Cowley's Essays
Abraham Cowley

Part 1 out of 2

software or any other related product without express permission.]

This etext was produced by David Price, email,
from the 1893 Cassell & Company edition.


by Abraham Cowley

Of Liberty
Martial. Lib. 2. Vota tui breviter, etc.
Martial. Lib. 2. Vis fieri Liber, etc.
Martial. Lib. 2. Quod to nomine? etc.
Ode Upon Liberty.
Of Solitude.
Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
Of Obscurity.
Seneca, ex Thyeste, Act 2. Chor.
Of Agriculture.
Virg. Georg.--O fortunatus nimium, etc.
Horat. Epodon. Beatus ille qui procul, etc.
The Country Mouse
Horace To Fuscus Aristius.
The Country Life
The Garden
Happy art thou whom God does bless
Of Greatness.
Horace. Lib. 3. Ode 1. Odi profanum vulgus, etc.
Of Avarice.
I admire, Maecenas, how it comes to pass,
"Inclusam Danaen turris ahenea."
The Dangers of an Honest Man in much Company.
Claudian's Old Man of Verona.
The Shortness of Life and Uncertainty of Riches.
Why dost thou heap up wealth, which thou must quit,
The Danger Of Procrastination.
Mart. Lib. 5, Ep. 59.
Mart. Lib. 2, Ep. 90.
Of Myself.
Martial, Lib. 10, Ep. 47.
Martial, Lib. 10. Ep. 96.
Epitaphium Vivi Auctoiris.
Epitaph Of The Living Author.
A Few Notes.


Abraham Cowley was the son of Thomas Cowley, stationer, and citizen
of London in the parish of St. Michael le Querne, Cheapside. Thomas
Cowley signed his will on the 24th of July, 1618, and it was proved
on the 11th of the next month by his widow, Thomasine. He left six
children, Peter, Audrey, John, William, Katherine, and Thomas, with
a child unborn for whom the will made equal provision with the rest.
The seventh child, born before the end of the same year, was named
Abraham, and lived to take high place among the English Poets.

The calm spirit of Cowley's "Essays" was in all his life. As he
tells us in his Essay "On Myself," even when he was a very young boy
at school, instead of running about on holidays and playing with his
fellows, he was wont to steal from them and walk into the fields,
either alone with a book or with some one companion, if he could
find any of the same temper. He wrote verse when very young, and
says, "I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled
my head first with such chimes of verse as have never since left
ringing there; for I remember when I began to read and to take some
pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour (I know
not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read any
book but of devotion), but there was wont to lie Spenser's works."
The delight in Spenser wakened all the music in him, and in 1628, in
his tenth year, he wrote a "Tragical Historie of Pyramus and

In his twelfth year Cowley wrote another piece, also in sixteen
stanzas, with songs interspersed, which was placed first in the
little volume of Poetical Blossoms, by A. C., published in 1633. It
was a little quarto of thirty-two leaves, with a portrait of the
author, taken at the age of thirteen. This pamphlet, dedicated to
the Dean of Westminster, and with introductory verses by Cowley and
two of his schoolfellows, contained "Constantia and Philetus," with
the "Pyramus and Thisbe," written earlier, and three pieces written
later, namely, two Elegies and "A Dream of Elysium." The
inscription round the portrait describes Cowley as a King's Scholar
of Westminster School; and "Pyramus and Thisbe" has a special
dedication to the Head Master, Lambert Osbalston. As schoolboy,
Cowley tells us that he read the Latin authors, but could not be
made to learn grammar rules by rote. He was a candidate at his
school in 1636 for a scholarship at Cambridge, but was not elected.
In that year, however, he went to Cambridge and obtained a
scholarship at Trinity.

Cowley carried to Cambridge and extended there his reputation as boy
poet. In 1636 the "Poetical Blossoms" were re-issued with an
appendix of sixteen more pieces under the head of "Sylva." A third
edition of the "Poetical Blossoms" was printed in 1637--the year of
Milton's "Lycidas" and of Ben Johnson's death. Cowley had written a
five-act pastoral comedy, "Love's Riddle," while yet at school, and
this was published in 1638. In the same year, 1638, when Cowley's
age was twenty, a Latin comedy of his, "Naufragium Joculare," was
acted by men of his College, and in the same year printed, with a
dedication to Dr. Comber, Dean of Carlisle, who was Master of
Trinity. The poet Richard Crashaw, who was about two years older
than Cowley, and, having entered Pembroke Hall in 1632, became a
Fellow of Peterhouse in 1637, sent Cowley a June present of two
unripe apricots with pleasant verses of compliment on his own early
ripeness, on his April-Autumn:-

"Take them, and me, in them acknowledging
How much my Summer waits upon thy Spring."

Cowley was able afterwards to help Crashaw materially, and wrote
some lines upon his early death.

In 1639 Cowley took the degree of B.A. In 1640 he was chosen a
Minor Fellow, and in 1642 a Major Fellow, of Trinity, and he
proceeded to his M.A. in due course. In March, 1641, when Prince
Charles visited Cambridge, a comedy called "The Guardian," hastily
written by Cowley, was acted at Trinity College for the Prince's
entertainment. Cowley is said also to have written during three
years at Cambridge the greater part of his heroic poem on the
history of David, the "Davideis." One of the occasional poems
written at this time by Cowley was on the early and sudden death of
his most intimate friend at the University, William Hervey, to whom
he was dearer than all but his brothers and sisters, and, says

"Even in that we did agree,
For much above myself I loved them too."

Hervey and Cowley had walked daily together, and had spent nights in
joint study of philosophy and poetry. Hervey "had all the light of
youth, of the fire none."

"With as much zeal, devotion, piety,
He always lived as other saints do die.
Still with his soul severe account he kept,
Weeping all debts out ere he slept;
Then down in peace and innocence he lay,
Like the sun's laborious light,
Which still in water sets at night,
Unsullied with the journey of the day."

Cowley's friendship with this family affected the course of his
life. He received many kindnesses from his friend's brother John
Hervey, including introduction to Henry Jermyn, one of the most
trusted friends of Queen Henrietta Maria, the friend who was created
by her wish Baron Jermyn of St. Edmondsbury, who was addressed by
Charles I. as "Harry," and was created by Charles II., in April,
1660, Earl of St. Albans. He was described in Queen Henrietta's
time by a political scandal-monger, as "something too ugly for a
lady's favourite, yet that is nothing to some." In 1643 Cowley was
driven from Cambridge, and went to St. John's College, Oxford. To
Oxford at the end of that year the king summoned a Parliament, which
met on the 22nd of January, 1644. This brought to Oxford many peers
and Royalists, who deserted the Parliament at Westminster for the
king's Parliament at Oxford. It continued to sit until the 16th of
April, by which time the king had found even his own Parliament to
be in many respects too independent. In 1644 the queen, about to
become a mother, withdrew to Exeter from Oxford, against which an
army was advancing; and the parting at Oxford proved to be the last
between her and her husband. A daughter was born at Exeter on the
16th of June. Within two weeks afterwards the advance of an army
towards Exeter caused the queen to rise from her bed in a dangerous
state of health, and, leaving her child in good keeping, escape to
Plymouth, where she reached Pendennis Castle on the 29th of June.
On the 2nd of July the king's forces were defeated at Marston Moor.
On the 14th of July the queen escaped from Falmouth to Brest. After
some rest at the baths of Bourbon, she went on to Paris, where she
was lodged in the Louvre, and well cared for. Jermyn was still her
treasurer, her minister, and the friend for whose counsel she cared

It was into the service of this Lord Jermyn that Cowley had been
introduced through his friendship with the Herveys. He went to
Paris as Lord Jermyn's secretary, had charge of the queen's
political correspondence, ciphered and deciphered letters between
Queen Henrietta and King Charles, and was thus employed so actively
under Lord Jermyn that his work filled all his days, and many of his
nights. He was sent also on journeys to Jersey, Scotland, Flanders,
Holland, or wherever else the king's troubles required his
attendance. In 1647 Cowley published his volume of forty-four love
poems, called "The Mistress." He was himself no gallant, neither
paid court to ladies, nor married. His love poetry was
hypothetical; and of his life at this time he says: "Though I was
in a crowd of as good company as could be found anywhere; though I
was in business of great and honourable trust; though I ate at the
best table, and enjoyed the best convenience for present subsistence
that ought to be desired by a man of my condition in banishment and
public distresses, yet I could not abstain from renewing my old
schoolboy's wish in a copy of verses to the same effect:-

"'Well, then, I now do plainly see
This busy world and I shall ne'er agree,' &c.,

and I never then proposed to myself any other advantage from his
Majesty's happy restoration, but the getting into some moderately
convenient retreat in the country, which I thought, in that case, I
might easily have compassed, as well as some others who, with no
greater probabilities or pretences, have arrived to extraordinary

In 1654 Queen Henrietta, under influence of a new confessor, had
left the Louvre, and, with the little daughter born at Exeter, taken
up her quarters in a foundation of her own, at Chaillot, for nuns of
the visitation of St. Mary. Lord Jermyn having little use left for
a secretary in Paris, Cowley in 1656, after twelve years' service in
France, was sent to England that he might there live in the
retirement he preferred, and with the understanding that he would be
able to send information upon the course of home affairs. In
England he was presently seized by mistake for another man, and,
when his name and position were known, he was imprisoned, until a
friendly physician, Sir Charles Scarborough, undertook to be
security in a thousand pounds for his good conduct. In this year,
1656, Cowley published the first folio volume of his Poems, prepared
in prison, and suggested, he said, by his finding, when he returned
to England, a book called "The Iron Age," which had been published
as his, and caused him to wonder that any one foolish enough to
write such bad verses should yet be so wise as to publish them under
another man's name. Cowley thought then that he had taken leave of
verse, which needed less troubled times for its reading, and a mind
less troubled in the writer. He left out of his book, he said, the
pieces written during the Civil War, including three books of the
Civil War itself, reaching as far as the first battle of Newbury.
These he had burnt, for, he said, "I would have it accounted no less
unlawful to rip up old wounds than to give new ones." "When the
event of battle and the unaccountable Will of God has determined the
controversy, and that we have submitted to the will of the
conqueror, we must lay down our pens as well as arms." The first
part of this folio contained early poems; the second part "The
Mistress;" the third part "Pindaric Odes;" and the fourth and last
his "Davideis."

In September of the following year, 1657, Cowley acted as best man
to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, on his marriage at Bolton
Percy, to Fairfax's daughter; Cowley wrote also a sonnet for the
bride. In December he obtained, by influence of friends, the degree
of M.D. from the University of Oxford, and retired into Kent to
study botany. Such study caused him then to write a Latin poem upon
Plants, in six books: the first two on Herbs, in elegiac verse; the
next two on Flowers, in various measures; and the last two on Trees,
in heroic numbers:- "Plantarum, Libri VI."

After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned to France, but he came
back to England in 1660, when he published an "Ode on His Majesty's
Restoration and Return," and "A Discourse by way of Vision
concerning the Government of Oliver Cromwell." He was admitted, as
Dr. Cowley, among the first members of the Royal Society then
founded; but he was excluded from the favour of the king. He had
written an "Ode to Brutus," for which, said his Majesty, it was
enough for Mr. Cowley to be forgiven. A noble lord replied to
Cowley's Ode, in praise of Brutus, with an Ode against that Rebel.
Cowley's old friend, Lord Jermyn, now made Earl of St. Alban's,
joined, however, with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, in
providing for the poet all that was required to secure to him the
quiet life that he desired. Provision to such end had been promised
him both by Charles I. and Charles II., in the definite form of the
office of Master of the Savoy, but the post was given by Charles II.
to a brother of one of his mistresses.

Cowley recast his old comedy of "The Guardian," and produced it in
December, 1661, as "Cutter of Coleman Street." It was played for a
week to a full audience, though some condemned it on the supposition
it was a satire upon the king's party. Cowley certainly was too
pure and thoughtful to be a fit associate for Charles II. and many
of his friends. The help that came from the Earl of St. Albans and
the Duke of Buckingham, was in the form of such a lease of the
Queen's lands as gave the poet a sufficient income. Others who had
served little were enriched; but he was set at ease, and sought no
more. He then made his home by the Thames, first at Barn Elms, and
afterwards at Chertsey, at which latter place he lived for about a
year in the Porch House, that yet stands. Cowley was living at
Chertsey when a July evening in damp meadows gave him a cold, of
which he died within a fortnight. That was in the year 1667, year
also of the death of Jeremy Taylor, and of the birth of Jonathan

Abraham Cowley is at his truest in these ESSAYS, written during the
last seven years of his life. Their style is simple, and their
thoughts are pure. They have, for their keynote, the happiness of
one who loves true liberty in quiet possession of himself. When he
turns to the Latins, his translations are all from those lines which
would have dwelt most pleasantly upon a mind that to the last held
by the devout wish expressed by himself in a poem of his early
youth--(A Vote, in "Sylva"):

"Books should, not business, entertain the light,
And sleep, as undisturbed as death, the night.
My house a cottage more
Than palace, and should fitting be
For all my use, no luxury.
My garden, painted o'er
With Nature's hand, not Art's, should pleasures yield,
Horace might envy in his Sabine field."

H. M.


The liberty of a people consists in being governed by laws which
they have made themselves, under whatsoever form it be of
government; the liberty of a private man in being master of his own
time and actions, as far as may consist with the laws of God and of
his country. Of this latter only we are here to discourse, and to
inquire what estate of life does best suit us in the possession of
it. This liberty of our own actions is such a fundamental privilege
of human nature, that God Himself, notwithstanding all His infinite
power and right over us, permits us to enjoy it, and that, too,
after a forfeiture made by the rebellion of Adam. He takes so much
care for the entire preservation of it to us, that He suffers
neither His providence nor eternal decree to break or infringe it.
Now for our time, the same God, to whom we are but tenants-at-will
for the whole, requires but the seventh part to be paid to Him at as
a small quit-rent, in acknowledgment of His title. It is man only
that has the impudence to demand our whole time, though he neither
gave it, nor can restore it, nor is able to pay any considerable
value for the least part of it. This birthright of mankind above
all other creatures some are forced by hunger to sell, like Esau,
for bread and broth; but the greatest part of men make such a
bargain for the delivery up of themselves, as Thamar did with Judah;
instead of a kid, the necessary provisions for human life, they are
contented to do it for rings and bracelets. The great dealers in
this world may be divided into the ambitious, the covetous, and the
voluptuous; and that all these men sell themselves to be slaves--
though to the vulgar it may seem a Stoical paradox--will appear to
the wise so plain and obvious that they will scarce think it
deserves the labour of argumentation. Let us first consider the
ambitious; and those, both in their progress to greatness, and after
the attaining of it. There is nothing truer than what Sallust says:
"Dominationis in alios servitium suum, mercedem dant": They are
content to pay so great a price as their own servitude to purchase
the domination over others. The first thing they must resolve to
sacrifice is their whole time; they must never stop, nor ever turn
aside whilst they are in the race of glory; no, not like Atalanta
for golden apples; "Neither indeed can a man stop himself, if he
would, when he is in this, career. Fertur equis auriga neque audit
currus habenas.

Pray let us but consider a little what mean, servile things men do
for this imaginary food. We cannot fetch a greater example of it
than from the chief men of that nation which boasted most of
liberty. To what pitiful baseness did the noblest Romans submit
themselves for the obtaining of a praetorship, or the consular
dignity? They put on the habit of suppliants, and ran about, on
foot and in dirt, through all the tribes to beg voices; they
flattered the poorest artisans, and carried a nomenclator with them,
to whisper in their ear every man's name, lest they should mistake
it in their salutations; they shook the hand, and kissed the cheek
of every popular tradesman; they stood all day at every market in
the public places, to show and ingratiate themselves to the rout;
they employed all their friends to solicit for them; they kept open
tables in every street; they distributed wine, and bread, and money,
even to the vilest of the people. En Romanos, rerum Dorninos!
Behold the masters of the world beginning from door to door. This
particular humble way to greatness is now out of fashion, but yet
every ambitious person is still in some sort a Roman candidate. He
must feast and bribe, and attend and flatter, and adore many beasts,
though not the beast with many heads. Catiline, who was so proud
that he could not content himself with a less power than Sylla's,
was yet so humble for the attaining of it, as to make himself the
most contemptible of all servants, to be a public bawd for all the
young gentlemen of Rome whose hot lusts, and courages, and heads, he
thought he might make use of. And since I happen here to propose
Catiline for my instance, though there be thousand of examples for
the same thing, give me leave to transcribe the character which
Cicero gives of this noble slave, because it is a general
description of all ambitious men, and which Machiavel perhaps would
say ought to be the rule of their life and actions. "This man,"
says he, as most of you may well remember, "had many artificial
touches and strokes that looked like the beauty of great virtues;
his intimate conversation was with the worst of men, and yet he
seemed to be an admirer and lover of the best; he was furnished with
all the nets of lust and luxury, and yet wanted not the arms of
labour and industry: neither do I believe that there was ever any
monster in nature, composed out of so many different and disagreeing
parts. Who more acceptable, sometimes, to the most honourable
persons? who more a favourite to the most infamous? who, sometimes,
appeared a braver champion? who, at other times, a bolder enemy to
his country? who more dissolute in his pleasures? who more patient
in his toils? who more rapacious in robbing? who more profuse in
giving? Above all things, this was remarkable and admirable in him.
The arts he had to acquire the good opinion and kindness of all
sorts of men, to retain it with great complaisance, to communicate
all things to them, to watch and serve all the occasions of their
fortune, both with his money and his interest, and his industry, and
if need were, not by sticking at any wickedness whatsoever that
might be useful to them, to bend and turn about his own nature and
laveer with every wind, to live severely with the melancholy,
merrily with the pleasant, gravely with the aged, wantonly with the
young, desperately with the bold, and debauchedly with the
luxurious. With this variety and multiplicity of his nature, as he
had made a collection of friendships with all the most wicked and
reckless of all nations, so, by the artificial simulation of some
virtues, he made a shift to ensnare some honest and eminent persons
into his familiarity; neither could so vast a design as the
destruction of this empire have been undertaken by him, if the
immanity of so many vices had not been covered and disguised by the
appearances of some excellent qualities."

I see, methinks, the character of an Anti-Paul, who became all
things to all men, that he might destroy all; who only wanted the
assistance of fortune to have been as great as his friend Caesar
was, a little after him. And the ways of Caesar to compass the same
ends--I mean till the civil war, which was but another manner of
setting his country on fire--were not unlike these, though he used
afterward his unjust dominion with more moderation than I think the
other would have done. Sallust, therefore, who was well acquainted
with them both and with many such-like gentlemen of his time, says,
"That it is the nature of ambition" (Ambitio multos mortales falsos
fieri coegit, etc.) "to make men liars and cheaters; to hide the
truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in
their mouths; to cut all friendships and enmities to the measure of
their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help
of good will." And can there be freedom with this perpetual
constraint? What is it but a kind of rack that forces men to say
what they have no mind to? I have wondered at the extravagant and
barbarous stratagem of Zopirus, and more at the praises which I find
of so deformed an action; who, though he was one of the seven
grandees of Persia, and the son of Megabises, who had freed before
his country from an ignoble servitude, slit his own nose and lips,
cut off his own ears, scourged and wounded his whole body, that he
might, under pretence of having been mangled so inhumanly by Darius,
be received into Babylon (then besieged by the Persians) and get
into the command of it by the recommendation of so cruel a
sufferance, and their hopes of his endeavouring to revenge it. It
is a great pity the Babylonians suspected not his falsehood, that
they might have cut off his hands too, and whipped him back again.
But the design succeeded; he betrayed the city, and was made
governor of it. What brutish master ever punished his offending
slave with so little mercy as ambition did this Zopirus? and yet how
many are there in all nations who imitate him in some degree for a
less reward; who, though they endure not so much corporal pain for a
small preferment, or some honour, as they call it, yet stick not to
commit actions, by which they are more shamefully and more lastingly
stigmatised? But you may say, "Though these be the most ordinary
and open ways to greatness, yet there are narrow, thorny, and
little-trodden paths, too, through which some men find a passage by
virtuous industry." I grant, sometimes they may; but then that
industry must be such as cannot consist with liberty, though it may
with honesty.

Thou art careful, frugal, painful. We commend a servant so, but not
a friend.

Well, then, we must acknowledge the toil and drudgery which we are
forced to endure in this assent, but we are epicures and lords when
once we are gotten up into the high places. This is but a short
apprenticeship, after which we are made free of a royal company. If
we fall in love with any beauteous woman, we must be content that
they should be our mistresses whilst we woo them. As soon as we are
wedded and enjoy, 'tis we shall be the masters.

I am willing to stick to this similitude in the case of greatness:
we enter into the bonds of it, like those of matrimony; we are
bewitched with the outward and painted beauty, and take it for
better or worse before we know its true nature and interior
inconveniences. "A great fortune," says Seneca, "is a great
servitude." But many are of that opinion which Brutus imputes (I
hope untruly) even to that patron of liberty, his friend Cicero.
"We fear," says he to Atticus, "death, and banishment, and poverty,
a great deal too much. Cicero, I am afraid, thinks these to be the
worst of evils, and if he have but some persons from whom he can
obtain what he has a mind to, and others who will flatter and
worship him, seems to be well enough contented with an honourable
servitude, if anything, indeed, ought to be called honourable in so
base and contumelious a condition." This was spoken as became the
bravest man who was ever born in the bravest commonwealth. But with
us, generally, no condition passes for servitude that is accompanied
with great riches, with honours, and with the service of many
inferiors. This is but a deception the sight through a false
medium; for if a groom serve a gentleman in his chamber, that
gentleman a lord, and that lord a prince, the groom, the gentleman,
and the lord are as much servants one as the other. The
circumstantial difference of the one getting only his bread and
wages, the second a plentiful, and the third a superfluous estate,
is no more intrinsical to this matter than the difference between a
plain, a rich and gaudy livery. I do not say that he who sells his
whole time and his own will for one hundred thousand is not a wiser
merchant than he who does it for one hundred pounds; but I will
swear they are both merchants, and that he is happier than both who
can live contentedly without selling that estate to which he was
born. But this dependence upon superiors is but one chain of the
lovers of power, Amatorem trecentae Pirithoum cohibent catenae. Let
us begin with him by break of day, for by that time he is besieged
by two or three hundred suitors, and the hall and anti-chambers (all
the outworks) possessed by the enemy; as soon as his chamber opens,
they are ready to break into that, or to corrupt the guards for
entrance. This is so essential a part of greatness, that whosoever
is without it looks like a fallen favourite, like a person
disgraced, and condemned to do what he please all the morning.
There are some who, rather than want this, are contented to have
their rooms filled up every day with murmuring and cursing
creditors, and to charge bravely through a body of them to get to
their coach. Now I would fain know which is the worst duty, that of
any one particular person who waits to speak with the great man, or
the great man's, who waits every day to speak with all the company.
Aliena negotia centum Per caput et circum saliunt latus: A hundred
businesses of other men (many unjust and most impertinent) fly
continually about his head and ears, and strike him in the face like
dors. Let us contemplate him a little at another special scene of
glory, and that is his table. Here he seems to be the lord of all
Nature. The earth affords him her best metals for his dishes, her
best vegetables and animals for his food; the air and sea supply him
with their choicest birds and fishes; and a great many men who look
like masters attend upon him; and yet, when all this is done, even
all this is but Table d'Hote. It is crowded with people for whom he
cares not--with many parasites, and some spies, with the most
burdensome sort of guests--the endeavourers to be witty.

But everybody pays him great respect, everybody commends his meat--
that is, his money; everybody admires the exquisite dressing and
ordering of it--that is, his clerk of the kitchen, or his cook;
everybody loves his hospitality--that is, his vanity. But I desire
to know why the honest innkeeper who provides a public table for his
profits should be but of a mean profession, and he who does it for
his honour a munificent prince. You'll say, because one sells and
the other gives. Nay, both sell, though for different things--the
one for plain money, the other for I know not what jewels, whose
value is in custom and in fancy. If, then, his table be made a
snare (as the Scripture speaks) to his liberty, where can he hope
for freedom? there is always and everywhere some restraint upon him.
He is guarded with crowds, and shackled with formalities. The half
hat, the whole hat, the half smile, the whole smile, the nod, the
embrace, the positive parting with a little bow, the comparative at
the middle of the room, the superlative at the door; and if the
person be Pan huper sebastos, there's a Huper superlative ceremony
then of conducting him to the bottom of the stairs, or to the very
gate: as if there were such rules set to these Leviathans as are to
the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further." Perditur haec
inter misero Lux. Thus wretchedly the precious day is lost.

How many impertinent letters and visits must he receive, and
sometimes answer both too as impertinently? He never sets his foot
beyond his threshold, unless, like a funeral, he hath a train to
follow him, as if, like the dead corpse, he could not stir till the
bearers were all ready. "My life," says Horace, speaking to one of
these magnificos, "is a great deal more easy and commodious than
thine, in that I can go into the market and cheapen what I please
without being wondered at; and take my horse and ride as far as
Tarentum without being missed." It is an unpleasant constraint to
be always under the sight and observation and censure of others; as
there may be vanity in it, so, methinks, there should be vexation
too of spirit. And I wonder how princes can endure to have two or
three hundred men stand gazing upon them whilst they are at dinner,
and taking notice of every bit they eat. Nothing seems greater and
more lordly than the multitude of domestic servants, but, even this
too, if weighed seriously, is a piece of servitude; unless you will
be a servant to them, as many men are, the trouble and care of yours
in the government of them all, is much more than that of every one
of them in their observation of you. I take the profession of a
schoolmaster to be one of the most useful, and which ought to be of
the most honourable in a commonwealth, yet certainly all his farces
and tyrannical authority over so many boys takes away his own
liberty more than theirs.

I do but slightly touch upon all these particulars of the slavery of
greatness; I shake but a few of their outward chains; their anger,
hatred, jealousy, fear, envy, grief, and all the et cetera of their
passions, which are the secret but constant tyrants and torturers of
their life. I omit here, because though they be symptoms most
frequent and violent in this disease, yet they are common too in
some degree to the epidemical disease of life itself. But the
ambitious man, though he be so many ways a slave (O toties servus!),
yet he bears it bravely and heroically; he struts and looks big upon
the stage, he thinks himself a real prince in his masking habit, and
deceives too all the foolish part of his spectators. He's a slave
in Saturnalibus. The covetous man is a downright servant, a draught
horse without bells or feathers; ad metalla damnatus, a man
condemned to work in mines, which is the lowest and hardest
condition of servitude; and, to increase his misery, a worker there
for he knows not whom. He heapeth up riches and knows not who shall
enjoy them; 'tis only that he himself neither shall nor can enjoy
them. He is an indigent needy slave, he will hardly allow himself
clothes and board wages; Unciatim vix demenso de suo suum defraudans
Genium comparsit niser. He defrauds not only other men, but his own
genius. He cheats himself for money. But the servile and miserable
condition of this wretch is so apparent, that I leave it, as evident
to every man's sight, as well as judgment. It seems a more
difficult work to prove that the voluptuous man too is but a
servant. What can be more the life of a freeman, or, as we say
ordinarily, of a gentleman, than to follow nothing but his own
pleasures? Why, I'll tell you who is that true freeman and that
true gentleman; not he who blindly follows all his pleasures (the
very name of follower is servile), but he who rationally guides
them, and is not hindered by outward impediments in the conduct and
enjoyment of them. If I want skill or force to restrain the beast
that I ride upon, though I bought it, and call it my own, yet in the
truth of the matter I am at that time rather his man than he my
horse. The voluptuous men (whom we are fallen upon) may be divided,
I think, into the lustful and luxurious, who are both servants of
the belly; the other whom we spoke of before, the ambitious and the
covetous, were [Greek text], evil wild beasts; these are [Greek
text], slow bellies, as our translation renders it; but the word
[Greek text] (which is a fantastical word with two directly opposite
significations) will bear as well the translation of quick or
diligent bellies, and both interpretations may be applied to these
men. Metrodorus said, "That he had learnt [Greek text], to give his
belly just thanks for all his pleasures." This by the calumniators
of Epicurus his philosophy was objected as one of the most
scandalous of all their sayings, which, according to my charitable
understanding, may admit a very virtuous sense, which is, that he
thanked his own belly for that moderation in the customary appetites
of it, which can only give a man liberty and happiness in this
world. Let this suffice at present to be spoken of those great
trinmviri of the world; the covetous man, who is a mean villain,
like Lepidus; the ambitious, who is a brave one, like Octavius; and
the voluptuous, who is a loose and debauched one, like Mark Antony.
Quisnam igitur Liber? Sapiens, sibi qui Imperiosus. Not Oenomaus,
who commits himself wholly to a charioteer that may break his neck,
but the man

Who governs his own course with steady hand,
Who does himself with sovereign power command;
Whom neither death nor poverty does fright,
Who stands not awkwardly in his own light
Against the truth: who can, when pleasures knock
Loud at his door, keep firm the bolt and lock.
Who can, though honour at his gate should stay
In all her masking clothes, send her away,
And cry, Begone, I have no mind to play.

This I confess is a freeman; but it may be said that many persons
are so shackled by their fortune that they are hindered from
enjoyment of that manumission which they have obtained from virtue.
I do both understand, and in part feel the weight of this objection.
All I can answer to it is, "That we must get as much liberty as we
can; we must use our utmost endeavours, and when all that is done,
be contented with the length of that line which is allowed us." If
you ask me in what condition of life I think the most allowed, I
should pitch upon that sort of people whom King James was wont to
call the happiest of our nation, the men placed in the country by
their fortune above an high constable, and yet beneath the trouble
of a justice of the peace, in a moderate plenty, without any just
argument for the desire of increasing it by the care of many
relations, and with so much knowledge and love of piety and
philosophy (that is, of the study of God's laws and of his
creatures) as may afford him matter enough never to be idle though
without business, and never to be melancholy though without sin or

I shall conclude this tedious discourse with a prayer of mine in a
copy of Latin verses, of which I remember no other part, and (pour
faire bonne bouche) with some other verses upon the same subject.

Magne Deus, quod ad has vitae brevis attinet boras,
Da mihi, da Pancin Libertatemque, nec ultra
Sollicitas effundo preces, si quid datur ultra
Accipiam gratus; si non, contentus abibo.

For the few hours of life allotted me,
Give me, great God, but Bread and Liberty,
I'll beg no more; if more thou'rt pleased to give,
I'll thankfully that overplus receive.
If beyond this no more be freely sent,
I'll thank for this, and go away content.

Vota tui breviter, etc.

Well then, sir, you shall know how far extend,
The prayers and hopes of your poetic friend.
He does not palaces nor manors crave,
Would be no lord, but less a lord would have.
The ground he holds, if he his own can call,
He quarrels not with Heaven because 'tis small:
Let gay and toilsome greatness others please,
He loves of homely littleness the ease.
Can any man in gilded rooms attend,
And his dear hours in humble visits spend,
When in the fresh and beauteous fields he may
With various healthful pleasures fill the day?
If there be man, ye gods, I ought to hate,
Dependence and attendance be his fate.
Still let him busy be, and in a crowd,
And very much a slave, and very proud:
Thus he, perhaps, powerful and rich may grow;
No matter, O ye gods! that I'll allow.
But let him peace and freedom never see;
Let him not love this life, who loves not me.

Vis fieri Liber, etc.

Would you be free? 'Tis your chief wish, you say,
Come on; I'll show thee, friend, the certain way.
If to no feasts abroad thou lov'st to go,
Whilst bounteous God does bread at home bestow;
If thou the goodness of thy clothes dost prize
By thine own use, and not by others' eyes;
If, only safe from weathers, thou canst dwell
In a small house, but a convenient shell;
If thou without a sigh, or golden wish,
Canst look upon thy beechen bowl and dish;
If in thy mind such power and greatness be -
The Persian King's a slave compared with thee.

Quod to nomine? etc.

That I do you with humble bows no more,
And danger of my naked head, adore;
That I, who lord and master cried erewhile,
Salute you in a new and different style,
By your own name, a scandal to you now;
Think not that I forget myself or you:
By loss of all things by all others sought
This freedom, and the freeman's hat, is bought.
A lord and master no man wants but he
Who o'er himself has no authority,
Who does for honours and for riches strive,
And follies without which lords cannot live.
If thou from fortune dost no servant crave,
Believe it, thou no master need'st to have.



Freedom with virtue takes her seat;
Her proper place, her only scene,
Is in the golden mean,
She lives not with the poor, nor with the great:
The wings of those, Necessity has clipped,
And they're in Fortune's Bridewell whipped,
To the laborious task of bread;
These are by various tyrants captive led.
Now wild Ambition with imperious force
Rides, reins, and spurs them like th' unruly horse;
And servile Avarice yokes them now
Like toilsome oxen to the plough;
And sometimes Lust, like the misguiding light,
Draws them through all the labyrinths of night.
If any few among the great there be
From the insulting passions free,
Yet we even those too fettered see
By custom, business, crowds, and formal decency;
And wheresoe'er they stay, and wheresoe'er they go,
Impertinences round them flow.
These are the small uneasy things
Which about greatness still are found,
And rather it molest than wound
Like gnats which too much heat of summer brings;
But cares do swarm there too, and those have stings:
As when the honey does too open lie,
A thousand wasps about it fly
Nor will the master even to share admit;
The master stands aloof, and dares not taste of it.


'Tis morning, well, I fain would yet sleep on;
You cannot now; you must be gone
To Court, or to the noisy hail
Besides, the rooms without are crowded all;
The steam of business does begin,
And a springtide of clients is come in.
Ah, cruel guards, which this poor prisoner keep,
Will they not suffer him to sleep!
Make an escape; out at the postern flee,
And get some blessed hours of liberty.
With a few friends, and a few dishes dine,
And much of mirth and moderate wine;
To thy bent mind some relaxation give,
And steal one day out of thy life to live.
Oh happy man, he cries, to whom kind Heaven
Has such a freedom always given
Why, mighty madman, what should hinder thee
From being every day as free?


In all the freeborn nations of the air,
Never did bird a spirit so mean and sordid bear
As to exchange his native liberty
Of soaring boldly up into the sky,
His liberty to sing, to perch, or fly
When, and wherever he thought good,
And all his innocent pleasures of the wood,
For a more plentiful or constant food.
Nor ever did ambitious rage
Make him into a painted cage
Or the false forest of a well-hung room
For honour and preferment come.
Now, blessings on ye all, ye heroic race,
Who keep their primitive powers and rights so well
Though men and angels fell.
Of all material lives the highest place
To you is justly given,
And ways and walks the nearest Heaven;
Whilst wretched we, yet vain and proud, think fit
To boast that we look up to it.
Even to the universal tyrant Love
You homage pay but once a year;
None so degenerous and unbirdly prove,
As his perpetual yoke to bear.
None but a few unhappy household fowl,
Whom human lordship does control;
Who from their birth corrupted were
By bondage, and by man's example here.


He's no small prince who every day
Thus to himself can say,
Now will I sleep, now eat, now sit, now walk,
Now meditate alone, now with acquaintance talk;
This I will do, here I will stay,
Or, if my fancy call me away,
My man and I will presently go ride
(For we before have nothing to provide,
Nor after are to render an account)
To Dover, Berwick, or the Cornish Mount.
If thou but a short journey take,
As if thy last thou wert to make,
Business must be despatched ere thou canst part.
Nor canst thou stir unless there be
A hundred horse and men to wait on thee,
And many a mule, and many a cart:
What an unwieldy man thou art!
The Rhodian Colossus so
A journey too might go.


Where honour or where conscience does not bind,
No other law shall shackle me?
Slave to myself I will not be,
Nor shall my future actions be confined
By my own present mind.
Who by resolves and vows engaged does stand
For days that yet belong to fate,
Does like an unthrift mortgage his estate
Before it falls into his hand;
The bondman of the cloister so
All that he does receive does always owe.
And still as time come in it goes away,
Not to enjoy, but debts to pay.
Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell
Which his hour's work, as well as hour's does tell!
Unhappy till the last, the kind releasing knell.


If Life should a well-ordered poem be
(In which he only hits the white
Who joins true profit with the best delight),
The more heroic strain let others take,
Mine the Pindaric way I'll make,
The matter shall be grave, the numbers loose and free.
It shall not keep one settled pace of time,
In the same tune it shall not always chime,
Nor shall each day just to his neighbour rhyme.
A thousand liberties it shall dispense,
And yet shall manage all without offence
Or to the sweetness of the sound, or greatness of the sense;
Nor shall it never from one subject start,
Nor seek transitions to depart,
Nor its set way o'er stiles and bridges make,
Nor thorough lanes a compass take
As if it feared some trespass to commit,
When the wide air's a road for it.
So time imperial eagle does not stay
Till the whole carcase he devour
That's fallen into its power;
As if his generous hunger understood
That he can never want plenty of food,
He only sucks the tasteful blood,
And to fresh game flies cheerfully away;
To kites and meaner birds he leaves the mangled prey.


"Nunquam minus solus, quam cum solis," is now become a very vulgar
saying. Every man and almost every boy for these seventeen hundred
years has had it in his mouth. But it was at first spoken by the
excellent Scipio, who was without question a most worthy, most
happy, and the greatest of all mankind. His meaning no doubt was
this: that he found more satisfaction to his mind, and more
improvement of it by solitude than by company; and to show that he
spoke not this loosely or out of vanity, after he had made Rome
mistress of almost the whole world, he retired himself from it by a
voluntary exile, and at a private house in the middle of a wood near
Linternum passed the remainder of his glorious life no less
gloriously. This house Seneca went to see so long after with great
veneration, and, among other things, describes his bath to have been
of so mean a structure, that now, says he, the basest of the people
would despise them, and cry out, "Poor Scipio understood not how to
live." What an authority is here for the credit of retreat! and
happy had it been for Hannibal if adversity could have taught him as
much wisdom as was learnt by Scipio from the highest prosperities.
This would be no wonder if it were as truly as it is colourably and
wittily said by Monsieur de Montaigne, that ambition itself might
teach us to love solitude: there is nothing does so much hate to
have companions. It is true, it loves to have its elbows free, it
detests to have company on either side, but it delights above all
things in a train behind, aye, and ushers, too, before it. But the
greater part of men are so far from the opinion of that noble Roman,
that if they chance at any time to be without company they are like
a becalmed ship; they never move but by the wind of other men's
breath, and have no oars of their own to steer withal. It is very
fantastical and contradictory in human nature, that men should love
themselves above all the rest of the world, and yet never endure to
be with themselves. When they are in love with a mistress, all
other persons are importunate and burdensome to them. "Tecum vivere
amem, tecum obeam lubens," They would live and die with her alone.

Sic ego secretis possum bene vevere silvis
Qua nulla humauo sit via trita pede,
Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atra
Lumen, et in solis tu mihi terba locis.

With thee for ever I in woods could rest,
Where never human foot the ground has pressed;
Thou from all shades the darkness canst exclude,
And from a desert banish solitude.

And yet our dear self is so wearisome to us that we can scarcely
support its conversation for an hour together. This is such an odd
temper of mind as Catullus expresses towards one of his mistresses,
whom we may suppose to have been of a very unsociable humour.

Odi et Amo, qua nam id faciam ratione requiris?
Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.

I hate, and yet I love thee too;
How can that be? I know not how;
Only that so it is I know,
And feel with torment that 'tis so.

It is a deplorable condition this, and drives a man sometimes to
pitiful shifts in seeking how to avoid himself.

The truth of the matter is, that neither he who is a fop in the
world is a fit man to be alone, nor he who has set his heart much
upon the world, though he has ever so much understanding; so that
solitude can be well fitted and set right but upon a very few
persons. They must have enough knowledge of the world to see the
vanity of it, and enough virtue to despise all vanity; if the mind
be possessed with any lust or passions, a man had better be in a
fair than in a wood alone. They may, like petty thieves, cheat us
perhaps, and pick our pockets in the midst of company, but like
robbers, they use to strip and bind, or murder us when they catch us
alone. This is but to retreat from men, and fall into the hands of
devils. It is like the punishment of parricides among the Romans,
to be sewed into a bag with an ape, a dog, and a serpent. The first
work, therefore, that a man must do to make himself capable of the
good of solitude is the very eradication of all lusts, for how is it
possible for a man to enjoy himself while his affections are tied to
things without himself? In the second place, he must learn the art
and get the habit of thinking; for this too, no less than well
speaking, depends upon much practice; and cogitation is the thing
which distinguishes the solitude of a god from a wild beast. Now
because the soul of man is not by its own nature or observation
furnished with sufficient materials to work upon; it is necessary
for it to have continual resource to learning and books for fresh
supplies, so that the solitary life will grow indigent, and be ready
to starve without them; but if once we be thoroughly engaged in the
love of letters, instead of being wearied with the length of any
day, we shall only complain of the shortness of our whole life.

O vita, stulto longa, sapienti brevis!
O life, long to the fool, short to the wise!

The First Minister of State has not so much business in public as a
wise man has in private; if the one have little leisure to be alone,
the other has less leisure to be in company; the one has but part of
the affairs of one nation, the other all the works of God and nature
under his consideration. There is no saying shocks me so much as
that which I hear very often, "That a man does not know how to pass
his time." It would have been but ill spoken by Methusalem in the
nine hundred and sixty-ninth year of his life, so far it is from us,
who have not time enough to attain to the utmost perfection of any
part of any science, to have cause to complain that we are forced to
be idle for want of work. But this you will say is work only for
the learned, others are not capable either of the employments or the
divertisements that arise from letters. I know they are not, and
therefore cannot much recommend solitude to a man totally
illiterate. But if any man be so unlearned as to want entertainment
of the little intervals of accidental solitude, which frequently
occur in almost all conditions (except the very meanest of the
people, who have business enough in the necessary provisions for
life), it is truly a great shame both to his parents and himself;
for a very small portion of any ingenious art will stop up all those
gaps of our time, either music, or painting, or designing, or
chemistry, or history, or gardening, or twenty other things, will do
it usefully and pleasantly; and if he happen to set his affections
upon poetry (which I do not advise him too immoderately) that will
overdo it; no wood will be thick enough to hide him from the
importunities of company or business, which would abstract him from
his beloved.

- O quis me geldis sub montibus Haemi
Sistat, et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra?


Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
Hail, ye plebeian underwood!
Where the poetic birds rejoice,
And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
Pay with their grateful voice.


Hail, the poor Muses' richest manor seat!
Ye country houses and retreat
Which all the happy gods so love,
That for you oft they quit their bright and great
Metropolis above.


Here Nature does a house for me erect,
Nature the wisest architect,
Who those fond artists does despise
That can the fair and living trees neglect,
Yet the dead timber prize.


Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying,
Hear the soft winds, above me flying,
With all their wanton boughs dispute,
And the more tuneful birds to both replying,
Nor be myself too mute.


A silver stream shall roll his waters near,
Gilt with the sunbeams here and there,
On whose enamelled bank I'll walk,
And see how prettily they smile, and hear
How prettily they talk.


Ah wretched, and too solitary he
Who loves not his own company!
He'll feel the weight of't many a day,
Unless he call in sin or vanity
To help to bear't away.


Oh solitude, first state of human-kind!
Which blest remained till man did find
Even his own helper's company.
As soon as two, alas, together joined,
The serpent made up three.


Though God himself, through countless ages, thee
His sole companion chose to be,
Thee, sacred Solitude alone;
Before the branchy head of numbers Three
Sprang from the trunk of One.


Thou (though men think thine an unactive part)
Dost break and tame th' unruly heart,
Which else would know no settled pace,
Making it move, well managed by thy art
With swiftness and with grace.


Thou the faint beams of Reason's scattered light
Dost like a burning glass unite;
Dost multiply the feeble heat,
And fortify the strength, till thou dost bright
And noble fires beget.


Whilst this hard truth I teach, methinks, I see
The monster London laugh at me;
I should at thee too, foolish city,
If it were fit to laugh at misery.
But thy estate, I pity.


Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And the fools that crowd thee so, -
Even thou, who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than Islington wilt grow,
A solitude almost.


Nam neque divitibus contingunt gaudia solis,
Nec vixit male, qui natus moriensque fefellit.

God made not pleasures only for the rich,
Nor have those men without their share too lived,
Who both in life and death the world deceived.

This seems a strange sentence thus literally translated, and looks
as if it were in vindication of the men of business (for who else
can deceive the world?) whereas it is in commendation of those who
live and die so obscurely, that the world takes no notice of them.
This Horace calls deceiving the world, and in another place uses the
same phrase.

Secretum iter et fallentis semita vitae.
The secret tracks of the deceiving life.

It is very elegant in Latin, but our English word will hardly bear
up to that sense, and therefore Mr. Broome translates it very well:

Or from a life, led as it were by stealth.

Yet we say in our language, a thing deceives our sight, when it
passes before us unperceived, and we may say well enough out of the
same author:

Sometimes with sleep, sometimes with wine we strive
The cares of life and troubles to deceive.

But that is not to deceive the world, but to deceive ourselves, as
Quintilian says, Vitam fallere, To draw on still, and amuse, and
deceive our life, till it be advanced insensibly to the fatal
period, and fall into that pit which Nature hath prepared for it.
The meaning of all this is no more than that most vulgar saying,
Bene qui latuit, bene vixit, He has lived well, who has lain well
hidden. Which, if it be a truth, the world, I'll swear, is
sufficiently deceived. For my part, I think it is, and that the
pleasantest condition of life, is in incognito. What a brave
privilege is it to be free from all contentions, from all envying or
being envied, from receiving and from paying all kind of ceremonies?
It is in my mind a very delightful pastime, for two good and
agreeable friends to travel up and down together in places where
they are by nobody known, nor know anybody. It was the case of
AEneas and his Achates, when they walked invisibly about the fields
and streets of Carthage, Venus herself

A veil of thickened air around them cast,
That none might know, or see them as they passed.

The common story of Demosthenes's confession that he had taken great
pleasure in hearing of a Tanker-woman say as he passed, "This is
that Demosthenes," is wonderful ridiculous from so solid an orator.
I myself have often met with that temptation to vanity (if it were
any), but am so far from finding it any pleasure, that it only makes
me run faster from the place, till I get, as it were, out of sight
shot. Democritus relates, and in such a manner, as if he gloried in
the good fortune and commodity of it, that when he came to Athens,
nobody there did so much as take notice of him; and Epicurus lived
there very well, that is, lay hid many years in his gardens, so
famous since that time, with his friend Metrodorus: after whose
death, making in one of his letters a kind commemoration of the
happiness which they two had enjoyed together, he adds at last, that
he thought it no disparagement to those great felicities of their
life, that in the midst of the most talked of and talking country in
the world, they had lived so long, not only without fame, but almost
without being heard of. And yet within a very few years afterward,
there were no two names of men more known or more generally
celebrated. If we engage into a large acquaintance and various
familiarities, we set open our gates to the invaders of most of our
time: we expose our life to a Quotidian Ague of frigid
impertinences, which would make a wise man tremble to think of.
Now, as for being known much by sight, and pointed at, I cannot
comprehend the honour that lies in that. Whatsoever it be, every
mountebank has it more than the best doctor, and the hangman more
than the Lord Chief Justice of a city. Every creature has it both
of nature and art if it be any ways extraordinary. It was as often
said, "This is that Bucephalus," or, "This is that Incitatus," when
they were led prancing through the streets, as "This is that
Alexander," or, "This is that Domitian"; and truly for the latter, I
take Incitatus to have been a much more honourable beast than his
master, and more deserving the consulship than he the empire. I
love and commend a true good fame, because it is the shadow of
virtue; not that it doth any good to the body which it accompanies,
but 'tis an efficacious shadow, and like that of St. Peter cures the
diseases of others. The best kind of glory, no doubt, is that which
is reflected from honesty, such as was the glory of Cato and
Aristides, but it was harmful to them both, and is seldom beneficial
to any man whilst he lives; what it is to him after his death, I
cannot say, because I love not philosophy merely notional and
conjectural, and no man who has made the experiment has been so kind
as to come back to inform us. Upon the whole matter, I account a
person who has a moderate mind and fortune, and lives in the
conversation of two or three agreeable friends, with little commerce
in the world besides; who is esteemed well enough by his few
neighbours that know him, and is truly irreproachable by anybody;
and so after a healthful quiet life, before the great inconveniences
of old age, goes more silently out of it than he came in (for I
would not have him so much as cry in the exit); this innocent
deceiver of the word, as Horace calls him, this Muta Persona, I take
to have been more happy in his part, than the greatest actors that
fill the stage with show and noise, nay, even than Augustus himself,
who asked with his last breath, whether he had not played his farce
very well.

Seneca, ex Thyeste,
Act 2. Chor.
Stet quicunque volet, potens,
Aulae culmine lubrico; etc.

