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to great esteem, as a thing that could raise and elevate the mind aloft, that seemed to be base and fixed to the earth, make the cogitations of the men, which do ever reside in the head, to be ætherial, and as it were winged. But that the mother of the
, Syrens was left to her feet, and without wings, that no doubt is no otherwise meant than of light and superficial learning, appropriated and defined only to pleasures, as were those which Petronius devoted himself unto after he had received his fatal sentence; and having his foot, as it were, upon the threshold of death, sought to give himself all delightful contentments ; insomuch, as when he had caused con
; solatory letters to be sent him, he would peruse none of them, as Tacitus reports, that should give him courage
constancy, but only read fantastical verses such as these are :
“ Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
My Lesbia, let us live and love :
And this also :
“ Jura senes norint, et quid sit fasque nefasque,
Inquirant tristes, legumque examina servent.
This kind of doctrine would easily persuade to take these plumed coronets from the muses, and to restore the wings again to the Syrens. These Syrens are said to dwell in remote isles, for that pleasures love privacy and retired places, shunning always too much company of people. The Syrens' songs are so vulgarly understood, together with the deceits and danger of them, as that they need no exposition. But that of the bones appearing like white cliffs, and descried afar off, hath more acuteness in it: for thereby is signified, that albeit the examples of afflictions be manifest and eminent, yet do they not sufficiently deter us from the wicked enticements of pleasures.
As for the remainder of this parable, though it be not over mystical, yet it is very grave and excellent: for in it are set out three remedies for this violent enticing mischief; to wit, two from philosophy, and one from religion. The first means to shun these inordinate pleasures is, to withstand and resist them in their beginnings, and seriously to shun all occasions that are offered to debauch and entice the mind, which is signified in that stopping of the ears; and that remedy is properly used by the meaner and and baser sort of people, as it were, Ulysses' followers or mariners, whereas more heroic and noble spirits may boldly converse even in the midst of these seducing pleasures, if with a resolved constancy they stand upon their guard and fortify their minds, and so take greater contentment in the trial and experience of this their approved virtue; learning rather thoroughly to understand the follies and vanities of
those pleasures by contemplation than by submission. Which Solomon avouched of himself, when he reckoned
the multitude of those solaces and pleasures wherein he swam, doth conclude with this sentence :
“ Sapientia quoque perseverabat mecum."
Wisdom also continued with me.
Therefore these heroes and spirits of this excellent temper, even in the midst of these enticing pleasures, can shew themselves constant and invincible, and are able to support their own virtuous inclination against all heady and forcible persuasions whatsoever; as by the example of Ulysses, that so pe. remptorily interdicted all pestilent counsels and flatteries of his companions, as the most dangerous and pernicious poisons to captivate the mind. But of all other remedies in this case that of Orpheus is most predominant; for they that chaunt and resound the praises of the gods confound and dissipate the voices and incantations of the Syrens; for divine meditations do not only in power subdue all sensual pleasures, but also far exceed them in sweetness -and delight.