Page images
PDF
EPUB

to scorch in the fire for the getting, for the fining of gold is a slavish toil; the comfort is in the wedge to the owner, not the labourers; where our 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. Go now, ye worldlings, and insult over our paleness, our neediness, our neglect. Ye could not be so jocund if you were not ignorant ; if you did not want knowledge, you could not overlook him that hath it; for me, I am so far from emulating you, that I profess I had as lieve be a brute beast, as an ignorant rich man. How is it then, that those gallants, which have privilege of blood and birth, and better education, do so scornfully turn off these most manly, reasonable, noble exercises of scholarship? a hawk becomes their fist better than a book; no dog but is a better company: any thing or nothing, rather than what we ought. O minds brutishly sensual! Do they think that God made them for disport, who even in his paradise, would not allow pleasure without work ? And if for business, either of body or mind : those of the body are commonly servile, like itself. The mind therefore, the mind only, that honourable and divine part, is fittest to be employed of those which would reach to the highest perfection of men, and would be more than the most. And what work is there of the mind but the trade of a scholar, study? Let me therefore fasten this problem on our school gates, and challenge all comers, in the defence of it; that no scholar, cannot but be truly noble. And if I make it not good let me never be admitted further then to the subject of our question. Thus we do well to congratulate to ourselves our own happiness; if others will come to us, it shall be our comfort, but more theirs; if not, it is enough that we can joy in ourselves, and in him in whom we are that we are.

HOW A DAY SHOULD BE SPENT.

FROM AN EPISTLE TO MY LORD DENNY.

Every day is a little life: and our whole is but a day repeated : whence it is that old Jacob numbers his life by days, and Moses desires to be taught this point of holy arithmetic, to number not his years, but his days. Those therefore that dare lose a day, are dangerously prodigal; those that dare mispend it, desperate. We can best teach others by ourselves ; let me tell your lordship, how I would pass my days, whether common or sacred; that you (or whosoever others, overhearing me) may either approve my thriftiness, or correct my errors: to whom is the account of my hours more due, or more known. All days are his, who gave time a beginning and continuance; yet some he hath made ours, not to command, but to use.

[ocr errors][merged small]

mag!

God;

In none may we forget him ; in some we must forget all, besides him. First, therefore, I desire to awake at those hours, not when I will, but when I must; pleasure is not a fit rule for rest, but health; neither do I consult so much with the sun, as mine own necessity, whether of body or in that of the mind. If this vassal could well serve me waking, it should never sleep; but now it must be pleased, that it must be serviceable. Now when sleep is rather driven away than leaves me, I would ever awake with

my first thoughts are for him, who hath made the night for rest, and the day for travel ; and as he gives, so blesses both.* If my heart be early seasoned with his presence, it will savour of him all day after. While my body is dressing, not with an effeminate curiosity, nor yet with rude neglect; my mind addresses itself to her ensuing task, bethinking what is to be done, and in what order; and marshalling (as it may) my hours with my work; that done, after some whiles meditation, I walk up my masters and companions, my

books ; and sitting down amongst them, with the best contentment, I dare not reach forth my hand to salute

to

* See Bishop Taylor's rules in his Holy Living for employing our time." In the morning, when you awake, accustom yourself to think first upon God, or something in order to his service; and at night also let him close thine eyes, and let your sleep be necessary and healthful, not idle and expensive of time, beyond t he needs and conveniences of nature; and sometimes be curious to see the preparation which the sun makes, when he is coming forth from his chambers of the east.”

P

any of them, till I have first looked up to heaven, and craved favour of him to whom all

my

studies are duly referred : without whom, I can neither profit, nor labour. After this, out of no over great variety, I call forth those which may best fit my occasions ; wherein I am not too scrupulous of age; sometimes I put myself to school, to one of those ancients, whom the church hath honoured with the name of Fathers; whose volumes I confess not to open, without a sacred reverence of their holiness and gravity; sometimes to those later doctors, which want nothing but age to make them classical; always to God's book. That day is lost, whereof some hours are not improved in those divine monuments : others I turn over out of choice : these out of duty. Ere I can have sate unto weariness, my family, having now overcome all household distractions, invites me to our common devotions ; not without some short preparation. These heartily performed, send me up with a more strong and cheerful appetite to my former work, which I find made easy to me by intermission, and variety; now therefore can I deceive the hours with change of pleasures, that is, of labours. One while mine eyes are busied, another while my hand, and times

my

mind takes the burthen from them both; wherein I would imitate the skilfullest cooks, which make the best dishes with manifold mixtures; one hour is spent in textual divinity, another in controversy; histories relieve them both. Now, when the mind is weary of other labours, it begins to undertake her own; sometimes it meditates and winds

some

up for future use; sometimes it lays forth her conceits into present discourse; sometimes for itself, ofter for others. Neither know I whether it works or plays in these thoughts; I am sure no sport hath more pleasure, no work more use : only the decay of a weak body makes me think these delights insensibly laborious. Thus could I all day (as ringers use) make myself music with changes, and complain sooner of the day for shortness, than of the business for toil; were it not that this faint monitor interrupts me still in the midst of my busy pleasures, and inforces me both to respite and repast; I must yield to both; while my body and mind are joined together in unequal couples, the better must follow the weaker. Before

my meals, therefore, and after, I let myself loose from all thoughts; and now, would forget that I ever studied; a full mind takes away the body's appetite no less than a full body makes a dull and unwieldy mind; company, discourse, recreations, are now seasonable and welcome : these prepare me for a diet, not gluttonous, but medicinal ; the palate may not be pleased, but the stomach; nor that for its own sake ; neither would I think any of these comforts worth respect in themselves but in their use, in their end; so far as they may enable me to better things. If I see any dish to tempt my palate, I fear a serpent in that apple, and would please myself in a wilful denial ; I rise capable of more, not desirous; not now immediately from

my
trencher to

my but after some intermission.

Moderate speed is a sure help to all proceedings; where those things

book ;

« PreviousContinue »