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Asphodelsl about the Elyzian medows? Why since there is no Sacrifice acceptable, nor any propitiation for the Covenant of the grave; men set up the Deity of Morta, and fruitlessly adored Divinities without ears ? it cannot escape some doubt.
The dead seem all alive in the human Hades of Homer, yet cannot well speak, prophesie, or know the living, except they drink bloud, wherein is the life of man. And therefore the souls of Penelope's Paramours, conducted by Mercury, chirped like bats, and those which followed Hercules, made a noise but like a flock of birds.
The departed spirits know things past and to come, yet are ignorant of things present. Agameninon foretels what should happen unto Ulysses, yet ignorantly enquires what is become of his own Son. The Ghosts are afraid of swords in Homer, yet Sibylla tells Æneas in Virgil, the thin habit of spirits was beyond the force of weapons. The spirits put off their malice with their bodies, and Cæsar and Pompey accord in Latine Hell, yet Ajax in Homer endures not a conference with Ulysses; And Deiphobus appears all mangled in Virgils Ghosts, yet we meet with perfect shadows among the wounded ghosts of Homer.
Since Charon in Lucian applauds his condition among the dead, whether it be handsomely said of Achilles, that living contemner of death, that he had rather be a plowman's servant, than Emperour of the dead ? How Hercules his soul is in hell, and yet in heaven, and Julius his soul in a Starre, yet seen by Æneas in hell, except the Ghosts were but Images and shadows of the soul, received in higher mansions, according to the ancient division of body, soul, and image, or simulachrum of them both. The particulars of future beings must needs be dark unto ancient Theories, which Christian Philosophy yet determines but in a Cloud of opinions. A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof
1 In Lucian.
methinks we yet discourse in Platoes denne, and are but Embryon Philosophers.
Pythagoras escapes in the fabulous hell of Dante, 1 among that swarm of Philosophers, wherein whilest we meet with Plato and Socrates, Cato is to be found in no lower place than Purgatory. Among all the set, Epicurus is most considerable, whom men make honest without an Elyzium, who contemned life without encouragement of immortality, and making nothing after death, yet made nothing of the King of terrours.
Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it were a martyrdome to live; and unto such as consider none hereafter, it must be more than death to dye, which makes us amazed at those audacities, that durst be nothing, and return into their Chaos again. Certainly such spirits as could contemn death, when they expected no better being after, would have scorned to live, had they known any. And therefore we applaud not the judgment of Machiavel, that Christianity makes men cowards, or that with the confidence of but half dying, the despised virtues of patience and humility, have abased the spirits of men, which Pagan principles exalted, but rather regulated the wildenesse of audacities, in the attempts, grounds, and eternall sequels of death; wherein men of the boldest spirits are often prodigiously temerarious. Nor can we extenuate the valour of ancient Martyrs, who contemned death in the uncomfortable scene of their lives, and in their decrepit Martyrdomes did probably lose not many moneths of their dayes, or parted with life when it was scarce worth the living. For (beside that long time past holds no consideration unto a slender time to come) they had no small disadvantage from the constitution of old age, which naturally makes men fearfull ; And complexionally superannuated from the bold and courageous thoughts of youth and fervent years. But the contempt of death from corporall animosity, promoteth not our felicity. They may sit in the Orchestra,
1 Del Inferno, cant. 4.
and noblest Seats of Heaven, who have held up shaking hands in the fire, and humanely contended for glory.
Meanwhile Epicurus lyes deep in Dante's hell, wherein we meet with Tombs enclosing souls which denied their immortalities. But whether the virtuous heathen, who lived better than he spake, or erring in the principles of himself, yet lived above Philosophers
at least so low as not to rise against Christians, who beleeving or knowing that truth, have lastingly denied it in their practise and conversation, were a quæry too sad to insist on. · But all or most apprehensions rested in Opinions of some future being, which, ignorantly or coldly beleeved, begat those perverted conceptions, Ceremonies, Sayings, which Christians pity or laugh at. Happy are they, which live not in that disadvantage of time, when men could say little for futurity, but from reason. Whereby the noblest minds fell often upon doubtfull deaths, and melancholly dissolutions; With these hopes Socrates warmed his doubtfull spirits against that cold potion, and Cato before he durst give the fatall stroak, spent part of the night in reading the immortality of Plato, thereby confirming his wavering hand unto the animosity of that attempt.
