« PreviousContinue »
THE FASHIONABLE BUT FAMISHED BEAU.
As a prose writer, Hall was known in his day as a most able champion in controversial theology, being one of the antagonists of Milton, and writing with great learning, as well as with a most excellent spirit, in favor of the established church. But his numerous tracts on this subject are now but little read. Not so, however, with his “Contemplations on the principal Passages of the Holy Story," and his “Occasional Meditations." These are replete with fine thoughts, excellent morality, and sterling piety. He has been styled the Christian Seneca, from his sententious manner of writing, and from the peculiar resemblance of his « Meditations” to “ Seneca's Morals.”3
1 A proverbial phrase for going without a dinner, arising from the circumstance of St. Paul's, where Duke Humphrey's tomb was supposed to stand, being the common resort of loungers who had not dined.
2 Long or low. 3 " Poetry was the occupation merely of his youth, the vigor and decline of his days being em. ployed in the composition of professional works, calculated, by their piety, eloquence, and originality to promote, in the most powerful manner, the best interests of morality and religion."- Drake.
UPON OCCASION OF A RED-BREAST COMING INTO HIS CHAMBER.
Pretty bird, how cheerfully dost thou sit and sing, and yet knowest not where thou art, nor where thou shalt make thy next meal; and at night must shrowd thyself in a bush for lodging ! What a shame is it for me, that see before me so liberal provisions of my God, and find myself sit warm under my own roof, yet am ready to droop under a distrustful and unthankful dulness. Had I so little certainty of my harbor and purveyance, how heartless should I be, how careful; how little list should I have to make music to thee or myself. Surely thou comest not hither without a Providence. God sent thee not so much to delight, as to shame me, but all in a conviction of my sullen unbelief, who, under more apparent means, am less cheerful and confident; reason and faith have not done so much in me, as in thee mere instinct of nature; want of foresight makes thee more merry, if not more happy here, than the foresight of better things maketh me.
O God, thy providence is not impaired by those powers thou hast given me above these brute things ; let not my greater helps hinder me from a holy security, and comfortable reliance on thee.
UPON HEARING MUSIC BY NIGHT. How sweetly doth this music sound in this dead season! In the day-time it would not, it could not so much affect the ear. All harmonious sounds are advanced by a silent darkness; thus it is with the glad tidings of salvation : the gospel never sounds so sweet as in the night of preservation, or of our own private affliction: it is ever the same, the difference is in our disposition to receive it. O God, whose praise it is to give songs in the night, make my prosperity conscionable, and my crosses cheerful.
UPON THE SIGHT OF A GREAT LIBRARY. What a world of wit is here packed up together! I know not whether this sight doth more dismay or comfort me; it dismays me to think that here is so much that I cannot know ; it comforts me to think that this variety yields so good helps to know what I should. There is no truer word than that of Solomon--there is no end of making many books; this sight verifies it; there is no end ; indeed, it were pity there should: God hath given to man a busy soul; the agitation whereof cannot but, through time and experience, work out many hidden truths: to suppress these would be no other than injurious to mankind; whose minds, like unto so many candles, should be kindled by each other: the thoughts of our deliberation are most accurate; these we vent into our papers. What a happiness is it, that, without all offence of
necromancy, I may here call up any of the ancient worthies of learning, whether human or divine, and confer with them of all my doubts ! that I can at pleasure summon whole synods of reverend fathers, and acute doctors from all the coasts of the earth, to give their well-studied judgments in all points of question which I propose! Neither can I cast my eye casually upon any of these silent masters, but I must learn somewhat : it is a wantonness to complain of choice.
THE HAPPY MAN IS HE That hath learned to read himself more than all books; and hath so taken out this lesson that he can never forget it; that knows the world, and cares not for it; that after many traverses of thoughts, is grown to know what he may trust to, and stands now equally armed for all events; that hath got the mastery at home, so as he can cross his will without a mutiny, and so please it that he makes it not a wanton ; that in earthly things wishes no more than nature; in spiritual, is ever graciously ambitious ; that for his condition, stands on his own feet, not needing to lean upon the great ; and so can frame his thoughts to his estate, that when he hath least, he cannot want, because he is as free from desire as superfluity; that he hath seasonably broken the headstrong restiness of prosperity, and can now manage it at pleasure: upon whom all smaller crosses light as hailstones upon a roof; and for the greater calamities, he can take them as tributes of life, and tokens of love; and if his ship be tossed, yet is he sure his anchor is fast. If all the world were his, he could be no other than he is, no whit gladder of himself, no whit higher in his carriage, because he knows contentment is not in the things he hath, but in the mind that values them. The powers of his resolution can either multiply, or subtract at pleasure. He can make his cottage à manor or a palace when he lists; and his homeclose a large dominion; his stained cloth, arras; his earth, plate ; and can see state in the attendance of one servant: as one that hath
1 It's no in titles nor in rank,
To purchase peace and rest;
To make us truly blest:
And centre in the breast,
But never can be blest:
Could make us happy langi
That makes us right or wrang.-BURNS.
