On Anger, Book II, XXXV

Does anyone wish to strike his enemy so hard, as to leave his own hand in the wound, and not to be able to recover his balance after the blow? yet such a weapon is anger: it is scarcely possible to draw it back.

We are careful to choose for ourselves light weapons, handy and manageable swords: shall we not avoid these clumsy, unwieldy, [37] and never-to-be-recalled impulses of the mind?

The only swiftness of which men approve is that which, when bidden, checks itself and proceeds no further, and which can be guided, and reduced from a run to a walk: we know that the sinews are diseased when they move against our will.

A man must be either aged or weakly who runs when he wants to walk: let us think that those are the most powerful and the soundest operations of our minds, which act under our own control, not at their own caprice.

Nothing, however, will be of so much service as to consider, first, the hideousness, and, secondly, the danger of anger.

No passion bears a more troubled aspect: it befouls the fairest face, makes fierce the expression which before was peaceful. From the angry “all grace has fled;” though their clothing may be fashionable, they will trail it on the ground and take no heed of their appearance; though their hair be smoothed down in a comely manner by nature or art, yet it will bristle up in sympathy with their mind.

The veins become swollen, the breast will be shaken by quick breathing, the man’s neck will be swelled as he roars forth his frantic talk: then, too, his limbs will tremble, his hands will be restless, his whole body will sway hither and thither.

What, think you, must be the state of his mind within him, when its appearance without is so shocking? how far more dreadful a countenance he bears within his own breast, how far keener pride, how much more violent rage, which will burst him unless it finds some vent?

Let us paint anger looking like those who are dripping with the blood of foemen or savage beasts, or those who are just about to slaughter them⁠—like those monsters of the nether world fabled by the poet to be girt with serpents and breathing flame, when they sally forth from hell, most frightful to behold, in order that they may kindle wars, stir up strife between nations, and overthrow peace; let us paint her eyes glowing with fire, her voice hissing, roaring, grating, and making worse sounds if worse there be, while she brandishes weapons in both hands, for she cares not to protect herself, gloomy, stained with blood, covered with scars and livid with her own blows, reeling like a maniac, wrapped in a thick cloud, dashing hither and thither, spreading desolation and panic, loathed by everyone and by herself above all, willing, if otherwise she cannot hurt her foe, to overthrow alike earth, sea, and heaven, harmful and hateful at the same time.

Or, if we are to see her, let her be such as our poets have described her⁠—“There with her bloodstained scourge Bellona fights, And Discord in her riven robe delights,” [38] or, if possible, let some even more dreadful aspect be invented for this dreadful passion.