Cowley's Essays
Abraham Cowley

Part 2 out of 2

'Tis like a shoe: it pinches, and it burns,
Too narrow; and too large it overturns.
My dearest friend, stop thy desires at last,
And cheerfully enjoy the wealth thou hast.
And, if me still seeking for more you see,
Chide and reproach, despise and laugh at me.
Money was made, not to command our will,
But all our lawful pleasures to fulfil.
Shame and woe to us, if we our wealth obey;
The horse doth with the horseman run away.

Libr. 4, Plantarum.

Blest be the man (and blest he is) whom e'er
(Placed far out of the roads of hope or fear)
A little field and little garden feeds;
The field gives all that frugal nature needs,
The wealthy garden liberally bestows
All she can ask, when she luxurious grows.
The specious inconveniences, that wait
Upon a life of business and of state,
He sees (nor does the sight disturb his rest)
By fools desired, by wicked men possessed.
Thus, thus (and this deserved great Virgil's praise)
The old Corycian yeoman passed his days,
Thus his wise life Abdolonymus spent:
The ambassadors which the great emperor sent
To offer him a crown, with wonder found
The reverend gardener hoeing of his ground;
Unwillingly and slow, and discontent,
From his loved cottage to a throne he went.
And oft he stopped in his triumphant way,
And oft looked back, and oft was heard to say,
Not without sighs, "Alas! I there forsake
A happier kingdom than I go to take."
Thus Aglaus (a man unknown to men,
But the gods knew, and therefore loved him then)
Thus lived obscurely then without a name,
Aglaus, now consigned to eternal fame.
For Gyges, the rich king, wicked and great,
Presumed at wise Apollo's Delphic seat,
Presumed to ask, "O thou, the whole world's eye,
Seest thou a man that happier is than I?"
The god, who scorned to flatter man, replied,
"Aglaus happier is." But Gyges cried,
In a proud rage, "Who can that Aglaus be?
We have heard as yet of no such king as he."
And true it was, through the whole earth around
No king of such a name was to be found.
"Is some old hero of that name alive,
Who his high race does from the gods derive?
Is it some mighty general that has done
Wonders in fight, and god-like honours won?
Is it some man of endless wealth?" said he;
"None, none of these: who can this Aglaus be?"
After long search, and vain inquiries passed,
In an obscure Arcadian vale at last
(The Arcadian life has always shady been)
Near Sopho's town (which he but once had seen)
This Aglaus, who monarchs' envy drew,
Whose happiness the gods stood witness to,
This mighty Aglaus was labouring found,
With his own hands, in his own little ground.
So, gracious God (if it may lawful be,
Among those foolish gods to mention Thee),
So let me act, on such a private stage,
The last dull scenes of my declining age;
After long toils and voyages in vain,
This quiet port let my tossed vessel gain;
Of heavenly rest this earnest to me lend,
Let my life sleep, and learn to love her end.

To J. Evelyn, Esquire.

I never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness,
as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last
of a small house and large garden, with very moderate conveniences
joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life only to
the culture of them and the study of nature.

And there (with no design beyond my wall) whole and entire to lie,
In no unactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.

Or, as Virgil has said, shorter and better for me, that I might
there studiis florere ignobilis otii, though I could wish that he
had rather said Nobilis otii when he spoke of his own. But several
accidents of my ill fortune have disappointed me hitherto, and do
still, of that felicity; for though I have made the first and
hardest step to it, by abandoning all ambitions and hopes in this
world, and by retiring from the noise of all business and almost
company, yet I stick still in the inn of a hired house and garden,
among weeds and rubbish, and without that pleasantest work of human
industry--the improvement of something which we call (not very
properly, but yet we call) our own. I am gone out from Sodom, but I
am not arrived at my little Zoar. "Oh, let me escape thither (is it
not a little one!), and my soul shall live." I do not look back
yet; but I have been forced to stop and make too many halts. You
may wonder, sir (for this seems a little too extravagant and
Pindarical for prose) what I mean by all this preface. It is to let
you know, that though I have missed, like a chemist, my great end,
yet I account my afflictions and endeavours well rewarded by
something that I have met with by-the-by, which is, that they have
produced to me some part in your kindness and esteem; and thereby
the honour of having my name so advantageously recommended to
posterity by the epistle you are pleased to prefix to the most
useful book that has been written in that kind, and which is to last
as long as months and years.

Among many other arts and excellencies which you enjoy, I am glad to
find this favourite of mine the most predominant, that you choose
this for your wife, though you have hundreds of other arts for your
concubines; though you know them, and beget sons upon them all (to
which you are rich enough to allow great legacies), yet the issue of
this seems to be designed by you to the main of the estate; you have
taken most pleasure in it, and bestowed most charges upon its
education, and I doubt not to see that book which you are pleased to
promise to the world, and of which you have given us a large earnest
in your calendar, as accomplished as anything can be expected from
an extraordinary wit and no ordinary expenses and a long experience.
I know nobody that possesses more private happiness than you do in
your garden, and yet no man who makes his happiness more public by a
free communication of the art and knowledge of it to others. All
that I myself am able yet to do is only to recommend to mankind the
search of that felicity which you instruct them how to find and to


Happy art thou whom God does bless
With the full choice of thine own happiness;
And happier yet, because thou'rt blessed
With prudence how to choose the best.
In books and gardens thou hast placed aright, -
Things which thou well dost understand,
And both dost make with thy laborious hand -
Thy noble, innocent delight,
And in thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost meet
Both pleasures more refined and sweet:
The fairest garden in her looks,
And in her mind the wisest books.
Oh! who would change these soft, yet solid joys,
For empty shows and senseless noise,
And all which rank ambition breeds,
Which seem such beauteous flowers, and are such poisonous weeds!


When God did man to his own likeness make,
As much as clay, though of the purest kind
By the Great Potter's art refined,
Could the Divine impression take,
He thought it fit to place him where
A kind of heaven, too, did appear,
As far as earth could such a likeness bear.
That Man no happiness might want,
Which earth to her first master could afford,
He did a garden for him plant
By the quick hand of his omnipotent word,
As the chief help and joy of human life,
He gave him the first gift; first, even, before a wife.


For God, the universal architect,
'T had been as easy to erect
A Louvre, or Escurial, or a tower
That might with heaven communication hold,
As Babel vainly thought to do of old.
He wanted not the skill or power,
In the world's fabric those were shown,
And the materials were all his own.
But well he knew what place would best agree
With innocence and with felicity;
And we elsewhere still seek for them in vain.
If any part of either yet remain,
If any part of either we expect,
This may our judgment in the search direct;
God the first garden made, and the first city, Cain.


Oh, blessed shades! Oh, gentle, cool retreat
From all the immoderate heat,
In which the frantic world does burn and sweat!
This does the lion-star, Ambition's rage;
This Avarice, the dog-star's thirst assuage;
Everywhere else their fatal power we see,
They make and rule man's wretched destiny;
They neither set nor disappear,
But tyrannise o'er all the year;
Whilst we ne'er feel their flame or influence here.
The birds that dance from bough to bough,
And sing above in every tree,
Are not from fears and cares more free,
Than we who lie, or sit, or walk below,
And should by right be singers too.
What prince's choir of music can excel
That which within this shade does dwell,
To which we nothing pay or give -
They, like all other poets, live
Without reward or thanks for their obliging pains.
'Tis well if they become not prey.
The whistling winds add their less artful strains,
And a grave base the murmuring fountains play.
Nature does all this harmony bestow;
But to our plants, art's music too,
The pipe, theorbo, and guitar we owe;
The lute itself, which once was green and mute,
When Orpheus struck the inspired lute,
The trees danced round, and understood
By sympathy the voice of wood.


These are the spells that to kind sleep invite,
And nothing does within resistance make;
Which yet we moderately take;
Who would not choose to be awake,
While he's encompassed round with such delight;
To the ear, the nose, the touch, the taste and sight?
When Venus would her dear Ascanius keep
A prisoner in the downy bands of sleep,
She odorous herbs and flowers beneath him spread,
As the most soft and sweetest bed;
Not her own lap would more have charmed his head.
Who that has reason and his smell
Would not among roses and jasmine dwell,
Rather than all his spirits choke,
With exhalations of dirt and smoke,
And all the uncleanness which does drown
In pestilential clouds a populous town?
The earth itself breathes better perfumes here,
Than all the female men or women there,
Not without cause, about them bear.


When Epicurus to the world had taught
That pleasure was the chiefest good,
(And was perhaps i' th' right, if rightly understood)
His life he to his doctrine brought,
And in a garden's shade that sovereign pleasure sought.
Whoever a true epicure would be,
May there find cheap and virtuous luxury.
Vitellius his table, which did hold
As many creatures as the Ark of old,
That fiscal table, to which every day
All countries did a constant tribute pay,
Could nothing more delicious afford
Than Nature's liberality,
Helped with a little art and industry,
Allows the meanest gardener's board.
The wanton taste no fish or fowl can choose
For which the grape or melon she would lose,
Though all the inhabitants of sea and air
Be listed in the glutton's bill of fare;
Yet still the fruits of earth we see
Placed the third storey high in all her luxury.


But with no sense the garden does comply,
None courts or flatters, as it does the eye;
When the great Hebrew king did almost strain
The wondrous treasures of his wealth and brain
His royal southern guest to entertain,
Though, she on silver floors did tread,
With bright Assyrian carpets on them spread
To hide the metal's poverty;
Though she looked up to roofs of gold,
And nought around her could behold
But silk and rich embroidery,
And Babylonian tapestry,
And wealthy Hiram's princely dye:
Though Ophir's starry stones met everywhere her eye;
Though she herself and her gay host were dressed
With all the shining glories of the East;
When lavish art her costly work had done;
The honour and the prize of bravery
Was by the Garden from the Palace won;
And every rose and lily there did stand
Better attired by Nature's hand:
The case thus judged against the king we see,
By one that would not be so rich, though wiser far than he.


Nor does this happy place only dispense
Such various pleasures to the sense:
Here health itself does live,
That salt of life, which does to all a relish give,
Its standing pleasure, and intrinsic wealth,
The body's virtue, and the soul's good fortune, health.
The tree life, when it in Eden stood,
Did its immortal head to heaven rear;
It lasted a tall cedar till the flood;
Now a small thorny shrub it does appear;
Nor will it thrive too everywhere:
It always here is freshest seen,
'Tis only here an evergreen.
If through the strong and beauteous fence
Of temperance and innocence,
And wholesome labours and a quiet mind,
Any diseases passage find,
They must not think here to assail
A land unarmed, or without a guard;
They must fight for it, and dispute it hard,
Before they can prevail.
Scarce any plant is growing here
Which against death some weapon does not bear,
Let cities boast that they provide
For life the ornaments of pride;
But 'tis the country and the field
That furnish it with staff and shield.


Where does the wisdom and the power divine
In a more bright and sweet reflection shine?
Where do we finer strokes and colours see
Of the Creator's real poetry,
Than when we with attention look
Upon the third day's volume of the book?
If we could open and intend our eye,
We all like Moses should espy
Even in a bush the radiant Deity.
But we despise these his inferior ways
Though no less full of miracle and praise;
Upon the flowers of heaven we gaze,
The stars of earth no wonder in us raise,
Though these perhaps do more than they
The life of mankind sway.
Although no part of mighty Nature be
More stored with beauty, power, and mystery,
Yet to encourage human industry,
God has so ordered that no other part
Such space and such dominion leaves for art.


We nowhere art do so triumphant see,
As when it grafts or buds the tree;
In other things we count it to excel,
If it a docile scholar can appear
To Nature, and but imitate her well:
It over-rules, and is her master here.
It imitates her Maker's power divine,
And changes her sometimes, and sometimes does refine:
It does, like grace, the fallen-tree restore
To its blest state of Paradise before:
Who would not joy to see his conquering hand
O'er all the vegetable world command,
And the wild giants of the wood receive
What laws he's pleased to give?
He bids the ill-natured crab produce
The gentler apple's winy juice,
The golden fruit that worthy is,
Of Galatea's purple kiss;
He does the savage hawthorn teach
To bear the medlar and the pear;
He bids the rustic plum to rear
A noble trunk, and be a peach.
Even Daphne's coyness he does mock,
And weds the cherry to her stock,
Though she refused Apollo's suit,
Even she, that chaste and virgin tree,
Now wonders at herself to see
That she's a mother made, and blushes in her fruit.


Methinks I see great Diocletian walk
In the Salonian garden's noble shade,
Which by his own imperial hands was made:
I see him smile, methinks, as he does talk
With the ambassadors, who come in vain,
To entice him to a throne again.
"If I, my friends," said he, "should to you show
All the delights which in these gardens grow;
'Tis likelier much that you should with me stay,
Than 'tis that you should carry me away;
And trust me not, my friends, if every day
I walk not here with more delight,
Than ever, after the most happy fight,
In triumph to the Capitol I rode,
To thank the gods, and to be thought myself almost a god.


Since we cannot attain to greatness, says the Sieur de Montaigne,
let us have our revenge by railing at it; this he spoke but in jest.
I believe he desired it no more than I do, and had less reason, for
he enjoyed so plentiful and honourable a fortune in a most excellent
country, as allowed him all the real conveniences of it, separated
and purged from the incommodities. If I were but in his condition,
I should think it hard measure, without being convinced of any
crime, to be sequestered from it and made one of the principal
officers of state. But the reader may think that what I now say is
of small authority, because I never was, nor ever shall be, put to
the trial; I can therefore only make my protestation.

If ever I more riches did desire
Than cleanliness and quiet do require;
If e'er ambition did my fancy cheat,
With any wish so mean as to be great,
Continue, Heaven, still from me to remove
The humble blessings of that life I love.

I know very many men will despise, and some pity me, for this
humour, as a poor-spirited fellow; but I am content, and, like
Horace, thank God for being so. Dii bene fecerunt inopis me,
quodque pusilli finxerunt animi. I confess I love littleness almost
in all things. A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house,
a little company, and a very little feast; and if I were ever to
fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore I hope I
have done with it) it would be, I think, with prettiness rather than
with majestical beauty. I would neither wish that my mistress, nor
my fortune, should be a bona roba, nor, as Homer used to describe
his beauties, like a daughter of great Jupiter, for the stateliness
and largeness of her person, but, as Lucretius says, "Parvula,
pumilio, [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], tota merum sal."

Where there is one man of this, I believe there are a thousand of
Senecio's mind, whose ridiculous affectation of grandeur Seneca the
elder describes to this effect. Senecio was a man of a turbid and
confused wit, who could not endure to speak any but mighty words and
sentences, till this humour grew at last into so notorious a habit,
or rather disease, as became the sport of the whole town: he would
have no servants but huge massy fellows, no plate or household stuff
but thrice as big as the fashion; you may believe me, for I speak it
without raillery, his extravagancy came at last into such a madness
that he would not put on a pair of shoes each of which was not big
enough for both his feet; he would eat nothing but what was great,
nor touch any fruit but horse-plums and pound-pears. He kept a
concubine that was a very giantess, and made her walk, too, always
in a chiopins, till at last he got the surname of Senecio Grandio,
which, Messala said, was not his cognomen, but his cognomentum.
When he declaimed for the three hundred Lacedaemonians, who also
opposed Xerxes' army of above three hundred thousand, he stretched
out his arms and stood on tiptoes, that he might appear the taller,
and cried out in a very loud voice, "I rejoice, I rejoice!" We
wondered, I remember, what new great fortune had befallen his
eminence. "Xerxes," says he, "is all mine own. He who took away
the sight of the sea with the canvas veils of so many ships . . . "
and then he goes on so, as I know not what to make of the rest,
whether it be the fault of the edition, or the orator's own burly
way of nonsense.

This is the character that Seneca gives of this hyperbolical fop,
whom we stand amazed at, and yet there are very few men who are not,
in some things, and to some degree, grandios. Is anything more
common than to see our ladies of quality wear such high shoes as
they cannot walk in without one to lead them? and a gown as long
again as their body, so that they cannot stir to the next room
without a page or two to hold it up? I may safely say that all the
ostentation of our grandees is just like a train, of no use in the
world, but horribly cumbersome and incommodious. What is all this
but spice of grandio? How tedious would this be if we were always
bound to it? I do believe there is no king who would not rather be
deposed than endure every day of his reign all the ceremonies of his
coronation. The mightiest princes are glad to fly often from these
majestic pleasures (which is, methinks, no small disparagement to
them), as it were for refuge, to the most contemptible
divertisements and meanest recreations of the vulgar, nay, even of
children. One of the most powerful and fortunate princes of the
world of late, could find out no delight so satisfactory as the
keeping of little singing birds, and hearing of them and whistling
to them. What did the emperors of the whole world? If ever any men
had the free and full enjoyment of all human greatness (nay, that
would not suffice, for they would be gods too) they certainly
possessed it; and yet one of them, who styled himself "Lord and God
of the Earth," could not tell how to pass his whole day pleasantly,
without spending constant two or three hours in catching of flies,
and killing them with a bodkin, as if his godship had been
Beelzebub. One of his predecessors, Nero (who never put any bounds,
nor met with any stop to his appetite), could divert himself with no
pastime more agreeable than to run about the streets all night in a
disguise, and abuse the women and affront the men whom he met, and
sometimes to beat them, and sometimes to be beaten by them. This
was one of his imperial nocturnal pleasures; his chiefest in the day
was to sing and play upon a fiddle, in the habit of a minstrel, upon
the public stage; he was prouder of the garlands that were given to
his divine voice (as they called it then) in those kind of prizes,
than all his forefathers were of their triumphs over nations. He
did not at his death complain that so mighty an emperor, and the
last of all the Caesarian race of deities, should be brought to so
shameful and miserable an end, but only cried out, "Alas! what pity
it is that so excellent a musician should perish in this manner!"
His uncle Claudius spent half his time at playing at dice; that was
the main fruit of his sovereignty. I omit the madnesses of
Caligula's delights, and the execrable sordidness of those of
Tiberius. Would one think that Augustus himself, the highest and
most fortunate of mankind, a person endowed too with many excellent
parts of nature, should be so hard put to it sometimes for want of
recreations, as to be found playing at nuts and bounding-stones with
little Syrian and Moorish boys, whose company he took delight in,
for their prating and their wantonness?

Was it for this, that Rome's best blood he spilt,
With so much falsehood, so much guilt?
Was it for this that his ambition strove
To equal Caesar first, and after Jove?
Greatness is barren sure of solid joys;
Her merchandise, I fear, is all in toys;
She could not else sure so uncivil be,
To treat his universal majesty,
His new created Deity,
With nuts and bounding-stones and boys.

But we must excuse her for this meagre entertainment; she has not
really wherewithal to make such feasts as we imagine; her guests
must be contented sometimes with but slender cates, and with the
same cold meats served over and over again, even till they become
nauseous. When you have pared away all the vanity, what solid and
natural contentment does there remain which may not be had with five
hundred pounds a year? not so many servants or horses, but a few
good ones, which will do all the business as well; not so many
choice dishes at every meal; but at several meals all of them, which
makes them both the more healthy and dine more pleasant; not so rich
garments nor so frequent changes, but as warm and as comely, and so
frequent change, too, as is every jot as good for the master, though
not for the tailor or valet-de-chambre; not such a stately palace,
nor gilt rooms, nor the costlier sorts of tapestry, but a convenient
brick house, with decent wainscot and pretty forest-work hangings.
Lastly (for I omit all other particulars, and will end with that
which I love most in both conditions), not whole woods cut in walks,
nor vast parks, nor fountain or cascade gardens, but herb and flower
and fruit gardens, which are more useful, and the water every whit
as clear and wholesome as if it darted from the breasts of a marble
nymph or the urn of a river-god. If for all this you like better
the substance of that former estate of life, do but consider the
inseparable accidents of both: servitude, disquiet, danger, and
most commonly guilt, inherent in the one; in the other, liberty,
tranquillity, security, and innocence: and when you have thought
upon this, you will confess that to be a truth which appeared to you
before but a ridiculous paradox, that a low fortune is better
guarded and attended than a high one. If indeed, we look only upon
the flourishing head of the tree, it appears a most beautiful

- Sed quantum vertice ad auras
AEtherias, tantum radice ad Tartara tendit.

As far up towards heaven the branches grow,
So far the root sinks down to hell below.

Another horrible disgrace to greatness is, that it is for the most
part in pitiful want and distress. What a wonderful thing is this,
unless it degenerate into avarice, and so cease to be greatness. It
falls perpetually into such necessities as drive it into all the
meanest and most sordid ways of borrowing, cozenage, and robbery,
Mancipiis locopules, eget aris Cappadocum Rex. This is the case of
almost all great men, as well as of the poor King of Cappadocia.
They abound with slaves, but are indigent of money. The ancient
Roman emperors, who had the riches of the whole world for their
revenue, had wherewithal to live, one would have thought, pretty
well at ease, and to have been exempt from the pressures of extreme
poverty. But yet with most of them it was much otherwise, and they
fell perpetually into such miserable penury, that they were forced
to devour or squeeze most of their friends and servants, to cheat
with infamous projects, to ransack and pillage all their provinces.
This fashion of imperial grandeur is imitated by all inferior and
subordinate sorts of it, as if it were a point of honour. They must
be cheated of a third part of their estates, two other thirds they
must expend in vanity, so that they remain debtors for all the
necessary provisions of life, and have no way to satisfy those debts
but out of the succours and supplies of rapine; "as riches
increase," says Solomon, "so do the mouths that devour it." The
master mouth has no more than before; the owner, methinks, is like
Genus in the fable, who is perpetually winding a rope of hay and an
ass at the end perpetually eating it. Out of these inconveniences
arises naturally one more, which is, that no greatness can be
satisfied or contented with itself: still, if it could mount up a
little higher, it would be happy; if it could but gain that point,
it would obtain all its desires; but yet at last, when it is got up
to the very top of the peak of Teneriffe, it is in very great danger
of breaking its neck downwards, but in no possibility of ascending
upwards into the seat of tranquillity above the moon. The first
ambitious men in the world, the old giants, are said to have made an
heroical attempt of scaling Heaven in despite of the gods, and they
cast Ossa upon Olympus and Pelion upon Ossa, two or three mountains
more they thought would have done their business, but the thunder
spoiled all the work when they were come up to the third storey;

And what a noble plot was crossed,
And what a brave design was lost.

A famous person of their offspring, the late giant of our nation,
when, from the condition of a very inconsiderable captain, he had
made himself lieutenant-general of an army of little Titans, which
was his first mountain; and afterwards general, which was his
second; and after that absolute tyrant of three kingdoms, which was
the third, and almost touched the heaven which he affected; is
believed to have died with grief and discontent because he could not
attain to the honest name of a king, and the old formality of a
crown, though he had before exceeded the power by a wicked
usurpation. If he could have compassed that, he would perhaps have
wanted something else that is necessary to felicity, and pined away
for the want of the title of an emperor or a god. The reason of
this is, that greatness has no reality in nature, but is a creature
of the fancy--a notion that consists only in relation and
comparison. It is indeed an idol; but St. Paul teaches us that an
idol is nothing in the world. There is in truth no rising or
meridian of the sun, but only in respect to several places: there
is no right or left, no upper hand in nature; everything is little
and everything is great according as it is diversely compared.
There may be perhaps some villages in Scotland or Ireland where I
might be a great man; and in that case I should be like Caesar--you
would wonder how Caesar and I should be like one another in
anything--and choose rather to be the first man of the village than
second at Rome. Our Country is called Great Britain, in regard only
of a lesser of the same name; it would be but a ridiculous epithet
for it when we consider it together with the kingdom of China.
That, too, is but a pitiful rood of ground in comparison of the
whole earth besides; and this whole globe of earth, which we account
so immense a body, is but one point or atom in relation to those
numberless worlds that are scattered up and down in the infinite
space of the sky which we behold. The other many inconveniences of
grandeur I have spoken of dispersedly in several chapters, and shall
end this with an ode of Horace, not exactly copied but rudely

Odi profanum vulgus, etc.


Hence, ye profane; I hate ye all;
Both the great vulgar, and the small.
To virgin minds, which yet their native whiteness hold,
Not yet discoloured with the love of gold
(That jaundice of the soul,
Which makes it look so gilded and so foul),
To you, ye very few, these truths I tell;
The muse inspires my song, hark, and observe it well.


We look on men, and wonder at such odds
'Twixt things that were the same by birth;
We look on kings as giants of the earth,
These giants are but pigmies to the gods.
The humblest bush and proudest oak
Are but of equal proof against the thunder-stroke.
Beauty and strength, and wit, and wealth, and power
Have their short flourishing hour,
And love to see themselves, and smile,
And joy in their pre-eminence a while;
Even so in the same land,
Poor weeds, rich corn, gay flowers together stand;
Alas, death mows down all with an impartial hand.


And all you men, whom greatness does so please,
Ye feast, I fear, like Damocles.
If you your eyes could upwards move,
(But you, I fear, think nothing is above)
You would perceive by what a little thread
The sword still hangs over your head.
No tide of wine would drown your cares,
No mirth or music over-noise your fears;
The fear of death would you so watchful keep,
As not to admit the image of it, sleep.


Sleep is a god too proud to wait in palaces;
And yet so humble, too, as not to scorn
The meanest country cottages;
His poppy grows among the corn.
The halcyon sleep will never build his nest
In any stormy breast.
'Tis not enough that he does find
Clouds and darkness in their mind;
Darkness but half his work will do,
'Tis not enough; he must find quiet too.


The man who, in all wishes he does make,
Does only Nature's counsel take,
That wise and happy man will never fear
The evil aspects of the year,
Nor tremble, though two comets should appear.
He does not look in almanacks to see,
Whether he fortunate shall be;
Let Mars and Saturn in the heavens conjoin,
And what they please against the world design,
So Jupiter within him shine.


If of their pleasures and desires no end be found;
God to their cares and fears will set no bound.
What would content you? Who can tell?
Ye fear so much to lose what you have got
As if ye liked it well.
Ye strive for more, as if ye liked it not.
Go, level hills, and fill up seas,
Spare nought that may your wanton fancy please;
But trust me, when you have done all this,
Much will be missing still, and much will be amiss.


There are two sorts of avarice; the one is but of a bastard kind;
and that is, the rapacious appetite of gain, not for its own sake,
but for the pleasure of refunding it immediately through all the
channels of pride and luxury. The other is the true kind, and
properly so called; which is a restless and unsatiable desire of
riches, not for any further end of use, but only to hoard, and
preserve, and perpetually increase them. The covetous man of the
first kind is like a greedy ostrich, which devours any metal, but it
is with an intent to feed upon it, and in effect it makes a shift to
digest and excern it. The second is like the foolish chough, which
loves to steal money only to hide it. The first does much harm to
mankind, and a little good too, to some few. The second does good
to none; no, not to himself. The first can make no excuse to God,
or angels, or rational men for his actions. The second can give no
reason or colour, not to the devil himself, for what he does: he is
a slave to Mammon without wages. The first makes a shift to be
beloved; aye, and envied, too, by some people. The second is the
universal object of hatred and contempt. There is no vice has been
so pelted with good sentences, and especially by the poets, who have
pursued it with stories and fables, and allegories and allusions;
and moved, as we say, every stone to fling at it, among all which, I
do not remember a more fine and gentlemen-like correction than that
which was given it by one line of Ovid's.

Desunt luxuriae malta, avaritiae omnia.
Much is wanting to luxury; all to avarice

To which saying I have a mind to add one member and render it thus:-

Poverty wants some, luxury many, avarice all things.

Somebody says of a virtuous and wise man, that having nothing, he
has all. This is just his antipode, who, having all things, yet has
nothing. He is a guardian eunuch to his beloved gold: Audivi eos
amatores esse maximos sed nil potesse. They are the fondest lovers,
but impotent to enjoy.

And, oh, what man's condition can be worse
Than his, whom plenty starves, and blessings curse?
The beggars but a common fate deplore,
The rich poor man's emphatically poor.

I wonder how it comes to pass that there has never been any law made
against him. Against him, do I say? I mean for him, as there is a
public provision made for all other madmen. It is very reasonable
that the king should appoint some persons (and I think the courtiers
would not be against this proposition) to manage his estate during
his life (for his heirs commonly need not that care), and out of it
to make it their business to see that he should not want alimony
befitting his condition, which he could never get out of his own
cruel fingers. We relieve idle vagrants and counterfeit beggars,
but have no care at all of these really poor men, who are, methinks,
to be respectfully treated in regard of their quality. I might be
endless against them, but I am almost choked with the superabundance
of the matter. Too much plenty impoverishes me as it does them. I
will conclude this odious subject with part of Horace's first
Satire, which take in his own familiar style:-

I admire, Maecenas, how it comes to pass,
That no man ever yet contented was,
Nor is, nor perhaps will be, with that state
In which his own choice plants him, or his fate.
Happy the merchant! the old soldier cries.
The merchant, beaten with tempestuous skies
Happy the soldier! one half-hour to thee
Gives speedy death or glorious victory.
The lawyer, knocked up early from his rest
By restless clients, calls the peasant blest.
The peasant, when his labours ill succeed,
Envies the mouth which only talk does feed.
'Tis not, I think you'll say, that I want store
Of instances, if here I add no more,
They are enough to reach at least a mile
Beyond long Orator Fabius his style.
But hold, you whom no fortune e'er endears,
Gentlemen, malcontents, and mutineers,
Who bounteous Jove so often cruel call,
Behold, Jove's now resolved to please you all.
Thou, soldier, be a merchant; merchant, thou
A soldier be; and lawyer to the plough.
Change all your stations straight. Why do they stay?
The devil a man will change now when he may.
Were I in General Jove's abused case,
By Jove, I'd cudgel this rebellious race;
But he's too good; be all, then, as you were;
However, make the best of what you are,
And in that state be cheerful and rejoice,
Which either was your fate or was your choice.
No; they must labour yet, and sweat and toil,
And very miserable be awhile.
But 'tis with a design only to gain
What may their age with plenteous ease maintain;
The prudent pismire does this lesson teach,
And industry to lazy mankind preach.
The little drudge does trot about and sweat,
Nor does he straight devour all he can get,
But in his temperate mouth carries it home,
A stock for winter which he knows must come.
And when the rolling world to creatures here
Turns up the deformed wrong side of the year,
And shuts him in with storms and cold and wet,
He cheerfully does his past labours eat.
Oh, does he so? your wise example, the ant
Does not at all times rest, and plenty want.
But, weighing justly a mortal ant's condition,
Divides his life 'twixt labour and fruition.
Thee neither heat, nor storms, nor wet, nor cold
From thy unnatural diligence can withhold,
To the Indies thou wouldst run rather than see
Another, though a friend, richer than thee.
Fond man! what good or beauty can be found
In heaps of treasure buried under ground?
Which, rather than diminished e'er to see,
Thou wouldst thyself, too, buried with them be
And what's the difference is't not quite as bad
Never to use, as never to have had?
In thy vast barns millions of quarters store,
Thy belly, for all that, will hold no more
Than mine does. Every baker makes much bread,
What then? He's with no more than others fed.
Do you within the bounds of Nature live,
And to augment your own you need not strive;
One hundred acres will no less for you
Your life's whole business than ten thousand do.
But pleasant 'tis to take from a great store;
What, man? though you're resolved to take no more
Than I do from a small one; if your will
Be but a pitcher or a pot to fill,
To some great river for it must you go,
When a clear spring just at your feet does flow?
Give me the spring which does to human use,
Safe, easy, and untroubled stores produce;
He who scorns these, and needs will drink at Nile,
Must run the danger of the crocodile;
And of the rapid stream itself which may,
At unawares bear him perhaps away.
In a full flood Tantalus stands, his skin
Washed o'er in vain, for ever dry within;
He catches at the stream with greedy lips,
From his touched mouth the wanton torment slips.
You laugh now, and expand your careful brow:
'Tis finely said, but what's all this to you?
Change but the name, this fable is thy story,
Thou in a flood of useless wealth dost glory,
Which thou canst only touch, but never taste;
The abundance still, and still the want does last.
The treasures of the gods thou wouldst not spare,
But when they're made thine own, they sacred are,
And must be kept with reverence; as if thou
No other use of precious gold didst know
But that of curious pictures to delight
With the fair stamp thy virtuoso sight.
The only true and genuine use is this,
To buy the things which nature cannot miss
Without discomfort, oil, and vital bread.
And wine by which the life of life is fed,
And all those few things else by which we live
All that remains is given for thee to give.
If cares and troubles, envy, grief, and fear,
The bitter fruits be which fair riches bear,
If a new poverty grow out of store,
The old plain way, ye gods! let me be poor.

"Inclusam Danaen turris ahenea."

A tower of brass, one would have said,
And locks, and bolts, and iron bars,
And guards as strict as in the heat of wars
Might have preserved one innocent maidenhood.
The jealous father thought he well might spare
All further jealous care;
And as he walked, to himself alone he smiled
To think how Venus' arts he had beguiled;
And when he slept his rest was deep,
But Venus laughed to see and hear him sleep.
She taught the amorous Jove
A magical receipt in love,
Which armed him stronger and which helped him more
Than all his thunder did and his almightyship before.


She taught him love's elixir, by which art
His godhead into gold he did convert;
No guards did then his passage stay,
He passed with ease, gold was the word;
Subtle as lightning, bright, and quick, and fierce,
Gold through doors and walls did pierce;
And as that works sometimes upon the sword,
Melted the maiden dread away,
Even in the secret scabbard where it lay.
The prudent Macedonian king,
To blow up towns, a golden mine did spring;
He broke through gates with this petar,
'Tis the great art of peace, the engine 'tis of war,
And fleets and armies follow it afar;
The ensign 'tis at land, and 'tis the seaman's scar.


Let all the world slave to this tyrant be,
Creature to this disguised deity,
Yet it shall never conquer me.
A guard of virtues will not let it pass,
And wisdom is a tower of stronger brass.
The muses' laurel, round my temples spread,
Does from this lightning's force secure my head,
Nor will I lift it up so high,
As in the violent meteor's way to lie.
Wealth for its power do we honour and adore?
The things we hate, ill fate, and death, have more.


