Advice from a 17th Century French Aristocrat for Public Figures of Our Times

For many years Senior Discourse Contributor, Neil Cameron, has been fond of sharing a piece of Christmas doggerel with friends and colleagues.

This holiday season his inspiration is François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac, (1613-1680) who was one of the finest writers of maxims in the 17th century. The carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is about a 10th century Bohemian monarch, now patron saint of Czechs; its melody is from 16th c. Finland, the English lyrics from 1853. For Christmas 1916, the notion came to Neil that, with a few judicious adjustments, a dozen of the Duc’s maxims could be sung to the melody of the carol, as good advice to some celebrated folk of our time. Here it is for your fireside pleasure.

Re-reading La Rochefoucauld, found us still his brothers;
Had we no faults., be less pleased, finding fault in others.
And take one on success eased, done in manner steady:
Always pretend, when you can, you’re success alrea-dy.                              (Donald Trump)

Judging speeches aimed at you, use this firm foundation:
Sincerity is found in few, much dissimulation.
Self-reflection seldom nails, how two things we sever:
All admit their memory fails, but their judgement ne-ver.                                (Hillary Clinton)

Don’t expect the world will bless, nor for it to hopes kill,
Temper rules our happiness, just as much as fate will.
Need to watch out what believed, when you’re shaped by druthers;
Simplest way to be deceived, think you out-think others. 
(Bill Maher)

When we’re old and give advice, it’s without elation:
As we can’t now practise vice, warn as consolation.
While we can’t still coolish be, nor an early riser,
In old age more foolish we, also are much wi-ser.
(Conrad Black)

Bad behaviour isn’t nice, though it comes with cheap trick:
Vice to virtue pays a price, hypo-crisy laid thick.
While we pretend to be kind, schadenfreude we treasure,
Friends’ misfortune we don’t find, causes our displeasure.
(Margaret Atwood)

Better not to take a bow, or our talents quite bare;
There’s great skill in knowing how, just to hide our real flair.
Appearance we treat as key, trouncing other factors.
To seem what we wish to be, we all end as act-ors.
(Justin Trudeau)

So wrote Duc Larochefoucauld, in the time of Sun King;
Thoughts still good to sing and know, not a one with false ring.
Christmas should be most from heart, but for New Year use mind:
Then the Duc may help us start, whate’er then we so-on find.                           (The Rest of Us)

~ Merry Christmas to All from Neil Cameron, December, 2016