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And in your towns, that prospect gives delight,
The country Life,
Lib. IV. Plantarum.
Blast be the man (and blest he is) whom eer
*The poet, as usual, expresses his own feeling : but he does more, he expresses it very classically. The allusion is to the ancient custom of wearing wreaths or garlands of flowers, on any occasion of joy and festivity. Hurd,
The specious inconveniences, that wait
V. THE GARDEN.
To J. Evelyx, Esquire.
I neven had any other desire so strong and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life only to the culture of them, and study of nature;
And there (with no design beyond my wall) whole and entire to lie, In no umactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.
Or as Virgil has said, shorter and better for me that I might there
studis florere ignobilis oti 4:
(though I could wish that he had rather said, nobilis oti, when he spoke of his own.) But several accidents of my ill-fortune have disappointed me hitherto, and do still, of that felicity; for though I have made the first and hardest step to it, by abandoming all ambitions and hopes in this world, and by retiring from the noise of all business and almost company, yet I stick still in the inn of a hired house and garden, among weeds and rubbish; and without that pleasantest work of human industry, the improvement of something which we call (not very properly, but yet we call) our own. I am gone out from Sodom, but I am not yet arrived at my little Zoar. “O let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” I do not look back yet; but I have been forced to stop, and make too many halts. You may wonder, sir, (for this seems a little too extravagant and pindarical for prose) what I mean by all this preface; it is to let you know, that though I have missed, like a chymist, my great end, yet I account my affections and endeavours well re
the by ; which is, that they have procured to me some part in your kindness and esteem; and thereby the honour of having my name so advantageously recommended to posterity, by the epistle you are pleased to prefix to the most useful book that has been written in that kinds, and which is to last as long as months and years. Among many other arts and excellencies, which you enjoy, I am glad to find this favourite of mine the most predominant; that you choose this for your wife, though you have hundreds of other arts for your concubines; though you know them, and beget sons upon them all (to which you are rich enough to allow great legacies), yet the issue of this seems to be designed by you to the main of the estate; you have taken most pleasure in it, and bestowed most charges upon its education: and I doubt not to see that book, which you are pleased to
promise to the world, and of which you have || given us a large earnest in your calendar, as |
accomplished, as any thing can be expected from an extraordinary wit, and no ordinary expenses, and a long experience. I know nobody that possesses more private happiness than you do in your garden; and yet no man, who makes his happiness more public, by a free communication of the art and knowledge of it to others.
All that I myself am able yet to do, is only to
4 Virg, Georg. iv. 564.
* Mr. Evelyn's Kalendarium hortense; dedicated to Mr Cowley—The title explains the propriety of the compliment, that this book was to last as long as mcnths and years. Hump.
recommend to mankind the search of that fe: licity, which you instruct them how to find and to enjoy.
Happy art thou, whom God does bless With the full choice of thine own happiness; And happier yet, because thou'rt blest With prudence, how to choose the best: In books and gardens thou hast plac'd aright (Things, which thou well dost understand; And both dost make with thy laborious hand) Thy noble, innocent delight; And in thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost incet Both pleasures more refin’d and sweet; The fairest garden in her looks, And in her mind the wisest books. Oh, who would change these soft, yet solid joys, For empty shows and senselessnoise; And all which rank ambition breeds, Which seem such beauteous flowers, and are such poisonous weeds?
When God did man to his own likeness make,
As much as clay, though of the purest kind,
As far as Earth could such a likeness bear:
*Which Earth to her first master could afford, warded by something that I have met with by |
He did a garden for him plant By the quick hand of his omnipotent word. As the chief help and joy of human life, He gave him the first gift; first, ev'n before a wife.
For God, the universal architect,
Than we, who lie, or sit, or walk, below,
These are the spells, that to kind sleep invite,
When Epicurus to the world had taught,
When the great Hebrew king did almost strain
Nor does this happy place only dispense
Where does the wisdom and the power divine
7 Matth, vi. 29,
Though these perhaps do, more than they, , The life of mankind sway. Although no part of mighty Nature be More stor'd with beauty, power and mystery; Yet, to encourage human industry, God has so order'd, that no other part Such space and such dominion leaves for Art.
We no-where Art do so triumphant see,
Methinks, I see great Dioclesian walk
VI. OF GREATNESS.
“Since we cannot attain to greatness “(says the sieur de Montagne)” let us have our revenge by railing at it:” this he spoke but injest. I believe he desired it no more than I do, and had less reason; for he enjoyed so plentiful and honourable a fortune in a most excellent country, as allowed him all the real conveniences of it, separated and
purged from the incommodities. If f were but in his condition, I should think it hard measure, without being convinced of any crime, to be sequestered from it, and made one of the principal officers of state. But the reader may think that what I now say is of small authority, becatse I never was, nor ever shall be, put to the trial: I can therefore only make my protestation,
If ever I more riches did desire
I know very many men will despise, and some pity me, for this humour, as a poor-spirited fellow; but I am content, and, like Horace, thank God for being so.
Dibene fecerunt, inopis me quédque pusilii Finxerumt animi".
I confess, I love littleness almost in all things, A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast; and, if I were ever to fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore, I hope, I have dome with it) it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty. I would neither wish that my mistress, nor my fortune, should be a bona roba, nor, as Homer uses to describe his beauties, like a daughter of great Jupiter for the stateliness and largeness of her person ; but, as Lucretius'says,
Parvola, pumilio, Xattrayala, totamerum salo.
Where there is one man of this, I believe there are a thousand of Senecio's mind, whose ridiculous affectation of grandeur Seneca the elder * describes to this effect: “Senecio was a man of a turbid and confused wit, who could not endure to speak any but mighty words and sentences, till this humour grew at lastinto so notorious a habit, or rather disease, as became the sport of the whole town: he would have no servants, but huge, massy fellows; no plate or household-stuff, but thrice as big as the fashion: you may believe me, for 1 speak it without raillery, his extravagancy came at last into such a madness, that he would not put on a pair of shoes, each of which was not big enough for both his feet: he would eat nothing but what was great, nor touch any fruit but horseplums and pound-pears: he kept a concubine, that was a very giantess, and made her walk too
8 : Sat, iv. 17.
9 Lucr. iv. 1155. 1 Suasoriarupn Liber.
tsays he) is all mine own. He, who took away the sight of the sea, with the canvas veils of so many ships’ ”—and then he goes on so, as I know not what to make of the rest, whether it be the fault of the edition, or the orator's own burley way of nonseuse. This is the character that Seneca gives of this hyperbolical fop, whom we stand amazed at, and yet there are very few men who are not in some things, and to some degrees, Grandios. Is any thing more common, than to see our ladies of quality wear such high shoes as they cannot walk in, without one to lead them; and a gown as long again as their body, so that they cannot stir to the next room without a page or to two hold it up? I may safely say, that all the ostentation of our grandees is, just like a train, of no use in the world, but horribly cumbersome and incommodious. What is all this, but a spicc of Grandio? how tedious would this be, if we were alwaysbound to it! I do believe there is no king, who would not rather be deposed, than endure every day of his reign all the ceremonies of his coronation. The mightiest princes are glad to fly often from these majestic pleasures (which is, methinks, no small disparagement to them) as it were for refuge to the most contemptible divertisements and meanest recreations of the vulgar, may, even of children. One of the most powerful and fortunate princes * of the world, of late, could find out no delight so satisfactory, as the keeping of little singing birds, and hearing of them, and whistling to them. What did the emperors of the whole world? If ever any men had the free and full enjoyment of all human greatness (nay that would not suffice, for they would be gods too), they certainly possessed it: and yet one of them, who styled himself lord and god of the earth, could uot tell how to pass his whole day pleasantly, without spending constantly two or three hours in catching of flies, and killing them with a bodkin, as if his godship had been Beelzebub 3. One of his predecessors, Nero, (who never put any bounds, nor met with any stop to his appetite) could divert himself with no pastime more agreeable,than to run about the streets all night inadisguise, and abuse the women, and affront the men whom he met, and sometimes to beat them, and sometimes to be beaton by them: this was one of his imperial nocturnal pleasures. His chiefestin the day was, to sing and play upon a fiddle, in the habit of a minstrel, upon the public stage: he was prouder of the garlands that were given to his divine voice (as they called it then) in those kind of prizes, than all his forefathers were, of their triumphs over nations: he did not at his death complain, that so mighty an emperor, and the last of all the Caesarian race of deities, should be brought to so shameful and miserable an end; but only cried out, “Alas, what pity it is, that so excellent a musician should perish in this manner+!” His uncle Claudius spent half his time at
* Louis XIIL-The Duke de Luynes, the Constable of France, is said to have gained the favour of this powerful and fortunate prince by training up singing birds for him. Anon.
* Beelzebub signifies the lord of flies. Cowley.
*—Qualis artifex pereo! Sueton. Nero.
playing at dice; and that was the main fruit of his sovereignty. I omit the madnesses of Caligula's delights, and the execrable sordidness of those of Tiberius. Would one think that Augustus himself, the highest and most fortunate of mankind, a person endowed too with many excellent parts of mature, should be so hard put to it sometimes for want of recretations, as to be found playing at mats and bounding-stones, with little Syrian and Moorish boys, whose company he
took delightin, for their prating and their wantonness 2
Was it for this that Rome's best blood he spilt
But we must excuse her for this meagre entertainment; she has not really wherewithal to make such feasts as we imagine. Her guests must be contented sometimes with but slender cates, and with the same cold meats served over and over again, eventill they become nauseous. when you have pared away all the vanity, what solid and matural contentment does there remain, which may not be had with five hundred pounds a year? Not so many servants or horses ; but a few good ones, which will do all the business as well: not so many choice dishes at every meal; but at several meals all of them, which makes them both the more healthy, and the more pleasant; not so rich garments, nor so frequent changes; but as warm and as comely, and so frequent change too, as is every jot as good for the master, though not for the taylor or valet de chambre : not such a stately palace, nor gilt rooms, or the costliest sorts of tapestry; but a convenient brick house, with decent wainscot, and pretty forest-work hangings. Lastly (for I omit all other particulars, and will end with that which I love most in both conditions) not whole woods cut in walks, nor vast parks, nor fountain or cascade-gardens; but herb, and flower, and fruitgardens, which are more useful, and the water every whit as clear and wholesome, as if it darted from the breasts of a marble nymph, or the urn of a river-god.
If, for all this, you like better the substance of that former estate of life, do but consider the inseparable accidents of both: servitude, disquiet, danger, and most commonly guilt, inherent in the one; in the other liberty, tranquillity, security, and innocence. And when you have thought upon this, you will confess that to be a truth which appeared to you, before, but a ridiculous paradox, that a low fortune is better guarded and attended than an high one. If, indeed, we look only upon the flourishing head of the tree, it appears a most beautiful object,
—sed quantum vertice ad auras AEtherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendits,
* Virg. Georg. ii. 291.