« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
nals? It was justly named by the augury of no less than twelve vultures, and the founder cemented his walls with the blood of his brother. Not unlike to this was the beginning even of the first town too in the world, and such is the original sin of most cities: their actual increase daily with their age and growth; the more people, the more wicked all of them; every one brings in his part to inflame the contagion: which becomes at last so universal and so strong, that no precepts can be sufficient preservatives, nor any thing secure our safety, but flight from among the infected.
the cleanly; the sight of folly and impiety, vexatious to the wise and pious.
Lucretius, by his favour, though a good poet, was but an ill-natured man, when he said, it was delightful to see other men in a great storm: and no less ill-natured should I think Democritus, who laughed at all the world, but that he retired himself so much out of it, that we may perceive he took no great pleasure in that kind of mirth. I have been drawn twice or thrice by company to go to Bedlam, and have seen others very much delighted with the fantastical extravagancy of so many various madnesses; which upon me wrought so contrary an effect, that I always returned, not only melancholy, but even sick with the sight. My compassion there was perhaps too tender, for I meet a thousand madmen abroad, without any perturbation; tho', to weigh the matter justly, the total loss of reason is less
exact judge of human blessings, of riches, honours, beauty, even of wit itself, should pity the abuse of them, more than the want.
We ought, in the choice of a situation, to regard above all things the healthfulness of the place, and the healthfulness of it for the mind, rather than for the body. But suppose (which is hardly to be supposed) we had antidote enough against this poison; nay, suppose further, we were always and at all points armed and provid-deplorable than the total depravation of it. An ed, both against the assaults of hostility, and the mines of treachery, it will yet be but an uncomfortable life to be ever in alarms; though we were compassed round with fire, to defend Briefly, though a wise man could pass never ourselves from wild beasts, the lodging would be so securely through the great roads of human unpleasant, because we must always be obliged life, yet he will meet perpetually with so many to watch that fire, and to fear no less the defects objects and occasions of compassion, grief, shame, of our guard, than the diligences of our enemy. anger, hatred, indignation, and all passions but The sum of this is, that a virtuous man is in dan-envy (for he will find nothing to deserve that), ger to be trod upon and destroyed in the crowd of his contraries, nay, which is worse, to be changed and corrupted by them; and that it is impossible to escape both these inconveniencies, without so much caution as will take away the whole quiet, that is the happiness, of his life,
Ye see then, what he may lose; but, I pray, what can he get there?
Quid Romæ faciam? Mentiri nescio 1.
What should a man of truth and honesty do at Rome? he can neither understand nor speak the language of the place; a naked man may swim in the sea, but it is not the way to catch fish there; they are likelier to devour him, than he them, if he bring no nets, and use no deceits. I think therefore it was wise and friendly advice, which Martial gave to Fabian, when he met him newly arrived at Rome:
Honest and poor, faithful in word and thought;
Nor with false whispers th' innocent betray:
Nay, if nothing of all these were in the case, yet the very sight of uncleanness is loathsome to
Juv. Sat. iii. 41.
that he had better strike into some private path; nay, go so far, if he could, out of the common way, ut nec facta audiat Pelopidarum; that he might not so much as hear of the actions of the sons of Adam. But, whither shall we fly then? into the deserts, like the ancient hermits?
-Quà terra patet, fera regnat Erinnys, In facinus jurâsse putes―3
One would think that all mankind had bound themselves by an oath to do all the wickedness they can; that they had all (as the scripture speaks) "sold themselves to sin :" the difference only is, that some are a little more crafty (and but a little, God knows) in making of the bargain. I thought, when I first went to dwell in the country, that without doubt I should have met there with the simplicity of the old poetical golden age; I thought to have found no inhabitants there, but such as the shepherds of sir Phil. Sydney in Arcadia, or of Monsieur d'Urfé upon the banks of Lignon; and began to consider with myself, which way I might recommend no less to posterity the happiness and innocence of the men of Chertsea: but to confess the truth, I perceived quickly, by infallible demonstrations, that I was still in Old England, and not in Arcadia or La Forrest; that, if I could not content myself with any thing less than exact fidelity in human conversation, I had almost as good go back and seek for it in the Court, or the Exchange, or Westminster-hall. I ask again, then, whither shall we fly, or what shall we do? The world may so come in a man's way, that he cannot choose but salute it; he must take heed, though, not to go a whor ing after it. If, by any lawful vocation, or just
2 Lucr. lib. ii.
3 Ovid. Metam. i. 241.
necessity, men happen to be married to it, I can only give them St. Paul's advice: "Brethren, the time is short; it remains, that they, that have wives, be as though they had none.-But I would that all men were even as I myself." In all cases, they must be sure, that they do mundum ducere, aud not mundo nubere. They must retain the superiority and headship over it: happy are they, who can get out of the sight of this deceitful beauty, that they may not be led so much as into temptation; who have not only quitted the metropolis, but can abstain from ever seeking the next market-town in their country.
coxcomb? A man, who is excessive in his pains and diligence, and who consumes the greatest part of his time in furnishing the remainder with all conveniences and even superfluities, is to angels and wise men no less ridiculous; he does as little consider the shortness of his passage, that he might proportion his cares accordingly. It is, alas, so narrow a strait betwixt the womb and the grave, that it might be called the Pas de Vie, as well as that the Pas de Calais.
