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Going this last Summer to visit the Wells, I took an
occasion (by the way) to wait upon an ancient and honourable friend of mine, whom I found diverting his (then solitary) retirement with the Latin original of this translation, which (being out of print) I had never seen before : when I looked upon it, I saw that it had formerly passed through two learned hands, not without approbation; which were Ben Jonson and Sir Kenelm Digby; but I found it (where I shall never find myself) in the fervice of a better master, the Earl of Bristol, of whom I shall say no more ; for I love not to improve the honour of the living, by impairing that of the dead ; and my own profession hath taught me not to erect new superstructures upon an old ruin. He was pleased to recommend it to me for my companion at the Wells, where I liked the entertainment it gave me so well, that I undertook to redeem it from an obsolete English disguise, wherein an old Monk had cloathed it, and to make as becoming
a new vest for it as I could. The author was a person of quality in Italy, his
name Mancini, which family matched since with the lifter of Cardinal Mazarine; he was contemporary to Petrarch, and Mantuan, and not long before
Torquato Tasso; which shews that the age they lived in was not so unlearned as that which pre
ceded, or that which followed. The author wrote upon the four Cardinal Virtues ; but
I have translated only the two first, not to turn the kindness I intended to him into an injury; for the two laft are little more than repetitions and recitals of the first; and (to make a just excuse for him) they could not well be otherwise, since the two last virtues are but descendants from the first ; Prudence being the true mother of Temperance, and true Fortitude the child of Justice.
W IS DOM's first progress is, to take a view
What's decent or indecent, false or true.
He 's truly prudent, who can feparate
Honest from vile, and still adhere to that ;
Their difference to measure, and to reach,
Reafon well rectify'd must nature teach.
And these high scrutinies are subjects fit
For man's all-searching and enquiring wit ;
That search of knowledge did from Adam Aow;
Who wants it, yet abhors his wants to show.
Wisdom of what herself approves, makes choice,
Nor is led captive by the common voice.
Clear-fighted Reafon Wisdom's judgment leads,
And Sense, her vassal, in her footsteps treads.
That thou to Truth the perfect way may'st know,
To thee all her specific forms I'll show;
He that the way to honesty will learn,
First what's to be avoided must discern.
Thyself from flattering self-conceit defend,
Nor what thou dost not know, to know pretendo
Some fecrets deep in abstruse darkness lie;
To search them thou wilt need a piercing eye.
Nor rashly therefore to such things assent,
Which undeceiv'd, thou after may'st repent;
Study and time in these must thee instruct,
And others old experience may conduct.
Wisdom herself her ear doth often lend
To counsel offer'd by a faithful friend.
In equal scales two doubtful matters lay,
Thou may'st chuse safely that which most doth weigh;
'Tis not secure, this place or that to guard,
If any other entrance stand unbarr'd;
He that escapes the serpent's teeth may fail,
If he himself secures not from his tail.
Who faith, who could such ill events expect?
With fhaine on his own counsels doth reflect.
Most in the world doth felf-conceit deceive,
Who just and good, whate'er they act, believe;
To their wills wedded, to their errors slaves,
No man (like them) they think himself behaves.
This stiff-neck'd pride nor art nor force can bend,
Nor high-flown hopes to Reafon's lure descend.
Fathers sometimes their children's faults regard
With pleasure, and their crimes with gifts reward.
Ill painters, when they draw, and poets write,
Virgil and Titian (self admiring) Night;
Then all they do, like gold and pearl appears,
And other actions are but dirt to theirs.
They that so highly think themselves above
All other men, themselves can only love ;
Reason and virtue, all that man can boast
O’er other creatures, in those brutes are loft.
Observe (if thee this fatal error touch,
Thou to thyself contributing too much)
Those who are generous, humble, juft, and wise,
Who not their gold, nor themselves idolize ;
To form thyself by their example learn
(For many eyes can more than one discern);
But yet beware of counsels when too full,
Number makes long disputes and graveness dull ;
Though their advice be good, their counsel wise,
Yet length still lofes opportunities :
Debate destroys dispatchy; as fruits we fee
Rot, when they hang too long upon the tree;
In vain that husbandman his feed doth fow,
If he his crop not in due feafon mow.
A general fets his army in array
In vain, unless he fight, and win the day.
'Tis virtuous action that must praise bring forth,
Without which Now advice is little worth.
Yet they who give good counsel, praife deserve,
Though in the active part they cannot serve :
In action, learned counsellors their age,
Profession, or disease, forbids t engage.
Nor to philosophers is praise deny'd,
Whose wife instructions after-ages guide ;
Yet vainly most their age in study spend ;
No end of writing books, and to no end :
Beating their brains for ftrange and hidden things,
Whose knowledge, nor delight, nor profit brings ;
Themselves with doubt both day and night perplex,
Nor gentle reader please, or teach, but vex.
Books should to one of these four ends conduce,
For wisdom, piety, delight, or use.
What need we gaze upon the spangled sky?
Or into matter's hidden caufes pry?
To describe every city, stream, or hill
I'th' world, our fancy with vain arts to fill ?
What is 't to hear a sophister, that pleads,
Who by the ears the deceiv'd audience leads ?
If we were wise, these things we should not mind,
But more delight in easy matters find.
Learn to live well, that thou may'st die fo too ;
To live and die is all we have to do ;
way (if no digression ’s made) is even,
And free access, if we but ask, is given.
Then seek to know those things which make us blest,
And having found them, lock them in thy breast;
Enquiring then the way, go on, nor slack,
But mend thy pace, nor think of going back.
Some their whole age in these enquiries waste,
And die like fools before one step they've past;
'Tis strange to know the way, and not t advance,
That knowledge is far worse than ignorance.
The learned teach, but what they teach, not do;
And standing still themselves, make others go.