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If they died by violent hands, and were thrust into their urns, these bones become considerable, and some old philosophers would honour them.* Those souls they conceived most pure, which were thus snatched from their bodies, and to retain a stronger propension unto them. Whereas, they weariedly left a languishing corpse, and with faint desires of re-union. If they fell by long and aged decay, yet wrapt up in the bundle of time, they fall into indistinction, and make but one blot with infants. If we begin to die when we live, and long life be but a prolongation of death, our life is a sad composition; we live with death, and die not in a moment. How many pulses made up the life of Methuselah, were work for Archimedes. Common counters sum up the life of Moses's man. Our days become considerable, like petty sums by minute accumulations, where numerous fractions make up but small round numbers; and our days of a span long make not one little finger.‡
If the nearness of our last necessity brought a nearer conformity unto it, there were a happiness in hoary hairs, and no calamity in half senses. But the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying,
* Oracula Chaldaica cum scholiis Pselli et Phethonis. Big AIKOUTWY σῶμα ψυχαὶ καθαρώτεται. Vi corpus relinquentium anima purissima. In the psalm of Moses.
According to the ancient arithmetic of the hand, wherein the little finger of the right-hand, contracted, signified an hundred. Pierius in Hieroglyph.
when avarice makes us the sport of death, when even David grew politically cruel, and Solomon could hardly be said to be the wisest of men. Many are too early old, and before the date of age. Adversity stretcheth our days, misery makes Alcmena's nights, and time hath no wings unto it. But the most tedious being is that which can unwish itself, content to be nothing, or never to have been, which was beyond the malcontent of Job, who cursed not the day of his life, but his nativity, content to have so far been, as to have a title to a future being, although he had lived here but in a hidden state of life, and as it were an abortion.
What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions,† are not beyond all conjecture. What time the persons of these ossuaries entered the famous nations of the dead,‡ and slept with princes and counsellors, might admit a wide solution. But who were the proprietors of these bones, or what bodies these ashes made up, were a question above antiquarism; not to be resolved by man, nor easily perhaps by spirits, except we consult the provincial guardians or tutelary observators. Had they made as good provision for their names, as they have done for their
* One night as long as three.
The puzzling questions of Tiberius unto grammarians. Marcel. Donatus in Suet.
Kaurà ïlvin vinger. Hom. Job.
relics, they had not so grossly erred in the art of perpetuation. But to subsist in bones, and be but pyramidally extant, is a fallacy in duration. Vain ashes, which in the oblivion of names, persons, times, and sexes, have found unto themselves a fruitless continuation, and only arise unto late posterity, as emblems of mortal vanities, antidotes against pride, vain-glory, and maddening vices. Pagan vain-glories, which thought the world might last for ever, haď encouragement for ambition; and finding no atropos unto the immortality of their names, were never dampt with the necessity of oblivion. Even old ambitions had the advantage of ours, in the attempts of their vain-glories, who, acting early, and before the probable meridian of time, have by this time found great accomplishment of their designs, whereby the ancient heroes have already outlasted their monuments and mechanical preservations. But in this latter scene of time, we cannot expect such mummies unto our memories, when ambition may fear the prophecy of Elias,* and Charles the Fifth can never expect to live within two Methuselahs of Hector.+
And therefore restless inquietude for the diuturnity of our memories unto present considerations, seems a vanity almost out of date, and superannu
That the world may last but 6000 years.
Hector's fame lasting above two lives of Methuselah, before that famous prince was extant.
ated piece of folly. We cannot hope to live so long in our names, as some have done in their persons. One face of Janus holds no proportion unto the other. It is too late to be ambitious. The great mutations of the world are acted, or time may be too short for our designs. To extend our memories by monuments, whose death we daily pray for, and whose duration we cannot hope, without injury to our expectations, in the advent of the last day, were a contradiction to our beliefs. We, whose generations are ordained in this setting part of time, are providentially taken off from such imaginations; and being necessitated to eye the remaining particle of futurity, are naturally constituted unto thoughts of the next world, and cannot excusably decline the consideration of that duration, which maketh pyramids pillars of snow, and all that is past a mo
Circles and right lines limit and close all bodies, and the mortal right-lined circle* must conclude and shut up all. There is no antidote against the opium of time, which temporally considereth all things. Our fathers find their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our survivors. Grave-stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oaks.
The character of death.
† Old ones being taken up, and other bodies laid under them
read by bare inscriptions, like many in Gruter ;* to hope for eternity by enigmatical epithets, or first letters of our names; to be studied by antiquaries, who we were, and have new names given us like many of the mummies,+ are cold consolations unto the students of perpetuity, even by everlasting languages.
To be content that times to come should only know there was such a man, not caring whether they knew more of him, was a frigid ambition in Cardan, disparaging his horoscopal inclination and judgment of himself. Who cares to subsist like Hippocrates's patients, or Achilles's horse in Homer, under naked nominations, without deserts and noble acts, which are the balsam of our memories, the entelechia and soul of our subsistences? Yet to be nameless in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history. The Canaanitish woman lives more happily without a name, than Herodias with one. And who had not rather have been the good thief than Pilate ?
But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without
Gruteri inscriptiones antiquæ.
† Which men show in several countries, giving them what names they please, and unto some the names of the old Egyptian Kings out of Herodotus....
Cuperem notum esse quod sim, non opto, ut sciatur qualis sim. Card. in Vita propria.,