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they are afflicted with innumerable Cogitations, (which, because they are very swift, may be fitly compared to an Eagle,) and those griping, and, as it were, gnawing and devouring the Liver, unless sometimes, as it were by Night, it may be they get a little Recreation and ease of Mind; but so, as that they are again suddenly assaulted with fresh Anxieties and Fears.
Therefore this Benefit happens to but a very few of either Condition, that they should retain the Commodities of Providence, and free themselves from the Miseries of Care and Perturbation; neither indeed can any attain unto it, but by the assistance of Hercules, that is, Fortitude, and Constancy of Mind, which is prepared for every Event and armed in all Fortunes, foreseeing without Fear, enjoying without loathing, and suffering without Impatience. It is worth the noting also, that this Virtue was not natural to Prometheus, but adventitial, and from the Indulgence of another; for no in-bred and natural Fortitude is able to encounter with these Miseries. Moreover, this Virtue was received and brought unto him from the remotest part of the Ocean, and from the Sun, that is, from Wisdom, as from the Sun; and from the Meditation of Inconstancy, or of the Waters of Human Life, as from the failing upon the Ocean ; which two Virgil hath well conjoined in these Verses;
Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas :
· Georg. ii. 490.
Happy is he that knows the causes of things : And that with dauntless courage treads upon All Fear and Fates, relentless Threatenings, And greedy Throat of roaring Acheron.
Moreover, it is elegantly added for the Consolation and Confirmation of Men's Minds, that this noble Hero crossed the Ocean in a Cup or Pan, lest peradventure, they might too much fear that the straits and frailty of their Nature will not be capable of this Fortitude and Constancy. Of which very thing Seneca well conceived, when he said, Magnum est habere fimul fragilitatem hominis, et securitatem Dei. It is a great matter for Human Frailty and Divine Security to be at one and the self-fame time, in one and the self-fame Subject.
But now we are to step back a little to that, which by Premeditation we passed over, 'left a Breach should be made in those things that were so linked together. That therefore which I could touch here, is that last Crime imputed to Prometheus, about seeking to bereave Minerva of her Virginity : For questionless, it was this heinous Offence that brought that Punishment of devouring his Liver upon him ; which is nothing else but to show, that when men are puffed up with too much Learning and Science, they go about oftentimes to make even Divine Oracles subject to Sense and Reason; whence most certainly follows a continual Distraction, and restless griping of the Mind; we must therefore with a sober, and humble Judgement, distinguish between Humanity and Divinity, and between the Oracles of Sense and the Mysteries of Faith, unless a Heretical Religion, and a commentitious Philosophy be pleasing unto
Lastly, it remains that we say something of the Games of Prometheus, performed with burning Torches, which again hath reference to Arts and Sciences, as that Fire, in whose Memory, and Celebration, these Games were instituted, and it contains in it a most wise Admonition, that the perfection of Sciences is to be expected from Succeflion, not from the Nimbleness and Promptness of one only Author; for they that are nimblest in Course, and strongest in Contention, yet haply have not the luck to keep Fire still in their Torch; seeing it may be as well extinguished by running too fast, as by going too slow. And this running and contending with Lamps, seems long since to be intermitted, seeing all Sciences seem even now to flourish most in their first Authors, Aristotle, Galen, Euclid and Ptolemy; Succession having neither effected, nor almost attempted any great Matter. It were therefore to be wished that these Games, in honour of Prometheus or Human Nature were again restored, and that Matters should receive Success by Combat and Emulation, and not hang upon any one Man's sparkling and shaking Torch. Men therefore are to be admonished to
3 Vide De Augm. Scient. sec. xxviii.
4 Mr. Devey refers to Plato de Legibus, b. vi, and observes that Lucretius has the same metaphor :
“ Et quasi cursores vitas lampada tradunt.”
rouse up their Spirits, and try their Strengths and Turns, and not to refer all to the Opinions and Brains of a few.
And thus have I delivered that which I thought good to observe out of this so well known and common Fable; and yet I will not deny but that there may be some things in it which have an admirable Consent with the Mysteries of Christian Religion, and especially that sailing of Hercules in a Cup, (to set Prometheus at liberty,) seems to represent an Image of the Divine Word coming in Flesh, as in a frail Vefsel, to redeem Man from the Slavery of Hell. But I have interdicted my Pen all Liberty in this kind, lest I should use strange Fire at the Altar of the Lord.
xxvII. Scylla and Icarus, or the
Middle Way. EDIOCRITY, or the Middle-way, is
most commended in Moral Actions ; in Contemplative Sciences not so ce
lebrated, though no less profitable and commodious; but in Political Employments to be used with great heed and Judgement. The Ancients, by the way prescribed to Icarus, noted the Mediocrity of Manners; and, by the Way, between Scylla and Charybdis (so famous for Difficulty and Danger,) the Mediocrity of intellectual Operations.
Icarus being to cross the Sea by Aight, was commanded by his Father that he should Ay neither too high nor too low; for his Wings being joined with Wax, if he should mount too high it was to be feared left the Wax should melt by the heat of the Sun; and if too low, left misty Vapours of the Sea would make it less tenacious; but he in a youthful Jollity soaring too high, fell down headlong and perished in the Water,
The Parable is easy and vulgar; for the way of Virtue lies in a direct Path between Excess and Defect. Neither is it a wonder that Icarus perished by Excess, seeing that Excess, for the most part, is the peculiar Fault of Youth, as Defect is of Age, and yet, of two evil and hurtful ways, Youth commonly makes choice of the better, Defect being always accounted worst; for whereas Excess contains some Sparks of Magnanimity, and, like a Bird, claims kindred of the Heavens, Defect only, like a base Worm, crawls upon the Earth. Excellently therefore said Heraclitus, Lumen ficcum, optima Anima; a dry Light is the best Soul; for if the Soul contract moisture from the Earth, it becomes degenerate altogether. Again, on the other side there must be Moderation used, that this Light be subtilized by this laudable Siccity, and not destroyed by too much Fervency. And this much
part knows. Now they that would fail between Scylla and Charybdis must be furnished, as well with the Skill, as prosperous Success in Navigation: For if their Ships fall into Scylla they are split on the Rocks : If into Charybdis they are swallowed up of a Gulf.
The Moral of this Parable (which we will but briefly touch, although it contain Matter of infinite