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A Discourse of Life and Death.
Written in French by Ph. Mornay.
Antonius, A Tragoedie written also in French by Ro. Garnier.
Both done in English by the Countesse of Pembroke.
Printed for William Ponsonby.
A Discourse of Life and Death,
Written in French by Ph. Mornay.
Sieur du Plessis Marly.
It seemes to mee strange, and a thing much to be marueiled, that the laborer to repose himselfe hasteneth as it were the course of the Sunne: that the Mariner rowes with all force to attayne the porte, and with a ioyfull crye salutes the descryed land: that the traueiler is neuer quiet nor content till he be at the ende of his voyage: and that wee in the meane while tied in this world to a perpetuall taske, tossed with continuall tempest, tyred with a rough and combersome way, cannot yet see the ende of our labour but with griefe, nor behold our porte but with teares, nor approch our home and quiet abode but with horrour and trembling. This life is but a Penelopes web, wherein we are alwayes doing and vndoing: a sea open to all windes, which sometime within, sometime without neuer cease to torment vs: a weary iorney through extreame heates, and coldes, ouer high mountaynes, steepe rockes, and theeuish deserts. And so we terme it in weauing at this web, in rowing at this oare, in passing this miserable way. Yet loe when death comes to ende our worke, when she stretcheth out her armes to pull vs into the porte, when after so many dangerous passages, and lothsome lodgings she would conduct vs to our true home and resting place: in steede of reioycing at the ende of our labour, of taking comfort at the sight of our land, of singing at the approch of our happie mansion, we would faine, (who would beleeue it?) retake our worke in hand, we would againe hoise saile to the winde, and willinglie vndertake our iourney anew. No more then remember we our paines, our shipwracks and dangers are forgotten: we feare no more the trauailes nor the theeues. Contrarywise, we apprehende death as an extreame payne, we doubt it as a rocke, we flye it as a theefe. We doe as litle children, who all the day complayne, and when the medicine is brought them, are no longer sicke: as they who all the weeke long runne vp and downe the streetes with payne of the teeth, and seeing the Barber comming to pull them out, feele no more payne: as those tender and delicate bodyes, who in a pricking pleurisie complaine, crie out, and cannot stay for a Surgion, and when they see him whetting his Launcet to cut the throate of the disease, pull in their armes, and hide them in the bed, as, if he were come to kill them. We feare more the cure then the disease, the surgion then the paine, the stroke then the impostume. We haue more sence of the medicins bitternes soone gone, then of a bitter languishing long continued: more feeling of death the end of our miseries, then the endlesse misery of our life. And whence proceedeth this folly and simplicitie? we neyther knowe life, nor death. We feare that we ought to hope for, and wish for that we ought to feare. We call life a continuall death: and death the issue of a liuing death, and the entrance of a neuer dying life. Now what good, I pray you, is there in life, that we should so much pursue it? or what euill is there in death, that we should so much eschue it? Nay what euill is there not in life? and what good is there not in death? Consider all the periods of this life. We enter it in teares; we passe it in sweate, we ende it in sorow. Great and litle, ritch and poore, not one in the whole world, that can pleade immunitie from this condition. Man in this point worse then all other creatures, is borne vnable to support himselfe: neither receyuing in his first yeeres any pleasure, nor giuing to others but annoy and displeasure, and before the age of discretion passing infinite dangers. Only herein lesse vnhappy then in other ages, that he hath no sence nor apprehension of his vnhappines. Now is there any so weake minded, that if it were graunted him to liue alwayes a childe, would make accompt of such a life? So then it is euident that not simplie to liue is a good, but well and happilie to liue. But proceede. Growes he? with him growe his trauailes. Scarcely is he come out of his nurses hands, scarcely knowes he what it is to play, but he falleth into the subiection of some Schoolemaister: I speake but of those which are best and most precisely brought vp. Studies he? it is euer with repining. Playes he? neuer but with feare. This whole age while he is vnder the charge of an other, is vnto him but as a prison. He only thinks, and only aspires to that time when freed from the mastership of another, he may become maister of himselfe: pushing onward (as much as in him lies) his age with his shoulder, that soone he may enioy his hoped libertie. In short, he desires nothing more then the ende of this base age, and the beginning of his youth. And what else I pray you is the beginning of youth, but the death of infancy? the beginning of manhood, but the death of youth? the beginning of to morow, but the death of to day? In this sort then desires he his death, and iudgeth his life miserable: and so cannot be reputed in any happines or contentment. Behold him now, according to his wish, at libertie: in that age, wherein Hercules had the choise, to take the way of vertue or of vice, reason or passion for his guide, and of these two must take one. His passion entertains him with a thousand delights, prepares for him a thousand baites, presents him with a thousand worldly pleasures to surprize him: and fewe there are that are not beguiled. But at the reconings ende what pleasures are they? pleasures full of vice which hold him still in a restles feauer: pleasures subiect to repentance, like sweete meates of hard disgestion: pleasures bought with paine and perill, spent and past in a moment, and followed with a long and lothsome remorse of conscience. And this is the very nature (if they be well examined) of all the pleasures of this world. There is in none so much sweetenes, but there is more bitternes: none so pleasant to the mouth, but leaues an vnsauery after taste and lothsome disdaine: none (which is worse) so moderated but hath his corosiue, and caries his punishment in it selfe. I will not heere speake of the displeasures confessed by all, as quarells, debates, woundes, murthers, banishments, sicknes, perils, whereinto sometimes the incontinencie, sometimes the insolencie of this ill guided age conductes him. But if those that seem pleasures, be nothing else but displeasures: if the sweetnes thereof be as an infusion of wormewood: it is plaine enough what the displeasure is they feele, and how great the bitternes that they taste. Behold in summe the life of a yong man, who rid of the gouernment of his parents and maisters, abandons himselfe to all libertie or rather bondage of his passion: which right like an vncleane spirit possessing him, casts him now into the water, now into the fire: sometimes caries him cleane ouer a rocke, and sometime flings him headlong to the bottome. Now if he take and followe reason for his guide, beholde on the other part wonderfull difficulties: he must resolue to fight in euery part of the field: at euery step to be in conflict, and at handstrokes, as hauing his enemy in front, in flanke, and on the reareward, neuer leauing to assaile him. And what enemy? all that can delight him, all that he sees neere, or farre off: briefly the greatest enemy of the world, the world it selfe. But which is worse, a thousand treacherous and dangerous intelligences among his owne forces, and his passion within himselfe desperate: which in that age growne to the highest, awaits but time, houre, and occasion to surprize him, and cast him into all viciousnes. God only and none other, can make him choose this way: God only can hold him in it to the ende: God only can make him victorious in all his combats. And well we see how fewe they are that enter into it, and of those fewe, how many that retire againe. Follow the one way, or follow the other, he must either subiect himselfe to a tyrannicall passion, or vndertake a weery and continuall combate, willingly cast himselfe to destruction, or fetter himselfe as it were in stockes, easily sincke with the course of the water, or painefully swimme against the streame. Loe here the young man, who in his youth hath drunke his full draught of the worlds vaine and deceiuable pleasures, ouertaken by them with such a dull heauines, and astonishment, as drunkards the morow after a feast: either so out of taste, that he will no more, or so glutted, that he can no more: not able without griefe to speake, or thinke of them. Loe him that stoutly hath made resistance: he feeles himselfe so weery, and with this continuall conflict so brused and broken, that either he is vpon the point to yeeld himselfe, or content to dye, and so acquit himselfe. And this is all the good, all the contentment of this florishing age, by children so earnestlie desired, and by old folkes so hartely lamented. Now commeth that which is called perfit age, in the which men haue no other thoughts, but to purchase themselues wisedome and rest. Perfit in deede, but herein only perfit, that all imperfections of humane nature, hidden before vnder the simplicitie of childhood, or the lightnes of youth, appeere at this age in their perfection. We speake of none in this place but such as are esteemed the wisest, and most happie in the conceit of the world. We played as you haue seene in feare: our short pleasures were attended on with long repentance. Behold, now present themselues to vs auarice, and ambition, promising if wee will adore them, perfect contentm[en]t of the goods and honors of this world. And surely there are none, but the true children of the Lord, who by the faire illusions of the one or the other cast not themselues headlong from the top of the pinnacle. But in the ende, what is all this contentment? The couetous man makes a thousand voiages by sea and by lande: runnes a thousand fortunes: escapes a thousand shipwrackes in perpetuall feare and trauell: and many times he either looseth his time, or gaineth nothing but sicknesses, goutes, and oppilations for the time to come. In the purchase of this goodly repose, he bestoweth his true rest: and to gaine wealth looseth his life. Suppose he hath gained in good quantitie: that he hath spoiled the whole East of pearles, and drawen dry all the mines of the West: will he therefore be setled in quiet? can he say that he is content? All charges and iourneys past, by his