Religio Medici, by by Sir Thomas Browne

Part the Second

Now, for that other virtue of charity, without which faith is a mere notion and of no existence, I have ever endeavoured to nourish the merciful disposition and humane inclination I borrowed from my parents, and regulate it to the written and prescribed laws of charity. And, if I hold the true anatomy of myself, I am delineated and naturally framed to such a piece of virtue—for I am of a constitution so general that it consorts and sympathizeth with all things; I have no antipathy, or rather idiosyncrasy, in diet, humour, air, anything. I wonder not at the French for their dishes of frogs, snails, and toadstools, nor at the Jews for locusts and grasshoppers; but, being amongst them, make them my common viands; and I find they agree with my stomach as well as theirs. I could digest a salad gathered in a church-yard as well as in a garden. I cannot start at the presence of a serpent, scorpion, lizard, or salamander; at the sight of a toad or viper, I find in me no desire to take up a stone to destroy them. I feel not in myself those common antipathies that I can discover in others: those national repugnances do not touch me, nor do I behold with prejudice the French, Italian, Spaniard, or Dutch; but, where I find their actions in balance with my countrymen’s, I honour, love, and embrace them, in the same degree. I was born in the eighth climate, but seem to be framed and constellated unto all. I am no plant that will not prosper out of a garden. All places, all airs, make unto me one country; I am in England everywhere, and under any meridian. I have been shipwrecked, yet am not enemy with the sea or winds; I can study, play, or sleep, in a tempest. In brief I am averse from nothing: my conscience would give me the lie if I should say I absolutely detest or hate any essence, but the devil; or so at least abhor anything, but that we might come to composition. If there be any among those common objects of hatred I do contemn and laugh at, it is that great enemy of reason, virtue, and religion, the multitude; that numerous piece of monstrosity, which, taken asunder, seem men, and the reasonable creatures of God, but, confused together, make but one great beast, and a monstrosity more prodigious than Hydra. It is no breach of charity to call these fools; it is the style all holy writers have afforded them, set down by Solomon in canonical Scripture, and a point of our faith to believe so. Neither in the name of multitude do I only include the base and minor sort of people: there is a rabble even amongst the gentry; a sort of plebeian heads, whose fancy moves with the same wheel as these; men in the same level with mechanicks, though their fortunes do somewhat gild their infirmities, and their purses compound for their follies. But, as in casting account three or four men together come short in account of one man placed by himself below them, so neither are a troop of these ignorant Doradoes1 of that true esteem and value as many a forlorn person, whose condition doth place him below their feet. Let us speak like politicians; there is a nobility without heraldry, a natural dignity, whereby one man is ranked with another, another filed before him, according to the quality of his desert, and preeminence of his good parts. Though the corruption of these times, and the bias of present practice, wheel another way, thus it was in the first and primitive commonwealths, and is yet in the integrity and cradle of well ordered polities: till corruption getteth ground;—ruder desires labouring after that which wiser considerations contemn;—every one having a liberty to amass and heap up riches, and they a licence or faculty to do or purchase anything.

§2.—This general and indifferent temper of mine doth more nearly dispose me to this noble virtue. It is a happiness to be born and framed unto virtue, and to grow up from the seeds of nature, rather than the inoculations and forced grafts of education: yet, if we are directed only by our particular natures, and regulate our inclinations by no higher rule than that of our reasons, we are but moralists; divinity will still call us heathens. Therefore this great work of charity must have other motives, ends, and impulsions. I give no alms to satisfy the hunger of my brother, but to fulfil and accomplish the will and command of my God; I draw not my purse for his sake that demands it, but his that enjoined it; I relieve no man upon the rhetorick of his miseries, nor to content mine own commiserating disposition; for this is still but moral charity, and an act that oweth more to passion than reason. He that relieves another upon the bare suggestion and bowels of pity doth not this so much for his sake as for his own; and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also. It is as erroneous a conceit to redress other men’s misfortunes upon the common considerations of merciful natures, that it may be one day our own case; for this is a sinister and politick kind of charity, whereby we seem to bespeak the pities of men in the like occasions. And truly I have observed that those professed eleemo-synaries, though in a crowd or multitude, do yet direct and place their petitions on a few and selected persons; there is surely a physiognomy, which those experienced and master mendicants observe, whereby they instantly discover a merciful aspect, and will single out a face, wherein they spy the signature and marks of mercy. For there are mystically in our faces certain characters which carry in them the motto of our souls, wherein he that can read A, B, C, may read our natures. I hold, moreover, that there is a phytognomy, or physiognomy, not only of men, but of plants and vegetables; and is every one of them some outward figures which hang as signs or bushes of their inward forms. The finger of God hath left an inscription upon all his works, not graphical, or composed of letters, but of their several forms, constitutions, parts, and operations, which, aptly joined together, do make one word that doth express their natures. By these letters God calls the stars by their names; and by this alphabet Adam assigned to every creature a name peculiar to its nature. Now, there are, besides these characters in our faces, certain mystical figures in our hands, which I dare not call mere dashes, strokes a la volee or at random, because delineated by a pencil that never works in vain; and hereof I take more particular notice, because I carry that in mine own hand which I could never read of nor discover in another. Aristotle, I confess, in his acute and singular book of physiognomy, hath made no mention of chiromancy:2 yet I believe the Egyptians, who were nearer addicted to those abstruse and mystical sciences, had a knowledge therein: to which those vagabond and counterfeit Egyptians did after3 pretend, and perhaps retained a few corrupted principles, which sometimes might verify their prognosticks.

