Of Moral Philosophy and Moralists

Moral philosophy is a severe school, for there is no arithmetician so exact in his accounts, or doth divide and substract2 his numbers more subtly, than they the passions; and as arithmetic can multiply numbers above all use, so passions may be divided beyond all practice. But moralists live the happiest lives of mankind, because most contented—for they do not only subdue the passions, but can make the best use of them, to the tranquility of the mind: as for example,3 fear to make them circumspect, hope to make them industrious,4 hate to evil, desire to good, love to virtue, jealous5 of indiscretions, angry at follies, and so the like of6 all the rest. For they do not only subdue the fiercest of them, making them slaves to execute several works in several places, but those passions that are mild and of gentle nature they make perfect friendship with. For the passions are like privy counselors, where some counsel for peace, others for war, and some, being bribed with the world and appetite, persuade to mutiny, which causes7 a rebellion. But moralists are like powerful monarchs, which can make their passions obedient at their pleasure, condemning them at the bar of justice, and cutting off8 their heads with the sword of reason; or, like skillful musicians, making the passions musical instruments, which they can tune so exactly, and play so well and sweetly, as every several note shall strike the ears of the soul with delight, and when they play concords, the mind dances in measure, the saraband9 of tranquility. Whereas when they are out of tune, they do not only sound harsh and unpleasant, but when the notes disagree,10 the mind takes wrong steps, and keeps false time, and the soul is disquieted with the noise. But there is no humour or passion so troublesome as desire, because it yields no sound satisfaction, for it11 is mixed most commonly with pleasing hopes, and12 hope is a greater pleasure than enjoyment, just as eating is a greater pleasure to the hungry than when the stomach is fully satisfied. Yet13 desire and curiosity make a man to be above other creatures: for, by desiring knowledge, man is as much14 above a beast as want of perfect knowledge makes him less than God; and man, as he hath a transcending15 soul to outlive the world to all eternity, so he hath a transcending16 desire to live in the world’s memory, as long as the world lasts, that he might not die like a beast and be forgotten, but that his works may beget another soul, though of shorter life—which is fame: for17 fame is like the18 soul, an incorporeal being.19

Of Fame: A Dialogue between Two Supernatural Opinions


1 Opinion
Who knows, but that man’s soul in fame delights2
After the body and it disunites?3
If we allow the soul shall live, not die,
Although the body in the grave doth lie,
And that some knowledge still it doth retain,                         5
Why may not then some love of fame remain?

2 Opinion
There doth no vanity in souls then dwell;
When separate, they go to Heaven or Hell.

1 Opinion
Fame’s Virtue’s child,4 or else5 ought to be;
What comes not from her is an infamy.                                  10

2 Opinion
Souls of the world remember nought at all;
All that is6 past into oblivion fall.

1 Opinion
Why may not souls, as well as angels, know,
And hear and see what’s done i’th’world below?

2 Opinion
Souls neither have ambition nor desire                                   15
When once in Heav’n,7 nor after fame inquire.

1 Opinion
Who can tell that? Since Heav’n doth love8 good deeds,
And fame of piety from grace proceeds.

Of Fame: A Dialogue between Two Natural Opinions


1 Opinion
To desire fame, it2 is a3 noble thought
Which Nature in the best of minds hath wrought.

2 Opinion
Alas, when men do die, all motion’s gone;
If motion none, all thought of fame is done.4

1 Opinion
What if the motion of the body die?                                      5
The motion of the mind may live on high,
And in the airy elements may lie—
Although5 we know it not—about may6 fly.
And thus by Nature may the mind aspire7
Its fame to hear, its pyramid desire,8                                    10
Or grieve and mourn when she9 doth see and know
Her acts and fame do to oblivion go.

A Simple Natural Opinion of the Mind

Nature a talent gives to every one,
As Heav’n1 gives grace to work salvation.2
This talent given is3 a noble mind,
Where actions good are minted current coin,4
On which each virtue stamps its5 image so,                         5
That all the world each several piece may know.
If man6 be lazy, let this talent lie,
Seek no occasion to improve it by,
Who knows, but Nature’s punishment may be
To make his7 mind to grieve eternally?                                 10
That when his spirit’s fled and body rot,
He knows8 himself of friends and world9 forgot.
But when he hath used all his10 industry,
Yet cannot get a fame to live thereby;
Then may his mind rest fully satisfied11                                15
That he hath12 left no means or ways untried.

