« FöregåendeFortsätt »
troublesome, so long as the feminine republic does endure. But fathers, because they design to have their children wise and valiant, apt for counsel or for arms, send them to severe governments, and tie them to study, to hard labour, and afflictive contingencies. They rejoice when the bold boy strikes a lion with his hunting spear, and shrinks not when the beast comes to affright his early courage. Softness is for slaves and beasts, for minstrels and useless persons, for such who cannot ascend higher than the state of a fair ox, or a servant entertained for vainer offices; but the man that designs his son for nobler employments,―to honours and to triumphs, to consular dignities, and presidencies of councils, loves to see him pale with study, or panting with labour, hardened with sufferings, or eminent by dangers.*
AGE OF REASON AND DISCRETION.
WE must not think that the life of a man begins when he can feed himself or walk alone, when he can fight or beget his like, for so he is contemporary with a camel or a cow; but he is first a man when he comes to a certain steady use of reason, according to his proportion; and when that is, all the world of men cannot tell precisely. Some are called at age at fourteen, some at oneand-twenty, some never; but all men late enough;
* Holy Dying, ch. iii.
for the life of a man comes upon him slowly and insensibly. But as when the sun approaching towards the gates of the morning, he first opens little eye of heaven, and sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and calls up the lark to mattins, and by and by gilds the fringes of a cloud, and peeps over the eastern hills, thrusting out his golden horns like those which decked the brows of Moses when he was forced to wear a veil because himself had seen the face of God; and still, while a man tells the story, the sun gets up higher, till he shows a fair face and a full light, and then he shines one whole day, under a cloud often, and sometimes weeping great and little showers, and sets quickly. So is a man's reason and his life. He first begins to perceive himself, to see or taste, making little reflections upon his actions of sense, and can discourse of flies and dogs, shells and play, horses and liberty: but when he is strong enough to enter into arts and little institutions, he is at first entertained with trifles and impertinent things, not because he needs them, but because his understanding is no bigger, and little images of things are laid before him, like a cock-boat to a whale, only to play withal but before a man comes to be wise, he is half dead with gouts and consumption, with catarrhs and aches, with sore eyes and a worn-out body. So that, if we must not reckon the life of a man but by the accounts of his reason, he is long before his soul be dressed; and he is not to be called a man without a wise and an adorned
soul, a soul at least furnished with what is necessary towards his well-being.
And now let us consider what that thing is which we call years of discretion. The young man is passed his tutors, and arrived at the bondage of a caitiff spirit; he is run from discipline, and is let loose to passion. The man by this time hath wit enough to choose his vice, to act his lust, to court his mistress, to talk confidently, and ignorantly, and perpetually: to despise his betters, to deny nothing to his appetite, to do things that when he is indeed a man he must for ever be ashamed of: for this is all the discretion that most men show in the first stage of their manhood. They can discern good from evil; and they prove their skill by leaving all that is good, and wallowing in the evils of folly and an unbridled appetite. And by this time the young man hath contracted vicious habits, and is a beast in manners, and therefore it will not be fitting to reckon the beginning of his life he is a fool in his understanding, and that is a sad death, &c.†
I SHALL entertain you in a charnel-house, and carry your meditation awhile into the chambers of death, where you shall find the rooms dressed up with melancholick arts, and fit to converse with your most retired thoughts, which begin with a sigh,
t Holy Dying, ch. i.
and proceed in deep consideration, and end in a holy resolution. It is necessary to present these bundles of cypress.‡
The autumn with its fruits provides disorders for us, and the winter's cold turns them into sharp diseases, and the spring brings flowers to strew our hearse, and the summer gives green turf and brambles to bind upon our graves.†
It is a mighty change that is made by the death of every person, and it is visible to us who are alive. Reckon but from the spritefulness of youth and the fair cheeks and the full eyes of childhood, from the vigorousness and strong flexure of the joints of five-and-twenty to the hollowness and dead paleness, to the loathsomeness and horror of a three days burial, and we shall perceive the distance to be very great and very strange. But so I have seen a rose newly springing from the clefts of its hood, and at first it was fair as the morning, and full with the dew of heaven, as a lamb's fleece: but when a ruder breath had forced open its virgin modesty, and dismantled its too youthful and unripe retirements, it began to put on darkness, and to decline to softness and the symptoms of a sickly age; it bowed the head, and broke its stalk; and at night, having lost some of its leaves and all its beauty, it fell, &c.
Dedication to Holy Dying.
+ Holy Dying.
The wild fellow in Petronius that escaped upon a broken table from the furies of a shipwreck, as he was sunning himself upon the rocky shore, espied a man rolled upon his floating bed of waves, ballasted with sand in the folds of his garment, and carried by his civil enemy the sea towards the shore to find a grave and it cast him into some sad thoughts: that peradventure this man's wife in some part of the continent, safe and warm, looks next month for the good man's return; or it may be his son knows nothing of the tempest; or his father thinks of that affectionate kiss which still is warm upon the good old man's cheek ever since he took a kind farewell, and he weeps with joy to think how blessed he shall be when his beloved boy returns into the circle of his father's arms. These are the thoughts of mortals, this the end and sum of all their designs : a dark night and an ill guide, a boisterous sea and a broken cable, a hard rock and a rough wind, dashed in pieces the fortune of a whole family, and they that shall weep loudest for the accident are not yet entered into the storm, and yet have suffered shipwreck. Then looking upon the carcass, he knew it, and found it to be the master of the ship, who the day before cast up the accounts of his patrimony and his trade, and named the day when he thought to be at home. See how the man swims who was so angry two