Nonfiction > Francis Bacon > Of the Wisdom of the Ancients

Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.
XXX. Metis
Or Counsel
THE ANCIENT poets tell us that Jupiter took Metis, whose name plainly signifies Counsel, to wife; that she conceived by him and was with child; which he perceiving did not wait till she brought forth, but ate her up; whereby he became himself with child; but his delivery was of a strange kind; for out of his head or brain he brought forth Pallas armed.  1
  This monstrous and at first sight very foolish fable contains, as I interpret it, a secret of government. It describes the art whereby kings so deal with the councils of state as not only to keep their authority and majesty untouched, but also to increase and exalt it in the eyes of their people. For kings by a sound and wise arrangement tie themselves to their councils with a bond like that of wedlock, and deliberate with them concerning all their greatest matters, rightly judging that this is no diminution to their majesty. But when the question grows ripe for a decision (which is the bringing forth) they do not allow the council to deal any further in it, lest their acts should seem to be dependent upon the council’s will; but at that point, (unless the matter be of such a nature that they wish to put away the envy of it) they take into their own hands whatever has been by the council elaborated and as it were shaped in the womb; so that the decision and execution (which, because it comes forth with power and carries necessity, is elegantly represented under the figure of Pallas armed) may seem to emanate from themselves. Nor is it enough that it be seen to proceed from their free and unconstrained and independent authority and will, but they must have the world think that the decision comes out of their own head, that is out of their proper wisdom and judgment.  2
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