The Purchase of Poets, or, a Dialogue betwixt the Poets and Fame, and Homer’s Marriage

A company of poets strove to buy
Parnassus Hill, upon which Fame1 doth lie,
And Helicon, a well that runs below,
Of which all2 those that drink straight3 poets grow.
But money they had none (for poets all are poor),4                  5
And fancy, which is wit, is all their store.
Thinking which way this purchase they might make,5
They all agreed they would some counsel take.6
Knowing that Fame was owner7 to the well,
And that she always on the hill did dwell,                                   10
They did conclude to tell her their desire,
That they might8 know what price she did require.
Then up the hill they got, the9 journey long;
Some nimbler feet10 had,11 and their breath12 more strong,
Which made them get before by going fast,                                15
But all did meet upon the hill at last.
And when she heard them all what they could say,
She asked them where their money was to pay.13
They told her money they had none to give,
But they had wit, by which they all did live,                              20
And though they knew sometimes she bribes would take,
Yet wit in Honor’s court did14 greatness make.
Said she, “This Hill I’ll neither sell nor give,
But they that have most wit shall with me live.
Then go you down, and get what friends you can                     25
That will be bound or plead for every man.”
Straight15 every poet was ’twixt hope and doubt,
And envy strove16 to put each other out.

Homer, the first of poets, did begin,
Brought Greece and Troy for to be bound for him.17               30
Virgil brought18 Aeneas, he all Rome,
For Horace all the countrymen did come.19
For Juv’nal and Catull’20 all satyrs joined,
And in firm bonds they all themselves did bind.
And for Tibullus, Venus and her son21                                         35
Would needs be bound,22 ’cause wanton verse he sung.23
Pythagoras his transmigration brings
Ovid, who seals the24 bond with several things.
Lucan brought Pompey, th’Senate25 all in arms,
And Caesar’s army with their26 hot alarms,                               40
Who mustered all i’th’Parthian fields; their hand27
And seal did freely set to Lucan’s band.28
Poets which epitaphs o’th’29 dead had made,
Their ghosts did rise, fair Fame for to30 persuade
To take their bonds, that they might live—though dead—     45
To after ages when their names were read.
The Muses nine came all at31 bar to plead,
Which32 partial were, according as th’were feed.33
At last all poets were cast out but three,
Who did dispute which should Fame’s34 husband be.             50
Pythagoras for Ovid first did speak,35
And said his36 numbers smooth, and words were sweet.
“Variety,” said he, “doth ladies please;37
They38 change as oft as he makes beasts, birds, trees,
As many several shapes and forms they take;                            55
Some goddesses, and some do devils make.
Then let fair Fame sweet Ovid’s lady be;
Since change doth please that sex, none’s fit but he.”
Then spoke Aeneas on brave Virgil’s side,
Declared he was the glory and the pride                                     60
Of all the Romans, who from him did spring,
And whose high praise he in his verse39 did sing.
“Then let him speed, even for Venus’s40 sake,
And for your husband no other may you41 take.”
Then wise Ulysses42 in a rhet’ric43 style                                      65
Began his speech—his44 tongue was smooth as oil—
