Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

tend to read, in the entrails of victims, the signs of future greatness and prosperity; and there are many who do not presume either to bathe, or to dine, or to appear in public, till they have diligently consulted, according to the rules of astrology, the situation of Mercury and the aspect of the Moon. It is singular enough, that this vain credulity may often be discovered among the profane sceptics, who impiously doubt or deny the existence of a celestial power.

168.—HEALTH AND LONG LIFE.

SIR W. TEMPLE. [SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE, an eminent statesman, was born in 1628. He was employed during the reign of Charles II. in several important missions, and by his energy and judgment concluded the famous Triple Alliance of 1668, between England, Holland, and Sweden. His politics were too liberal, and his disposition too honest, for those days. He gradually retired into private life ; and at his house at Sheen devoted himself to literature and gardening. He died in 1699.]

For the honour of our climate, it has been observed by ancient authors, that the Britons were longer-lived than any other nation to them known. And in modern times there have been more and greater examples of this kind than in any other countries of Europe. The story of old Parr is too late to be forgotten by many now alive, who was brought out of Derbyshire to the court in King Charles the First's time, and lived to a hundred and fifty-three years old; and might have, as was thought, gone further, if the change of country air and diet for that of the town, had not carried him off untimely at that very age. The late Robert Earl of Leicester, who was a person of great learning and observation, as well as of truth, told me several stories very extraordinary upon this subject; one of a Countess of Desmond, married out of England in Edward the Fourth's time, and who lived far in King James's reign, and was counted to have died some years above a hundred and forty; at which age she came from Bristol to London to beg some relief at court, having long been very poor by the ruin of that Irish family into which she was married.

Another he told me was of a beggar at a bookseller's shop, where he was some weeks after the death of Prince Henry; and, observing those that passed by, he was saying to his company, that never such a mourning had been seen in England; this beggar, said, “No, never since the death of Prince Arthur." My Lord Leicester, surprised, asked what she meant, and whether she remembered it; she said, “ Very well ;” and upon his more curious inquiry told him that her name was Rainsford, of a good family in Oxfordshire; that when she was about twenty years old, upon the falseness of a lover, she fell distracted; how long she had been so, nor what passed in that time, she knew not; that when she was thought well enough to go abroad, she was fain to beg for her living; that she was some time at this trade before she recovered any memory of what she had been, or where bred; that when this memory returned, she went down into her country, but hardly found the

memory

of
any

of her friends she had left there ; and so returned to a parish in Southwark, where she had some small allowance among other poor, and had been for many years ; and once a week walked into the city, and took what alms were given her. My Lord Leicester told me he sent to inquire at the parish, and found their account agree with the woman's ; upon which he ordered her to call at his house once a week, which she did for some time; after which he heard no more of her. This story raised some discourse upon a remark of some in the company, that mad people are apt to live long. They alleged examples of their own knowledge; but the result was that if it were true, it must proceed from the natural vigour of their tempers, which disposed them to passions so violent, as end in frenzies; and from the great abstinence and hardships of diet they are forced upon by the methods of their cure, and severity of those who had them in care; no other drink but water being allowed them, and very little meat.

The last story I shall mention from that noble person, upon this subject, was of a morris-dance in Herefordshire; whereof he said, he had a pamphlet still in his library, written by a very ingenious gentleman of that county; and which gave an account how, such a year of King James his reign, there went about the country a set of morrisdancers composed of ten men who danced a Maid Marian, and a tabor and pipe; and how these twelve one with another made up twelve hundred years. 'Tis not so much that so many in one small county should live to that age, as that they should be in vigour and in humour to travel and to dance.

I have in my life met with two of above a hundred and twelve; whereof the woman had passed her life in service, and the man in common labour till he grew old and fell upon the parish. But I met with one who had gone a much greater length, which made me more curious in my inquiries. 'Twas an old man who begged usually at a lonely inn upon the road in Staffordshire, who told me he was a hundred and twenty-four years old ; that he had been a soldier in the Cales

voyage under the Earl of Essex, of which he gave me a sensible account. That after his return he fell to labour in his own parish, which was about a mile from the place where I met him. That he continued to work till a hundred and twelve, when he broke one of his ribs by a fall from a cart, and being thereby disabled he fell to beg. This agreeing with what the master of the house told me was reported and believed by all his neighbours, I asked him what his usual food was; he said, milk, bread and cheese, and flesh when it was given bim. I asked what he used to drink; he said, “Oh, sir, we have the best water in our parish that is in all the neighbourhood." Whether he never drank any thing else. He said, yes, if any body gave it him, but not otherwise; and the host told me, he had got many a pound in his house, but never spent one penny. I asked if he had any neighbours as old as he, and he told me but one, who had been his fellow-soldier at Cales, and was three years older; but he had been most of his time in a good service, and had something to live on now he was old.

