Page images


His chariot also is well said to be drawn by tigers: for as soon as any affection shall from going afoot, be advanced to ride in a chariot, and shall captivate reason, and lead her in a triumph, it grows cruel, untamed, and fierce against whatsoever withstands or opposeth it.

It is worth the noting also, that those ridiculous hobgoblins are brought in, dancing about his chariot: for every passion doth cause, in the eyes, face and gesture, certain undecent, and ill-seeming, apish, and deformed motions, so that they who in any kind of passion, as in anger, arrogancy or love, seem glorious and brave in their own eyes, do yet appear to others mis-shapen and ridiculous.

In that the Muses are said to be of his company, it shews that there is no affection almost which is not soothed by some art, wherein the indulgence of wits doth derogate from the glory of the Muses, who (when they ought to be the mistresses of life) are made the waiting-maids of affections.

Again, where Bacchus is said to have loved Ariadne, that was rejected by Theseus; it is an allegory of special observation: for it is most certain, that passions always covet and desire that which experience forsakes and they all know (who have paid dear for serving and obeying their lusts) that whether it be honour, or riches, or delight, or glory, or knowledge, or any thing else which they seek after, yet are they but things cast off, and by divers men in all ages, after experience had, utterly rejected and loathed.

Neither is it without a mystery, that the ivy was sacred to Bacchus: for the application holds, first, in that the ivy remains green in winter. Secondly, in that it sticks to, embraceth, and overtoppeth so many diverse bodies, as trees, walls, and edifices. Touching the first, every passion do by resistance and reluctation, and as it were, by an Antiparistasis (like the ivy of the cold of winter), grow fresh and lusty. And as for the other, every predominate affection doth again (like the ivy) embrace and limit all human actions and determinations, adhering and cleaving fast uuto them.

Neither is it a wonder, that superstitious rites and ceremonies were attributed unto Bacchus, seeing every giddy-headed humor keeps in a manner revel-rout in false religions: or that the cause of madness should be ascribed unto him, seeing every affection is by nature a short fury, which (if it grow vehement, and become habitual) concludes madness.

Concerning the rending and dismembering of Pentheus and

Orpheus, the parable is plain, for every prevalent affection is outrageous and severe and against curious inquiry, and wholesome and free admonition.

Lastly, that confusion of Jupiter and Bacchus, their persons may be well transferred to a parable, seeing noble and famous acts, and remarkable and glorious merits, do sometimes proceed from virtue, and well ordered reason, and magnanimity, and sometimes from a secret affection, and hidden passion, which are so dignified with the celebrity of fame and glory, that a man can hardly distinguish between the acts of Bacchus and the gests of Jupiter.

We could wish to add several others; but we have space for only one more; that of "Orpheus, or Philosophy :

The tale of Orpheus, though common, had never the fortune to be fitly applied in every point. It may seem to represent the image of Philosophy: for the person of Orpheus (a man admirable and divine, and so excellently skilled in all kinds of harmony, that with his sweet ravishing music he did as it were charm and allure all things to follow him) may carry a singular description of Philosophy, for the labours of Orpheus do so far exceed the labours of Hercules in dignity and efficacy, as the works of wisdom excel the works of for titude.

Orpheus, for the love he bare to his wife, snatched, as it were, from him by untimely death, resolved to go down to hell with his harp, to try if he might obtain her of the infernal powers. Neither were his hopes frustrated, for having ap eased them with the melodious sound of his voice and touch, prevailed at length so far, as that they granted him leave to take her away with him; but on this condition, that she should follow him, and he not to look back upon her, till he came to the light of the upper world; which he, impatient of, out of love and care, and thinking that he was in a manner past all danger, nevertheless violated, insomuch that the covenant is broken, and she forthwith tumbles back again headlong into hell. From that time Orpheus falling into a deep melancholy, became a contemner of womankind, and bequeathed himself to a solitary life in the deserts; where, by the same melody of his voice and harp, be first drew all manner of wild beasts unto him, who, (forgetful of their savage fierceness, and casting off the precipitate provocations

of lust and fury, not caring to satiate their voracity by hunting after prey,) as at a Theatre in fawning and reconciled amity one towards another, stand all at the gaze about him, and attentively lend their ears to his music. Neither is this all, for so great was the power and alluding force of his harmony, that he drew the woods and moved the very stones to come and place themselves in an orderly and decent fashion about him. These things succeeding happily, and with great admiration for a time; at length certain Thracian women (possessed with the spirit of Bacchus) made such a horrid and strange noise with their cornets that the sound of Orpheus's harp could no more be heard; insomuch as that harmony, which was the bond of that order and society being dissolved, all disorder began again; and the beasts (returning to their wonted nature) pursued one another unto death as before; neither did the trees or stones remain any longer in their place; and Orpheus himself was by these female Furies torn in pieces, and scattered all over the desert. For whose cruel death the river Helicon (sacred to the Muses) in horrible indignation hid his head under ground and raised it again in another place.