Upon the slippery tops of human state,
The gilded pinnacles of fate,
Let others proudly stand, and for a while,
The giddy danger to beguile,
With joy and with disdain look down on all,
Till their heads turn, and down they fall.
Me, O ye gods, on earth, or else so near
That I no fall to earth may fear,
And, O ye gods, at a good distance seat
From the long ruins of the great!
Here wrapped in the arms of quiet let me lie,
Quiet, companion of obscurity.
Here let my life, with as much silence slide,
As time that measures it does glide.
Nor let the breath of infamy or fame,
From town to town echo about my name;
Nor let my homely death embroidered be
With scutcheon or with elegy.
An old plebeian let me die,
Alas, all then are such, as well as I.
To him, alas, to him, I fear,
The face of death will terrible appear;
Who in his life, flattering his senseless pride
By being known to all the world beside,
Does not himself, when he is dying, know;
Nor what he is, nor whither he's to go.


The first wish of Virgil (as you will find anon by his verses), was
to be a good philosopher; the second, a good husbandman; and God
(whom he seemed to understand better than most of the most learned
heathens) dealt with him just as he did with Solomon: because he
prayed for wisdom in the first place, he added all things else which
were subordinately to be desired. He made him one of the best
philosophers, and best husbandmen, and to adorn and communicate both
those faculties, the best poet. He made him, besides all this, a
rich man, and a man who desired to be no richer, O fortunatas nimium
et bona qui sua novit. To be a husbandman, is but a retreat from
the city; to be a philosopher, from the world; or rather, a retreat
from the world, as it is Man's--into the world, as it is God's. But
since Nature denies to most men the capacity or appetite, and
Fortune allows but to a very few the opportunities or possibility,
of applying themselves wholly to philosophy, the best mixture of
human affairs that we can make are the employments of a country
life. It is, as Columella calls it, Res sine dubitatione proxima et
quasi consanguinea sapientiae, the nearest neighbour, or rather next
in kindred to Philosophy. Varro says the principles of it are the
same which Ennius made to be the principles of all nature; earth,
water, air, and the sun. It does certainly comprehend more parts of
philosophy than any one profession, art, or science in the world
besides; and, therefore, Cicero says, the pleasures of a husbandman,
Mihi ad sapientis vitam proxime videntur aecedere, come very nigh to
those of a philosopher. There is no other sort of life that affords
so many branches of praise to a panegyrist: The utility of it to a
man's self; the usefulness, or, rather, necessity of it to all the
rest of mankind; the innocence, the pleasure, the antiquity, the
dignity. The utility (I mean plainly the lucre of it) is not so
great now in our nation as arises from merchandise and the trading
of the city, from whence many of the best estates and chief honours
of the kingdom are derived; we have no men now fetched from the
plough to be made lords, as they were in Rome to be made consuls and
dictators, the reason of which I conceive to be from an evil custom
now grown as strong among us as if it were a law, which is, that no
men put their children to be bred up apprentices in agriculture, as
in other trades, but such who are so poor, that when they come to be
men they have not wherewithal to set up in it, and so can only farm
some small parcel of ground, the rent of which devours all but the
bare subsistence of the tenant; whilst they who are proprietors of
the land are either too proud or, for want of that kind of
education, too ignorant to improve their estates, though the means
of doing it be as easy and certain in this as in any other track of
commerce. If there were always two or three thousand youths, for
seven or eight years bound to this profession, that they might learn
the whole art of it, and afterwards be enabled to be masters in it,
by a moderate stock, I cannot doubt but that we should see as many
aldermen's estates made in the country as now we do out of all kind
of merchandising in the city. There are as many ways to be rich;
and, which is better, there is no possibility to be poor, without
such negligence as can neither have excuse nor pity; for a little
ground will, without question, feed a little family, and the
superfluities of life (which are now in some cases by custom made
almost necessary) must be supplied out of the superabundance of art
and industry, or contemned by as great a degree of philosophy. As
for the necessity of this art, it is evident enough, since this can
live without all others, and no one other without this. This is
like speech, without which the society of men cannot be preserved;
the others like figures and tropes of speech which serve only to
adorn it. Many nations have lived, and some do still, without any
art but this; not so elegantly, I confess, but still they have; and
almost all the other arts which are here practised are beholding to
them for most of their materials. The innocence of this life is in
the next thing for which I commend it, and if husbandmen preserve
not that, they are much to blame, for no men are so free from the
temptations of iniquity. They live by what they can get by industry
from the earth, and others by what they can catch by craft from men.
They live upon an estate given them by their mother, and others upon
an estate cheated from their brethren. They live like sheep and
kine, by the allowances of Nature, and others like wolves and foxes
by the acquisitions of rapine; and, I hope, I may affirm (without
any offence to the great) that sheep and kine are very useful, and
that wolves and foxes are pernicious creatures. They are, without
dispute, of all men the most quiet and least apt to be inflamed to
the disturbance of the commonwealth; their manner of life inclines
them, and interest binds them, to love peace. In our late mad and
miserable civil wars, all other trades, even to the meanest, set
forth whole troops, and raised up some great commanders, who became
famous and mighty for the mischiefs they had done. But I do not
remember the name of any one husbandman who had so considerable a
share in the twenty years' ruin of his country, as to deserve the
curses of his countrymen; and if great delights be joined with so
much innocence, I think it is ill done of men not to take them here
where they are so tame and ready at hand, rather than hunt for them
in courts and cities, where they are so wild and the chase so
troublesome and dangerous.

We are here among the vast and noble scenes of Nature; we are there
among the pitiful shifts of policy. We walk here in the light and
open ways of the divine bounty; we grope there in the dark and
confused labyrinths of human malice. Our senses are here feasted
with the clear and genuine taste of their objects, which are all
sophisticated there, and for the most part overwhelmed with their
contraries. Here Pleasure looks, methinks, like a beautiful,
constant, and modest wife; it is there an impudent, fickle, and
painted harlot. Here is harmless and cheap plenty, there guilty and
expenseful luxury.

I shall only instance in one delight more, the most natural and best
natured of all others, a perpetual companion of the husbandman: and
that is, the satisfaction of looking round about him, and seeing
nothing but the effects and improvements of his own art and
diligence; to be always gathering of some fruits of it, and at the
same time to behold others ripening, and others budding; to see all
his fields and gardens covered with the beauteous creatures of his
own industry; and to see, like God, that all his works are good.

Hinc atque hinc glomerantur Oreades; ipsi
Agricolae tacitum pertentant gaudia pectus.

On his heart-strings a secret joy does strike.

The antiquity of his art is certainly not to be contested by any
other. The three first men in the world were a gardener, a
ploughman, and a grazier; and if any man object that the second of
these was a murderer, I desire he would consider, that as soon as he
was so, he quitted our profession and turned builder. It is for
this reason, I suppose, that Ecclesiasticus forbids us to hate
husbandry; because, says he, the Most High has created it. We were
all born to this art, and taught by nature to nourish our bodies by
the same earth out of which they were made, and to which they must
return and pay at last for their sustenance.

Behold the original and primitive nobility of all those great
persons who are too proud now not only to till the ground, but
almost to tread upon it. We may talk what we please of lilies and
lions rampant, and spread eagles in fields d'or or d'argent; but if
heraldry were guided by reason, a plough in a field arable would be
the most noble and ancient arms.

All these considerations make me fall into the wonder and complaint
of Columella, how it should come to pass that all arts or Sciences
(for the dispute, which is an art and which is a science, does not
belong to the curiosity of us husbandmen), metaphysic, physic,
morality, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, etc., which are all, I
grant, good and useful faculties, except only metaphysic, which I do
not know whether it be anything or no, but even vaulting, fencing,
dancing, attiring, cookery, carving, and such like vanities, should
all have public schools and masters; and yet that we should never
see or hear of any man who took upon him the profession of teaching
this so pleasant, so virtuous, so profitable, so honourable, so
necessary art.

A man would think, when he's in serious humour, that it were but a
vain, irrational, and ridiculous thing for a great company of men
and women to run up and down in a room together, in a hundred
several postures and figures, to no purpose, and with no design; and
therefore dancing was invented first, and only practised anciently,
in the ceremonies of the heathen religion, which consisted all in
mummery and madness; the latter being the chief glory of the
worship, and accounted divine inspiration. This, I say, a severe
man would think, though I dare not determine so far against so
customary a part now of good breeding. And yet, who is there among
our gentry that does not entertain a dancing master for his children
as soon as they are able to walk? But did ever any father provide a
tutor for his son to instruct him betimes in the nature and
improvements of that land which he intended to leave him? That is
at least a superfluity, and this a defect in our manner of
education; and therefore I could wish, but cannot in these times
much hope to see it, that one college in each university were
erected, and appropriated to this study, as well as there are to
medicine and the civil law. There would be no need of making a body
of scholars and fellows, with certain endowments, as in other
colleges; it would suffice if, after the manner of Halls in Oxford,
there were only four professors constituted (for it would be too
much work for only one master, or Principal, as they call him there)
to teach these four parts of it. First, aration, and all things
relating to it. Secondly, pasturage; thirdly, gardens, orchards,
vineyards, and woods; fourthly, all parts of rural economy, which
would contain the government of bees, swine, poultry, decoys, ponds,
etc., and all that which Varro calls Villaticas Pastiones, together
with the sports of the field, which ought not to be looked upon only
as pleasures, but as parts of housekeeping, and the domestical
conservation and uses of all that is brought in by industry abroad.
The business of these professors should not be, as is commonly
practised in other arts, only to read pompous and superficial
lectures out of Virgil's Georgics, Pliny, Varro, or Columella, but
to instruct their pupils in the whole method and course of this
study, which might be run through perhaps with diligence in a year
or two; and the continual succession of scholars upon a moderate
taxation for their diet, lodging, and learning, would be a
sufficient constant revenue for maintenance of the house and the
professors, who should be men not chosen for the ostentation of
critical literature, but for solid and experimental knowledge of the
things they teach such men; so industrious and public spirited as I
conceive Mr. Hartlib to be, if the gentleman be yet alive. But it
is needless to speak further of my thoughts of this design, unless
the present disposition of the age allowed more probability of
bringing it into execution. What I have further to say of the
country life shall be borrowed from the poets, who were always the
most faithful and affectionate friends to it. Poetry was born among
the shepherds.

