16. Why, you will say, go to the desert? The reason is plain: That I may not hear or see you; that I may not be disturbed by your madness; that I may not be engaged in conflict with you; that the eye of the harlot may not lead me captive: that beauty may not lead me to unlawful embraces.
You will reply: "This is not to fight, but to run away. Stand in line of battle, put on your armour and resist your foes, so that, having overcome, you may wear the crown."
I confess my weakness. I would not fight in the hope of victory, lest some time or other I lose the victory. If I flee, I avoid the sword; if I stand, I must either overcome or fall. But what need is there for me to let go certainties and follow after uncertainties? Either with my shield or with my feet I must shun death. You who fight may either be overcome or may overcome. I who fly do not overcome, inasmuch as I fly; but I fly to make sure that I may not be overcome.
There is no safety in sleep with a serpent beside you. Possibly he will not bite me, yet it is possible that after a time he may bite me. We call women "mothers" who are no older than sisters and daughters, and we do not blush to cloak our vices with the names of piety. What business has a monk in the women's cells? What is the meaning of secret conversation and looks which shun the presence of witnesses? Holy love has no restless desire.
Moreover, what we have said respecting lust we must apply to avarice, and to all vices which are avoided by solitude. We therefore keep clear of the crowded cities, that we may not be compelled to do what we are urged to do, not so much by nature as by choice.