The Life of John Buncle by Thomas Amory
The design of this fine Satire is to show, that endowments and blessings of the mind, as wisdom, virtue, justice, and integrity of life, are the only things worth praying for.
SURVEY mankind, muster the herd
From smoothest chin to deepest beard;
Search every climate, view each nation,
From lowest to the highest station;
From Eastern to the Western Indies,
From frozen Poles to the line that singes;
Scarce will you find one mortal wight,
Knows good from ill, or wrong from right.
'Cause clouds of lust and passion blind,
And bribe with interests the mind;
And while they combat in our heart,
Our fondness crowns the conquering part.
What is the thing under the sun,
That we with reason seek or shun?
Or justly by our judgment weighed,
Should make us fond of, or afraid?
Whate'er is luckily begun,
Brings sure repentance at long-run.
The distant object looming great,
Possessed proves oft an empty cheat;
And he who wins the wished-for prize,
A trouble often dearly buys.
Some for their family importune,
And beg their ruin for a fortune.
The courteous gods granting their prayers,
Have entailed curses on their heirs.
Of wizards some inquire their doom,
Greedy to know events to come,
And by their over-caution run
On the same fate they strove to shun.
Some have petitioned to be great,
And eminent in church and state.
This in the war's a famous leader,
T'other at bar a cunning pleader;
The cause on either side ensure you,
By dint of noise stun judge and jury.
And if the business won't bear water,
Banter and perplex the matter.
But their obstreperous eloquence
Has failed even in their own defence.
And saving others by haranguing,
Have brought themselves at last to hanging.
Milo presuming on his strength,
Caused his own destiny at length.
The greedy care of heaping wealth,
Damns many a soul and ruins health,
And in an apoplectic fit,
Sinks them downright into the pit.
How many upstarts crept from low
Condition, vast possessions show?
Whose estate's audit so immense
Exceeds all prodigal expense.
With which compare that spot of earth,
To which these mushrooms owe their birth:
Their manners to dad's cottage show,
As Greenland whales to dolphins do.
In Nero's plotting dismal times,
Riches were judged sufficient crimes.
First swear them traitors to the state,
Then for their pains share their estate.
Fat forfeitures their toils reward:
Poor rogues may pass without regard.
Some are hooked in for sense and wit,
And some condemned for want of it.
The over-rich Longinus dies,
His bright heaps dazzled envious eyes.
Neither could philosophy,
Wisdom, desert, or piety,
Rich Seneca from his pupil save,
'Tis fit he send him to a grave,
And then resume the wealth he gave.
The guards the palaces beset,
For noble game they pitch their net.
While from alarms and pangs of fear,
Securely sleeps the cottager.
If you by night shall happen late,
To travel with a charge of plate;
With watchful eyes and panting heart,
Surprized, each object makes you start.
While racked with doubts, oppressed with fear,
Each bush does an armed thief appear.
A shaken reed will terror strike,
Mistaken for a brandished pike.
Before the thief, the empty clown
Sings unconcerned and travels on<251>.
With warm petitions most men ply
The gods, their bags may multiply;
That riches may grow high and rank,
Outswelling others in the bank.
But from plain wood and earthen cups,
No poisoned draught the peasant sups.
Of the gold goblet take thou care,
When sparkling wine's spiced by thy heir.
Then who can blame that brace of wise men,
That in differing moods despise men.
Th'old merry lad saunters the streets
And laughs, and drolls at all he meets.
For pastime rallies, flouts, and fools 'em,
Shams, banters, mimics, ridicules 'em.
The other sage in maudlin wise,
Their errors mourns with weeping eyes.
Dull fools with ease can grin and sneer,
And buffoons flout with saucy jeer.
What source could constant tears supply,
To feed the sluices of each eye;
Or t'others merry humour make,
His spleen continually to shake?
Could he in sober honest times<252>
With sharp conceit tax petty crimes:
And everywhere amongst the rout,
Find follies for his wit to flout;
Which proves that Gotham and gross climes,
Produce prodigious wits sometimes.
The joys and fears of the vain crowd,
And whimpering tears he'd jeer aloud;
Wisely secure, fortune deride,
By foppish mortals deified;
Bid her be hanged, and laugh at fate,
When threatened at the highest rate;
Whilst fools for vain and hurtful things,
Pour out their prayers and offerings,
Fastening petitions on the knees,
Of their regardless deities<253>.
For place and power, how many men vie,
Procuring mortal hate and envy;
Heralds long-winded titles sound,
Which the vain owners oft confound.
