This excerpt is taken from Book I of the Consolation of Philosophy (Ignatius Critical Editions Series: Goins, Scott, and Barbara H. Wyman, eds. & trans. 2012.)
In just this way the clouds of my sorrow were dispelled. Now my eyes drank in the bright light of heaven, and I could recognize the face of the one who was healing me. When I cast my eyes upon her and fixed my gaze, I saw it was the one whose home I had visited since my youth—the Lady Philosophy, my nurse. “Why have you come down from on high to see me in the loneliness of my exile, O lady of all virtues? Do you wish to stand on trial with me and face the charges they have falsely laid against me?”
Would I desert you, my child?” she replied. “Wouldn’t I help you carry this burden of ours that has been laid upon your shoulders by those that hate me? It would not be right for Philosophy to let an innocent man walk his path alone. To think that I would be afraid to face an accusation or tremble in fear—as if such charges were new to me!
“Do you think this is the first time that wicked men have made assaults against the walls of wisdom?” she said. “Didn’t we often have to engage in battle against rash folly in the old days, before the time of my Plato? And while Plato lived, didn’t I stand beside his Socrates as he won victory by death, a death he did not deserve? And after that, the Epicurean and Stoic herds and all the rest tried to snatch his legacy, every man for himself. They grabbed me, too, as their prey while I shouted and struggled against them, and they ripped this garment of mine, which I had woven myself. As they went away with some little shreds torn from it, they thought that I had yielded myself completely to them. Since these men were seen with little bits of my clothing, they were foolishly assumed to be my friends. How many of them were destroyed by the errors of the crowd!
“But even if you don’t know about the older examples, like Anaxagoras’ flight, the poisoning of Socrates, or Zeno’s tortures, surely you could have thought about men like Seneca, Canius, or Soranus—such examples are hardly ancient or obscure. These men died simply because they were trained in my ways and had no taste for the pursuits of wicked men. So don’t be surprised if we’re tossed about by storms on the sea of life, when we ourselves have chosen to be displeasing to the wicked. Indeed, we must despise their army, even if it is a large one, since no general directs it. Instead, it rushes about, carried here and there by a flood of error. If this army should set itself into ranks and attack us fiercely, we have a leader who will draw us into her fortress, while our enemies spend their time searching for their little bags of plunder. Yet we, untouched by their mad confusion, look down and laugh as they grab at every worthless thing they can find. Their cunning folly cannot climb the walls that keep us safe.
The virtuous man,
calm in his orderly life,
stares Fortune in the face
and drives proud Fate beneath his feet.
He holds high his unconquerable head!
Nothing shall move that man—
not the madness and menace of the sea
disturbing the tide,
nor Vesuvius’ broken furnace
nor the bolts of heaven’s fire
Why do miserable men wonder
at raging tyrants
with no true strength?