Sunday, January 26, 2014


Lack of Charity

Robert Burton (1577-1640), Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. III, Sect. 1, Memb. 3, with notes from the edition of A.R. Shilleto, Vol. III (London: George Bell & Sons, 1896), pp. 37-39:
[p. 37]
1O Felix hominum genus,
Si vestros animos amor
Quo coelum regitur regat!
Angelical souls, how blessed, how happy should we be, so loving, how might we triumph over the devil, and have another heaven upon earth!

But this we cannot do; and which is the cause of all our woes, miseries, discontent, melancholy, 2want of this charity. We do invicem angariare,3 contemn, consult, vex, torture, molest, and hold one another's noses to the grind-stone hard, provoke, rail, scoff, calumniate, challenge, hate, abuse (hard-hearted, implacable, malicious, peevish, inexorable as we are), to satisfy our lust or private spleen, for 4toys, trifles, and impertinent occasions, spend ourselves, goods, friends, fortunes, to be revenged on our adversary, to ruin him and his. 'Tis all our study, practice, and business how to plot mischief, mine, countermine, defend and offend, ward ourselves, injure others, hurt all; as if we were born to do mischief, and that with such eagerness and bitterness, with such rancour, malice, rage, and fury, we prosecute our intended designs, that neither affinity or consanguinity, love or fear of God or men can contain us; no satisfaction, no composition will be accepted, no offices will serve, no submission; though he shall upon his knees, as Sarpedon did to Glaucus in Homer, acknowledging his error, yield himself with tears in his eyes, beg his pardon, we will not relent, forgive, or forget, till we have confounded him and his, made dice of his bones, as they say, see him rot in prison, banish his friends, followers, et omne invisum genus,5 rooted him out and all his posterity. Monsters of men as we are, Dogs, Wolves, 6Tigers, Fiends, incarnate Devils, we do not only contend, oppress, and tyrannize ourselves, but as so many fire-brands, we set on, and animate others; our whole life is a perpetual combat, a conflict, a set battle, a snarling fit. Eris dea7 is settled in our tents, 8Omnia de lite, opposing wit to wit, wealth to wealth, strength to strength, fortunes to fortunes, friends to friends, as at a sea-fight, we turn our broad sides, or two millstones with continual attrition, we fire ourselves, or break one another's backs, and both are

1 Boethius, lib. 2, met. 8. 2 Deliquium patitur caritas, odium ejus loco succedit. Basil. 1, ser. de instit. mon. [3 An allusion to Matt, v.41. Vulgate. Press one another by turns.] 4 Nodum in scirpo quaerentes. [Ter. Andria 5.4.38.] [5 Virg. Aen. i.28.] 6 Hyrcanaeque admôrunt ubera tigres [Virg. Aen. iv.367.] [7 Hom. Iliad. xi.3, 73.] 8 Heraclitus.

[p. 38]

ruined and consumed in the end. Miserable wretches, to fat and enrich ourselves, we care not how we get it, quocunque modo rem,1 how many thousands we undo, whom we oppress, by whose ruin and downfall we arise, whom we injure, fatherless children, widows, common societies, to satisfy our own private lust. Though we have myriads, abundance of wealth and treasure (pitiless, merciless, remorseless, and uncharitable in the highest degree), and our poor brother in need, sickness, in great extremity, and now ready to be starved for want of food, we had rather, as the Fox told the Ape, his tail should sweep the ground still, than cover his buttocks; rather spend it idly, consume it with dogs, hawks, hounds, unnecessary buildings, in riotous apparel, ingurgitate, or let it be lost, than he should have part of it; 2rather take from him that little which he hath, than relieve him.

Like the dog in the manger, we neither use it ourselves, let others make use of or enjoy it; part with nothing while we live; for want of disposing our household, and setting things in order, set all the world together by the ears after our death. Poor Lazarus lies howling at his gates for a few crumbs, he only seeks chippings, offals; let him roar and howl, famish, and eat his own flesh, he respects him not. A poor decayed kinsman of his sets upon him by the way in all his jollity, and runs begging bareheaded by him, conjuring by those former bonds of friendship, alliance, consanguinity, &c., uncle, cousin, brother, father,
——Per ego has lacrimas, dextramque tuam te,
Si quidquam de te merui, fuit aut tibi quidquam
Dulce meum, misere mei.3
Shew some pity for Christ's sake, pity a sick man, an old man, &c., he cares not, ride on: pretend sickness, inevitable loss of limbs, goods, plead suretyship, or shipwreck, fires, common calamities, show thy wants and imperfections,
Et si per sanctum juratus dicat Osirim,
Credite, non ludo, crudeles, tollite claudum.4
Swear, protest, take God and all his Angels to witness, quaere peregrinum,5 thou art a counterfeit crank, a cheater, he is not touched with it, 6pauper ubique jacet, ride on, he takes no notice of

[1 Hor. Epp. i.1.66.] 2 2 Si in Gehennam abit, pauperem qui non alat: quid de eo fiet qui pauperem denudat? Austin. [See Sermo xli.] [3 Virg, Aen. iv.314, 317, 318, memoriter.] [4 Hor. Epp. i.17.60, 61.] [5 Do. 62.] [6 Ovid, Fast. i.218.]

[p. 39]

it. Put up a supplication to him in the name of a thousand Orphans, a Hospital, a Spittle, a Prison, as he goes by, they cry out to him for aid, ride on, surdo narras,1 he cares not, let them eat stones, devour themselves with vermin, rot in their own dung, he cares not. Show him a decayed haven, a bridge, a school, a fortification, &c., or some public work, ride on; good your Worship, your Honour, for God's sake, your country's sake, ride on.

[1 Ter. Heautontim. 2.1.10. You speak to a deaf man.]

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