Nonfiction > Francis Bacon > Of the Wisdom of the Ancients
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Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.
 
VIII. Endymion
Or the Favourite
 
TRADITION says that Endymion, a shepherd, was beloved by the moon. But the intercourse between them was of a strange and singular kind. For while he lay reposing according to his habit in a natural cave under the rocks of Latmos, the moon would come down from heaven and kiss him as he slept, and go up into heaven again. And yet this idleness and sleeping did not hurt his fortunes; for the moon in the mean time so ordered it that his sheep fattened and increased exceedingly; insomuch that no shepherd had finer flocks or fuller.  1
  The fable relates (as I take it) to the dispositions and manners of princes. For princes being full of thoughts and prone to suspicions, do not easily admit to familiar intercourse men that are perspicacious and curious, whose minds are always on the watch and never sleep; but choose rather such as are of a quiet and complying disposition, and submit to their will without inquiring further, and shew like persons ignorant and unobserving, and as if asleep; displaying simple obedience rather than fine observation. With men of this kind princes have always been glad to descend from their greatness, as the moon from heaven; and to lay aside their mask, the continual wearing of which becomes a kind of burden; and to converse familiarly; for with such they think they can do so safely. It was a point especially noted in Tiberius Cæsar, a prince extremely difficult to deal with; with whom those only were in favour who, though they really understood him, yet dissembled their knowledge with a pertinacity which seemed like dulness. The same thing was observable in Louis XI. of France, a most cautious and crafty king. The circumstance of the cave also, in which according to the fable Endymion used to lie, is not without its elegance. For those who enjoy this kind of favour with princes have commonly some pleasant places of retirement to invite them to, where they may have the comfort of leisure and relaxation of mind, discharged of the incumbrances which their position lays upon them. And it is true that favourites of this class are commonly prosperous in their private fortunes; for princes though they may not raise them to honours, yet since their favour springs from true affection and not from considerations of utility, they generally enrich them with their bounty.  2
 
 
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