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pathy and sympathy, we see the world hath turned upon new principles which are attributed to Paracelsus, but indeed too much to his honour. Certainly it is also so in the physic of our soul's divinity, for in the primitive church, when amongst the fathers there were so divers opinions of the state of the soul, presently after this life, they easily inclined to be content to do as much for them dead as when they were alive, and so concurred in a charitable disposition to pray for them; which manner of prayer then in use, no Christian church at this day, having received better light, will allow of. So also when in the beginning of St. Augustine's time, grace had been so much advanced, that man's nature was scarce admitted to be so much as any means or instrument (not only no kind of cause) of his own good works. And soon after, in St. Augustine's time also, man's free will (by fierce opposition and arguing against the former error) was too much overvalued, and admitted into too near degrees of fellowship with grace. Those times admitted a doctrine and form of reconciliation which, though for reverence to the time, both the Dominicans and Jesuits at this day, in their great quarrel about grace and free-will, would yet seem to maintain ; yet indifferent and dispassioned men of that church see there is no possibility in it, and therefore accuse it of absurdity and almost of heresy. I think it falls out thus also in the matter of the soul: for Christian religion presuming a soul, and intending principally her happiness in the life to come, hath been content to accept any way which hath been obtruded, how this soul is begun in us. Hence it is that whole Christian churches arrest themselves upon propagation from parents; and other whole Christian churches allow only infusion from God. In both which opinions there appear such infirmities, as it is time to look for a better : for whosoever will adhere to the way of propagation, can never evict necessarily and certainly a natural immortality in the soul, if the soul result out of matter; nor shall he ever prove that all mankind hath any more than one soul : as certainly of all beasts, if they receive such souls as they have from their parents, every species can have but one soul. And they which follow the opinion of infusion from God, and of a new creation (which is now the more common opinion), as they can very hardly defend the doctrine of original sin (the soul is forced to take this infection, and comes not into the body of her own disposition), so shall they never be able to prove that all those whom we see in the shape of men, have an immortal and reasonable soul, because our parents are as able as any other species is to give us a soul of growth and of sense, and to perform all vital and animal functions. And so without infusion of such a soul may produce a creature as wise, and well disposed as any horse or elephant, of which degree many whom we see come far short ; nor hath God bound or declared himself that he will always create a soul for every embryon, there is yet therefore no opinion in philosophy, nor divinity, so well established as constrains us to believe, both that the soul is immortal, and that every particular man hath such a soul: which since out of the great mercy of our God we do constantly believe, I am ashamed that we do not also know it by searching farther. But as sometimes we had rather believe a traveller's lie than go to disprove him; so men rather cleave to these ways than seek new. Yet because I have meditated therein, I will shortly acquaint you with what I think; for I would not be in danger of that law of Moses, that if a man dig a pit, and cover it not, he must recompense those which are damnified by it: which is often interpreted of such as shake old opinions, and do not establish new as certain, but leave consciences in a worse danger than they found them in. I believe that law of Moses hath in it some mystery and appliableness ; for by that law men are only then bound to that indemnity and compensation, if an ox or an ass (that is, such as are of a strong constitution and accustomed to labour) fall therein; but it is not said so, if a sheep or a goat fall: no more are we, if men in a silliness or wantonness will stumble or take a scandal, bound to rectify them at all times. And therefore because I justly presume you strong aud watchful enough, I make account that I am not obnoxious to that law, since my meditations are neither too wide nor too deep for you, except only that my way of expressing them may be extended beyond your patience and pardon, which I will therefore tempt no longer at this time.
Your very affectionate friend and servant and lover, From Mitcham, my close prison ever
John Donne. since I saw you.-Oct. 9.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir Henry Goodyere. Sir,
As you are a great part of my business, when I come to London, so are you when I send. More than the office of a visitation brings this letter to you now; for I remember that about this time you purposed a journey to fetch, or meet the lad, Huntington. If you justly doubt any long absence, I pray send to my lodging my written books : and if you may stay very long, I pray send that letter in which I sent you certain heads which I purposed to enlarge, for I have them not in any other paper : and I may find time in your absence to do it, because I know no stronger argument to move you to love me, but because you have done so, do so still, to make my reason better, and I shall at last prescribe in you,
Yours, Mitcham, Wednesday,
To the Honourable Knight, Sir Robert Karre *.
