Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more. I have sought thee in courts, fields, and gardens; but I have found thee in thy temples.

Toousands have been my sins, and ten thousands my transgressions : but my sanctifications have remained with me, and my heart, through thy grace, hath been an unquenched coal upon thine altar. O Lord, my strength, I have since my youth met with thee (have been attended by thee) in all my ways; by thy fatherly compassions, by thy comfortable chastisements, and by thy most visible providence. As thy favours have increased upon me, so have thy corrections; so as (that) thou hast been always near me, O Lord ;' and ever as my worldly blessings were exalted, so secret darts from thee have pierced me; and when I have ascended before men, I have descended in humiliation before thee. And now, when I thought most of peace and honour, thy hand is heavy upon me, and hath humbled me according to thy former loving-kindness; keeping me still in thy fatherly school, not as a bastard, but as a child. Just are thy judgments upon me for my sins, which are more in number than the sands of the sea, but have no proportion to thy mercies. For what are the sands of the sea to the sea, earth, heavens? And all these are nothing to thy mercies. Besides my innumerable sins, I confess before thee, that I am debtor to thee for the gracious talent of thy gifts and graces, which I have neither put into a napkin, nor put it, as I ought, to exchangers, where it might have made best profit, but mis-spent it in things for which I was least fit: so I may truly say, my soul hath been a stranger (as doing the things for which I was least fit in the course of my pilgrimage. Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for my Saviour's sake, and receive me into thy bosom, or guide me in thy ways.

(1) Courts. Some copies have “the courts."

(2) Comfortable, properly, that which strengthens and sustains. The chastisements were not crushing, but strengthening. See note 2, p. 24.

(3) Chastisement, fr. Lat. castigare, " to cleanse or purify;" hence to correct, punish-i.e. by removing what soiled and stained the character. Chastisement is inflicted for the sake of the sufferer, in order to mend; and punishment for the bystander, in order to warn” (Taylor's “Synonyms ").

(4) Thou hast been always near me, 8c. Compare “He whom God smiteth, hath God with him " (Landor).

ROBERT BURTON.
THE PROGRESS OF MELANCHOLY.

(FROM "THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY," I PUBLISHED IN 1621.)

Most pleasant it is at first, to such as are melancholy given (given to melancholy) to lie in bed whole days, and keep their chambers, to walk alone in some solitary grove, betwixt wood and water, by a brook side, to meditate upon some delightsome and pleasant subject, which shall affect them most; amabilis insania (a pleasing madness) and mentis gratissimus error la most agreeable delusion of the mind). A most incomparable delight it is so to melancholise and build castles in the air, to go smiling to themselves, acting an infinite variety of parts, which they suppose and strongly imagine they represent themselves or that they see acted or done.

So delightsome these “toyes(amusements) are at first, they could spend whole days and nights without sleep, even whole years in such contemplations and “phantastical” meditations, which are like unto dreams; and they will hardly be drawn

(1) Hallam rather depreciates the famous book, that, as Johnson declared, was the only one which had ever caused him to leave his bed earlier than he intended; and says for himself, “I have not found much pleasure in glancing over the • Anatomy of Melancholy.'" He speaks, however, of the style as “ not by any means devoid of point and terseness." Some critics allow to Burton's pen far higher praise than this; and even the passage quoted above will justify us in claiming for him the credit of writing very concise, terse, and, at the same time, quaint English, and thus displaying the capabilities of our language in a new and original light.

(2) Contemplations, meditations. Contemplation, fr. Lat. contemplari, to mark out the heavens for the augur's observation, and therefore, to take a wide view of external objects. Meditation, fr. Lat. meditari, to practise on an instrument, or to turn over a matter in the mind with a view to understand its bearings. Tyndale has, “right meditation and contemplation which is nothing els saving the calling to mind and repeating in the hart the wonderful deeds of God.” Milton, in “Lycidas," “What boots it to strictly meditate the thankless muse?” (i.e. to practise poetry). “Meditation," says Taylor, “is that internal rehearsal which precedes the performance of all intellectual effort." He thus distinguishes the two words : " Meditation applies to the future, contemplation to the present. We meditate what we are about to do; we contemplate what is already done."

from them, or willingly interrupt [them.] So pleasant these vain conceits are, that they hinder their ordinary tasks and necessary business; they cannot address themselves to them (i.e. their ordinary tasks) or almost to any (scarcely to any) study or employment. These “phantastical" and bewitching thoughts B0 covertly (secretly), so feelingly, so urgently, so continually set upon, creep in, insinuate, possess, overcome, distract, and detain them, they cannot, I say, go about their more necessary business, stave off, or extricate themselves; but are ever musing, melancholising, and carried along, as he (they say) that is led round about an heath with a Puck,' in the night.

They run earnestly on in this labyrinth of anxious and solicitous melancholy meditations, and cannot well or willingly refrain, or easily leave off, winding and unwinding themselves, as so many clocks, and still pleasing their humours, until, at last, the scene is turned (changed) upon a sudden, by some bad object; and they, being now habituated to such vain meditations and solitary places, can endure no company, can ruminate of nothing but harsh and distasteful subjects. Fear, sorrow, suspicion, discontent, cares, and weariness of life, surprise them in a moment, and they can think of nothing else. Continually suspecting, no sooner are their eyes open, but this infernal plague of melancholy seizeth on them and terrifies their souls, representing some dismal object to their minds, which now, by no means, no labour, no persuasions, they can avoid ; hæret lateri lethalis arundo (the deadly shaft is buried in their flank), they may not be rid of it; they cannot resist.

