« PreviousContinue »
to queasy stomachs, yet to prepared appetites is nectar, and a pleasant potion of immortality. (137)
For my conversation, it is like the sun's, with all men, and with a friendly aspect to good and bad. Methinks there is no man bad, and the worst, best; that is, while they are kept within the circle of those qualities wherein they are good. There is no man's mind of such discordant and jarring a temper, to which a tuneable disposition may not strike a harmony. Magnæ virtutes, nec minora vitia, it is the posy of the best natures, and may be inverted on the worst. There are in the most depraved and venomous dispositions certain pieces that remain untouched, which by an antiperistasis become more excellent, or by the excellency of their antipathies are able to preserve themselves from the contagion of their enemy vices, and persist entire beyond the general corruption. For it is also thus in nature. The greatest balsams do lie enveloped in the bodies of most powerful corrosives; I say, moreover, and I ground upon experience, that poisons contain within themselves their own antidote, and that which preserves them from the venom of themselves, without which they were not deleterious to others only, but to themselves also. But it is the corruption that I fear within me, not the contagion of commerce without me. It is that unruly regimen within me, that will destroy me; it is I
(137) On this declamation respecting the advantages of death I have already animadverted. In the mouths even of those who are prepared die it is churlish and ungrateful; in those of all others it is madness.-ED.
that do infect myself, the man without a navel yet lives in me. I feel that original canker corrode and devour me; and therefore defenda me Dios de me, "Lord deliver me from myself," is a part of my litany, and the first voice of my retired imaginations. There is no man alone, because every man is a microcosm, and carries the whole world about him; nunquam minus solus quàm cum solus, though it be the apophthegm of a wise man, is yet true in the mouth of a fool; indeed, though in a wilderness, a man is never alone, not only because he is with himself and his own thoughts, but because he is with the devil;(136) who ever consorts with our solitude, and is that unruly rebel that musters up those disordered motions which accompany our sequestered imaginations. And to speak more narrowly, there is no such thing as solitude, nor any thing that can be said to be alone and by itself but God, who is his own circle, and can subsist by himself; all others, besides their dissimilarity and heterogenous parts, which in a manner multiply their natures, cannot subsist without the concourse of God, and the society of that hand which doth uphold their natures. In brief, there can be nothing truly alone, and by itself, which is not truly one; and
(138) It is to be hoped that some have better company in their solitude that there are still those who, like the patriarch Enoch, "walk there with God." Most good men, I imagine, are never so removed from evil as when buried in their own contemplations, far from the world and its disturbing influences. He who entertains himself habitually with iniquity, when alone, cannot boast much of the constitution of his mind.-ED.
such is only God; all others do transcend an unity, and so by consequence are many.
Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate were not a history but a piece of poetry, and would sound to common ears like a fable; for the world, I count it not an inn but an hospital; and a place not to live, but to die in. The world that I regard is myself; it is the microcosm of my own frame that I cast mine eye on, for the other, I use it but like my globe, and turn it round sometimes for my recreation. (139) Men that look upon my outside, perusing only my condition and fortunes, do err in my altitude, for I am above Atlas's shoulders. The earth is a point, not only in respect of the heavens above us, but of that heavenly and celestial part within us; that mass of flesh that circumscribes me limits not my mind; that surface that tells the heaven it hath an end cannot persuade me I have any. I take my circle to be above three hundred and sixty. Though the number of the arc do measure my body it comprehendeth not my mind. Whilst I study to find how I am a microcosm, or little world, I find myself something more than the great. There is surely a piece of divinity in us, something that was before
(139) Sir Kenelm Digby very good-humouredly laughs at this passage, from which he infers, what is everywhere abundantly apparent, that our author had "a special good opinion of himself," adding candidly, however, that he had indeed reason. (Observations upon the "Religio Medici," p. 164.) I have already remarked, that in my opinion such harmless bursts of vanity are far more agreeable than the affected humility elsewhere made a parade of.-ED.
the elements, and owes no homage unto the sun. Nature tells me I am the image of God, as well as Scripture. He that understands not thus much hath not his introduction, or first lesson, and is yet to begin the alphabet of man. Let me not injure the felicity of others, if I say I am as happy as any; Ruat cœlum, fiat voluntas tua, salveth all; so that whatsoever happens it is but what our daily prayers desire. In brief, I am content, and what should Providence add more? Surely this is it we call happiness, and this do I enjoy; with this I am happy in a dream, and as content to enjoy a happiness in a fancy, as others in a more apparent truth and reality. There is surely a nearer apprehension of anything that delights us in our dreams, than in our waking senses; without this I were unhappy; for my awaked judgment discontents me, ever whispering unto me that I am from my friend; but my friendly dreams in night requite me, and make me think I am within his arms. I thank God for my happy dreams, as I do for my good rest, for there is a satisfaction unto reasonable desires, and such as can be content with a fit of happiness. And surely it is not a melancholy conceit to think we are all asleep in this world, and that the conceits of this life are as mere dreams to those of the next, as the phantasms of the night, to the conceits of the day. There is an equal delusion in both, and the one doth but seem to be the emblem or picture of the other. We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps, and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking
of the soul. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason, and our waking conceptions do not match the fancies of our sleeps. At my nativity my ascendant was the watery sign of Scorpius. was born in the planetary hour of Saturn, and I think I have a piece of the leaden planet in me. (140) I am no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardize of company; yet in one dream I can compose a whole comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof. Were my memory as faithful as my reason is then fruitful, I would never study but in my dreams; (14) and this time also would I choose for my devotions; but our grosser memories have then so little hold of our abstracted understandings that they forget the story, and can only relate to our awaked souls a confused and broken tale of that that hath passed. Aristotle, who hath written a singular tract of sleep, hath not, methinks, thoroughly defined it; nor yet Galen, though he seem to have corrected it; for those noctambuloes and night-walkers, though in their sleep, do yet enjoy the action of their senses. We must therefore say, that there is something in us that is not in the jurisdiction of Morpheus, and that
(140) They who remember his opinion of women will readily believe this.-ED.
(141) The late Mr. Coleridge, who had himself "a piece of the leaden planet" in him, was likewise partial to dream-compositions, and has left behind him a very remarkable poem wholly constructed in sleep. It is, however, much superior to what most persons could write when wide awake, and makes one wish the habit of dreaming had been more constant with him.-ED.