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2 To Giovanni Quirino (trans. by Rossetti in Dante and his
This Life and the Nert
Imprints: and from this germ, this firstling spark,
The King, by whose rich grace His servants be
With plenty beyond measure set to dwell,
Ordains that I my bitter wrath dispel
The citizens of that fair citadel,
To the Creator I His creature swell
To which our God has called the Christian seed,
I long for nothing else but only this.
Dear friend, who reck’st not of thy nearest need,
(1304-1374) OH blessed life everlasting promised to us.--life in
which there is no past, no future, in which everything belongs to the present ! In that life our desires and our hopes will be fulfilled; we shall for ever rejoice in truth, our only blessedness. There, all that once delighted us does delight us, and will delight us immu
1 From Paradise, Canto xxiv. (the Poet's reply to St. Peter);
tably and for evermore,—we shall rejoice in our hearts' desire without its being lessened; it will be fulfilled, but not quenched; it will be appeased and kept alive; it will never be lost by satiety nor be marred by change and chance, by care and fear. Happy the pilgrim who, guided by divine mercy, enters at last upon that life.
Why should it trouble me that I am old, if it does not trouble me that I am living? Life without old age cannot be long. I should not wish to be younger, but to have led a more virtuous and laborious life. There is nothing I so much lament as my not having been able to do in a given time what I ought to have done. Hence I work with all my might to make up towards evening for the idleness in which I spent the day, and I often think of the saying of that wise prince Cæsar Augustus: “What is done well is always done without delay”; of the philosophical utterance of the great Plato: “Happy he who can even in his old age enrich his mind with wisdom and truth”; or of the catholic maxim of Saint Ambrose : “Happy is he who, though stricken in years, has forsaken the way of error; happy he who, under the very sickle of death, freed his soul from vice.” 2
i From Thoughts from the Letters of Petrarch (“Letters of Old Age”), Bk. iii., letter 9 (trans. by J. Lohse).
2 lbid. Bk. xvii., letter 2.
THOUSANDE tymes I have herd telle,
There ys joy in hevene, and peyne in helle,
of hit noon other weyes witen,
But God forbede but men shulde leve
Now hath my life across a stormy sea,
Like a frail bark, reached that wide port where all Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall Of good and evil for eternity.
1 From Prologue of Nine Goode Wymmen.
Now know I well how that fond phantasy
Which made my soul the worshipper and thrall
Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
What are they when the double death is nigh?
The one I know for sure, the other dread. Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul, that turns to His great love on high, Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread."
The fables of the world have filched
away The time I had for thinking upon God; His grace lies buried 'neath oblivion's sod,
Whence springs an evil crop of sins alway.
Slow to discern the bad path I have trod :
May free me from self-love, my sure decay.
Dear Lord, I cannot even half-way rise
Unless Thou help me on this pilgrimage.
And all the lovely things I clasp and prize,
If life gives us pleasure, we ought not to expect displeasure from death, seeing it is made by the hand of the same master.3
tter to Vasari, Sept. 1554 (trans. by J. A. Symonds). 2 In letter to Vasari, about the same period (same translator).
3 In Life, by Vasari.
SIR THOMAS MORE (1478–1535)
Which all the pleasure hath, mirth and disport
may once resort
[In the church of his village (wrote Erasmus in 1532-33) Sir Thomas More has constructed a family tomb. .. On the wall he has placed a tablet with a record of his life and his intentions :-]
And that this tomb made for him in his lifetime be not in vain, nor that he fear death coming upon him, but that he may willingly, for the desire of Christ, die and find death not utterly death to him, but the gate of a wealthier life, help him, I beseech you, good reader, now with your prayers while he liveth, and when he is dead also.
I have lived, methinketh, a long life, and now neither I look nor long to live much longer. I have, since I came to the Tower, looked once or twice to have given up my ghost ere this, and, in good faith, my heart waxed the lighter with hope thereof. Yet forgot I not that I have a long reckoning and a great to give account of. But I put my trust in God, and in the merits of His bitter Passion, and I beseech Him to give
1 From Twelve Rules of John Picus, etc.