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me and keep me the mind to look to be out of this world and to be with Him. For I can never but trust that who so long to be with Him shall be welcome to Him; and, on the other side, my mind giveth me verily that any that ever shall come to Him shall full heartily wish to be with Him ere ever he shall come at Him. 1
BENVENUTO CELLINI (1500–1570) AS
So'er my past and painful life I pause,
But not unheedful of Heaven's gracious care, Shielding the gift it gave: in mind I bear Proud deeds I did, yet live. In honour's cause I served, and high adventures were my laws,
Till fortune bow'd to toils now cowards dare,
And worth and virtue bore me onwards, where Leaving the crowd, I pass’d on with applause. One thought still irks me: that my life's best prime
Of richest promise, vain and idly fled, Bearing my best resolves, like air away,
Which I could now lament, but have no time. To welcome a born, I proudly raise my head, Fair Florence' son-bright flower of Tuscany.3 From letter written inļthe Tower to Dr. Nicolas Wilson, 1535
2 - Well-come”-Benvenuto.
3 Written about 1558-59.
This Life and the Dert
MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE
Vixi, et quem dederat cursum
I have liv’d, and the race have past,
T is all the ease I find in my age, and that it sup
presseth many cares and desires in me, wherewith life is much disquieted. The care of the world's course, the care of riches, of greatnesse, of knowledge, of health and of myselfe.
Were I to live againe, it should be as I have already lived. I neither deplore what is past, nor dread what is to come: and if I be not deceived, the inward parts have neerely resembled the outward. It is one of the chiefest points wherein I am beholden to fortune, that in the course of my bodies estate, each thing hath beene carried in season.
I have seene the leaves, the blossomes, and the fruit; and now see the drooping and withering of it. Happily, because naturally. I beare my present miseries the more gently because they are in season, and with greater favour make me remember the long happinesse of my former life.2
1 From the Essayes, trans, by Florio, Bk. ii. chap. xxviii.
2 Íbid. Bk. iii. chap. ii.
A man should runne the badde, and settle himselfe in the good. This vulgar phrase of passe time, and to passe the time, represents the custome of those wise men who thinke to have no better account of their life than to passe it over and escape it: to passe it over and bawke it, and so much as in them lyeth, to ignore and avoyd it, as a thing of an yrkesome, tedious, and to be disdained quality. But I know it to bee otherwise ; and finde it to be both priseable and commodious, yea in her last declination; where I hold it. And Nature hath put the same into our hands, furnished with such and so favourable circumstances, that if it presse and molest us, or if unprofitably it escape us, we must blame ourselves. Stulti vita ingrata est, trepida est, tota in futurum fertur (Gen. Epist. xv.).
A foole's life is all pleasant, all fearefull, all fond of the future. I therefore prepare and compose myselfe to forgoe and lose it without grudging; but a thing that is loseable and transitory by its owne condition : not as troublesome and importunate. Nor beseemes it a man (not] to bee grieved when he dieth, except they be such as please themselves to live still. There is a kinde of husbandry in knowing how to enjoy it. I enjoy it double to others. For the measure in jovissance dependeth more or lesse on the application we lend it. Especially at this instant, that I perceive mine to be short in time, I wil extend it in weight: I wil stay the readines of her flight by the promptitude of my holdfast by it: and by the vigor of custome, recompence the haste of her fleeting. According as the possession of life is more short, I must endevour to make it more profound and full. Other men feele the sweetnesse [of a] contentment and prosperity. I feele it as well as they; but it is not
in passing and gliding; yet should it be studied, tasted, and ruminated, thereby to yield it condigne thanks, that it pleased to grant the same unto us.
As for me then, I love my [life) and cherish it, such as it hath pleased God to graunt it us.
I cheerefully and thankefully, and with a good heart, accept what nature hath created for me; and there with well pleased, and am proud of it. Great wrong is offered unto that great and all-puissant Giver, to refuse his gift, which is so absolutely good; and disanull and disfigure the same, since hee made perfectly good. Omnia quae secundum naturam sunt, estimatione digna sunt (Cic. Fin. Bon. iii). All things that are according to nature are worthy to bee esteemed.1
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
friends, for I am dying, yet hoping to see you all again happy in another world.2
1 From the Essayes, trans. by Florio, Bk. iii. chap. xiii.
2 From the Prologue to The Wanderings of Persiles and Sigismunda.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH
HAT is our life? The play of passion.
Our mirth? The music of division.
Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
Whosoever he be to whom Fortune hath been a servant and the Time a friend, let him but take the account of his memory (for we have no other keeper of our pleasures past), and truly examine what it hath reserved, either of Beauty and Youth, or foregone delights; what it hath saved, that it might last, of his
1 From a music-book of 1612 (anonymous).
2 Found in Raleigh's Bible in the gate-house at Westminster, 1618.