Nonfiction > Francis Bacon > Of the Wisdom of the Ancients
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Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.
 
I. Cassandra
Or Plainness of Speech
 
THEY say that Cassandra was beloved by Apollo; that she contrived by various artifices to elude his desires, and yet to keep his hopes alive until she had drawn from him the gift of divination; that she had no sooner obtained this, which had all along been her object, than she openly rejected his suit; whereupon he, not being permitted to recal the boon once rashly promised, yet burning with revenge, and not choosing to be the scorn of an artful woman, annexed to it this penalty,—that though she should always foretell true, yet nobody should believe her. Her prophecies therefore had truth, but not credit: and so she found it ever after, even in regard to the destruction of her country; of which she had given many warnings, but could get nobody to listen to her or believe her.  1
  This fable seems to have been devised in reproof of unreasonable and unprofitable liberty in giving advice and admonition. For they that are of a froward and rough disposition, and will not submit to learn of Apollo, the god of harmony, how to observe time and measure in affairs, flats and sharps (so to speak) in discourse, the differences between the learned and the vulgar ear, and the times when to speak and when to be silent; such persons, though they be wise and free, and their counsels sound and wholesome, yet with all their efforts to persuade they scarcely can do any good; on the contrary, they rather hasten the destruction of those upon whom they press their advice; and it is not till the evils they predicted have come to pass that they are celebrated as prophets and men of a far foresight. Of this we have an eminent example in Marcus Cato of Utica, by whom the ruin of his country and the usurpation that followed, by means first of the conjunction and then of the contention between Pompey and Cæsar, was long before foreseen as from a watchtower, and foretold as by an oracle; yet all the while he did no good, but did harm rather, and brought the calamities of his country faster on; as was wisely observed and elegantly described by Marcus Cicero, when he said in a letter to a friend, Cato means well: but he does hurt sometimes to the State; for he talks as if he were in the republic of Plato and not in the dregs of Romulus.  2
 
 
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