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   Famous Prefaces.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Preface to the History of the World
 
Paras. 51–74
 
Sir Walter Raleigh (1614)
 
 
  Now although this doctrine of faith, touching the creation in time (for by faith we understand, that the world was made by the word of God), be too weighty a work for Aristotle’s rotten ground to bear up, upon which he hath (notwithstanding) founded the defences and fortresses of all his verbal doctrine: yet that the necessity of infinite power, and the world’s beginning, and the impossibility of the contrary even in the judgment of natural reason, wherein he believed, had not better informed him; it is greatly to be marvelled at. and it is no less strange, that those men which are desirous of knowledge (seeing Aristotle hath failed in this main point; and taught little other than terms in the rest) have so retrenched their minds from the following and overtaking of truth, and so absolutely subjected themselves to the law of those philosophical principles; as all contrary kind of teaching, in the search of causes, they have condemned either for phantastical, or curious. Both doth it follow, that the positions of heathen philosophers are undoubted grounds and principles indeed, because so called? Or that ipsi dixerunt, doth make them to be such? Certainly no. But this is true, that where natural reason hath built anything so strong against itself, as the same reason can hardly assail it, much less batter it down: the same in every question of nature, and infinite power, may be approved for a fundamental law of human knowledge. For saith Charron in his book of wisdom, “toute proposition humaine a autant d’authorite quel’autre, si la raison n’on fait la difference;” “Every human proposition hath equal authority, if reason make not the difference,” the rest being but the fables of principles. But hereof how shall the upright and impartial judgment of man give a sentence, where opposition and examination are not admitted to give in evidence? and to this purpose it was well said of Lactantius, “Sapientiam sibi adimunt, qui sine ullo judicio inventa maiorum probant, et ab aliis pecudum more ducuntur:” “They neglect their own wisdom, who without any judgment approve the invention of those that forewent them; and suffer themselves after the manner of beasts, to be led by them;” by the advantage of which sloth and dullness, ignorance is now become so powerful a tyrant, as it hath set true philosophy, physics, and divinity in a pillory; and written over the first, “Contra negantem principia;” 1 over the second, “Virtus specifica;” 2 over the third, “Ecclesia Romana.” 3  51
  But for myself, I shall never be persuaded, that God hath shut up all light of learning within the lanthorn of Aristotle’s brains: or that it was ever said unto him, as unto Esdras, “Accendam in corde tuo Lucernam intellectus”: 4 that God hath given invention but to the heathen, and that they only invaded nature, and found the strength and bottom thereof; the same nature having consumed all her store, and left nothing of price to after-ages. That these and these be the causes of these and these effects, time hath taught us; and not reason: and so hath experience without art. The cheese-wife knoweth it as well as the philosopher, that sour rennet doth coagulate her milk into a curd. But if we ask a reason of this cause, why the sourness doth it? whereby it doth it? and the manner how? I think that there is nothing to be found in vulgar philosophy, to satisfy this and many other like vulgar questions. But man to cover his ignorance in the least things, who can not give a true reason for the grass under his feet, why it should be green rather than red, or of any other color; that could never yet discover the way and reason of nature’s working, in those which are far less noble creatures than himself; who is far more noble than the heavens themselves: “Man (saith Solomon) that can hardly discern the things that are upon the earth, and with great labor find out the things that are before us”; that hath so short a time in the world, as he no sooner begins to learn, than to die; that hath in his memory but borrowed knowledge; in his understanding, nothing truly; that is ignorant of the essence of his own soul, and which the wisest of the naturalists (if Aristotle be he) could never so much as define, but by the action and effect, telling us what it works (which all men knew as well as he) but not what it is, which neither he, nor any else, doth know, but God that created it; (“For though I were perfect, yet I know not my soul,” saith Job). Man, I say, that is but an idiot in the next cause of his own life, and in the cause of all actions of his life, will (notwithstanding) examine the art of God in creating the world; of God, who (saith Job) “is so excellent as we know him not”; and examine the beginning of the work, which had end before mankind had a beginning of being. He will disable God’s power to make a world, without matter to make it of. He will rather give the motes of the air for a cause; cast the work on necessity or chance; bestow the honor thereof on nature; make two powers, the one to be the author of the matter, the other of the form; and lastly, for want of a workman, have it eternal: which latter opinion Aristotle, to make himself the author of a new doctrine, brought into the world: and his Sectators 5 have maintained it; “parati ac conjurati, quos sequuntur, philosophorum animis invictis opiniones tueri.” 