It is the common wonder of all men, how, among so many millions of faces, there should be none alike: now, contrary, I wonder as much how there should be any. He that shall consider how many thousand several words have been carelessly and without study composed out of twenty-four letters; withal, how many hundred lines there are to be drawn in the fabrick of one man; shall easily find that this variety is necessary: and it will be very hard that they shall so concur as to make one portrait like another. Let a painter carelessly limn out a million of faces, and you shall find them all different; yes, let him have his copy before him, yet, after all his art, there will remain a sensible distinction: for the pattern or example of everything is the perfectest in that kind, whereof we still come short, though we transcend or go beyond it; because herein it is wide, and agrees not in all points unto its copy. Nor doth the similitude of creatures disparage the variety of nature, nor any way confound the works of God. For even in things alike there is diversity; and those that do seem to accord do manifestly disagree. And thus is man like God; for, in the same things that we resemble him we are utterly different from him. There was never anything so like another as in all points to concur; there will ever some reserved difference slip in, to prevent the identity; without which two several things would not be alike, but the same, which is impossible.

§3.—But, to return from philosophy to charity, I hold not so narrow a conceit of this virtue as to conceive that to give alms is only to be charitable, or think a piece of liberality can comprehend the total of charity. Divinity hath wisely divided the act thereof into many branches, and hath taught us, in this narrow way, many paths unto goodness; as many ways as we may do good, so many ways we may be charitable. There are infirmities not only of body, but of soul and fortunes, which do require the merciful hand of our abilities. I cannot contemn a man for ignorance, but behold him with as much pity as I do Lazarus. It is no greater charity to clothe his body than apparel the nakedness of his soul. It is an honourable object to see the reasons of other men wear our liveries, and their borrowed understandings do homage to the bounty of ours. It is the cheapest way of beneficence, and, like the natural charity of the sun, illuminates another without obscuring itself. To be reserved and caitiff4 in this part of goodness is the sordidest piece of covetousness, and more contemptible than the pecuniary avarice. To this (as calling myself a scholar) I am obliged by the duty of my condition. I make not therefore my head a grave, but a treasure of knowledge. I intend no monopoly, but a community in learning. I study not for my own sake only, but for theirs that study not for themselves. I envy no man that knows more than myself, but pity them that know less. I instruct no man as an exercise of my knowledge, or with an intent rather to nourish and keep it alive in mine own head than beget and propagate it in his. And, in the midst of all my endeavours, there is but one thought that dejects me, that my acquired parts must perish with myself, nor can be legacied among my honoured friends. I cannot fall out or contemn a man for an error, or conceive why a difference in opinion should divide an affection; for controversies, disputes, and argumentations, both in philosophy and in divinity, if they meet with discreet and peaceable natures, do not infringe the laws of charity. In all disputes, so much as there is of passion, so much there is of nothing to the purpose; for then reason, like a bad hound, spends upon a false scent, and forsakes the question first started. And this is one reason why controversies are never determined; for, though they be amply proposed, they are scarce at all handled; they do so swell with unnecessary digressions; and the parenthesis on the party is often as large as the main discourse upon the subject. The foundations of religion are already established, and the principles of salvation subscribed unto by all. There remain not many controversies worthy a passion, and yet never any dispute without, not only in divinity but inferior arts. What a [Greek omitted] and hot skirmish is betwixt S. and T. in Lucian!5 How do grammarians hack and slash for the genitive case in Jupiter!6 How do they break their own pates, to salve that of Priscian!7 “Si foret in terris, rideret Democritus.“ Yes, even amongst wiser militants, how many wounds have been given and credits slain, for the poor victory of an opinion, or beggarly conquest of a distinction! Scholars are men of peace, they bear no arms, but their tongues are sharper than Actius’s razor.8 their pens carry farther, and give a louder report than thunder. I had rather stand the shock of a basilisko9 than in the fury of a merciless pen. It is not mere zeal to learning, or devotion to the muses, that wiser princes patron the arts, and carry an indulgent aspect unto scholars; but a desire to have their names eternized by the memory of their writings, and a fear of the revengeful pen of succeeding ages: for these are the men that, when they have played their parts, and had their exits, must step out and give the moral of their scenes, and deliver unto posterity an inventory of their virtues and vices. And surely there goes a great deal of conscience to the compiling of an history: there is no reproach to the scandal of a story; it is such an authentick kind of falsehood, that with authority belies our good names to all nations and posterity.

§4.—There is another offence unto charity, which no author hath ever written of, and few take notice of, and that’s the reproach, not of whole professions, mysteries, and conditions, but of whole nations, wherein by opprobrious epithets we miscall each other, and, by an uncharitable logick, from a disposition in a few, conclude a habit in all.

Le mutin Anglois, et le bravache Escossois Le bougre Italien, et le fol Francois; Le poltron Romain, le larron de Gascogne, L’Espagnol superbe, et l’Alleman yvrogue.

