Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton

Sect. iii. Memb. i.

A Consolatory Digression, containing the Remedies of all manner of Discontents.

Because in the preceding section I have made mention of good counsel, comfortable speeches, persuasion, how necessarily they are required to the cure of a discontented or troubled mind, how present a remedy they yield, and many times a sole sufficient cure of themselves; I have thought fit in this following section, a little to digress (if at least it be to digress in this subject), to collect and glean a few remedies, and comfortable speeches out of our best orators, philosophers, divines, and fathers of the church, tending to this purpose. I confess, many have copiously written of this subject, Plato, Seneca, Plutarch, Xenophon, Epictetus, Theophrastus, Xenocrates, Grantor, Lucian, Boethius: and some of late, Sadoletus, Cardan, Budaeus, Stella, Petrarch, Erasmus, besides Austin, Cyprian, Bernard, &c. And they so well, that as Hierome in like case said, si nostrum areret ingenium, de illorum posset fontibus irrigari, if our barren wits were dried up, they might be copiously irrigated from those well-springs: and I shall but actum agere; yet because these tracts are not so obvious and common, I will epitomise, and briefly insert some of their divine precepts, reducing their voluminous and vast treatises to my small scale; for it were otherwise impossible to bring so great vessels into so little a creek. And although (as Cardan said of his book de consol.) 3553“I know beforehand, this tract of mine many will contemn and reject; they that are fortunate, happy, and in flourishing estate, have no need of such consolatory speeches; they that are miserable and unhappy, think them insufficient to ease their grieved minds, and comfort their misery:” yet I will go on; for this must needs do some good to such as are happy, to bring them to a moderation, and make them reflect and know themselves, by seeing the inconstancy of human felicity, others' misery; and to such as are distressed, if they will but attend and consider of this, it cannot choose but give some content and comfort. 3554“'Tis true, no medicine can cure all diseases, some affections of the mind are altogether incurable; yet these helps of art, physic, and philosophy must not be contemned.” Arrianus and Plotinus are stiff in the contrary opinion, that such precepts can do little good. Boethius himself cannot comfort in some cases, they will reject such speeches like bread of stones, Insana stultae mentis haec solatia. 3555

“Words add no courage,” which 3556Catiline once said to his soldiers, “a captain's oration doth not make a coward a valiant man:” and as Job 3557 feelingly said to his friends, “you are but miserable comforters all.” 'Tis to no purpose in that vulgar phrase to use a company of obsolete sentences, and familiar sayings: as 3558Plinius Secundus, being now sorrowful and heavy for the departure of his dear friend Cornelius Rufus, a Roman senator, wrote to his fellow Tiro in like case, adhibe solatia, sed nova aliqua, sed fortia, quae audierim nunquam, legerim nunquam: nam quae audivi, quae legi omnia, tanto dolore superantur, either say something that I never read nor heard of before, or else hold thy peace. Most men will here except trivial consolations, ordinary speeches, and known persuasions in this behalf will be of small force; what can any man say that hath not been said? To what end are such paraenetical discourses? you may as soon remove Mount Caucasus, as alter some men's affections. Yet sure I think they cannot choose but do some good, and comfort and ease a little, though it be the same again, I will say it, and upon that hope I will adventure. 3559Non meus hic sermo, 'tis not my speech this, but of Seneca, Plutarch, Epictetus, Austin, Bernard, Christ and his Apostles. If I make nothing, as 3560Montaigne said in like case, I will mar nothing; 'tis not my doctrine but my study, I hope I shall do nobody wrong to speak what I think, and deserve not blame in imparting my mind. If it be not for thy ease, it may for mine own; so Tully, Cardan, and Boethius wrote de consol. as well to help themselves as others; be it as it may I will essay.