6 For Hermes, who lived at once with, or soon after Moses, Zoroaster, Musaeus, Orpheus, Linus, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Melissus, Pherecydes, Thales, Cleanthes, Pythagoras, Plato, and many other (whose opinions are exquisitely gathered by Steuchius Eugubinus) found in the necessity of invincible reason, “One eternal and infinite Being,” to be the parent of the universal. “Horum omnium sententia quamvis sit incerta, eodem tamen spectat, ut Providentiam unam esse consentiant: sive enim natura, sive aether, sive ratio, sive mens, sive fatalis necessitas, sive divina lex; idem est quod a nobis dicitur Deus”: “All these men’s opinions (saith Lactantius) though uncertain, come to this; That they agree upon one Providence; whether the same be nature, or light, or reason, or understanding, or destiny, or divine ordinance, that it is the same which we call God.” Certainly, as all the rivers in the world, though they have divers risings, and divers runnings; though they sometimes hide themselves for a while under ground, and seem to be lost in sea-like lakes; do at last find, and fall into the great ocean: so after all the searches that human capacity hath, and after all philosophical contemplation and curiosity; in the necessity of this infinite power, all the reason of man ends and dissolves itself.  52
  As for the others; the first touching those which conceive the matter of the world to have been eternal, and that God did not create the world “Exnihilo,” 7 but “ex materia praeexistente”: 8 the supposition is so weak, as is hardly worth the answering. For (saith Eusebius) “Mihi videntur qui hoc dicunt, fortunam quoque Deo annectere,” “They seem unto me, which affirm this, to give part of the work to God, and part to Fortune”: insomuch as if God had not found this first matter by chance, He had neither been author nor father, nor creator, nor lord of the universal. For were the matter or chaos eternal, it then follows, that either this supposed matter did fit itself to God, or God accommodate Himself to the matter. For the first, it is impossible, that things without sense could proportion themselves to the workman’s will. For the second: it were horrible to conceive of God, that as an artificer He applied himself, according to the proportion of matter which He lighted upon.  53
  But let it be supposed, that this matter hath been made by any power, not omnipotent, and infinitely wise; I would gladly learn how it came to pass, that the same was proportionable to his intention, that was omnipotent and infinitely wise; and no more, nor no less, than served to receive the form of the universal. For, had it wanted anything of what was sufficient; then must it be granted, that God created out of nothing so much new matter, as served to finish the work of the world: or had there been more of this matter than sufficed, then God did dissolve and annihilate whatsoever remained and was superfluous. and this must every reasonable soul confess, that it is the same work of God alone, to create anything out of nothing, and by the same art and power, and by none other, can those things, or any part of that eternal matter, be again changed into nothing; by which those things, that once were nothing, obtained a beginning of being.  54
  Again, to say that this matter was the cause of itself; this, of all other, were the greatest idiotism. For, if it were the cause of itself at any time; then there was also a time when itself was not: at which time of not being, it is easy enough to conceive, that it could neither procure itself, nor anything else. For to be, and not to be, at once, is impossible. “Nihil autem seipsum praecedit, neque; seipsum componit corpus”: “There is nothing that doth precede itself, neither do bodies compound themselves.”  55