St Paul, that calls the Cretians liars, doth it but indirectly, and upon quotation of their own poet.10 It is as bloody a thought in one way as Nero’s was in another.11 For by a word we wound a thousand, and at one blow assassin the honour of a nation. It is as complete a piece of madness to miscall and rave against the times; or think to recall men to reason by a fit of passion. Democritus, that thought to laugh the times into goodness, seems to me as deeply hypochondriack as Heraclitus, that bewailed them. It moves not my spleen to behold the multitude in their proper humours; that is, in their fits of folly and madness, as well understanding that wisdom is not profaned unto the world; and it is the privilege of a few to be virtuous. They that endeavour to abolish vice destroy also virtue; for contraries, though they destroy one another, are yet the life of one another. Thus virtue (abolish vice) is an idea. Again, the community of sin doth not disparage goodness; for, when vice gains upon the major part, virtue, in whom it remains, becomes more excellent, and, being lost in some, multiplies its goodness in others, which remain untouched, and persist entire in the general inundation. I can therefore behold vice without a satire, content only with an admonition, or instructive reprehension; for noble natures, and such as are capable of goodness, are railed into vice, that might as easily be admonished into virtue; and we should be all so far the orators of goodness as to protect her from the power of vice, and maintain the cause of injured truth. No man can justly censure or condemn another; because, indeed, no man truly knows another. This I perceive in myself; for I am in the dark to all the world, and my nearest friends behold me but in a cloud. Those that know me but superficially think less of me than I do of myself; those of my near acquaintance think more; God who truly knows me, knows that I am nothing: for he only beholds me, and all the world, who looks not on us through a derived ray, or a trajection of a sensible species, but beholds the substance without the help of accidents, and the forms of things, as we their operations. Further, no man can judge another, because no man knows himself; for we censure others but as they disagree from that humour which we fancy laudable in ourselves, and commend others but for that wherein they seem to quadrate and consent with us. So that in conclusion, all is but that we all condemn, self-love. ’Tis the general complaint of these times, and perhaps of those past, that charity grows cold; which I perceive most verified in those which do most manifest the fires and flames of zeal; for it is a virtue that best agrees with coldest natures, and such as are complexioned for humility. But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? “Charity begins at home,” is the voice of the world; yet is every man his greatest enemy, and as it were his own executioner. “Non occides,“ is the commandment of God, yet scarce observed by any man; for I perceive every man is his own Atropos, and lends a hand to cut the thread of his own days. Cain was not therefore the first murderer, but Adam, who brought in death; whereof he beheld the practice and example in his own son Abel; and saw that verified in the experience of another which faith could not persuade him in the theory of himself.

§5.—There is, I think, no man that apprehends his own miseries less than myself; and no man that so nearly apprehends another’s. I could lose an arm without a tear, and with few groans, methinks, be quartered into pieces; yet can I weep most seriously at a play, and receive with a true passion the counterfeit griefs of those known and professed impostures. It is a barbarous part of inhumanity to add unto any afflicted parties misery, or endeavour to multiply in any man a passion whose single nature is already above his patience. This was the greatest affliction of Job, and those oblique expostulations of his friends a deeper injury than the down-right blows of the devil. It is not the tears of our own eyes only, but of our friends also, that do exhaust the current of our sorrows; which, falling into many streams, runs more peaceably, and is contented with a narrower channel. It is an act within the power of charity, to translate a passion out of one breast into another, and to divide a sorrow almost out of itself; for an affliction, like a dimension, may be so divided as, if not indivisible, at least to become insensible. Now with my friend I desire not to share or participate, but to engross, his sorrows; that, by making them mine own, I may more easily discuss them: for in mine own reason, and within myself, I can command that which I cannot entreat without myself, and within the circle of another. I have often thought those noble pairs and examples of friendship, not so truly histories of what had been, as fictions of what should be; but I now perceive nothing in them but possibilities, nor anything in the heroick examples of Damon and Pythias, Achilles and Patroclus, which, methinks, upon some grounds, I could not perform within the narrow compass of myself. That a man should lay down his life for his friend seems strange to vulgar affections and such as confine themselves within that worldly principle, “Charity begins at home.” For mine own part, I could never remember the relations that I held unto myself, nor the respect that I owe unto my own nature, in the cause of God, my country, and my friends. Next to these three, I do embrace myself. I confess I do not observe that order that the schools ordain our affections—to love our parents, wives, children, and then our friends; for, excepting the injunctions of religion, I do not find in myself such a necessary and indissoluble sympathy to all those of my blood. I hope I do not break the fifth commandment, if I conceive I may love my friend before the nearest of my blood, even those to whom I owe the principles of life. I never yet cast a true affection on a woman; but I have loved my friend, as I do virtue, my soul, my God. From hence, methinks, I do conceive how God loves man; what happiness there is in the love of God. Omitting all other, there are three most mystical unions; two natures in one person; three persons in one nature; one soul in two bodies. For though, indeed, they be really divided, yet are they so united, as they seem but one, and make rather a duality than two distinct souls.

