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but are not wise of the payment day: which sickly uncertainty is the occasion that, for the most part, they step out of this world unfurnished for their general account, and, being all unprovided, desire yet to hold their gravity, preparing their souls to answer in scarlet.
Thus I gather, that Death is disagreeable to most citizens, because they commonly die intestate; this being a rule, that when their will is made, they think themselves nearer a grave than before: now they, out of the wisdom of thousands, think to scare destiny, from which there is no appeal, by not making a will, or to live longer by protestation of their unwillingness to die. They are for the most part well made in this world, accounting their treasure by legions, as men do devils; their fortune looks towards them, and they are willing to anchor at it, and desire, if it be possible, to put the evil day far from them, and to adjourn their ungrateful and killing period.
No, these are not the men which have bespoken Death, or whose looks are assured to entertain a thought of him.
8. Death arrives gracious only to such as sit in darkness, or lie heavy burthened with grief and irons; to the poor Christian, that sits bound in the galley; to despairful widows, pensive prisoners, and deposed kings: to those whose fortune runs
back, and whose spirit mutinies ; unto such Death is a redeemer, and the grave a place for retiredness and rest.
These wait upon the shore of Death, and waft unto him to draw near, wishing above all others, to see his star, that they might be led to bis place, wooing the remorseless sisters to wind down the watch of their life, and to break them off before the hour.
9. But Death is a doleful messenger to an usurer, and fate untimely cuts his thread : for it is never mentioned by him, but when rumours of war and civil tumults put him in mind thereof.
And when many hands are armed, and the peace of a city in disorder, and the foot of the common soldiers sound an alarm upon his stairs, then perhaps such a one, broken in thoughts of his moneys abroad, and cursing the monuments of coin which are in his house, can be content to think of Death, and, being hasty of perdition, will perhaps hang himself, lest his throat should be cut; provided that he may do it in his study, surrounded with wealth, to which his eye sends a faint and languishing salute, even upon the turning off'; remembering always, that he have time and liberty, by writing, to depute himself as his own heir.
Yet for my
For that is a great peace to his end, and reconciles himself wonderfully upon the point.
10. Herein we all dally with ourselves, and are without proof till necessity. I am not of those that dare promise to pine away myself in vainglory, and I hold such to be but feat boldness, and them that dare commit it to be vain. part, I think nature should do me great wrong, if I should be so long in dying, as I was in being born.
To speak truth, no man knows the lists of his own patience; nor can devine how able he shall be in his sufferings, till the storm come, the perfectest virtue being tried in action; but I would, out of a care to do the best business well, ever keep a guard, and stand upon keeping faith and a good conscience.
11. And if wishes might find place, I would die together; and not my mind often, and my body once; that is, I would prepare for the messengers of Death, sickness and affliction, and not wait long, or be urged only by the violence of pain.
Herein I do not profess myself a Stoic, to hold grief no evil, but opinion, and a thing indifferent.
But I agree with Cæsar, that the suddenest passage is easiest, and there is nothing more awakens our resolve and readiness to die, than the
AN ESSAY ON DEATH.
quieted conscience, strengthened with opinion that we shall be well spoken of upon earth by those that are just, and of the family of virtue ; the opposite whereof is a fury to man, and makes even life unsweet.
Therefore, what is more heavy than evil fame deserved ? Or, likewise, who can see worse days than he that, yet living, doth follow at the funerals of his own reputation?
I have laid up many hopes, that I am privileged from that kind of mourning, and could wish the like peace to all those with whom I
love. 12. I might say much of the commodities that Death can sell a man: but briefly, Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him, is not at home. Whilst I am, my ambition is not to fore-flow the tide; I have but so to make my interest of it, as I may account for it: I would wish nothing but what might better my days, nor desire any greater place than the front of good opinion. I make not love to the continuance of days, but to the improvement of them ; nor wish to die, but refer myself to my hour, which the great Dispenser of all things hath appointed me: yet, as I am frail, and suffered for the first fault, were it given me to choose, I should not be earnest to see the evening of my age; that extremity itself being a disease, and a mere return into infancy: so that if perpe.
AN ESSAY ON DEATH.
tuity of life might be given me, I should think what the Greek poet said, such an age is a mortal evil. And since I must needs be dead, I require it máy not be done before mine enemies, that I be not stripped before I be cold ; but before my friends. The night was even now; but that name is lost; it is not now late, but early. Mine eyes begin to discharge their watch, and compound with this fleshy weakness for a time of perpetual rest; and I shall presently be as happy for a few hours, as if I had died the first hour I was born.
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