  For the rest, those that feign this matter to be eternal, must of necessity confess, that infinite cannot be separate from eternity. and then had infinite matter left no place for infinite form, but that the first matter was finite, the form which it received proves it. For conclusion of this part, whosoever will make choice, rather to believe in eternal deformity, or in eternal dead matter, than in eternal light and eternal life: let eternal death be his reward. For it is a madness of that kind, as wanteth terms to express it. For What reason of man (whom the curse of presumption hath not stupefied) hath doubted, that infinite power (of which we can comprehend but a kind of shadow, “quia comprehensio est intra terminos, qui infinito repugnant” 9) hath anything wanting in itself, either for matter of form; yea for as many worlds (if such had been God’s will) as the sea hath sands? For where the power is without limitation, the work hath no other limitation, than the workman’s will. Yea reason itself finds it more easy for infinite power to deliver from itself a finite world, without the help of matter prepared; than for a finite man, a fool and dust, to change the form of matter made to his hands. They are Dionysius his words, “Deus in una existentia omnia praehabet”: 10 and again, “Esse omnium est ipsa divinitas, omne quod vides, et quod non vides”: 11 to wit, “causaliter, 12 or in better terms, “non tanquam forma, sed tanquam causa universalis.” 13 Neither hath the world universal closed up all of God: “For the most part of his works (saith Siracides) are hid.” Neither can the depth of his wisdom be opened, by the glorious work of the world: which never brought to knowledge all it can; for then were his infinite power bounded and made finite. and hereof it comes; That we seldom entitle God the all-showing, or the all-willing; but the Almighty, that is, infinitely able.  56
  But now for those, who from that ground, “that out of nothing, nothing is made,” infer the world’s eternity; and yet not to savage therein, as those are, which give an eternal being to dead matter: it is true if the word (nothing) be taken in the affirmative; and the making, imposed upon natural agents and finite power; that out of nothing, nothing is made. But seeing their great doctor Aristotle himself confesseth, “quod omnes antiqui decreverunt quasi quodam rerum principium, ipsumque infinitum:” “That all the ancient decree a kind of beginning, and the same to be infinite”; and a little after, more largely and plainly, “Principium eius est nullum, sed ipsum omnium cernitur esse principium, ac omnia complecti ac regere”: 14 it is strange that this philosopher, with his followers, should rather make choice out of falsehood, to conclude falsely; than out of truth, to resolve truly. For if we compare the world universal, and all the unmeasureable orbs of Heaven, and those marvellous bodies of the sun, moon, and stars, with “ipsum infinitum”: it may truly be said of them all, which himself affirms of his imaginary “Materia prima,” 15 that they are neither “quid, quale,” nor “quantum”; and therefore to bring finite (which hath no proportion with infinite) out of infinite (“qui destruit omnem proportionem” 16) is no wonder in God’s power. and therefore Anaximander, Melissus, and Empedocles, call the world universal, but “particulam universitatis” and “infinitatis,” a parcel of that which is the universality and the infinity itself; and Plato, but a shadow of God. But the other to prove the world’s eternity, urgeth this maxim, “that, a sufficient and effectual cause being granted, an answerable effect thereof is also granted”: inferring that God being forever a sufficient and effectual cause of the world, the effect of the cause should also have been forever; to wit, the world universal. But what a strange mockery is this in so great a master, to confess a sufficient and effectual cause of the world, (to wit, an almighty God) in his antecedent; and the same God to be a God restrained in his conclusion; to make God free in power, and bound in will; able to effect, unable to determine; able to make all things, and yet unable to make choice of the time when? For this were impiously to resolve of God, as of natural necessity; which hath neither choice, nor will, nor understanding; which cannot but work matter being present: as fire, to burn things combustible. Again he thus disputeth, that every agent which can work, and doth not work, if it afterward work, it is either thereto moved by itself, or by somewhat else: and so it passeth from power to act. But God (saith he) is immovable, and is neither moved by himself, nor by any other: but being always the same, doth always work. Whence he concludeth, if the world were caused by God, that he was forever the cause thereof: and therefore eternal. The answer to this is very easy, for that God’s performing in due time that which he ever determined at length to perform, doth not argue any alternation or change, but rather constancy in him. For the same action of his will, which made the world forever, did also withhold the effect to the time ordained. to this answer, in itself sufficient, others add further, that the pattern or image of the world may be said to be eternal: which the Platonics call “spiritualem mundum”; 17 and do in this sort distinguish the idea and creation in time. “Spiritualis ille mundus, mundi huius exemplar, primumque Dei opus, vita aequali est architecto, fuit semper cum illo, eritque semper. Mundus autem corporalis, quod secundum opus est Dei, decedit iam ab