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One uroN LIBERTY.
FREEDOM with Virtue takes her seat; Her proper place, her only scene, Is in the golden mean, Shelives not with the poor nor with the great. The wings of those Necessity has clipt, And 're in Fortune's bridewell whipt To the laborious task of bread; These are by various tyrants captive led. Now wild Ambition with imperious force Rides, reins, and spurs, them like th’ unruly horse; And servile Avarice yokes them now, Like toilsome oxen to the plough; And sometimes Lust, like the misguided light, Draws them through all the labyrinths of night. If any few among the great there be From these insulting passions free, Yet we ev'n those, too, fetter'd see By custom, business, crowds, and formal decency; And, wheresoe'er they stay, and wheresoe'er they go, Impertinences round them flow: These are the small uneasy things Which about greatness still are found, And rather it molest than wound: Like gnats, which too much heat of summer brings; But cares do swarm there, too, and those have As, when the honey ooes too open lie, [stings: A thousand wasps about it fly: Nor will the master ev'n to share admit; The master stands aloof, and dares not taste of it.
'Tis morning; well; I fain would yet sleep on;
In all the free born nations of the air,
Who keep your primitive powers and rights so
He's no small prince who every day -
Where honour, or where conscience, does not bind,
As if it fear'd some trespass to commit.
So the imperial eagle does not stay
As if his generous hunger understood
Thathe can never want plenty of food,
And to fresh game flies cheerfully away;
Tokites, and meanerbirds, he leaves the mangled
II. OF SOLITUDE.
Nusaraw minus solus, quam cum solus, is now become a very vulgar saying. Every man, and almost every boy, for these seventeen hundred years, has had it in his mouth. But it was at first spoken by the excellent Scipio, who was without question a most eloquent and witty person, as well as the most wise, most worthy, most happy, and the greatest of all mankind. His meaning, no doubt, was this, that he found more satisfaction to his mind, and more improvement of it, by solitude than by company; and, to show that he spoke not this loosely or out of vanity, after he had made Rome mistress of almost the whole world, he retired himself from it by a voluntary exile, and at a private house, in the middle of a wood, near Linternum", passed the remainder of his glorious life no less gloriously.
This house Seneca went to see so long after with
great veneration; and, among other things, describes his baths to have been of so mean a structure, that now, says he, the basest of the people would despise them, and cry out, “Poor Scipio understood not how to live.” What an authority is here for the credit of retreat! and happy had it been for Hannibal, if adversity could have taught him as much wisdom as was learnt by Scipio from the highest prosperities. This would be no wonder, if it were as truly as it is colourably and wittily said by Monsieur de Montagne, “That ambition itself might teach us to love solitude; there is nothing does so much hate to have companions.” It is true, it loves to have its elbows free, it detests to have company on either side; but it delights above all things in a train behind, aye, and ushers too before it. But the greatest part of men are so far from the opinion of that noble Roman, that if they chance at any time to be without company, they are like a becalmed ship; they never move but by the wind of other men's breath, and have no oars of their own to steer withal. It is very fantastical and contradictory in human nature, that men should love themselves above all the rest of the world, and yet never endure to be with themselves. When they are in love with a mistress, all other persons are importunate and burthensome to them. Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam lubens, they would live and die with her alone.
Sic ego secretis possum benevivere sylvis, Quà nulla humano sit via trita pede.
* Seneca Epist. lxxxvi.
Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atrá Lumen, & in solis tu milliturba locis"
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:
Odi, & amo: quare id faciamfortasse requiris. Nescio; sed fieri sentio, & excrucior.
I hate, and yet I love thee too;
It is a deplorable condition, this, and drives a man sometimes to pitiful shifts, in seeking how to avoid himself.
The truth of the matter is, that neither he who is a fop in the world, is a fitman 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 particides among the Romans, to be sowed into a bag, with an ape, a dog, and a serpent.
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 affections 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 slitude 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 eontinual 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.
* 4 Tibull. xiii. 9. * De amore suo, 'xxxiii.
*Ovita, stułto longa, sapientibrevis 41 O fife, 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 alone, the other has less leisure to be in company 5 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 Medhusalem 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 areforced 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.
With all their wanton boughs dispute, And the more tuneful birds to both replying, Nor be myself, too, mute,
A silver stream shall roll his waters near,
And see how prettily they smile, and hear
Ah wretched and too solitary he,
Unless he call in sin or vanity
Oh Solitude, first state of human-kind 1
As soon as two alas ! together join'd,
Tho' God himself, through countlessages, thee
Before the brauchy head of number's tree
Thou (tho' men think thine an unactive part) Dost, break and time th' unruly heart, Which else would know no settled pace,
Making it move, well-manag’d by thy art, With swiftness and with grace.