Bowing his head down low,45 to Fame did speak:
“I come to plead, although my wit is weak.
But since my cause is just and truth my guide,
The way is plain; I shall not err aside.                                        70
Homer’s lofty verse doth reach the heavens high,46
And brings the gods down from the airy sky,
And makes them side in factions for mankind,
As47 now for Troy, then Greece, as pleased his mind.
So48 walks he down to the49 infernals deep,                              75
And wakes the furies out of their dead sleep.
With fancy’s candle50 seeks about51 all Hell,
Where every place and corner he knows well.
Opening the gates where sleepy dreams do lie,
Walking into th’Elysium52 fields hard by,                                  80
There tells you how lovers53 their time employ,
And how54 pure souls in one another joy.
As painters shadows make by55 mixing colors,
So souls do56 mix of Platonic lovers,
Shows how heroic spirits there do play                                     85
Th’57Olympic games to pass the time away,
As how they run, leap, wrestle, swim, and ride,58
With exercises many oth’r59 beside.
What poet, ever did before him60 tell
The names of all the gods, and devils in Hell?61                      90
Their mansions and their pleasures he describes,
Their powers and authorities divides.
Their chronologies, which were before all62 time,
And their adulteries, he puts in rhyme.
Besides, great Fame, thy court he hath filled full                     95
Of brave reports, which else63 an empty skull
It64 would appear, and not like Heaven’s throne,
Nor like the firmament with stars thick strown,
Makes Hell appear with a majestic face,
Because there are so many in that place.                                  100
Fame never could so great a queen have been
If wits invention had not arts brought65 in.
Your court by poets’ fire is66 made light;
Quenched out, you67 dwell as in perpetual night.
It heats the spirits of men, inflames68 their blood,                   105
And makes them seek for actions great and good.
Then be you just, since you the balance hold;
Let not the leaden weights weigh down the gold.
It were injustice, Fame, for you to make
A servant low his master’s place to take.69                                 110
Or should you thieves that pick the purse70 prefer
Before the owner, when71 condemned they were?
His are not servant-lines,72 but what he leaves
Thieves steal,73 and with the same74 the world deceives.
If so, great Fame, ’twill be a heinous fact75                                115
To worship you, if you from right detract.76
Then let the best of poets find such grace
In your fair eyes, to choose him first in place.
Let all the rest come offer at thy77 shrine,
And show thyself78 a goddess that’s divine.”                             120
“Then79 at your word, I’ll80 Homer take,” said Fame,
And if he prove81 not good, be you to blame.”
Ulysses bowed, and Homer kissed her hands,
And they were82 joined in matrimonial bands.
And Mercury from all the gods was sent                                   125
To give her joy and wish her much content,
And all the poets were invited round,
All that were known or in the world were83 found.
Then did they dance with measure and in time;84
Each in their turn took out the Muses nine.85                          130
In numbers smooth did run their nimble feet86
Whilst music played, and songs were sung most sweet.87
At last the88 bride and bridegroom went to bed,
And there did89 Homer get90 Fame’s maidenhead.

