« VorigeDoorgaan »
to Abraham, and asked him where the stranger was. plied, I thrust him away because he did not worship thee. God answered him, I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonored me; and couldst not thou endure him one night?
Since all the evil in the world consists in the disagreeing between the object and the appetite, as when a man hath what he desires not, or desires what he hath not, or desires amiss, he that composes his spirit to the present accident hath variety of instances for his virtue, but none to trouble him, because his desires enlarge not beyond his present fortune: and a wise man is placed in the variety of chances, like the nave or centre of a wheel in the midst of all the circumvolutions and changes of posture, without violence or change, save that it turns gently in compliance with its changed parts, and is indifferent which part is up, and which is down; for there is some virtue or other to be exercised whatever happens, either patience or thanksgiving, love or fear, moderation or humility, charity or contentedness.
It conduces much to our content, if we pass by those things which happen to our trouble, and consider that which is pleasing and prosperous; that, by the representation of the better, the worse may be blotted out. It
may be thou art entered into the cloud which will bring a gentle shower to refresh thy sorrows.
I am fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, and they have taken all from me: what now ? let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends to pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse ; and, unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance, and my cheerful spirit, and a good conscience; they still have left me the providence of God, and all the promises of the Gospel, and my religion, and my hopes of heaven, and my charity to them too: and still I sleep and digest, I eat and drink, I read and meditate, I can walk in my neighbor's pleasant fields,
1 Yet nature's charms, the hills and woods,
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
Are free alike to all. --Burns.
You cannot rob me of free nature's grace,
Through which Aurora shows her brightening face.
The woods and lawns by living stream at eve;
and see the varieties of natural beauties, and delight in all that in which God delights, that is, in virtue and wisdom, in the whole creation, and in God himself.
Covetousness swells the principal to no purpose, and lessens the use to all purposes; disturbing the order of nature, and the designs of God; making money not to be the instrument of exchange or charity, nor corn to feed himself or the poor, nor wool to clothe himself or his brother, nor wine to refresh the sadness of the afflicted, nor oil to make his own countenance cheerful; but all these to look upon, and to tell over, and to take accounts by, and make himself considerable, and wondered at by fools, that while he lives he may be called rich, and when he dies may be accounted miserable. It teaches men to be cruel and crafty; industrious and evil; full of care and malice; and, after all this, it is for no good to itself, for it dares not spend those heaps of treasure which it snatched.
ADVERSITY.1 All is well as long as the sun shines, and the fair breath of heaven gently wafts us to our own purposes. But if you will try the excellency, and feel the work of faith, place the man in a persecution ; let him ride in a storm, let his bones be broken with sorrow, and his eyes loosened with sickness, let his bread be dipped with tears, and all the daughters of music be brought low ; let us come to sit upon the margin of our grave, and let a tyrant lean hard upon our fortunes, and dwell upon our wrong; let the storm arise, and the keels toss till the cordage crack, or that all our hopes bulge under us, and descend into the hollowness of sad misfortunes.
In the reproof of chance
Co-rivall'd greatness ?-TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
“But to speak in a mean, the virtue of prosperity is temperance, the virtue of adversity is fortitude, which in morals is the more heroical virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, Adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favor. Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp, you shall hear as many yearse-Uke airs as carols."
ON THE MISERIES OF A MAN'S LIFE. How few men in the world are prosperous! What an infinite number of slaves and beggars, of persecuted and oppressed people, fill all corners of the earth with groans, and heaven itself with weeping, prayers and sad remembrances! If we could, from one of the battlements of heaven, espy how many men and women at this time lie fainting and dying for want of bread; how many young men are hewn down by the sword of war; how many poor orphans are now weeping over the graves of their father, by whose life they were enabled to eat; if we could but hear how mariners and passengers are at this present in a storm, and shriek out because their keel dashes against a rock or bulges under them; how many people there are that weep with want, and are mad with oppression, or are desperate by too quick a sense of constant infelicity; in all reason we should be glad to be out of the noise and participation of so many evils. This is place of sorrows and tears, of so great evils and a constant calamity: let us remove from hence, at least, in affections and preparation of mind.
THE DAWN AND PROGRESS OF REASON.
Some are called at age at fourteen, some at one-and-twenty, some never; but all men late enough; for the life of a man comes upon him slowly and insensibly. But as when the sun approaches towards the gates of the morning, he first opens a little eye of heaven, and sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and calls up the lark to matins, 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.
WHAT IS LIFE?
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 sprightfulness of youth and the fair cheeks and 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 have I 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 the
lamb's fleece; but when the 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 into the portion of weeds and out-worn faces. So does the fairest beauty change, and it will be as bad with you and me; and then what servants shall we have to wait upon us in the grave ? What friends to visit us ? What officious people to cleanse away the moist and unwholesome cloud reflected upon our faces from the sides of the weeping vaults, which are the longest weepers for our funerals ?
A man may read a sermon, the best and most passionate that ever man preached, if he shall but enter into the sepulchres of kings. In the same Escurial where the Spanish princes live in greatness and power, and decree war or peace, they have wisely placed a cemetery where their ashes and their glory shall sleep till time shall be no more: and where our kings have been crowned, their ancestors lie interred, and they must walk over their grandsire's head to take his crown. There is an acre sown with royal seed, the copy of the greatest change from rich to naked, from ceiled roofs to arched coffins, from living like gods to die like men. There is enough to cool the flames of lust, to abate the heights of pride, to appease the itch of covetous desires, to sully and dash out the dissembling colors of a lustful, artificial, and imaginary beauty. There the warlike and the peaceful, the fortunate and the miserable, the beloved and the despised princes, mingle their dust, and pay down their symbol of mortality, and tell all the world that when we die, our ashes shall be equal to kings, and our accounts easier, and our pains for our crimes shall be less. To my apprehension, it is a sad record which is left by Athenæus concerning Ninus the great Assyrian monarch, whose life and death is summed up in these words: “Ninus the Assyrian had an ocean of gold, and other riches more than the sand in the Caspian sea; he never saw the stars, and perhaps he never desired it; he never stirred up the holy fire among the Magi, nor touched his god with the sacred rod according to the laws: he never offered sacrifice, nor worshipped the deity, nor administered justice, nor spake to the people; nor numbered them ; but he was most valiant to eat and drink, and having mingled his wines, he threw the rest upon the stones. This man is dead, behold his sepulchre, and now hear where Ninus is. Sometime I was Ninus, and drew the breath of a living inan, but now am nothing but clay. I have nothing but what I did eat, and what I served to myself in lust is all my portion: the wealth with which I was blessed, my enemies meeting together shall carry away, as the mad Thyades carry a
raw goat. I am gone to hell: and when I went thither, I neither carried gold, nor horse, nor silver chariot. I, that wore a mitre, am now a little heap of dust.” 1
ABRAHAM COWLEY. 1618-1667.
ABRAHAM COWLEY is the first, in order of time, of the list of English poets whose works were edited, and whose lives were written by Doctor Johnson. He was born in London in 1618. His father, who was a grocer by trade, died before his birth; but his mother succeeded in procuring his admission into Westminster School as a king's scholar, where he became distinguished for correct classical scholarship. He very early imbibed a taste for poetryit is said from Spenser's Faerie Queene being thrown in his way; and in his sixteenth year he published a collection of verses under the appropriate title of Poetical Blossoms. In 1636 he was elected a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he continued to reside till 1643, when he removed to Oxford. From this time he took a very active part in the royal cause, and was employed on some missions of trust; and when, in the progress of the civil war, the queen was compelled to quit the kingdom, Cowley accompanied her to France, and was of material assistance to her, in managing the secret correspondence between herself and her royal consort.
In 1656 he returned to England, and soon after his arrival published an edition of his poems, containing most of those which now appear in his works. When the Restoration came, he naturally looked for some reward for his long services in the royal cause. But alas! “ how wretched is that poor man that hangs on princes' favors.” Cowley was destined to much bit. ter disappointment. At length he obtained the lease of a farm at Chertsey, by which his income was raised to about £300 a year. But he did not live long to enjoy his retirement; for, taking a severe cold and fever by exposure, he died on July 28, 1667.
At the time of his death, Cowley certainly ranked as the first poet in England, though the Comus of Milton and some of his exquisite minor poems had been published nearly thirty years before. But what could be expected of an age that was stamped with the licentiousness of such a court as that of Charles II.? Still, though Cowley has nothing of the reputation he once had, he has sufficient merit to give him a considerable rank among British poets. Dr. Johnson says, “ It may be affirmed that he brought to his poetic labors a mind replete with learning, and that his pages are embellished with all the ornaments which books could supply; that he was the first who imparted to English numbers the enthusiasm of the greater ode, and the gayety of the less; and that he was equally qualified for sprightly sallies and for lofty flights.” His poetical works are divided into four parts— Miscellanies," « Love Verses,' “ Pin laric Oles," and the “Davidies, a heroical poem of the Troubles of David.” Of all these his Anacreontics are the most natural and pleasing 2
1 "He who wrote in this manner also wore a mitre, and is now a heap of dust; but when the name of Jeremy Taylor is no longer remembered with reverence, genius will have become a mockery, and virtue an empty shade!"--Huzul.
2 The best edition of Cowley is that by Bishop Hurii, in tliroe volumes: read also, Johnson's Lifa of Cowicy in his "Lies of the British Poots."