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Ast in your towns, that prospect gives delight,
THE COUNTRY LIFE,
Lib. IV. Plantarum.
BLEST be the man (and blest he is) whom e'er
The specious inconveniences, that wait
The old Corycian yeoman pass'd his days; Thus his wise life Abdolonymus spent:
Th' ambassadors, which the great emperor sent
In a proud rage, "Who can that Aglaüs be!
So, gracious God! (if it may lawful be,
3 The poet, as usual, expresses his own feeling: but he does more, he expresses it very classically. The allusion is to the ancient custom of wearing wreaths or garlands of flowers, on any occasion of joy and festivity. HURD,
To J. EVELYN, Esquire.
I NEVER had any other desire so strong and sa like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life only to the culture of them, and study of nature;
And there (with no design beyond my wall) whole [ recommend to mankind the search of that fe licity, which you instruct them how to find and to enjoy.
and entire to lie,
In no unactive ease, and no unglorious poverty.
Or as Virgil has said, shorter and better for me that I might there
Studiis florere ignobilis oti 4:
(though I could wish that he had rather said, nobilis oti, when he spoke of his own.) But several accidents of my ill-fortune have disappointed me hitherto, and do still, of that felicity; for though I have made the first and hardest step to it, by abandoning all ambitions and hopes in this world, and by retiring from the noise of all business and almost company, yet I stick still in the inn of a hired house and garden, among weeds and rubbish; and without that pleasantest work of human industry, the improvement of something which we call (not very properly, but yet we call) our own. I am gone ont from Sodom, but I am not yet arrived at my little Zoar. "O let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live." I do not look back yet; but I have been forced to stop, and make too many halts. You may wonder, sir, (for this seems a little too extravagant and pindarical for prose) what I mean by all this preface; it is to let you know, that though have missed, like a chymist, my great end, yet I account my affections and endeavours well rewarded by something that I have met with by the by; which is, that they have procured to me some part in your kindness and esteem; and thereby the honour of having my name so advantageously recommended to posterity, by the epistle you are pleased to prefix to the most useful book that has been written in that kind 5, and which is to last as long as months and years.
Among many other arts and excellencies, which you enjoy, I am glad to find this favourite of mine the most predominant; that you choose this for your wife, though you have hundreds of other arts for your concubines; though you know them, and beget sons upon them all (to which you are rich enough to allow great legacies), yet the issue of this seems to be designed by you to the main of the estate; you have taken most pleasure in it, and bestowed most charges upon its education: and I doubt not to see that book, which you are pleased to promise to the world, and of which you have given us a large earnest in your calendar, as accomplished, as any thing can be expected from an extraordinary wit, and no ordinary expenses, and a long experience. I know nobody that possesses more private happiness than you do in your garden; and yet no man, who makes his happiness more public, by a free communication of the art and knowledge of it to others. All that I myself am able yet to do, is only to
4 Virg. Georg. iv. 564.
Mr. Evelyn's Kalendarium hortense; dedicated to Mr Cowley-The title explains the propriety of the compliment, that this book was to last as long as months and years. AURD.
Happy art thou, whom God does bless With the full choice of thine own happiness;
And happier yet, because thou 'rt blest With prudence, how to choose the best: In books and gardens thou hast plac'd aright
(Things, which thou well dost understand; And both dost make with thy laborious hand) Thy noble, innocent delight;
And in thy virtuous wife, where thou again dost meet
Both pleasures more refin'd and sweet;
O blessed shades! O gentle, cool retreat
They neither set, nor disappear,
Are not from fears and cares more free
These are the spells, that to kind sleep invite,
Which yet we moderately take;
As the most soft and sweetest bed; [head. Not her own lap would more have charm'd his Who, that has reason, and his smell, Would not among roses and jasmine dwell, Rather than all his spirits choak With exhalations of dirt and smoke,
When Venus would her dear Ascanius keep 6
That salt of life, which does to all a relish give,
She odorous herbs and flowers beneath him Its standing pleasure, and intrinsic wealth,
And all th' uncleanness which does drown, In pestilential clouds, a populous town? The earth itself breathes better perfumes here, Than all the female men, or women, there, Not without cause, about them bear.