A Dialogue betwixt Man and Nature

’Tis1 strange,
How we do change.2
First to live, and then to die,
Is a great3 misery.

To give us sense, great4 pains to feel!5                                         5
To make6 our lives to be7 Death’s wheel,8
To give us sense and reason too,9
Yet know not what we’re made to do.10
Whether to atoms turn, or to Heav’n11 fly,
Or change into new forms12 and never die,                               10
Or else to matter prime to13 fall again,
Thence14 take new forms, and so always15 remain.
Nature gives no such knowledge to mankind,
But strong desires to torment the16 mind,
And senses, which like hounds do run about,                           15
Yet never can the perfect truth find out.
O Nature—Nature!—17cruel to mankind,
Gives knowledge none, but misery to find.

Why doth mankind complain and make such moan?18
May not I work my will with what’s my own?                           20
But men amongst19 themselves contract and make
A bargain for my tree; that tree they20 take,
Which21 cruelly they22 chop in pieces small,
And form23 it as they24 please, then build25 withal,
Although that tree by me was made to stand26                         25
Just as it grows, not to be cut by man.27

O Nature,28 trees are dull and have no sense,
And therefore feel no29 pain, nor take offense.

But beasts have life and sense, and passions30 strong,31
Yet cruel man doth kill, and doth them wrong.                         30
To take that life I gave before the time32
I did ordain, the injury is mine.33

What ill man doth, Nature did make him do,34
For35 he by Nature is prompt thereunto.
For it was in great Nature’s power and will                               35
To make him as she pleased, either good36 or ill.
Though beasts have37 sense, feel38 pain, yet whilst they live,
They reason want for to dispute or grieve.
Beasts have39 no pain but what in sense doth lie,
Nor troubled thoughts to think how they shall die.                  40
Reason doth stretch man’s mind upon the rack,
With hopes and40 joys pulled up, with fear pulled back.
Desire whips him forward, makes him run;41
Despair doth wound, and pulls him back again.
For Nature, thou mad’st man betwixt extremes,                       45
Wants perfect knowledge, yet42 thereof he dreams.
For had he been like to a stock or stone,
Or like a beast, to live with sense alone.
Then might he eat, or43 drink, or lie stone-still,44
Ne’er troubled be, neither for Heav’n nor45 Hell.                     50
Man knowledge hath enough for to inquire,
Ambition great enough for to aspire.
He hath this knowledge: that46 he knows not all,
And that himself he knoweth least of all,47
Which makes him wonder, and think there are mixed48        55
Two several qualities in nature fixed.
The one like love, the other like to hate,
And49 striving both they do shut out wise fate.50
And then sometimes, man thinks as one they be,
Which makes contrariety51 so well agree,                                  60
That though the world was52 made by love and hate,
Yet all is ruled and governèd by Fate.
These are man’s fears; man’s hopes run smooth and high,
Who53 thinks his mind is some great deity.
For though the body is of low degree,                                         65
In sense like beasts, their souls54 like gods shall be.

Says Nature: Why doth man complain and cry,
If he believes his soul shall never die?

A Dialogue betwixt the Body and the Mind

What bodies else but man’s did Nature make
To join with such a mind, no rest can take,1
That ebbs and flows with full and falling tide,2
As minds dejected fall, or swell with pride,
In waves of passion roll to billows high,                                    5
Always in motion, never quiet lie,
Where thoughts like fishes swim the mind about,
And greater3 thoughts the smaller thoughts eat out.
My body the bark4 rows in mind’s ocean wide,
Whose5 waves of passions6 beat on every side.                        10
When that dark cloud of ignorance hangs low,
And winds of vain opinions strong do blow,
Then showers7 of doubts into the mind rain down;
In deep vast studies8 my bark of flesh is drowned.9

Why doth the body thus complain, when I                                15
Do help it forth of every misery?
For in the world your bark is bound to swim;10
Nature hath rigged it11 out to traffic in.
Against hard rocks you12 break in pieces small,
If my invention help13 you not in all.                                          20
The loadstone of attraction I find out;
The card of observation guides about;
The needle of discretion points the way,
Which makes that14 bark get safe into each bay.

If I ’scape drowning in the15 wat’ry main,                                  25
Yet in great mighty battles I am slain.
By your ambition I am forced to fight,
When many wounds upon my body light.
For you care not, so you a fame may have
To live, if I be buried in a grave.                                                   30

If bodies fight and kingdoms win, then you
Take all the pleasure that belongs thereto.
Upon that head a glorious crown you bear,16
And on that body you rich jewels wear.17
All things are sought to please your senses five,                      35
No drug unpractised to keep you alive.
And I, to set you up in high degree,
Invent all engines used in wars18 to be.
’Tis I that make you in great triumph sit,19
Above all other creatures high to get.20                                      40
By the industrious arts, which I do find,
You other creatures in subjection bind:
You eat their flesh, and then you use21 their skin,
When winter comes, to22 lap your bodies in.
And so in everything Nature doth make,23                                45
By my direction you great pleasure take.24

What though my senses all do take delight?25
Yet you upon my entrails always bite,
My flesh eat26 up, and leave my bones all27 bare,
With the sharp teeth of sorrow, grief, and care.                       50
You draw28 my blood from th’veins29 with envious spite,
Decay30 my strength with shame, or extreme fright.
Often with31 love extremely sick I lie,
And with a32 cruel hate you make me die.

Care keeps you from all hurt, or falling low;                            55
Sorrow and grief are debts to friends we owe;
Fear makes man just, to give each one his own;
Shame makes civility; without there’s none;
Hate makes good laws, that all may live in peace;
Love brings society, and gets increase.                                       60
Besides, with joy I make the eyes look gay;
With pleasing smiles they dart forth every way.
With mirth the cheeks are fat, smooth, rosy-red;
Speech flows with33 wit when fancies fill the head.
If I were gone, you’d miss my company,                                     65
Wish we were join’d again, or you might die.

