That I do you with humble bows no more, And danger of my naked head, adore; That I, who lord and master cried erewhile, Salute you in a new and different style, By your own name, a scandal to you now; Think not that I forget myself or you: By loss of all things by all others sought This freedom, and the freeman's hat, is bought. A lord and master no man wants but he Who o'er himself has no authority, Who does for honours and for riches strive, And follies without which lords cannot live. If thou from fortune dost no servant crave, Believe it, thou no master need'st to have.
Freedom with virtue takes her seat; Her proper place, her only scene, Is in the golden mean, She lives not with the poor, nor with the great: The wings of those, Necessity has clipped, And they're in Fortune's Bridewell whipped, To the laborious task of bread; These are by various tyrants captive led. Now wild Ambition with imperious force Rides, reins, and spurs them like th' unruly horse; And servile Avarice yokes them now Like toilsome oxen to the plough; And sometimes Lust, like the misguiding light, Draws them through all the labyrinths of night. If any few among the great there be From the insulting passions free, Yet we even those too fettered see By custom, business, crowds, and formal decency; And wheresoe'er they stay, and wheresoe'er they go, Impertinences round them flow. These are the small uneasy things Which about greatness still are found, And rather it molest than wound Like gnats which too much heat of summer brings; But cares do swarm there too, and those have stings: As when the honey does too open lie, A thousand wasps about it fly Nor will the master even to share admit; The master stands aloof, and dares not taste of it.
'Tis morning, well, I fain would yet sleep on; You cannot now; you must be gone To Court, or to the noisy hail Besides, the rooms without are crowded all; The steam of business does begin, And a springtide of clients is come in. Ah, cruel guards, which this poor prisoner keep, Will they not suffer him to sleep! Make an escape; out at the postern flee, And get some blessed hours of liberty. With a few friends, and a few dishes dine, And much of mirth and moderate wine; To thy bent mind some relaxation give, And steal one day out of thy life to live. Oh happy man, he cries, to whom kind Heaven Has such a freedom always given Why, mighty madman, what should hinder thee From being every day as free?
In all the freeborn nations of the air, Never did bird a spirit so mean and sordid bear As to exchange his native liberty Of soaring boldly up into the sky, His liberty to sing, to perch, or fly When, and wherever he thought good, And all his innocent pleasures of the wood, For a more plentiful or constant food. Nor ever did ambitious rage Make him into a painted cage Or the false forest of a well-hung room For honour and preferment come. Now, blessings on ye all, ye heroic race, Who keep their primitive powers and rights so well Though men and angels fell. Of all material lives the highest place To you is justly given, And ways and walks the nearest Heaven; Whilst wretched we, yet vain and proud, think fit To boast that we look up to it. Even to the universal tyrant Love You homage pay but once a year; None so degenerous and unbirdly prove, As his perpetual yoke to bear. None but a few unhappy household fowl, Whom human lordship does control; Who from their birth corrupted were By bondage, and by man's example here.
He's no small prince who every day Thus to himself can say, Now will I sleep, now eat, now sit, now walk, Now meditate alone, now with acquaintance talk; This I will do, here I will stay, Or, if my fancy call me away, My man and I will presently go ride (For we before have nothing to provide, Nor after are to render an account) To Dover, Berwick, or the Cornish Mount. If thou but a short journey take, As if thy last thou wert to make, Business must be despatched ere thou canst part. Nor canst thou stir unless there be A hundred horse and men to wait on thee, And many a mule, and many a cart: What an unwieldy man thou art! The Rhodian Colossus so A journey too might go.
Where honour or where conscience does not bind, No other law shall shackle me? Slave to myself I will not be, Nor shall my future actions be confined By my own present mind. Who by resolves and vows engaged does stand For days that yet belong to fate, Does like an unthrift mortgage his estate Before it falls into his hand; The bondman of the cloister so All that he does receive does always owe. And still as time come in it goes away, Not to enjoy, but debts to pay. Unhappy slave, and pupil to a bell Which his hour's work, as well as hour's does tell! Unhappy till the last, the kind releasing knell.
If Life should a well-ordered poem be (In which he only hits the white Who joins true profit with the best delight), The more heroic strain let others take, Mine the Pindaric way I'll make, The matter shall be grave, the numbers loose and free. It shall not keep one settled pace of time, In the same tune it shall not always chime, Nor shall each day just to his neighbour rhyme. A thousand liberties it shall dispense, And yet shall manage all without offence Or to the sweetness of the sound, or greatness of the sense; Nor shall it never from one subject start, Nor seek transitions to depart, Nor its set way o'er stiles and bridges make, Nor thorough lanes a compass take As if it feared some trespass to commit, When the wide air's a road for it. So time imperial eagle does not stay Till the whole carcase he devour That's fallen into its power; As if his generous hunger understood That he can never want plenty of food, He only sucks the tasteful blood, And to fresh game flies cheerfully away; To kites and meaner birds he leaves the mangled prey.
"Nunquam minus solus, quam cum solis," is now become a very vulgar saying. Every man and almost every boy for these seventeen hundred years has had it in his mouth. But it was at first spoken by the excellent Scipio, who was without question a most worthy, most happy, and the greatest of all mankind. His meaning no doubt was this: that he found more satisfaction to his mind, and more improvement of it by solitude than by company; and to show that he spoke not this loosely or out of vanity, after he had made Rome mistress of almost the whole world, he retired himself from it by a voluntary exile, and at a private house in the middle of a wood near Linternum passed the remainder of his glorious life no less gloriously. This house Seneca went to see so long after with great veneration, and, among other things, describes his bath to have been of so mean a structure, that now, says he, the basest of the people would despise them, and cry out, "Poor Scipio understood not how to live." What an authority is here for the credit of retreat! and happy had it been for Hannibal if adversity could have taught him as much wisdom as was learnt by Scipio from the highest prosperities. This would be no wonder if it were as truly as it is colourably and wittily said by Monsieur de Montaigne, that ambition itself might teach us to love solitude: there is nothing does so much hate to have companions. It is true, it loves to have its elbows free, it detests to have company on either side, but it delights above all things in a train behind, aye, and ushers, too, before it. But the greater part of men are so far from the opinion of that noble Roman, that if they chance at any time to be without company they are like a becalmed ship; they never move but by the wind of other men's breath, and have no oars of their own to steer withal. It is very fantastical and contradictory in human nature, that men should love themselves above all the rest of the world, and yet never endure to be with themselves. When they are in love with a mistress, all other persons are importunate and burdensome to them. "Tecum vivere amem, tecum obeam lubens," They would live and die with her alone.