« AnteriorContinuar »
And not on Rome alone this honour waits,
But on all civil and well-govern'd states.
Lysander pleading in his city's praise,
From thence his strongest argument did raise,
That Sparta did with honour age support,
Paying them just respect at stage, and court.
But at proud Athens youth did age out-face,
Nor at the plays would rise, or give them place.
When an Athenian stranger of great age
Arriv'd at Sparta, climbing up the stage,
To him the whole assembly rose, and ran
To place and ease this old and reverend man,
Who thus his thanks returns, "Th' Athenians
What's to be done; but what they know, not do."
Here our great senate's orders I may quote,
The first in age is still the first in vote.
Nor honour, nor high birth, nor great command
In competition with great years may stand.
Why should our youth's short transient pleasures
With age's lasting honours to compare? On the world's stage, when our applause grows high,
For acting here life's tragic-comedy, The lookers-on will say we act not well, Unless the last the former scenes excel: But age is froward, uneasy, scrutinous, Hard to be pleas'd, and parsimonious; But all those errours from our manners rise, Not from our years; yet some morosities We must expect, since jealousy belongs To age, of scorn, and tender sense of wrongs: Yet those are mollify'd, or not discern'd, Where civil arts and manners have been learn'd: So the Twins' humours, in our Terence, are Unlike, this harsh and rude, that smooth and fair. Our nature here is not unlike our wine, Some sorts, when old, continue brisk and fine; So age's gravity may seem severe, But nothing harsh or bitter ought t' appear. Of age's avarice I cannot see What colour, ground, or reason there should be: Is it not folly, when the way we ride Is short, for a long voyage to provide? To avarice some title youth may own, To reap in autumn what the spring had sown; And with the providence of bees, or ants, Prevent with summer's plenty, winter's wants. But age scarce sows,till Death stands by to reap, And to a stranger's hand transfers the heap; Afraid to be so once, she's always poor, And to avoid a mischief makes it sure. Such madness, as for fear of death to die, Is, to be poor for fear of poverty.
THE FOURTH PART.
Now against (that which terrifies our age)
The last, and greatest grievance, we engage;
To her, grim Death appears in all her shapes,
The hungry grave for her due tribute gapes.
Fond, foolish man! with fear of death surpris'd,
Which either should be wish'd for, or despis'd;
This, if our souls with bodies death destroy;
That, if our souls a second life enjoy.
What else is to be fear'd, when we shall gain
Eternal life, or have no sense of pain?
The youngest in the morning are not sure,
That till the night their life they can secure,
Their age stands more expos'd to accidents
Than ours, nor common care their fate prevents:
Death's force(with terrour) against Nature strives,
Nor one of many to ripe age arrives.
From this ill fate the world's disorders rise,
For if all men were old they would be wise;
Years and experience our forefathers taught,
Them under laws, and into cities brought;
Why only should the fear of death belong
To age, which is as common to the young?
Your hopeful brothers, and my son, to you
(Scipio) and me, this maxim makes too true:
But vigorous youth may his gay thoughts erect
To many years, which age must not expect;
But when he sees his airy hopes deceiv'd;
With grief he says, "Who this would have be-
We happier are than they, who but desir'd
To possess that, which we long since acquir'd.
What if our age to Nestor's could extend?
"Tis vain to think that lasting, which must end;
And when 'tis past, not any part remains
Thereof, but the reward which virtue gains.
Days, months, and years, like running waters
Nor what is past, nor what's to come, we know:
Our date, how short soe'er, must us content.
When a good actor doth his part present,
In every act he our attention draws,
That at the last he may find just applause ;
So (though but short) yet we must learn the art
Of virtue, on this stage to act our part;
True wisdom must our actions so direct,
Not only the last plaudit to expect: [last,
Yet grieve no more, though long that part should
Than husbandmen, because the spring is past.
The spring, like youth, fresh blossoms doth pro-
But autumn makes them ripe, and fit for use;
So age a mature mellowness doth set
On the green promises of youthful heat.
All things which Nature did ordain are good,
And so must be receiv'd and understood.
