Story type: Essay
Thursday May 3, 1711.
‘… Intus, et in jecore aegro
Nascuntur Domini …’
Most of the Trades, Professions, and Ways of Living among Mankind, take their Original either from the Love of Pleasure or the Fear of Want. The former, when it becomes too violent, degenerates into Luxury, and the latter into Avarice. As these two Principles of Action draw different Ways, Persius has given us a very humourous Account of a young Fellow who was rouzed out of his Bed, in order to be sent upon a long Voyage, by Avarice, and afterwards over-persuaded and kept at Home by Luxury. I shall set down at length the Pleadings of these two imaginary Persons, as they are in the Original with Mr. Dryden’s Translation of them.
Mane, piger, stertis: surge, inquit Avaritia; eja
Surge. Negas, Instat, surge inquit. Non queo. Surge.
Et quid agam? Rogitas? Saperdas advehe Ponto,
Castoreum, stuppas, hebenum, thus, lubrica Coa.
Tolle recens primus piper e siliente camelo.
Verte aliquid; jura. Sed Jupiter Audiet. Eheu!
Baro, regustatum digito terebrare salinum
Contentus perages, si vivere cum Jove tendis.
Jam pueris pellem succinctus et aenophorum aptas;
Ocyus ad Navem. Nil obstat quin trabe vasta
AEgaeum rapias, nisi solers Luxuria ante
Seductum moneat; quo deinde, insane ruis? Quo?
Quid tibi vis? Calido sub pectore mascula bilis
Intumuit, quam non extinxerit urna cicutae?
Tun’ mare transilias? Tibi torta cannabe fulto
Coena sit in transtro? Veientanumque rubellum
Exhalet vapida laesum pice sessilis obba?
Quid petis? Ut nummi, quos hic quincunce modesto
Nutrieras, pergant avidos sudare deunces?
Indulge genio: carpamus dulcia; nostrum est
Quod vivis; cinis, et manes, et fabula fies.
Vive memor lethi: fugit hora. Hoc quod loquor, inde est.
En quid agis? Duplici in diversum scinderis hamo.
Hunccine, an hunc sequeris!—-
Whether alone, or in thy Harlot’s Lap,
When thou wouldst take a lazy Morning’s Nap;
Up, up, says AVARICE; thou snor’st again,
Stretchest thy Limbs, and yawn’st, but all in vain.
The rugged Tyrant no Denial takes;
At his Command th’ unwilling Sluggard wakes.
What must I do? he cries; What? says his Lord:
Why rise, make ready, and go streight Aboard:
With Fish, from Euxine Seas, thy Vessel freight;
Flax, Castor, Coan Wines, the precious Weight
Of Pepper and Sabean Incense, take
With thy own Hands, from the tir’d Camel’s Back,
And with Post-haste thy running Markets make.
Be sure to turn the Penny; Lye and Swear,
‘Tis wholsome Sin: But Jove, thou say’st, will hear.
Swear, Fool, or Starve; for the Dilemma’s even:
A Tradesman thou! and hope to go to Heav’n?
Resolv’d for Sea, the Slaves thy Baggage pack,
Each saddled with his Burden on his Back.
Nothing retards thy Voyage, now; but He,
That soft voluptuous Prince, call’d LUXURY;
And he may ask this civil Question; Friend,
What dost thou make a Shipboard? To what End?
Art thou of Bethlem’s noble College free?
Stark, staring mad, that thou wouldst tempt the Sea?
Cubb’d in a Cabbin, on a Mattress laid,
On a brown George, with lousy Swobbers fed;
Dead Wine, that stinks of the Borachio, sup
From a foul Jack, or greasy Maple Cup!
Say, wouldst thou bear all this, to raise the Store,
From Six i’th’ Hundred to Six Hundred more?
Indulge, and to thy Genius freely give:
For, not to live at Ease, is not, to live:
Death stalks behind thee, and each flying Hour
Does some loose Remnant of thy Life devour.
Live, while thou liv’st; for Death will make us all,
A Name, a Nothing but an Old Wife’s Tale.