Down go their statues in disgrace;
The party hangs up in the place.
In rage they break chariot triumphant,
Because a knave 'fore set his rump on't.
Poor horses suffer for no fault,
Unless by bungling workmen wrought.
The founder's furnace grows red hot,
Sejanus' statue goes to pot:
That head lately adored, and reckoned
In all th'universe the second,
Melted, new forms and shapes assumes,
Of p——pots, frying-pans, and spoons<254>.
The crowd o'erjoyed that Caesar's living,
Petition for a new thanksgiving;
How the base rout insult to see
Sejanus dragged to destiny<255>,
Would you on these conditions, Sir,
Be favourite and prime minister,
As was Sejanus? Stand possessed
Of honours, power, and interest;
Dispose supreme commands at will,
Promote, disgrace, preserve, or kill;
Have foot and horse-guards, the command
Of armies both by sea and land.
Had you not better ask in prayer,
To be some petty country mayor;
There domineer, and when your pleasure's
Condemn light weights, break false measures;
Though meanly clad in safe estate,
Than choose Sejanus robes and fate?
Sejanus then, we must conclude,
Courting his bane, mistook the good.
Crassus and Pompey's fate of old,
The truth of this sure maxim told.
And his who first bowed Rome's stiff neck,
And made the world obey his beck<256>.
The novice in his accidence,
Dares pray his wit and eloquence
May rival Roman Cicero's fame,
And Greek Demosthenes' high name.
Yet to both these their swelling vein
Of wit and fancy proved their bane.
No pleading dunce's jobbernowl<257>
Revenge e'er doomed to grace a pole.
The trophies which the vanquished field
Do to the glorious victors yield,
Triumphant conquerors can bless,
With more than human happiness.
This, Roman, Grecian, and barbarian,
Spurred to acts hazardous and daring;
In sweat and blood spending their days,
For empty fame, and fading bays.
'Tis the immoderate thirst of fame
Much more than virtue does inflame.
Which none for worse or better take,
But for her dower and trapping's sake.
The fond ambition of a few,
Many vast empires overthrew;
While their achievements with their dust,
They vainly to their tombstones trust.
For sepulchres like bodies lie,
Swallowed in deaths, obscurity.<258>
Behold how small an urn contains
The mighty Hannibal's remains.
That hero whose vast swelling mind
To Afric could not be confined.
Nature's impediments he past,
And came to Italy at last.
There, after towns and battles won,
He cries, comrades, there's nothing done,
Unless our conquering powers
Break down Rome's gates, level her towers,
Root up her posts, and break her chains,
And knock out all opposers brains.
Whilst our troops scour the city thorough,
And fix our standard in Saburra<259>.
But what catastrophe of fate,
Does on this famous leader wait.
His conduct's baffled, army's broke,
Carthage puts on the Roman yoke.
Whilst flight and banishment's his fate,
His ruined country's scorn and hate.
Go, madman, act thy frantic part,
Climb horrid Alps, with pains and art,
Go, madman, to be with mighty reputation,
The subject of a declamation.<260>
One world's too mean, a trifling thing,
For the young Macedonian king;
He raves like one in banishment,
In narrow craggy island pent.
In one poor globe does sweat and squeeze,
Wedged in and cramped in little-ease.
But he who human race once scorned,
And said high Jove King Philip horned,
While managed oracles declare
The spark great Ammon's son and heir;
At Babylon, for all his huffing,
Finds ample room in narrow coffin.
Man swells with bombast of inventions,
When stripped, death shows his true dimensions.
So do we read wild Xerxes rent
Mount Athos from the continent,
And in a frolic made a shift,
To set it in the sea adrift.
With ships paved o'er the Hellespont,
And built a floating bridge upon't.
Drove chariots o'er by this device,
As coaches ran upon the ice.
He led so numberless a rout,
As at one meal drank rivers out.
This tyrant we in story find,
Was used to whip and flog the wind;
Their jailor Eolus in prison,
Ne'er forced them with so little reason.
Nor could blue Neptune's godhead save him,
But he with fetters must enslave him.
Yet after all these roaring freaks,
Routed and broke he homeward sneaks;
And ferries o'er in fishing-boat
Through shoals of carcases afloat;
His hopes all vanished, bilked of all
His gaudy dreams: see pride's just fall.
The frequent subject of our prayers,
Is length of life and many years.
But what incessant plagues and ills,
The gulf of age with mischief fills!
We can pronounce none happy, none,
Till the last sand of life be run.
Marius's long life was th'only reason,
Of exile and Minturnian prison.
