« PreviousContinue »
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE; 1628–1698.
Temple held several important offices during the reign of Charles II. He wrote several political tracts, and various memoirs, letters, and miscellanies, upon subjects of morality, philosophy, and criticism.
AGAINST EXCESSIVE GRIEF. Addressed to the Countess of Essex in 1674, after the death of her daughter.
It is true you have lost a child, and all that could be lost in a child of that age ; but you have kept one child, and you are likely to do so long. You have kept a husband, great in employment, in fortune, and in the esteem of good men. You have kept your beauty and your health, unless you have destroyed them yourself, or discouraged them to stay with you by using them ill. You have friends who are as kind to you as you can wish, or as you can give them leave to be. You have honour and esteem from all who know you ; or if ever it fails in any degree, it is only upon that point of your seeming to be fallen out with God and the whole world, and neither to care for yourself, nor anything else, after what you have lost.
You will say, perhaps, that one thing was all to you, and your fondness of it made you indifferent to everything else. But this, I doubt, will be so far from justifying you, that it will prove to be your fault as well as your misfortune. God Almighty gave you all the blessings of life, and you set your heart wholly upon one, and despise or undervalne all the rest: is this his fault or yours? Nay, is it not to be very unthankful to Heaven, as well as very scornful to the rest of the world ? Is it not to say, because you have lost one thing God has given, you thank him for nothing he has left, and care not what he takes away? Is it not to say, since that one thing is gone out of the world, there is nothing left in it which you think can deserve your kindness or esteem! A friend makes me a feast, and places before me all that his care or kindness could provide: but I set my heart upon one dish alone, and if that happens to be thrown down, I scorn all the rest ; and though he sends for another of the same kind, yet I rise from the table in a rage, and say: My friend is become my enemy, and he has done me the greatest wrong in the world." Have I reason, madam, or good grace in what I do? or would it become me better to eat of the rest that is before me, and think no more of what had happened, and could not be remedied ?
Christianity teaches and commands us to moderate our passions ; to temper our affections towards all things below; to be thankful for the possession, and patient under the loss, whenever he who gave shall see fit to take away. Your extreme fondness was perhaps as displeasing to God before as now your extreme affliction is ; and your loss may have been a punishment for your faults in the manner of enjoying what you had. It is at least pious to ascribe all the ill that befalls us to our own demerits, rather than to injustice in God. And it becomes us better to adore the issues of his providence in the effects, than to inquire into the causes ; for submission is the only way of reasoning between a creature and its Maker; and contentment in His will is the greatest duty we can pretend to, and the best remedy we can apply to all our misfortunes.
PRAISE OF POETRY AND MUSIC. From Essay on Poetry.
They must be confessed to be the softest and sweetest, the most general and most innocent amusements of common time and life. They still find room in the courts of princes and the cottages of shepherds. They serve to revive and animate the dead calm of poor or idle lives, and to allay or divert the violent passions and perturbations of the greatest and busiest of men. And both these effects are of equal use to human life ; for the mind of man is like the sea, which is neither agreeable to the beholder nor to the voyager in a calm or in a storm, but is so to both when a little agitated by gentle gales; and so the mind, when moved by soft and easy passions and affections. I know very well, that many, who pretend to be wise by the forms of being grave, are apt to despise both poetry and music, as toys and trifles too light for the use and entertainment of serious men. But whoever find themselves wholly insensible to these charms would, I think, do well to keep their own counsel for fear of reproaching their own temper, and bringing the goodness of their natures, if not of their understandings, into question : it may be thought at least an ill sign, if not an ill constitution, since some of the fathers went so far as to esteem the love of music a sign of predestination, as a thing divine, and reserved for the felicities of heaven itself. While this world
lasts, I doubt not but the pleasure and requests of these two entertainments will do so too, and happy those that content themselves with these, or any other so easy and so innocent, and do not trouble the world, or other men, because they cannot be quiet themselves, though nobody hurts them.
When all is done, human life is, at the greatest and the best, but like a froward child, that must be played with and humoured a little, to keep it quiet till it falls asleep, and then the care is over.
JOHN BUNYAN: 1628–1688.
Bunyan, a poor, uneducated tinker, after travelling about the country for many years, acquired a sense of religion and the ability to read and write. He became a lay-preacher of the Baptists. Being imprisoned at the Restoration for unauthorised preaching, he spent the twelve and a half years of his confinement in writing religious works. Of these The Pilgrim's Progress, The Holy War, and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners are the most distinguished. The popularity of the first is almost unrivalled.
CHRISTIAN IN THE HANDS OF GIANT DESPAIR.
