Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton

Memb. iv.

Against Servitude, Loss of Liberty, Imprisonment, Banishment.

Servitude, loss of liberty, imprisonment, are no such miseries as they are held to be: we are slaves and servants the best of us all: as we do reverence our masters, so do our masters their superiors: gentlemen serve nobles, and nobles subordinate to kings, omne sub regno graviore regnum, princes themselves are God's servants, reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis. They are subject to their own laws, and as the kings of China endure more than slavish imprisonment, to maintain their state and greatness, they never come abroad. Alexander was a slave to fear, Caesar of pride, Vespasian to his money (nihil enim refert, rerum sis servus an hominum), 3849 Heliogabalus to his gut, and so of the rest. Lovers are slaves to their mistresses, rich men to their gold, courtiers generally to lust and ambition, and all slaves to our affections, as Evangelus well discourseth in 3850Macrobius, and 3851Seneca the philosopher, assiduam servitutem extremam et ineluctabilem he calls it, a continual slavery, to be so captivated by vices; and who is free? Why then dost thou repine? Satis est potens, Hierom saith, qui servire non cogitur. Thou carriest no burdens, thou art no prisoner, no drudge, and thousands want that liberty, those pleasures which thou hast. Thou art not sick, and what wouldst thou have? But nitimur in vetitum, we must all eat of the forbidden fruit. Were we enjoined to go to such and such places, we would not willingly go: but being barred of our liberty, this alone torments our wandering soul that we may not go. A citizen of ours, saith 3852Cardan, was sixty years of age, and had never been forth of the walls of the city of Milan; the prince hearing of it, commanded him not to stir out: being now forbidden that which all his life he had neglected, he earnestly desired, and being denied, dolore confectus mortem, obiit, he died for grief.

What I have said of servitude, I again say of imprisonment, we are all prisoners. 3853What is our life but a prison? We are all imprisoned in an island. The world itself to some men is a prison, our narrow seas as so many ditches, and when they have compassed the globe of the earth, they would fain go see what is done in the moon. In 3854Muscovy and many other northern parts, all over Scandia, they are imprisoned half the year in stoves, they dare not peep out for cold. At 3855Aden in Arabia they are penned in all day long with that other extreme of heat, and keep their markets in the night. What is a ship but a prison? And so many cities are but as so many hives of bees, anthills; but that which thou abhorrest, many seek: women keep in all winter, and most part of summer, to preserve their beauties; some for love of study: Demosthenes shaved his beard because he would cut off all occasions from going abroad: how many monks and friars, anchorites, abandon the world. Monachus in urbe, piscis in arido. Art in prison? Make right use of it, and mortify thyself; 3856 “Where may a man contemplate better than in solitariness,” or study more than in quietness? Many worthy men have been imprisoned all their lives, and it hath been occasion of great honour and glory to them, much public good by their excellent meditation. 3857Ptolomeus king of Egypt, cum viribus attenuatis infirma valetudine laboraret, miro descendi studio affectus, &c. now being taken with a grievous infirmity of body that he could not stir abroad, became Strato's scholar, fell hard to his book, and gave himself wholly to contemplation, and upon that occasion (as mine author adds), pulcherrimum regiae opulentiae monumentum, &c., to his great honour built that renowned library at Alexandria, wherein were 40,000 volumes. Severinus Boethius never writ so elegantly as in prison, Paul so devoutly, for most of his epistles were dictated in his bands: “Joseph,” saith 3858Austin, “got more credit in prison, than when he distributed corn, and was lord of Pharaoh's house.” It brings many a lewd, riotous fellow home, many wandering rogues it settles, that would otherwise have been like raving tigers, ruined themselves and others.

Banishment is no grievance at all, Omne solum forti patria, &c. et patria est ubicunque bene est, that's a man's country where he is well at ease. Many travel for pleasure to that city, saith Seneca, to which thou art banished, and what a part of the citizens are strangers born in other places? 3859Incolentibus patria, 'tis their country that are born in it, and they would think themselves banished to go to the place which thou leavest, and from which thou art so loath to depart. 'Tis no disparagement to be a stranger, or so irksome to be an exile. 3860“The rain is a stranger to the earth, rivers to the sea, Jupiter in Egypt, the sun to us all. The soul is an alien to the body, a nightingale to the air, a swallow in a house, and Ganymede in heaven, an elephant at Rome, a Phoenix in India;” and such things commonly please us best, which are most strange and come the farthest off. Those old Hebrews esteemed the whole world Gentiles; the Greeks held all barbarians but themselves; our modern Italians account of us as dull Transalpines by way of reproach, they scorn thee and thy country which thou so much admirest. 'Tis a childish humour to hone after home, to be discontent at that which others seek; to prefer, as base islanders and Norwegians do, their own ragged island before Italy or Greece, the gardens of the world. There is a base nation in the north, saith 3861Pliny, called Chauci, that live amongst rocks and sands by the seaside, feed on fish, drink water: and yet these base people account themselves slaves in respect, when they come to Rome. Ita est profecto (as he concludes) multis fortuna parcit in poenam, so it is, fortune favours some to live at home, to their further punishment: 'tis want of judgment. All places are distant from heaven alike, the sun shines happily as warm in one city as in another, and to a wise man there is no difference of climes; friends are everywhere to him that behaves himself well, and a prophet is not esteemed in his own country. Alexander, Caesar, Trajan, Adrian, were as so many land-leapers, now in the east, now in the west, little at home; and Polus Venetus, Lod. Vertomannus, Pinzonus, Cadamustus, Columbus, Americus Vespucius, Vascus Gama, Drake, Candish, Oliver Anort, Schoutien, got, all their honour by voluntary expeditions. But you say such men's travel is voluntary; we are compelled, and as malefactors must depart; yet know this of 3862Plato to be true, ultori Deo summa cura peregrinus est, God hath an especial care of strangers, “and when he wants friends and allies, he shall deserve better and find more favour with God and men.” Besides the pleasure of peregrination, variety of objects will make amends; and so many nobles, Tully, Aristides, Themistocles, Theseus, Codrus, &c. as have been banished, will give sufficient credit unto it. Read Pet. Alcionius his two books of this subject.

3849. “It matters little whether we are enslaved by men or things.”

3850. Satur. l. 11. Alius libidini servit, alius ambitioni, omnes spei, omnes timori.

3851. Nat. lib. 3.

3852. Consol. l. 5.

3853. O generose, quid est vita nisi carcer animi!

3854. Herbastein.

3855. Vertomannus navig. l. 2. c. 4. Commercia in nundinis noctu hora secunda ob nimios qui saeviunt interdiu aestus exercent.

3856. Ubi verior contemplatio quam in solitudine? ubi studium solidius quam in quiete?

3857. Alex. ab Alex. gen. dier. lib. 1. cap. 2.

3858. In Ps. lxxvi. non ita laudatur Joseph cum frumenta distribueret, ac quum carcerem habitaret.

3859. Boethius.

3860. Philostratus in deliciis. Peregrini sunt imbres in terra et fluvii in mari Jupiter apud Aegyptos, sol apud omnes; hospes anima in corpore, luscinia in aere, hirundo in domo, Ganymedes coelo, &c.

3861. Lib. 16. cap. 1. Nullam frugem habent potus ex imbre: Et hae gentes si vincantur, &c.

3862. Lib. 5. de legibus. Cumque cognatis careat et amicis, majorem apud deos et apud homines misericordiam meretur.

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