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THE MARQUIS OF HALIFAX
1633–1695 THE ENGLISHMAN'S IDOLATRY Our Trimmer is far from Idolatry in other things, in one thing only he cometh near it, his Country in some degree is his Idol; he doth not worship the Sun because 't is not peculiar to us, it rambles about the World, and is less kind to us than others; but for the earth of England, though perhaps inferior to that of many places abroad, to him there is divinity in it, and he would rather die than see a spire of English grass trampled down by a foreign trespasser. He thinketh there are a great many of his mind, for all plants are apt to taste of the soil in which they grow; and we that grow here, have a root that produceth in us a stalk of English juice, which is not to be changed by grafting or foreign infusion.
The Character of a Trimmer. SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE
LIFE When all is done, humane life is, at the greatest and the best, but like a froward child, that must be played with and humoured a little to keep it quiet, till it falls
a asleep, and then the care is over.
Essays : Of Poetry. THOMAS TRAHERNE
CHILDHOOD The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold; the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees, when I saw them first through one of the gates, transported and ravished me: their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstacy, they were such strange and wonderful things. The Men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal Cherubim! And young men glittering and sparkling Angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls, tumbling in the street and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die; but all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the light of the day, and something infinite behind everything appeared, which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins, and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars; and all the World was mine, and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish
proprieties nor bounds, nor divisions: but all proprieties and divisions were mine; all treasures and the possessors of them. So that with much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world.
Centuries of Meditation, pp. 157–58.
THE DEVIL And whereas the mind of man, when he gives the spur and bridle to his thoughts, doth never stop, but naturally sallies out into both extremes of high and low, of good and evil; his first flight of fancy commonly transports him to ideas of what is most perfect, finished, and exalted; till having soared out of his own reach and sight, not well perceiving how near the frontiers of height and depth border upon each other; with the same course and wing, he falls down plumb into the lowest bottom of things; like one who travels the east into the west; or like a straight line drawn by its own length into a circle. Whether a tincture of malice in our natures makes us fond of furnishing every bright idea with its reverse; or whether reason, reflecting upon the sum of things, can, like the sun, serve only to enlighten one half of the globe, leaving the other half by necessity under shade and darkness; or whether fancy, flying up to the imagination of what is highest and best, becomes overshot and spent and weary, and suddenly falls, like a dead Bird of Paradise to the ground; or whether, after all these metaphysical conjectures, I have not entirely missed the true reason; the proposition, however, which hath stood me in so much circumstance, is altogether true; that, as the most uncivilized parts of mankind have some way or other climbed up to the conception of a God, or supreme