Book II

◄Section IV - Section VI►

Section V

1Consequently, just as religion does honour to the gods, while superstition wrongs them, so good men will all display mercy and gentleness, but pity they will avoid; for it is the failing of a weak nature that succumbs to the sight of others' ills. And so it is most often seen in the poorest types of persons; there are old women and wretched females who are moved by the tears of the worst criminals, who, if they could, would break open their prison. Pity regards the plight, not the cause of it; mercy is combined with reason.

2I am aware that among the ill-informed the Stoic school is unpopular on the ground that it is excessively harsh and not at all likely to give good counsel to princes and kings; the criticism is made that it does not permit a wise man to be pitiful, does not permit him to pardon. Such doctrine, if stated in the abstract, is hateful; for, seemingly, no hope is left to human error, but all failures are brought to punishment. 3And if this is so, what kind of a theory is it that bids us unlearn the lesson of humanity, and closes the surest refuge against ill-fortune, the haven of mutual help? But the fact is, no school is more kindly and gentle, none more full of love to man and more concerned for the common good, so that it is its avowed object to be of service and assistance, and to regard not merely self-interest, but the interest of each and all. 4Pity is the sorrow of the mind brought about by the sight of the distress of others, or sadness caused by the ills of others which it believes come undeservedly. But no sorrow befalls the wise man; his mind is serene, and nothing can happen to becloud it. Nothing, too, so much befits a man as superiority of mind; but the mind cannot at the same time be superior and sad. 5Sorrow blunts its powers, dissipates and hampers them; this Anil not happen to a wise man even in the case of personal calamity, but he will beat back all the rage of fortune and crush it first; he will maintain always the same calm, unshaken appearance, and he could not do this if he were accessible to sadness.