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Of Ceremonies


He that is only real, had need have exceeding great parts of virtue;as the stone had need to be rich, that is set without foil. But if aman mark it well, it is, in praise and commendation of men, as it isin gettings and gains: for the proverb is true, That light gainsmake heavy purses; for light gains come thick, whereas great, come butnow and then. So it is true, that small matters win greatcommendation, because they are continually in use and in note: whereasthe occasion of any great virtue, cometh but on festivals. Thereforeit doth much add to a man's reputation, and is (as Queen Isabellasaid) like perpetual letters commendatory, to have good forms. Toattain them, it almost sufficeth not to despise them; for so shall aman observe them in others; and let him trust himself with the rest.For if he labor too much to express them, he shall lose their grace;which is to be natural and unaffected. Some men's behavior is like averse, wherein every syllable is measured; how can a man comprehendgreat matters, that breaketh his mind too much, to small observations?Not to use ceremonies at all, is to teach others not to use themagain; and so diminisheth respect to himself; especially they be notto be omitted, to strangers and formal natures; but the dwellingupon them, and exalting them above the moon, is not only tedious,but doth diminish the faith and credit of him that speaks. Andcertainly, there is a kind of conveying, of effectual and imprintingpassages amongst compliments, which is of singular use, if a man canhit upon it. Amongst a man's peers, a man shall be sure offamiliarity; and therefore it is good, a little to keep state. Amongsta man's inferiors one shall be sure of reverence; and therefore itis good, a little to be familiar. He that is too much in anything,so that he giveth another occasion of satiety, maketh himself cheap.To apply one's self to others, is good; so it be with demonstration,that a man doth it upon regard, and not upon facility. It is a goodprecept generally, in seconding another, yet to add somewhat ofone's own: as if you will grant his opinion, let it be with somedistinction; if you will follow his motion, let it be withcondition; if you allow his counsel let it be with alleging furtherreason. Men had need beware, how they be too perfect in compliments;for be they never so sufficient otherwise, their enviers will besure to give them that attribute, to the disadvantage of their greatervirtues. It is loss also in business, to be too full of respects, orto be curious, in observing times and opportunities. Solomon saith, Hethat considereth the wind, shall not sow, and he that looketh to theclouds, shall not reap. A wise man will make more opportunities,than he finds. Men's behavior should be, like their apparel, not toostrait or point device, but free for exercise or motion.

 


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