passed paines he heapeth vp but future disquietnes both of minde and body: from one trauell falling into another, neuer ending, but changing his miseries. He desired to haue them, and now feares to loose them: he got them with burning ardour, and possesseth in trembling colde: he aduentured among theeues to seeke them, and hauing found them, theeues and robbers on all sides, runne mainely on him: he laboured to dig them out of the earth, and now is enforced to redig, and rehide them. Finally comming from all his voiages he comes into a prison: and for an ende of his bodely trauels, is taken with endlesse trauails of the minde. And what at length hath this poore soule attained after so many miseries? This Deuill of couetise by his illusions, and enchantments, beares him in hand that he hath some rare and singuler thing: and so it fareth with him, as with those seely creatures, whome the Deuill seduceth vnder couler of releeuing their pouertie, who finde their hands full of leaues, supposing to finde them full of crownes. He possesseth or rather is possessed by a thing, wherein is neither force nor vertue: more vnprofitable, and more base, then the least hearbe of the earth. Yet hath he heaped togither this vile excrement, and so brutish is growne, as therewith to crowne his head, which naturally he should tread vnder his feete. But howsoeuer it be, is he therewith content? Nay contrarywise lesse now, then euer. We commend most those drinks that breede an alteration, and soonest extinguish thyrst: and those meates, which in least quantitie do longest resist hunger. Now hereof the more a man drinkes, the more he is a thirst, the more he eates, the more an hungred: It is a dropsie, (and as they tearme it) the dogs hunger: sooner may he burst then be satisfied. And which is worse, so strange in some is this thyrst, that it maketh them dig the pits, and painefully drawe the water, and after will not suffer them to drinke. In the middest of a riuer they are dry with thirst: and on a heape of corne cry out of famine: they haue goodes and dare not vse them: they haue ioyes it seemes, and do not enioy them: they neither haue for themselues, nor for another: but of all they haue, they haue nothing: and yet haue want of all they haue not. Let vs then returne to that, that the attaining of all these deceiuable goods is nothing else but weerines of body, and the possession for the most part, but weerines of the minde: which certenly is so much the greater, as is more sensible, more subtile, and more tender the soule then the body. But the heape of all misery is when they come to loose them: when either shipwracke, or sacking, or inuasion, or fire, or such like calamities, to which these fraile things are subiect, doth take and cary them from them. Then fall they to cry, to weepe, and to torment themselues, as little children that haue lost their play-game, which notwithstanding is nothing worth. One cannot perswade them, that mortall men haue any other good in this world, but that which is mortall. They are in their owne conceits not only spoyled, but altogither flayed. And for asmuch as in these vaine things they haue fixed all their hope, hauing lost them, they fall into despaire, out of the which commonly they cannot be withdrawen. And which is more, all that they haue not gained according to the accompts they made, they esteeme lost: all that which turnes them not to great and extraordinary profit, they accompt as damage: whereby we see some fall into such despaire, as they cast away themselues. In short, the recompence that Couetise yeelds those that haue serued it all their life, is oftentimes like that of the Deuill: whereof the ende is, that after a small time hauing gratified his disciples, either he giues them ouer to a hangman, or himselfe breakes their neckes. I will not heere discourse of the wickednes and mischiefes wherevnto the couetous men subiect themselues to attaine to these goodes, whereby their conscience is filled with a perpetuall remorse, which neuer leaues them in quiet: sufficeth that in this ouer vehement exercise, which busieth and abuseth the greatest part of the world, the body is slaine, the minde is weakened, the soule is lost without any pleasure or contentment.
Come we to ambition, which by a greedines of honor fondly holdeth occupied the greatest persons. Thinke we there to finde more? nay rather lesse. As the one deceiueth vs, geuing vs for all our trauaile, but a vile excrement of the earth: so the other repayes vs, but with smoke and winde: the rewards of this being as vaine, as those of that were grosse. Both in the one and the other, we fall into a bottomles pit; but into this the fall by so much the more dangerous, as at the first shewe, the water is more pleasant and cleare. Of those that geue themselues to courte ambition, some are great about Princes, others commanders of Armies: both sorts according to their degree, you see saluted, reuerenced, and adored of those that are vnder them. You see them appareled in purple, in scarlet, and in cloth of gould: it seemes at first sight there is no contentment in the world but theirs. But men knowe not how heauy an ounce of that vaine honor weighes, what those reuerences cost them, and how dearely they pay for an ell of those rich stuffes: who knewe them well, would neuer buy them at the price. The one hath attained to this degree, after a long and painefull seruice hazarding his life vpon euery occasion, with losse ofttimes of a legge or an arme, and that at the pleasure of a Prince, that more regards a hundred perches of ground on his neighbours frontiers, then the liues of a hundred thousand such as he: vnfortunate to serue who loues him not: and foolish to thinke himselfe in honor with him, that makes so litle reckening to loose him for a thing of no worth. Others growe vp by flattering a Prince, and long submitting their toongs and hands to say and doe without difference whatsoeuer they will haue them: wherevnto a good minde can neuer commaund it selfe. They shall haue indured a thousand iniuries, receiued a thousand disgraces, and as neere as they seeme about the Prince, they are neuertheles alwayes as the Lions keeper, who by long patience, a thousand feedings and a thousand clawings hath made a fierce Lion familiar, yet geues him neuer meate, but with pulling backe his hand, alwayes in feare least he should catch him: and if once in a yere he bites him, he sets it so close, that he is paid for a long time after. Such is the ende of all princes fauorites. When a Prince after long breathings hath raised a man to great height, he makes it his pastime, at what time he seemes to be at the top of his trauaile, to cast him downe at an instant: when he hath filled him with all wealth, he wrings him after as a sponge: louing none but himself, and thinking euery one made, but to serue, and please him. These blinde courtiers make themselues beleeue, that they haue freends, and many that honor them: neuer considering that as they make semblance to loue, and honor euery body, so others do by them. Their superiors disdaine them, and neuer but with scorne do so much as salute them. Their inferiors salute them because they haue neede of them (I meane of their fortune, of their foode, of their apparell, not of their person) and for their equalls betweene whome commonly friendship consistes, they enuy each other, accuse each other, crosse each other; continually greeued either at their owne harme, or at others good. Nowe what greater hell is there, what greater torment, then enuie? which in truth is nought else but a feauer Hectique of the mind: so they are vtterly frustrate of all frendship, euer iudged by the wisest the chiefe and soueraigne good among men. Will you see it more clearely? Let but fortune turne her backe, euery man turnes from them: let her frowne; euery man lookes aside on them: let them once be disroabed of their triumphall garment, no body will any more knowe them. Againe, let there be apparelled in it the most vnworthie, and infamous whatsoeuer: euen he without difficultie by vertue of his robe, shall inherit all the honours the other had done him. In the meane time they are puffed vp, and growe proude, as the Asse which caried the image of Isis was for the honors done to the Goddesse, and regard not that it is the fortune they carry which is honored, not themselues, on whome as on Asses, many times she will be caried. But you will say: At least so long as that fortune endured, they were at ease, and had their contentment, and who hath three or foure or more yeeres of happy time, hath not bin all his life vnhappie. True, if this be to be at ease continually to feare to be cast downe from that degree, wherevnto they are raised: and dayly to desire with great trauaile to clime yet higher. Those (my friend) whome thou takest so well at their ease, because thou seest them but without, are within farre otherwise. They are faire built prisons, full within of deepe ditches, and dungeons: full of darkenes, serpents and torments. Thou supposest them lodged at large, and they thinke their lodgings straite. Thou thinkest them very high, and they thinke themselues very lowe. Now as sicke is he, and many times more sicke, who thinkes himselfe so, then who in deed is. Suppose them to be Kings: if they thinke themselues slaues, they are no better: for what are we but by opinion? you see them well followed and attended: and euen those whome they haue chosen for their guard, they distrust. Alone or in company euer they are in feare. Alone they looke behinde them: in company they haue an eye on euery side of them. They drinke in gould and siluer; but in those, not in earth or glasse is poison prepared and dronke. They haue their beds soft and well made: when they lay them to sleepe you shall not heare a mouse stur in the chamber: not so much as a flie shall come neere their faces. Yet neuertheles, where the countreyman sleepes at the fall of a great riuer, at the noise of a market, hauing no other bed but the earth, nor couering but the heauens, these in the middest of all this silence and delicacie, do nothing but turne from side to side, it seemes still that they heare some body, there rest it selfe is without rest. Lastly, will you knowe what the diuersitie is betwene the most hardly intreated prisoners and them? both are inchained, both loaden with fetters, but that the one hath them of iron, the other of gould, and that the one is tied but by the body, the other by the mind. The prisoner drawes his fetters after him, the courtier weareth his vpon him. The prisoners minde sometimes comforts the paine of