When Epicurus to the world had taught,
That pleasure was the chiefest good, (And was, perhaps, i' th' right, if rightly underHis life he to his doctrine brought, [stood)| And in a garden 's shade that sovereign pleasure sought: Whoever a true epicure would be,
May there find cheap and virtuous luxury.
Help'd with a little art and industry,
Yet still the fruits of earth we see Plac'd the third story high in all her luxury.
When the great Hebrew king did almost strain The wondrous treasures of his wealth and brain, His royal southern guest to entertain;
Though she on silver floors did tread,
Though she herself and her gay host were drest
The honour and the prize of bravery
But with no sense the garden does comply, None courts, or flatters, as it does, the eye.
Virg. Æn. i. 695.
Nor does this happy place only dispense Such various pleasures to the sense; Here health itself does live,
The tree of life, when it in Eden stood,
Nor will it thrive too every where:
If, through the strong and beauteous fence Of temperance and innocence,
Where does the wisdom and the power divine
Than when we with attention look
7 Matth. vi. 29.
Though these perhaps do, more than they,
Although no part of mighty Nature be
We no-where Art do só triumphant see,
As when it grafts or buds the tree:
It over-rules, and is her master, here.
It imitates her Maker's power divine,
And changes her sometimes, and soinetimes does refine :
It does, like grace, the fallen tree restore
To its blest state of Paradise before:
Who would not joy to see his conquering hand
What law he's pleas'd to give?
The golden fruit, that worthy is
He does the savage hawthorn teach
That she's a mother made, and blushes in her
Methinks, I see great Dioclesian walk
T'entice him to a throne again.
"SINCE we cannot attain to greatness "(says the sieur de Montagne)" let us have our revenge by railing at it:" this he spoke but in jest. I believe he desired it no more than I do, and had less reason; for he enjoyed so plentiful and honourable a fortune in a most excellent country, as allowed him all the real conveniences of it, separated and
purged from the incommodities. If I were but
If ever I more riches did desire
I know very many men will despise, and some pity me, for this humour, as a poor-spirited fellow; but I am content, and, like Horace, thank God for being so.
Di bene fecerunt, inopis me quódque pusilli
I confess, I love littleness almost in all things, A little convenient estate, a little cheerful house, a little company, and a very little feast; and, if I were ever to fall in love again (which is a great passion, and therefore, I hope, I have done with it) it would be, I think, with prettiness, rather than with majestical beauty. I would neither wish that my mistress, nor my fortune, should be a bona roba, nor, as Homer uses to describe his beauties, like a daughter of great Jupiter for the stateliness and largeness of her person; but, as Lucretius says,
Parvola, pumilio,Xagírav μla, tota merum sal 9.
Where there is one man of this, I believe there are a thousand of Senecio's mind, whose ridiculous affectation of grandeur Seneca the elder describes to this effect: "Senecio was a man of a turbid and confused wit, who could not endure to speak any but mighty words and sentences, till this humour grew at last into so notorious a habit, or rather disease, as became the sport of the whole town: he would have no servants, but huge, mas sy fellows; no plate or household-stuff, but thrice as big as the fashion: you may believe me, for I' speak it without raillery, his extravagancy came at last into such a madness, that he would not put on a pair of shoes, each of which was not big enough for both his feet: he would eat nothing but what was great, nor touch any fruit but horseplums and pound-pears: he kept a concubine, that was a very giantess, and made her walk too always in chiopins, till at last he got the surname of Senecio Grandio, which Messala said, was not his cognomen, but his cognomentum: when he de claimed for the three hundred Lacedæmonians, who alone opposed Xerxes's army of above three hundred thousand, he stretched out his arms, and stood on tiptoes, that he might appear the taller, and cried out, in a very loud voice; I rejoice, Í rejoice.'-We wondered, I remember, what new great fortune had befallen his eminence. 'Xerxes
(says he) is all mine own. He, who took away the sight of the sea, with the canvas veils of so many ships'"-and then he goes on so, as I know not what to make of the rest, whether it be the fault of the edition, or the orator's own burley way of nonseuse.
playing at dice; and that was the main fruit of his sovereignty. I omit the madnesses of Caligula's delights, and the execrable sordidness of those of Tiberius. Would one think that Augustus himself, the highest and most fortunate of mankind, a person endowed too with many excellent parts of nature, should be so hard put to it sometimes for want of recretations, as to be found playing at nuts and bounding-stones, with little Syrian and Moorish boys, whose company he took delight in, for their prating and their wantonness?
