DIALOGUE THE FIRST
S. Augustine: What have you to say, O man of little strength ? of what are you dreaming? For what are you looking? Remember you not you are mortal?
Petrarch: Yes, I remember it right well, and a shudder comes upon me every time that remembrance rises in my breast.
S. Augustine: May you, indeed, remember as you say, and take heed for yourself. You will spare me much trouble by so doing. For there can be no doubt that to recollect one's misery and to practice frequent meditation on death is the surest aid in scorning the Seductions of this world, and in ordering the soul amid its stoles and tempests, if only such meditation be not superficial, but sink into the bones and marrow of the heart. Yet am I greatly afraid lest that happen in your case which. I have seen in so many others, and you be found deceiving your own self.
Petrarch: In what way do you mean? For I do not clearly understand the drift of your remarks.
S. Augustine: O race of mortal men, this it is that above all makes me astonished and fearful for you, when I behold you, of your own will, clinging to your miseries; pretending that you do not know the peril hanging over your heads, and if one bring it under your very eyes, you try to thrust it from your sight and put it afar off.
Petrarch: In what way are we so mad ?
S. Augustine: Do you suppose there is any living man so unreasonable that if he found himself stricken with a dangerous ailment he would not anxiously desire to regain the blessing of health ?
Petrarch: I do not suppose such a case has ever been heard of.
S. Augustine: And do you think if one wished for a thing with all one's soul one would be so idle and careless as not to use all possible means to obtain what one desired ?
Petrarch: No one, I think, would be so foolish.
S. Augustine: If we are agreed on these two points, so we ought also to agree on a third.
Petrarch: What is this third point?
S. Augustine: It is this: that just as he who by deep meditation has discovered he is miser- able will ardently wish to be so no more; and as he who has formed this wish will seek to have it realized, so he who seeks will be able to reach what he wishes. It is clear that the third step depends on the second as the Second on the first. And therefore the first should be, as it were, a root of salvation in man's heart. Now you mortal men, and you yourself with all your power of mind, keep doing your best by all the pleasures of the world to pull up this saving root out of your hearts, which, as I said, fills me with horror and wonder. With justice, there- fore, you are punished by the loss of this root of salvation and the consequent loss of an the rest.
Petrarch: I foresee this complaint you bring is likely to be lengthy, and take many words to develop it. Would you mind, therefore, postponing it to another occasion? And that I may travel more surely to your conclusion, may we spend a little more time offer the premisses?
S. Augustine: I must concede something to your slowness of mind; so please stop me at any point where you wish.
Petrarch: Well, if I must speak for myself, I do not follow your chain of reasoning.
S. Augustine: What possible obscurity is there in it ? What are you in doubt about now?
Petrarch: I believe there is and multitude of things for which we ardently long, which we seek for with an our energy, but which nevertheless, however diligent we are, we never have obtained and nearer shall.
S. Augustine: That may be true of other desires, but in regard to that we have now under discussion the case is wholly different.
Petrarch: What makes you say that?
S. Augustine: Because every man who desires to be delivered from his misery, provided only he desires sincerely and with all his heart, cannot fail to obtain that which he desires.
Petrarch: O father, what is this I hear ? There are few men indeed who do not feel they lack many things and who would not confess they were so far unhappy. Every one who questions his own heart will acknowledge it is so. By natural consequence if the fulness of blessing makes a man happy, all things he lacks will so far make him unhappy. This burden of unhappiness all men would fain lay down, as every one is aware; but every one is aware also that very few have been able. How many there are who have felt the crushing weight of grief, through bodily disease, or the death of those they loved, or imprisonment, or exile, or hard poverty, or other misfortunes it would take too long to tell over; and yet they who suffer these things have only too often to lament that it is not permitted them, as you suggest, to be set free. To me, then, it seems quite beyond dispute that a multitude of men are unhappy by compulsion and in spite of themselves.