§6.—There are wonders in true affection. It is a body of enigmas, mysteries, and riddles; wherein two so become one as they both become two: I love my friend before myself, and yet, methinks, I do not love him enough. Some few months hence, my multiplied affection will make me believe I have not loved him at all. When I am from him, I am dead till I be with him. United souls are not satisfied with embraces, but desire to be truly each other; which being impossible, these desires are infinite, and must proceed without a possibility of satisfaction. Another misery there is in affection; that whom we truly love like our own selves, we forget their looks, nor can our memory retain the idea of their faces: and it is no wonder, for they are ourselves, and our affection makes their looks our own. This noble affection falls not on vulgar and common constitutions; but on such as are marked for virtue. He that can love his friend with this noble ardour will in a competent degree effect all. Now, if we can bring our affections to look beyond the body, and cast an eye upon the soul, we have found out the true object, not only of friendship, but charity: and the greatest happiness that we can bequeath the soul is that wherein we all do place our last felicity, salvation; which, though it be not in our power to bestow, it is in our charity and pious invocations to desire, if not procure and further. I cannot contentedly frame a prayer for myself in particular, without a catalogue for my friends; nor request a happiness wherein my sociable disposition doth not desire the fellowship of my neighbour. I never hear the toll of a passing bell, though in my mirth, without my prayers and best wishes for the departing spirit. I cannot go to cure the body of my patient, but I forget my profession, and call unto God for his soul. I cannot see one say his prayers, but, instead of imitating him, I fall into supplication for him, who perhaps is no more to me than a common nature: and if God hath vouchsafed an ear to my supplications, there are surely many happy that never saw me, and enjoy the blessing of mine unknown devotions. To pray for enemies, that is, for their salvation, is no harsh precept, but the practice of our daily and ordinary devotions. I cannot believe the story of the Italian;12 our bad wishes and uncharitable desires proceed no further than this life; it is the devil, and the uncharitable votes of hell, that desire our misery in the world to come.

§7.—“To do no injury nor take none” was a principle which, to my former years and impatient affections, seemed to contain enough of morality, but my more settled years, and Christian constitution, have fallen upon severer resolutions. I can hold there is no such things as injury; that if there be, there is no such injury as revenge, and no such revenge as the contempt of an injury: that to hate another is to malign himself; that the truest way to love another is to despise ourselves. I were unjust unto mine own conscience if I should say I am at variance with anything like myself. I find there are many pieces in this one fabrick of man; this frame is raised upon a mass of antipathies: I am one methinks but as the world, wherein notwithstanding there are a swarm of distinct essences, and in them another world of contrarieties; we carry private and domestick enemies within, public and more hostile adversaries without. The devil, that did but buffet St Paul, plays methinks at sharp13 with me. Let me be nothing, if within the compass of myself, I do not find the battle of Lepanto,14 passion against reason, reason against faith, faith against the devil, and my conscience against all. There is another man within me that’s angry with me, rebukes, commands, and dastards me. I have no conscience of marble, to resist the hammer of more heavy offences: nor yet so soft and waxen, as to take the impression of each single peccadillo or scape of infirmity. I am of a strange belief, that it is as easy to be forgiven some sins as to commit some others. For my original sin, I hold it to be washed away in my baptism; for my actual transgressions, I compute and reckon with God but from my last repentance, sacrament, or general absolution; and therefore am not terrified with the sins or madness of my youth. I thank the goodness of God, I have no sins that want a name. I am not singular in offences; my transgressions are epidemical, and from the common breath of our corruption. For there are certain tempers of body which, matched with a humorous depravity of mind, do hath and produce vitiosities, whose newness and monstrosity of nature admits no name; this was the temper of that lecher that carnaled with a statua, and the constitution of Nero in his spintrian recreations. For the heavens are not only fruitful in new and unheard-of stars, the earth in plants and animals, but men’s minds also in villany and vices. Now the dulness of my reason, and the vulgarity of my disposition, never prompted my invention nor solicited my affection unto any of these;—yet even those common and quotidian infirmities that so necessarily attend me, and do seem to be my very nature, have so dejected me, so broken the estimation that I should have otherwise of myself, that I repute myself the most abject piece of mortality. Divines prescribe a fit of sorrow to repentance: there goes indignation, anger, sorrow, hatred, into mine, passions of a contrary nature, which neither seem to suit with this action, nor my proper constitution. It is no breach of charity to ourselves to be at variance with our vices, nor to abhor that part of us, which is an enemy to the ground of charity, our God; wherein we do but imitate our great selves, the world, whose divided antipathies and contrary faces do yet carry a charitable regard unto the whole, by their particular discords preserving the common harmony, and keeping in fetters those powers, whose rebellions, once masters, might be the ruin of all.