Nescio qua natale solum dulcedine musas
Ducit, et immemores non sinit esse sui.

The Muses still love their own native place,
'T has secret charms which nothing can deface.

The truth is, no other place is proper for their work. One might as
well undertake to dance in a crowd, as to make good verses in the
midst of noise and tumult.

As well might corn as verse in cities grow;
In vain the thankless glebe we plough and sow,
Against th' unnatural soil in vain we strive,
'Tis not a ground in which these plants will thrive.

It will bear nothing but the nettles or thorns of satire, which grow
most naturally in the worst earth; and therefore almost all poets,
except those who were not able to eat bread without the bounty of
great men, that is, without what they could get by flattering of
them, have not only withdrawn themselves from the vices and vanities
of the grand world (pariter vitiisque jocisque altius humanis
exeruere caput) into the innocent happiness of a retired life; but
have commended and adorned nothing so much by their ever-living
poems. Hesiod was the first or second poet in the world that
remains yet extant (if Homer, as some think, preceded him, but I
rather believe they were contemporaries), and he is the first
writer, too, of the art of husbandry. He has contributed, says
Columella, not a little to our profession; I suppose he means not a
little honour, for the matter of his instructions is not very
important. His great antiquity is visible through the gravity and
simplicity of his style. The most acute of all his sayings concerns
our purpose very much, and is couched in the reverend obscurity of
an oracle. [Greek text which cannot be reproduced]. The half is
more than the whole. The occasion of the speech is this: his
brother Perses had by corrupting some great men ([Greek text which
cannot be reproduced], great bribe-eaters he calls them) gotten from
him the half of his estate. It is no matter, says he, they have not
done me so much prejudice as they imagine.

[Greek text which cannot be reproduced--translation below]

Unhappy they to whom God has not revealed
By a strong light which must their sense control,
That half a great estate's more than the whole.
Unhappy, from whom still concealed does lie
Of roots and herbs the wholesome luxury.

This I conceive to have been honest Hesiod's meaning. From Homer we
must not expect much concerning our affairs. He was blind, and
could neither work in the country nor enjoy the pleasures of it; his
helpless poverty was likeliest to be sustained in the richest
places, he was to delight the Grecians with fine tales of the wars
and adventures of their ancestors; his subject removed him from all
commerce with us, and yet, methinks, he made a shift to show his
goodwill a little. For though he could do us no honour in the
person of his hero Ulysses (much less of Achilles), because his
whole time was consumed in wars and voyages, yet he makes his father
Laertes a gardener all that while, and seeking his consolation for
the absence of his son in the pleasure of planting and even dunging
his own grounds. Yet, see, he did not contemn us peasants; nay, so
far was he from that insolence, that he always styles Eumaeus, who
kept the hogs with wonderful respect, [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced], the divine swine-herd; he could have done no more for
Menelaus or Agamemnon. And Theocritus (a very ancient poet, but he
was one of our own tribe, for he wrote nothing but pastorals) gave
the same epithet to a husbandman [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]. The divine husbandman replied to Hercules, who was but
[Greek text] himself. These were civil Greeks, and who understood
the dignity of our calling. Among the Romans, we have in the first
place our truly divine Virgil, who, though by the favour of Maecenas
and Augustus he might have been one of the chief men of Rome, yet
chose rather to employ much of his time in the exercise, and much of
his immortal wit in the praise and instructions of a rustic life;
who, though he had written before whole books of Pastorals and
Georgics, could not abstain in his great and imperial poem from
describing Evander, one of his best princes, as living just after
the homely manner of an ordinary countryman. He seats him in a
throne of maple, and lays him but upon a bear's skin, the kine and
oxen are lowing in his courtyard, the birds' under the eaves of his
window call him up in the morning; and when he goes abroad only two
dogs go along, with him for his guard. At last, when he brings
AEneas into his royal cottage, he makes him say this memorable
compliment, greater than ever yet was spoken at the Escurial, the
Louvre, or our Whitehall.

Haec, inquit, limina victor
Alcides subiit, haec illum Regia cepit,
Aude, Hospes, contemnere opes, et te quoque dignum
Finge Deo, rebusque veni non asper egenis.

This humble roof, this rustic court, said he,
Received Alcides crowned with victory.
Scorn not, great guest, the steps where he has trod,
But contemn wealth, and imitate a god.

The next man whom we are much obliged to, both for his doctrine and
example, is the next best poet in the world to Virgil: his dear
friend Horace, who, when Augustus had desired Mecaenas to persuade
him to come and live domestically and at the same table with him,
and to be Secretary of State of the whole world under him, or rather
jointly with him (for he says, "ut nos in Epistolis scribendis
adjuvet,") could not be tempted to forsake his Sabine or Tiburtine
Manor, for so rich and so glorious a trouble. There was never, I
think, such an example as this in the world, that he should have so
much moderation and courage as to refuse an offer of such greatness,
and the Emperor so much generosity and good nature as not to be at
all offended with his refusal, but to retain still the same
kindness, and express it often to him in most friendly and familiar
letters, part of which are still extant. If I should produce all
the passages of this excellent author upon the several subjects
which I treat of in this book, I must be obliged to translate half
his works; of which I may say more truly than, in my opinion, he did
of Homer, "Qui quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,
plenius, et melius Chrysippo, et Crantore dicit." I shall content
myself upon this particular theme with three only, one out of his
Odes, the other out of his Satires, the third out of his Epistles,
and shall forbear to collect the suffrages of all other poets, which
may be found scattered up and down through all their writings, and
especially in Martial's. But I must not omit to make some excuse
for the bold undertaking of my own unskilful pencil upon the
beauties of a face that has been drawn before by so many great
masters, especially that I should dare to do it in Latin verses
(though of another kind) and have the confidence to translate them.
I can only say that I love the matter, and that ought to cover, many
faults; and that I run not to contend with those before me, but
follow to applaud them.

O fortunatus nimium, etc.

Oh happy (if his happiness he knows)
The country swain, on whom kind Heaven bestows
At home all riches that wise Nature needs;
Whom the just earth with easy plenty feeds.
'Tis true, no morning tide of clients comes,
And fills the painted channels of his rooms,
Adoring the rich figures, as they pass,
In tapestry wrought, or cut in living brass;
Nor is his wool superfluously dyed
With the dear poison of Assyrian pride:
Nor do Arabian perfumes vainly spoil
The native use and sweetness of his oil.
Instead of these, his calm and harmless life,
Free from th' alarms of fear, and storms of strife,
Does with substantial blessedness abound,
And the soft wings of peace cover him round:
Through artless grots the murmuring waters glide;
Thick trees both against heat and cold provide,
From whence the birds salute him; and his ground
With lowing herds, and bleating sheep does sound;
And all the rivers, and the forests nigh,
Both food and game and exercise supply.
Here a well-hardened, active youth we see,
Taught the great art of cheerful poverty.
Here, in this place alone, there still do shine
Some streaks of love, both human and divine;
From hence Astraea took her flight, and here
Still her last footsteps upon earth appear.
'Tis true, the first desire which does control
All the inferior wheels that move my soul,
Is, that the Muse me her high priest would make;
Into her holiest scenes of mystery take,
And open there to my mind's purged eye
Those wonders which to sense the gods deny;
How in the moon such chance of shapes is found
The moon, the changing world's eternal bound.
What shakes the solid earth, what strong disease
Dares trouble the firm centre's ancient ease;
What makes the sea retreat, and what advance:
Varieties too regular for chance.
What drives the chariot on of winter's light,
And stops the lazy waggon of the night.
But if my dull and frozen blood deny
To send forth spirits that raise a soul so high;
In the next place, let woods and rivers be
My quiet, though unglorious, destiny.
In life's cool vale let my low scene be laid;
Cover me, gods, with Tempe's thickest shade
Happy the man, I grant, thrice happy he
Who can through gross effects their causes see:
Whose courage from the deeps of knowledge springs.
Nor vainly fears inevitable things;
But does his walk of virtue calmly go,
Through all th' alarms of death and hell below.
Happy! but next such conquerors, happy they,
Whose humble life lies not in fortune's way.
They unconcerned from their safe distant seat
Behold the rods and sceptres of the great.
The quarrels of the mighty, without fear,
And the descent of foreign troops they hear.
Nor can even Rome their steady course misguide,
With all the lustre of her perishing pride.
Them never yet did strife or avarice draw
Into the noisy markets of the law,
The camps of gowned war, nor do they live
By rules or forms that many mad men give,
Duty for nature's bounty they repay,
And her sole laws religiously obey.
Some with bold labour plough the faithless main;
Some rougher storms in princes' courts sustain.
Some swell up their slight sails with popular fame,
Charmed with the foolish whistlings of a name.
Some their vain wealth to earth again commit;
With endless cares some brooding o'er it sit.
Country and friends are by some wretches sold,
To lie on Tyrian beds and drink in gold;
No price too high for profit can be shown;
Not brother's blood, nor hazards of their own.
Around the world in search of it they roam;
It makes e'en their Antipodes their home.
Meanwhile, the prudent husbandman is found
In mutual duties striving with his ground;
And half the year he care of that does take
That half the year grateful returns does make
Each fertile month does some new gifts present,
And with new work his industry content:
This the young lamb, that the soft fleece doth yield,
This loads with hay, and that with corn the field:
All sorts of fruit crown the rich autumn's pride:
And on a swelling hill's warm stony side,
The powerful princely purple of the vine,
Twice dyed with the redoubled sun, does shine.
In th' evening to a fair ensuing day,
With joy he sees his flocks and kids to play,
And loaded kine about his cottage stand,
Inviting with known sound the milker's hand;
And when from wholesome labour he doth come,
With wishes to be there, and wished for home,
He meets at door the softest human blisses,
His chaste wife's welcome, and dear children's kisses.
When any rural holydays invite
His genius forth to innocent delight,
On earth's fair bed beneath some sacred shade,
Amidst his equal friends carelessly laid,
He sings thee, Bacchus, patron of the vine,
The beechen bowl foams with a flood of wine,
Not to the loss of reason or of strength.
To active games and manly sport at length
Their mirth ascends, and with filled veins they see,
Who can the best at better trials be.
Such was the life the prudent Sabine chose,
From such the old Etrurian virtue rose.
Such, Remus and the god his brother led,
From such firm footing Rome grew the world's head.
Such was the life that even till now does raise
The honour of poor Saturn's golden days:
Before men born of earth and buried there,
Let in the sea their mortal fate to share,
Before new ways of perishing were sought,
Before unskilful death on anvils wrought.
Before those beasts which human life sustain,
By men, unless to the gods' use, were slain.

