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of this bitter reproach and terrible judgment ? We may find, I think, two; and God, perhaps, saw more. First, that he did not intend true rest to his soul, but only to change the employments of it from avarice to luxury; his design is, to eat, and to drink, and to be merry. Secondly, that he went on too long before he thought of resting; the fullness of his old barns had not sufficed him, he would stay till he was forced to build new ones : and God meted out to him in the same measure; since he would have more riches than his life could contain, God destroyed his life, and gave the fruits of it to another.
Thus God takes away sometimes the man from his riches, and no less frequently riches from the man : what hope can there be of such a marriage, where both parties are so fickle and uncertain ? by what bonds can such a couple be kept long together?
Why dost thou heap up wealth, which thou must quit,
Or, what is worse, be left by it? Why dost thou load thyself, when thou ’rt to fly,
Oh man, ordain'd to die?
Why dost thou build up stately rooms on high,
Thou who art under ground to lie?
For death, alas! is sowing thee.
Suppose, thou fortune couldst to tameness bring,
And clip or pinion her wing;
As not to cut off thy entail ;
Yet death at all that subtilty will laugh ;
Death will that foolish gardener mock, Who does a slight and annual plant engraff
Upon a lasting stock.
Thou dost thyself wise and industrious deem;
A mighty husband thou wouldst seem; Fond man ! like a bought slave, tholl all the while
Dost but for others sweat and toil.
Officious fool! that needs must meddling be
In business, that concerns not thee! For when to future years thou' extend'st thy cares,
Thou deal'st in other men's affairs.
Ev'n aged men, as if they truly were
Children again, for age prepare ; Provisions for long travel they design,
In the last point of their short line.
Wisely the ant against poor winter hoards
The stock, which summer's wealth affords : In grashoppers, that must at autumn die,
How vain were such an industry !
Of power and honour the deceitful light
Might half excuse our cheated sight,
And be our sunshine all the day;
Like lightning, that, begot but in a cloud
(Though shining bright, and speaking loud), Whilst it begins, concludes its violent race,
And where it gilds, it wounds the place.
Oh scene of fortune, which dost fair
appear Only to men that stand not near! Proud poverty, that tinsel bravery wears !
And, like a rainbow, painted tears!
Be prudent, and the shore in prospect keep;
In a weak boat trust not the deep ; Plac'd beneath envy, above envying rise ;
Pity great men, great things despise.
The wise example of the heavenly lark,
Thy fellow-poet, Cowley, mark; Above the clouds let thy proud musick sound,
Thy humble nest build on the ground.
THE DANGER OF PROCRASTINATION.
A LETTER TO MR. S. L.
I AM glad that you approve and applaud my design of withdrawing myself from all tumult and business of the world, and consecrating the little rest of my time to those studies, to which nature had so motherly inclined me, and from which fortune, like a step-mother, has so long detained me. But nevertheless (you say, which but is “ ærugo mera,” a rust which spoils the good metal it grows upon.
But you say) you would advise me not to precipitate that resolution, but to stay a while longer with patience and complaisance, till I had gotten such an estate as might afford me (according to the saying of that person, whom you and I love very much, and would believe as soon as another man) “ cum dignitate otium.” This were excellent advice to Joshua, who could bid the sun stay too. But there is no fooling with life, when it is once turned beyond forty. The seeking for a fortune then, is but a desperate after-game: it is a hundred to one, if a man fling two sixes and recover all ; especially, if his hand be no luckier than mine.
There is some help for all the defects of fortune; for, if a man cannot attain to the length of his wishes, he may have his remedy by cutting of them shorter. Epicurus writes a letter to Idomeneus (who was then a very powerful, wealthy, and, it seems, bountiful person) to recommend to him, who had made so many men rich, one Pythocles, a friend of his, whom he desired' might be made a rich man too; “ but I intreat you
would not do it just the same way as you have done to many less deserving persons, but in the most gentlemanly manner of obliging him, which is, not to add any thing to his estate, but to take something from his desires."
The sum of this is, that, for the uncertain hopes of some conveniencies, we ought not to defer the execution of a work that is necessary; especially, when the use of those things, which we would stay for, may otherwise be supplied; but the loss of time, never recovered: nay, further yet, though we were sure to obtain all that we had a mind to, though we were sure of getting never so much by continuing the game, yet, when the light of life is so near going out, and ought to be so precious, “ le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle," the play is not worth the expence of the candle: after having been long tossed in a tempest, if our masts be standing, and we have still sail and tackling enough to carry us to our port, it is no matter for the want of streamers and topgallants;
utere velis, Totos pande sinus
* Juv. i. 150.