his body, and sings in the midst of his miseries: the courtier tormented in minde weerieth incessantly his body, and can neuer giue it rest. And as for the contentment you imagine they haue, you are therein yet more deceiued. You iudge and esteeme them great, because they are raised high: but as fondly, as who should iudge a dwarfe great, for being set on a tower, or on the top of a mountaine. You measure (so good a Geometrician you are) the image with his base, which were conuenient, to knowe his true height, to be measured by itselfe: whereas you regard not the height of the image, but the height of the place it stands vpon. You deeme them great (if in this earth there can be greatnes, which in respect of the whole heauens is but a point.) But could you enter into their mindes, you would iudge, that neither they are great, true greatnes consisting in contempt of those vaine greatnesses, wherevnto they are slaues: nor seeme vnto themselues so, seeing dayly they are aspiring higher, and neuer where they would be. Some one sets downe a bound in his minde. Could I attaine to such a degree, loe, I were content: I would then rest my selfe. Hath he attained it? he geues himselfe not so much as a breathing: he would yet ascend higher. That which is beneath he counts a toy: it is in his opinion but one step. He reputes himselfe lowe, because there is some one higher, in stead of reputing himselfe high, because there are a million lower. And so high he climes at last, that either his breath failes him by the way, or he slides from the top to the bottome. Or if he get vp by all his trauaile, it is but as to finde himselfe on the top of the Alpes: not aboue the cloudes, windes and stormes: but rather at the deuotion of lightnings, and tempests, and whatsoeuer else horrible, and dangerous is engendred, and conceiued in the aire: which most commonly taketh pleasure to thunderbolt and dash into pouder that proude height of theirs. It may be herein you will agree with me, by reason of the examples wherewith both histories, and mens memories are full. But say you, such at least whome nature hath sent into the world with crownes on their heads, and scepters in their hands: such as from their birth she hath set in that height, as they neede take no paine to ascend: seeme without controuersie exempt from all these iniuries, and by consequence may call themselues happie. It may be in deed they feele lesse such incommodities, hauing bene borne, bred and brought vp among them: as one borne neere the downfalls of Nilus becomes deafe to the sound: in prison, laments not the want of libertie: among the Cimmerians in perpetuall night, wisheth not for day: on the top of the Alpes, thinks not straunge of the mistes, the tempests, the snowes, and the stormes. Yet free doubtles they are not wh[en] the lightening often blasteth a flowre of their crownes, or breakes their scepter in their handes: when a drift of snowe ouerwhelmes them; when a miste of heauines, and griefe continually blindeth their wit, and vnderstanding. Crowned they are in deede, but with a crowne of thornes. They beare a scepter: but it is of a reede, more then any thing in the world pliable, and obedient to all windes: it being so far off that such a crowne can cure the maigrims of the minde, and such a scepter keepe off and fray away the griefs and cares which houer about them: that it is contrariwise the crowne that brings them, and the scepter which from all partes attracts them. O crowne, said the Persian Monarch, who knewe howe heauy thou sittest on the head, would not vouchsafe to take thee vp, though he found thee in his way. This Prince it seemed gaue fortune to the whole world, distributed vnto men haps and mishaps at his pleasure: could in show make euery man content: himselfe in the meane while freely confessing, that in the whole world, which he held in his hand there was nothing but griefe, and vnhappines. And what will all the rest tell vs, if they list to vtter what they found? We will not aske them who haue concluded a miserable life with a dishonorable death: who haue beheld their kingdomes buried before them, and haue in great misery long ouerliued their greatnes. Not of Dionyse of Sicill, more content with a handfull of twigs to whip little children of Corinth in a schoole, then with the scepter, where with he had beaten all Sicill: nor of Sylla, who hauing robbed the whole state of Rome, which had before robbed the whole world, neuer found meanes of rest in himselfe, but by robbing himselfe of his owne estate, with incredible hazard both of his power and authoritie. But demaund we the opinion of King Salomon, a man indued with singuler gifts of God, rich and welthie of all things: who sought for treasure from the Iles. He will teach vs by a booke of purpose, that hauing tried all the felicities of the earth, he found nothing but vanitie, trauaile, and vexation of spirit. Aske we the Emperour Augustus, who peaceably possessed the whole world. He will bewaile his life past, and among infinite toiles wish for the rest of the meanest man of the earth: accounting that day most happy, when he might vnloade himselfe of this insupportable greatnes to liue quietly among the least. Of Tiberius his successor, he will confesse vnto vs, that he holdes the Empire as a wolfe by the eares, and that (if without danger of biting he might) he would gladly let it goe: complayning on fortune for lifting him so high, and then taking away the ladder, that he could not come downe agayne. Of Dioclesian, a Prince of so great wisedome and vertue in the opinion of the world: he will preferre his voluntary banishment at Salona, before all the Romaine Empire. Finally, the Emperour Charles the fifth, esteemed by our age the most happy that hath liued these many ages: he will curse his conquestes, his victories, his triumphes: and not be ashamed to confesse that farre more good in comparison he hath felt in one day of his Monkish solitarines, then in all his triumphant life. Now shall we thinke those happie in this imaginate greatnes, who themselues thinke themselues vnhappie? seeking their happines in lessening themselues, and not finding in the world one place to rest this greatnes, or one bed quietly to sleepe in? Happie is he only who in minde liues contented: and he most of all vnhappie, whome nothing he can haue can content. Then miserable Pyrrhus King of Albanie, who would winne all the world, to winne (as he sayd) rest: and went so farre to seeke that which was so neere him. But more miserable Alexander, that being borne King of a great Realme, and Conqueror almost of the earth, sought for more worlds to satisfye his foolish ambition, within three dayes content, with sixe foote of grounde. To conclude, are they borne on the highest Alpes? they seeke to scale heauen. Haue they subdued all the Kings of the earth? they haue quarels to pleade with God, and indeuour to treade vnder foote his kingdome. They haue no end nor limit, till God laughing at their vaine purposes, when they thinke themselues at the last step, thunderstriketh all this presumption, breaking in shiuers their scepters in their hands, and oftentimes intrapping them in their owne crownes. At a word, whatsoeuer happines can be in that ambition promiseth, is but suffering much ill, to get ill. Men thinke by dayly climing higher to plucke themselues out of this ill, and the height wherevnto they so painefully aspire, is the height of misery it selfe. I speake not heere of the wretchednes of them, who all their life haue held out their cap to receiue the almes of court fortune, and can get nothing, often with incredible heart griefe, seeing some by lesse paines taken haue riches fall into their hands: of them, who iustling one an other to haue it, loose it, and cast it into the hands of a third: Of those, who holding it in their hands to hold it faster, haue lost it through their fingers. Such by all men are esteemed vnhappie, and are indeed so, because they iudge themselues so. It sufficeth that all these liberalities which the Deuill casteth vs as out at a windowe, are but baites: all these pleasures but embushes: and that he doth but make his sport of vs, who striue one with another for such things, as most vnhappie is he, that hath best hap to finde them. Well now, you will say, the Couetouse in all his goodes, hath no good: the Ambitious at the best he can be, is but ill. But may there not be some, who supplying the place of Iustice, or being neere about a Prince, may without following such vnbrideled passions, pleasantly enioy their goodes, ioyning honor with rest and contentment of minde? Surely in former ages (there yet remayning among men some sparkes of sinceritie) in some sort it might be so: but being of that composition they nowe are, I see not how it may be in any sorte. For deale you in affayres of estate in these times, either you shall do well, or you shall do ill. If ill, you haue God for your enemy, and your owne conscience for a perpetually tormenting executioner. If well, you haue men for your enemies, and of men the greatest: whose enuie and malice will spie you out, and whose crueltie and tyrannie will euermore threaten you. Please the people you please a beast: and pleasing such, ought to be displeasing to your selfe. Please your selfe, you displease God: please him, you incurr a thousand dangers in the world, with purchase of a thousand displeasures. Whereof it growes, that if you could heare the talke of the wisest and least discontent of this kinde of men, whether they speake aduisedly, or their words passe them by force of truth, one would gladly change garment with his tenaunt: an other preacheth how goodly an estate it is to haue nothing: a third complaining that his braines are broken with the noise of Courte or Pallace, hath no other thought, but as soone as he may to retire himself thence. So that you shall not see any but is displeased with his owne calling, and enuieth that of an other: readie neuerthelesse to repent him, if a man should take him at his word. None but is weerie of the bussinesses wherevnto his age is subiect, and wisheth not to be elder, to free himselfe of them: albeit otherwise hee keepeth of olde age as much as in him lyeth.
What must we then doe in so great a contrarietie and confusion of mindes? Must wee to fynde true humanitie, flye the societie of men, and hide vs in forrestes among wilde beastes? to auoyde these vnrulie passions, eschue the assemblye of creatures supposed reasonable? to plucke vs out of the euills of the world, sequester our selues from the world? Coulde wee in so dooing liue at rest, it were something.
