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His notions fitted tilings so well,
That which was which he could not tell,
But oftentimes mistook the one
For th' other, as great clerks have done.
He knew what's what,1 and that's as high
As metaphysic wit can fly:
He could raise scruples dark and nice,
And after solve 'cm in a trice;
As if divinity had catch'd
The itch, on purposo to be scratched;
Or, like a mountebank, did wound,
And stab herself with doubts profound,
Only to show with how small pain
The sores of Faith are cured again;
Although by woful proof we find
They always leave a scar behind.
His doublet was of sturdy buff,
His breeches were of nigged woollen,
Such are a few specimens of Butler's wit as displayed in his poetry. The same vein rims through his prose works, which were not published till a considerable tune after his death. We can give but one specimen:—
A SMALL POET
Is one that would fain make himself that which nature never meant him; like a fanatic that inspires himself with his own whimsies. He sets up haberdasher of small poetry, with a very small stock, and no credit. He believes it is invention enough to find out other men's wit; and whatsoever he lights upon, either in books or company, he makes bold with as his own. This he
1 A ridicule on the senseless questions In the common systems of logic, as, quid ett quid T whence canic the common provcrblnl cxpreshion of A* knotty vihtt'i what, to denote a shrewd man. a Boulogne was besieged by King Henry VTO\, July 14, 1544, anil surrendered In September.
puts together so untowardly, that you may perceive his own wit has the rickets, by the swelling disproportion of the joints. You may know his wit not to be natural, 'tis so unquiet and troublesome in him: for as those that have money but seldom are always shaking their pockets when they have it, so does he, when he thinks he has got something that will make him appear. He is a perpetual talker; and you may know by the freedom of his discourse that he came lightly by it, as thieves spend freely what they get. He is like an Italian thief, that never robs but he murders, to prevent discovery; so sure is he to cry down the man from whom he purloins, that his petty larceny of wit may pass unsuspected. He appears so over-concerned in all men's wits, as if they were but disparagements of his own; and cries down all they do, as if they were encroachments upon him. He takes jests from the owners and breaks them, as justices do false weights, and pots that want measure. When he meets with any thing that is very good, he changes it into small money, like three greats for a shilling, to serve several occasions. He disclaims study, pretends to take things in motion, and to shoot flying, which appears to be very true, by his often missing of his mark. As for epithets, he always avoids those that are near akin to the sense. Such matches are unlawful, and not fit to be made by a Christian poet; and therefore all his care is to choose out such as will serve, like a wooden leg, to piece out a maimed verse that wants a foot or two, and if they will but rhyme now and then into the bargain, or run upon a letter, it is a work of supererogation. For similitudes he likes the hardest and most obscure best; for as ladies wear black patches to make their complexions seem fairer than they are, so when an illustration is more obscure than the sense that went before it, it must of necessity make it appear clearer than it did; for contraries are best sort ofT with contraries. He has found out a new set of poetical Georgics—a trick of sowing wit like clover-grass on barren subjects, which would yield nothing before. This is very useful for the times, wherein, some men say, there is no room left for new invention. He will take three grains of wit, like the elixir, and, projecting it upon the iron age, turn it immediately into gold. All the business of mankind has presently vanished, the whole world has kept holiday; there has been no men but heroes and poets, no women but nymphs and shepherdesses; trees have borne fritters, and rivers flowed plum-porridge. When he writes, he commonly steers the sense of his lines by the rhyme that is at the end of them, as butchers do calves by the tail. For when he has made one line, which is easy enough, and has found out some sturdy hard word that will but rhyme, he will hammer the sense upon it, like a piece of hot iron upon an anvil, into what form he pleases. There is no art in the world so rich in terms as poetry; a whole dictionary is scarce able to contain them; for there is hardly a pond, a sheepwalk, or a gravel-pit in all Greece, but the ancient name of it is become a term of art in poetry. By this means, small poets have such a stock of able hard words lying by them, as dryades, hamadryades, aonides, fauni, nymphs, sylvani, &c, that signify nothing- at all; and such a world of pedantic terms of the same kind, as may serve to furnish all the new inventions and "thorough reformations" that can happen between this and Plato's great year.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE. 1005—1082.
One of the most original as well as learned men of the reign of Charles II., was Sir Thomas Browne. He was born in Loudon in 1005, and in 1623 he entered Oxford, intending to devote himself to the study of medicine. Having taken his degree, he practised physic for some time in Oxfordshire. He then went abroad, and travelled in France, Italy, and Holland; and at Leyden he took the degree of doctor of physic. Returning to England in 1634, he settled at Norwich, and on account of his great reputation as a physician, he was, a few years after, made honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London. Ho was knighted in 1071 by Charles H., in his progress through Norwich, with singular marks of consideration j aud died in 1082.