Discontents and grievances are either general or particular; general are wars, plagues, dearths, famine, fires, inundations, unseasonable weather, epidemical diseases which afflict whole kingdoms, territories, cities; or peculiar to private men, 3561as cares, crosses, losses, death of friends, poverty, want, sickness, orbities, injuries, abuses, &c. Generally all discontent, 3562homines quatimur fortunae, salo. No condition free, quisque suos patimur manes. Even in the midst of our mirth and jollity, there is some grudging, some complaint; as 3563he saith, our whole life is a glycypicron, a bitter sweet passion, honey and gall mixed together, we are all miserable and discontent, who can deny it? If all, and that it be a common calamity, an inevitable necessity, all distressed, then as Cardan infers, 3564“who art thou that hopest to go free? Why dost thou not grieve thou art a mortal man, and not governor of the world?” Ferre quam sortem patiuntur omnes, Nemo recuset, 3565“If it be common to all, why should one man be more disquieted than another?” If thou alone wert distressed, it were indeed more irksome, and less to be endured; but when the calamity is common, comfort thyself with this, thou hast more fellows, Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris; 'tis not thy sole case, and why shouldst thou be so impatient? 3566“Aye, but alas we are more miserable than others, what shall we do? Besides private miseries, we live in perpetual fear and danger of common enemies: we have Bellona's whips, and pitiful outcries, for epithalamiums; for pleasant music, that fearful noise of ordnance, drums, and warlike trumpets still sounding in our ears; instead of nuptial torches, we have firing of towns and cities; for triumphs, lamentations; for joy, tears.” 3567“So it is, and so it was, and so it ever will be. He that refuseth to see and hear, to suffer this, is not fit to live in this world, and knows not the common condition of all men, to whom so long as they live, with a reciprocal course, joys and sorrows are annexed, and succeed one another.” It is inevitable, it may not be avoided, and why then shouldst thou be so much troubled? Grave nihil est homini quod fert necessitas, as 3568Tully deems out of an old poet, “that which is necessary cannot be grievous.” If it be so, then comfort thyself in this, 3569“that whether thou wilt or no, it must be endured:” make a virtue of necessity, and conform thyself to undergo it. 3570Si longa est, levis est; si gravis est, brevis est. If it be long, 'tis light; if grievous, it cannot last. It will away, dies dolorem minuit, and if nought else, time will wear it out; custom will ease it; 3571 oblivion is a common medicine for all losses, injuries, griefs, and detriments whatsoever, 3572“and when they are once past, this commodity comes of infelicity, it makes the rest of our life sweeter unto us:” 3573 Atque haec olim meminisse juvabit, “recollection of the past is pleasant:” “the privation and want of a thing many times makes it more pleasant and delightsome than before it was.” We must not think the happiest of us all to escape here without some misfortunes,

3574 ——— Usque adeo nulla est sincera voluptas,

Solicitumque aliquid laetis intervenit. ———

Heaven and earth are much unlike: 3575“Those heavenly bodies indeed are freely carried in their orbs without any impediment or interruption, to continue their course for innumerable ages, and make their conversions: but men are urged with many difficulties, and have diverse hindrances, oppositions still crossing, interrupting their endeavours and desires, and no mortal man is free from this law of nature.” We must not therefore hope to have all things answer our own expectation, to have a continuance of good success and fortunes, Fortuna nunquam perpetuo est bona. And as Minutius Felix, the Roman consul, told that insulting Coriolanus, drunk with his good fortunes, look not for that success thou hast hitherto had; 3576“It never yet happened to any man since the beginning of the world, nor ever will, to have all things according to his desire, or to whom fortune was never opposite and adverse.” Even so it fell out to him as he foretold. And so to others, even to that happiness of Augustus; though he were Jupiter's almoner, Pluto's treasurer, Neptune's admiral, it could not secure him. Such was Alcibiades's fortune, Narsetes, that great Gonsalvus, and most famous men's, that as 3577Jovius concludes, “it is almost fatal to great princes, through their own default or otherwise circumvented with envy and malice, to lose their honours, and die contumeliously.” 'Tis so, still hath been, and ever will be, Nihil est ab omni parte beatum,

There's no perfection is so absolute,

That some impurity doth not pollute.

Whatsoever is under the moon is subject to corruption, alteration; and so long as thou livest upon earth look not for other. 3578“Thou shalt not here find peaceable and cheerful days, quiet times, but rather clouds, storms, calumnies, such is our fate.” And as those errant planets in their distinct orbs have their several motions, sometimes direct, stationary, retrograde, in apogee, perigee, oriental, occidental, combust, feral, free, and as our astrologers will, have their fortitudes and debilities, by reason of those good and bad irradiations, conferred to each other's site in the heavens, in their terms, houses, case, detriments, &c. So we rise and fall in this world, ebb and flow, in and out, reared and dejected, lead a troublesome life, subject to many accidents and casualties of fortunes, variety of passions, infirmities as well from ourselves as others.