From towns and courts, camps of the rich and great,
The vast Xerxean army, I retreat,
And to the small Laconic forces fly
Which hold the straits of poverty.
Cellars and granaries in vain we fill
With all the bounteous summer's store:
If the mind thirst and hunger still,
The poor rich man's emphatically poor.
Slaves to the things we too much prize,
We masters grow of all that we despise.


A field of corn, a fountain, and a wood,
Is all the wealth by nature understood.
The monarch on whom fertile Nile bestows
All which that grateful earth can bear,
Deceives himself, if he suppose
That more than this falls to his share.
Whatever an estate does beyond this afford,
Is not a rent paid to the Lord;
But is a tax illegal and unjust,
Exacted from it by the tyrant lust.
Much will always wanting be,
To him who much desires. Thrice happy he
To whom the wise indulgency of Heaven,
With sparing hand but just enough has given.


If twenty thousand naked Americans were not able to resist the
assaults of but twenty well-armed Spaniards, I see little
possibility for one honest man to defend himself against twenty
thousand knaves, who are all furnished cap-a-pie with the defensive
arms of worldly prudence, and the offensive, too, of craft and
malice. He will find no less odds than this against him if he have
much to do in human affairs. The only advice, therefore, which I
can give him is, to be sure not to venture his person any longer in
the open campaign, to retreat and entrench himself, to stop up all
avenues, and draw up all bridges against so numerous an enemy. The
truth of it is, that a man in much business must either make himself
a knave, or else the world will make him a fool: and if the injury
went no farther than the being laughed at, a wise man would content
himself with the revenge of retaliation: but the case is much
worse, for these civil cannibals too, as well as the wild ones, not
only dance about such a taken stranger, but at last devour him. A
sober man cannot get too soon out of drunken company; though they be
never so kind and merry among themselves, it is not unpleasant only,
but dangerous to him. Do ye wonder that a virtuous man should love
to be alone? It is hard for him to be otherwise; he is so, when he
is among ten thousand; neither is the solitude so uncomfortable to
be alone without any other creature, as it is to be alone in the
midst of wild beasts. Man is to man all kind of beasts--a fawning
dog, a roaring lion, a thieving fox, a robbing wolf, a dissembling
crocodile, a treacherous decoy, and a rapacious vulture. The
civilest, methinks, of all nations, are those whom we account the
most barbarous; there is some moderation and good nature in the
Toupinambaltians who eat no men but their enemies, whilst we learned
and polite and Christian Europeans, like so many pikes and sharks,
prey upon everything that we can swallow. It is the great boast of
eloquence and philosophy, that they first congregated men dispersed,
united them into societies, and built up the houses and the walls of
cities. I wish they could unravel all they had woven; that we might
have our woods and our innocence again instead of our castles and
our policies. They have assembled many thousands of scattered
people into one body: it is true, they have done so, they have
brought them together into cities to cozen, and into armies to
murder one another; they found them hunters and fishers of wild
creatures, they have made them hunters and fishers of their
brethren; they boast to have reduced them to a state of peace, when
the truth is they have only taught them an art of war; they have
framed, I must confess, wholesome laws for the restraint of vice,
but they raised first that devil which now they conjure and cannot
bind; though there were before no punishments for wickedness, yet
there was less committed because there were no rewards for it. But
the men who praise philosophy from this topic are much deceived; let
oratory answer for itself, the tinkling, perhaps, of that may unite
a swarm: it never was the work of philosophy to assemble
multitudes, but to regulate only, and govern them when they were
assembled, to make the best of an evil, and bring them, as much as
is possible, to unity again. Avarice and ambition only were the
first builders of towns, and founders of empire; they said, "Go to,
let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven,
and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face
of the earth." What was the beginning of Rome, the metropolis of
all the world? what was it but a concourse of thieves, and a
sanctuary of criminals? it was justly named by the augury of no less
than twelve vultures, and the founder cemented his walls with the
blood of his brother.

Not unlike to this was the beginning even of the first town, too, in
the world, and such is the original sin of most cities: their
actual increase daily with their age and growth; the more people,
the more wicked all of them. Every one brings in his part to
inflame the contagion, which becomes at last so universal and so
strong, that no precepts can be sufficient preservatives, nor
anything secure our safety, but flight from among the infected. We
ought, in the choice of a situation, to regard above all things the
healthfulness of the place, and the healthfulness of it for the mind
rather than for the body. But suppose (which is hardly to be
supposed) we had antidote enough against this poison; nay, suppose,
further, we were always and at all places armed and provided both
against the assaults of hostility and the mines of treachery, it
will yet be but an uncomfortable life to be ever in alarms; though
we were compassed round with fire to defend ourselves from wild
beasts, the lodging would be unpleasant, because we must always be
obliged to watch that fire, and to fear no less the defects of our
guard than the diligences of our enemy. The sum of this is, that a
virtuous man is in danger to be trod upon and destroyed in the crowd
of his contraries; nay, which is worse, to be changed and corrupted
by them, and that it is impossible to escape both these
inconveniences without so much caution as will take away the whole
quiet, that is, the happiness of his life. Ye see, then, what he
may lose; but, I pray, what can he get there? Quid Romae faciam?
Mentiri nescio. What should a man of truth and honesty do at Rome?
he can neither understand, nor speak the language of the place; a
naked man may swim in the sea, but it is not the way to catch fish
there; they are likelier to devour him than he them, if he bring no
nets and use no deceits. I think, therefore, it was wise and
friendly advice which Martial gave to Fabian when he met him newly
arrived at Rome.

Honest and poor, faithful in word and thought;
What has thee, Fabian, to the city brought?
Thou neither the buffoon nor bawd canst play,
Nor with false whispers the innocent betray:
Nor corrupt wives, nor from rich beldams get
A living by thy industry and sweat:
Nor with vain promises and projects cheat,
Nor bribe or flatter any of the great.
But you're a man of learning, prudent, just:
A man of courage, firm, and fit for trust.
Why, you may stay, and live unenvied here;
But, 'faith! go back, and keep you where you were.

Nay, if nothing of all this were in the case, yet the very sight of
uncleanness is loathsome to the cleanly; the sight of folly and
impiety vexatious to the wise and pious.

Lucretius, by his favour, though a good poet, was but an ill-natured
man, when he said, "It was delightful to see other men in a great
storm." And no less ill-natured should I think Democritus, who
laughed at all the world, but that he retired himself so much out of
it that we may perceive he took no great pleasure in that kind of
mirth. I have been drawn twice or thrice by company to go to
Bedlam, and have seen others very much delighted with the
fantastical extravagancy of so many various madnesses, which upon me
wrought so contrary an effect, that I always returned not only
melancholy, but even sick with the sight. My compassion there was
perhaps too tender, for I meet a thousand madmen abroad, without any
perturbation, though, to weigh the matter justly, the total loss of
reason is less deplorable than the total depravation of it. An
exact judge of human blessings, of riches, honours, beauty, even of
wit itself, should pity the abuse of them more than the want.

Briefly, though a wise man could pass never so securely through the
great roads of human life, yet he will meet perpetually with so many
objects and occasions of compassion, grief, shame, anger, hatred,
indignation, and all passions but envy (for he will find nothing to
deserve that) that he had better strike into some private path; nay,
go so far, if he could, out of the common way, ut nec facta audiat
Pelopidarum; that he might not so much as hear of the actions of the
sons of Adam. But, whither shall we fly, then? into the deserts,
like the ancient hermits?

Qua terra patet fera regnat Erynnis.
In facinus jurasse putes.

One would think that all mankind had bound themselves by an oath to
do all the wickedness they can; that they had all, as the Scripture
speaks, sold themselves to sin: the difference only is, that some
are a little more crafty (and but a little, God knows) in making of
the bargain. I thought, when I went first to dwell in the country,
that without doubt I should have met there with the simplicity of
the old poetical golden age: I thought to have found no inhabitants
there, but such as the shepherds of Sir Philip Sidney in Arcadia, or
of Monsieur d'Urfe upon the banks of Lignon; and began to consider
with myself, which way I might recommend no less to posterity the
happiness and innocence of the men of Chertsey: but to confess the
truth, I perceived quickly, by infallible demonstrations, that I was
still in old England, and not in Arcadia, or La Forrest; that if I
could not content myself with anything less than exact fidelity in
human conversation, I had almost as good go back and seek for it in
the Court, or the Exchange, or Westminster Hall. I ask again, then,
whither shall we fly, or what shall we do? The world may so come in
a man's way that he cannot choose but salute it; he must take heed,
though, not to go a whoring after it. If by any lawful vocation or
just necessity men happen to be married to it, I can only give them
St. Paul's advice: "Brethren, the time is short; it remains that
they that have wives be as though they had none. But I would that
all men were even as I myself."

