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Who by resolves and vows engag'd does stand
For days that yet belong to Fate,
Before it falls into his hand :
The bondman of the cloister so,
Not to enjoy, but debts to pay.
If life should a well-order'd poem be
(In which he only hits the white Who joins true profit with the best delight), The more heroick strain let others take,
Mine the Pindarick way I 'll make ; The matter'shall be grave, the numbers loose and free. It shall not keep one settled pace of time, In the same tune it shall not always chime, Nor shall each day just to his neighbour rhyme; A thousand liberties it shall dispense, And yet shall manage all without offence Or to the sweetness of the sound or greatness of the
Nor seek transitions to depart,
Nor thorough lanes a compass take,
As if it fear'd some trespass to commit,
When the wide air 's a road for it. So the imperial eagle does not stay
Till the whole carcase he devour,
That 's fallen into its power :
He only sucks the tasteful blood;
“ NUNQUAM minus solus, quam cum solus," is now become a very vulgar saying. Every man, and almost every boy, for these seventeen hundred years, has had it in his mouth. But it was at first spoken by the excellent Scipio, who was without question a most eloquent and witty person, as well as the most wise, most worthy, most happy, and the greatest of all mankind. His meaning, no doubt, was this, that he found more satisfaction to his mind, and more improvement of it, by solitude than by company; and, to shew that he spoke not this loosely or out of vanity, after he had made Rome mistress of
almost the whole world, he retired himself from it by a voluntary exile, and at a private house, in the middle of a wood, near Linternum *, passed the remainder of his glorious life no less gloriously. This house Seneca went to see so long after with great veneration; and, among other things, describes his baths to have been of so mean a structure, that now, says he, the basest of the people would despise them, and cry out, “ Poor Scipio understood not how to live.” What an authority is here for the credit of retreat! and happy had it been for Hannibal, if adversity could have taught him as much wisdom as was learnt by Scipio from the highest prosperities. This would be no wonder, if it were as truly as it is colourably and wittily said by Monsieur de Montaigne, “ that ambition itself might teach us to love solitude ; there is nothing does so much hate to have companions.” It is true, it loves to have its elbows free, it detests to have company on either side; but it delights above all things in a train behind, ayc, and ushers too before it. But the greatest part of men are so far from the opinion of that noble Roman, that, if they chance at any time to be without company, they are like a becalmed ship; they never move but by the wind of other men's breath, and have no oars of their own to steer withal. It is very fantastical and contradictory in human nature, that men should love themselves above all the rest of the world, and yet never endure to be with themselves. When they are in love with a mistress, all other persons are importunate and burthensome to them. “ Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam lubens," they would live and die with her alone.
* Seneca, Epist. lxxxvi.
“ Sic ego secretis possum bene vivere sylvis,
“ Quà nulla humano sit via trita pede. “ Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atra
“ Lumen, & in solis tu mihi turba locis *."
With thee for ever I in woods could rest,
And yet our dear self is so wearisome to us, that we can scarcely support its conversation for an hour together. This is such an odd temper of mind, as Catullus expresses towards one of his mistresses, whom we may suppose to have been of a very unsociable humour t.
“ Odi, & amo: quare
id faciam fortasse requiris. “ Nescio; sed fieri sentio, & excrucior.”
I hate, and yet I love thee too;
* 4 Tibull. xiii. 9, + De amore suo, lxxxiii.
Only that so it is I know;
It is a deplorable condition this, and drives a man sometimes to pitiful shifts, in seeking how to avoid himself.
The truth of the matter is, that neither he who is a fop in the world is a fit man to be alone; nor he who has set his heart much upon the world though he have never so much understanding ; so that solitude can be well fitted, and sit right, but upon a very few persons. They must have enough knowledge of the world to see the vanity of it, and enough virtue to despise all vanity; if the mind be possessed with any lust or passions, a man had better be in a fair, than in a wood alone. They may, like petty thieves, cheat us perhaps, and pick our pockets, in the midst of coinpany; but, like robbers, they use to strip and bind, or murder us, when they catch us alone. This is but to retreat from men, and fall into the hands of devils. It is like the punishment of parricides among the Romans, to be sowed into a bag, with an ape, a dog, and a serpent.
The first work therefore that a man must do, to make himself capable of the good of solitude, is, the very eradication of all lusts; for how is it possible for a man to enjoy while his affections are tied to things without himself? In the second place, he must learn the art and get the habit of thinking; for this too, no less than well-speaking, depends