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As a good harper stricken far in years,
Into whose cunning hands the gout doth fall, All his old crotchets in his brain he bears,
But on his harp plays ill, or not at all.
But if Apollo takes his gout away,
That he his nimble fingers may apply; Apollo's self will envy at his play,
And all the world applaud his minstrelsy.
Then dotage is no weakness of the mind,
But of the sense; for if the mind did waste, In all old men we should this wasting find,
When they some certain term of years had pass’d;
But most of them, e'en to their dying hour,
Retain a mind more lively, quick, and strong; And better use their understanding pow'r, Than when their brains were warm, and limbs
For, though the body wasted be and weak,
And though the leaden form of earth it bears ; Yet when we hear that half dead body speak,
We oft are ravish'd to the heav'nly spheres.
Yet say these men, if all her organs die,
Then hath the soul no pow'r her pow'rs to use: So, in a sort, her pow'rs extinct do lie,
When unto act she cannot them reduce.
And if her pow'rs be dead, then what is she?
For since from ev'ry thing some pow’rs do spring ; And from those pow'rs, some acts proceeding be;
Then kill both pow'r and act, and kill the thing.
Doubtless, the body's death, when once it dies,
The instruments of sense and life doth kill; So that she cannot use those faculties,
Although their root rest in her substance still.
But (as the body living) wit and will
Can judge and choose, without the body's aid; Though on such objects they are working still,
As through the body's organs are convey'd :
So, when the body serves her turn no more,
And all her senses are extinct and gone, She can discourse of what she learn'd before,
In heav'nly contemplations, all alone.
So, if one man well on the lute doth play, (skill,
And have good horsemanship, and learning's Though both his lute and horse we take away,
Doth he not keep his former learning still?
He keeps it, doubtless, and can use it too;
And doth both th' other skills in pow'r retain ; And can of both the proper actions do,
If with his lute or horse he meet again.
So though the instruments (by which we live,
And view the world) the body's death do kill ;
Yet with the body they shall all revive,
And all their wonted offices fulfil.
But how, till then, shall she herself employ?
But she hath means to understand no more.
Then what do those poor souls, which nothing get?
Or what do those which get, and cannot keep? Like bucklers bottomless, which all out-let;
Those souls, for want of exercise, must sleep.
See how man's soul against itself doth strive:
Why should we not have other means to know? As children, while within the womb they live,
Feed by the navel: here they feed not so.
These children, if they had some use of sense, And should by chance their mother's talking hear,
[thence, That in short time they shall come forth from Would fear their birth, more than our death we
They would cry out, “If we this place shall leave,
Then shall we break our tender navel strings: How shall we then our nourishment receive,
Since our sweet food no other conduit brings?”
And if a man should to these babes reply,
That into this fair world they shall be brought, Where they shall view the earth, the sea, the sky,
The glorious Sun, and all that God hath wrought :
That there ten thousand dainties they shall meet, Which by their mouths they shall with pleasure
take; Which shall be cordial too as well as sweet;
And of their little limbs tall bodies make :
This world they'd think a fable, e'en as we
Do think the story of the golden age ; Or as some sensual spirits 'mongst us be,
Which hold the world to come a feigned stage :
Yet shall these infants after find all true,
And with their mouths the nurses' milk receive.
So when the soul is born (for death is nought
But the soul's birth, and so we should it call) Ten thousand things she sees beyond her thought;
And, in an unknown manner, knows them all.
Then doth she see by spectacles no more,
She hears not by report of double spies ; Herself in instants doth all things explore ;
For each thing's present, and before her lies.
But still this crew with questions me pursues:
If souls deceas'd (say they) still living be, Why do they not return, to bring us news (see
Of that strange world, where they such wonders
Fond men! if we believe that man do live
Under the zenith of both frozen poles, Though none come thence, advertisement to give,
Why bear we not the like faith of our souls?
The soul hath here on Earth no more to do,
Than we have business in our mother's womb : What child doth covet to return thereto,
Although all children first from thence do come?
But as Noah's pigeon, which return'd no more,
Did show, she footing found, for all the flood; So when good souls, departed through Death's
door, Come not again, it shows their dwelling good.
And doubtless, such a soul as up doth mount,
And doth appear before her Maker's face, IIolds this vile world in such a base account, As she looks down and scorns this wretched
But such as are detruded down to Hell,
Either for shame, they still themselves retire ;