opifice ex parte una, quia non fuit semper: retinet alteram, quia sit semper futurus”: “That representative, or the intentional world (say they) the sampler of this visible world, the first work of God, was equally ancient with the architect; for it was forever with him, and ever shall be. This material world, the second work or creature of God, doth differ from the worker in this, that it was not from everlasting, and in this it doth agree, that it shall be forever to come.” The first point, that it was not forever, all Christians confess: the other they understand no otherwise, than that after the consummation of this world, there shall be a new Heaven and a new earth, without any new creation of matter. But of these things we need not here stand to argue: though such opinions be not unworthy the propounding, in this consideration, of an eternal and unchangeable cause, producing a changeable and temporal effect. touching which point Proclus the Platonist disputeth, that the compounded essence of the world (and because compounded, therefore dissipable) is continued, and knit to the Divine Being, by an individual and inseparable power, flowing from Divine unity; and that the world’s natural appetite of God showeth, that the same proceedeth from a good and understanding divine; and that this virtue, by which the world is continued and knit together, must be infinite, that it may infinitely and everlastingly continue and preserve the same. Which infinite virtue, the finite world (saith he) is not capable of, but receiveth it from the divine infinite, according to the temporal nature it hath, successively every moment by little and little; even as the whole material world is not altogether: but the abolished parts are departed by small degrees, and the parts yet to come, do by the same small degrees succeed; as the shadow of a tree in a river seemeth to have continued the same a long time in the water, but it is perpetually renewed, in the continual ebbing and flowing thereof.  57
  But to return to them, which denying that ever the world had any beginning, withal deny that ever it shall have any end, and to this purpose affirm, that it was never heard, never read, never seen, no not by any reason perceived, that the heavens have ever suffered corruption; or that they appear any way the older by continuance; or in any sort otherwise than they were; which had they been subject to final corruption, some change would have been discerned in so long a time. to this it is answered, that the little change as yet perceived, doth rather prove their newness, and that they have not continued so long; than that they will continue forever as they are. and if conjectural arguments may receive answer by conjectures; it then seemeth that some alteration may be found. For either Aristotle, Pliny, Strabo, Beda, Aquinas, and others, were grossly mistaken; or else those parts of the world lying within the burnt zone, were not in elder times habitable, by reason of the sun’s heat, neither were the seas, under the equinoctial, navigable. But we know by experience, that those regions, so situate, are filled with people, and exceeding temperate; and the sea, over which we navigate, passable enough. We read also many histories of deluges: and how in the time of Phaeton, divers places in the world were burnt up, by the sun’s violent heat.  58
  But in a word, this observation is exceeding feeble. For we know it for certain, that stone walls, of matter mouldering and friable, have stood two, or three thousand years; that many things have been digged up out of the earth, of that depth, as supposed to have been buried by the general flood; without any alteration either of substance or figure: yea it is believed, and it is very probable, that the gold which is daily found in mines, and rocks, under ground, was created together with the earth.  59
  And if bodies elementary, and compounded, the eldest times have not invaded and corrupted: what great alteration should we look for in celestial and quint-essential bodies? and yet we have reason to think, that the sun, by whose help all creatures are generate, doth not in these latter ages assist nature, as heretofore. We have neither giants, such as the eldest world had; nor mighty men, such as the elder world had; but all things in general are reputed of less virtue which from the heavens receive virtue. Whence, if the nature of a preface would permit a larger discourse, we might easily fetch store of proof; as that this world shall at length have end, as that once it had beginning.  60
  And I see no good answer that can be made to this objection: if the world were eternal, why not all things in the world eternal? If there were no first, no cause, no father, no creator, no incomprehensible wisdom, but that every nature had been alike eternal; and man more rational than every other nature: why had not the eternal reason of man provided for his eternal being in the world? For if all were equal why not equal conditions to all? Why should heavenly bodies live forever; and the bodies of men rot and die?  61
  Again, who was it that appointed the earth to keep the center, and gave order that it should hang in the air: that the sun should travel between the tropics, and never exceed those bounds, nor fail to perform that progress once in every year: the moon to live by borrowed light: the fixed stars (according to common opinion) to be fastened like nails in a cartwheel; and the planets to wander at their pleasure? Or if none of these had power over other: was it out of charity and love, that the sun by his perpetual travel within these two circles, hath visited, given light unto, and relieved all parts of the earth, and the creatures therein, by turns and times? Out of doubt, if the sun have of his own accord kept this course in all eternity, he may justly be called eternal charity and everlasting love. The same may be said of all the stars; who being all of them most large and clear fountains of virtue and operation, may also, be called eternal virtues: the earth may be called eternal patience; the moon, an eternal borrower and beggar; and man of all other the most miserable, eternally mortal. and what were this, but to believe again in the old play of the gods? Yea in more gods by millions, than ever Hesiodus dreamed of. But instead of this mad folly, we see it well enough with our feeble and mortal eyes; and the eyes of our reason discern it better; that the sun, moon, stars, and the earth, are limited, bounded, and constrained: themselves they have not constrained nor could. “Omne determinatum causam habet aliquam efficientem, quae illud determinaverit:” “Everything bounded hath some efficient cause, by which it is bounded.”  62
  Now for Nature; as by the ambiguity of this name, the school of Aristotle hath both commended many errors unto us, and sought also thereby to obscure the glory of the high moderator of all things, shining in the creation, and in the governing of the world: so if the best definition be taken out of the second of Aristotle’s “Physics,” or “primo de Coelo,” or out of the fifth of his “Metaphysics”; I say that the best is but nominal, and serving only to difference the beginning of natural motion from artificial: which yet the Academics open better, when they call it “a seminary strength, infused into matter by the soul of the world”: who give the first place to Providence, the second to Fate, and but the third to Nature. “Providentia” (by which they understand God) “dux et caput; Fatum, medium ex providentia prodiens; Natura postremum.” 18 But be it what he will, or be it any of these (God excepted) or participating of all: yet that it hath choice or understanding (both which are necessarily in the cause of all things) no man hath avowed. For this is unanswerable of Lactantius, “Is autem facit aliquid, qui aut voluntatem faciendi habet, aut scientiam:” “He only can be said to be the doer of a thing, that hath either will or knowledge in the doing it.”  63
  But the will and science of Nature, are in these words truly expressed by Ficinus: “Potest ubique Natura, vel per diversa media, vel ex diversis materiis, diversa facere: sublata vero mediorum materiatumque diversitate, vel unicum, vel similimum operatur, neque potest quando adest materia non operari”; “It is the power of Nature by the diversity of means, or out of diversity of matter, to produce divers things: but taking away the diversity of means, and the diversity of matter, it then works but one or the like work; neither can it but work, matter being present.” Now if Nature made choice of diversity of matter, to work all these variable works of heaven and earth, it had then both understanding and will; it had counsel to begin; reason to dispose; virtue and knowledge to finish, and power to govern: without which all things had been but one and the same: all of the matter of heaven; or all of the matter of earth. and if we grant Nature this will, and this understanding, this course, reason, and power: “Cur Natura potius quam Deus nominetur?” “Why should we then call such a cause rather Nature, than God?” “God, of whom all men have notion, and give the first and highest place to divine power”: “Omnes homines notionem deorum habent, omnesque summum locum divino cuidam numini assignant.” and this I say in short; that it is a true effect of true reason in man (were there no authority more binding than reason) to acknowledge and adore the first and most sublime power. “Vera philosophia, est ascensus ab his quae fluunt, et oriuntur, et occidunt, ad ea quae vera sunt, et semper eadem”: “True philosophy, is an ascending from the things which flow, and arise, and fall, to the things that are forever the same.”  64
  For the rest; I do also account it not the meanest, but an impiety monstrous, to confound God and Nature; be it but in terms. For it is God, that only disposeth of all things according to His own will and maketh of one earth, vessels of honor and dishonor. It is Nature that can dispose of nothing, but according to the will of the matter wherein it worketh. It is God that commandeth all: it is Nature that is obedient to all: it is God that doth good unto all, knowing and loving the good He doth: it is Nature, that secondarily doth also good, but it neither knoweth nor loveth the good it doth. It is God, that hath all things in Himself: Nature, nothing in itself. It is God, which is the Father, and hath begotten all things: it is Nature, which is begotten by all things, in which it liveth and laboreth; for by itself it existeth not. For shall we say, that it is out of affection to the earth, that heavy things fall towards it? Shall we call it reason, which doth conduct every river into the salt sea? Shall we term it knowledge in fire, that makes it to consume combustible matter? If it be affection, reason, and knowledge in these; by the same affection, reason, and knowledge it is, that Nature worketh. and therefore seeing all things work as they do, (call it by Form, or Nature, or by what you please) yet because they work by an impulsion, which they cannot resist, or by a faculty, infused by the supremest power; we are neither to wonder at, nor to worship, the faculty that worketh, nor the creature wherein it worketh. But herein lies the wonder: and to him is the worship due, who hath created such a nature in things, and such a faculty, as neither knowing itself, the matter wherein it worketh, nor the virtue and power which it hath; do yet work all things to their last and uttermost perfection. and therefore every reasonable man, taking to himself for a ground that which is granted by all antiquity, and by all men truly learned that ever the world had; to wit; that there is a power infinite, and eternal (which also necessity doth prove unto us, without the help of faith; and reason; without the force of authority) all things do as easily follow which have been delivered by divine letters, as the waters of a running river do successfully pursue each other from the first fountains.  65
  This much I say it is, that reason itself hath taught us; and this is the beginning of knowledge. “Sapientia praecedit, Religio sequitur: quia prius est Deum scire, consequens colere”; “Sapience goes before, Religion follows: because it is first to know God, and then to worship Him.” This sapience Plato calleth “absoluti boni scientiam,” “the science of the absolute good”: and another “scientiam rerum primarum, sempiternarum, perpetuarum.”  19 For “faith (saith Isidore) is not extored by violence; but by reason and examples per “fides nequaquam vi extorquetur, sed ratione et exemplis suadetur.” I confess it, that to inquire further, as to the essence of God, of His power, of His art, and by what means He created the world: or of His secret judgment, and the causes, is not an effect of reason. “Sed cum ratione insaniunt,” but “they grow mad with reason,” that inquire after it. For as it is no shame, nor dishonor (saith a French author) “de faire arrest au but qu’on nasceu surpasser,” “for a man to rest himself there where he finds it impossible to pass on further”: so whatsoever is beyond, and out of the reach of true reason, it acknowledgeth it to be so; as understanding itself not to be infinite, but according to the name and nature it hath, to be a teacher, that best knows the end of his own art. For seeing both reason and necessity teach us (reason, which is “pars divini spiritus in corpus humanum mersi” 20) that the world was made by a power infinite; and yet how it was made, it cannot teach us: and seeing the same reason and necessity make us know, that the same infinite power is everywhere in the world; and yet how everywhere, it cannot inform us: our belief hereof is not weakened, but greatly strengthened, by our ignorance, because it is the same reason that tells us, that such a nature cannot be said to be God, that can be in all conceived by man.  66
  I have already been over-long, to make any large discourse either of the parts of the following story, or in mine own excuse: especially in the excuse of this or that passage; seeing the whole is exceeding weak and defective. Among the grossest, the unsuitable division of the books, I could not know how to excuse, had I not been directed to enlarge the building after the foundation was laid, and the first part finished. All men know that there is no great art in the dividing evenly of these things, which are subject to number and measure. For the rest, it suits well enough with a great many books of this age, which speak too much, and yet say little; “Ipsi nobis furto subducimur”; “We are stolen away from ourselves,” setting a high price on all that is our own. But hereof, though a late good writer make complaint, yet shall it not lay hold on me, because I believe as he doth; that who so thinks himself the wisest man, is but a poor and miserable ignorant. Those that are the best men of war against all the vanities and fooleries of the world, do always keep the strongest guards against themselves, to defend them from themselves; from self-love, self-estimation, and self-opinion.  67