A Complaint of Water, Earth, and Air, against the Sun, by Way of Dialogue

Moisture to Earth1
There’s none hath such an enemy as I;
The sun doth drink me up when he is2 dry;
He sucks me out of every hole I lie,

Draws me up high, from whence I down do fall
In showers of rain; I’m3 broke in pieces small,                 5
Where I am forced to Earth4 for help to call.

Straight Earth her porous doors sets5 open wide,
And takes6 me in with haste on every side,
Then joins7 my limbs fast in a flowing tide.8

Earth to Moisture
Alas, dear friend,9 the sun’s10 my greatest foe,                  10
Doth blast my tender buds11 as they do grow.
He burns my face and makes it parched and dry;
He sucks my breast, and12 starves my young thereby.
Thus I and all my young for thirst were slain,
But that with wet you fill my breast again.                         15

Air to Earth and Moisture
The sun doth use me ill, as all the rest,
For his hot sultry beams13 do me molest,
Melts me into a thin and flowing flame,
To make him light when men it day do name.
Corrupts me, makes me full of plaguey sores,                    20
Which14 putrefaction on men’s bodies pours,
Or else with subtile15 flame into men’s spirits run,16
Which makes them raging or stark mad become.17
Draws me into a length and breadth, till I
Become so thin, with windy wings do fly.                           25
He never leaves,18 till all my spirits’re19 spent,
And then I die, and leave no monument.

The Sun to Earth
O most unkind and most ungrateful Earth!20
I am thy midwife, bring thy21 young to birth;
I with my heat do cause thy22 young to grow,                   30
And with my light I teach them how to go.
My shining beams23 are strings whereon to hold,
For fear they fall and break their limbs on cold.
All to maturity I24 bring, and give
Youth, beauty, strength, and make old age to live.           35

The Sun to Water
Dull moisture I do light and active25 make,
And from it all corrupt, gross humours26 take.
All superfluities27 I dry up clean,
That nothing but pure crystal water’s28 seen.
The hardbound cold I loosen and untie,                             40
When you in icy chains29 a prisoner lie.
Your limbs when nipped with frost30 and bit with cold,
Your smooth and glassy face grows31 wrinkled, old.
I32 make you nimble, soft, and fair,
Liquid, and nourishing,33 and debonair.                            45

The Sun to Air
Air I do34 purge, and make it clear and bright,
Black clouds dissolve, which make the day seem night.
The crude, raw vapors I digest and strain,
The thicker part all into showers of rain.
The thinnest part I turn all into wind,35                              50
Which, like a broom, sweeps out all dirt it finds.36
The clearest part I turn to37 azure sky,
Hanged all with stars. Thus38 next the gods you lie.

A Dialogue between Earth and Cold

O cruel Cold, to life an enemy,1
A misery to man and2 posterity!3
Most envious Cold, to stupify man’s4 brain,
Destroys5 that monarchy where wit should reign.
Tyrant thou art,6 and make7 the waters clear                      5
In chains of ice lie fettered half the year,
Imprisoning each8 thing that dwells in me,
Shutting my porous doors, no light to9 see.
I10 smothered am, and almost at death’s door;11
Each hole is stopped and I can breathe no more,12            10
Congeal13 the air to massy clouds of snow,
And like great mountains14 on my body throw.
And all my plants and strong, great, fruitful trees
You nip to death, or clothe them in coarse frieze.
My fresh green robes, which make me fine and gay,         15
You strip me of, or change to black or gray.
For fear of cold, my moisture shrinks so low
My head wears bald; no hair thereon will grow.
You break the sunbeams, do15 their heat destroy,
Which takes16 away my comfort and my joy.                      20
You make my body stiff, and numb it so17
That nothing fluid in my veins can go.18