Thou the faint beams of reason's scatter'd light
And fortify the strength, till thou dost bright
world?); whereas it is in commendation of those who live and die so obscurely, that the world takes no notice of them. This Horace calls deceiving the world; and in another place uses the same phrases,
— Secretum iter & fallentis semita vitae. The secret tracts of the deceiving life.
It is very elegant in Latin, but our English word will hardly bear up to that sense; and therefore Mr. Broom translates it very well—
Or from a life led, as it were, by stealth.
Yet we say in our language, a thing deceives our sight, when it passes before us unperceived; and we may say well enough, out of the same author",
Sometimes with sleep, sometimes with wine, we strive The cares of life and troubles to deceive.
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 deceive, 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,
Avail 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 Epipurus lived there very well, that is, lay hid many years in his gardens, so famous 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 notionaland conjectural,and no man who has made the experiment has been so kind as to come back to inform us. 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.
Srneca, Ex Thyeste, Act II, Chor, Stet quicumque volct potens, &c.
Upon the slippery tops of human state, The gildel pinnacles of fate,
Let others proudly stand, and, for a while
IV. OF AGRICULTURE.
THr first wish of virgil (as you will find anon by his verses) was to be a good philosopher; the second, a good husbandman: and God (whom he seemed to understand better than most of the most learned heathens) dealt with him, just as he did with Solomon; because he prayed for wisdom in the first place, he added all things else, which were subordinately to be desired. He made him one of the best philosophers, and best husbandmen; and, to adorn and communicate both those faculties, the best poet: he made him, besides all this, a rich man, and a man who desired to be no richer—
O fortunatus nimium, & bona qui sua novit!
To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from the coty; to be a philosopher, from the world; or rather, a retreat from the world, as it is man's, into the world, as it is God's. But, since mature denies to most men the capacity or appetite, and fortune allows, but to a very few the opportunities or possibility, of applying themselves wholly to philosophy, the best mixture of human affairs that we can make, are the employments of a country life. It is, as Columella a calls it, Res sine dubitatione proxima, & quasi consanguinea sapientiae, the nearest neighbour, or rather next in kindred, to philosophy. Varro says, the principles of it are the same which Ennius made to be the principles of all nature, Earth, Water, Air, and the Sun. It does certainly comprehend more parts of philosophy, than any one profession, art, or science, in the world besides: and therefore Cicero says3, the pleasures of a husbandman, mihi ad sapientis vitam proxime videntur accedere, come
very nigh to those of a philosopher. There is no other sort of life that affords so many branches of praise to a panegyrist: The utility of it to a man's self; the usefulness, or rather necessity, of it to all the rest of mankind; the innocence, the pleasure, the antiquity, the diguity. The utility (I mean plainly the lucre of it) is not so great, now in our nation, as arises from merchandise and the trading of the city, from whence many of the best estates and chief honours of the kingdom are derived: we have no men now fetched from the plough to be made lords, as they were in Rome to be made consuls and dictators; the reason of which I conceive to be from an evil custom, now grown as strong among us as if it were a law, which is, that no men put their children to be bred-up apprentices in agriculture, as in other trades, but such who are so poor, that when they come to be men, they have not wherewithal to set up in it, and so can only farm some small parcel of ground, the rent of which devours all but the bare subsistence of the tenant: whilst they who are proprietors of the land are either too proud, or, for want of that kind of education, too ignorant, to improve their estates, though the means of doing it be as easy and certain in this, as in any other track of commerce. If there were always two or three thousand youths, for seven or eight years, bound to this profession, that they might learn the whole art of it, and afterwards be enabled to be masters in it, by a moderate stock; I cannot doubt but that we should see as many aldermen's estates made in the country, as now we do out of all kind of merchandizing in the city. There are as many ways to be rich, and, which is better, there is no possibility to be poor, without such negligence as can neither have excuse nor pity: for a little ground will without question feed a little family, and the superfluities of life (which are now in some cases by custom made almost necessary) must be supplied out of the superabundance of art and industry, or contemned by as great a degree of philosophy. As for the necessity of this art, it is evident enough, since this can live without all others, and no one other without this. This is like speech, without which the society of men cannot be preserved: the others like figures and tropes of speech, which serve only to adorn it. Many nations have lived, and some do still, without any art but this: not so elegantly, I confess, but still they live; and almost all the other arts, which are here practised, are beholden to this for most of their materials. The innocence of this life is the next thing for which I commend it; and if husbandmen preserve not that, they are much to blame, for no men are so free from the temptations of iniquity. They live by what they can get by industry from the carth; and others, by what they can catch by craft from men. They live upon an estate given them by their mother; and others, upon an estate cheated from their brethren. They live, like sheep and kine, by the allowances of nature: and others, like wolves and foxes, by the acquisitions of rapine. And