Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

should follow; whereas a slow speech confirmeth the memory, addeth a conceit of wisdom to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech and countenance.

4. To desire in discourse to hold all arguments, is ridiculous, wanting true judgment; for in all things no man can be exquisite.

5, 6. To have common places to discourse, and to want variety, is both tedious to the hearers, and shews a shallowness of conceit; therefore it is good to vary, and suit speeches with the present occasions; and to have a moderation in all our speeches, especially in jesting of religion, state, great persons, weighty and important business, poverty, or any thing deserving pity.

7. A long-continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, sheweth slowness: and a good reply, without a good set speech, sheweth shallowness and

weakness.

8. To use many circumstances, ere you come to the matter, is wearisome; and to use none at all, is but blunt.

9. Bashfulness is a great hindrance to a man, both of uttering his conceit, and understanding what is propounded unto him: whereof it is good to press himself forwards with discretion, both in speech, and company of the best sort.

Usus promptos facit.

AN ESSAY ON DEATH.

1. I HAVE often thought upon death, and I find it the least of all evils. All that which is past is as a dream; and he that hopes or depends upon time coming, dreams waking. So much of our life as we have discovered is already dead; and all those hours which we share, éven from the breasts of our mother, until we return to our grandmother the earth, are part of our dying days; whereof even this is one, and those that succeed are of the same nature, for we die daily;

and as others have given place to us, so we must in the end give way to others.

2. Physicians, in the name of death include all sorrow, anguish, disease, calamity, or whatsoever can fall in the life of man, either grievous or unwelcome : but these things are familiar unto us, and we suffer them every hour; therefore we die daily, and I am older since I affirmed it.

3. I know many wise men that fear to die; for the change is bitter, and flesh would refuse to prove it : besides, the expectation brings terror, and that exceeds the evil. But I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death: and such are my hopes, that if heaven be pleased, and nature renew but my lease for twenty-one years more, without asking longer days, I shall be strong enough to acknowledge, without mourning, that I was begotten mortal. Virtue walks not in the highway, though she go per alta; this is strength and the blood to virtue, to contemn things that be desired, and to neglect that which is feared.

4. Why should man be in love with his fetters, though of gold? Art thou drowned in security? Then I say thou art perfectly dead. For though thou movest, yet thy soul is buried within thee, and thy good angel either forsakes his guard or sleeps. There is nothing under heaven, saving a true friend, who cannot be counted within the number of moveables, unto which my heart doth lean. And this dear freedom hath begotten me this peace, that I mourn not for that end which must be, nor spend one wish to have one minute added to the incertain date of my years. It was no mean apprehension of Lucian, who says of Menippus, that in his travels through hell he knew not the kings of the earth from other men, but only by their louder cryings and tears; which was fostered in them through the remorseful memory of the good days they had seen, and the fruitful havings which they so unwillingly left behind them: he that was well seated, looked back at his portion, and was loth to forsake his farm; and others

either minding marriages, pleasures, profit, or preferment, desired to be excused from death's banquet: they had made an appointment with earth, looking at the blessings, not the hand that enlarged them, forgetting how unclothedly they came hither, or with what naked ornaments they were arrayed.

5. But were we servants of the precept given, and observers of the heathen's rule memento mori, and not become benighted with this seeming felicity, we should enjoy it as men prepared to lose, and not wind up our thoughts upon so perishing a fortune : he that is not slackly strong, as the servants of pleasure, how can he be found unready to quit the veil and false visage of his perfection? The soul, having shaken off her flesh, dost then set up for herself, and contemning things that are under, shews what finger hath enforced her; for the souls of idiots are of the same piece with those of statesmen: but now and then nature is at a fault, and this good guest of ours takes soil in an imperfect body, and so is slackened from shewing her wonders; like an excellent musician, which cannot utter himself upon a defective instrument.