Kind fate designing to befriend
Great Pompey, did a fever send,
That should with favourable doom,
Prevent his miseries to come.
But nations for his danger grieved,
Make public prayers, and he's reprieved.
Fate then that honoured, head did save,
And to insulting Caesar gave.
'Tis the fond mother's constant prayer,
Her children may be passing fair.
The boon they beg with sighs and groans,
Incessantly on marrow-bones.
Yet bright Lucretia's sullen fate,
Shows fair ones are not fortunate.
Virginia's chance may well confute you,
Good luck don't always wait on beauty.
Let not your wills then once repine,
Whate'er the gods for you design.
They better know than human wit,
That does our exigence befit.
Their wise all-seeing eyes discern,
And give what best suits our concern.
We blindly harmful things implore,
Which they refusing, love us more.
Shall men ask nothing then? Be wise,
And listen well to sound advice.
Pray only that in body sound,
A firm and constant mind be found.
A mind no fear of death can daunt,
Nor exile, prison, pains nor want.
That justly reckons death to be
Kind author of our liberty.
Banishing passion from our breast,
Resting content with what's possessed.
That every honest action loves,
And great Alcides' toil approves,
Above the lusts, feasts, and beds of down,
Which did Sardanapalus drown.
Page 510 This mortals to themselves may give;
Virtue's the happy rule to live.
Chance bears no sway where wisdom rules,
An empty name adored by fools.
Folly blind Fortune did create,
A goddess, and to heaven translate.
As I had not room for all the tenth Satire, what is seen here, is rather an abridgement than an entire version. The whole sense of the author, however, is preserved, though several of his examples and illustrations are left out.
Dr. Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, thought this Satire so excellent a thing, that in his famous Pastoral Letter he recommends it, and the Satires of Persius, to the perusal and practice of the divines in his diocese, as the best common places for their sermons; and what may be taught with more profit to the audience, than all the new speculations of divinity, and controversies concerning faith; which are more for the profit of the shepherd, than for the edification of the flock. In the Satires, nothing is proposed but the quiet and tranquillity of the mind. Virtue is lodged at home, as Dryden expresses it, in his fine dedication to the Earl of Dorset; and diffused to the improvement and good of human kind. Passion, interest, ambition, mystery, fury, and every cruel consequence, are banished from the doctrine of these stoics, and only the moral virtues inculcated, for the perfection of mankind.
But so unreasonable and infatuated are our shepherds, too many of them I mean, that a rational Christian cannot go to church without being shocked at the absurd and impious work of their pulpits. In town and country, almost every Sunday, those bright theologers are for ever on the glories of trinity in unity, and teaching their poor people that God Almighty came down from heaven to take flesh upon him, and make infinite satisfaction to himself. This is the cream of Christianity, in the account of those teachers. The moral virtues are nothing, compared to a man or a woman's swallowing the divine mystery of an incarnate God Almighty. Over and over have I heard a thousand of them on this holy topic, sweating and drivelling at each corner of their mouths with eagerness to convert the world to their mysteries. The adorable mystery! says one little priest, in my neighbourhood in Westminster. The more incomprehensible and absurd it appears to human reason, the greater honour you do to heaven in believing it, says another wise man in the country. But tell me, ye excellent divines, tell me in print if you please, if it would not be doing more honour to the law of heaven, to inform the people, that the true Christian profession is, to pray to God our Father for grace, mercy, and peace, through the Lord Jesus Christ; without ever mentioning the Athanasian scheme, or trinity in unity, which you know no more of than so many pigs do, because it is a mere invention, and not to be found in the Bible. And in the next place, to tell your flocks in serious and practical address, that their main business is, as the disciples of the holy Jesus, a good life; to strive against sin continually, and be virtuous and useful to the utmost of our power; to imitate the purity and goodness of their great master, the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him, and by repentance and holiness of heart, in a patient continuance in well-doing, make it the labour of their every day, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world: you must become partakers of a divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, and by acquiring the true principles of Christian perfection, render yourselves fit for the heavenly bliss: This, my dearly beloved brethren, is the great design of Christ and his gospel. You must receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Mediator, you must be exercised unto godliness, and have the ways of God in your hearts. By a course of obedience and patience, you must follow the captain of our salvation to his glory.
To this purpose, I say, our clergy ought to preach; and if in so saying, they think me wrong, I call upon them to tell me so in print, by argument; that I may either publicly acknowledge a mistaken judgment; or prove, that too many ministers mislead Christian people in the article of faith and practice. By the strict rules of Christian simplicity and integrity, I shall ever act.