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Sir Francis Bacon


Essay 2

Of Death.
1 MEn feare Death, as Children feare to goe in the darke: And as that Natural Feare in Children, is increased with Tales, so is the other. Certainly, the Contemplation of Death, as the wages of sinne, and Passage to another world, is Holy, and Religious; But the Feare of it, as a Tribute due vnto Nature, is weake. Yet in Religious Meditations, there is sometimes, Mixture of Vanitie, and of Superstition. You shal reade, in some of the Friars Books of Mortification, that a man should thinke with himselfe, what the Paine is, if he haue but his Fingers end Pressed, or Tortured; And thereby imagine, what the Paines of Death are, when the whole Body, is corrupted and dissolued; when many times, Death passeth with lesse paine, then the Torture of a Limme: For the most vitall parts, are not the quickest of Sense. And by him, that spake onely as a Philosopher, and Naturall Man, it was well said; Pompa Mortis magis terret, quàm Mors ipsa. Groanes and Conuulsions, and a discoloured Face, and Friends weeping, and Blackes, and Obsequies, and the like, shew Death Terrible. It is worthy the obseruing, that there is no passion in the minde of man, so weake, but it Mates, and Masters, the Feare of Death: And therefore Death, is no such terrible Enemie, when a man hath so many Attendants, about him, that can winne the combat of him. Reuenge triumphs ouer Death; Loue slights it; Honour aspireth to it; Griefe flieth to it; Feare pre-occupateth it; Nay we reade, after Otho the Emperour had slaine himselfe, Pitty ( which is the tenderest of Affections ) prouoked many to die, out of meere compassion to their Soueraigne, and as the truest sort of Followers. Nay Seneca addes Nicenesse and Saciety; Cogita quam diù eadem feceris; Mori velle, non tantùm Fortis, aut Miser, sed etiàm Fastidiosus potest. A man would die, though he were neither valiant, nor miserable, onely vpon a wearinesse to doe the same thing, so oft ouer and ouer. It is no lesse worthy to obserue, how little Alteration, in good Spirits, the Approaches of Death make; For they appeare, to be the same Men, till the last Instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a Complement; Liuia, Coniugij nostri memor, viue & vale. Tiberius in dissimulation; As Tacitus saith of him; Iam Tiberium Vires, & Corpus, non Dissimulatio, deserebant. Vespasian in a Iest; Sitting vpon the Stoole, Vt puto Deus fio. Galba with a Sentence; Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani; Holding forth his Necke. Septimius Seuerus in dispatch; Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum. And the like. Certainly, the Stoikes bestowed too much cost vpon Death, and by their great preparations, made it appeare more fearefull. Better saith he, Qui finem Vitæ; extremum inter Munera ponat Naturæ. It is as Naturall to die, as to be borne; And to a little Infant, perhaps, the one, is as painfull, as the other. He that dies in an earnest Pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot Bloud; who, for the time, scarce feeles the Hurt; And therefore, a Minde fixt, and bent vpon somewhat that is good, doth auert the Dolors of Death: But aboue all, beleeue it, the sweetest Canticle is, Nunc dimittis; when a Man hath obtained worthy ends, and Expectations. Death hath this also; That it openeth the Gate, to good Fame, and extinguisheth Enuie. ---Extinctus amabitur idem.

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Edited by Ian Lancashire (Dept. of English, University of Toronto) Assisted by Allison Hay.
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