learned a man's greatness or baseness is in himself; and in this he may even contest with the proud, that he thinks his own the best. Or if he must be outwardly great, he can but turn the other end of the glass, and make his stately manor a low and strait cottage; and in all his costly furniture he can see not richness but use. He can see dross in the best metal, and earth through the hest clothes : and in all his troop he can see himself his own servant. He lives quietly at home, out of the noise of the world, and loves to enjoy himself always, and sometimes his friend, and hath as full scope to his thoughts as to his eyes. He walks ever even in the midway betwixt hopes and fears, resolved to fear nothing but God, to hope for nothing but that which he must have. His strife is ever to redeem and not to spend time. It is his trade to do good, and to think of it as his recreation. He hath hands enough for himself and others, which are ever stretched forth for beneficence, not for need. He walks cheerfully the way that God hath chalked, and never wishes it more wide, or more smooth. Those very temptations whereby he is foiled, strengthen him; he comes forth crowned, and triumphing out of the spiritual battles, and those scars that he hath, make him beautiful. His soul is every day dilated to receive that God in whom he is, and hath attained to love himself for God, and God for his own sake. His eyes stick so fast in heaven, that no earthly object can remove them; yea, his whole self is there before his time; and sees Stephen, and hears with Paul, and enjoys with Lazarus, the glory that he shall have; and takes possession beforehand of his room amongst the saints; and these heavenly contentments have so taken him up, that now he looks down displeasedly upon the earth, as the regions of his sorrow and banishment; yet joying more in hope than troubled with the sense of evil, he holds it no great matter to live, and greatest business to die: and is so well acquainted with his last guest, that he fears no unkindness from him ; neither makes he any other of dying, than of walking home when he is abroad, or of going to bed when he is weary of the day. He is well provided for both worlds, and is sure of peace here, of glory hereafter; and therefore hath a light heart and a cheerful face. All his fellow creatures rejoice to serve him; his betters, the angels, love to observe him ; God himself takes pleasure to converse with him ; and hath sainted him before his death, and in his death crowned him. stromos
THE PLEASURE OF STUDY AND CONTEMPLATION. I can wonder at nothing more than how a man can be idle ; but of all others, a scholar; in so many improvements of reason, in such sweetness of knowledge, in such variety of studies, in such importunity of thoughts : other artisans do but practise, we still
learn; others run still in the same gyre to weariness, to satiety ; our choice is infinite; other labors require recreation; our very labor recreates our sports; we can never want either somewhat to do, or somewhat that we would do. How numberless are the volumes which men have written of arts, of tongues ! How endless is that volume which God hath written of the world! wherein every creature is a letter; every day a new page. Who can be weary of either of these? To find wit in poetry ; in philosophy, profoundness; in mathematics, acuteness ; in history, wonder of events; in oratory, sweet eloquence; in divinity, supernatural light and holy devotion ; as so many rich metals in their proper mines; whom would it not ravish with delight ? ! After all these, let us but open our eyes, we cannot look beside a lesson, in this universal book of our Maker, worth our study, worth taking out. What creature hath not his miracle? what event doth not challenge his observation? How many busy tongues chase away good hours in pleasant chat, and complain of the haste of night! What ingenious mind can be sooner weary of talking with learned authors, the most harmless and sweetest companions? Let the world contemn us; while we have these delights we cannot envy them; we cannot wish ourselves other than we are. Besides, the way to all other contentments is troublesome; the only recompense is in the end. But very search of knowledge is delightsome. Study itself is our life; from which we would not be barred for a world. How much sweeter then is the fruit of study, the conscience of knowledge? In comparison whereof the soul that hath once tasted it, easily contemns all human comforts.2
RICHARD LOVELACE. 1618–1658. RICHARD LOVELACE, son of Sir William Lovelace, of Woolwich, in Kent, was born in 1618, and educated at Oxford. Wood says of him, that he was accounted the most amiable and beautiful person that eye ever beheld: a person also of innate modesty, virtue, and courtly deportment.” On leaving the university he obtained a commission in the army, being a very firm loyalist. After the ruin of the king's cause, and of his own fortune, he commanded a regiment in the French service, and was wounded at Dunkirk. The lady to whom he was engaged, and to whom he addressed much of his poetry, supposing him dead of his wounds, married another. He returned to England in 1648, and was imprisoned, but was set at liberty on the king's death. After this, he suffered extreme poverty, having spent all his fortune in the service
1 How charming is divine philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose;