Cornaro

 

Orderly living is, doubtless, a most certain cause and foundation of health and long life; nay, I say it is the only true medicine, and whoever weighs the matter well, will come to this conclusion. Hence it is, that when the physician comes to visit a patient, the first thing he prescribes is regular living, and certainly to avoid excess. Now, if the patient after recovery should continue so to live, he could not be sick again, and if a very small quantity of food is sufficient to restore his health, then but a slight addition is necessary for the continuance of the same; and so, for the future, he would want neither physician nor physic. Nay, by attending to what I have said, he would become his own physician, and indeed, the best he could have, since, in fact, no man should be a perfect physician to any but himself. The reason is, that any man, by repeated trials, may acquire a perfect knowledge of his own constitution, the kinds of food and drink which agree with him best. These repeated trials are necessary, as there is a great variety in the nature and stomachs of persons. I found that old wine did not suit me, but that the new wines did; and, after long practice, I discovered that many things, which might not be injurious to others, were not good for me. Now, where is the physician who could have informed me which to take, and which to avoid, since I by long observation, could scarce discover these things. 

It follows, therefore, that it is impossible to be a perfect physician to another. A man cannot have a better guide than himself, nor any physic better than a regular life. I do not, however, mean that for the knowledge and cure of such disorders as befall those who live an irregular life there is no occasion for a physician and that his assistance ought to be slighted; such persons should at once call in medical aid, in case of sickness. But, for the bare purpose of keeping ourselves in good health, I am of opinion, that we should consider this regular life as our physician, since it preserves men, even those of a weak constitution, in health; makes them live sound and hearty, to the age of one hundred and upward, and prevents their dying of sickness, or through the corruption of their humours, but merely by the natural decay, which at the last must come to all. These things, however, are discovered but by few, for men,  for the most part, are sensual and intemperate, and love to satisfy their appetites, and to commit every excess; and, by way of apology, say that they prefer a short and self- indulgent life, to a long and self-denying one, not knowing that those men are most truly happy who keep their appetites in subjection.

Thus have I found it, and I prefer to live temperately, so that I may live long and be useful. Had I not been temperate, I should never have written these tracts, which I have the pleasure of thinking will be serviceable to others. Sensual men affirm that no man can live a regular life. To this I answer, that Galen, who was a great physician, led such a life, and chose it as the best physic. The same did Plato, Cicero, Isocrates, and many other great men of former times, whom not to tire the reader I forbear naming; and, in our days, Pope Paul Farnese and Cardinal Bembo; and it was for that reason they lived so long. Therefore, since many have led this life, and many are actually leading it, surely all might conform to it, and the more so, as no great difficulty attends it. Cicero affirms that nothing is needed, but to be in good earnest. Plato, you say, though he himself lived thus regularly, affirms that, in republics, men often cannot do so, being obliged to expose themselves to various hardships and changes, which are incompatible with a regular life. I answer, that men who have to undergo these things, would be the better able to bear such hardships by being strictly temperate in matters of eating and drinking. 

Here it may be objected, that he who leads this strict and regular life, having constantly when well made use only of simple food fit for the sick, and in small quantities, has when himself in sickness, no recourse left in matters of diet. To which I reply, that, whoever leads a regular life, cannot be sick or it least but seldom. By a regular life I mean, that a man shall ascertain for himself, how small a quantity of food and drink is sufficient to supply the daily wants of his nature and then having done this, and Found out the kinds of food and drink best suited for its constitution, he shall, having formed his plans, strictly adhere to his resolutions and principles, not being careful at one time, and self-indulgent at others, for by so doing, he would gain but little benefit; but making care always to avoid excess, which any man can certainly do at all times, and under all circumstances, if he is determined. I say then, that he who thus lives cannot be sick, or but seldom, and for a short time, because, by regular living, he destroys every seed of sickness, and thus, by removing the cause, prevents the effect; so that he who pursues a regular and strictly moderate life, need not fear illness, for his blood having become pure, and free from all bad humours, it is not possible that he can fall sick.

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