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of Nature in Men
Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished. Force maketh nature moreviolent in me return: doctrine and discourse maketh nature less importune: but custom onlydoth alter and subdue nature. He that seeketh victory over his nature, let him not set himselftoo great, nor too small tasks: for the first will make him dejected by often failings; and thesecond will make him a small proceeder, though by often prevailings.
And at the first, let him practise with helps, as swimmers do with bladders, or rushes: but aftera time, let him practise with disadvantages, as dancers do with thick shoes. For it breeds greatperfection, if the practice be harder then the use. Where nature is mighty, and therefore thevictory hard, the degrees had need be; first to stay and arrest nature in time; like to him, thatwould say over the four and twenty letters, when he was angry: then to go less in quantity; asif one should, in forbearing wine, come from drinking healths, to a draught at a meal: andlastly, to discontinue altogether. But if a man have the fortitude, and resolution, toenfranchise himself at once, that is the best; optimus ille animi vindex, laedentia pectus vmculaqui rupit, dedoluitque semel.
Neither is the ancient rule amiss, to bend nature as a wand, to a contrary extreme, wherebyto set it right: understanding it, where the contrary extreme is no vice.
Let not a man force a habit upon himself, with perpetual continuance, but with someintermission. For both the pause reinforceth the new onset; and if a man that is not perfectbe ever in practice, he shall as well practise his errors, as his abilities; and induce one habit ofboth: and there is no means to help this, but by seasonable intermissions.
But let not a man trust his victory over his nature too far, for nature will lay buried a great time,and yet revive, upon the occasion or temptation. Like as it was with Aesop's damsel, turnedfrom a cat to a woman; who sat very demurely, at the board's end, till a mouse ran before her.Therefore let a man either avoid the occasion altogether, or put himself often to it, that he maybe little moved with it A man's nature is best perceived in privateness, for there is noaffectation; in passion, for that puttefh a man out of his precepts; and in a new case orexperiment, for there custom leaveth him.
They are happy men, whose natures sort with their vocations; otherwise they may say, multumincola fuit aruma mea, when they converse in those things, they do not affect In studies,whatsoever a man commandeth upon himself, let him set hours for it: but whatsoever isagreeable to his nature, let him take no care for any set times: for his thoughts will fly to it ofthemselves; so as the spaces of other business, or studies, will suffice. A man's nature runseither to herbs, or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one, and destroy the other.