Speak, wilt thou Avarice or Pleasure choose
To be thy Lord? Take one, and one refuse.
When a Government flourishes in Conquests, and is secure from foreign Attacks, it naturally falls into all the Pleasures of Luxury; and as these Pleasures are very expensive, they put those who are addicted to them upon raising fresh Supplies of Mony, by all the Methods of Rapaciousness and Corruption; so that Avarice and Luxury very often become one complicated Principle of Action, in those whose Hearts are wholly set upon Ease, Magnificence, and Pleasure. The most Elegant and Correct of all the Latin Historians observes, that in his time, when the most formidable States of the World were subdued by the Romans, the Republick sunk into those two Vices of a quite different Nature, Luxury and Avarice:  And accordingly describes Catiline as one who coveted the Wealth of other Men, at the same time that he squander’d away his own. This Observation on the Commonwealth, when it was in its height of Power and Riches, holds good of all Governments that are settled in a State of Ease and Prosperity. At such times Men naturally endeavour to outshine one another in Pomp and Splendor, and having no Fears to alarm them from abroad, indulge themselves in the Enjoyment of all the Pleasures they can get into their Possession; which naturally produces Avarice, and an immoderate Pursuit after Wealth and Riches.
As I was humouring my self in the Speculation of these two great Principles of Action, I could not forbear throwing my Thoughts into a little kind of Allegory or Fable, with which I shall here present my Reader.
There were two very powerful Tyrants engaged in a perpetual War against each other: The Name of the first was Luxury, and of the second Avarice. The Aim of each of them was no less than Universal Monarchy over the Hearts of Mankind. Luxury had many Generals under him, who did him great Service, as Pleasure, Mirth, Pomp and Fashion. Avarice was likewise very strong in his Officers, being faithfully served by Hunger, Industry, Care and Watchfulness: He had likewise a Privy-Counsellor who was always at his Elbow, and whispering something or other in his Ear: The Name of this Privy-Counsellor was Poverty. As Avarice conducted himself by the Counsels of Poverty, his Antagonist was entirely guided by the Dictates and Advice of Plenty, who was his first Counsellor and Minister of State, that concerted all his Measures for him, and never departed out of his Sight. While these two great Rivals were thus contending for Empire, their Conquests were very various. Luxury got Possession of one Heart, and Avarice of another. The Father of a Family would often range himself under the Banners of Avarice, and the Son under those of Luxury. The Wife and Husband would often declare themselves on the two different Parties; nay, the same Person would very often side with one in his Youth, and revolt to the other in his old Age. Indeed the Wise Men of the World stood Neuter; but alas! their Numbers were not considerable. At length, when these two Potentates had wearied themselves with waging War upon one another, they agreed upon an Interview, at which neither of their Counsellors were to be present. It is said that Luxury began the Parley, and after having represented the endless State of War in which they were engaged, told his Enemy, with a Frankness of Heart which is natural to him, that he believed they two should be very good Friends, were it not for the Instigations of Poverty, that pernicious Counsellor, who made an ill use of his Ear, and filled him with groundless Apprehensions and Prejudices. To this Avarice replied, that he looked upon Plenty (the first Minister of his Antagonist) to be a much more destructive Counsellor than Poverty, for that he was perpetually suggesting Pleasures, banishing all the necessary Cautions against Want, and consequently undermining those Principles on which the Government of Avarice was founded. At last, in order to an Accommodation, they agreed upon this Preliminary; That each of them should immediately dismiss his Privy-Counsellor. When things were thus far adjusted towards a Peace, all other differences were soon accommodated, insomuch that for the future they resolved to live as good Friends and Confederates, and to share between them whatever Conquests were made on either side. For this Reason, we now find Luxury and Avarice taking Possession of the same Heart, and dividing the same Person between them. To which I shall only add, that since the discarding of the Counsellors above-mentioned, Avarice supplies Luxury in the room of Plenty, as Luxury prompts Avarice in the place of Poverty.
Alieni appetens, sui profusus.
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