In all cases they must be sure that they do mundum ducere, and not
mundo nubere. They must retain the superiority and headship over
it: happy are they who can get out of the sight of this deceitful
beauty, that they may not be led so much as into temptation; who
have not only quitted the metropolis, but can abstain from ever
seeing the next market town of their country.


Happy the man who his whole time doth bound
Within the enclosure of his little ground.
Happy the man whom the same humble place
(The hereditary cottage of his race)
From his first rising infancy has known,
And by degrees sees gently bending down,
With natural propension to that earth
Which both preserved his life, and gave him birth.
Him no false distant lights by fortune set,
Could ever into foolish wanderings get.
He never dangers either saw, or feared,
The dreadful storms at sea he never heard.
He never heard the shrill alarms of war,
Or the worse noises of the lawyers' bar.
No change of consuls marks to him the year,
The change of seasons is his calendar.
The cold and heat winter and summer shows,
Autumn by fruits, and spring by flowers he knows.
He measures time by landmarks, and has found
For the whole day the dial of his ground.
A neighbouring wood born with himself he sees,
And loves his old contemporary trees.
Has only heard of near Verona's name,
And knows it, like the Indies, but by fame.
Does with a like concernment notice take
Of the Red Sea, and of Benacus lake.
Thus health and strength he to a third age enjoys,
And sees a long posterity of boys.
About the spacious world let other roam,
The voyage Life is longest made at home.


If you should see a man who were to cross from Dover to Calais, run
about very busy and solicitous, and trouble himself many weeks
before in making provisions for the voyage, would you commend him
for a cautious and discreet person, or laugh at him for a timorous
and impertinent coxcomb? A man who is excessive in his pains and
diligence, and who consumes the greatest part of his time in
furnishing the remainder with all conveniences and even
superfluities, is to angels and wise men no less ridiculous; he does
as little consider the shortness of his passage that he might
proportion his cares accordingly. It is, alas, so narrow a strait
betwixt the womb and the grave, that it might be called the Pas de
Vie, as well as the Pas de Calais. We are all [Greek text which
cannot be reproduced] as Pindar calls us, creatures of a day, and
therefore our Saviour bounds our desires to that little space; as if
it were very probable that every day should be our last, we are
taught to demand even bread for no longer a time. The sun ought not
to set upon our covetousness; no more than upon our anger; but as to
God Almighty a thousand years are as one day, so, in direct
opposition, one day to the covetous man is as a thousand years, tam
brevi fortis jaculatur aevo multa, so far he shoots beyond his butt.
One would think he were of the opinion of the Millenaries, and hoped
for so long a reign upon earth. The patriarchs before the flood,
who enjoyed almost such a life, made, we are sure, less stores for
the maintaining of it; they who lived nine hundred years scarcely
provided for a few days; we who live but a few days, provide at
least for nine hundred years. What a strange alteration is this of
human life and manners! and yet we see an imitation of it in every
man's particular experience, for we begin not the cares of life till
it be half spent, and still increase them as that decreases. What
is there among the actions of beasts so illogical and repugnant to
reason? When they do anything which seems to proceed from that
which we call reason, we disdain to allow them that perfection, and
attribute it only to a natural instinct. If we could but learn to
number our days (as we are taught to pray that we might) we should
adjust much better our other accounts, but whilst we never consider
an end of them, it is no wonder if our cares for them be without end
too. Horace advises very wisely, and in excellent good words,
spatio brevi spem longam reseces; from a short life cut off all
hopes that grow too long. They must be pruned away like suckers
that choke the mother-plant, and hinder it from bearing fruit. And
in another place to the same sense, Vitae summa brevis spem nos
vetat inchoare longam, which Seneca does not mend when he says, Oh
quanta dementia est spes longas inchoantium! but he gives an example
there of an acquaintance of his named Senecio, who from a very mean
beginning by great industry in turning about of money through all
ways of gain, had attained to extraordinary riches, but died on a
sudden after having supped merrily, In ipso actu bene cedentium
rerum, in ipso procurrentis fortunae impetu; in the full course of
his good fortune, when she had a high tide and a stiff gale and all
her sails on; upon which occasion he cries, out of Virgil:

Insere nunc Melibaee pyros, pone ordine vites:

Go to, Melibaeus, now,
Go graff thy orchards and thy vineyards plant;
Behold the fruit!

For this Senecio I have no compassion, because he was taken, as we
say, in ipso facto, still labouring in the work of avarice; but the
poor rich man in St. Luke (whose case was not like this) I could
pity, methinks, if the Scripture would permit me, for he seems to
have been satisfied at last; he confesses he had enough for many
years; he bids his soul take its ease; and yet for all that, God
says to him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of
thee, and the things thou hast laid up, whom shall they belong to?"
Where shall we find the causes of this bitter reproach and terrible
judgment; we may find, I think, two, and God perhaps saw more.
First, that he did not intend true rest to the soul, but only to
change the employments of it from avarice to luxury; his design is
to eat and to drink, and to be merry. Secondly, that he went on too
long before he thought of resting; the fulness of his old barns had
not sufficed him, he would stay till he was forced to build new
ones, and God meted out to him in the same measure; since he would
have more riches than his life could contain, God destroyed his life
and gave the fruits of it to another.

Thus God takes away sometimes the man from his riches, and no less
frequently riches from the man: what hope can there be of such a
marriage where both parties are so fickle and uncertain; by what
bonds can such a couple be kept long together?


Why dost thou heap up wealth, which thou must quit,
Or, what is worse, be left by it?
Why dost thou load thyself, when thou'rt to fly,
O man ordained to die?


Why dost thou build up stately rooms on high,
Thou who art underground to lie?
Thou sow'st and plantest, but no fruit must see;
For death, alas? is sowing thee.


Suppose, thou fortune couldst to tameness bring,
And clip or pinion her wine;
Suppose thou couldst on fate so far prevail
As not to cut off thy entail.


Yet death at all that subtlety will laugh,
Death will that foolish gardener mock
Who does a slight and annual plant engraff,
Upon a lasting stock.


Thou dost thyself wise and industrious deem;
A mighty husband thou wouldst seem;
Fond man! like a bought slave, thou, all the while
Dost but for others sweat and toil.


Officious fool! that needs must meddling be
In business that concerns not thee!
For when to future years thou extend'st thy cares,
Thou deal'st in other men's affairs.


Even aged men, as if they truly were
Children again, for age prepare,
Pro visions for long travail they design
In the last point of their short line.


Wisely the ant against poor winter hoards
The stock which summer's wealth affords,
In grasshoppers, that must at autumn die,
How vain were such an industry.


Of power and honour the deceitful light
Might half excuse our cheated sight,
If it of life the whole small time would stay,
And be our sunshine all the day.


Like lightning that, begot but in a cloud,
Though shining bright, and speaking loud,
Whilst it begins, concludes its violent race,
And where it gilds, it wounds the place.


Oh, scene of fortune, which dost fair appear
Only to men that stand not near.
Proud poverty, that tinsel bravery wears,
And like a rainbow, painted tears.


Be prudent, and the shore in prospect keep,
In a weak boat trust not the deep.
Placed beneath envy, above envying rise;
Pity great men, great things despise.


The wise example of the heavenly lark.
Thy fellow poet, Cowley, mark,
Above the clouds let thy proud music sound,
Thy humble nest build on the ground.


A letter to Mr. S. L.

I am glad that you approve and applaud my design of withdrawing
myself from all tumult and business of the world and consecrating
the little rest of my time to those studies to which nature had so
motherly inclined me, and from which fortune like a step-mother has
so long detained me. But nevertheless, you say--which But is aerugo
mera, a rust which spoils the good metal it grows upon. But, you
say, you would advise me not to precipitate that resolution, but to
stay a while longer with patience and complaisance, till I had
gotten such an estate as might afford me, according to the saying of
that person whom you and I love very much, and would believe as soon
as another man, cum dignitate otium. This were excellent advice to
Joshua, who could bid the sun stay too. But there's no fooling with
life when it is once turned beyond forty. The seeking for a fortune
then is but a desperate after game, it is a hundred to one if a man
fling two sixes and recover all; especially if his hand be no
luckier than mine. There is some help for all the defects of
fortune, for if a man cannot attain to the length of his wishes, he
may have his remedy by cutting of them shorter. Epicurus writes a
letter to Idomeneus, who was then a very powerful, wealthy, and it
seems bountiful person, to recommend to him, who had made so many
men rich, one Pythocles, a friend of his, whom he desired to be made
a rich man too: But I entreat you that you would not do it just the
same way as you have done to many less deserving persons, but in the
most gentlemanly manner of obliging him, which is not to add
anything to his estate, but to take something from his desires. The
sum of this is, that for the uncertain hopes of some conveniences we
ought not to defer the execution of a work that is necessary,
especially when the use of those things which we would stay for may
otherwise be supplied, but the loss of time never recovered. Nay,
further yet, though we were sure to obtain all that we had a mind
to, though we were sure of getting never so much by continuing the
game, yet when the light of life is so near going out, and ought to
be so precious, Le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle, the play is not
worth the expense of the candle. After having been long tossed in a
tempest, if our masts be standing, and we have still sail and
tackling enough to carry us to our port, it is no matter for the
want of streamers and topgallants; utere velis totes pande sinus. A
gentleman in our late civil wars, when his quarters were beaten up
by the enemy, was taken prisoner and lost his life afterwards, only
by staying to put on a band and adjust his periwig. He would escape
like a person of quality, or not at all, and died the noble martyr
of ceremony and gentility. I think your counsel of festina lente is
as ill to a man who is flying from the world, as it would have been
to that unfortunate well-bred gentleman, who was so cautious as not
to fly undecently from his enemies, and therefore I prefer Horace's
advice before yours.

