends himself in reflection. Too free and too bold in his ideas to set bounds to his passions, readier to love strong vices than feeble virtues, he follows all his feelings with independence, and like a man who believes himself master of his fate and is only responsible to himself for his conduct, he subordinates all rules to his instinct. He lacks those insignificant talents which raise mediocre men in inferior circumstances, men who have not to contend with such serious passions. He is above the reputation gained by frivolous attractions, and the fortune which shuts a man up in the precincts of a town or small province, the ordinary outcome of a somewhat narrow wisdom. He is eloquent, simple, vehement, profound, discerning, and impenetrable even to his friends. Endowed with insight into men, exhibiting without envy the merit of others, and relying on his own, he is insinuating and bold, equally suited to persuade by force of reason or by the charms of seduction. He is fertile and powerful in resources for making facts and minds bend to his purposes; he is sincere by character, but makes an artifice of the truth, and is more dangerous when he speaks the truth than deceivers are by their subterfuges and falsehoods. He is one of those men whom other men misunderstand, whom the mediocrity of their fortune disguises and degrades, and whom only prosperity could develop and put in their right place.