« VorigeDoorgaan »
savages in our talk. Such rotten speeches are worst in withered age, when men run after that sin in their words which flieth from them in the deed.
Let not thy jests, like mummy, be made of dead men's esh. Abuse not any that are departed; for to wrong their memories is to rob their ghosts of their winding-sheets.
Scoff not at the natural defects of any which are not in their power to amend. Oh, it is cruelty to beat a cripple with his own crutches! Neither flout any for his profession, if honest, though poor and painful. Mock not a cobbler for his black thumbs.
He that relates another man's wicked jests with delight, adopts them to be his own. Purge them therefore from their poison. If the profaneness may be severed from the wit, it is like a lamprey; take out the string in the back, it may make good meat. But if the staple conceit consists in profaneness, then it is a viper, all poison, and meddle not with it.
He that will lose his friend for a jest, deserves to die a beggar by the bargain. Yet some think their conceits, like mustard, not good except they bite. We read that all those who were born in England the year after the beginning of the great mortality, 1349, wanted their four cheek-teeth. Such let thy jests be, that may not grind the credit of thy friend, and make not jests so long till thou becomest one.
No time to break jests when the heart-strings are about to be broken. No more showing of wit when the head is to be cut off, like that dying man, who, when the priest coming to him to give him extreme unction, asked of him where his feet were, answered, “At the end of my legs.” But at such a time jests are an unmannerly crepitus ingenii. And let those take heed who end here with Democritus, that they begin not with Heraclitus hereafter.
Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on; but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, lords and commons, nor ever shall do, till her Master's second coming; He shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection. Suffer not these licensing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint.
We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it smites us into darkness. Who can discern those planets that are oft combust, and those stars of brightest magnitude that rise and set with the sun, until the opposite motion of their orbs bring them to such a place in the firmament, where they may be seen evening or morning? The light which we have gained was given us, not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. It is not the unfrocking of a priest,
1 From the Areopagitica.
the unmitring of a bishop, and the removing him from off the presbyterian shoulders, that will make us a happy nation: no; if other things as great in the church, and in the rule of life both economical and political, be not looked into and reformed, we have looked so long upon the blaze that Zuinglius and Calvin have beaconed up to us, that we are stark blind.
There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. It is their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with meekness, nor can convince, yet all must be suppressed which is not found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissevered pieces, which are yet wanting to the body of truth. To be still searching what we know not by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we find it (for all her body is homogeneal, and proportional), this is the golden rule in theology as well as in arithmetic, and makes up the best harmony in a church; not the forced and outward union of cold, and neutral, and inwardly divided minds.
"Since we cannot attain to greatness,” (says the Sieur de Montaigne,) "let us have our revenge by railing at it”: this he spoke but in jest. I believe he desired it no more than I do, and had less reason; for he enjoyed so plentiful and honourable a fortune in a most excellent country, as allowed him all the real conveniences of it, separated and purged from the incommodities. If I were but in his condition, I should think it hard measure, without being convinced of any crime, to be
sequestrated from it, and made one of the principal officers of state. But the reader may think that what I now say is of small authority, because I never was, nor ever shall be, put to the trial: I can therefore only make my protestation:
If ever I more riches did desire
I know very many men will despise, and some pity me, for this humour, as a poor-spirited fellow; but I am content, and, like Horace, thank God for being so.
" Di bene fecerunt, inopis me quódque pusilli,
I confess I love littleness almost in all things. A little convenient estate, a little chearful house, a little company, and a very little feast; and, if I were to fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore, I hope, I have done with it) it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty. I would neither wish that my mistress, nor my fortune, should be a bona roba, nor, as Homer uses to describe his beauties, like a daughter of great Jupiter, for the stateliness and largeness of her person; but, as Lucretius says,
"Parvula, pumilio, Xapítw pía, tota merum sal." Where there is one man of this, I believe there are a thousand of Senecio's mind, whose ridiculous affectation of grandeur, Seneca the elder describes to this effect: Senecio was a man of a turbid and confused wit, who could not endure to
1 Horace, Sat. 1., iv :17.
speak any but mighty words and sentences, till this humour grew at last into so notorious a habit, or rather disease, as became the sport of the whole town: he would have no servants, but huge, massy fellows; no plate or household stuff, but thrice as big as the fashion: you may believe me, for I speak it without raillery, his extravagancy came at last into such a madness, that he would not put on a pair of shoes, each of which was not big enough for both his feet: he would eat nothing but what was great, nor touch any fruit but horseplums and pound-pears: he kept a concubine that was a very giantess, and made her walk too always in chiopins, till, at last, he got the surname of Senecio Grandio, which, Messala said, was not his cognomen, but his cognomentum: when he declaimed for the three hundred Lacedæmonians, who alone opposed Xerxes's army of above three hundred thousand, he stretched out his arms, and stood on tiptoes, that he might appear the taller, and cried out, in a very loud voice: “I rejoice, I rejoice!” We wondered, I remember, what new great fortune had befallen his eminence. “Xerxes," says he, "is all mine own. He, who took away the sight of the sea, with the canvas veils of so many ships”—and then he goes on so, as I know not what to make of the rest, whether it be the fault of the edition, or the orator's own burly way of nonsense.
This is the character that Seneca gives of this hyperbolical fop, whom we stand amazed at, and yet there are very few men who are not in some things, and to some degrees, Grandios. Is anything more common, than to see our ladies of quality wear such high shoes as they cannot walk in, without one to lead them; and a gown as long again as their body, so that they cannot stir to the next room, without a page or two to hold it up? I may safely say, that all the ostentation of our grandees is, just like a train, of no use in the world, but horribly cumbersome and incommodious. What is all this but a spice of Grandio? how tedious would this be if we were al