NOTHING so good but it may be abused: nothing better than exercise (if opportunely used) for the preservation of the body: nothing so bad if it be unseasonable, violent, or overmuch. Fernelius out of Galen, Path. lib. 1. c. 16.. saith, "That much exercise and weariness consumes the spirits and substance, refrigerates the body: and such humours which Nature would have otherwise concocted and expelled, it stirs up and makes them rage: which being so enraged, diversely affect and trouble the body and mind." So doth it, if it be unseasonably used, upon a full stomach, or when the body is full of crudities, which Fuchsius so much inveighs against, lib. 2. instit. sect. 2. c. 4. giving that for a cause why school-boys in Germany are so often scabbed, because they use exercise presently after meats. Bayerus puts in a caveat against such exercise, because "it corrupts the meat in the stomach, and carries the same juice raw, and as yet undigested, into the veins (saith Lemnius), which there putrefies and confounds the animal spirits." Crato, consil. 21. l. 2. protests against all such exercise after meat, as being the greatest enemy to concoction that may be, and cause of corruption of humours, which produce this and many other diseases. Not without good reason then doth Salust. Salvianus, l. 2. c. 1. and Leonartus Jacchinus, in 9, Rhasis. Mercurialis, Arcubanus, and many others set down immoderate exercise as a most forcible cause of melancholy.
Opposite to exercise is idleness (the badge of gentry) or want of exercise, the bane of body and mind, the nurse of naughtiness, stepmother of discipline, the chief author of all mischief, one of the seven deadly sins, and a sole cause of this and many other maladies, the devil's cushion, as Gualter calls it, his pillow and chief reposal. "For the mind can never rest, but still meditates on one thing or other, except it be occupied about some honest business, of his own accord it rusheth into melancholy. As too much and violent exercise offends on the one side, so doth an idle life on the other (saith Crato), it fills the body full of phlegm, gross humours, and all manner of obstructions, rheums, catarrhs," &c. Rhasis, cont. lib. 1. tract. 9, accounts of it as the greatest cause of melancholy. "I have often seen (saith he) that idleness begets this humour more than anything else." Montaltus, c. 1, seconds him out of his experience, "They that are idle are far more subject to melancholy than such as are conversant or employed about any office or business." Plutarch reckons up idleness for a sole cause of the sickness of the soul: "There are they (saith he) troubled in mind, that have no other cause but this." Homer, Iliad. 1, brings in Achilles eating of his own heart in his idleness, because he might not fight. Mercurialis, consil. 86, for a melancholy young man urgeth it is a chief cause; why was he melancholy? because idle. Nothing begets it sooner, increaseth and continueth it oftener than idleness. A disease familiar to all idle persons, an inseparable companion to such as live at ease, Pingui otio desidose agentes, a life out of action, and have no calling or ordinary employment to busy themselves about, that have small occasions; and though they have such is their laziness, dulness, they will not compose themselves to do aught; they cannot abide work, though it be necessary; easy as to dress themselves, write a letter or the like; yet as he that is benumbed with cold sits still shaking, that might relieve himself with a little exercise or stirring do they complain, but will not use the facile and ready means to do themselves good; and so are still tormented with melancholy. