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customary appetites of it, which can only give a
Quisnam igitur liber? Sapiens, sibíque impe-
Not Oenomaus, who commits himself wholly
Who governs his own course with steady hand;
Whom neither death nor poverty does fright;
Loud at his door, keep firm the bolt and lock;
This, I confess, is a freeman: but it may be said, that many persons are so shackled by their fortune, that they are hindered from enjoyment of that manumission which they have obtained from virtue. I do both understand, and in part fee!, the weight of this objection; all I can answer to it is, that we must get as much liberty as we can, we must use our utmost endeavours, and, when all that is done, be contented with the length of that line which is allowed us. ask me, in what condition of life I think the most allowed; I should pitch upon that sort of people, whom King James was wont to call the happiest of our nation, the men placed in the country by their fortune above an high constable, and yet beneath the trouble of a justice of peace; in a moderate plenty, without any just argument for the desire of increasing it by the care of many relations; and with so much knowledge and love of piety and philosophy (that is, of the study of God's laws, and of his creatures) as may afford him matter enough never to be idle, though without business; and never to be melancholy, though without sin or vanity.
I shall conclude this tedious discourse with a prayer of mine in a copy of Latin verses, of which I remember no other part; and (pour faire bonne bouche) with some other verses upon the same subject:
Magne Deus, quod ad has vitæ brevis attinet
Da mihi, da panem libertatemque, nec ultrà
For the few hours of life allotted me,
5 Hor. 2 Sat. vii. 83.
I'll beg no more: if more thou'rt please to give,
MARTIAL, Lib. I. Ep. lvi.
Vota tui breviter, &c.
WELL then, sir, you shall know how far extend
MARTIAL, Lib. II. Ep. liii.
Vis fieri liber? &c.
WOULD you be free? 'Tis your chief wish you
Come on; I'll show thee, friend, the certain way;
MARTIAL, Lib. II. Ep. Ixviii.
Quod te nomine ? &c.
THAT I do you with humble bows no more,
'Tis morning; well; I fain would yet sleep on;
Besides, the rooms without are crowded all;
And much of mirth and moderate wine. To thy bent mind some relaxation give, And steal one day out of thy life to live. Oh happy man (he cries) to whom kind Heaven Has such a freedom always given ! Why, mighty madman, what should hinder thee From being every day as free?
In all the free born nations of the air,
When, and wherever he thought good,
Nor ever did ambitious rage
Or the false forest of a well-hung room,
He's no small prince who every day
Now will I sleep, now eat, now sit, now walk,
Or, if my fancy call me away,
A hundred horse and men to wait on thee,
A journey, too, might go.
The bondman of the cloister so,
All that he does receive does always owe;
(In which he only hits the white Who joins true profit with the best delight) The more heroic strain let others take,
Mine the Pindaric way I'll make; [free, The matter shall be grave, the numbers loose and It shall not keep one settled pace of time, In the same tune it shall not always chime, Nor shall each day just to his neighbour rhyme; A thousand liberties it shall dispense, And yet shall manage all without offence
Or to the sweetness of the sound, or greatness of
the sense; Nor shall it never from one subject start, Nor seek transitions to depart, Nor its set way o'er stiles and bridges make, Nor through lares a compass take,
As if it fear'd some trespass to commit.
Till the whole carcase he devour,
Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atra
Sic ego secretis possum bene vivere sylvis,
Seneca Epist. lxxxvi.
With thee for ever I in woods could rest,
And yet our dear self is so wearisome to us, that we can scarcely support its conversation for an hour together. This is such an odd temper of mind, as Catullus expresses towards one of his mistresses, whom we may suppose to have been of a very unsociable humour 3:
NUNQUAM minus solus, quam cum solus, is now
Odi, & amo: quare id faciam fortasse requiris,
I hate, and yet I love thee too;
And feel with torment that 'tis so.
It is a deplorable condition, this, and drives a man sometimes to pitiful shifts, in seeking ho to avoid himself.
The truth of the matter is, that neither he who is a fop in the world, is a fit man to be alone; nor he who has set his heart much upon the world, though he have never so much understanding; so that solitude can be well fitted, and sit right, but upon a very few persons. They must have enough knowledge of the world to see the vanity of it, and enough virtue to despise all vanity; if the mind be possessed with any lust or passions, a man had better be in a fair, than in a wood alone. They may, like petty thieves, cheat us perhaps, and pick our pockets, in the midst of company; but, like robbers, they use to strip and bind, or murder us, when they catch us alone. This is but to retreat from men, and fall into the hands of devils. It is like the punishment of parricides among the Romans, to be sowed into a bag, with an ape, a dog, and a
The first work therefore that a man must do, to make himself capable of the good of solitude, is, the very eradication of all lusts; for how is it possible for a man to enjoy himself, while his af fections are tied to things without himself? In the second place, he must learn the heart and get the habit of thinking; for this too, no less than wellspeaking, depends upon much practice; and cogitation is the thing which distinguishes the solitude of a god from a wild beast. Now because the soul of man is not by its own nature or observation furnished with sufficient materials to work upon, it it is necessary for it to have continual recourse to learning and books for fresh supplies, so that the solitary life will grow indigent, and be ready to starve, without them; but if once we be thoroughly engaged in the love of letters, instead of being wearied with the length of any day, we shall only complain of the shortness of our whole life.
