Page images

dations of the most famous cities in Greece are quite destroyed, and that nothing is left whereby to conjecture there ever were fuch cities? Time not only overthrows the works of mens hands, and the wonders of human art and induftry; even the tops of mountains have mouldered away, and whole regions became a defert. Places that were far distant from the fea have been overwhelmed with a fudden inundation; and fire hath quite confumed the hills, from whence it before gave only a fplendid flamme; and in times paft hath eaten away the loftieft promontories, once a joyful fight to the fatigued mariners; and reduced the highest landmarks to a bank of fand.

Seeing then that the works of Nature herself are often thus destroyed, we ought to bear with æquanimity the ruin of a city. All things are frail and perishable, and must one day come to decay: whether it be that the winds, pent up beneath the earth, have by a sudden blast, or their own internal ftrength, thrown off the weight that before preffed them down; or the force of the waters in fecret places hath made its way through all oppofition; or the violence of flames have rent the closures of the earth; or age, against which nothing is fafe, hath gradually wore it away; or whether the unwholesomeness of the air hath driven away the people, and infection even poisoned a defert, it would be endless to recount the many ways whereby Fate haftens on destruction. But this one thing I know, that all the works of mortals are fubject to, and condemned by, mortality; and that we live in a state wherein all things around us must one day inevitably perish.

These then and the like reflections I often advance, in order to comfort our friend Liberalis, whofe breast, I say, is inflamed with inexpreffible love of his country, and of this city in particular; which perhaps is now destroyed, that it may be rebuilt in a nobler taste. Injuries have often made way for better fortune; and many things have fallen only to rife higher and greater. Timagenes (g) no well-wisher to the profperity of the city, was wont to say, that he should be forry if Rome was destroyed by fire, for he well knew that it would rife again in greater fplendour than before. And with regard to the city now lost,

it is probable that all men will endeavour, that greater and more lasting buildings may be erected, than what they have loft. May they be lasting indeed, and built under more happy aufpices! For, fcarce an hundred years have paffed, fince this colony was first founded; (which is not the extremeft age of man himself) under the conduct of Plancus (b), and by reafon of its agreeable situation, it soon grew very populous, and yet hath suffered the moft grievous calainaties within the age of man.


Let the mind therefore be taught to understand, and patiently to bear, whatever may be its lot; and let it know, there is nothing beyond the daring of Fortune. That she hath the fame power over kingdoms themfelves, as over the rulers thereof. We are to repine at none of these things; we have entered upon a world, where we live subjec to these conditions. Are you not pleased with it? Regret not the being taken out of it (i). You might well be angry, was any thing to happen particularly to you. But if the fame neceffity binds both high and low, you have nothing to do but to reconcile yourself to Fate, by whom all things are determined (to their proper end.) There is no need to measure man by his tomb, or by those monuments that are spread on each fide the road of an unequal fize. The grave fets all men upon this level. We are born unequal, but we die equal.

The fame I fay of cities, as of the inhabitants thereof. Ardea (k) hath been taken as well as Rome. The fupreme Author of mankind hath not distinguished us in our birth and nobility, but during life. When we come to the end of all mortal things, Be gone, faith he, Ambition; and let there be the fame law to all things that tread the earth. We are alike born to variety of fuffering: no one is more frail than another; no one more fure of feeing to-morrow's fun.

Alexander, king of Macedonia, wretch as he was, begun to learn geometry, that he might know how little the earth was, of which he poffeffed so small a part: I call him wretched, because he ought to have known from hence, that he had no title to the furname of Great; for

for what can be called Great in fo fmall a space? The things taught him were fubtle, and not to be learned but by clofe attention, and conftant application, not fuch as a madman could well comprehend, whofe thoughts were intent upon plunder, and roving beyond the ocean.. Teach me, faith he, eafy things. To which his tutor replied, These things are the fame to all: every one finds in them the like difficulty. Suppofe now, Lucilius, Nature to fay the fame thing to you. The things whereof you complain are the fame to all men: fhe admits, no one on eafier terms: but every one that pleases may make them cafier. Do you afk how? by æquanimity.


You must neceffarily feel pain, be hungry, and thirst, and grow old; and though a longer time be given you among men, you must one day be fick, and die. Yet there is no neceffity for believing all that is faid by those who are continually buzzing about you with complaints. None of these things are properly evils; none intolerable, or even hard . to be borne. They became dreadful by prejudice and common confent. Ye are as afraid of death, as of a falfe report. But what can be more ridiculous than to be afraid of mere words? Our Demetrius used pleasantly to say, that the reports of the ignorant were to him like breaking wind. What is it to me, he faid, whether the found comes from above or below? (1) How abfurd is it to be afraid of infamy from infamous men? And as you are caufeleffly afraid of what fame fays of you, so are ye of those things which ye would never have, feared, had not fame or report commanded ye fe to do. What detriment can a good man receive from being fcandalized by malicious tongues? for even Death is alike fcandalized. No one of those who accuse him, fpeaks from experience. In the mean time we should not condemn what we do not know. But this you know, that it hath proved a great benefit to many in delivering them from tortures, from want, from complaints, . from punishment, from anxiety. We are fubject to the of no power one, when it is in the power of death to deliver us (m).

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


(a) Æbutius Liberalis, to whom Seneca infcribed his book (de beneficiis) of benefits. (6) Tacit. Ann. 1. 16. To the inhabitants of Lyons, as a relief for their late calamity by fire, the Emperor prefented 100,000 crowns, to repair the damages of the city.

Pf. xli. 9.

As in David's complaint-Yea, my own familiar friend in whom I trufted, which did eat of my; bread, bath lift up his heel against me. (c) Euripides Phan. 561.

9o Diphilus (ap. Stobæ.)