But alas! men cannot take heerein what parte they woulde: and euen they which do, finde not there all the rest they sought for. Some would gladly doo, but shame of the world recalls them. Fooles to be ashamed of what in their heartes they condemne: and more fooles to be aduised by the greatest enemye they can or ought to haue. Others are borne in hande that they ought to serue the publique, not marking that who counsell them serue only themselues: and that the more parte would not much seeke the publique, but that they founde their owne particular. Some are told, that by their good example they may amende others: and consider not that a hundred sound men, euen Phisitions themselues, may sooner catch the plague in an infected towne, then one be healed: that it is but to tempt God, to enter therein: that against so contagious an aire there is no preseruatiue, but in getting farre from it. Finally, that as litle as the freshe waters falling into the sea, can take from it his saltnes: so little can one Lot or two, or three, reforme a court of Sodome. And as concerning the wisest, who no lesse carefull for their soules, then bodies, seeke to bring them into a sound and wholesome ayre, farre from the infection of wickednes: and who led by the hande of some Angell of God, retire themselues in season, as Lot into some little village of Segor, out of the corruption of the world, into some countrie place from the infected townes, there quietlie employing the tyme in some knowledge and serious contemplation: I willinglie yeeld they are in a place of lesse daunger, yet because they carie the danger, in themselues, not absolutelie exempt from danger. They flie the court, and a court folowes them on all sides: they endeuoure to escape the world, and the world pursues them to death. Hardly in this world can they finde a place where the world findes them not: so gredelie it seekes to murther them. And if by some speciall grace of God they seeme for a while free from these daungers, they haue some pouertie that troubles them, some domesticall debate that torments them, or some familiar spirit that tempts them: brieflie the world dayly in some sorte or other makes it selfe felt of them. But the worst is, when we are out of these externall warres and troubles, we finde greater ciuill warre within our selues: the flesh against the spirite, passion against reason, earth against heauen, the worlde within vs fighting for the world, euermore so lodged in the botome of our owne hearts, that on no side we can flie from it. I will say more: he makes profession to flie the worlde, who seekes thereby the praise of the worlde: hee faineth to runne away, who according to the prouerbe, By drawing backe sets himselfe forward: he refuseth honors, that would thereby be prayed to take them: and hides him from men to the ende they shoulde come to seeke him. So the world often harbours in disguised attire among them that flie the world. This is an abuse. But follow wee the company of men, the worlde hath his court among them: seeke we the Deserts, it hath there his dennes and places of resorte, and in the Desert it selfe tempteth Christ Iesus. Retire wee our selues into our selues, we find it there as vncleane as any where. Wee can not make the worlde die in vs, but by dieng our selues. We are in the world, and the worlde in vs, and to seperate vs from the worlde, wee must seperate vs from our selues. Nowe this seperation is called Death. Wee are, wee thinke, come out of the contagious citie, but wee are not aduised that we haue sucked the bad aire, that wee carry the plague with vs, that we so participate with it, that through rockes, through desarts, through mountaines, it euer accompanieth vs. Hauing auoyded the contagion of others, yet we haue it in our selues. We haue withdrawen vs out of men: but not withdrawen man out of vs. The tempestuous sea torments vs: we are grieued at the heart, and desirous to vomit: and to be discharged thereof, we remoue out of one ship into another, from a greater to a lesse: we promise our selues rest in vaine: they being always the same winds that blow, the same waues that swel, the same humors that are stirred. To al no other port, no other mean of tranquilitie but only death. We were sicke in a chamber neere the street, or neere the market: we caused our selues to be carried into some backer closet, where the noise was not so great. But though there the noise was lesse: yet was the feauer there neuerthelesse: and thereby lost nothing of his heate. Change bedde, chamber, house, country, againe and againe: we shall euery where finde the same vnrest, because euery where we finde our selues: and seek not so much to be others, as to be other wheres. We folow solitarines, to flie carefulnes. We retire vs (so say we) from the wicked: but cary with vs our auarice, our ambition, our riotousnes, all our corrupt affecti[on]s: which breed in vs 1000. remorses, & 1000. times each day bring to our remembrance the garlike & onions of Egipt. Daily they passe the Ferry with vs: so that both on this side, and beyond the water, we are in continual combat. Now could we cassere this c[om]pany, which eats and gnaws our mind, doubtles we should be at rest, not in solitarines onely, but euen in the thicket of men. For the life of m[an] vpon earth is but a continual warfare. Are we deliuered from externall practizes? Wee are to take heed of internall espials. Are the Greekes gone away? We haue a Sinon within, that wil betray them the place. Wee must euer be waking, hauing an eie to the watch, and weapons in our hands, if wee will not euery houre be surprised, & giuen vp to the wil of our enimies. And how at last can we escape? Not by the woodes, by the riuers, nor by the mountaines: not by throwing our selues into a presse, nor by thrusting our selues into a hole. One only meane there is, which is death: which in ende seperating our spirite from our flesh, the pure and clean part of our soule from the vncleane, which within vs euermore bandeth it selfe for the worlde, appeaseth by this seperation that, which conioyned in one and the same person coulde not, without vtter choaking of the spirit, but be in perpetuall contention.
And as touching the contentment that may be in the exercises of the wisest men in their solitarinesse, as reading diuine or prophane Bookes, with all other knowledges and learnings: I hold well that it is indeed a far other thing, then are those madde huntings, which make sauage a multitude of men possessed with these or the like diseases of the minde. Yet must they all abide the iudgement pronounced by the wisest among the wise, Salomon, that all this neuerthelesse applied to mans naturall disposition, is to him but vanitie and vexation of minde. Some are euer learning to correct their speach, and neuer thinke of correcting their life. Others dispute in their Logique of reason, and the Arte of reason: and loose thereby many times their naturall reason. One learnes by Arithmetike to diuide to the smallest fractions, and hath not skill to part one shilling with his brother. Another by Geometry can measure fields, and townes, and countries: but can not measure himselfe. The Musitian can accord his voyces, and soundes, and times togither: hauing nothing in his heart but discordes, nor one passion in his soule in good tune. The Astrologer lookes vp on high, and falles in the next ditch: fore-knowes the future, and forgoes the present: hath often his eie on the heauens, his heart long before buried in the earth. The Philosopher discourseth of the nature of all other things: and knowes not himselfe. The Historian can tell of the warres of Thebes and of Troy: but what is doone in his owne house can tell nothing. The Lawyer will make lawes for all the world, and not one for himselfe. The Physition will cure others, and be blinde in his owne disease: finde the least alteration in his pulse, and not marke the burning feauers of his minde. Lastlie, the Diuine will spend the greatest parte of his time in disputing of faith and cares not to heare of charity: wil talke of God, and not regard to succor men. These knowledges bring on the mind an endlesse labour, but no contentment: for the more one knowes, the more he would know.
They pacify not the debates a man feeles in himselfe, they cure not the diseases of his minde. They make him learned, but they make not him good: cunning, but not wise. I say more. The more a man knowes, the more knowes he that he knowes not: the fuller the minde is, the emptier it findes it selfe: forasmuch as whatsoeuer a man can knowe of any science in this worlde is but the least part of what he is ignorant: all his knowledge consisting in knowing his ignorance, al his perfection in noting his imperfections, which who best knowes and notes, is in truth among men the most wise, and perfect. In short we must conclude with Salomon, that the beginning and end of wisedome is the feare of God: that this wisedome neuerthelesse is taken of the world for meere folly, and persecuted by the world as a deadly enemy: and that as who feareth God, ought to feare no euill, for that all his euils are conuerted to his good: so neither ought he to hope for good in the worlde, hauing there the deuil his professed enemy, whom the Scripture termeth Prince of the world.