  Generally concerning the order of the work, I have only taken counsel from the argument. For of the Assyrians, which after the downfall of Babel take up the first part, and were the first great kings of the world, there came little to the view of posterity: some few enterprises, greater in fame than faith, of Ninus and Semiramis, excepted.  68
  It was the story of the Hebrews, of all before the Olympiads, that overcame the consuming disease of time, and preserved itself, from the very cradle and beginning to this day: and yet not so entire, but that the large discourses thereof (to which in many Scriptures we are referred) are nowhere found. The fragments of other stories, with the actions of those kings and princes which shot up here and there in the same time, I am driven to relate by way of digression: of which we may say with Virgil: “Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto”; “They appear here and there floating in the great gulf of time.”  69
  To the same first ages do belong the report of many inventions therein found, and from them derived to us; though most of the authors’ names have perished in so long a navigation. For those ages had their laws; they had diversity of government; they had kingly rule; nobility; policy in war; navigation, and all, or the most of needful trades. to speak therefore of these (seeing in a general history we should have left a great deal of nakedness, by their omission) it cannot properly be called a digression. True it is, that I have made also many others: which if they shall be laid to my charge, I must cast the fault into the great heap of human error. For seeing we digress in all the ways of our lives: yea, seeing the life of man is nothing else but digression; I may the better be excused, in writing their lives and actions. I am not altogether ignorant in the laws of history and of the kinds.  70
  The same hath been taught by many, but no man better, and with greater brevity, than by that excellent learned gentleman, Sir Francis Bacon. Christian laws are also taught us by the prophets and apostles; and every day preached unto us. But we still make large digressions: yea, the teachers themselves do not (in all) keep the path which they point out to others.  71
  For the rest, after such time as the Persians had wrested the Empire from the Chaldeans, and had raised a great monarchy, producing actions of more importance than were elsewhere to be found; it was agreeable to the order of the story, to attend this Empire; whilst it so flourished, that the affairs of the nations adjoining had reference thereunto. The like observance was to be used towards the fortunes of Greece, when they again began to get ground upon the Persians; as also towards the affairs of Rome, when the Romans grew more mighty than the Greeks.  72
  As for the Medes, the Macedonians, the Sicilians, the Carthaginians, and other nations who resisted the beginnings of the former empires, and afterwards became but parts of their composition and enlargement; it seemed best to remember what was known of them from their several beginnings, in such times and places as they in their flourishing estates opposed those monarchies, which in the end swallowed them up. and herein I have followed the best geographers: who seldom give names to those small brooks, whereof many, joined together, make great rivers: till such times as they become united, and run in main stream to the ocean sea. If the phrase be weak, and the style not everywhere like itself: the first shows their legitimation and true parent; the second will excuse itself upon the variety of matter. For Virgil, who wrote his Eclogues, “gracili avena,” 21 used stronger pipes, when he sounded the wars of Aeneas. It may also be laid to my charge, that I use divers Hebrew words in my first book, and elsewhere:in which language others may think and I myself acknowledge it, that I am altogether ignorant: but it is true, that some of them I find in Montanus, others in Latin characters in S. Senensis; and of the rest I have borrowed the interpretation of some of my friends. But say I had been beholding to neither, yet were it not to be wondered at, having had an eleven years’ leisure, to attain the knowledge of that, or of any other tongue; howsoever, I know that it will be said by many, that I might have been more pleasing to the reader, if I had written the story of mine own times, having been permitted to draw water as near the well-head as another. to this I answer, that whosoever in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth. There is no mistress or guide, that hath led her followers and servants into greater miseries. He that goes after her too far off, loseth her sight, and loseth himself: and he that walks after her at a