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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
Begin; the getting out of doors is the greatest part of the journey. Varro* teaches us that Latin proverb,“ portam itineri longissimam esse:" but to return to Horace,
Sapere aude: “ Incipe. Vivendi rectè qui prorogat horam, “ Rusticus expectat, dum defluat amnis : at ille “ Labitur, & labetur in omne volubilis ævum t."
Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise ;
* Lib. i. Agric.
f 1 Ep. ii. 40.
Till the whole stream, which stopp'd him, should be
gone, That runs, and as it runs,
for ever will run on.
Cæsar (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 foot out of his way for a bridge, or a ford, or a ferry; but Aung 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 cras hesternum consumpsimus; 'ecce aliudcras
Egerit hos annos.”
Our yesterday's to-morrow now is gone,
And now, I think, I am even with you, for your VOL. III.
“ Otium cum dignitate,” and “ Festina 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 'Triari, for your next charge. I shall only give you now a light skirmish out of an epigrammatist, your special good friend ; and so, vale.
MARTIAL. LIB. V. EPIGR. LIX.
“Cras te victurum, cras dicis, Posthume, semper," &c.
TO-MORROW you will live, you always cry: In what far country does this morrow lie, That 't is so mighty long ere it arrive ? Beyond the Indies does this morrow live ? 'T is so far fetch'd this morrow, that I fear 'T will 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.
DARTIAL. LIB. II. EPIGR. XC.
“ Quinctiliane, vagæ moderator summe juventæ," 8c.
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 I 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 Omnits 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.
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 man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holy-days and playing with my fellows, I was wont