Melancholy in Disposition, improperly so called, Equivocations

Melancholy in Disposition, improperly so called, Equivocations

MELANCHOLY, the subject of our present discourse, is either in disposition or habit. In disposition, is that transitory melancholy which goes and comes upon every small occasion of sorrow, need, sickness, trouble, fear, grief; passion, or perturbation of the mind, any manner of care, discontent, or thought, which causeth anguish, dulness, heaviness and vexation of spirit, any ways opposite to pleasure, mirth, joy, delight, causing frowardness in us, or a dislike. In which equivocal and improper sense, we call him melancholy that is dull, sad, sour, lumpish, ill-disposed, solitary, any way moved, or displeased. And from these mclancholy dispositions, no man living is free, no stoic, none so wise, none so happy, none so patient, so generous, so godly, so divine, that can vindicate himself; so well composed, but more or less, some time or other he feels the smart of it. Melancholy in this sense is the character of mortality. "Man that is born of a woman, is of short continuance, and full of trouble." Zeno, Cato, Socrates himself, whom Ælian so highly commends for a moderate temper, that "nothing could disturb him, but going out, and coming in, still Socrates kept the same serenity of countenance, what misery soever befel him," (if we may believe Plato his disciple) was much tormented with it. Q. Metellus, in whom Valerius gives instance of all happiness, "the most fortunate man then living, born in that most flourishing city of Rome, of noble parentage, a proper man of person, well qualified, healthful, rich, honourable, a senator, a consul, happy in his wife, happy in his children," &c., yet this man was not void of melancholy, he had his share of sorrow. Polycrates Samius, that flung his ring into the sea, because he would participate of discontent with others, and had it miraculously restored to him again shortly after, by a fish taken as he angled, was not free from melancholy dispositions. No man can cure himself; the very gods had bitter pangs, and frequent passions, as their own poets put upon them. In general, "as the heaven, so is our life, sometimes fair, sometimes overcast, tempestuous, and serene; as in a rose, flowers and prickles; in the year itself, a temperate summer sometimes, a hard winter, a drought, and then again pleasant showers: so is our life intermixed with joys, hopes, fears, sorrows, calumnies;" Invicem cedunt dolor et voluptas, there is a succession of pleasure and pain.

--"medio de fonte leporum,
Surgit amari aliquid in ipsis floribus angat."

"Even in the midst of laughing there is sorrow" (as Solomon holds): even in the midst of all our feasting and jollity, as, Austin infers in his Com. on the 41st Psalm, there is grief and discontent. Inter delicias semper aliquid sævi nos strangulat, for a pint of honey thou shalt here likely find a gallon of gall, for a dram of pleasure a pound of pain, for an inch of mirth an ell of moan; as ivy doth an oak, these miseries encompass our life. And it is most absurd and ridiculous for any mortal man to look for a perpetual tenure of happiness in this life. Nothing so prosperous and pleasant. but it hath some bitterness in it, some complaining, some grudging; it is all γλυχυπιχρον [glychopichron], a mixed passion, and like a chequer table, black and white men, families, cities, have their falls and wanes; now trines, sextiles, then quartiles and oppositions. We are not here as those angels, celestial powers and bodies, sun and moon, to finish our course without all offence, with such constancy, to continue for so many ages: but subject to infirmities, miseries, interrupted, tossed and tumbled up and down, carried about with every small blast, often molested and disquieted upon each slender occasion, uncertain, brittle, and so is all that we trust unto. "And he that knows not this is not armed to endure it, is not fit to live in this world (as one condoles our time), he knows not the condition of it, where with a reciprocalty, pleasure and pain are still united, and succeed one another in a ring." Exi e mundo, get thee gone hence if thou canst not brook it; there is no way to avoid it, but to arm thyself with patience, with magnanimity, to oppose thyself unto it, to suffer affliction as a good soldier of Christ; as Paul adviseth constantly to bear it. But forasmuch as so few can embrace this good counsel of his, or use it aright, but rather as so many brute beasts give a way to their passion, voluntary subject and precipitate themselves into a labyrinth of cares, woes, miseries, and suffer their souls to be overcome by them, cannot arm themselves with that patience as they ought to do, it falleth out oftentimes that these dispositions become habits, and "many affects contemned (as Seneca notes) make a disease. Even as one distillation, not yet grown to custom, makes a cough; but continual and inveterate causeth a consumption of the lungs;" so do these our melancholy provocations: and according as the humour itself is intended, or remitted in men, as their temperature of body, or rational soul is better able to make resistance; so are they more or less affected. For that which is but a flea-biting to one, causeth insufferable torment to another; and which one by his singular moderation, and well-composed carriage can happily overcome, a second is no whit able to sustain, but upon every small occasion of misconceived abuse, injury, grief; disgrace, loss, cross, humour, &c. (if solitary, or idle) yields so far to passion, that his complexion is altered, his digestion hindered, his sleep gone, his spirits obscured, and his heart heavy, his hypochondries misaffected; wind, crudity, on a sudden overtake him, and he himself overcome with melancholy. As it is with a man imprisoned for debt, if once in the gaol, every creditor will bring his action against him, and there likely hold him. If any discontent seize upon a patient, in an instant all other perturbations (for -- qua data porta ruunt) will set upon him, and then like a lame dog or broken-winged goose he droops and pines away, and is brought at last to that ill habit or malady of melancholy itself. So that as the philosophers make eight degrees of heat and cold, we may make eighty-eight of melancholy, as the parts affected are diversely seized with it, or have been plunged more or less into this infernal gulph, or waded deeper into it. But all these melancholy fits, howsoever pleasing at first, or displeasing, violent and tyrannizing over those whom they seize on for the time; yet these fits I say, or men affected, are but improperly so called, because they continue not, but come and go, as by some objects they are moved. This melancholy of which, we are to treat, is a habit, morbus sonticus, or chronicus, a chronic or continuate disease, a settled humour, as Aurelianus and others call it, not errant, but fixed; and as it was long increasing, so now being (pleasant, or painful) grown to an habit, it will hardly be removed.

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