Age like ripe apples, on Earth's bosom drops,
While force our youth, like fruits untimely,
The sparkling flame of our warm blood expires,
As when huge streams are pour'd on raging fires;
But age unforc'd falls by her own consent,
As coals to ashes, when the spirit 's spent ;
Therefore to death I with such joy resort,
As seamen from a tempest to their port.
Yet to that port ourselves we must not force,
Before our pilot, Nature, steers our course.
Let us the causes of our fear condemn,
Then Death at his approach we shall contemn.
Though to our heat of youth our age seems cold,
Yet, when resolv'd, it is more brave and bold.
Thus Solon to Pisistratus reply'd,
Demanded, on what succour be rely'd,
When with so few he boldly did engage;
He said, he took his courage from his age.
Then death seems welcome, and our nature kind,
When, leaving us a perfect sense and mind,
She (like a workman in his science skill'd)
Pulls down with ease, what her own hand did
That art which knew to join all parts in one,
Makes the least violent separation.
Yet though our ligaments betimes grow weak,
We must not force them till themselves they break.
Pythagoras bids us in our station stand,
Till God, our general, shall us disband.
Wise Solon dying, wish'd his friends might grieve,
That in their memories he still might live.
Yet wiser Ennius gave command to all
His friends, not to bewail his funeral;
Your tears for such a death in vain you spend,
Which straight in immortality shall end.
In death if there be any sense of pain,
But a short space to age it will remain ;
On which, without my fears, my wishes wait,
But timorous youth on this should meditate:
Who for light pleasure this advice rejects,
Finds little, when his thoughts he recollects.
Our death (though not its certain date) we know;
Nor whether it may be this night or no:
How then can they contented live, who fear
A danger certain? and none knows how near.
They err, who for the fear of death dispute,
Our gallant actions this mistake confute.
Thee Brutus, Rome's first martyr I must name,
The Curtii bravely div'd the gulph of flame;
Attilius sacrific'd himself, to save
That faith, which to his barbarous foes he gave;
With the two Scipio's did thy uncle fall,
Rather than fly from conquering Hannibal ;
The great Marcellus (who restored Rome)
His greatest foes with honour did intomb.
Their lives how many of our legions threw
Into the breach? whence no return they knew:
Must then the wise, the old, the learned, fear
What not the rude, the young, th' unlearn'd for-
Satiety from all things else doth come,
Then life must to itself grow wearisome.
Those trifles wherein children take delight
Grow nauseous to the young man's appetite;
And from those gaieties our youth requires
To exercise their minds, our age retires.
And when the last delights of age shall die,
Life in itself will find satiety.
Now you, my friends, my sense of death shall
Which I can well describe, for he stands near.
Your father, Lælius, and your's, Scipio,
My friends, and men of honour, I did know;
As certainly as we must die, they live
That life which justly may that name receive:
Till from these prisons of our flesh releas'd,
Our souls with heavy burthens lie oppress'd;
Which part of man from Heaven falling down,
Earth, in her low abyss, doth hide and drown,
A place so dark to the cœlestial light,
And pure eternal fire 's quite opposite.
The gods through human bodies did disperse
An heavenly soul, to guide this universe,
That man, when he of heavenly bodies saw
The order, might from thence a pattern draw;
Nor this to me did my own dictates show,
But to the old philosophers I owe.
I heard Pythagoras, and those who came
With him, and from our country took their name;
Who never doubted but the beams divine,
Deriv'd from gods in mortal breasts did shine.
Nor from my knowledge did the ancients hide
What Socrates declar'd the hour he dy'd;
He th' immortality of souls proclaim'd,
(Whom th' oracle of men the wisest nam'd.)
Why should we doubt of that, whereof our sense
Finds demonstration from experience?
Our minds are here, and there, below, above;
Nothing that's mortal can so swiftly move.
Our thoughts to future things their flight direct,
And in an instant all that 's past collect.
Reason, remembrance, wit, inventive art,
No nature, but immortal, can impart.
Man's soul in a perpetual motion flows,
And to no outward cause that motion owes;
And therefore that no end can overtake,
Because our minds cannot themselves forsake,
And since the matter of our soul is pure
And simple, which no mixture ean endure
Of parts, which not among themselves agree;
Therefore it never can divided be.
And Nature shows (without philosophy)
What cannot be divided, cannot die.