(1) Puck (fr. Icelandic puki, a wicked fiend), originally a sort of mischievous iinp, or devil, in northern mythology. Pouke is used for devil in “Piers Ploughman," as “out of the poukes ponfold” (pinfold, pound). Shakspere adopts the word “Puck," and applies it to Robin Goodfellow, as “the merry wanderer of the night." Burton, in another passage, speaks of such imps as under the name of “Hobgoblins and Robin Goodfellowes " would“ grinde corne for a messe of milke, cut wood, or do any kind of drudgery worke.” Hence, no doubt, was derived, by Milton, the idea conveyed in the lines from “L'Allegro"

“ Tells how the drudging goblin swet

To earn his cream-bowl duly set."
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail had thresh'd the corn,
That ten day-labourers could not end.”

See Keightley's Farry Mythology (2) Ruminate, fr. Lat. ruminare, to chew the cud (i.e. the chewed); hence to revolve, reflect, or meditate upon. Sir T. Elyot has “ Let hym ruminate it in his mynde a good space ufter.”

DR. JOHN DONNE.'

BODY AND SOUL.
(FROM “DEVOTIONS," PUBLISHED IN 1624.)

EARTH is the centre of my body, heaven is the centre of my soul; those two are the natural places of these two; but these go not to those two in (at) an equal pace. My body falls down without pushing, my soul does not go up without pulling: ascension is my soul's pace and measure, but precipitation my body's :-and even angels, whose home is heaven, and who are winged too, yet had a ladder to go to heaven, by steps. The sun who goes so many miles in a minute, the stars of the firmament, which go so very many more, go not so fast as my body to the earth. In the same instant that I feel the first attempt (attack) of the disease, I feel the victory (gained, by the disease). In the twinkling of an eye, I can - scarse" see; instantly the taste is insipid, and fatuous ( fitful); instantly the appetite is dull and desireless; instantly the knees are sinking and strengthless; and in an instant, sleep, which is the picture, the copy of death, is taken away, that the original, death itself, may succeed, and that so I might have death to the life. It was part of Adam's punishment, “ In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread." It is multiplied to me; I have earned bread in the sweat of my brow, in the labour of my calling, and I have it (enjoy it); and I sweat again and again (on account of sickness) from the brow to the sole of the foot, but I eat no bread, I taste no sustenance. Miserable distribution of mankind, where one half lack meat, and the other stomach (appetite).

(1) A taste of the quaint, original style of Donne will be gained from the above extract. Izaak Walton, who wrote his life, said of him that he preached “as an angel from a cloud, not in one;" on which Craik archly remarks, “but most modern readers will probably be of opinion that he has not quite made his escape from it.” His writings are, however, very suggestive.

(2) I.e. the soul does not as readily move to its place, heaven, as the body does to its, earth.

(3) This was in accordance with the then received belief that the entire heavens moved round the earth daily. On that theory the fixed stars, being so much farther off than the sun, would pass over a larger arc in the same time, and therefore move much quicker than the sun.

(4) To the life. A quip or pun of the worthy doctor's, founded on the expression that a good portrait is painted, “ ad vivum," to the life.

OWEN FELTHAM.

1. CONTEMPLATION.
(FROM “RESOLVES," PUBLISHED IN 1627.)

MEDITATION (contemplation) is the soul's perspective glass (telescope), whereby, in her long remove (distance from God), she discerneth God, as if he were nearer hand. I persuade no man to make it his whole life's business. We have bodies, as well as souls. And even this world, while we are in it, ought somewhat to be cared for. As those states are likely to flourish where execution follows sound advisements (deliberation), so is man slikely to flourish] when contemplation is seconded by action. Contemplation generates, action propagates. Without the first, the latter is defective; without the last, the first is but abortive and embrious (imperfect). Saint Bernard compares contemplation to Rachel, which (who) was the more fair; but action to Leah, which (who was the more fruitful. I will neither always be busy, and doing, nor (yet] ever shut up in nothing but thoughts. Yet, that which some would call" idleness, I will call the sweetest part of my life; and, that is, my thinking. Surely, God made so many varieties in his creatures, as well for the inward soul, as the outward senses; though he made them primarily, for his own free will and glory. He was a monk of an honester age,4 that being asked how he could endure that life without the pleasure of books, answered : The nature of the creatures was his library; wherein, when he pleased, he could muse upon God's deep oracles.

(1) Feltham's “Resolves” was once a very popular book, and passed through many editions. Feltham is not an author of much originality, but he is thoughtful, and careful to express his thoughts with picturesqueness and force.

(2) Meditation. See note 2, p. 138. This word is here incorrectly employed. Feltham evidently means contemplation.

(3) Embrious. This is one of the words "unauthorised by any usage," which Hallam, who is very severe upon Feltham, justly blames him for introducing. Hallam, further, but not justly, characterises Feltham's English as “ impure to an excessive degree" (" Lit. of Europe," ii. 516).

(4) Honester age, perhaps, means “honester-more virtuous—than this,” a very common Lat. idiom, by which the comparative is used for an emphatic positive.

« AnteriorContinuar »