I have heard, and very credibly, of many in my life above a hundred years old, brought as witnesses upon trials of titles, and bounds of land; but have observed most of them to have been of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, or Yorkshire, and none above the rank of common farmers.' The oldest I ever knew any persons of quality, or indeed any gentleman, either at home or abroad, was fourscore and twelve. This added to all the former recites or observations, either of longlived races or persons in any age or country, makes it easy to conclude that health and long life are usually blessings of the poor, not of the rich; and the fruits of temperance, rather than of luxury and excess. And indeed if a rich man does not in many things live like a poor, he will certainly be the worse for his riches; if he does not use exercise, which is but voluntary labour; if he does not restrain appetite by choice as the other does by necessity. If he does not practise sometimes even abstinence and fasting, which is the last extreme of want and poverty ; if his cares and his troubles increase with his riches, or his passions with his pleasures; he will certainly impair in health, whilst be improves his fortunes, and lose more than he gains by the bargain ; since health is the best of all human possessions, and without which the rest are not relished or not kindly enjoyed.

[ocr errors][merged small]

169.-The Coming of Our Saviour.

THOMAS BURNET. [THOMAS BURNET, Master of the Charterhouse, was born in 1635. He was educated at the Free School of North Allerton, and at Cam: bridge. His great work, · Telluris Theoria Sacra,', was published in 1680; and in 1684 he translated his original Latin into English, with many additions and alterations. The Sacred Theory of the Earth' was no doubt regarded by its author as a contribution to that science which we now call Geology; but at that time the facts upon which the science rests were so imperfectly known, that the book has now no scientific value. But Burnet brought to his task the imagination of a poet; and some of his descriptions have been rarely surpassed in real sublimity. His English style is remarkably flowing and harmonious, and does not, like Milton's English prose

writings, wear the appearance of being formed upon Latin models. The extract which we give is from the last chapter of the Third Book of the “Sacred Theory. Dr. Burnet died in 1715.]

Certainly there is nothing in the whole course of nature, or of human affairs, so great and so extraordinary as the two last scenes of them, the Coming of our Saviour, and the Burning of the World. If we could draw in our minds the pictures of these in true and lively colours. we should scarce be able to attend any thing else, or ever divert our imagination from these two objects : for what can more affect us than the greatest glory that ever was visible upon earth, and at the same time the greatest terror ;-a God descending at the head of an array of angels, and a burning world under his feet? * * * * *

As to the face of nature, just before the coming of our Saviour, that may be best collected from the signs of his coming mentioned in the precedent chapter. Those, all meeting together, help to prepare and make ready a theatre fit for an angry God to come down upon. The countenance of the heavens will be dark and gloomy; and a veil drawn over the face of the sun. The earth in a disposition every where to break into open flames. The tops of the mountains smoking; the rivers dry; earthquakes in several places; the sea sunk and retired into its deepest channel, and roaring as against some mighty storm. These things will make the day dead and melancholy; but the night scenes will have more of horror in them, when the blazing stars appear like so many furies with their lighted torches, threatening to set all on fire. For I do not doubt but the comets will bear a part in this tragedy, and have something extraordinary in them at that time, either as to number, or bigneşs, or nearness to the earth. Besides, the air will be full of flaming meteors, of unusual forms and magnitudes; balls of fire rolling in the sky, and pointed lightnings darted against the earth, mixed with claps of thunder and unusual noises from the clouds. The moon and the stars will be confused and irregular, both in their light and motions; as if the whole frame of the heavens was out of order, and all the laws of nature were broken or expired.

When all things are in this languishing or dying posture, and the inhabitants of the earth under the fears of their last end, the heavens will open on a sudden, and the glory of God will appear. A glory surpassing the sun in its greatest radiancy; which though we cannot describe, we may suppose it will bear some resemblance or proportion with those representations that are made in Scripture of God upon his throne. This wonder in the heavens, whatsoever its form may be, will presently attract the eyes of all the Christian world. Nothing can more affect than an object so unusual and so illustrious, and that probably brings along with it their last destiny, and will put a period to all human affairs. * * * * *

As it is not possible for us to express or conceive the dread and majesty of his appearance, so neither can we, on the other hand, express the passions and consternations of the people that behold it. These things exceed the measures of human affairs, and of human thoughts: we have neither words nor comparisons to make them known by. The greatest pomp and magnificence of the Emperors of the East, in their armies, in their triumphs, in their inaugurations, is but the sport and entertainment of children, if compared with this solemnity.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »