The third Paradoxe.
That it is expedient for a Captaine to haue susteyned an ouer∣throwe.
PLutarke among his small workes in a * treatise intituled, Of profite to be taken of enemies, doth somewhat verifie this pro∣position, where with great arte and elo∣quence he generally sheweth the same which I pretend to describe perticulerly, though rudely: but this opinion of myne I thinke many Captaines (blinded per∣aduenture with the apparance of things which by nature are hurtfull) will gainesay: howbeit when I haue discouered the fruites there vnder hidden, they shall, as I suppose, though not wholy, yet in parte be satisfied. And therefore without farther circumstance of words I wil come to the principall matter. * Such as attaine to militarie offices doe ordinarily climbe thereto by two waies: The one called merite or desert: and the other fa∣uour.Page 211 Some of those that haue trodden the first path, seeing them∣selues in authoritie do grow proude: and others that haue come by the second I doe imagine to be ignorant, which are very great im∣perfectiōs, as easie to bee knowne in others, as hard to be espied by those that are possessed with them. And as to diseases engendred in mens bodies, the remedies must bee applyed according to the rules of Phisicke: the like doe these that are of the minde stande in neede of. But many times neither arte nor counsaile can preuaile, but the accident, which more properly seemeth to bee hurt and de∣struction, then remedie. Howbeit, if any doe meruaile how any pro∣fite can be found in things hurtfull, let them consider the Scorpion who carieth in her both the sting & poyson that infecteth the deadly wound, and the medicine that cureth the same. So also may wee say, that militarie mishaps doe sometimes worke the like effects. For by bringing vpon vs an apparant calamitie, they doe thereby serue for an instruction to heale the hidden euill that bred the other. This inward euill whereof I purpose to speake, is Pride, which ordinarily breedeth in those that are endued with sufficiencie and valour, and bringeth their soules as farre out of fashion as the Dropsie doth the bodie: wherof ensueth an vnreasonable selfe-esti∣mation and contempt of others, which are two such errors as oftentimes doe cast those that followe them into most manifest de∣structions. And as all men ought to beware of stumbling vpon such great inconueniences, so must they take in good part the vnloo∣ked for corrections, which make thē wise, to take héed another time.
The first example that I will alleadge of such as I thinke to * haue gayned thereby, shall be of Gonsales Fernando a Spanyard and most notable Captaine, who hauing bene vnder Ferdinand of Arragon the chiefest instrument to tame and driue the Moores out of Granado, was sent into the Realme of Naples, which that King chalenged against the French men. Comming thether with an armie against them, he thought peraduenture that the French, men of armes, would as easely haue bene broken as the Moores Genetairies, also that his fame alreadie obteyned, would terrifie them. But he was deceiued, for they ouerthrewe his troopes: And himselfe losing that field, which the Lord of Aubigny wonne, he afterward shewed that he had gathered instruction by such an ouer∣throw: for he guided himselfe with such arte and discretion that he ouerthrewe the Frenchmen in sundrie encounters, and finally ex∣pelled them the Realme.
Page 212 That great Iulius Caesar, who in the arte of warre surpassed all * Capteynes that euer were, after he had driuen Pompey out of I∣taly, & enclosed him in Dirachium, waxed proud & cōtemned him, so as vndertaking to entrench a great countrie wherby to close him vp the straighter, Pompey knowing his aduantage, came forth and flew the chiefe part of his armie, and had like to haue wonne a full victorie. This shrewd blowe made Caesar so warie and diligent, that he neuer after gaue Pompey any oportunitie against him, but with his 〈…〉ted pollicies brought him to the same poynt that he required, and so ouercame him.
These two examples, the one olde and the other newe, may suf∣fice * to giue to vnderstande that the greatest, giuing themselues euen to the least pride, doe sometimes encurre an ouerthrowe by this imperfection: but withall they haue this good thing in them, that hauing receiued of their enemies some chastisement for their negligence or rashnesse, they will soone amend. Many Cap∣teynes therefore now liuing must not bee ashamed to confesse that in prosperitie they may bee ouer seene, sith those that haue bene en∣dued with such modestie haue so farre ouershot themselues.
The first cause of this mischiefe consisteth in our selues, and is * our had inclination, which corroborated by custume tēdeth to exalt vs aboue measure, so as if an occasion falleth out of a quarter long, it stretcheth it to an ell. Which appeareth in all professions of arte and knowledge, but chiefly in the arte of warre, the professors whereof doe make great account of themselues, because they exer∣cise the actions of Fortitude and Magnanimitie. Many times a∣mong the Spanish bands you shall heare a newe Souldier of three crownes pay, say, I am as good as the King: let vs then thinke what a Capteyne that hath bene in sundrie assaults and battailes will doe: He will straight way say, I am better then the Pope. Thus doe wee see militarie presumption swell euen aboue the thing it selfe. The commendations of friends are an other cause that helpe to * encrease it: for they not able to forbeare praysing those whom they loue, who also doe deserue the same, by powring plentie of this li∣quour vpon them, doe sometimes make them drink so much ther∣of that they be halfe giddie therewith. Herein they that are too free in attributing doe ouershoote themselues at vnawares, and they that are so curious in the receipt thereof are willingly ouertaken.
