Obrazy na stronie
PDF

recessity, 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 alleases, they must be sure, that they do monoon dueere, and not mundo muhere. 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.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Harry the man, who his whole time doth bound
within th' enclosure of his little ground.
Happy the man, whom the same humble place
(Th’hereditary cottage of his race)
from his first rising infancy has known,
And by degrees sees gently bending down,
With natural propension, to that earth
which both preserv'd his life, and gave him birth.
Hum no false distant lights, by fortune set,
Could ever into foolish wanderings get.
He never dangers either saw or fear'd :
The dreadful storms at sea he uever heard.
He never heard the shrill alarms of war,
or the worse noises of the lawyers’ bar.
No change of consuls marks to him the year,
The change of seasons is his calendar.
The cold and heat, winter and summer shows;
Autumn by fruits, and spring by flowers, he knows
He measures time by land-marks, and has foun
For the whose day the dial of his ground. -
A neighbouring wood, born with himself, he sees,
And loves his old contemporary trees.
He as only heard of near Verona’s name,
And knows it, like the Indies, but by fame.
Does with a like concernment notice take
Of the Red-sea, and of Benacus' lake.
Thus health and strength he to a third age enjoys,
And sees a long posterity of boys.
About the spacious world let others ream,
The voyage, life, is longest made at home.

IX. THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE, AND UNCERTAINTY OF RICHES.

If you should see a man, who were to cross from Lover 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

*1 Cor. vii. 29, 7.

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 l’as de Vie, as well as that the Pas de Calais. We are all photo (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 Sun ought not to set upon our covetousness, no more than upon our anger; but, as to God Almighty a thousandyears are as one day, so, in direct opposition, one day to the covetous man is as a thousand years; tam brevi fortis jaculatur aevo 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 uine, 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.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

sudden, after having supped merrily, in ipso actu bené cedentium rerum, in ipso procurrentis fortunae impetu, in the full course of his good fortune, when she had a high tide, and a stiff gale, and all her sailson; upon which occasion he cries, out of Virgil 7, Insere nunc, Melibaee, pyros; pone ordine vites'

—Go, Melibaeus, now, Go graff thy orchards, and thy vineyards plant; Behold the fruit!

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 *** 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 barms 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 r by what bonds can such a couple be kept long together?

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

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 aerugo mera, a rust which spoils the good metal it grows upon. But you say) you would advise me not to precipitate that resolution, but to stay a while longer with patience and complaisance, till I had gotten such an estate as might afford me (according to the saying of that Per*on, whom you and I love very much, and would believe assoon as another man) cum dignitate otium. This were excellent advice to Joshua, who could bid the Sun stay too. But there is no fooling with life, when it is once turned beyond forty. The seeking for a fortune then, is but a desperate after-game: it is a hundred to one, if a man fling two sixes and recover all; especially, if his hand be no luckier than mine.

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 asyou 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.”

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, mayotherwise 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 jeune 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-gallants;

utere velis, Totos pande sinus—9

A gentleman in our late civil wars, when his quarters were beaten up by the enemy, was taken prisoner, and lost his life afterwards, only by staying to put on a band, and adjust his periwig: he would escape like a person of quality, or not at all, and died the noble martyr of ceremony and gentility. I think, your counsel of festina lente is as ill to a man who is flying from the world, as it would have been to that unfortunate well-bred gentleman, who was so cautious as not to fly undecently from his enemies; and therefore I prefer Horace's advice before yours,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Begin, bebold, and venture to be wise;
He who defers this work from day to day,
Does on a river's bank expecting stay,
Till the whole stream, which stopt him, should
be gone,
That runs, and as it runs, for ever will run on.

Caesar (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 footout 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 good stay till the river be quite past. Persius (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 crashesternum consumpsimus; ecce aliud

Egerit hos annos. [cras
Our yesterday's to morrow now is gone.
And still a new to morrow does come on ;
We by to morrows draw up all our store,
Till the exhausted well can yield no more.

And now, I think, I am even with you, for your otium cum dignitate, and festima 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 subject, I should overwhelm you; but I leave those, as Triarii, for your next charge. I shall only give you now a light skirmish out of an epigrammatist, your special good friend; and so, vale.

Marrial, Lib. W. Epigr. lix.

Cras te victurum, cras dicis, Posthume, semper; &c.

TO MORROW you will live, you always cry t In what far country does this morrow lie, That’tis so mighty long ere it arrive? Beyond the Indies does this morrow live * 'Tis so far fetch'd this morrow, that I fear "Twill be both very old and very dear. To morrow I will live, the fool does say: To day itself's too late; the wise liv'd yesterday.

Marrial, Lib. II. Epigr. xc.

Quinctiliane, vaga: moderator summe juventae, &c.

WONDER not, sir, (you who instruct the town In the true wisdom of the sacred gown) That I make haste to live, and cannot hold Patiently out till l grow rich and old.

Life for delays and doubts no time does give,
None ever yet made haste enough to live.
Let him defer it, whose preposterous care
Omits himself, and reaches to his heir ;
Who does his father's bounded stores despise,
And whom his own too never can suffice:
My humble thoughts no glittering roofs require,
Or rooms that shine with aught but constant fire.
I well content the avarice of my sight
With the fair gildings of reflected light:
Pleasures abroad, the sport of Nature yields,
Her living fountains, and her smiling fields; ,
And then at home, what pleasure is't to see
A little, cleanly, cheerful, family'
Which if a chaste wife crown, no less in her
Than fortune, I the golden mean prefer.
Too noble, nor too wise she should not be,
No, nor too rich, too fair, too fond of me,
Thus let my life slide silently away,
With sleep all night, and quiet all the day.

XI. OF JAYSELF.

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. As far as my memory can return back into my past life, before I knew, or was capable of guessing, what the world, or the glories or business of it, were, the natural affections of my soul gave me a secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn away from others, by an antipathy imperceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to 1:..au:'s understanding. oven when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running alont on holy-days and playing with my follows, I was won 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 tempor. I was then, too, so much an entity to a'i constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persuasious or

[ocr errors]

mon rules of grano ar; in which they dispensed with n e al to, because they found I made a sh it to do the usual exercise out of my own reading and o.servation. I hat I was then of the saire mond as I am now (which, I confess, I wonder 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;

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
Too low for envy for contempt too high.
Some honour I would have,
Not from great deeds, but good alone;
Th'unknown are better than ill known:
Rumour can ope the grave.
Acquaintance I would have, but when’t depends
Not on the number, but the choice, of friends.

Books should, not business, entertain the light,
And sleep, as undisturb’d as death, the night.
My house a cottage more
Than palace; and should fitting be
For all Iny use, no luxury.
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;
For he, that runs it well, twice runs his race.
And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, this happy state,
I would not fear, nor wish, my fate;
But boldly say each might,
To morrow let my sun his beams display,
Orin clouds hide them; I have liv'd to day.

You may see by it, I was even them acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horaces); and perhaps it was the immature 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 of verse, as have never since left ringing there: for I remember, when I began to read, and to take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour, (I know not by what accidun', for she herself never in her life read any book but of devotion) but there was wont to lie Spenser's works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and mousters, 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 inmediately as a child is made an eunuch.

With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the university, but was soon toru from thence by that violent public storm, which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant, even foom 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

[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[graphic]

one of the best persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses, of the world. Now, though I was here enraged in wavs most contrary to the original design of my life, that is, into much company, and no small business, and into a daiłv sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant (for that was the state then of the English and French courts); vet all this was so far from altering my opinion, that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but natural inclination. I saw plainly all the paint of that kind of life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty, which I did not fall in love with, when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to bewitch or entice me, when I saw that it was adulterate. I met with several great persons, whom I liked very well ; but could not perceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm, though I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it; a storm would not agree with mystomach, if it did with my courage. Though to was in a crowd of as good company as could be found any where; though I was in business of great and honourable trust; though I eat at the best table, and enjoyed the best conveniences for present subsistence that ought to he desired by a man of my condition in banishment and public distresses; yet I could not abstain from renewing my old schoolboy's wish, in a copy of verses to the same effect:

[blocks in formation]

No matter, Cowlev; let proud Fortunesee,
That thou cansther despise no less than she does.
thee.
Let alther gifts the portion be
Of folly, lust, and flattery.
Fraud, extortion, calumny,
Murder, infidelity,
Rebellion, and hypocrisy.
Do thou not grieve nor blush to be,
As all th’ inspired tuneful men,
Andall thy great forefathers, were, from Homer
down to Ben.

However by the failing of the forces which I had expected, I did not quit the design which I had resolved on ; I cast myself into it a corps perdu, without making capitulations, or taking counsel of Fortune. But God laughs at a man, who says to his soul, “Take thy ease:” I met presently not only with many little incumbrances and impediments, but with so much sickness (a new misfortune to me) as would have spoiled the happiness of an emperor as well as mine: yet I do neither repent, nor alter my course.’ Non ego perfidum dixi sacramentum: nothing shall separate me from a mistress which I have loved so long, and have now at last married; though she neither has brought me a rich portion, nor lived yet so quietly with me as I hoped from her :

Nec vos, dulcissima mundi

Nomina, vos Musae, libertas, otia, libri,

Hortigue, silvaeque, animä remanente, relinquam.

Nor by me e'er shall you, You, of all names the sweetest and the best, You Muses, books, and liberty and rest; You, gardens, fields, and woods, forsaken be, As long as life itself forsakes not me.

But this is a very pretty ejaculation.—Because I have concluded all the other chapters with a copy of verses, I will maintain the humour to the last.

Mantial, Lib. X. Epigr. xlvii. Vitam que faciunt beatiorem &c.

SINCE, dearest friend, 'tis your desire to see A true receipt of happiness from me; These are the chief ingredients, if not all: Take an estate neither too great or small, Which quantum sufficit the doctors call: Let this estate from parents' care descend; The getting it too much of life does spend: Take such a ground whose gratitude may be A fair encouragement for industry. Let constant fires the winter's fury tame; And let thy kitchen's be a vestal flame. Thee to the town let never suit at law, And rarely, very rarely, business, draw. Thy active mind in equal temper keep, In undisturbed peace, yet not in sleep. Let exercise a vigorous health maintain, Without which all the composition's vain.

« PoprzedniaDalej »