Why do you thus complain, poor Earth, and grieve?
I give you strength and make you long to live.
I do refresh19 you from the scorching sun;20                       25
I give you breath, which makes you strong become.21
I clothe you from the cold with milk-white snow,
Send down your sap to nourish you below.
If heat with you22 should dwell, and long time stay,
His thirst would drink your moisture all away.                  30
I take nought from you, nor do make you poor,
But, like a husband good, do keep your store.
My ice are locks and bars, all safe to keep;
From busy motion’t23 gives you quiet sleep.
For heat is active, and doth you molest,                                35
Doth24 make you work, and never lets25 you rest.
Heat spends your spirits, makes you cracked and dry,
Drinks all himself; with thirst you almost die.
With sweating labor26 you grow weak and faint—
I wonder why you make such great complaint.27               40

Both heat and cold, in each28 extreme degree,
Two hells they are, though contrary they be.
Two devils they are,29 and vex30 me with great pains;
One shoots hot arrows, th’other ties in chains.

A Dialogue betwixt Earth, and Darkness

O horrid Darkness,1 and you powers of night,2
You direful3 shades, made by obstructed light,4
Why so cruel? What evil have I done5
To part me from my husband, the bright sun?6

I do not part you; he me hither sends                                         5
Whilst he rides round8 to visit all his friends.
Besides, he hath more wives to love than you;
He never constant is to one, nor true.

You do him wrong, for though he journeys makes9
For exercise, yet care he for me takes.10                                    10
He leaves his stars and’s sister in his place
To comfort me whilst he doth run his race.
But you do come, most wicked, thievish Night,
And rob me of that fair and silver light.

The moon and stars, they are but shadows thin,                     15
Small cobweb lawn they from his light do spin,
Which they in scorn do make, you to disgrace,
As a thin veil to cover your ill face.
For moon and12 stars have no strong light13 to show14
A color true, nor how you bud or grow.                                     20
Only some ghosts do rise, and take delight
To walk about, whenas15 the moon shines bright.

You are deceived; they cast no such disguise,
But strive to please me,16 twinkling in the skies.
The17 ghosts my children are, which, being18 weak                25
And tender eyed, help from the moon do19 seek,
For why,20 her light being21 gentle, moist, and cold,
Doth ease their eyes when they do it behold.
But you with shadows fright, delude the sight,
Like ghosts22 appear in23 gloomy shades of night.                   30
And you with clouds do cast upon my back
A mourning mantle of the deepest black,
That24 covers me with dark obscurity,
That none of my dear children I can see.
Their lovely faces mask’st thou25 from my sight,                     35
Which show most beautiful in the daylight.
They take delight each other’s face to see,26
And with each other’s form in love they be,27
By which kind sympathy they bring me store
Of children young, which,28 when grown up, bring29 more. 40
But you are spiteful to those lovers kind;
Muffling their faces makes30 their eyes quite blind.

Is this my thanks for all my love and care,
And for the32 great respect to you I bear?
I am thy kind, true,33 and constant lover;                                  45
I all your faults and imperfections cover;34
I take you in my gentle arms of rest;
With cool fresh dews I bathe your dry, hot breast.
The children which you by the sun did bear
I lay to sleep, and rest them from their35 care.                         50
In beds of silence, where they take no harm,36
With blankets soft, though black, I keep them warm,37
Then shut them close from the disturbing light,
And yet you rail against your lover, Night.
Besides, if you had light through all the year,                           55
Though beauty great, ’twould not so well appear.
For what is common hath38 not such respect,
Nor such regard, for use doth bring neglect.
Nought is admired39 but what’s40 seldom seen,
And black, for change, delights as well as green.                     60
Yet I should constant be if I might stay,
But the bright sun doth beat me quite away.
For he is active, and runs all about,
Ne’er dwells with one, but seeks new lovers out.
He spiteful is to other lovers, since                                             65
He by his light doth give intelligence.
I am Love’s confidant, and shady bow’r,41
Where lovers meet and whisper many an hour.42
Thus am I faithful, kind to lovers true,
And all is for your43 sake, and love to you.                               70
I’m melancholy, yet my love’s as true44
As that great light’s45 which is so dear to you.46
Then slight me not, nor do my suit disdain,
But when the sun is gone, me entertain.
Take me, sweet love, with joy into your bed,                            75
And on your fresh green breast lay my black head.