Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Use of Leisure
By Abraham Cowley (16181667)
From the Essay Of Solitude
THE FIRST minister of state has not so much business in public, as a wise man has in private: if the one have little leisure to be alone, the other has less leisure to be in company; the one has but part of the affairs of one nation, the other, all the works of God and nature under his consideration. There is no saying shocks me so much as that which I hear very often: that a man does not know how to pass his time. Twould have been but ill spoken by Methusalem, in the nine hundred sixty-ninth year of his life; so far it is from us, who have not time enough to attain to the utmost perfection of any part of any science, to have cause to complain, that we are forced to be idle for want of work. But this, youll say, is work only for the learned, others are not capable either of the employments, or divertisements, that arrive from letters. I know they are not: and therefore cannot much recommend solitude to a man totally illiterate. But if any man be so unlearned as to want entertainment of the little intervals of accidental solitude, which frequently occur in almost all conditions (except the very meanest of the people, who have business enough in the necessary provisions for life), it is truly a great shame, both to his parents and himself; for a very small portion of any ingenious art will stop up all those gaps of our time, either music, or painting, or designing, or chemistry, or history, or gardening; or twenty other things will do it usefully and pleasantly; and if he happen to set his affections upon poetry (which I do not advise him to immoderately), that will overdo it: no wood will be thick enough to hide him from the importunities of company or business, which would abstract him from his beloved.