Beatus ille qui procul, etc.

Happy time man whom bounteous gods allow
With his own hand paternal grounds to plough!
Like the first golden mortals, happy he,
From business and the cares of money free!
No human storms break off at land his sleep,
No loud alarms of nature on the deep.
From all the cheats of law he lives secure,
Nor does th' affronts of palaces endure.
Sometimes the beauteous marriageable vine
He to the lusty bridegroom elm does join;
Sometimes he lops the barren trees around,
And grafts new life into the fruitful wound;
Sometimes he shears his flock, and sometimes he
Stores up the golden treasures of the bee.
He sees his lowing herds walk o'er the plain,
Whilst neighbouring hills low back to them again.
And when the season, rich as well as gay,
All her autumnal bounty does display,
How is he pleas'd th' increasing use to see
Of his well trusted labours bend the tree;
Of which large shares, on the glad sacred days,
He gives to friends, and to the gods repays.
With how much joy does he, beneath some shade
By aged trees, reverend embraces made,
His careless head on the fresh green recline,
His head uncharged with fear or with design.
By him a river constantly complains,
The birds above rejoice with various strains,
And in the solemn scene their orgies keep
Like dreams mixed with the gravity of sleep,
Sleep which does always there for entrance wait,
And nought within against it shuts the gate.
Nor does the roughest season of the sky,
Or sullen Jove, all sports to him deny.
He runs the mazes of the nimble hare,
His well-mouthed dogs' glad concert rends the air,
Or with game bolder, and rewarded more,
He drives into a toil the foaming boar;
Here flies the hawk to assault, and there the net
To intercept the travelling fowl is set;
And all his malice, all his craft is shown
In innocent wars, on beasts and birds alone.
This is the life from all misfortune free,
From thee, the great one, tyrant love, from thee;
And if a chaste and clean though homely wife,
Be added to the blessings of this life, -
Such as the ancient sun-burnt Sabines were,
Such as Apulia, frugal still, does bear, -
Who makes her children and the house her care
And joyfully the work of life does share;
Nor thinks herself too noble or too fine
To pin the sheepfold or to milk the kine;
Who waits at door against her husband come
From rural duties, late, and wearied home,
Where she receives him with a kind embrace,
A cheerful fire, and a more cheerful face:
And fills the bowl up to her homely lord,
And with domestic plenty load the board.
Not all the lustful shell-fish of the sea,
Dressed by the wanton hand of luxury,
Nor ortolans nor godwits nor the rest
Of costly names that glorify a feast,
Are at the princely tables better cheer
Than lamb and kid, lettuce and olives, here.

A Paraphrase upon Horace, II Book, Satire vi.

At the large foot of a fair hollow tree,
Close to ploughed ground, seated commodiously,
His ancient and hereditary house,
There dwelt a good substantial country mouse:
Frugal, and grave, and careful of the main,
Yet one who once did nobly entertain
A city mouse, well coated, sleek, and gay,
A mouse of high degree, which lost his way,
Wantonly walking forth to take the air,
And arrived early, and alighted there,
For a day's lodging. The good hearty host
(The ancient plenty of his hall to boast)
Did all the stores produce that might excite,
With various tastes, the courtier's appetite.
Fitches and beans, peason, and oats, and wheat,
And a large chestnut, the delicious meat
Which Jove himself, were he a mouse, would eat.
And for a haut goust there was mixed with these
The swerd of bacon, and the coat of cheese,
The precious relics, which at harvest he
Had gathered from the reapers' luxury.
"Freely," said he, "fall on, and never spare,
The bounteous gods will for to-morrow care."
And thus at ease on beds of straw they lay,
And to their genius sacrificed the day.
Yet the nice guest's epicurean mind
(Though breeding made him civil seem, and kind)
Despised this country feast, and still his thought
Upon the cakes and pies of London wrought.
"Your bounty and civility," said he,
"Which I'm surprised in these rude parts to see,
Show that the gods have given you a mind
Too noble for the fate which here you find.
Why should a soul, so virtuous and so great,
Lose itself thus in an obscure retreat?
Let savage beasts lodge in a country den,
You should see towns, and manners know, and men;
And taste the generous luxury of the court,
Where all the mice of quality resort;
Where thousand beauteous shes about you move,
And by high fare are pliant made to love.
We all ere long must render up our breath,
No cave or hole can shelter us from death.
Since life is so uncertain and so short,
Let's spend it all in feasting and in sport.
Come, worthy sir, come with me, and partake
All the great things that mortals happy make."
Alas, what virtue hath sufficient arms
To oppose bright honour and soft pleasure's charms?
What wisdom can their magic force repel?
It draws the reverend hermit from his cell.
It was the time, when witty poets tell,
That Phoebus into Thetis' bosom fell:
She blushed at first, and then put out the light,
And drew the modest curtains of the night.
Plainly the truth to tell, the sun was set,
When to the town our wearied travellers get.
To a lord's house, as lordly as can be,
Made for the use of pride and luxury,
They some; the gentle courtier at the door
Stops, and will hardly enter in before; -
But 'tis, sir, your command, and being so,
I'm sworn t' obedience--and so in they go.
Behind a hanging in a spacious room
(The richest work of Mortlake's noble loom)
They wait awhile their wearied limbs to rest,
Till silence should invite them to their feast,
About the hour that Cynthia's silver light
Had touched the pale meridies of the night,
At last, the various supper being done,
It happened that the company was gone
Into a room remote, servants and all,
To please their noble fancies with a ball.
Our host leads forth his stranger, and does find
All fitted to the bounties of his mind.
Still on the table half-filled dishes stood,
And with delicious bits the floor was strewed;
The courteous mouse presents him with the best,
And both with fat varieties are blest.
The industrious peasant everywhere does range,
And thanks the gods for his life's happy change.
Lo, in the midst of a well-freighted pie
They both at last glutted and wanton lie,
When see the sad reverse of prosperous fate,
And what fierce storms on mortal glories wait!
With hideous noise, down the rude servants come,
Six dogs before run barking into th' room;
The wretched gluttons fly with wild affright,
And hate the fulness which retards their flight.
Our trembling peasant wishes now in vain.
That rocks and mountains covered him again.
Oh, how the change of his poor life, he cursed!
"This, of all lives," said he, "is sure the worst.
Give me again, ye gods, my cave and wood;
With peace, let tares and acorns be my food."

A Paraphrase upon the Eightieth Epistle of the First Book of Horace.

Health, from the lover of the country, me,
Health, to the lover of the city, thee,
A difference in our souls, this only proves,
In all things else, we agree like married doves.
But the warm nest and crowded dove house thou
Dost like; I loosely fly from bough to bough;
And rivers drink, and all the shining day,
Upon fair trees or mossy rocks I play;
In fine, I live and reign when I retire
From all that you equal with heaven admire.
Like one at last from the priest's service fled,
Loathing the honied cakes, I long for bread.
Would I a house for happiness erect,
Nature alone should be the architect.
She'd build it more convenient than great,
And doubtless in the country choose her seat.
Is there a place doth better helps supply
Against the wounds of winter's cruelty?
Is there an air that gentler does assuage
The mad celestial dog's or lion's rage?
Is it not there that sleep (and only there)
Nor noise without, nor cares within does fear?
Does art through pipes a purer water bring
Than that which nature strains into a spring?
Can all your tapestries, or your pictures, show
More beauties than in herbs and flowers do grow?
Fountains and trees our wearied pride do please,
Even in the midst of gilded palaces.
And in your towns that prospect gives delight
Which opens round the country to our sight.
Men to the good, from which they rashly fly,
Return at last, and their wild luxury
Does but in vain with those true joys contend
Which nature did to mankind recommend.
The man who changes gold for burnished brass,
Or small right gems for larger ones of glass,
Is not, at length, more certain to be made
Ridiculous and wretched by the trade,
Than he who sells a solid good to buy
The painted goods of pride and vanity.
If thou be wise, no glorious fortune choose,
Which 't is but pain to keep, yet grief to lose.
For when we place even trifles in the heart,
With trifles too unwillingly we part.
An humble roof, plain bed, and homely board,
More clear, untainted pleasures do afford
Than all the tumult of vain greatness brings
To kings, or to the favourites of kings.
The horned deer, by nature armed so well,
Did with the horse in common pasture dwell;
And when they fought, the field it always won,
Till the ambitious horse begged help of man,
And took the bridle, and thenceforth did reign
Bravely alone, as lord of all the plain:
But never after could the rider get
From off his back, or from his mouth the bit.
So they, who poverty too much do fear,
To avoid that weight, a greater burden bear;
That they might power above their equals have,
To cruel masters they themselves enslave.
For gold, their liberty exchanged we see,
That fairest flower which crowns humanity.
And all this mischief does upon them light,
Only because they know not how aright
That great, but secret, happiness to prize,
That's laid up in a little, for the wise:
That is the best and easiest estate
Which to a man sits close, but not too strait.


Back to Full Books