Yea, but thou thinkest thou art more miserable than the rest, other men are happy but in respect of thee, their miseries are but flea-bitings to thine, thou alone art unhappy, none so bad as thyself. Yet if, as Socrates said, 3579“All men in the world should come and bring their grievances together, of body, mind, fortune, sores, ulcers, madness, epilepsies, agues, and all those common calamities of beggary, want, servitude, imprisonment, and lay them on a heap to be equally divided, wouldst thou share alike, and take thy portion? or be as thou art? Without question thou wouldst be as thou art.” If some Jupiter should say, to give us all content,

3580Jam faciam quod vultis; eris tu, qui modo miles,

Mercator; tu consultus modo, rusticus; hinc vos,

Vos hinc mutatis discedite partibus; eia

Quid slatis? nolint.

Well be't so then; you master soldier

Shall be a merchant; you sir lawyer

A country gentlemen; go you to this,

That side you; why stand ye? it's well as 'tis.

3581“Every man knows his own, but not others' defects and miseries; and 'tis the nature of all men still to reflect upon themselves, their own misfortunes,” not to examine or consider other men's, not to compare themselves with others: To recount their miseries, but not their good gifts, fortunes, benefits, which they have, or ruminate on their adversity, but not once to think on their prosperity, not what they have, but what they want: to look still on them that go before, but not on those infinite numbers that come after. 3582“Whereas many a man would think himself in heaven, a pretty prince, if he had but the least part of that fortune which thou so much repinest at, abhorrest and accountest a most vile and wretched estate.” How many thousands want that which thou hast? how many myriads of poor slaves, captives, of such as work day and night in coal-pits, tin-mines, with sore toil to maintain a poor living, of such as labour in body and mind, live in extreme anguish, and pain, all which thou art free from? O fortunatos nimium bona si sua norint: Thou art most happy if thou couldst be content, and acknowledge thy happiness; 3583Rem carendo, non fruendo cognoscimus, when thou shalt hereafter come to want that which thou now loathest, abhorrest, and art weary of, and tired with, when 'tis past thou wilt say thou wert most happy: and after a little miss, wish with all thine heart thou hadst the same content again, mightst lead but such a life, a world for such a life: the remembrance of it is pleasant. Be silent then, 3584rest satisfied, desine, intuensque in aliorum infortunia solare mentem, comfort thyself with other men's misfortunes, and as the mouldwarp in Aesop told the fox, complaining for want of a tail, and the rest of his companions, tacete, quando me occulis captum videtis, you complain of toys, but I am blind, be quiet. I say to thee be thou satisfied. It is 3585recorded of the hares, that with a general consent they went to drown themselves, out of a feeling of their misery; but when they saw a company of frogs more fearful than they were, they began to take courage, and comfort again. Compare thine estate with others. Similes aliorum respice casus, mitius ista feres. Be content and rest satisfied, for thou art well in respect to others: be thankful for that thou hast, that God hath done for thee, he hath not made thee a monster, a beast, a base creature, as he might, but a man, a Christian, such a man; consider aright of it, thou art full well as thou art. 3586Quicquid vult habere nemo potest, no man can have what he will, Illud potest nolle quod non habet, he may choose whether he will desire that which he hath not. Thy lot is fallen, make the best of it. 3587“If we should all sleep at all times,” (as Endymion is said to have done) “who then were happier than his fellow?” Our life is but short, a very dream, and while we look about 3588immortalitas adest, eternity is at hand: 3589“Our life is a pilgrimage on earth, which wise men pass with great alacrity.” If thou be in woe, sorrow, want, distress, in pain, or sickness, think of that of our apostle, “God chastiseth them whom he loveth: they that sow in tears, shall reap in joy,” Psal. cxxvi. 6. “As the furnace proveth the potter's vessel, so doth temptation try men's thoughts,” Eccl. xxv. 5, 'tis for 3590thy good, Periisses nisi periisses: hadst thou not been so visited, thou hadst been utterly undone: “as gold in the fire,” so men are tried in adversity. Tribulatio ditut: and which Camerarius hath well shadowed in an emblem of a thresher and corn,

Si tritura absit paleis sunt abdita grana,

Nos crux mundanis separat a paleis:

As threshing separates from straw the corn,

By crosses from the world's chaff are we born.

