« PreviousContinue »
which all natural things concur and meet, the same that in the fore-cited scripture is demonstrated in these words,“ Opus, quod operatus est Deus à princi“pio usque ad finem,” the work that God hath wrought from the beginning even to the end. But Democritus which entered more deeply into the consideration of this point, after he had conceived an atom with some small dimension and form, he attributed unto it one only desire, or first motion simply or absolutely, and another comparatively or in respect: for he thought that all things did properly tend to the centre of the world, whereof those bodies which were more material, descend with swifter motion, and those that had less matter did on the contrary tend upward. But this meditation was very shallow, containing less than was expedient: for neither the turning of the celestial bodies in a round, nor shutting and opening of things may seem to be reduced or applied to this beginning. And as for that opinion of Epicurus concerning the casual declination and agitation of the atom, it is but a mere toy, and a plain evidence, that he was ignorant of that point. It is therefore more apparent, than we could wish, that this Cupid, or Love, remains as yet clouded under the shades of night. Now as concerning his attributes : he is elegantly described with perpetual infancy or childhood, because compound bodies they seem greater and more stricken in years; whereas the first seeds of things or atoms, they are little and diminute, and always in their infancy.
He is also well feigned to be naked, because all
compound bodies to a man rightly judging, seem to be apparelled and cloathed, and nothing to be properly naked but the first particles of things.
Concerning his blindness, the allegory is full of wisdom: for this love, or desire, whatsoever it be, seems to have but little providence, as directing his pace and motion by that which it perceives nearest, not unlike blind men that go by feeling : more admirable then must that chief divine providence be, which, from things empty and destitute of provi. dence, and as it were blind, by a constant and fatal law produceth so excellent an order and beauty of things.
The last thing which is attributed unto Love is archery, by which is meant, that his virtue is such, as that it works upon a distant object : because that whatsoever operates afar off, seems to shoot, as it were, an arrow. Wherefore whosoever holds the being both of atoms and vacuity, must needs infer, that the virtue of the atom reacheth to a distant object; for if it were not so, there could be no motion at all, by reason of the interposition of vacuity, but all things would stand stone still, and remain immoveable.
Now as touching that other Cupid, or Love, he may well be termed the youngest of the gods, because he could have no being, before the constitution of species. And in his description the allegory may be applied and traduced to manners: nevertheless he holds some kind of conformity with the elder; for Venus doth generally stir up a desire of conjunc
tion and procreation, and Cupid her son doth apply this desire to some individual nature; so that the general disposition comes from Venus, the more exact sympathy from Cupid : the one derived from causes more near, the other from beginnings more remote and fatal, and as it were from the elder Cupid, of whom every exquisite sympathy doth depend.
DIOMEDES, OR ZEAL. Diomedes flourishing with great fame and glory in the Trojan wars, and in high favour with Pallas, was by her instigated, being indeed forwarder than he should have been, not to forbear Venus a jot, if he encountered with her in fight; which very boldly he performed, wounding her in the right arm. This presumptuous fact he carried clear for a while, and being honoured and renowned for his many heroic deeds, at last returned into his own country, where finding himself hard bestead with domestic troubles, fled into Italy, betaking himself to the protection of foreigners, where in the beginning he was fortunate, and royally entertained by King Daunus with sumptuous gifts, raising many statues in honour of him throughout his dominions. But upon the very first calamity that happened unto this nation, whereunto he was fled for succour, King Daunus enters into a conceit with himself that he had entertained a wicked guest into his family, and a man odious to the goddess, and an impugner of their divinity, that had dared, with his sword, to assault and wound that
goddess, who, in their religion, they held it sacrilege so much as to touch. Therefore, that he might expiate his country's guilt, nothing respecting the duties of hospitality, when the bonds of religion tied him with a more reverend regard, suddenly slew Diomedes, commanding withal that his trophies and statues should be abolished and destroyed. Neither was it safe to lament this miserable destiny; but even his companions in arms, whilst they mourned at the funeral of their captain, and filled all the places with plaints and lamentations, were suddenly metamorphosed into birds like unto swans, who when their death approacheth, sing melodious and mournful hymns.
This fable hath a most rare and singular subject: for in any of the poetical records, wherein the heroes are mentioned, we find not that any one of them, besides Diomedes, did ever with his sword offer violence to any of the deities. And indeed, the fable seems in him to represent the nature and fortune of man, who of himself doth propound and make this as the end of all his actions, to worship some divine power, or to follow some sect of religion, though never so vain and superstitious, and with force and arms to defend the same : for although those bloody quarrels for religion were unknown to ancients, the heathen gods not having so much as a touch of that jealousy, which is an attribute of the true God, yet the wisdom of the ancient times seems to be so copious and full, as that, what was not known by experience, was yet comprehended by meditations and fictions. They then that endeavour to reform and convince any sect of religion, though vain, corrupt, and infamous, shadowed by the person of Nenus, not by the force of argument and doctrine, and holiness of life, and by the weight of examples and authority, but labour to extirpate and root it out by fire and sword, and tortures, are encouraged, it may be, thereunto by Pallas, that is, by the acrity of prudence, and severity of judgment, by whose vigour and efficacy, they see into the falsity and vanity of these errors. And by this their hatred of pravity, and good zeal to religion, they purchase to themselves great glory, and by the vulgar, to whom nothing moderate can be grateful, are esteemed and honoured as the only supporters of truth and religion, when others seem to be lukewarm and full of fear. Yet this glory and happiness doth seldom endure to the end, seeing every violent prosperity, if it prevent not alteration by an untimely death, grows to be unprosperous at last: for if it happen that by a change of government this banished and depressed sect get strength, and so bear up again, then these zealous men, so fierce in opposition before, are condemned, their very names are hateful, and all their glory ends in obloquy.