« ZurückWeiter »
upon much practice; and cogitation is the thing which distinguishes the solitude of a God from a wild beast. Now, because the soul of man is not by its own nature or observation furnished with sufficient materials to work upon, it is necessary for it to have continual recourse to learning and books for fresh supplies, so that the solitary life will grow indigent, and be ready 10 starve, without them; but if once we be thoroughly engaged in the love of letters, instead of being wearied with the length of any day, we shall only complain of the shortness of our whole life,
“O vita, stulto longa, sapienti brevis * !"
O life, long to the fool, short to the wise !
The first minister of state has not so much business in publick, as a wise man has in private: if the one have little leisure to be alone, the other has less leisure to be in company; the one has but part of the affairs of one nation, the other all the works of God and nature, under his consideration. There is no saying shocks me so much as that which I hear very often, “ that a man does not know how to pass his time.” It would have been but ill-spoken by Methusalem in the nine hundred sixty-ninth year
of his life; so far it is from us, who have not
* O vita, misero longa, felici brevis !"
time enough to attain to the utmost perfection of any part of any science, to have cause to complain that we are forced to be idle for want of work. But this, you will say, is work only for the learned; others are not capable either of the employments or divertisements that arrive from letters. I know they are not, ; and therefore cannot much recommend solitude to a man totally illiterate.
But, if any man be so unlearned, as to want entertainment of the little intervals of accidental solitude, which frequently occur in almost all conditions (except the
very meanest of the people, who have business enough in the necessary provisions for life), it is truly a great shame both to his parents and himself; for a very small portion of any ingenious art will stop up all those gaps of our time: either musick, or painting, or designing, or chemistry, or history, or gardening, or twenty other things, will do it usefully and pleasantly; and, if he happen to set his affections upon poetry (which I do not advise him too immoderately), that will over-do it; no wood will be thick enough to hide him from the importunities of company or business, which would abstract him from his beloyed.
O qui me gelidis in vallibus Hæmi " Sistat, & ingenti ramorum protegat umbrâ *;"
Virg. Georg. ii. 489,
Hail, old patrician trees, so great and good!
Hail, ye plebeian underwood !
Where the poetick birds rejoice, And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
Pay, with their grateful voice.
Muses' richest manor-seat;
Which all the happy gods so love,
Here Nature does a house for me erect,
Nature, the wisest architect,
Who those fond artists does despise That can the fair and living trees neglect;
Yet the dead timber prize.
Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying,
Hear the soft winds, above me flying,
With all their wanton boughs dispute, And the more tuneful birds to both replying,
Nor be myself, too, mute. i
A silver stream shall roll his waters near,
Gilt with the sun-beams here and there;
On whose enameld bank I'll walk, And see how prettily they smile, and hear
How prettily they talk.
Ah wretched and too solitary he,
Who loves not his own company!
He 'll feel the weight of 't many a day, Unless he call in sin or vanity
To help to bear 't away.
Oh Solitude, first state of human kind!
Which bless'd remain'd, till man did find
Ev’n his own helper's company, As soon as two, alas ! together join'd,
Though God himself, through countless ages, thee
His sole companion chose to be,
Thee, sacred Solitude, alone,
Sprang from the trunk of one,
Thou (though men think thine an unactive part)
Dost break and time th' unruly heart,
Which else would know no settled pace, Making it move, well-manag'd by thy art,
With swiftness and with grace.
Thou the faint beams of reason's scatter'd light
Dost, like a burning-glass, unite;
Dost multiply the feeble heat,
And noble fires beget.
Whilst this hard truth I teach, methinks, I see
The monster London laugh at me;
I should at thee too, foolish city!
But thy estate I pity.
Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And all the fools that crowd thee so,
Even thou, who dost thy millions boast, A village less than Islington wilt grow,
A solitude almost,
“ NAM neque divitibus contingunt gaudia solis ; “ Nec vixit malè, qui natus moriensque fefellit *.”
God made not pleasures only for the rich;
This seems a strange sentence, thus literally translated, and looks as if it were in vindication of the men of business (for who else can deceive the
* Hor. 1 Ep. xvij. 9.