§8.—I thank God, amongst those millions of vices I do inherit and hold from Adam, I have escaped one, and that a mortal enemy to charity—the first and father sin, not only of man, but of the devil—pride; a vice whose name is comprehended in a monosyllable, but in its nature not circumscribed with a world, I have escaped it in a condition that can hardly avoid it. Those petty acquisitions and reputed perfections, that advance and elevate the conceits of other men, add no feathers unto mine. I have seen a grammarian tower and plume himself over a single line in Horace, and show more pride, in the construction of one ode, than the author in the composure of the whole book. For my own part, besides the jargon and patois of several provinces, I understand no less than six languages; yet I protest I have no higher conceit of myself than had our fathers before the confusion of Babel, when there was but one language in the world, and none to boast himself either linguist or critick. I have not only seen several countries, beheld the nature of their climes, the chorography of their provinces, topography of their cities, but understood their several laws, customs, and policies; yet cannot all this persuade the dulness of my spirit unto such an opinion of myself as I behold in nimbler and conceited heads, that never looked a degree beyond their nests. I know the names and somewhat more of all the constellations in my horizon; yet I have seen a prating mariner, that could only name the pointers and the north-star, out-talk me, and conceit himself a whole sphere above me. I know most of the plants of my country, and of those about me, yet methinks I do not know so many as when I did but know a hundred, and had scarcely ever simpled further than Cheapside. For, indeed, heads of capacity, and such as are not full with a handful or easy measure of knowledge, think they know nothing till they know all; which being impossible, they fall upon the opinion of Socrates, and only know they know not anything. I cannot think that Homer pined away upon the riddle of the fishermen, or that Aristotle, who understood the uncertainty of knowledge, and confessed so often the reason of man too weak for the works of nature, did ever drown himself upon the flux and reflux of Euripus.15 We do but learn, today, what our better advanced judgments will unteach tomorrow; and Aristotle doth but instruct us, as Plato did him, that is, to confute himself. I have run through all sorts, yet find no rest in any: though our first studies and junior endeavours may style us Peripateticks, Stoicks, or Academicks, yet I perceive the wisest heads prove, at last, almost all Scepticks,16 and stand like Janus in the field of knowledge. I have therefore one common and authentick philosophy I learned in the schools, whereby I discourse and satisfy the reason of other men; another more reserved, and drawn from experience, whereby I content mine own. Solomon, that complained of ignorance in the height of knowledge, hath not only humbled my conceits, but discouraged my endeavours. There is yet another conceit that hath sometimes made me shut my books, which tells me it is a vanity to waste our days in the blind pursuit of knowledge: it is but attending a little longer, and we shall enjoy that, by instinct and infusion, which we endeavour at here by labour and inquisition. It is better to sit down in a modest ignorance, and rest contented with the natural blessing of our own reasons, than by the uncertain knowledge of this life with sweat and vexation, which death gives every fool gratis, and is an accessary of our glorification.

§9.—I was never yet once, and commend their resolutions who never marry twice. Not that I disallow of second marriage; as neither in all cases of polygamy, which considering some times, and the unequal number of both sexes, may be also necessary. The whole world was made for man, but the twelfth part of man for woman. Man is the whole world, and the breath of God; woman the rib and crooked piece of man. I could be content that we might procreate like trees, without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpetuate the world without this trivial and vulgar way of coition: it is the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life, nor is there anything that will more deject his cooled imagination, when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath committed. I speak not in prejudice, nor am averse from that sweet sex, but naturally amorous of all that is beautiful. I can look a whole day with delight upon a handsome picture, though it be but of an horse. It is my temper, and I like it the better, to affect all harmony; and sure there is musick, even in the beauty and the silent note which Cupid strikes, far sweeter than the sound of an instrument. For there is a musick wherever there is a harmony, order, or proportion; and thus far we may maintain “the musick of the spheres:” for those well-ordered motions, and regular paces, though they give no sound unto the ear, yet to the understanding they strike a note most full of harmony. Whatsoever is harmonically composed delights in harmony, which makes me much distrust the symmetry of those heads which declaim against all church-musick. For myself, not only from my obedience but my particular genius I do embrace it: for even that vulgar and tavern-musick which makes one man merry, another mad, strikes in me a deep fit of devotion, and a profound contemplation of the first composer. There is something in it of divinity more than the ear discovers: it is an hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole world, and creatures of God—such a melody to the ear, as the whole world, well understood, would afford the understanding. In brief, it is a sensible fit of that harmony which intellectually sounds in the ears of God. I will not say, with Plato, the soul is an harmony, but harmonical, and hath its nearest sympathy unto musick: thus some, whose temper of body agrees, and humours the constitution of * “Urbem a Romam in principio reges habuere.” their souls, are born poets, though indeed all are naturally inclined unto rhythm. This made Tacitus, in the very first line of his story, fall upon a verse;* and Cicero, the worst of poets, but declaiming for a poet, falls in the very first sentence upon a * “In qua me non inferior mediocriter esse.”— Pro Archia Poeta. perfect hexameter.* I feel not in me those sordid and unchristian desires of my profession; I do not secretly implore and wish for plagues, rejoice at famines, revolve ephemerides and almanacks in expectation of malignant aspects, fatal conjunctions, and eclipses. I rejoice not at unwholesome springs nor unseasonable winters: my prayer goes with the husbandman’s; I desire everything in its proper season, that neither men nor the times be out of temper. Let me be sick myself, if sometimes the malady of my patient be not a disease unto me. I desire rather to cure his infirmities than my own necessities. Where I do him no good, methinks it is scarce honest gain, though I confess ’tis but the worthy salary of our well intended endeavours. I am not only ashamed but heartily sorry, that, besides death, there are diseases incurable; yet not for my own sake or that they be beyond my art, but for the general cause and sake of humanity, whose common cause I apprehend as mine own. And, to speak more generally, those three noble professions which all civil commonwealths do honour, are raised upon the fall of Adam, and are not any way exempt from their infirmities. There are not only diseases incurable in physick, but cases indissolvable in law, vices incorrigible in divinity. If general councils may err, I do not see why particular courts should be infallible: their perfectest rules are raised upon the erroneous reasons of man, and the laws of one do but condemn the rules of another; as Aristotle oft-times the opinions of his predecessors, because, though agreeable to reason, yet were not consonant to his own rules and the logick of his proper principles. Again—to speak nothing of the sin against the Holy Ghost, whose cure not only, but whose nature is unknown—I can cure the gout or stone in some, sooner than divinity, pride, or avarice in others. I can cure vices by physick when they remain incurable by divinity, and they shall obey my pills when they contemn their precepts. I boast nothing, but plainly say, we all labour against our own cure; for death is the cure of all diseases. There is no catholicon or universal remedy I know, but this, which though nauseous to queasy stomachs, yet to prepared appetites is nectar, and a pleasant potion of im mortality.