- Sapere ande; incipe.

Begin: the getting out of doors is the greatest part of the
journey. Varro teaches us that Latin proverb, Portam itineri
longissimam esse. But to return to Horace,

- Sapere aude;
Incipe. Virendi qui recte prorogat horam
Rusticus expectat dum labitur amnis; at ille
Labitur, et labetur is omne volubilis aevum.

Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise;
He who defers the work from day to day,
Does on a river's bank expecting stay,
Till the whole stream which stopped him should be gone,
That runs, and as it runs, for ever will run on.

Caesar (the man of expedition above all others) was so far from this
folly, that whensoever in a journey he was to cross any river, he
never went one foot out of his way for a bridge, or a ford, or a
ferry; but flung himself into it immediately, and swam over; and
this is the course we ought to imitate if we meet with any stops in
our way to happiness. Stay till the waters are low, stay till some
boats come by to transport you, stay till a bridge be built for you;
you had even as good stay till the river be quite past. Persius
(who, you used to say, you do not know whether he be a good poet or
no, because you cannot understand him, and whom, therefore, I say, I
know to be not a good poet) has an odd expression of these
procrastinations, which, methinks, is full of fancy.

Jam cras hesterum consumpsimus, ecce aliud cras egerit hos annos.

Our yesterday's to-morrow now is gone,
And still a new to-morrow does come on;
We by to-morrows draw up all our store,
Till the exhausted well can yield no more.

And now, I think, I am even with you, for your otium cum dignitate
and festina lente, and three or four other more of your new Latin
sentences: if I should draw upon you all my forces out of Seneca
and Plutarch upon this subject, I should overwhelm you, but I leave
those as triarii for your next charges. I shall only give you now a
light skirmish out of an epigrammatist, your special good friend,
and so, vale.

MART. LIB. 5, EP. 59.

To-morrow you will live, you always cry;
In what far country does this morrow lie,
That 'tis so mighty long ere it arrive?
Beyond the Indies does this morrow live?
'Tis so far-fetched, this morrow, that I fear
'Twill be both very old and very dear.
To-morrow I will live, the fool does say;
To-day itself's too late, the wise lived yesterday.

MART. LIB. 2, EP. 90.

Wonder not, sir (you who instruct the town
In the true wisdom of the sacred gown),
That I make haste to live, and cannot hold
Patiently out, till I grow rich and old.
Life for delays and doubts no time does give,
None ever yet made haste enough to live.
Let him defer it, whose preposterous care
Omits himself, and reaches to his heir,
Who does his father's bounded stores despise,
And whom his own, too, never can suffice:
My humble thoughts no glittering roofs require,
Or rooms that shine with ought be constant fire.
We ill content the avarice of my sight
With the fair gildings of reflected light:
Pleasures abroad, the sport of Nature yields
Her living fountains, and her smiling fields:
And then at home, what pleasure is 't to see
A little cleanly, cheerful family?
Which if a chaste wife crown, no less in her
Than fortune, I the golden mean prefer.
Too noble, nor too wise, she should not be,
No, nor too rich, too fair, too fond of me.
Thus let my life slide silently away,
With sleep all night, and quiet all the day.


It is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself; it
grates his own heart to say anything of disparagement and the
reader's ears to hear anything of praise for him. There is no
danger from me of offending him in this kind; neither my mind, nor
my body, nor my fortune allow me any materials for that vanity. It
is sufficient for my own contentment that they have preserved me
from being scandalous, or remarkable on the defective side. But
besides that, I shall here speak of myself only in relation to the
subject of these precedent discourses, and shall be likelier thereby
to fall into the contempt than rise up to the estimation of most
people. As far as my memory can return back into my past life,
before I knew or was capable of guessing what the world, or glories,
or business of it were, the natural affections of my soul gave me a
secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn
away from others, by an antipathy imperceptible to themselves and
inscrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young
boy at school, instead of running about on holidays and playing with
my fellows, I was wont to steal from them and walk into the fields,
either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could
find any of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an enemy to
all constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any
persuasions or encouragements, to learn without book the common
rules of grammar, in which they dispensed with me alone, because
they found I made a shift to do the usual exercises out of my own
reading and observation. That I was then of the same mind as I am
now (which I confess I wonder at myself) may appear by the latter
end of an ode which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and
which was then printed with many other verses. The beginning of it
is boyish, but of this part which I here set down, if a very little
were corrected, I should hardly now be much ashamed.


This only grant me, that my means may lie
Too low for envy, for contempt too high.
Some honour I would have,
Not from great deeds, but good alone.
The unknown are better than ill known.
Rumour can ope the grave;
Acquaintance I would have, but when it depends
Not on the number, but the choice of friends.


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; and pleasures yield,
Horace might envy in his Sabine field.


Thus would I double my life's fading space,
For he that runs it well twice runs his race.
And in this true delight,
These unbought sports, this happy state,
I would not fear, nor wish my fate,
But boldly say each night,
To-morrow let my sun his beams display
Or in clouds hide them--I have lived to-day.

You may see by it I was even then acquainted with the poets (for the
conclusion is taken out of Horace), and perhaps it was the immature
and immoderate love of them which stamped first, or rather engraved,
these characters in me. They were like letters cut into the bark of
a young tree, which with the tree still grow proportionably. But
how this love came to be produced in me so early is a hard question.
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 begun 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; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted
with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave
houses, which I found everywhere there (though my understanding had
little to do with all this); and by degrees with the tinkling of the
rhyme and dance of the numbers, so that I think I had read him all
over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet as
immediately as a child is made an eunuch. With these affections of
mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the
university, but was soon torn from thence by that violent public
storm which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted
up every plant, even from the princely cedars to me, the hyssop.
Yet I had as good fortune as could have befallen me in such a
tempest; for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best
persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses of the
world. Now though I was here engaged in ways most contrary to the
original design of my life, that is, into much company, and no small
business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and
triumphant, for that was the state then of the English and French
Courts; yet all this was so far from altering my opinion, that it
only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but
natural inclination. I saw plainly all the paint of that kind of
life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty which I did not fall
in love with when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to
bewitch or entice me when I saw that it was adulterate. I met with
several great persons, whom I liked very well, but could not
perceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or
desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm,
though I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it. A storm
would not agree with my stomach, if it did with my courage. 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 conveniences 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

Well then; I now do plainly see,
This busy world and I shall ne'er agree, etc.

And I never then proposed to myself another 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, with no greater
probabilities or pretences have arrived to extraordinary fortunes.
But I had before written a shrewd prophecy against myself, and I
think Apollo inspired me in the truth, though not in the elegance of

"Thou, neither great at court nor in the war,
Nor at th' exchange shalt be, nor at the wrangling bar;
Content thyself with the small barren praise,
Which neglected verse does raise, etc.

However, by the failing of the forces which I had expected, I did
not quit the design which I had resolved on; I cast myself into it A
corps perdu, without making capitulations or taking counsel of
fortune. But God laughs at a man who says to his soul, "Take thy
ease": I met presently not only with many little encumbrances and
impediments, but with so much sickness (a new misfortune to me) as
would have spoiled the happiness of an emperor as well as mine. Yet
I do neither repent nor alter my course. Non ego perfidum dixi
sacramentum. Nothing shall separate me from a mistress which I have
loved so long, and have now at last married, though she neither has
brought me a rich portion, nor lived yet so quietly with me as I
hoped from her.

- Nec vos, dulcissima mundi
Nomina, vos Musae, libertas, otia, libri,
Hortique sylvesque anima remanente relinquam.

Nor by me e'er shall you,
You of all names the sweetest, and the best,
You Muses, books, and liberty, and rest;
You gardens, fields, and woods forsaken be,
As long as life itself forsakes not me.

But this is a very petty ejaculation. Because I have concluded all
the other chapters with a copy of verses, I will maintain the humour
to the last.

MARTIAL, LIB. 10, EP. 47.
Vitam quae faciunt beatiorem, etc.

Since, dearest friend, 'tis your desire to see
A true receipt of happiness from me;
These are the chief ingredients, if not all:
Take an estate neither too great nor small,
Which quantum sufficit the doctors call;
Let this estate from parents' care descend:
The getting it too much of life does spend.
Take such a ground, whose gratitude may be
A fair encouragement for industry.
Let constant fires the winter's fury tame,
And let thy kitchens be a vestal flame.
Thee to the town let never suit at law,
And rarely, very rarely, business draw.
Thy active mind in equal temper keep,
In undisturbed peace, yet not in sleep.
Let exercise a vigorous health maintain,
Without which all the composition's vain.
In the same weight prudence and innocence take
Ana of each does the just mixture make.
But a few friendships wear, and let them be
By Nature and by Fortune fit for thee.
Instead of art and luxury in food,
Let mirth and freedom make thy table good.
If any cares into thy daytime creep,
At night, without wines, opium, let them sleep.
Let rest, which Nature does to darkness wed,
And not lust, recommend to thee thy bed,
Be satisfied, and pleased with what thou art;
Act cheerfully and well the allotted part.
Enjoy the present hour, be thankful for the past,
And neither fear, nor wish the approaches of the last.

MARTIAL, LIB. 10. EP. 96.

Me, who have lived so long among the great,
You wonder to hear talk of a retreat:
And a retreat so distant, as may show
No thoughts of a return when once I go.
Give me a country, how remote so e'er,
Where happiness a moderate rate does bear,
Where poverty itself in plenty flows
And all the solid use of riches knows.
The ground about the house maintains it there,
The house maintains the ground about it here.
Here even hunger's dear, and a full board
Devours the vital substance of the lord.
The land itself does there the feast bestow,
The land itself must here to market go.
Three or four suits one winter here does waste,
One suit does there three or four winters last.
Here every frugal man must oft be cold,
And little lukewarm fires are to you sold.
There fire's an element as cheap and free
Almost as any of the other three.
Stay you then here, and live among the great,
Attend their sports, and at their tables eat.
When all the bounties here of men you score:
The Place's bounty there, shall give me more.


Hic, O viator, sub Lare parvulo
Couleius hic est conditus, hic jacet;
Defunctus humani laboris
Sorte, supervacuague vila.

Non indecora pauperie nitens,
Et non inerti nobilis otio,
Vanoque dilectis popello
Divitiis animosus hostis.

Possis ut illum dicere mortuum,
En terra jam nunc quantula sufficit!
Exempta sit curis, viator;
Terra sit illa levis, precare.

Hic sparge flores, sparge breves rosas,
Nam vita gaudet mortua floribus,
Herbisque odoratis corona
Vatis adhuc cinerem calentem.


O wayfarer, beneath his household shrine
Here Cowley lies, closed in a little den;
A life too empty and his lot combine
To give him rest from all the toils of men.

Not shining with unseemly shows of want,
Nor noble with the indolence of ease;
Fearless of spirit as a combatant
With mob-loved wealth and all its devotees.

That you may fairly speak of him as dead,
Behold how little earth contents him now!
Pray, wayfarer, that all his cares be fled,
And that the earth lie lightly on his brow.

Strew flowers here, strew roses soon to perish,
For the dead life joys in all flowers that blow;
Crown with sweet herbs, bank blossoms high, to cherish
The poet's ashes that are yet aglow.



Page 15. Fertur equis, &c. From the close of Virgil's first

said of horses in a chariot race,
Nor reins, nor curbs, nor threatening cries they fear,
But force along the trembling charioteer.
Dryden's translation.

Page 16. En Romanos, &c. Virgil, AEneid I., when Jove says,

The people Romans call, the city Rome,
To them no bounds of empire I assign,
Nor term of years to their immortal line.
Dryden's Virgil.

Page 18. "Laveer with every wind." Laveer is an old sea term for
working the ship against the wind. Lord Clarendon used its noun,
"the schoolmen are the best laveerers in the world, and would have
taught a ship to catch the wind that it should have gained half and
half, though it had been contrary."

Page 24. Amatorem trecentae Pirithoum cohibent catenae. Horace's
Ode, Bk. IV., end of ode 4. Three hundred chains bind the lover,

Wrath waits on sin, three hundred chains
Pirithous bind in endless pains.
Creech's Translation.

Page 25. Aliena negotia, &c. From Horace's Satires, sixth of Book

Page 25. Dors, cockchafers.

Page 26. Pan huper sebastos. Lord over All.

Page 27. Perditur haec inter misero Lux. Horace, Satires, II., 6.
This whole Satire is in harmony with the spirit of Cowley's Essays.

Page 29. A slave in Saturnalibus. In the Saturnalia, when Roman
slaves had licence to disport themselves.

Page 29. Unciatim, &c. Terence's Phormio, Act I., scene 1, in the
opening: "All that this poor fellow has, by starving himself, bit
by bit, with much ado, scraped together out of his pitiful
allowance--(must go at one swoop, people never considering the price
it cost him the getting)." Eachard's Terence.

Page 30. [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], &c. Paul to
Titus, "The Cretans are always liars, EVIL BEASTS, SLOW BELLIES."

Page 31. Quisnam igitur, &c. Horace's Satires, II., 7. "Who then
is free? The wise man, who has absolute rule over himself."

Page 31. Oenomaus, father of Hippodameia, would give her only to
the suitor who could overcome him in a chariot race. Suitors whom
he could overtake he killed. He killed himself when outstripped by
Pelops, whom a god assisted, or, according to one version, a man who
took the nails out of Oenomaus' chariot wheels, and brought him down
with a crash.

Page 41. Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus. Never less alone than
when alone.

Page 47. Sic ego, &c. From Tibullus, IV., 13.

Page 51. O quis me gelidis, &c. From the Second Book of Virgil's
Georgics, in a passage expressing the poet's wish:

Ye sacred Muses, with whose beauty fired,
My soul is ravished and my brain inspired;
Whose priest I am, whose holy fillets wear,
Would you your poet's first petition hear:
Give me the ways of wandering stars to know;
The depths of Heaven above, and Earth below;
Teach me, &c. . . .
. . .
But if my heavy blood restrain the flight
Of my free soul aspiring to the height
Of Nature, and unclouded fields of light:
My next desire is, void of care and strife,
To lead a soft, secure, inglorious life.
A country cottage near a crystal flood,
A winding valley and a lofty wood;
Some god conduct me to the sacred shades
Where bacchanals are sung by Spartan maids,
Or lift me high to Haemus hilly crown,
Or in the vales of Tempe lay me down,
Or lead me to some solitary place,
And cover my retreat from human race.
Dryden's translation.

Page 56. Nam neque divitibus. Horace's Epistles, I., 18.

Page 58. Tankerwoman, "water-bearer, one who carried water from the

Page 60. Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander. Domitian is said to
have given a consulship to his horse Incitatus.

Page 60. The glory of Cato and Aristides. See the parallel lives
in Plutarch.

Page 64. O fortunatos nimium, &c. Men all too happy, and they knew
their good.

Page 70. Hinc atque hinc. From Virgil's AEneid, Book I.

Page 75. Mr. Hartlib . . . IF THE GENTLEMAN BE YET ALIVE. Samuel
Hartlib, a public-spirited man of a rich Polish family, came to
England in 1640. He interested himself in education and other
subjects, as well as agriculture. In 1645 he edited a treatise of
Flemish Agriculture that added greatly to the knowledge of English
farmers, and thereby to the wealth of England. He spent a large
fortune among us for the public good. Cromwell recognised his
services by a pension of 300 pounds a year, which ceased at the
Restoration, and Hartlib then fell into such obscurity that Cowley
could not say whether he were alive or no.

Page 75. Nescio qua, &c. Ovid. Epistles from Pontus.

Page 76. Pariter, &c. Ovid's Fasti, Book I. Referring to the
happy souls who first looked up to the stars, Ovid suggests that in
like manner they must have lifted their heads above the vices and
the jests of man. Cowley has here turned "locis" into "jocis."

Page 80. Ut nos in Epistolis scribendis adjuvet. That he might
help us in writing letters.

Page 81. Qui quid sit pulchrum, &c. Who tells more fully than
Chrysippus or Crantor what is fair what is foul, what useful and
what not.

Page 92. Swerd of bacon, skin of bacon. First English sweard. So
green sward is green surface covering.

Page 100. The Country Life is a translation from Cowley's own Latin
Poem on Plants.

Page 105. Evelyn had dedicated to Cowley his Kalendarium Hortense.


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