It is the heaviest stone that melancholy can throw at a man, to tell him he is at the end of his nature; or that there is no further state to come, unto which this seems progressionall, and otherwise made in vaine; Without this accomplishment the naturall expectation and desire of such state, were but a fallacy in nature, unsatisfied Considerators; would quarrell the justice of their constitutions, and rest content that Adan had fallen lower, whereby by knowing no other Originall, and deeper ignorance of themselves, they might have enjoyed the happinesse of inferiour creatures, who in tranquillity possesse their Constitutions, as having not the apprehension to deplore their own natures, And being framed below the circumference of these hopes, or cognition of better being, the wisedom of God hath necessitated their Contentment: But the superior ingredient and obscured part of our selves, whereto all present felicities afford no resting contentment, will be able at last to tell us, we are more than our present selves; and evacuate such hopes in the fruition of their own accomplishments.
CHAPTER V Now since these dead bones have already out-lasted the living ones of Methuselah, and in a yard under ground, and thin walls of clay, out-worn all the strong and specious buildings above it; and quietly rested under the drums and tramplings of three conquests; what Prince can promise such diuturnity unto his Reliques, or might not gladly say,
Sic ego componi versus in ossa velim.1 Time which antiquates Antiquities, and hath an art to make dust of all things, hath yet spared these minor Monuments.
In vain we hope to be known by open and visible conservatories, when to be unknown was the means of their continuation and obscurity their protection : If they dyed by violent hands, and were thrust into their Urnes, these bones become considerable, and some old Philosophers would honour them,? whose souls they conceived most pure, which were thus snatched from their bodies; and to retain a stranger propension unto them: whereas they weariedly left a languishing corps, and with faint desires of re-union. If they fell
time, they fall into indistinction, and make but one blot with Infants. If we begin to die when we live, and long life be but a prolongation of death ; our life is a sad composition ; We live with death, and die not in a moment. How many pulses made up the life of Methuselah, were work for Archimedes: Common Counters summe up the life of Moses his man. Our dayes become considerable like petty sums by minute accumulations ; where numerous fractions make up but small round numbers ; and our dayes of a span long make not one little finger.2
3 Oracula Chaldaica cum scholiis Pselli et Phcthonis. Bin NeabyTWY o@ua yuxal kalapáratal. Vi corpus relinquentium animæ puris. sima.
If the nearnesse of our last necessity, brought a nearer conformity into it, there were a happinesse in hoary hairs, and no calamity in half senses. But the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying; when Avarice makes us the sport of death; When even David grew politickly cruell; and Solomon could hardly be said to be the wisest of men. But many are too early old, and before the date of age. Adversity stretcheth our dayes, misery makes Alcmenas nights, and time hath no wings unto it. But the most tedious being is that which can unwish itself, content to be nothing, or never to have been, which was beyond the malecontent of Job, who cursed not the day of his life, but his Nativity : Content to have so farre been, as to have a Title to future being; Although he had lived here but in an hidden state of life, and as it were an abortion.
What Song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzling Questions,4 are not beyond all conjecture. What time the persons of these Ossuaries entred the famous Nations of the dead, and slept with Princes and Counsellours, might admit a wide solution. But who were the proprietaries of these bones, or what
1 In the Psalme of Moses.
2 According to the ancient Arithmetick of the hand, wherein the little finger of the right hand contracted, signified an hundred.-Pierius in Hieroglyph.
3 One night as long as three.
4 The puzzling questions of Tiberius unto Grammarions.Marcel, Donatus in Suet.
5 Klutà fovea vekpWv.-Hom. Job.