Lest you should think yourself too much beholden to your fortune, and so rely too much upon her hereafter, I am bold to tell you, that it is not only your good fortune that hath preserved you from the importunity of my visits all this time. For my ill fortune, which is stronger than any man's good fortune, hath concurred in the plot to keep us asunder, by infecting one in my house with the measles. But all that is so safely overworn, that I dare, not only desire to put myself into your presence, but by your mediation, a little farther. For, esteeming myself, by so good a title, as my lord's own words, to be under his providence, and care of my fortune, I make it the best part of my studies how I might ease his lordship by finding out something for myself. Which, because I think I have done, as though I had done him a service therein, I adventure to desire to speak with him, which I beseech you to advance, in addition to your many favours
* Probably from Mitcham before 1609.-Ed.
and benefits to me. And if you have occasion to send any of your servants to this town, to give me notice, what times are fittest for me to wait, to enjoy your favour herein. My business is of that nature, that loss of time may make it much more difficult, and may give courage to the ill fortune of
Your humble servant,
To Sir H. Goodyere. Sir,
Every Tuesday I make account that I turn a great hourglass, and consider that a week's life is run out since I writ. But if I ask myself what I have done in the last watch, or would do in the next, I can say nothing; if I say that I have passed it without hurting any, so may the spider in my window. The primitive monks were excusable in their retirings and enclosures of themselves : for even of them every one cultivated his own garden and orchard, that is, his soul and body, by meditation, and manufactures; and they sought the world no more since they consumed none of her sweetness, nor begot others to burden her. But for me, if I were able to husband all my time so thriftily, as not only not to wound my soul in a minute by actual sin, but not to rob and cozen her by giving any part to pleasure or business, but bestow it all upon her in meditation, yet even in that I should wound her more, and contract another guiltiness : as the eagle were very unnatural if because she is able to do it, she should perch a whole day upon a tree, staring in contemplation of the majesty and glory of the sun, and let her young eaglets starve in the nest. Two of the most precious things which God hath afforded us here, for the agony and exercise of our sense and spirit, which are a thirst and inhiation after the next life, and a frequency of prayer and meditation in this, are often envenomed, and putrefied, and stray into a corrupt disease : for as God doth thus occasion, and positively concur to evil, that when a man is purposed to do a great sin, God infuses some good thoughts which make him chose a less sin, or leave out some circumstance which aggravated that; so the devil doth not only suffer but
provoke us to some things naturally good, upon condition that we shall omit some other more necessary and more obligatory. And this is his greatest subtlety; because herein we have the deceitful comfort of having done well, and can very hardly spy our error because it is but an insensible omission, and no accusing act. With the first of these I have often suspected myself to be overtaken, which is, with a desire of the next life : which though I know it is not merely out of a weariness of this, because I had the same desires when I went with the tide, and enjoyed fairer hopes than now: yet I doubt worldly encumbrances have increased it. I would not that death should take me asleep. I would not have him merely seize me, and only declare me to be dead, but win me, and overcome me. When I must shipwreck, I would do it in a sea, where mine impotency might have some excuse ; not in a sullen weedy lake, where I could not have so much as exercise for my swimming. Therefore I would fain do something; but that I cannot tell what, is no wonder. For to choose, is to do: but to be no part of any body, is to be nothing. At most, the greatest persons, are but great wens, and excrescences; men of wit and delightful conversation, but as moles for ornament, except they be so incorporated into the body of the world, that they contribute something to the sustentation of the whole. This I made account that I begun early, when I understood the study of our laws; but was diverted by the worst voluptuousness, which is an hydroptic immoderate desire of human learning and languages : beautiful ornaments to great fortunes ; but mine needed an occupation, and a course which I thought I entered well into, when I submitted myself to such a service, as I thought might have employed those poor advantages, which I had. And there I stumbled too, yet I would try again : for to this hour I am nothing, or so little, that I am scarce subject and argument good enough for one of mine own letters : yet I fear, that doth not ever proceed from a good root, that I am so well content to be less, that is dead. You, sir, are far enough from these descents, your virtue keeps you secure, and your natural disposition to mirth will preserve you ; but lose none of these holds, a slip is often as dangerous as a bruise, and though you cannot fall to my lowness, yet in a much less dis