Consolation of Philosophy, The


On this I said: 'I see how there is a happiness and misery founded on the actual deserts of the righteous and the wicked. Nevertheless, I wonder in myself whether there is not some good and evil in fortune as the vulgar understand it. Surely, no sensible man would rather be exiled, poor and disgraced, than dwell prosperously in his own country, powerful, wealthy, and high in honour. Indeed, the work of wisdom is more clear and manifest in its operation when the happiness of rulers is somehow passed on to the people around them, especially considering that the prison, the law, and the other pains of legal punishment are properly due only to mischievous citizens on whose account they were originally instituted. Accordingly, I do exceedingly marvel why all this is completely reversed—why the good are harassed with the penalties due to crime, and the bad carry off the rewards of virtue; and I long to hear from thee what reason may be found for so unjust a state of disorder. For assuredly I should wonder less if I could believe that all things are the confused result of chance. But now my belief in God's governance doth add amazement to amazement. For, seeing that He sometimes assigns fair fortune to the good and harsh fortune to the bad, and then again deals harshly with the good, and grants to the bad their hearts' desire, how does this differ from chance, unless some reason is discovered for it all?'

'Nay; it is not wonderful,' said she, 'if all should be thought random and confused when the principle of order is not known. And though thou knowest not the causes on which this great system depends, yet forasmuch as a good ruler governs the world, doubt not for thy part that all is rightly done.'

Wonder and Ignorance.

Who knoweth not how near the pole
Bootes' course doth go,
Must marvel by what heavenly law
He moves his Wain so slow;
Why late he plunges 'neath the main,
And swiftly lights his beams again.
When the full-orbèd moon grows pale
In the mid course of night,
And suddenly the stars shine forth
That languished in her light,
Th' astonied nations stand at gaze,
And beat the air in wild amaze.[M]
None marvels why upon the shore
The storm-lashed breakers beat,
Nor why the frost-bound glaciers melt
At summer's fervent heat;
For here the cause seems plain and clear,
Only what's dark and hid we fear.
Weak-minded folly magnifies
All that is rare and strange,
And the dull herd's o'erwhelmed with awe
At unexpected change.
But wonder leaves enlightened minds,
When ignorance no longer blinds.


[M] To frighten away the monster swallowing the moon. The superstition was once common. See Tylor's 'Primitive Culture,' pp. 296-302.

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