We are all phago (as Pindar calls us), creatures of a day, and therefore our Saviour bounds our desires to that little space: as if it were very probable that every day should be our last, we are taught to demand even bread for no longer a time. The San ought not to set upon our cove➡
CLAUDIAN'S OLD MAN OF VERONA. | tousness, no more than upon our anger; but, as
DE SENE VERONENSI, QUI SUBURBIUM NUNQUAM
FELIX, qui patriis, &c.
HAPPY the man, who his whole time doth bound
From his first rising infancy has known,
A neighbouring wood, born with himself, he sees,
Thus health and strength he to a third age enjoys,
to God Almighty a thousand years are as one day, so, in direct opposition, one day to the covetous man is as a thousand years; tam brevi fortis jaculatúr ævo multa, so far he shoots beyond his butt: one would think, he were of the opinion of the Millenaries, and hoped for so long a reign upon Earth. The patriarchs before the flood, who enjoyed almost such a life, made, we are sure, less stores for the maintaining of it; they, who lived nine hundred years, scarcely provided for a few days; we, who live but a few days, provide at least for nine hundred years. What a strange alteration is this of human life and. manners! and yet we see an imitation of it in every man's particular experience; for we begin not the cares of life, till it be half spent, and still increase them, as that decreases.
What is there among the actions of beasts so, illogical and repugnant to reason? When they do any thing, which seems to proceed from that which we call reason, we disdain to allow them that perfection, and attribute it only to a natural instinct and are not we fools, too, by the same kind of instinct? If we could but learn to "num ber our days" (as we are taught to pray that we might), we should adjust much better our other accounts; but, whilst we never consider an end of them, it is no wonder if our cares for them be without end, too. Horace advises very wisely,
and in excellent good words,
Spem longum reseces-5
from a short life cut off all hopes that grow too long. They must be pruned away like suckers, that choak the mother-plant, and hinder it from bearing fruit. And in another place, to the same sense,
THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE, AND UN- Vitæ summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare
CERTAINTY OF RICHES.
If you should see a man, who were to cross from Dover to Calais, run about very busy and solicitous, and trouble himself many weeks before in making provisions for his voyage, would you commend him for a cautious and discreet person, or laugh at him for a timorous and impertinent 4.1 Cor. vii. 29. 7.
Insere nunc, Melibæe, pyros; pone ordine For when to future years thou' extend'st thy
For this Senecio I have no compassion, because he was taken, as we say, in ipso facto, still labouring in the work of avarice; but the poor rich man in St Luke (whose case was not like this) I could pity, methinks if the Scripture would permit me; for he seems to have been satisfied at last, he confesses he had enough for many years, he bids his soul take its ease; and yet for all that, God says to him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; and the things thou hast laid up, who shall they belong to 8?" Where shall we find the causes of this bitter reproach and terrible judgment? We may find, I think, two; and God, perhaps, saw more. First, that he did not intend true rest to his soul, but only to change the employments of it from avarice to luxury; his design is, to eat, and to drink, and to be merry. Secondly, that he went on too long before he thought of resting; the fullness of his old barns had not sufficed him, he would stay till he was forced to build new ones: and God meted out to him in the same measure; since he would have more riches than his life could contain, God destroyed his life, and gave the fruits of it to another.
Thus God takes away sometimes the man from his riches, and no less frequently riches from the man: what hope can there be of such a marriage, where both parties are so fickle and uncertain ? by what bonds can such a couple be kept long together?
Why dost thou heap up wealth, which thou must Or, what is worse, be left by it? [quit, Why dost thou load thyself, when thou 'rt to fly, Oh man, ordain'd to die?
Why dost thou build up stately rooms on high,
Suppose, thou Fortune couldst to tameness bring,
Yet Death at all that subtilty will laugh;
Death will that foolish gardener mock, Who does a slight and annual plant engraff Upon a lasting stock,
7 Buc. i. 4.
Luke xii. 20.
Thou deal'st in other men's affairs.
Ev'n aged men, as if they truly were Children again, for age prepare; Provisions for long travel they design,
In the last point of their short line.
I AM glad that you approve and applaud my design of withdrawing myself from all tumult and business of the world, and consecrating the little rest of my time to those studies, to which Nature had so motherly inclined me,and from which Fortune, like a step-mother, has so long detained me. But nevertheless (you say, which but is ærugo mera, a rust which spoils the good me tal it grows upon. But you say) you would advise me not to precipitate that resolution, but to stay a while longer with patience and complai sance, till I had gotten such an estate as might afford me (according to the saying of that per
son, whom you and I love very much, and would
| Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise;
There is some help for all the defects of fortune; for, if a man cannot attain to the length of his wishes, he may have his remedy by cutting of them shorter. Epicurus writes a letter to Idomeneus (who was then a very powerful, wealthy, and, it seems, bountiful person) to recommend to him, who had made so many men rich, one Pythocles, a friend of his, whom he desired might be made a rich man too; "but I entreat you that you would not do it just the same way as you have done to many less deserving persons, but in the most gentlemanly manner of obliging him, which is not to add any thing to his estate, but to take something from his desires."
Casar (the man of expedition above all others) was so far from this folly, that whensoever, in a journey, he was to cross any river, he never went one foot out of his way for a bridge, or a ford, or a ferry; but flung himself into it immediately, and swam over: and this is the course we ought to imitate, if we meet with any stops in our way to happiness. Stay, till the waters are low; stay, till some boats come by to transport you; stay, till a bridge be built for you; you had even as Persius good stay till the river be quite past. (who, you use to say, you do not know whether he be a good poet or no, because you cannot understand him, and whom therefore, I say, I know to be not a good poet) has an odd expression of these procrastinators, which, methinks, is full of fancy :
Jam cras hesternum consumpsimus; ecce aliud
Our yesterday's to morrow now is gone.
The sum of this is, that, for the uncertain hopes of some conveniences, we ought not to defer the execution of a work that is necessary; especially, when the use of those things, which we would stay for, may otherwise be supplied; but the loss of time, never recovered: nay, farther yet, though we were sure to obtain all that we had a mind to, though we were sure of getting never so much by continuing the game, yet, when the light of life is so near going out, and ought to be so precious, le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle, the play is not worth the expense of the candle : after having been long tost in a tempest, if our masts be standing, and we have still sail and tackling enough to carry us to our port, it is no matter for the want of streamers and top-gal-as Triarii, for your next charge. lants ;
Totos pande sinus-9
A gentleman in our late civil wars, when his quarters were beaten up by the enemy, was taken
And now, I think, I am even with you, for your otium cum dignitate, and festina lente, and three or four other more of your new Latin sentences: if I should draw upon you all my forces out of Seneca and Plutarch upon this subI shall only ject, I should overwhelm you ; but I leave those,
give you now a light skirmish out of an epigrammatist, your special good friend; and so, vale.
MARTIAL, Lib. V. Epigr. lix.
prisoner, and lost his life afterwards, only by Cras te victurum, cras dicis, Posthume, sem
staving to put on a band, and adjust his periwig:
lente is as ill to a man who is flying from the
Incipe vivendi rectè qui prorogat horam,
9 Juv. i. 150.
TO MORROW you will live, you always cry:
MARTIAL, Lib. II. Epigr. xc.
Quinctiliane, vagæ moderator summe juventæ, &c.
WONDER not, sir, (you who instruct the town
Life for delays and doubts no time does give,
It is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself; it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. There is no danger from me of offending him in this kind; neither my mind, nor my body, nor my fortune, allow me any materials for that vanity. It is sufficient for my own contentment, that they have preserved me from being scandalous or remarkable on the defective side. But, besides that, I shall here speak of myself only in relation to the subject of these precedent discourses, and shall be likelier thereby to fall into the contempt, than rise up to the estimation, of most people.
but of this part, which here set down (if a very little were corrected) I should hardly now be much ashamed.
This only grant me, that my means may lie
Rumour can ope the grave.
Books should, not business, entertain the light,
My garden painted o'er
With Nature's hand, not Art's; and pleasures yield,
Horace might envy in his Sabin field.
Thus would I double my life's fading space;
These unbought sports, this happy state,
But boldly say each night,
To morrow let my sun his beams display,
You may see by it, I was even theu acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace3); and perhaps it was the imma ture and immoderate love of them, which stampt first, or rather engraved, these characters in me: they were like letters cut into the bark of a young tree, which with the tree still grow proportionably. But, how this love came to be produced in me so early, is a hard question: I believe, I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes As far as my memory can return back into my verse, as have never since left ringing there: for past life, before I knew, or was capable of guessI remember, when I began to read, and to take ing, what the world, or the glories or business of some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my it, were, the natural affections of my soul gave mother's parlour, (I know not by what accident, me a secret bent of aversion from them, as some for she herself never in her life read any book plants are said to turn away from others, by an but of devotion) but there was wont to lie Spenantipathy imperceptible to themselves, and in-ser's works; this I happened to fall upon. scrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holy-days and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could find any of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an enemy to all constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persuasions or encouragements, to learn without book the com- With these affections of mind, and my heart mon rules of grammar; in which they dispensed wholly set upon letters, I went to the university, with me alone, because they found I made a but was soon torn from thence by that violent shift to do the usual exercise out of my own read-public storm, which would suffer nothing to stand ing and observation. That I was then of the same mind as I am now (which, I confess, I won"der at myself) may appear by the latter end of an ode, which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed with many other verses. The beginning of it is boyish;
was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses, which I found every where there (though my understanding had little to do with all this ;) and, by degrees, with the tinkling of the rhyme and dance of the numbers; so that, I think, I had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet as immediately as a child is made an eunuch.
where it did, but rooted up every plant, even from the princely cedars to me the hyssop. Yet, I had as good fortune as could have befallen me in such a tempest; for I was cast by it into the family of
33 Od. xxix. 41.