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This ruler of monuments, leads men for the most part out of this world with their heels forward; in token that he is contrary to life; which being obtained, sends man headlong into this wretched theatre, where being arrived, their first language is that of mourning. Nor in my own thoughts, can I compare men more fitly to any thing, than to the Indian fig-tree, which being ripened to his full height, is said to decline his branches down to the earth; whereof she conceives again, and they become roots in their own stock.
So man having derived his being from the earth, first lives the life of a tree, drawing his nourishment as a plant, and made ripe for death he tends downwards, and is sowed again in his mother the earth, where he perisheth not, but expects a quickening.
7. So we see death exempts not a man from being, but only presents an alteration; yet there are some men (I think) that stand otherwise persuaded. Death finds not a worse friend than an alderman, to whose door I never knew him welcome; but he is an importunate guest, and will not be said nay.
And though they themselves shall affirm, that they are not within, yet the answer will not be taken; and that which heightens their fear is, that they know they are in danger to forfeit their flesh, but are not wise of the payment day: which sickly un
certainty, 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 toward them, and they are willing to anchor at it, and desire (if it be possible) to put the evil day far off from them, and to adjourn their ungrate ful 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 pri-soners, and deposed Kings; to them, 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 his 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 their 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 sounds an alarm on 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; remembring always, that he have time and liberty, by writing, to depute himself as his own heir.
For that is a great peace to his end, and reconciles him 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. Yet for my 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 divine 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 attempted 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 consent with Cæsar, and that the suddenest passage is easiest, and there is nothing more awakens our resolve and readiness to die than the 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 that like peace to all those with whom I wage 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 goodness 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 chuse, I should not be earnest to see the evening of my age; that extremity of itself being a disease, and a mere return into infancy: so that if perpetuity of life might be given me, I should think what the Greek poet said, such an age is a mortal