« PreviousContinue »
the palaces, gardens, antiquities ; and with these, the squares and other public places, the churches, the fortifications, leaving nothing unobserved from whence I may reap either entertainment or instruction. But what delights me most is, in my journeys back wards and forwards, to contemplate the situation and other beauties of the places I pass through; some in the plain, others on hills, adjoining to rivers or fountains ; with a great many fine houses and gardens.....
Nor are my recreations rendered less agreeable and entertaining by my not seeing well, or not hearing readily every thing that is said to me; or by any other of my senses not being perfect; for they are all, thank God, in the highest perfection, particularly my palate, which now relishes better the simple fare I meet, whereever I happen to be, than it formerly did the most delicate dishes, when I led an irregular life. Nor do the changes of bed give me any uneasiness, so that I sleep every where soundly and quietly; without experiencing the least disturbance; and all my dreams are pleasant and delightful.
It is likewise with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction I behold the success of an undertaking so important to this State ; I mean that of draining and improving so many uncultivated pieces of ground, an undertaking begun within my memory, and which I thought I should never live to see completed; knowing how slow Republics are apt to proceed in enterprizes of great importance: Nevertheless, I have lived to see it, and was even in person, in these marshy places, along with those appointed to superintend the draining of them, for two months together, during the great heats in summer, without ever finding myself worse for the fatigues or inconveniences I suffered ; of so much efficacy is that orderly life, which I every where constantly lead.
What is more, I am in the greatest hopes, or rather sure, to see the beginning and completion of another undertaking of no less importance, which is that of preserving our estuary, or port, that last and wonderful bulwark of my dear country, the preservation of which (it is not to flatter my vanity I say it, but merely to do justice to truth) has been more than once recommended by me to this Republic, by word of mouth, and in writings, which cost me many nights' study. And to this dear country of mine, as I am bound by the laws of nature to do every thing, from which it may reap any benefit, so I most ardently wish perpetual duration, and a long succession of every kind of prosperity.
Such are my genuine and no trifling satisfactions ; such are the recreations and diversions of my old age, which is so much the more to be valued than the old age, or even youth, of other men, as being freed by God's grace from the perturbations of the mind,
and the infirmities of the body, it no longer experiences any of those contrary emotions, which rack such a number of young men, and as many old ones destitute of strength and health, and every other blessing.
And if it is lawful to compare little matters to affairs of importance, I will further venture to say, that such are the effects of this sober life, that at my present age of eighty-three ,I have been able to write a very entertaining comedy, abounding with innocent mirth and pleasant jests. This kind of poem is generally the child and offspring of youth, as tragedy is of old age; the former being, by its facetious and sprightly turn, suited to the bloom of life, and the latter, by its gravity, adapted to riper years.
Now if that good old man, a Grecian by birth, and a poet, was so much extolled for having written a tragedy at the age of seven
a ty-three, and on that account alone reputed of sound memory and understanding, though tragedy be a grave and melancholy poem,;. why should I be deemed less happy and of .sound memory and understanding, who have, at an age ten years more advanced than his, written a comedy, which, as every one knows, is a merry and pleasant kind of composition ? And indeed, if I may be considered an impartial judge in my own cause, I cannot help thinking that I am now of sounder memory and understanding, and heartier, than he was when ten years younger.
That no comfort might be wanting to the fulness of my years, whereby my great age may be rendered less irksome, or rather the number of my enjoyments increased, I have the additional comfort of seeing a kind of immortality in a succession of descendants. For, as often as I return home, I find before me, not one or two, but eleven grandchildren, the oldest of them eighteen, and the youngest two years old, all the offspring of one father and one mother; -all blessed with the best health; and, by what as yet appears, fond of learning, and of good parts and morals. Some of the youngest I always play with; and indeed children from three to five are only fit for play. Those above that age I make companions of ; and as nature has bestowed very fine voices upon them, I amuse myself, besides, with seeing and hearing them sing and play on various instruments. Nay, I sing myself, as I have a better voice now, and a clearer and louder pipe, than at any other period of life. Such are the recreations of my
age. - Whence it appears, that the life I lead is cheerful, and not gloomy, as some persons pretend who know no better, to whom, in order that it may appear what value I set on every other kind of life, I must declare that I would not exchange my manner of living, or my gray hairs, with any of those young men, even of the best constitution, who give way to their appetites; knowing, as I do,
that such are daily, nay hourly, subject, as I have already observed, to a thousand kinds of ailments and death. This is, in fact, so obvious as to require no proof. Nay, I remember perfectly well how I used to behave at that time of life. I know how inconside rately that age is apt to act, and how fool- hardy young men, hurried on by the heat of their blood, are wont to be ; how apt they are to presume too much on their own strength in all their actions; and how sanguine they are in their expectations, as well on account of the little experience they have had for the time past, as by reason of the power they enjoy in their own imaginations over the time to come. Hence they expose themselves rashly to every kind of danger; and, banishing reason, and bowing their necks to the yoke of concupiscence, endeavour to gratify all their appetites, not minding, fools as they are, that they thereby hasten, as I have several times observed, the approach of what they would most willingly avoid-sickness and death.