§10.—For my conversation, it is, like the sun’s, with all men, and with a friendly aspect to good and bad. Methinks there is no man bad; and the worst best, that is, while they are kept within the circle of those qualities wherein they are good. There is no man’s mind of so discordant and jarring a temper, to which a tuneable disposition may not strike a harmony. Magnae virtutes, nec minora vitia; it is the posy17 of the best natures, and may be inverted on the worst. There are, in the most depraved and venomous dispositions, certain pieces that remain untouched, which by an antiperistasis18 become more excellent, or by the excellency of their antipathies are able to preserve themselves from the contagion of their enemy vices, and persist entire beyond the general corruption. For it is also thus in nature: the greatest balsams do lie enveloped in the bodies of the most powerful corrosives. I say moreover, and I ground upon experience, that poisons contain within themselves their own antidote, and that which preserves them from the venom of themselves; without which they were not deleterious to others only, but to themselves also. But it is the corruption that I fear within me; not the contagion of commerce without me. ’Tis that unruly regiment within me, that will destroy me; ’tis that I do infect myself; the man without a navel19 yet lives in me. I feel that original canker corrode and devour me: and therefore, “Defenda me, Dios, de me!“ “Lord, deliver me from myself!” is a part of my litany, and the first voice of my retired imaginations. There is no man alone, because every man is a * “Cic. de Off.,” I. iii. microcosm, and carries the whole world about him. “Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus,“* though it be the apothegm of a wise man is yet true in the mouth of a fool: for indeed, though in a wilderness, a man is never alone; not only because he is with himself, and his own thoughts, but because he is with the devil, who ever consorts with our solitude, and is that unruly rebel that musters up those disordered motions which accompany our sequestered imaginations. And to speak more narrowly, there is no such thing as solitude, nor anything that can be said to be alone, and by itself, but God;—who is his own circle, and can subsist by himself; all others, besides their dissimilary and heterogeneous parts, which in a manner multiply their natures, cannot subsist without the concourse of God, and the society of that hand which doth uphold their natures. In brief, there can be nothing truly alone, and by its self, which is not truly one, and such is only God: all others do transcend an unity, and so by consequence are many.

§11.—Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate, were not a history, but a piece of poetry, and would sound to common ears like a fable. For the world, I count it not an inn, but an hospital; and a place not to live, but to die in. The world that I regard is myself; it is the microcosm of my own frame that I cast mine eye on: for the other, I use it but like my globe, and turn it round sometimes for my recreation. Men that look upon my outside, perusing only my condition and fortunes, do err in my altitude; for I am above Atlas’s shoulders.20 The earth is a point not only in respect of the heavens above us, but of the heavenly and celestial part within us. That mass of flesh that circumscribes me limits not my mind. That surface that tells the heavens it hath an end cannot persuade me I have any. I take my circle to be above three hundred and sixty. Though the number of the ark do measure my body, it comprehendeth not my mind. Whilst I study to find how I am a microcosm, or little world, I find myself something more than the great. There is surely a piece of divinity in us; something that was before the elements, and owes no homage unto the sun. Nature tells me, I am the image of God, as well as Scripture. He that understands not thus much hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the alphabet of man. Let me not injure the felicity of others, if I say I am as happy as any. Ruat coelum, fiat voluntas tua,“ salveth all; so that, whatsoever happens, it is but what our daily prayers desire. In brief, I am content; and what should providence add more? Surely this is it we call happiness, and this do I enjoy; with this I am happy in a dream, and as content to enjoy a happiness in a fancy, as others in a more apparent truth and reality. There is surely a nearer apprehension of anything that delights us, in our dreams, than in our waked senses. Without this I were unhappy; for my awaked judgment discontents me, ever whispering unto me that I am from my friend, but my friendly dreams in the night requite me, and make me think I am within his arms. I thank God for my happy dreams, as I do for my good rest; for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires, and such as can be content with a fit of happiness. And surely it is not a melancholy conceit to think we are all asleep in this world, and that the conceits of this life are as mere dreams, to those of the next, as the phantasms of the night, to the conceits of the day. There is an equal delusion in both; and the one doth but seem to be the emblem or picture of the other. We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps; and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason; and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleeps. At my nativity, my ascendant was the watery sign of Scorpio. I was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and I think I have a piece of that leaden planet in me. I am no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardise21 of company; yet in one dream I can compose a whole comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the con ceits thereof. Were my memory as faithful as my reason is then fruitful, I would never study but in my dreams, and this time also would I choose for my devotions: but our grosser memories have then so little hold of our abstracted understandings, that they forget the story, and can only relate to our awaked souls a confused and broken tale of that which hath passed. Aristotle, who hath written a singular tract of sleep, hath not, methinks, thoroughly defined it; nor yet Galen, though he seem to have corrected it; for those noctambulos and night-walkers, though in their sleep, do yet enjoy the action of their senses. We must therefore say that there is something in us that is not in the jurisdiction of Morpheus; and that those abstracted and ecstatick souls do walk about in their own corpses, as spirits with the bodies they assume, wherein they seem to hear, see, and feel, though indeed the organs are destitute of sense, and their natures of those faculties that should inform them. Thus it is observed, that men sometimes, upon the hour of their departure, do speak and reason above themselves. For then the soul beginning to be freed from the ligaments of the body, begins to reason like herself, and to discourse in a strain above mortality.