O vita, stulto longa, sapienti brevis 4!
O life, long to the fool, short to the wise!
The first minister of state has not so much business in public, as a wise man has in private if the one have little leisure to be a'one, the other has less leisure to be in company; the one has but part of the affairs of one nation, the other all the works of God and nature, under his consideration. There is no saying shocks me so much as that which I hear very often, "That a man does not know how to pass his time." It would have been but ill-spoken by Methusalem in the nine hundred sixty-ninth year of his life; so far it is from us, who have not time enough to attain to the utmost perfection of any part of any science, to have cause to complain that we are forced to be idle for want of work. But this, you will say, is work only for the learned; others are not capable either of the employments or divertisements that arrive from letters. I know they are not; and therefore cannot much recommend solitude to a man totally illiterate. But, if any man be so unlearned, as to want entertainment of the little intervals of accidental solitude, which frequently occur in almost all conditions (except the very meanest of the people, who have business enough in the necessary provisions for life), it is truly a great shame both to his parents and himself; for a very small portion of any ingenious art will stop up all those gaps of our time: either music, or painting, or designing, or chymistry, or history, or gardening, or twenty other things, will do it usefully and pleasantly; and if he happen to set his affections upon poetry (which I do not advise him too immoderately), that will over-do it; no wood will be thick enough to hide him from the importunities of company or business, which would abstract him from his beloved.
But that is not to deceive the world, but to deceive ourselves, as Quintilian says 9, vitam fallere, to draw on still, and amuse, and de'ceive, our life, till it be advanced insensibly to the fatal period, and fall into that pit which nature hath prepared for it. The meaning of all this is no more than that most vulgar saying, Bene qui latuit, bene vixit, He has lived well, who has lain well hidden; which, if it be a truth, the world (I will swear) is sufficiently deceived for my part, I think it is, and that the pleasantest condition of life is, in incognito. What a brave privilege is it, to be free from all contentions, from all envying or being envyed, from receiving and from paying all kind of ceremonies! It is, in my mind, a very delightful pastime, for two good and agreeable friends to travel up and down together, in places where they are by nobody known, nor know any body. It was the case of Æneas and his Achates, when they walked invisibly about the fields and streets of Carthage. Venus herself,
A vail of thicken'd air around them cast, That none might know, or see them, as they pass'd '.
The common story of Demosthenes' confession, that he had taken great pleasure in hearing of a tanker-woman say, as he passed, "This is that Demosthenes," is wonderfully ridiculous from so solid an orator. I myself have often met with that temptation to vanity (if it were any); but am so far from finding it any pleasure, that it only makes me run faster from the place, till I get, as it were, out of sight-shot. Democritus relates, and in such a manner as if he gloried in the good-fortune and commodity of it, that, when he came to Athens, nobody there did so much as take notice of him; and Epicurus lived there very well, that is, lay hid many years in his gardens, so fainous since
that time, with his friend Metrodorus: after whose death, making in one of his letters a kind commemoration of the happiness which they two had enjoyed together, he adds at last, that he thought it no disparagement to those great felicities of their life, that, in the midst of the most talked-of and talking country in the world, they had lived so long, not only without fame, but almost without being heard of. And yet, within a very few years afterward, there were no two names of men more known, or more generally celebrated. If we engage into a large acquaintance and various familiarities, we set open our gates to the invaders of most of our time: we expose our life to a quotidian ague of frigid impertinences, which would make a wise man tremble to think of. Now, as for being known much by sight, and pointed at, I cannot comprehend the honour that lies in that; whatsoever it be, every mountebank has it more than the best doctor, and the hangman more than the lord chief justice of a city. Every creature has it, both of nature and art, if it be any ways extraordinary. It was as often said, "This is that Bucephalus," or, "This is that Incitatus," when they were led prancing through the streets, as, "This is that Alexander," or, "This is that Domitian ;" and truly, for the latter, I take Incitatus to have been a much more honourable beast than his master, and more deserving the consulship, than he the empire.
I love and commend a true good-fame, because it is the shadow of virtue: not that it doth any good to the body which it accompanies, but it is an efficacious shadow, and, like that of St. Peter, cures the diseases of others. The best kind of glory, no doubt, is that which is reflected from honesty, such as was the glory of Cato and Aristides; but it was harmful to them both, and is seldom beneficial to any man, whilst he lives; what it is to him after his death, I cannot say, because I love not philosophy merely notional and conjectural, and no man who has made the experiment has been so kind as to come back to iuform Upon the whole matter, I account a person who has a moderate mind and fortune, and lives in the conversation of two or three agreeable friends, with little commerce in the world besides, who is esteemed well enough by his few neighbours that know him, and is truly irreproachable by any body; and so, after a healthful quiet life, before the great inconveniencies of old-age, goes more silently out of it than he came in (for I would not have him so much as cry in the exit): this innocent deceiver of the world, as Horace calls him, this muta persona, I take to have been more happy in his part, than the greatest actors that fill the stage with show and noise, nay, even than Augustus himself, who asked, with his last breath, whether he had not played his farce very well,
SENECA, EX THYESTE, ACT II. CHOR,
Upon the slippery tops of human state,