The Banquet

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The reason wherefore this happens (not only to me but to all), it now pleases me here briefly to touch upon. And firstly, it is because rumour goes beyond the truth; and then, what is beyond the truth restricts and strangles it. Good report is the first born of kindly thought in the mind of the friend; which the mind of the foe, although it may receive the seed, conceives not.

That mind which gives birth to it in the first place, so to make its gift more fair, as by the charity of friendship, keeps not within bounds of truth, but passes beyond them. When one does that to adorn a tale, he speaks against his conscience; when it is charity that causes him to pass the bounds, he speaks not against conscience.

The second mind which receives this, not only is content with the exaggeration of the first mind, but its own report adds its own effect of endeavours to embellish, and so by this action, and by the deception which it also receives from the goodwill generated in it, good report is made more ample than it should be; either with the consent or the dissent of the conscience; even as it was with the first mind. And the third receiving mind does this; and the fourth; and thus the exaggeration of good ever grows. And so, by turning the aforesaid motives in the contrary direction, one can perceive why ill-fame in like manner is made to grow. Wherefore Virgil says in the fourth of the AEneid: "Let Fame live to be fickle, and grow as she goes." Clearly, then, he who is willing may perceive that the image generated by Fame alone is always larger, whatever it may be, than the thing imaged is, in its true state.


Having previously shown the reason why Fame magnifies the good and the evil beyond due limit, it remains in this chapter to show forth those reasons which make evident why the Presence restricts in the opposite way, and having shown this I will return to the principal proposition. I say, then, that for three causes his Presence makes a person of less value than he is. The first is childishness, I do not say of age, but of mind; the second is envy; and these are in the judge: the third is human impurity; and this is in the person judged. The first, one can briefly reason thus: the greater part of men live according to sense and not according to reason, after the manner of children, and the like of these judge things simply from without; and the goodness which is ordained to a fit end they perceive not, because the eyes of Reason, which they need in order to perceive it, are closed. Hence, they soon see all that they can, and judge according to their sight.

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