§12.—We term sleep a death; and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life. ’Tis indeed a part of life that best expresseth death; for every man truly lives, so long as he acts his nature, or some way makes good the faculties of himself. Themistocles therefore, that slew his soldier in his sleep, was a merciful executioner: ’tis a kind of punishment the mildness of no laws hath invented; I wonder the fancy of Lucan and Seneca did not discover it. It is that death by which we may be literally said to die daily; a death which Adam died before his mortality; a death whereby we live a middle and moderating point between life and death. In fine, so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers, and an half adieu unto the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with God:—

The night is come, like to the day; Depart not thou, great God, away. Let not my sins, black as the night, Eclipse the lustre of thy light. Keep still in my horizon; for to me The sun makes not the day, but thee. Thou whose nature cannot sleep, On my temples sentry keep; Guard me ‘gainst those watchful foes, Whose eyes are open while mine close. Let no dreams my head infest, But such as Jacob’s temples blest. While I do rest, my soul advance: Make my sleep a holy trance: That I may, my rest being wrought, Awake into some holy thought, And with as active vigour run My course as doth the nimble sun. Sleep is a death;—Oh make me try, By sleeping, what it is to die! And as gently lay my head On my grave, as now my bed. Howe’er I rest, great God, let me Awake again at last with thee. And thus assured, behold I lie Securely, or to wake or die. These are my drowsy days; in vain I do now wake to sleep again: Oh come that hour, when I shall never Sleep again, but wake for ever!

This is the dormitive I take to bedward; I need no other laudanum than this to make me sleep; after which I close mine eyes in security, content to take my leave of the sun, and sleep unto the resurrection.

§13.—The method I should use in distributive justice, I often observe in commutative; and keep a geometrical proportion in both, whereby becoming equable to others, I become unjust to myself, and supererogate in that common principle, “Do unto others as thou wouldst be done unto thyself.” I was not born unto riches, neither is it, I think, my star to be wealthy; or if it were, the freedom of my mind, and frankness of my disposition, were able to contradict and cross my fates: for to me avarice seems not so much a vice, as a deplorable piece of madness; to conceive ourselves urinals, or be persuaded that we are dead, is not so ridiculous, nor so many degrees beyond the power of hellebore,22 as this. The opinions of theory, and positions of men, are not so void of reason, as their practised conclusions. Some have held that snow is black, that the earth moves, that the soul is air, fire, water; but all this is philosophy: and there is no delirium, if we do but speculate the folly and indisputable dotage of avarice. To that subterraneous idol, and god of the earth, I do confess I am an atheist. I cannot persuade myself to honour that the world adores; whatsoever virtue its prepared substance may have within my body, it hath no influence nor operation without. I would not entertain a base design, or an action that should call me villain, for the Indies; and for this only do I love and honour my own soul, and have methinks two arms too few to embrace myself. Aristotle is too severe, that will not allow us to be truly liberal without wealth, and the bountiful hand of fortune; if this be true, I must confess I am charitable only in my liberal intentions, and bountiful well wishes. But if the example of the mite be not only an act of wonder, but an example of the noblest charity, surely poor men may also build hospitals, and the rich alone have not erected cathedrals. I have a private method which others observe not; I take the opportunity of myself to do good; I borrow occasion of charity from my own necessities, and supply the wants of others, when I am in most need myself: for it is an honest stratagem to take advantage of ourselves, and so to husband the acts of virtue, that, where they are defective in one circumstance, they may repay their want, and multiply their goodness in another. I have not Peru in my desires, but a competence and ability to perform those good works to which he hath inclined my nature. He is rich who hath enough to be charitable; and it is hard to be so poor that a noble mind may not find a way to this piece of goodness. “He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord:” there is more rhetorick in that one sentence than in a library of sermons. And indeed, if those sentences were understood by the reader with the same emphasis as they are delivered by the author, we needed not those volumes of instructions, but might be honest by an epitome. Upon this motive only I cannot behold a beggar without relieving his necessities with my purse, or his soul with my prayers. These scenical and accidental differences between us cannot make me forget that common and untoucht part of us both: there is under these centoes23 and miserable outsides, those mutilate and semi bodies, a soul of the same alloy with our own, whose genealogy is God’s as well as ours, and * “The poor ye have always with you.” in as fair a way to salvation as ourselves. Statists that labour to contrive a commonwealth without our poverty take away the object of charity; not understanding only the commonwealth of a Christian, but forgetting the prophecy of Christ.*

