Item of the Day: The Emperor Marcus Antoninus his Conversation with Himself (1701)

Full Title: The Emperor Marcus Antoninus his Conversation with Himself. Together with the Preliminary Discourse of the Learned Gataker. As also, the Emperor’s Life, Written by Monsieur D’Acier, and Supported by the Authorities Collected by Dr. Stanhope. To which is added the Mythological Picture of Cebes the Theban, &c. Translated into English from the Respective Originals, by Jeremy Collier. London: Printed for Richard Sare, at Grays-Inn-Gate in Holborn, MDCCI.

 

BOOK III.

WE ought not only to rmember, that Life is perpetually wearing off, and in a Litteral Consumption; but also to consider that if a Man’s Line should happen to be longer than ordinary, yet ’tis uncertain whether his Mind will keep pace with his Years, and afford him Sense enough for Business, and Speculation, and to look into the Nature, Reasons, and References, of Things both Human, and Divine. For if the Understanding falls off, and the Man begins to Dote, what does he signify? ‘Tis true the meer Animal Life may go on, he may Breath and Nourish, and be furnished with Perception and Appetitie; But to make any proper use of himself, to work his Notions to any Clearness and Consistency; to state Duty and Circumstance, and Practice to Decency and Exactness; to know whether it is time for him to walk out of the World or not,* As to all these noble Functions of Reason, and Judgment, the Man is perfectly dead already. It concerns us therefore to push forward, and make the most of our matters, for Death is continually advancing; and besides that, our Understanding sometime dies before us, and then the true Purposes and Significancy of Life are at an End.

II. ‘Tis worth ones while to observe that the least design’d and almost unbespoken Effects of Nature, are not without their Beauty: Thus, to use a Similitude, there are Cracks, and little Breaks on the Surface of a Loaf, which tho’ never intended by the Baker, have a sort of Agreeableness in them; which invite the Appetite. Thus figs when they are ripe, open and gape: And Olives when they fall of themselves and are near decaying, are particularly pretty to look at: To go on; The bending of an Ear of Corn, the Brow of a Lion, the Foam of a Boar, and many other Things, if you take them singly, are far enough from being handsome, but when they are look’d on as parts of somewhat else, and consider’d with Reference, and Connexion; are both Ornamental, and Affecting. Thus, if a Man has but Inclination and Thought enough to examine the Product of the Universe; he’ll find the most umpromising Appearances not unaccountable; and that the more remote Appendages have somewhat to Recommend them. One thus prepared will perceive the Beauty of Life, as well as that of Imitation; and be no less pleased to see a Tyger Grin in the Tower, than in a Painter’s Shop. Such a one will find something agreeable in the Decays of Age, as well as in the blossom of Youth: I grant many of these Things won’t Charm us at the first Blush: To Pronounce rightly, a Man must be well affected in the Case, and throughly acquainted with the Methods and Harmony of Nature.

III. Hippocrates who cures so many Diseases, was not able to Recover himself: The Chaldeans who foretold other Peoples Death, at last met with their own. Alexander, Pompey, and Julius Caesar, who had destroyed so many towns, and Cut-off so so many Thousands in the Field, were forc’d at last to March off themselves: Heraclitus who argued so much about the Worlds being set on Fire, perish’d himself by a Counter-Element, and was Drown’d in a Dropsy. Democritus was eaten up with Lice, and Socrates was dispatched by another sort of Vermin. Why, to shew what we must all come to. Look you; You are not Abroad, you have made your Voyage and your Port; Debark then without any more ado; if you happen to Land upon another World, there will be Gods enough to take care of you: But if it be your Fortune to drop into nothing; why then your Virtue will be no more solicited with Pleasure and Pain; then you’ll have done drudging for your Carcass: whereas as Matters go now, the best Moyety of you has sometimes the worst Office: For if I mistake not, the one is all Soul, and Spirit, whereas the other, is but Dirt, and Putrefaction.

IV. For the Future, don’t spend your Thoughts upon other People, unless you are put ipon it by common Interest. For the prying into foreign Business, that is musing upon the Talk, Fancies, and Contrivances of another, and guessing at the what, and why, of his Actions; All this does but make a Man forget himself, and Ramble from his own Reason. He ought therefore not to work his Mind to no purpose, nor throw a superfluous Link into the Chain of Thought; And more especially, to stand clear of Curiosity, and Malice, in his Enquiry. And to come Home, and make all sure; Let it be your way to think upon nothing, but what you freely Discover, if the Question was put to you: so that if your Soul was thus laid open, there would nothing appear, but what was Sincere, Good-natur’d, and publick Spirited; not so much as on Libertine, or Luxurious Fancy, nothing Litigiousness, Envy, or unreasonable Suspicion, or any thing else, which would not bear the Light, without Blushing. A Man thus qualified, may be allowed the first Rank among Mortals; he is a sort of Priest, and Minister of the Gods, and makes a right use of the Deity within him; By the Asssistance of which he is preserv’d uninfected with Pleasure, invulnerable against Pain; out of the reach of Injury, and above the Mallice of Ill People. Thus he Wrastles for the noblest Prize, stands firm on the most slippery Ground, and keeps his Feet against all his Passions; To go on with him, his Honesty is right Sterling, and touches as well as it looks; he always resigns to Providence, and meets his Fate with Pleasure: He never minds othe Peoples Thoughts, or Actions, unless Publick Reason and General Good require it. No; He confines himself to his own Business and contemplates upon his Post, and Station; And endeavours to do the First as it should be, and believe well the Latter: I say of the Latter; for Fate is both inevitable, and convenient. He considers that all Rational Beings are of Kin; and that General Kindness and Concern for the whole World, is no more than a piece of Humantiy. That every ones Good Opinion is not worth the gaining; but only of those who live up to the Dignity of their Nature. As for others, he knows their way of Living, and their Company; their Publick, and their Private Disorders; and, why indeed should he value the Commendation of such People, who are so Vitious and Fantastical, as not to be able to please themselves? . . .

 

* The Stoicks allow’d Self-Murder.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1700's, Greek/Roman Translations, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s