But with what exercise soeuer we passe the time, behold old age vnwares to vs coms vpon vs: which whether we thrust our selues into the prease of men, or hide vs somewhere out of the way, neuer failes to find vs out. Euery man makes accompt in that age to rest himselfe of all his trauailes without further care, but to keepe himselfe at ease and in health. And see contrariwise in this age, there is nothing but an after taste of all the fore going euils: and most commonly a plentifull haruest of all such vices as in the whole course of their life, hath held and possessed them. There you haue the vnabilitie and weakenesse of infancie, and (which is worse) many times accompanied with authoritie: there you are payed for the excesse and riotousnes of youth, with gowts, palsies, and such like diseases, which take from you limme after limme with extreame paine and torment. There you are recompenced for the trauailes of mind, the watchings and cares of manhoode, with losse of sight, losse of hearing, and all the sences one after another, except onely the sence of paine. Not one parte in vs but death takes in gage to be assured of vs, as of bad pay-maisters, which infinitely feare their dayes of payment. Nothing in vs which will not by and by bee dead: and neuerthelesse our vices yet liue in vs, and not onely liue, but in despite of nature daily growe yoong againe. The couetous man hath one foote in his graue, and is yet burieng his money: meaning belike to finde it againe another day. The ambitious in his will ordaineth vnprofitable pompes for his funeralles, making his vice to liue and triumph after his death. The riotous no longer able to daunce on his feete, daunceth with his shoulders, all vices hauing lefte him, and hee not yet able to leaue them. The childe wisheth for youth: and this man laments it. The yong man liueth in hope of the future, and this feeles the euill present, laments the false pleasures past, and sees for the time to come nothing to hope for. More foolish then the childe, in bewailing the time he cannot recall, and not remembring the euill hee had therein: and more wretched then the yongman, in that after a wretched life not able, but wretchedly to die, he sees on all sides but matter of dispaire. As for him, who from his youth hath vndertaken to combate against the flesh, and against the world: who hath taken so great paines to mortifie himselfe and leaue the worlde before his time: who besides those ordinarie euilles findes himselfe vexed with this great and incurable disease of olde age, and feeles notwithstanding his flesh howe weake soeuer, stronger oftentimes then his spirite: what good I pray can hee haue but onlie herein: that hee sees his death at hand, that hee sees his combate finished, that he sees himselfe readie to departe by death out of this loathsome prison, wherein all his life time hee hath beene racked and tormented? I will not heere speake of the infinite euilles wherewith men in all ages are annoyed, as losse of friendes and parents, banishments, exiles, disgraces, and such others, common and ordinarie in the world: one complayning of loosing his children, an other of hauing them: one making sorrow for his wifes death, an other for her life, one finding faulte, that hee is too high in Courte, an other, that hee is not high enough. The worlde is so full of euilles, that to write them all, woulde require an other worlde as great as it selfe. Sufficeth, that if the most happie in mens opinions doe counterpoize his happs with his mishaps, he shall iudge himselfe vnhappy: and hee iudge him happy, who had he beene set three dayes in his place, would giue it ouer to him that came next: yea, sooner then hee, who shall consider in all the goodes that euer hee hath had the euilles hee hath endured to get them, and hauing them to retaine and keepe them (I speake of the pleasures that may be kept, and not of those that wither in a moment) wil iudge of himselfe, and by himselfe, that the keeping it selfe of the greatest felicitie in this worlde, is full of vnhappinesse and infelicitie. Conclude then, that Childhoode is but a foolish simplicitie, Youth, a vaine heate, Manhoode, a painefull carefulnesse, and Olde-age, a noysome languishing: that our playes are but teares, our pleasures, feuers of the minde, our goodes, rackes, and torments, our honors, heauy vanities, our rest, vnrest: that passing from age to age is but passing from euill to euill, and from the lesse vnto the greater: and that alwayes it is but one waue driuing on an other, vntill we be arriued at the Hauen of death. Conclude I say, that life is but a wishing for the future, and a bewailing of the past: a loathing of what wee haue tasted, and a longing for that wee haue not tasted, a vaine memorie of the state past, and a doubtfull expectation of the state to come: finally, that in all our life there is nothing certaine, nothing assured, but the certaintie and vncertaintie of death. Behold, now comes Death vnto vs: Behold her, whose approch we so much feare. We are now to c[on]sider whether she be such as wee are made beleeue: and whether we ought so greatly to flie her, as commonly wee do. Wee are afraide of her: but like little children of a vizarde, or of the Images of Hecate. Wee haue her in horror: but because wee conceiue her not such as she is, but ougly, terrible, and hideous: such as it pleaseth the Painters to represent vnto vs on a wall. Wee flie before her: but it is because foretaken with such vaine imaginations, wee giue not our selues leisure to marke her. But staie wee, stande wee stedfast, looke wee her in the face: wee shall finde her quite other then shee is painted vs: and altogether of other countenaunce then our miserable life. Death makes an ende of this life. This life is a perpetuall misery and tempest: Death then is the issue of our miseries and entraunce of the porte where wee shall ride in safetie from all windes. And shoulde wee feare that which withdraweth vs from misery, or which drawes vs into our Hauen? Yea but you will say, it is a payne to die. Admit it bee: so is there in curing of a wounde. Such is the worlde, that one euill can not bee cured but by an other, to heale a contusion, must bee made an incision. You will say, there is difficultie in the passage: So is there no Hauen, no Porte, whereinto the entraunce is not straite and combersome. No good thing is to be bought in this worlde with other then the coyne of labour and paine. The entraunce indeede is hard, if our selues make it harde, comming thither with a tormented spirite, a troubled minde, a wauering and irresolute thought. But bring wee quietnesse of mind, constancie, and full resolution, wee shall not finde anie daunger or difficultie at all. Yet what is the paine that death brings vs? Nay, what can shee doe with those paines wee feele? Wee accuse her of all the euilles wee abide in ending our life, and consider not howe manie more greeuous woundes or sickenesses wee haue endured without death: or howe many more vehement paines wee haue suffered in this life, in the which wee called euen her to our succour. All the paines our life yeeldes vs at the last houre wee impute to Death: not marking that life begunne and continued in all sortes of paine, must also necessarily ende in paine. Not marking (I saie) that it is the remainder of our life, not death, that tormenteth vs: the ende of our nauigation that paines vs, not the Hauen wee are to enter: which is nothing else but a safegarde against all windes. Wee complayne of Death, where wee shoulde complayne of life: as if one hauyng beene long sicke, and beginning to bee well, shoulde accuse his health of his last paynes, and not the reliques of his disease. Tell mee, what is it else to bee dead, but to bee no more liuing in the worlde? Absolutelie and simplie not to bee in the worlde, is it anie payne? Did wee then feele any paine, when as yet wee were not? Haue wee euer more resemblaunce of Death, then when wee sleepe? Or euer more rest then at that time? Now if this be no paine, why accuse we Death of the paines our life giues vs at our departure? Vnlesse also we wil fondly accuse the time when as yet we were not, of the paines we felt at our birth? If the comming in be with teares, is it wonder that such be the going out? If the beginning of our being, be the beginning of our paine, is it maruell that such be the ending? But if our not being in times past hath bene without payne, and all this being contrarywise full of paine: whome should we by reason accuse of the last paines, the not being to come, or the remnant of this present being? We thinke we dye not, but when we yeeld vp our last gaspe. But if we marke well, we dye euery day, euery houre, euery moment. We apprehend death as a thing vnvsuall to vs: and yet haue nothing so common in vs. Our liuing is but continuall dyeng: looke how much we liue, we dye: how much we encrease, our life decreases. We enter not a step into life, but we enter a step into death. Who hath liued a third part of his yeares, hath a third part of himselfe dead. Who halfe his yeares, is already half dead. Of our life, all the time past is dead, the present liues and dies at once, and the future likewise shall dye. The past is no more, the future is not yet, the present is, and no more is. Briefely, this whole life is but a death: it is as a candle lighted in our bodies: in one the winde makes it melt away, in an other blowes it cleane out, many times ere it be halfe burned: in others it endureth to the ende. Howsoeuer it be, looke how much it shineth, so much it burneth: her shining is her burning: her light a vanishing smoke: her last fire, hir last wike, and her last drop of moisture. So is it in the life of man, life and death in man is all one. If we call the last breath death, so must we all the rest: all proceeding from one place, and all in one manner. One only difference there is betweene this life, and that we call death: that during the one, we haue alwayes wherof to dye: and after the other, there remaineth only wherof to liue. In summe, euen he that thinketh death simply to be the ende of man, ought not to feare it: in asmuch as who desireth to liue longer, desireth to die longer: and who feareth soone to die, feareth (to speake properlie) lest he may not longer die.