The meaning of this fable seems to be thus. Orpheus's music is of two sorts, the one appeasing the infernal powers, the other attracting beasts and trees. The first may be fitly applied to natural philosophy, the second to moral or civil discipline.

The most noble work of natural philosophy is the restitution and renovation of things corruptible; the other (as a lesser degree of it) the preservation of bodies in their estate, detaining them from dissolution and putrefaction. And if this gift may be done in mortals, certainly it can be done by no other means than by the due and exquisite temper of nature, as by the melody and delicate touch of an instrument. But seeing it is of all things most difficult, it is seldom or never attained unto; and in all likelihood for no other reason, more than through curious diligence and untimely impatience. And therefore philosophy, hardly able to produce so excellent an effect in a pensive humour (and that without cause), busies herself about human objects, and by persuasion and eloquence, insinuating the love of virtue, equity and concord in the minds of meu; draws multitudes of people to a society, makes them subject to laws, obedient to government, and forgetful of their unbridled affections whilst they give ear to precepts, and submit themselves to discipline; whence follows the building of houses, erecting of towns, planting of fields and orchards,

with trees and the like, insomuch that it would not be amise to say, that even thereby stones and woods were called together and settled in order. And after serious trial made and frustrated about the restoring of a body mortal, this care of civil affairs follows in its due place; because by a plain demonstration of the unevitable necessity of death men's minds are moved to seek eternity by the fame and glory of their merits. It is also wisely said in the fable, that Orpheus was averse from the love of women and marriage, because the delights of wedlock and the love of children do for the most part hinder men from enterprising great and noble designs for the public good, holding posterity a sufficient step to immorality without actions.

Besides even the very works of wisdom (although amongst all human things they do most excel) do nevertheless meet with their periods. For it happens that (after kingdoms and commonwealths have flourished for a time) even tumults and seditions, and wars arise; in the midst of which hurly-burlies, first laws are silent, men return to the pravity of their natures; fields and towns are wasted and depopulated; and then (if their fury continue) learning and philosophy must needs be dismembered; so that a few fragments only, and in some places will be found like the scattered boards of shipwreck, so as a barbarous age must follow; and the streams of Helicon being hid under the earth until the vicissitude of things passing, they break out again and appear in some other remote nation, though not perhaps in the same climate.

Very ingenious, too, are the explanations of the fables of Cupid, of Daedalus, of Nemesis, of Prometheus, of the Sphinx, of Proserpina, and of the Sirens.



THE next fact in Bacon's biography that Mr. Montagu records is, that he was made one of the judges of the New Court of the Verge. But the learned biographer, as is his custom, leaves us to infer, if that were possible, that this appointment did not take place in any year whatever. The account given by Dugdale, in his Baronage, is, that in the 9th of King James, which would be in 1611,"he was made joint judge with Sir Thomas Vavasor, then Knight Marshal, of the Knight Marshal's Court, then newly erected within the verge of the king's house." Meanwhile he still held his office of solicitor-general, till he exchanged it for that of attorneygeneral, on the 27th of October, 1613,-not 1612, as Mr. Montagu makes it-on the promotion of Sir Henry Hobart to be Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Coke having been removed to the King's Bench. Mr. Montagu makes him to have now composed "his work for compiling and amending the laws of England," meaning the short tract addressed to the king, entitled "A Proposition to his Majesty touching the Compiling and Amendment of the Laws of England." But this paper in the very heading is stated to be "By Sir Francis Bacon, Knight, his Majesty's Attorney-General, and one of his Privy Council;" and it begins Your Majesty, of your favour, having made me privy councillor, and continuing me in the place of your attorney-general, which is more than was three hundred years before," &c. Now it is certain that Bacon was not sworn of the Privy Council till several years after this. On the meeting of parliament in April, 1614, a question was started in the Commons as to the right of the attorney-general to sit


« PreviousContinue »