This is the character that Seneca gives of this hyperbolical fop, whom we stand amazed at, and yet there are very few men who are not in some things, and to some degrees, Grandios. Is any thing more common, than to see our ladies of quality wear such high shoes as they cannot walk in, without one to lead them; and a gown as long again as their body, so that they cannot stir to the next room without a page or to two hold it up? I may safely say, that all the ostentation of our grandees is, just like a train, of no use in the world, but horribly cumbersome and incommodious. What is all this, but a spice of Grandio? how tedious would this be, if we were always bound to it! I do believe there is no king, who would not rather be deposed, than endure every day of bis reign all the ceremonies of his coronation.
His new-created Deity,
With nuts, and bounding-stones, and boys. The mightiest princes are glad to fly often from But we must excuse her for this meagre enterthese majestic pleasures (which is, methinks, no tainment; she has not really wherewithal to make small disparagement to them) as it were for refuge such feasts as we imagine. Her guests must be contented sometimes with but slender cates, and to the most contemptible divertisements and meanest recreations of the vulgar, nay, even of chil- with the same cold meats served over and over dren. One of the most powerful and fortunate again, even till they become nauseous. When princes of the world, of late, could find out no you have pared away all the vanity, what solid delight so satisfactory, as the keeping of little and natural contentment does there remain, which singing birds, and hearing of them, and whistling may not be had with five hundred pounds a year? to them. What did the emperors of the whole Not so many servants or horses; but a few good world? If ever any men had the free and full ones, which will do all the business as well: not enjoyment of all human greatness (nay that so many choice dishes at every meal, but at sewould not suffice, for they would be gods too), veral meals all of them, which makes them both they certainly possessed it: and yet one of them, the more healthy, and the more pleasant; not so who styled himself lord and god of the earth, rich garments, nor so frequent changes; but as could not tell how to pass his whole day pleasantly, warm and as comely, and so frequent change too, without spending constantly two or three hours as is every jot as good for the master, though not in catching of flies, and killing them with a bod- for the taylor or valet de chambre: not such a kin, as if his godship had been Beelzebub 3. One stately palace, nor gilt rooms, or the costliest soris of his predecessors, Nero, (who never put any of tapestry; but a convenient brick house, with bounds, nor met with any stop to his appetite) decent wainscot, and pretty forest-work hangings. could divert himself with no pastime more agree- Lastly (for I omit all other particulars, and will able, than to run about the streets all night in a dis-end with that which I love most in both conditions) guise, and abuse the women, and affront the men not whole woods cut in walks, nor vast parks, nor whom he met, and sometimes to beat them, and fountain or cascade-gardens; but herb, and flowsometimes to be beaten by them: this was one of er, and fruit gardens, which are more useful, and his imperial nocturnal pleasures. His chiefest in the water every whit as clear and wholesome, as the day was, to sing and play upon a fiddle, in the if it darted from the breasts of a marble nymph, habit of a minstrel, upon the public stage: he was or the urn of a river-god. prouder of the garlands that were given to his divine voice (as they called it then) in those kind of prizes, than all his forefathers were, of their triumphs over nations: he did not at his death complain, that so mighty an emperor, and the last of all the Cæsarian race of deities, should be brought to so shameful and miserable an end; but only cried out, "Alas, what pity it is, that so excellent a musician should perish in this manner 4!" His uncle Claudius spent half his time at
* Louis XIII—The Duke de Luynes, the Constable of France, is said to have gained the favour of this powerful and fortunate prince by training up singing birds for him. ANON.
Was it for this that Rome's best blood he spilt
3 Beelzebub signifies the lord of flies. COWLEY. Qualis artifex pereo! Sueton. Nero.
If, for all this, you I ke better the substance of that former estate of life, do but consider the inseparable accidents of both: servitude, disquiet, danger, and most commonly guilt, inherent in the one; in the other liberty, tranquillity, security, and innocence. And when you have thought upon this, you will confess that to be a truth which appeared to you, before, but a ridiculous paradox, that a low fortune is better guarded and attended than an high one. If, indeed, we look only upon the flourishing head of the tree, it appears a most beautiful object,
-sed quantum vertice ad auras Etherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendit $.
5 Virg. Georg. ii. 291.