We ev'n in early infancy discern,
Knowledge is born with babes before they learn;
Ere they can speak, they find so many ways
To serve their turn, and see more arts than
Before their thoughts they plainly can express,
The words and things they know are numberless,
Which Nature only, and no art could find,
But what she taught before, she call'd to mind.
These to his sons (as Xenophon records)
Of the great Cyrus were the dying words;
"Fear not when I depart (nor therefore mourn)
I shall be no where, or to nothing turn:
That soul, which gave me life, was seen by none,
Yet by the actions it design'd, was known;
And though its flight no mortal eye shall see,
Yet know, for ever it the same shall be.
That soul, which can immortal glory give,
To her own virtues must for ever live.
Can you believe, that man's all-knowing mind
Can to a mortal body be confin’d?
Though a foul foolish prison her immure
On Earth, she (when escap'd) is wise and pure.
Man's body, when dissolv'd, is but the same
With beasts, and must return from whence it
But whence into our bodies reason flows,
None sees it, when it comes, or where it goes.
Nothing resembles death so much as sleep,
Yet then our minds themselves from slumbers keep
When from their fleshly bondage they are free,
Then what divine and future things they see!
Which makes it most apparent whence they are,
And what they shall hereafter be, declare.”"
This noble speech the dying Cyrus made,
Me, Scipio, shall no argument persuade,
Thy grandsire, and his brother, to whom Fame
Gave, from two conquer'd parts o' th' world, their
Nor thy great grandsire, nor thy father Paul,
Who fell at Cannæ against Hannibal;
Nor I (for 'tis permitted to the ag'd
To boast their actions) had so oft engag'd
In battles, and in pleadings, had we thought,
That only Fame our virtuous actions bought;
"Twere better in soft pleasure and repose
Ingloriously our peaceful eyes to close:
Some high assurance hath possest my mind,
After my death an happier life to find.
Unless our souls from the immortals came,
What end have we to seek immortal fame ?
All virtuous spirits some such hope attends,
Therefore the wise his days with pleasure ends.
The foolish and short-sighted die with fear,
That they go no-where, or they know not
The wise and virtuous soul, with clearer eyes,
Before she parts, some happy port descries.
My friends, your fathers I shall surely see
Nor only those I lov'd, or who lov'd me;
But such as before ours did end their days
Of whom we hear, and read, and write their
This I believe: for were I on my way,
None should persuade me to return, or stay:
Should some god tell me, that I should be born,
And cry again, his offer I would scorn;
Asham'd, when I have ended well my race,
To be led back to my first starting-place.
And since with life we are more griev'd than joy'd,
We should be either satisfy'd or cloy'd:
Yet will I not my length of days deplore,
As many wise and learn'd have done before;
Nor can I think such life in vain is lent,
Which for our country and our friends is spent.
Hence from an inn, not from my home I pass,
Since Nature meant us here no dwelling-place.
Happy when I, from this turmoil set free,
That peaceful and divine assembly see :
Not only those I nam'd I there shall greet,
But my own gallant, virtuous Cato meet.
Nor did I weep, when I to ashes turn'd
His belov'd body, who should mine have buin'd
I in my thoughts beheld his soul ascend,
Where his fixt hopes our interview attend:
Then cease to wonder that I feel no grief
From age, which is of my delights the chief.
My hopes, if this assurance hath deceiv'd,
(That I man's soul immortal have believ'd)
And if I err, no power shall dispossess
My thoughts of that expected happiness :
Though some minute philosophers pretend,
That with our days our pains and pleasures end
If it be so, I hold the safer side,
For none of them my errour shall deride;
And if hereafter no rewards appear,
Yet virtue hath itself rewarded here.
If those, who this opinion have despis'd,
And their whole life to pleasure sacrific'd,
Should feel their errour, they, when undeceiv'd
Too late will wish, that me they had believ❜d.
If souls no immortality obtain,
'Tis fit our bodies should be out of pain,
The same uneasiness which every thing
Gives to our nature, life must also bring.
Good acts, if long, seem tedious; so is age,
Acting too long upon this Earth, her stage,
Thus much for age, to which when you arrive,
That joy to you, which it gives me,