Flatterers also which followe such as are in authoritie as the * shadowe doth the bodie, doe greatly helpe to giue to Pride her true Page 213 shape. For with their deciptfull and windie words they puffe vp the soule like a bladder. If a yong Lord doth any valiant act, they straight compare him to Gaston de Fax. If he be an expert Cap∣taine, they tell him he passeth Bertrande du Glesquin. And if they haue any better hap, they make him equall with Scipio and Mar∣cellus. To him whom in hope of profite they would allure, they say, he must proceede in his good fortune, sith the mightie doe e∣stéeme of him, the Souldiers doe loue him and the people haue him in admiration. Hereto they adde also that his fame is so dispersed among his enemies, that when they knowe him to be in the fielde, they feare him as the Shepheards in Barbary doe the mightie Lyon when he commeth out of the woods. And that for their parts they are glad to see him in so good a way to atchiue most worthie tryumphes and meanes whereby to recompence those that are his seruants.
By this sweete harmonie of speech, this man who peraduenture * before presumed enough of himselfe, now coueteth to presume too much, and so to seeke nothing but warre and battaile. Yea the most modest who mislike flatteries, euen in the reiecting of them, do still swallowe downe some small portion, wherewith to feede that little vanitie that dwelleth in them. It is not to bee enquired what dis∣courses they make in themselues, what they shall doe, or how high they shall climbe, but to take these for extrauagants. In this dispo∣sition nothing seemeth vnpossible, and the more boldnesse and ex∣perience they haue the more doe their presumption encrease, wher∣by they disdaine their friends, contemne their enemies, and refuse all others counsaile in whatsoeuer they vndertake. These bee the bad humours which this windie collick of Presumption and Flat∣terie doe engender in a Captaine.
I thinke no man dare denye but it were necessarie to see them * purged. Howbeit, diuers doe finde my remedies to be very bitter and troublesome: but say what they will, they are most conuenient. For these humours being too deeply rooted, the remedies where∣with to plucke them vp must be very strong. These medicines are of an other sorte, then those that are vsed against diseases of the bo∣die, whose propertie is to worke to the good of the partie vpon whō they be ministred: For being considered in their owne nature, they are as hath bene sayd méere ruines of the bodie: but considered ac∣cidentally, they may bee termed drugges that heale the astonish∣ment of the minde. The Phisitions also that minister these medi∣cines, Page 214 may be compared to him whom Plutarke maketh mention * of, who thinking to haue slaine his enemie, by thrusting his sword into him, pearced an Impostume which he had within him, and so saued his life, that he should soone after haue lost through his se∣crete sicknesse, if the other mishappe had not happened, which was to him a healthsome remedie.
The wise Captaine therfore that seeketh to profite in the know∣ledge * of armes, when he incurre any mishaps, hauing disgesed the first bitternesse thereof, must seeke to vse the rest as the expulsiue vertue of some Easterly roote, to expell out of his minde the proud vapours thereinto ascended: and the greater operation that this worketh in any, ye lesse neede hath he of any other medicine. As for the Captaines that are furnished with ignorance, they likewise do growe into presumption, whereto the good clawbacks, that follow thē (as wel as the former) are a great helpe. But for the others, be∣ing better guided by vertue, their losses doe happen after a more valiant sorte; where these ignorant men doe fall into mishappes ac∣companied with shame: Now to speake of the estate as well of the one as of the other, they that amend, be happie in mishap: but most vnhappie are those that will neuer acknowledge their error, but impute it either to others or to fortune, and so continue their pride in the middest of their miserie. For in ye ende they remaine engaged vnder the burthen of some great blowe whether their want of dis∣cretion hath led them: which the first doe shunne by finding their imperfection in time, after they haue receiued some smal one. Here∣by may wee easely iudge that the aduersities which bring vs into the path of wisedome, are better then the prosperities that trans∣port vs therefro. I could alleadge the domesticall examples of sun∣drie of our Capteynes, who to their friends haue not denyed but that they haue reaped commoditie out of these extraordinarie cor∣rections. But sith I imagine that such as followe the warres may haue tryed somewhat, or heard others speake thereof, I will for∣beare: only I will admonish them both sooner and neerer to looke to their owne faultes then to other mens: for so shall they learne to ouershoote themselues but seeldome.