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but horribly cumbersome and incommodious. What is all this, but a spice of a Grandio? how tedious would this be, if we were always bound to it! I do believe there is no king who would not rather be deposed, than endure every day of his reign all the ceremonies of his coronation.
The mightiest princes are glad to fly often from these majestic pleasures (which is methinks no small disparagement to them) as it were for refuge, to the most contemptible diversions and meanest recreations of the vulgar, nay even of children. One of the most powerful and fortunate princes of the world of late, could find out no delight so satisfactory as the keeping of little singing birds and hearing them and whistling to them. What did the emperors of the whole world? If ever any men had the free and full enjoyment of all human greatness (nay, that would not suffice, for they would be gods too) they certainly possessed it; and yet Domitian, who styled himself lord and god of the earth, could not tell how to pass his whole day pleasantly without spending constantly two or three hours in catching flies, and killing them with a bodkin, as if his godship had been Beelzebub. † One of his predecessors, Nero (who never put any
*Louis xiii. We scarcely need remind the reader who is acquainted with foreign history, that the celebrated De Luynes, when a simple page, first gained the favour of his royal master by training singing birds.
+ Beelzebub signifies the lord of flies. Cowley.
bounds, nor met with any stop to his appetite) could divert himself with no pastime more agreeable than to run about the streets all night in disguise, and abuse the women and affront the passengers, and sometimes beat them, and sometimes be beaten by them; this was one of his imperial nocturnal pleasures. His chief gratification was to sing and play upon a fiddle, in the habit of a minstrel upon the public stage. He was prouder of the garlands that were given to his divine voice (as they called it then in those kind of prizes) than all his forefathers were of their triumphs over nations. He did not at his death complain that so mighty an emperor and the last of all the Cæsarian race of deities, should be brought to so shameful and miserable an end: but only cried out "Alas! what pity it is that so excellent a musician should perish in this manner!" His uncle Claudius spent half his time in playing at dice; that was the main fruit of his sovereignty. I omit the madnesses of Caligu la's delights, and the execrable sordidness of those of Tiberius. Would one think that Augustus himself, the highest and most fortunate of mankind, a person endowed too with many excellent parts of na ture, should be so embarrassed for want of recreations, as to be found playing at nuts and bounding stones with little Syrian and Moorish boys, whose company he took delight in for their prating and their wantonness?
Was it for this that Rome's best blood he spilt,
His new created deity,
With nuts, and bounding stones, and boys.
But we must excuse her for this meagre entertainment; she has not really wherewithal to make such feasts as we imagine. Her guests must be contented sometimes with but slender cates, and with the same cold meats served over and over again till they become nauseous. When you have pared away all the vanity, what solid and natural contentment does there remain which may not be had for five hundred pounds a year? Not so many servants or horses, but a few good ones, which will do all the business as well; not so many choice dishes at every meal; but at several meals all of them, which makes them both the more healthy and the more pleasant; not so rich garments, nor so frequent changes; but as warm and as comely, and so frequent change too, as is every jot as good for the master though not for the taylor, or valet de chambre; not such a stately palace, nor gilt rooms, or the costliest sorts of tapestry, but a convenient brick house, with decent wainscot, and pretty forest work hangings.
Lastly, (for I omit all other particulars) and will end with that which I love most in both conditions, not whole woods cut in walks, nor vast parks, nor fountains, nor cascade gardens; but herb, and fruit, and flower gardens, which are more useful, and the water every whit as clean and wholesome as if it darted from the breasts of a marble nymph, or the urn of a river god.
But if you prefer a great to a moderate state of life, consider the inseparable accidents of sloth; servitude, disquiet, danger, and most commonly guilt, inherent in the one, in the other liberty, tranquillity, security, and innocence. And when you have thought upon this, you will confess that to be a truth, which appeared to you before but a ridiculous paradox, that a low fortune is better guarded and attended than a high one. If indeed, we only look upon the flourishing head of the tree, it appears a most beautiful object.
-sed quantum vertice ad auras Æthereas, tantum radice ad tartara tendit.
Virg. Geor. ii. 291.
As far as up towards heaven the branches grow,
Another horrible disgrace to greatness is, that it is for the most part in pitiful want and distress: what a wonderful thing is this? Unless it degenerate into avarice, and so cease to be greatness, it falls perpetually into such necessities as drive it
into all the meanest and most sordid ways of borrowing, cozenage, and robbery.
Mancipiis locuples eget æris Cappadocium rex.
Hor. 1. Ep. vi. 39.
This is the case of almost all great men as well as of the poor king of Cappadocia; they abound with slaves, but are indigent of money. The antient Roman emperors, who had the riches of the whole world for their revenue, had wherewithal to live (one would have thought) pretty well at ease, and to have been exempt from the pressures of extreme poverty. But yet with most of them it was much otherwise, and they fell perpetually into such miserable penury, that they were forced to devour or squeeze most of their friends and servants, to cheat with infamous projects, to ransack and pillage all their provinces.
This fashion of imperial grandeur is imitated by all inferior and subordinate sorts of it, as if it were a point of honour. They must be cheated of a third part of their estates, two other thirds they must expend in vanity; so that they remain debtors for all the necessary provisions of life, and have no way to satisfy those debts, but out of the succours and supplies of rapine; as riches increase (says Solomon) so do the mouths that devour them. The master mouth has no more than before. owner methinks is like Oenus in the fable, who is perpetually winding a rope of hay, and an ass at the end perpetually eating it.