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Chancing to find with Æsop's cock a stone,
Whose worth was more than I knew how to prize; And knowing if it should be kept unknown, 'Twould many scathe, and pleasure few or none;
I thought it best, the same in public wise
I print to publish, that impartial eyes Might reading judge, and judging praise the wight, The which this Triumph over Death did write.
And though the same he did at first compose
For one's peculiar consolation ; Yet will it be commodious unto those, Which for some friend's loss prove their own self-foes;
And by extremity of exclamation,
And their continuate lamentation,
But those as yet whom no friend's death doth cross,
May by example guide their actions so,
And eke this treatise doth the reader show,
That we our breath to death by duty owe,
Yet if perhaps our late
sprung sectaries, ,
I wish them weigh the work, and not who writes :
But they that leave what most the soul delights,
But leaving them, since no persuades suffice
To cause them read, except the spirit move,
This writer, work, or me for to reprove:
For if offence in either merit blame,
THE AUTHOR TO THE READER.
If the Athenians erected an altar to an unknown god, supposing he would be pleased with their devotion, though they were ignorant of his name, better may I presume that my
be grateful, being devoted to such men whose names I know, and whose fame I have heard, though unacquainted with their persons. I intended this comfort to him whom a lamenting sort hath left most comfortless, by him to his friends, who have equal portions in this sorrow. But I think the philosopher's rule will be here verified, that it shall be last in execution which was first designed ; and he shall last enjoy the effect which was first owner of the cause: thus let Chance be our rule since Choice
may not, and into which of your hands it shall fortune, much honour and happiness may
with it, and leave in their hearts as much joy as it found sorrow. Where I borrow the person of a history, as well touching the dead as the yet surviving, I build upon report of such authors, whose hoary heads challenge credit, and whose eyes and ears were witnesses of their words. To crave pardon for my pain were to slander a friendly office, and to wrong their courtesies, whom nobility never taught to answer affection with anger, or to wage duty with dislike ; and therefore I humbly present unto them, with as many good wishes as goodwill can measure from the best meaning mind, that hath a willingness rather to afford, than to offer due service, were not the mean as worthless as the mind is willing.
If it be a blessing of the virtuous to mourn, it is the reward of this, to be comforted; and he that pronounced the one, promised the other: I doubt not, but that Spirit whose nature is love, and whose name Comforter, as he knows the cause of our grief, so hath he salved it with supplies of grace, pouring into your wound no less oil of mercy than wine of justice; yet, sith courtesy oweth compassion as a duty to the afflicted, and nature hath ingrafted a desire to find it, I thought good to shew you by proof, that you carry not your cares alone. Though the load that lieth on others can little lighten your burthen, her decease cannot but sit nearer your heart, whom
you had taken so deep into a most tender affection.
That which dieth to our love being always alive to our sorrow, you would have been kind to a less loving sister : yet finding in her so many worths to be loved, your love wrought more earnestly upon so sweet a subject, which now being taken from you, I presume your grief is no less than your love was, the one of these being ever the measure of the other. The scripture moveth us to bring forth our tears on the dead, a thing not offending grace, and a right to reason. For to be without remorse in the death of friends, is neither incident nor convenient to the nature of man, having too much affinity
to a savage temper, and overthrowing the ground of all piety, which is a mutual sympathy in each of others miseries: but as not to feel sorrow in sorrowful chances, is to want sense, so, not to bear it with moderation, is to want understanding; the one brutish, the other effeminate, and he hath cast his account best that hath brought his sum to the mean. It is no less fault to exceed in sorrow, than to
than to pass the limits of competent mirth, sith excess in either is a disorder in passion, though that sorrow of courtesy be less blamed of men, because if it be a fault, it is also a punishment, at once causing and tasting torments. It is no good sign in the sick to be senseless in his pains ; as bad it is to be unusually sensitive, being both either harbingers or attendants of death. Let sadness, sith it is a due to the dead, testify a feeling of pity, not any pang of passion ; and bewray rather a tender than a dejected mind. Mourn, as that
may find you a living brother, all men a discreet mourner; making sorrow a signal, not a superior of reason.
Some are so obstinate in their own will, that even time, the natural remedy of the most violent agonies, cannot by any delays assuage their grief; they entertain their sorrow with solitary muses, and feed their sighs and tears ; they pine their bodies, and draw all pensive consideration to their minds, nursing their heaviness with a melancholy humour, as though they had vowed themselves to sadness, unwilling it should end till it had ended them, wherein their folly sometimes findeth a ready effect; that being true which Solomon observed', that as a moth the garment, and a worm the wood, so doth sadness persuade the heart. But this impotent softness fitteth not sober minds. We must not make a life's profession of a seven nights' duty, nor under colour of kindness be unnatural to ourselves : if some in their passion joined their thoughts into such labyrinths, that neither wit knoweth, nor will careth how long, or how far they
1 Proverbs 25.