§14.—Now, there is another part of charity, which is the basis and pillar of this, and that is the love of God, for whom we love our neighbour; for this I think charity, to love God for himself, and our neighbour for God. And all that is truly amiable is God, or as it were a divided piece of him, that retains a reflex or shadow of himself. Nor is it strange that we should place affection on that which is invisible: all that we truly love is thus. What we adore under affection of our senses deserves not the honour of so pure a title. Thus we adore virtue, though to the eyes of sense she be invisible. Thus that part of our noble friends that we love is not that part that we embrace, but that insensible part that our arms cannot embrace. God being all goodness, can love nothing but himself; he loves us but for that part which is as it were himself, and the traduction of his Holy Spirit. Let us call to assize the loves of our parents, the affection of our wives and children, and they are all dumb shows and dreams, without reality, truth, or constancy. For first there is a strong bond of affection between us and our parents; yet how easily dissolved! We betake ourselves to a woman, forgetting our mother in a wife, and the womb that bare us in that which shall bear our image. This woman blessing us with children, our affection leaves the level it held before, and sinks from our bed unto our issue and picture of posterity: where affection holds no steady mansion; they growing up in years, desire our ends; or, applying themselves to a woman, take a lawful way to love another better than ourselves. Thus I perceive a man may be buried alive, and behold his grave in his own issue.

§15.—I conclude therefore, and say, there is no * Who holds that the sun is the centre of the world. happiness under (or, as Copernicus* will have it, above) the sun; nor any crambe24 in that repeated verity and burthen of all the wisdom of Solomon: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit;” there is no felicity in that the world adores. Aristotle, whilst he labours to refute the ideas of Plato, falls upon one himself: for his summum bonum is a chimaera; and there is no such thing as his felicity. That wherein God himself is happy, the holy angels are happy, in whose defect the devils are unhappy;—that dare I call happiness: whatsoever conduceth unto this, may, with an easy metaphor, deserve that name; whatsoever else the world terms happiness is, to me, a story out of Pliny, a tale of Bocace or Malizspini, an apparition or neat delusion, wherein there is no more of happiness than the name. Bless me in this life with but the peace of my conscience, command of my affections, the love of thyself and my dearest friends, and I shall be happy enough to pity Caesar! These are, O Lord, the humble desires of my most reasonable ambition, and all I dare call happiness on earth; wherein I set no rule or limit to thy hand or providence; dispose of me according to the wisdom of thy pleasure. Thy will be done, though in my own undoing.

1. From the Spanish “Dorado,” a gilt head.

2. Sir T. Browne treats of chiromancy, or the art of telling fortunes by means of lines in the hands, in his “Vulgar Errors,” lib. v. cap. 23.

3. Gypsies.

4. S. Wilkin says that here this word means niggardly.

5. In the dialogue, “judicium vocalium,” the vowels are the judges, and [Greek Sigma omitted] complains that T has deprived him of many letters that ought to begin with [Greek Sigma omitted].

6. If Jovis or Jupitris.

7. The celebrated Roman grammarian. A proverbial phrase for the violation of grammar was “Breaking Priscian’s head.”

8. Livy says, Actius Nevius cut a whetstone through with a razor.

9. A kind of lizard that was supposed to kill all it looked at —

“Whose baneful eye

Wounds at a glance, so that the soundest dye.”

De Bartas, 6me jour 1me sem.

10. Epimenides (Titus x. 12)—

[Greek omitted]

11. Nero having heard a person say, “When I am dead, let earth be mingled with fire,” replied, “Yes, while I live.”— Suetonius, Vit. Nero.

12. Alluding to the story of the Italian, who, having been provoked by a person he met, put a poniard to his heart, and threatened to kill him if he would not blaspheme God; and the stranger doing so, the Italian killed him at once, that he might be damned, having no time to repent.

13. A rapier or small sword.

14. The battle here referred to was the one between Don John of Austria and the Turkish fleet, near Lepanto, in 1571. The battle of Lepanto (that is, the capture of the town by the Turks) did not take place till 1678.

15. Several authors say that Aristotle died of grief because he could not find out the reason for the ebb and flow of the tide in Epirus.

16. Who deny that there is such a thing as science.

17. A motto on a ring or cup. In an old will, 1655, there is this passage: “I give a cup of silver gilt to have this posy written in the margin:—

“When the drink is out, and the bottom you may see,

Remember your brother I. G.”

18. The opposition of a contrary quality, by which the quality it opposes becomes heightened.

19. Adam as he was created and not born.

20. Meaning a world, as Atlas supported the world on his shoulders.

21. Merriment. Johnson says that this is the only place where the word is found.

22. Said to be a cure for madness.

23. Patched garments.

24. A game. A kind of capping verses, in which, if any one repeated what had been said before, he paid a forfeit.

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51