From The Pilgrim's Progress. Now there was, not far from the place where they lay, a castle, called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair, and it was in his grounds they now were sleeping; wherefore he, getting up in the morning early, and walking up and down in his fields, caught Christian and Hopeful asleep in his grounds. Then, with a grim and surly voice, he bid them awake, and asked them whence they were, and what they did in his grounds? They told him they were pilgrims, and that they had lost their way. Then said the giant: You have this night trespassed on me, by trampling and lying on my ground, and therefore you must go along with me. So they were forced to go, because he was stronger than they. They also had but little to say, for they knew themselves in fault. The giant, therefore, drove them before him, and put them into his castle, in a very dark dungeon, nasty and stinking to the spirits of those two men. Here they lay from Wednesday morning till
Saturday night, without one bit of bread, or drop of drink, or light, or any to ask how they did : they were therefore here in evil case, and were far from friends and acquaintance. Now, in this place Christian had double sorrow, because it was through his unadvised haste that they were brought into this distress.
Now, Giant Despair had a wife, and her name was Diffidence: so when he was gone to bed, he told his wife what he had done, to wit, that he had taken a couple of prisoners and cast them into his dungeon, for trespassing on his grounds. Then he asked her also what he had best to do further to them. So she asked him what they were, whence they came, and whither they were bound, and he told her. Then she counselled him, that when he arose in the morning, he should beat them without mercy. So when he arose, he getteth him a grievous crab-tree cudgel, and goes down into the dungeon to them, and there first falls to rating them as if they were dogs, although they never gave him a word of distaste : then he falls upon them, and beats them fearfully, in such sort that they were not able to help themselves, or turn them upon the floor. This done, he withdraws, and leaves them there to condole their misery and to mourn under their distress : so all that day they spent their time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations. The next night she talked with her husband about them further, and understanding that they were yet alive, did advise him to counsel them to make away with themselves. So when morning was come, he goes to them in a surly manner, as before, and perceiving them to be very sore with the stripes that he had given them the day before, he told them, that since they were never like to come out of that place, their only way would be forthwith to make an end of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison: For why, said he, should you choose life, seeing it is attended with so much bitterness? But they desired him to let them go ; with which he looked ugly upon them, and rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them himself, but that he fell into one of his fits—for he sometimes in sunshiny weather fell into fits—and lost for a time the use of his hands : wherefore he withdrew, and left them, as before, to consider what to do. Then did the prisoners consult between themselves whether it was best to take his counsel or no; and thus they began to discourse :
Chr. Brother, said Christian, what shall we do? The life that we now live is miserable. For my part, I know not whether it is best to live thus, or die out of hand. “My soul chooseth strangling rather than life,' and the grave is more easy for me than this dungeon! Shall we be ruled by the giant ?
Hope. Indeed our present condition is dreadful, and death would be far more welcome to me, than thus for ever to abide ; but let us consider, the Lord of the country to which we are going hath said : Thou shalt do no murder: no, not to any man's person; much more then are we forbidden to take his counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he that kills another can but commit murder on his own body; but for one to kill himself, is to kill body and soul at once. And, moreover, my brother, thou talkest of ease in the grave; but hast thou forgotten the hell, whither for certain the murderers go ? For no murderer hath eternal life, &c. And let us consider, again, that all laws are not in the hand of Giant Despair: others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him as well as we, and yet have escaped out of his hands. Who knows but that God, who made the world, may cause that Giant Despair may die; or that, at some time or other, he may forget to lock us in ; or that he may in a short time have another of his fits before us, and may lose the use of his limbs ? and if ever that should come to pass again, for my part I am resolved to pluck up the heart of a man, and to try my utmost to get from under his hand. I was a fool that I did not try to do it before ; but, however, my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while : the time may come that he may give us a happy release ; but let us not be our own murderers. With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother ; so they continued together, in the dark, that day in their sad and doleful condition.
Well, towards the evening, the giant goes down into the dungeon again, to see if his prisoners had taken his counsel ; but when he came there he found them alive ; and truly, alive was all ; for now, what for want of bread and water, and by reason of the wounds they received when he beat them, they could do little but breathe. But, I say, he found them alive ; at which he fell into a grievous rage, and told them, that seeing they had disobeyed his counsel, it should be worse with them than if they had never been born.
At this they trembled greatly, and I think that Christian fell into a swoon; but coming a little to himself again, they renewed their discourse about the giant's counsel, and whether yet they had best take it or no. Now, Christian again seemed to be for doing it; but Hopeful made his second reply as followeth :
Hope. My brother, said he, rememberest thou not how valiant