6. But see how I am swerved, and lose my course, touching at the soul, that doth least hold action with death, who hath the surest property in this frail act; his style is the end of all flesh, and the beginning of incorruption.

This ruler of monuments leads men for the most part out of this world with their heels forward; in token that he is contrary to life; which being obtained, sends men headlong into this wretched theatre, where being arrived, their first language is that of mourning. Nor in my own thoughts, can I compare men more fitly to any thing, than to the Indian fig-tree, which being ripened to his full height, is said to decline his branches down to the earth; whereof she conceives again, and they become roots in their own stock.

So man having derived his being from the earth, first lives the life of a tree, drawing his nourishment

as a plant, and made ripe for death he tends downwards, and is sowed again in his mother the earth, where he perisheth not, but expects a quickening.

7. So we see death exempts not a man from being, but only presents an alteration; yet there are some men, I think, that stand otherwise persuaded. Death finds not a worse friend than an alderman, to whose door I never knew him welcome; but he is an importunate guest, and will not be said nay.

And though they themselves shall affirm, that they are not within, yet the answer will not be taken; and that which heightens their fear is, that they know they are in danger to forfeit their flesh, but are not wise of the payment day: which sickly uncertainty is the occasion that, for the most part, they step out of this world unfurnished for their general account; and being all unprovided, desire yet to hold their gravity, preparing their souls to answer in scarlet.

Thus I gather, that death is disagreeable to most citizens, because they commonly die intestate: this being a rule, that when their will is made, they think themselves nearer a grave than before: now they, out of the wisdom of thousands, think to scare destiny, from which there is no appeal, by not making a will, or to live longer by protestation of their unwillingness to die. They are for the most part well made in this world, accounting their treasure by legions, as men do devils, their fortune looks toward them, and they are willing to anchor at it, and desire, if it be possible, to put the evil day far off from them, and to adjourn their ungrateful and killing period.

No, these are not the men which have bespoken death, or whose looks are assured to entertain a thought of him.

8. Death arrives gracious only to such as sit in darkness, or lie heavy burdened with grief and irons; to the poor Christian, that sits bound in the galley; to despairful widows, pensive prisoners, and deposed kings to them whose fortune runs back, and whose spirit mutinies; unto such death is a redeemer, and the grave a place for retiredness and rest.

These wait upon the shore of death, and waft unto him to draw near, wishing above all others to see his star, that they might be led to his place, wooing the remorseless sisters to wind down the watch of their life, and to break them off before the hour.

9. But death is a doleful messenger to a usurer, and fate untimely cuts their thread: for it is never mentioned by him, but when rumours of war and civil tumults put him in mind thereof.

And when many hands are armed, and the peace of a city in disorder, and the foot of the common soldiers sounds an alarm on his stairs, then perhaps such a one, broken in thoughts of his monies abroad, and cursing the monuments of coin which are in his house, can be content to think of death, and, being hasty of perdition, will perhaps hang himself, lest his throat should be cut; provided that he may do it in his study, surrounded with wealth, to which his eye sends a faint and languishing salute, even upon the turning off; remembering always, that he have time and liberty, by writing, to depute himself as his own heir.

For that is a great peace to his end, and reconciles him wonderfully upon the point.

10. Herein we all dally with ourselves, and are without proof till necessity. I am not of those that dare promise to pine away myself in vain-glory, and I hold such to be but feat boldness, and them that dare commit it to be vain. Yet, for my part, I think nature should do me great wrong, if I should be so long in dying, as I was in being born.

To speak truth, no man knows the lists of his own patience; nor can divine how able he shall be in his sufferings, till the storm come; the perfectest virtue being tried in action: but I would, out of a care to do the best business well, ever keep a guard, and stand upon keeping faith and a good conscience.

11. And if wishes might find place, I would die together, and not my mind often, and my body once; that is, I would prepare for the messengers of death, sickness, and affliction, and not wait long, or be attempted by the violence of pain.

« ZurückWeiter »