But vnto vs brought vp in a more holy schoole, death is a farre other thing: neither neede we as the Pagans of consolations against death: but that death serue vs, as a consolation against all sorts of affliction: so that we must not only strengthen our selues, as they, not to feare it, but accustome ourselues to hope for it. For vnto vs it is not a departing fr[om] pain & euil, but an accesse vnto all good: not the end of life, but the end of death, & the beginning of life. Better, saith Salomon, is the day of death, then the day of birth, and why? because it is not to vs a last day, but the dawning of an euerlasting day. No more shall we haue in that glorious light, either sorow for the past, or expectation of the future: for all shall be there present vnto vs, and that present shall neuer more passe. No more shal we powre out our selues in vaine & painfull pleasures: for we shal be filled with true & substantiall pleasures. No more shal we paine our selues in heaping togither these exhalati[on]s of the earth: for the heauens shall be ours, and this masse of earth, which euer drawes vs towards the earth, shalbe buried in the earth. No more shal we ouerwearie our selues with mounting from degree to degree, and from honor to honor: for we shall highlie be raysed aboue all heights of the world; and from on high laugh at the folly of all those we once admired, who fight together for a point, and as litle childr[en] for lesse then an apple. No more to be brief shal we haue combates in our selues: for our flesh shall be dead, and our spirit in full life: our passion buried, and our reason in perfect libertie. Our soule deliuered out of this foule & filthie prison, where, by long continuing it is growen into an habite of crookednes, shall againe draw her owne breath, recognize her ancient dwelling, and againe remember her former glory & dignity. This flesh my frend which thou feelest, this body which thou touchest is not man: Man is from heauen: heauen is his countrie and his aire. That he is in his body, is but by way of exile & confinement. Man in deed is soule and spirit: Man is rather of celestiall and diuine qualitie, wherin is nothing grosse nor materiall. This body such as now it is, is but the barke & shell of the soule: which must necessarily be broken, if we will be hatched: if we will indeed liue & see the light. We haue it semes, some life, and some sence in vs: but are so croked and contracted, that we cannot so much as stretch out our wings, much lesse take our flight towards heauen, vntill we be disburthened of this earthlie burthen. We looke, but through false spectacles: we haue eyes but ouergrowen with pearles: we thinke we see, but it is in a dreame, wherin we see nothing but deceit. All that we haue, and all that we know is but abuse and vanitie. Death only can restore vs both life and light: and we thinke (so blockish we are) that she comes to robbe vs of them. We say we are Christians: that we beleeue after this mortall, a life immortall: that death is but a separation of the body and soule: and that the soule returnes to his happie abode, there to ioy in God, who only is all good: that at the last day it shall againe take the body, which shal no more be subiect to corrupti[on]. With these goodly discourses we fill all our bookes: and in the meane while, wh[en] it comes to the point, the very name of death as the horriblest thing in the world makes vs quake & tremble. If we beleue as we speak, what is that we feare? to be happy? to be at our ease? to be more content in a mom[en]t, then we might be in the longest mortal life that might be? or must not we of force confesse, that we beleue it but in part? that all we haue is but words? that all our discourses, as of these hardie trencher knights, are but vaunting and vanitie? Some you shall see, that wil say: I know well that I passe out of this life into a better: I make no doubt of it: only I feare the midway step, that I am to step ouer. Weak harted creatures! they wil kill th[em]selues to get their miserable liuing: suffer infinite paines, and infinite wounds at another mans pleasure: passe infinit deaths without dying, for things of nought, for things that perish, and perchance make them perish with them. But when they haue but one pace to passe to be at rest, not for a day, but for euer: not an indifferent rest, but such as mans minde cannot comprehende: they tremble, their harts faile them, they are affrayde: and yet the ground of their harme is nothing but feare. Let them neuer tell me, they apprehend the paine: it is but an abuse: a purpose to conceale the litle faith they haue. No, no, they would rather languish of the goute, the sciatica, any disease whatsoeuer: then dye one sweete death with the least paine possible: rather pininglie dye limme after limme, outliuing as it were, all their sences, motions, and actions, then speedily dye, immediatly to liue for euer. Let them tell me no more that they would in this world learne to liue: for euery one is therevnto sufficiently instructed in himselfe, and not one but is cunning in the trade. Nay rather they should learne in this world to dye: and once to dye well, dye dayly in themselues: so prepared, as if the ende of euery dayes worke, were the ende of our life. Now contrarywise there is nothing to their eares more offensiue, then to heare of death. Senseless people! we abandon our life to the ordinarie hazards of warre, for seauen franks pay: are formost in an assault, for a litle bootie: goe into places, whence there is no hope of returning, with danger many times both of bodies and soules. But to free vs from all hazards, to winne things inestimable, to enter an eternall life, we faint in the passage of one pace, wherein is no difficultie, but in opinion: yea we so faint, that were it not of force we must passe, and that God in despite of vs will doe vs a good turne, hardly should we finde in all the world one, how vnhappy or wretched soeuer, that would euer passe. Another will say, had I liued till 50. or 60. yeares, I should haue bin contented: I should not haue cared to liue longer: but to dye so yong is no reason, I should haue knowen the world before I had left it. Simple soule! in this world there is neither young nor olde. The longest age in comparison of all that is past, or all that is to come, is nothing: and when thou hast liued to the age thou now desirest, all the past will be nothing: thou wilt still gape, for that is to come. The past will yeeld thee but sorrowe, the future but expectation, the present no contentment. As ready thou wilt then be to redemaund longer respite, as before. Thou fliest thy creditor from moneth to moneth, and time to time, as readie to pay the last daye, as the first: thou seekest but to be acquitted. Thou hast tasted all which the world esteemeth pleasures: not one of them is new vnto thee. By drinking oftener, thou shalt be neuer awhit the more satisfyed: for the body thou cariest, like the bored paile of Danaus daughters, will neuer be full. Thou mayst sooner weare it out, then weary thy selfe with vsing, or rather abusing it. Thou crauest long life to cast it away, to spend it on worthles delights, to mispend it on vanities. Thou art couetous in desiring, and prodigall in spending. Say not thou findest fault with the Court, or the Pallace: but that thou desirest longer to serue the commonwealth, to serue thy countrie, to serue God. He that set thee on worke knowes vntill what day, and what houre, thou shouldest be at it: he well knowes how to direct his worke. Should he leaue thee there longer, perchance thou wouldest marre all. But if he will pay thee liberally for thy labour, as much for halfe a dayes worke, as for a whole: as much for hauing wrought till noone, as for hauing borne all the heate of the day: art thou not so much the more to thanke and prayse him? but if thou examine thine owne conscience, thou lamentest not the cause of the widdow, and the orphan, which thou hast left depending in iudgement: not the dutie of a sonne, of a father, or of a frend, which thou pretendest thou wouldest performe: not the ambassage for the common wealth, which thou wert euen ready to vndertake: not the seruice thou desirest to doe vnto God, who knowes much better howe to serue himselfe of thee, then thou of thy selfe. It is thy houses and gardens thou lamentest, thy imperfect plottes and purposes, thy life (as thou thinkest) imperfect: which by no dayes, nor yeares, nor ages, might be perfected: and yet thy selfe mightst perfect in a moment, couldest thou but thinke in good earnest, that where it ende it skilles not, so that it end well.
Now to end well this life, is onely to ende it willingly: following with full consent the will and direction of God, and not suffering vs to be drawen by the necessetie of destenie. To end it willingly, we must hope, and not feare death. To hope for it, we must certainely looke after this life, for a better life. To looke for that, wee must feare God: whome whoso well feareth, feareth indeede nothing in this worlde, and hopes for all things in the other. To one well resolued in these points death can be but sweete and agreeable: knowing that through it hee is to enter into a place of all ioyes. The griefe that may be therein shall bee allaied with sweetnes: the sufferance of ill, swallowed in the confidence of good: the sting of Death it selfe shall bee dead, which is nothing else but Feare. Nay, I wil say more, not onely all the euilles conceiued in death shall be to him nothing: but he shall euen scorne all the mishappes men redoubt in this life, and laugh at all these terrors. For I pray what can he feare, whose death is his hope? Thinke we to banish him his country? He knows he hath a country other-where, whence wee cannot banish him: and that all these countries are but Innes, out of which he must part at the wil of his hoste. To put him in prison? a more straite prison he cannot haue, then his owne body, more filthy, more darke, more full of rackes and torments. To kill him and take him out of the worlde? that is it he hopes for: that is it with all his heart he aspires vnto. By fire, by sworde, by famine, by sickenesse: within three yeeres, within three dayes, within three houres, all is one to him: all is one at what gate, or at what time he passe out of this miserable life. For his businesses are euer ended, his affaires all dispatched, and by what way he shall go out, by the same hee shall enter into a most happie and euerlasting life. Men can threaten him but death, and death is all he promiseth himselfe: the worst they can doe, is, to make him die, and that is the best hee hopes for. The threatnings of tyrants are to him promises, the swordes of his greatest enemies drawne in his fauor: forasmuch as he knowes that threatning him death, they threaten him life: and the most mortall woundes can make him but immortall. Who feares God, feares not death: and who feares it not, feares not the worst of this life.
By this reckoning, you will tell me death is a thing to be wished for: and to passe from so much euill, to so much good, a man shoulde as it seemeth cast away his life. Surely, I feare not, that for any good wee expect, we will hasten one step the faster: though the spirite aspire, the body it drawes with it, withdrawes it euer sufficiently towardes the earth. Yet is it not that I conclude. We must seeke to mortifie our flesh in vs, and to cast the world out of vs: but to cast our selues out of the world is in no sort permitted vs. The Christian ought willingly to depart out of this life but not cowardly to runne away. The Christian is ordained by God to fight therein: and cannot leaue his place without incurring reproch and infamie. But if it please the grand Captaine to recall him, let him take the retrait in good part, and with good will obey it. For hee is not borne for himselfe, but for God: of whome he holdes his life at farme, as his tenant at will, to yield him the profites. It is in the landlord to take it from him, not in him to surrender it, when a conceit takes him. Diest thou yong? praise God as the mariner that hath had a good winde, soone to bring him to the Porte. Diest thou olde? praise him likewise, for if thou hast had lesse winde, it may be thou hast also had lesse waues. But thinke not at thy pleasure to go faster or softer: for the winde is not in thy power, and in steede of taking the shortest way to the Hauen, thou maiest happily suffer shipwracke. God calleth home from his worke, one in the morning, an other at noone, and an other at night. One he exerciseth til the first sweate, another he sunne-burneth, another he rosteth and drieth throughly. But of all his he leaues not one without, but brings them all to rest, and giues them all their hire, euery one in his time. Who leaues his worke before God call him, looses it: and who importunes him before the time, looses his reward. We must rest vs in his will, who in the middest of our troubles sets vs at rest.
To ende, we ought neither to hate this life for the toiles therein, for it is slouth and cowardise: nor loue it for the delights, which is follie and vanitie: but serue vs of it, to serue God in it, who after it shall place vs in true quietnesse, and replenish vs with pleasures whiche shall neuer more perish. Neyther ought we to flye death, for it is childish to feare it: and in flieng from it, wee meete it. Much lesse to seeke it, for that is temeritie: nor euery one that would die, can die. As much despaire in the one, as cowardise in the other: in neither any kinde of magnanimitie. It is enough that we constantly and continually waite for her comming, that shee may neuer finde vs vnprouided. For as there is nothing more certaine then death, so is there nothing more vncertaine then the houre of death, knowen onlie to God, the onlie Author of life and death, to whom wee all ought endeuour both to liue and die.
Die to liue, Liue to die.
The 13. of May 1590.
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The play was printed in Italic type, with Roman for emphasis. For this e-text, only the emphasis is shown.
Acts 1 and 3 are unlabeled in the text. Act 1 can only be Antony's soliloquy, with following Chorus, but Act 3 is ambiguous. Between Act 2 and Act 4 are: (scene) Cleopatra. Eras. Charmion. Diomede. (soliloquy): Diomed. Chorus (scene) M. Antonius. Lucilius. Chorus Structurally the play seems to have six Acts, but Act 4 and Act 5 are each labeled as such.]
After the ouerthrowe of Brutus and Cassius, the libertie of Rome being now vtterly oppressed, and the Empire setled in the hands of Octauius Caesar and Marcus Antonius, (who for knitting a straiter bonde of amitie betweene them, had taken to wife Octauia the sister of Caesar) Antonius vndertooke a iourney against the Parthians, with intent to regaine on them the honor wonne by them from the Romains, at the discomfiture and slaughter of Crassus. But comming in his iourney into Siria, the places renewed in his remembrance the long intermitted loue of Cleopatra Queene of Aegipt: who before time had both in Cilicia and at Alexandria, entertained him with all the exquisite delightes and sumptuous pleasures, which a great Prince and voluptuous Louer could to the vttermost desire. Whereupon omitting his enterprice, he made his returne to Alexandria, againe falling to his former loues, without any regard of his vertuous wife Octauia, by whom neuertheles he had excellent Children. This occasion Octauius tooke of taking armes against him: and preparing a mighty fleet, encountred him at Actium, who also had assembled to that place a great number of Gallies of his own, besides 60. which Cleopatra brought with her from Aegipt. But at the very beginning of the battell Cleopatra with all her Gallies betooke her to flight, which Antony seeing could not but follow; by his departure leauing to Octauius the greatest victorye which in any Sea Battell hath beene heard off. Which he not negligent to pursue, followes them the next spring, and besiedgeth them within Alexandria, where Antony finding all that he trusted to faile him, beginneth to growe iealouse and to suspect Cleopatra. She thereupon enclosed her selfe with two of her women in a monument she had before caused to be built, thence sends him woord she was dead: which he beleeuing for truth, gaue himselfe with his Swoord a deadly wound: but died not vntill a messenger came from Cleopatra to haue him brought to her to the tombe. Which she not daring to open least she should be made a prisoner to the Romaines, and carried in Caesars triumph, cast downe a corde from an high window, by the which (her women helping her) she trussed vp Antonius halfe dead, and so got him into the monument. The Stage supposed Alexandria: the Chorus, first Egiptians, and after Romane Souldiors. The Historie to be read at large in Plutarch in the life of Antonius.
Antonius. Cleopatra. Eras and } Cleopatras women. Charmion. } Philostratus a Philosopher. Lucilius. Diomede Secretary to Cleopatra. Octauius Caesar. Agrippa. Euphron, teacher of Cleopatras children. Children of Cleopatra. Dircetus the Messenger.
Since cruell Heau'ns against me obstinate, Since all mishappes of the round engin doe Conspire my harme: since men, since powers diuine, Aire, earth, and Sea are all iniurious: And that my Queene her self, in whome I liu'd, The Idoll of my hart, doth me pursue; It's meete I dye. For her haue I forgone My Country, Caesar vnto warre prouok'd (For iust reuenge of Sisters wrong my wife, Who mou'de my Queene (ay me!) to iealousie) For loue of her, in her allurements caught Abandon'd life, I honor haue despisde, Disdain'd my freends, and of the statelye Rome Despoilde the Empire of her best attire, Contemn'd that power that made me so much fear'd, A slaue become vnto her feeble face. O cruell, traitres, woman most vnkinde, Thou dost, forsworne, my loue and life betraie: And giu'st me vp to ragefull enemie, Which soone (o foole!) will plague thy periurye. Yelded Pelusium on this Countries shore, Yelded thou hast my Shippes and men of warre, That nought remaines (so destitute am I) But these same armes which on my back I weare. Thou should'st haue had them too, and me vnarm'de Yeelded to Caesar naked of defence. Which while I beare let Caesar neuer thinke Triumph of me shall his proud chariot grace Not think with me his glory to adorne, On me aliue to vse his victorie. Thou only Cleopatra triumph hast, Thou only hast my freedome seruile made, Thou only hast me vanquisht: not by force (For forste I cannot be) but by sweete baites Of thy eyes graces, which did gaine so fast vpon my libertie, that nought remain'd. None els hencefoorth, but thou my dearest Queene, Shall glorie in commaunding Antonie. Haue Caesar fortune and the Gods his freends, To him haue Ioue and fatall sisters giuen The Scepter of the earth: he neuer shall Subiect my life to his obedience. But when that Death, my glad refuge, shall haue Bounded the course of my vnstedfast life, And frosen corps vnder a marble colde Within tombes bosome widdowe of my soule: Then at his will let him it subiect make: Then what he will let Caesar doo with me: Make me limme after limme be rent: make me My buriall take in sides of Thracian wolfe. Poore Antonie! alas what was the day, The daies of losse that gained thee thy loue! Wretch Antony! since then Maegaera pale With Snakie haires enchain'd thy miserie. The fire thee burnt was neuer Cupids fire (For Cupid beares not such a mortall brand) It was some furies torch, Orestes torche, which sometimes burnt his mother-murdering soule (When wandring madde, rage boiling in his bloud, He fled his fault which folow'd as he fled) kindled within his bones by shadow pale Of mother slaine return'd from Stygian lake. Antony, poore Antony! since that daie Thy olde good hap did farre from thee retire. Thy vertue dead: thy glory made aliue So ofte by martiall deeds is gone in smoke: Since then the Baies so well thy forehead knewe To Venus mirtles yeelded haue their place: Trumpets to pipes: field tents to courtly bowers: Launces and Pikes to daunces and to feastes. Since then, o wretch! in stead of bloudy warres Thou shouldst haue made vpon the Parthian Kings For Romain honor filde by Crassus foile, Thou threw'st thy Curiace off, and fearfull healme, With coward courage vnto AEgipts Queen In haste to runne, about her necke to hang Languishing in her armes thy Idoll made: In summe giuen vp to Cleopatras eies. Thou breakest at length from thence, as one encharm'd Breakes from th'enchaunter that him strongly helde. For thy first reason (spoyling of their force the poisned cuppes of thy faire Sorceres) Recur'd thy sprite: and then on euery side Thou mad'st againe the earth with Souldiours swarme. All Asia hidde: Euphrates bankes do tremble To see at once so many Romanes there Breath horror, rage, and with a threatning eye In mighty squadrons crosse his swelling streames. Nought seene but horse, and fier sparkling armes: Nought heard but hideous noise of muttring troupes. The Parth, the Mede, abandoning their goods Hide them for feare in hilles of Hircanie, Redoubting thee. Then willing to besiege The great Phraate head of Media, Thou campedst at her walles with vaine assault, Thy engins fit (mishap!) not thither brought. So long thou stai'st, so long thou doost thee rest, So long thy loue with such things nourished Reframes, reformes it selfe and stealingly Retakes his force and rebecomes more great. For of thy Queene the lookes, the grace, the woords, Sweetenes, alurements, amorous delights, Entred againe thy soule, and day and night, In watch, in sleepe, her Image follow'd thee: Not dreaming but of her, repenting still That thou for warre hadst such a Goddes left. Thou car'st no more for Parth, nor Parthian bow, Sallies, assaults, encounters, shocks, alarmes, For diches, rampiers, wards, entrenched grounds: Thy only care is sight of Nilus streames, Sight of that face whose guilefull semblant doth (Wandring in thee) infect thy tainted hart. Her absence thee besottes: each hower, each hower Of staie, to thee impatient seemes an age. Enough of conquest, praise thou deem'st enough, If soone enough the bristled fieldes thou see Of fruitfull AEgipt, and the stranger floud Thy Queenes faire eyes (another Pharos) lights. Returned loe, dishonoured, despisde, In wanton loue a woman thee misleades Sunke in foule sinke: meane while respecting nought Thy wife Octauia and her tender babes, Of whom the long contempt against thee whets The sword of Caesar now thy Lord become. Lost thy great Empire, all those goodly townes Reuerenc'd thy name as rebells now thee leaue: Rise against thee, and to the ensignes flocke Of conqu'ring Caesar, who enwalles thee round Cag'd in thy holde, scarse maister of thy selfe, Late maister of so many nations. Yet, yet, which is of grief extreamest grief, Which is yet of mischiefe highest mischiefe, It's Cleopatra alas! alas, it's she, It's she augments the torment of thy paine, Betraies thy loue, thy life alas! betraies, Caesar to please, whose grace she seekes to gaine: With thought her Crowne to saue, and fortune make Onely thy foe which common ought haue beene. If her I alwaies lou'd, and the first flame Of her heart-killing loue shall burne me last: Iustly complaine I she disloyall is, Nor constant is, euen as I constant am, To comfort my mishap, despising me No more, then when the heauens fauour'd me. But ah! by nature women wau'ring are, Each moment changing and rechanging mindes. Vnwise, who blinde in them, thinkes loyaltie Euer to finde in beauties company.
The boyling tempest still Makes not Sea waters fome: Nor still the Northern blast Disquiets quiet streames: Nor who his chest to fill Sayles to the morning beames, On waues winde tosseth fast Still kepes his Ship from home. Nor Ioue still downe doth cast Inflam'd with bloudie ire On man, on tree, on hill, His darts of thundring fire: Nor still the heat doth last On face of parched plaine: Nor wrinkled colde doth still On frozen furrowes raigne. But still as long as we In this low world remaine, Mishapps our dayly mates Our liues do entertaine: And woes which beare no dates Still pearch vpon our heads, None go, but streight will be Some greater in their Steads. Nature made vs not free When first she made vs liue: When we began to be, To be began our woe: Which growing euermore As dying life dooth growe Do more and more vs greeue, And tire vs more and more. No stay in fading states, For more to height they retch, Their fellow miseries The more to height do stretch. They clinge euen to the crowne, And threatning furious wise From tirannizing pates Do often pull it downe. In vaine on waues vntride to shunne them go we should To Scythes and Massagetes Who neare the Pole reside: In vaine to boiling sandes Which Phaebus battry beates, For with vs still they would Cut seas and compasse landes. The darknes no more sure To ioyne with heauy night: The light which guildes the dayes To follow Titan pure: No more the shadow light The body to ensue: Then wretchednes alwaies Vs wretches to pursue. O blest who neuer breath'd, Or whome with pittie mou'de, Death from his cradle reau'de, And swadled in his graue: And blessed also he (As curse may blessing haue) Who low and liuing free No princes charge hath prou'de. By stealing sacred fire Prometheus then vnwise, Prouoking Gods to ire, The heape of ills did sturre, And sicknes pale and colde Our ende which onward spurre, To plague our hands too bolde To filch the wealth of Skies. In heauens hate since then Of ill with ill enchain'd We race of mortall men full fraught our breasts haue borne: And thousand thousand woes Our heau'nly soules now thorne, Which free before from those No! earthly passion pain'd. Warre and warres bitter cheare Now long time with vs staie, And feare of hated foe Still still encreaseth sore: Our harmes worse dayly growe, Lesse yesterdaye they were Then now, and will be more To morowe then to daye.
What horrible furie, what cruell rage, O AEgipt so extremely thee torments? Hast thou the Gods so angred by thy fault? Hast thou against them some such crime conceiu'd, That their engrained hand lift vp in threats They should desire in thy hard bloud to bathe? And that their burning wrath which nought can quench Should pittiles on vs still lighten downe? We are not hew'n out of the monst'rous masse Of Giantes those, which heauens wrack conspir'd: Ixions race, false prater of his loues: Nor yet of him who fained lightnings found: Nor cruell Tantalus, nor bloudie Atreus, Whose cursed banquet for Thyestes plague Made the beholding Sunne for horrour turne His backe, and backward from his course returne: And hastning his wing-footed horses race Plunge him in sea for shame to hide his face: While sulleine night vpon the wondring world For mid-daies light her starrie mantle cast, But what we be, what euer wickednes By vs is done, Alas! with what more plagues, More eager torments could the Gods declare To heauen and earth that vs they hatefull holde? With Souldiors, strangers, horrible in armes Our land is hidde, our people drown'd in teares. But terror here and horror, nought is seene: And present death prizing our life each hower. Hard at our ports and at our porches waites Our conquering foe: harts faile vs, hopes are dead: Our Queene laments: and this great Emperour Sometime (would now they did) whom worlds did feare, Abandoned, betraid, now mindes no more But from his euils by hast'ned death to passe. Come you poore people tir'de with ceasles plaints With teares and sighes make mournfull sacrifice On Isis altars: not our selues to saue, But soften Caesar and him piteous make To vs, his pray: that so his lenitie May change our death into captiuitie. Strange are the euils the fates on vs haue brought, O but alas! how farre more strange the cause! Loue, loue (alas, who euer would haue thought?) Hath lost this Realme inflamed with his fire. Loue, playing loue, which men say kindles not But in soft harts, hath ashes made our townes. And his sweet shafts, with whose shot none are kill'd, Which vlcer not, with deaths our lands haue fill'd, Such was the bloudie, murdring, hellish loue Possest thy hart faire false guest Priams Sonne, Fi'ring a brand which after made to burne The Troian towers by Graecians ruinate. By this loue, Priam, Hector, Troilus, Memnon, Deiphobus, Glaucus, thousands mo, Whome redd Scamanders armor clogged streames Roll'd into Seas, before their dates are dead. So plaguie he, so many tempests raiseth So murdring he, so many Cities raiseth, When insolent, blinde, lawles, orderles, With madd delights our sence he entertaines. All knowing Gods our wracks did vs foretell By signes in earth, by signes in starry Sphaeres: Which should haue mou'd vs, had not destinie With too strong hand warped our miserie. The Comets flaming through the scat'red clouds With fiery beames, most like vnbroaded haires: The fearefull dragon whistling at the bankes, And holie Apis ceaseles bellowing (As neuer erst) and shedding endles teares: Bloud raining downe from heau'n in vnknow'n showers: Our Gods darke faces ouercast with woe, And dead mens Ghosts appearing in the night. Yea euen this night while all the Cittie stoode Opprest with terror, horror, seruile feare, Deepe silence ouer all: the sounds were heard Of diuerse songs, and diuers instruments, Within the voide of aire: and howling noise, Such as madde Bacchus priests in Bacchus feasts On Nisa make: and (seem'd) the company, Our Cittie lost, went to the enemie. So we forsaken both of Gods and men, So are we in the mercy of our foes: And we hencefoorth obedient must become To lawes of them who haue vs ouercome.
Lament we our mishaps, Drowne we with teares our woe: For Lamentable happes Lamented easie growe: And much lesse torment bring Then when they first did spring. We want that wofull song, Wherwith wood-musiques Queene Doth ease her woes, among, fresh springtimes bushes greene, On pleasant branche alone Renewing auntient mone. We want that monefull sounde, That pratling Progne makes On fieldes of Thracian ground, Or streames of Thracian lakes: To empt her brest of paine For Itys by her slaine. Though Halcyons doo still, Bewailing Ceyx lot, The Seas with plainings fill Which his dead limmes haue got, Not euer other graue Then tombe of waues to haue: And though the birde in death That most Meander loues So swetely sighes his breath When death his fury proues, As almost softs his heart, And almost blunts his dart: Yet all the plaints of those, Nor all their tearfull larmes, Cannot content our woes, Nor serue to waile the harmes, In soule which we, poore we, To feele enforced be. Nor they of Phaebus bredd In teares can doo so well, They for their brother shedd, Who into Padus fell, Rash guide of chariot cleare Surueiour of the yeare. Nor she whom heau'nly powers To weping rocke did turne, Whose teares distill in showers, And shew she yet doth mourne. Where with his toppe to Skies Mount Sipylus doth rise. Nor weping drops which flowe From barke of wounded tree, That Myrrhas shame do showe With ours compar'd may be, To quench her louing fire Who durst embrace her sire. Nor all the howlings made On Cybels sacred hill By Eunukes of her trade, Who Atys, Atys still With doubled cries resound, Which Echo makes rebound. Our plaints no limits stay, Nor more then doo our woes: Both infinitely straie And neither measure knowes. In measure let them plaine: Who measur'd griefes sustaine.
Cleopatra. Eras. Charmion. Diomede.
That I haue thee betraid, deare Antonie, My life, my soule, my Sunne? I had such thought? That I haue thee betraide my Lord, my King? That I would breake my vowed faith to thee? Leaue thee? deceiue thee? yeelde thee to the rage Of mightie foe? I euer had that hart? Rather sharpe lightning lighten on my head: Rather may I to deepest mischiefe fall: Rather the opened earth deuower me: Rather fierce Tigers feed them on my flesh: Rather, o rather let our Nilus send, To swallow me quicke, some weeping Crocodile. And didst thou then suppose my royall hart Had hatcht, thee to ensnare, a faithles loue? And changing minde, as Fortune changed cheare, I would weake thee, to winne the stronger, loose? O wretch! o caitiue! o too cruell happe! And did not I sufficient losse sustaine Loosing my Realme, loosing my liberty, My tender of-spring, and the ioyfull light Of beamy Sunne, and yet, yet loosing more Thee Antony my care, if I loose not What yet remain'd? thy loue alas! thy loue, More deare then Scepter, children, freedome, light. So ready I to row in Charons barge, Shall leese the ioy of dying in thy loue: So the sole comfort of my miserie To haue one tombe with thee is me bereft. So I in shady plaines shall plaine alone, Not (as I hop'd) companion of thy mone, O height of griefe! Eras why with continuall cries Your griefull harmes doo you exasperate? Torment your selfe with murthering complaints? Straine your weake breast so oft, so vehemently? Water with teares this faire alablaster? With sorrowes sting so many beauties wound? Come of so many Kings want you the hart Brauely, stoutly, this tempest to resist?