The following are the principal productions of Sir Thomas Browne:— 1. "The Religio Mcdiri, or the Religion of a Physician." It is divided into two parts; the first containing his confession of faith, that is, all his curious religious opinions and feelings; the second, a confession of charity; that is, all his human feelings.1 2. His "Pseudodoxia Epidemica,'' more generally known by the title of "Browne's Vulgar Errors." This is the most popular of all his works. He treats his subject very methodically, dividing the whole into seven books, considering the various errors as they arise from minerals and vegetables, animals, man, pictures, geography, philosophy, and history. Notwithstanding die singularity and quaintness which pervade this work, it is one that displays great learning and penetration, and is very interesting. 3. Another production was entitled (£ Hydriotaphia, Urn-Burial; or a Discourse of the .Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk." "In this work," says an able critic,2 '* Sir Thomas Browne hath dared to take the grave itself for his theme. He deals not with death as a shadow, but as a substantial reality. He dwells not on it as a mere cessation of life—he treats it not as a terrible negation—but enters on its discussion as a state with its own solemnities and pomps."
Dr. Johnson has described Browne's style with much critical acumen. "It is," says he, "vigorous, but rugged; it is learned, but pedantic; it is deep, but
1 Of this, Dr. Johnson, In his lifts of Browne, thus remarks: "The Rellglo Medici was no sooner
published, than it excited the attention of the public by the novelty of paradoxes, the dignity of sentiment, the quick succession of iniaffcs, the multitude of abstruse allusions, the alibUety of disquisition, and tile strength of lana:n;t£c."
2 For an interesting notice of Oils singular work, see Retrospective Review, 1. 84. Read, also, some rt"ii:irks on our author in ILizlitl's "Ase of Elizabeth."
obscure; it strike.-, but does not please; it commands, but does no» allure: hia tropes arc harsh, and his combinations uncouth. He fell into nil age in which our language began to lo^e the stability which it had obtained in the time of Elizabeth; and was considered by every writer as a subject on which he might try bis plastic skill, by moulding it according to his own fancy. His style is, indeed, u tissue of many languages; a mixture of heterogeneous words, brought together from distant regions, with terms originally appropriate to one art, and dmwn by violence into the service of another." 1
THOUGHTS ON DEATH AND IMMORTALITY.
In a field of Old Walsingham, not many months past, were digged up between forty and fifty urns, deposited in a dry and sandy soil, not a yard deep, not far from one another: not all strictly of one figure, but most answering these described; some containing two pounds of bones, distinguishable in skulls, ribs, jaws, thigh-bones, and teeth, with fresh impressions of their combustion; besides, the extraneous substances, like pieces of small boxes, or combs handsomely wrought, handles of small bmss instruments, bmzen nippers, and in one some kind of opal.
That these were the urns of Romans, from the common custom and place where they were found, is no obscure conjecture; not far from a Roman garrison, and but five miles from Brancaster, set down by ancient record under the name of Bmnnodunum; and where the adjoining town, containing seven parishes, in no very different sound, but Saxon termination, still retains the name of Burnham; which being an early station, it is not improbable the neighbor parts were filled with habitations,either of Romans themselves, or Britons Romanised, which observed the Roman customs. • * *
What song the sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture. What time the persons of these ossuaries entered the famous nations of the dead, and slept with princes and counsellors, might admit a wide solution. But who were the proprietaries of these bones, or what bodies these ashes made up, were a question above antiquarianism: not to be resolved by man, not easily perhaps by spirits, except we consult the provincial guardians, or tutelary observators. Had they made as good provision for their names, as they have done for their relics,
1 But Dr. Johnson himself did not scruple to trunsfer to his own pages many of Browne'i ponde, cm words; for, as Cumberland trnly says of him,
'• He forced LnMnlstns int0 hla lino,
.hey had not so grossly erred in the art of perpetuation. But to subsist in bones, and be but pyramidally extant, is a fallacy in duration. * * *
But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the founder of the pyramids? Heroslratus lives, that burnt the temple of Diana! he is almost lost that built it. Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian's horse, confounded that of himself. In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equal durations; and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon, without the favor of the everlasting register. Who knows whether the best of men be known, or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? The first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methuselah's long life had been his only chronicle.
There is nothing strictly immortal, but immortality. Whatever hath no beginning, may be confident of no end. All others have a dependent being, and within the reach of destruction, which is the peculiar of that necessary essence that cannot destroy itself, and the highest strain of omnipotency, to be so powerfully constituted, as not to suffer even from the power of itself. But the sufficiency of Christian immortality frustrates all earthly glory, and the quality of either state after death makes a folly of posthumous memory.
Man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave; solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal lustre.
To subsist in lasting monuments, to live in their productions, to exist in their names, and predicament of chimeras, was large satisfaction unto old expectations, and made one part of their Elysiums. But all this is nothing in the metaphysics of true belief. To live indeed is to be again ourselves, which being not only a hope, but an evidence in noble believers, it is all one to lie in St. Innocent's* churchyard, as in the sands of Egypt; ready to be any thing in the ecstasy of being ever, and as content with six foot as the moles of Adrianus.3
I thank God amongst those millions of vices I do inherit and hold from Adam, I have escaped one, and that a mortal enemy to charity, the first and father sin, not only of man, but of the devil,— pride; a vice whose name is comprehended in a monosyllable, but in its nature not circumscribed with a world; I have escaped
1 In PiirU, where bodies soon coDsumc.
i A stately mausoleum, or sepulchral pile, built by Adrianui in Rome, where now standeth Um ensile of St. Augclo.