Of these two evils, one is troublesome and painful, other's above all things, dreadful and insupportable; insupportable to every man who has given himself up to his sensual appetites, and young men in particular, to whom it appears a hardship to die an early death; dreadful to those who reflect on the errors to which this mortal life is subject, and on the vengeance which the justice of God is wont to take on sinners, by condemning them to everlasting punishment. Whereas I, in my old age, praise to the AL mighty, am exempt from both these torments; from the one, because I cannot fall sick, having removed all the causes of illness by my divine medicine ; from the other, that of death, because from so many years experience I have learned to obey reason ; whence I not only think it a great piece of folly to fear that which cannot be avoided, but likewise firmly expect some consolation from the grace of Jesus Christ, when I shall arrive at that period.
Besides, though I am sensible that I must, like others, reach that term, it is yet at so great a distance that I cannot discern it, because I know I shall not die except by mere dissolution, having already, by my regular course of life, shut up all the other avea nues of death, and thereby prevented the humors of my body making any other war upon me, than that which I must expect from the elements employed in the composition of this mortal frame. I am not so simple as not to know, that as I was born, so I must die. But that is a desirable death, which nature brings on us by way of dissolution. For nature, having herself formed the connection between our body and soul, knows best in what madner it may be most easily dissolved, and grants us a longer day to do it than we could expect from vidlent sickness. This is the death which, without aceing the poet, I may call, sot death, but
life. Nor dan it be otherwise. Such a death does not overtake one till after a very long course of years, and in consequence of
, an extreme weakness ; it being only by slow degrees that men grow too feeble to walk, and scarce to reason, becoming both blind, and deaf, decrepit, and full of every other kind of infirmity. Now I, by God's blessing, may reckon upon being at a very great distance from such a period. Nay, I have reason to think that my soul, having so agreeable a dwelling in my body, as not to meet with any thing in it but peace, love, and harmony, not only between its humours, but between my reason and the senses, is exceedingly content and well pleased with her present situation; and, of course, that a great length of time and many years must be requisite to dislodge her. Whence it must be concluded for certain, that I have still a series of years to live in health and spirits, and enjoy this beautiful world, which is, indeed, beautiful to those who know how to make it so, as I have done, and like wise expect to be able to do, with God's assistance, by the next; and all by the means of virtue, and that divine regularity of life which I have adopted, concluding an alliance with my reason, and declaring war against my sensual appetites ; a thing which every man may do who desires to live as he ought. ?
Now, if this sober life is so happy ; if its name is so beautiful and delightful; if the possession of the blessings which attend it are so stable and permanent; all I have to do is to beseech, since I Cannot compass my desires by the powers of oratory, every man of a liberal disposition and sound understanding, to embrace with open arms this most valuable treasure of a long and healthy life; a treasure which, as it exceeds all the other riches and blessings of this world, so it deserves, above all things, to be cherished, sought after, and carefully observed. This is that divine sobriety, agree able to God, the friend of nature, the daughter of reason, the sister of all the virtues, the companion of temperate living, modest, courteous, content with little, regular, and perfect mistress of all her operations. From her, as from their proper root, spring life, health, cheerfulness, industry, learning, and all those actions and employments worthy of noble and generous minds. The laws of God and man are all in her favor. Repletion, excess, intemperance, superfluous humors, diseases, fevers, pains, and the dangers of death, vanish in her presence like clouds before the sun. Her comeliness ravishes every well-disposed mind. Her influence is so sure, as to promise to all a very long and agreeable existence ; the facility of acquiring her is such as ought to induce every one to look for her, and share in her victories. And, lastly, she promises to be a mild and agreeable guardian of life, as well of the rich as of the poor ; of the male as of the female sex ; the old as of
the young ; being that which teaches the rich modesty; the poor, frugality; women, chastity; the old, how to ward off the attacks of death ; and bestows on youth firmer and securer hopes of life. Sobriety renders the senses clear, the body light, the understanding lively, the soul brisk, the memory tenacious, our movements free, and all our actions regular and easy. By means of sobriety, the soul, delivered as it were of her earthly burden, experiences a great deal of her natural liberty; the spirits circulate gently through the arteries ; the blood runs freely through the veins; the heat of the body, kept mild and temperate, has mild and temperate effects; and, lastly, our faculties, being under a.perfect regulation, preserve a pleasing and agreeable harmony.
O most innocent and holy sobriety, the sole refreshment of nature, the nursing mother of human life, the true physic of soul as well as of body, how ought men to praise and thank thee for thy princely gifts ! Since thou bestowest on them the means of preserving this blessing life, I mean, and health--than which it has not pleased God we should enjoy a greater on this side of the grave, life and cxistence being a thing so naturally coveted, and willingly preseryed, by every living creature. But as I do not intend to write a panegyric on this rare and excellent virtue, I shall put an end to this discourse, lest I should be guilty of intemperance on so pleasing a subject; not that numberless things might not be said of it, besides those which I have already mentioned ; but in order to set forth the rest of its praises at a more conve. nient opportunity