'Tis the very same which 3591Chrysostom comments, hom. 2. in 3 Mat. “Corn is not separated but by threshing, nor men from worldly impediments but by tribulation.” 'Tis that which 3592Cyprian ingeminates, Ser. 4. de immort. 'Tis that which 3593Hierom, which all the fathers inculcate, “so we are catechised for eternity.” 'Tis that which the proverb insinuates. Nocumentum documentum; 'tis that which all the world rings in our ears. Deus unicum habet filium sine peccato, nullum sine flagello: God, saith 3594Austin, hath one son without sin, none without correction. 3595“An expert seaman is tried in a tempest, a runner in a race, a captain in a battle, a valiant man in adversity, a Christian in tentation and misery.” Basil, hom. 8. We are sent as so many soldiers into this world, to strive with it, the flesh, the devil; our life is a warfare, and who knows it not? 3596Non est ad astra mollis e terris via: 3597“and therefore peradventure this world here is made troublesome unto us,” that, as Gregory notes, “we should not be delighted by the way, and forget whither we are going.”

3598Ite nunc fortes, ubi celsa magni
Ducit exempli via, cur inertis
Terga nudatis? superata tellus
   Sidera donat.

Go on then merrily to heaven. If the way be troublesome, and you in misery, in many grievances: on the other side you have many pleasant sports, objects, sweet smells, delightsome tastes, music, meats, herbs, flowers, &c. to recreate your senses. Or put case thou art now forsaken of the world, dejected, contemned, yet comfort thyself, as it was said to Agar in the wilderness, 3599“God sees thee, he takes notice of thee:” there is a God above that can vindicate thy cause, that can relieve thee. And surely 3600Seneca thinks he takes delight in seeing thee. “The gods are well pleased when they see great men contending with adversity,” as we are to see men fight, or a man with a beast. But these are toys in respect, 3601 “Behold,” saith he, “a spectacle worthy of God; a good man contented with his estate.” A tyrant is the best sacrifice to Jupiter, as the ancients held, and his best object “a contented mind.” For thy part then rest satisfied, “cast all thy care on him, thy burthen on him,” 3602“rely on him, trust on him, and he shall nourish thee, care for thee, give thee thine heart's desire;” say with David, “God is our hope and strength, in troubles ready to be found,” Psal. xlvi. 1. “for they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed,” Psal. cxxiv. 1. 2. “as the mountains are about Jerusalem, so is the Lord about his people, from henceforth and for ever.”

3553. Lib. de lib. propriis. Hos libros, scio multos spernere, nam felices his se non indigere putant, infelices ad solationem miseriae non sufficere. Et tamen felicibus moderationem, dum inconstantiam humanae felicitatis docent, praestant; infelices si omnia recte aestimare velint, felices reddere possunt.

3554. Nullum medicamentum omnes sanare potest; sunt affectus animi qui prorsus sunt insanabiles? non lamen artis opus sperni debet, aut medicinae, aut philosophae.

3555. “The insane consolations of a foolish mind.”

3556. Salust. Verba virtutem non addunt, nec imperatoris oratio facile timido fortem.

3557. Job, cap. 16.

3558. Epist. 13. lib. 1.

3559. Hor.

3560. Lib. 2. Essays, cap. 6.

3561. Alium paupertas, alium orbitas, hunc morbi, illum timor, alium injuriae, hunc insidiae, illum uxor, filii distrahunt, Cardan.

3562. Boethius l. 1. met. 5.

3563. Apuleius 4. florid. Nihil homini tam prospere datum divinitus, quin ei admixtum sit aliquid difficultatis, in amplissima quaque laetitia subest quaedam querimonia, conjugatione quadam mellis et fellis.

3564. Si omnes premantur, quis tu es qui solus evadere cupis ab ea lege quae neminem praeterit? cur te non mortalem factum et universi orbis regem fieri non doles?

3565. Puteanus ep. 75. Neque cuiquam praecipue dolendum eo quod accidit universis.

3566. Lorchan. Gallobelgicus lib. 3. Anno 1598. de Belgis. Sed eheu inquis euge quid agemus? ubi pro Epithalamio Bellonae flagellum, pro musica harmonia terribilum lituorum et tubarum audias clangorem, pro taedis nuptialibus, villarum, pagorum, urbium videas incendia; ubi pro jubilo lamenta, pro risu fletus aerem complent.

3567. Ita est profecto, et quisquis haec videre abnuis, huic seculi parum aptus es, aut potius nostrorum omnium conditionem ignoras, quibus reciproco quodam nexu laeta tristibus, tristia laetis invicem succedunt.

3568. In Tusc. e vetere poeta.

3569. Cardan lib. 1. de consol. Est consolationis genus non leve, quod a necessitate fit; sive feras, sive non feras, ferendum est tamen.

3570. Seneca.

3571. Omni dolori tempus est medicina; ipsum luctum extinguit, injurias delet, omnis mali oblivionem adfert.

3572. Habet hoc quoque commodum omnis infelicitas, suaviorem vitam cum abierit relinquit.

3573. Virg.

3574. Ovid. “For there is no pleasure perfect, some anxiety always intervenes.”

3575. Lorchan. Sunt namque infera superis, humana terrenis longe disparia. Etenim beatae mentes feruntur libere, et sine ullo impedimento, stellae, aethereique orbes cursus et conversiones suas jam saeculis innumerabilibus constantissime conficiunt; verum homines magnis angustiis. Neque hac naturae lege est quisquam mortalium solutus.

3576. Dionysius Halicar. lib. 8. non enim unquam contigit, nec post homines natos invenies quenquam, cui omnia ex animi sententia successerint, ita ut nulla in re fortuna sit ei adversata.

3577. Vit. Gonsalvi lib. ult. ut ducibus fatale sit clarissimis a culpa sua, secus circumveniri cum malitia et invidia, imminutaque dignitate per contumeliam mori.

3578. In terris purum illum aetherem non invenies, et ventos serenos; nimbos potius, procellas, calumnias. Lips. cent. misc. ep. 8.

3579. Si omnes homines sua mala suasque curas in unum cumulum conferrent, aequis divisuri portionibus, &c.

3580. Hor. ser. lib. 1.

3581. Quod unusquisque propria mala novit, aliorum nesciat, in causa est, ut se inter alios miserum putet. Cardan, lib. 3. de consol. Plutarch de consol, ad Apollonium.

3582. Quam multos putas qui se coelo proximos putarent, totidem regulos, si de fortunae tuae reliquiis pars iis minima contingat. Boeth. de consol. lib. 2. pros. 4.

3583. “You know the value of a thing from wanting more than from enjoying it.”

3584. Hesiod. Esto quod es; quod sunt alii, sine quemlibet esse; Quod non es, nolis; quod potes esse, velis.

3585. Aesopi fab.

3586. Seneca.

3587. Si dormirent semper omnes, nullus alio felicior esset. Card.

3588. Seneca de ira.

3589. Plato, Axiocho. An ignoras vitam hanc peregrinationem, &c. quam sapiences cum gaudio percurrunt.

3590. Sic expedit; medicus non dat quod patiens vult, sed quod ipse bonum scit.

3591. Frumentum non egreditur nisi trituratum, &c.

3592. Non est poena damnantis sed flagellum corrigentis.

3593. Ad haereditatem aeternam sic erudimur.

3594. Confess. 6.

3595. Nauclerum tempestas, athletam stadium, ducem pugna, magnanimum calamitas, Christianum vero tentatio probat et examinat.

3596. Sen. Herc. fur. “The way from the earth to the stars is not so downy.”

3597. Ideo Deus asperum fecit iter, ne dum delectantur in via, obliviscantur eorum quae sunt in patria.

3598. Boethius l. 5. met. ult, “Go now, brave fellows, whither the lofty path of a great example leads. Why do you stupidly expose your backs? The earth brings the stars to subjection.”

3599. Boeth. pro. ult. Manet spectator cunctorum desuper praescius deus, bonis proemia, malis supplicia dispensans.

3600. Lib. de provid. voluptatem capiunt dii siquando magnos viros colluctantes cum calamitate vident.

3601. Ecce spectaculum Deo dignum. Vir fortis mala fortuna compositus.

3602. 1 Pet. v. 7. Psal. lv. 22.

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