On Solitude – Michel de Montaigne


in solis sis tibi turba locis.
[in lonely places, be a crowd unto yourself.]
Tibullus, IV, xiii, 12 (adapted).

It didn’t surprise me at all the fact that I was reading the words of a man who lived in the 16th century and mastered completely the art of being timeless. Finding relics of a bygone era which have an enormous influence on our way of thinking has become a fulfilling habit.
There is nothing more unsociable than Man, and nothing more sociable: unsociable by his vice, sociable by his nature.
Even though this essay may border on the extreme, I found some fascinating views on things – that have occupied my mind on countless occasions – which were expressed in a beautiful language brimming with erudition and wit, sophistication and simplicity; a splendid potpourri that turns his prose into something unbelievably modern. A rational blessedness blending in with a philosophical prayer, wistfully looking at life as the writer attempts to discover a new side of its meaning.
Quid terras alio calentes
Sole mutamus? patria quis exul Se quoque fugit?
[Why do we leave for lands warmed by a foreign sun? What fugitive from his own land can flee from himself?]
Horace, Odes, II, xvi, 18–20. (The ideas in general are indebted here to Seneca.)
If you do not first lighten yourself and your soul of the weight of your burdens, moving about will only increase their pressure on you, as a ship’s cargo is less troublesome when lashed in place… It is our own self we have to isolate and take back into possession.
Rupi jam vincula dicas: Nam luctata canis nodum arripit; attamen illi, Cum fugit, a collo trahitur pars longa catenæ.
[‘I have broken my chains,’ you say. But a struggling cur may snap its chain, only to escape with a great length of it fixed to its collar.]
Persius, Satires, V, 158–60.
We take our fetters with us; our freedom is not total: we still turn our gaze towards the things we have left behind; our imagination is full of them.
This is the second essay I read and it was a delight – a welcome change of pace after reading the first one titled “On Sleep” which, ironically, did justice to those words, despite some gleam in the distance.
I will be reading The Complete Essays every now and then so it is not going to be on my currently-reading shelf because it could be there for years and that would be sorely discouraging.
Ratings and quotes will be gathered here.

 * Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.



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