middle distance: I know not whether I should call that kind of course, temper, 22 or baseness. It is true, that I never travelled after men’s opinions, when I might have made the best use of them: and I have now too few days remaining, to imitate those, that either out of extreme ambition, or of extreme cowardice, or both, do yet (when death hath them on his shoulders) flatter the world, between the bed and the grave. It is enough for me (being in that state I am) to write of the eldest times: wherein also why may it not be said, that in speaking of the past, I point at the present, and tax the vices of those that are yet living, in their persons that are long since dead; and have it laid to my charge? But this I cannot help, though innocent. and certainly, if there be any, that finding themselves spotted like the tigers of old time, shall find fault with me for painting them over anew, they shall therein accuse themselves justly, and me falsely.  73
  For I protest before the Majesty of God, that I malice no man under the sun. Impossible I know it is to please all; seeing few or none are so pleased with themselves, or so assured of themselves, by reason of their subjection to their private passions, but that they seem divers persons in one and the same day. Seneca hath said it, and so do I: “Unus mihi pro populo erat”; 23 and to the same effect Epicurus, “Hoc ego non multis sed tibi”; 24 or (as it hath since lamentably fallen out) I may borrow the resolution of an ancient philosopher, “Satis est unus, satis est nullus.” 25 For it was for the service of that inestimable Prince Henry, the successive hope, and one of the greatest of the Christian world, that I undertook this work. It pleased him to peruse some part thereof, and to pardon what was amiss. It is now left to the world without a master: from which all that is presented, hath received both blows and thanks: “Eadem probamus, eadem reprehendimus: hic exitus est omnis judicii, in quolis secundum plures datur.” 26 But these discourses are idle. I know that as the charitable will judge charitably: so against those, “Qui gloriantur in malitia,” 27 my present adversity hath disarmed me. I am on the ground already, and therefore have not far to fall: and for rising again, as in the natural privation there is no recession to habit; so it is seldom seen in the privation politic. I do therefore forbear to style my readers gentle, courteous, and friendly, thereby to beg their good opinions, or to promise a second and third volume (which I also intend) if the first receive grace and good acceptance. For that which is already done, may be thought enough, and too much: and it is certain, let us claw the reader with never so many courteous phrases, yet shall we evermore be thought fools, that write foolishly. For conclusion, all the hope I have lies in this, that I have already found more ungentle and uncourteous readers of my love towards them, and well-deserving of them, that ever I shall do again. For had it been otherwise, I should hardly have had this leisure, to have made myself a fool in print.  74
 
Note 1. “Specific virtue, or power.” [back]
Note 2. “The Roman Church.” [back]
Note 3. “I shall light a lamp of understanding in thine heart.”—IV. Esdras xiv. 25. [back]
Note 4. Followers. [back]
Note 5. “Prepared and sworn to protect with unconquered minds the opinions of the philosophers whom they follow.” [back]
Note 6. “Out of nothing.” [back]
Note 7. “Out of pre-existing matter.” [back]
Note 8. “Because comprehension is between limits, which are opposed to infinity.” [back]
Note 9. “God exhibits all things in one existence.” [back]
Note 10. “The essence of all things, visible and invisible, is divinity itself.” [back]
Note 11. “Causally.” [back]
Note 12. “Not as form, but as universal cause.” [back]
Note 13. “It [i. e., the infinite] has no beginning, but itself is perceived to be the beginning of all things, and to embrace and govern all things.” [back]
Note 14. “Primal matter.” [back]
Note 15. “Which destroys all proportion.” [back]
Note 16. “The spiritual world.” [back]
Note 17. “Providence, leader and head; Fate, in the middle and proceeding from Providence; Nature, last.” [back]
Note 18. “The science of things first, eternal, perpetual.” [back]
Note 19. “Part of the divine spirit immersed in the human body.” [back]
Note 20. “With delicate pipe.” [back]
Note 21. Moderation. [back]
Note 22. “To me one man stood for the people.” [back]
Note 23. “I [have done] this not for many, but for thee.” [back]
Note 24. “One is enough, none is enough.” [back]
Note 25. “We approve the same things, we blame the same things: this is the result in every case in which the verdict is rendered according to the majority.” [back]
Note 26. “Who glory in malice.” [back]
Note 27. Scott suggests that the allusion is to the Duke of Buckingham, who was often satirized for the slow progress of his great mansion at Cliefden. [back]
 

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