"O 6xCos & Cebaros da con pepes
Wealth is the unftable blessing of a aceq.
Άπροςδοκητον ἐδὲν ανθρωποις πάθος.
Εφημερες γὰρ τὰς τύχας κεκλημεθα,
There is no evil, while we fojourn here,
But what poor mortals daily have to fear.
Καὶ μὲ ἡμέρα

Τὸν μὲν καθεῖλον ὑψοθὲν, τὸν δ ̓ ἦράνων.

one day ferves

Some to deprefs, and others to exalt.

(d) Incrementa lente.] Tacitus (in Agricola) Naturâ infirmitatis humanæ, targiora funt remedia quam mala; et ut corpora lentè augefcunt, cito extinguuntur: fic ingenia facilus opprefferis, quàm recreaveris. Such is the frailty of man, and its effects, that much more flow is the progrefs of the remedies than of the evils and as human bodies attain their growth by degrees, and are fubject to be destroyed in an inftant; fo it is much easier to fupprefs than to revive the efforts of genius and fudy. Gordon.



War, famine, peft, volcano, ftorm, and fire,
>. Inteftine broils, oppreffion, with her heart
Wrapt up in triple brafs, befiege mankind.

Want and incurable difeafe, (fell pair !).
On hapless multitudes remorfelefs feize,

At once, and make a refuge of the grave. Young.

(F) Alluding to the feven hills, on which Rome was built.

(g) A Rhetorician and Hiftorian of Alexandria. He was brought captive to Rome by Gabinias, under Pompey the Great, and redeemed by Fauftus; the fon of Sylla; but was expelled the city onaccount of his malevolent tongue; though Ammian fpeaks well of him. He died in his exile.

Rupet Hiarbitam Timagenis æmula lingua.

But Pincian fuppofes that Seneca meant this of the Emperor Caligula, who, as Suetonius reports, was moft inveterate against the profperity of Rome..

(b) A Planco deducta] So Lipfius; which from among the various readings feems to be right. For, according to Eufebius, Munacius Plancus. Ciceronis difcipulus, orator habetur infignis; qui cum Galliam comatam regeret, Lugdunum condidit; Munarius Plancus, a difciple of Cicero, was efteemed an excellent orator, who when be commanded in Gaul (beyond the Alps) founded the city Lyons. An. U. C. 811.

››(1). Non placet ? quacunque vis exi.] This alfo is an expreffion which I thought myself obliged pot to translate literally; it being a doctrine totally repugnant to the Chriftian; and indeed to what Seneca

templo hoc medium, qui terra dicitur. The condition of man's exiflence is, that he garrison that globe which you fee in the middle of this temple, and which is called the earth. Upon this Macrobius obferves, that every one who is admitted into this temple, (i. e. every mortal) ought to live as righteous, as if he were a priest, in the faid temple. Quidquid humano afpectui fubjicitur templum ejus vocavit, qui fola mente concipitur, ut qui hæc veneratur ut templa, cultum tamen maximum debeat conditori: fciatque quifquis in ufum templi hujus inducitur, ritu fibi vivendum facerdotis. Philo εμόν Θες νομιζών την συμπαντα χρόν κόσμον εἶναι, κ. τ. λ. That every one ought to

Judaeus, think the univerfe the Temple of God; forafmuch as it has a fextry, i. e. the purest part of the nature of things, Heaven: its ornaments, the ftars; its priests, the Angels, and minifters of his power. For, fays Cicero (Stoically speaking, De Nat. Dear. ii.) Nihil omnium rerum melius eft mundo, nihil præftabilius, nihil pulchrius: nec folum nihil eft fed ne cogitari quidem quidquam melius poteft. Certainly there is nothing better, more excellent, or more beautiful than the world, nor can we conceive any thing to excel it.

(bb) There are feven different ways of accounting for the origin of mankind. 1. By Prometheus, with clay, and fire ftole from heaven; and after a deluge repaired by his fon Deucalion, poetical and merely fabulous. 2. According to Anaximander the Milefian, they were formed of water and mud, but were only fish at first, and afterwards turned into men. 3. Empedocles fuppofes them born of the earth, but only part at a time, and to grow as a blite or beat. 4. Democritus supposes they rife in and from the ground, like worms, entirely of themselves. Democritus ait homines vermiculorum modo, effufos de terrâ, nullo autore, nullâque ratione. Lactant. vii. 7.-5. Epicurus,

Haud, ut opinor, enim mortalia fecla fupernè

Aurea de cœlo demifit funis in arva.

Sed genuit tellus eadem, quæ nunc alit ex fc. Lucret. ii. 1153.

For who can think thefe pygmies fram'd above,

The little bufinefs of fome meddling Jove?
And thence to people this inferior ball,
By Homer's golden chain let gently fall?

Nor did they rife from the rough feas, but earth,

To what he now supports, at first gave birth. Creech.

Crefcebant uteri terræ radicibus apti

Quos ubi tempore maturo patefecerat ætas

Infantum, &c. V. Gob.

Next beafts, and thoughtful man receiv'd their birth:

For then much rural heat in mother earth,

Much moisture lay; and where fit place was found

There wombs were form'd and faften'd to the ground.

In these the yet imperfect embryos lay,

Through these when grown mature they forc'd their way,

Broke forth from night, and faw the chearful day.

The fixth opinion was that of the Stoics, (fo very near the truth) that they were born of God. Cic. fde Leg. 1.)

Hoc animal providum, fagax, multiplex, quem vocamus
Hominem, præclarâ quadam conditione generatum esse
Summo Deo.So Ovid. Met. i. 76.

Sanctius his animal mentifque capacius altæ

Deerat adhuc, et quod dominari in cætera poffet


« EelmineJätka »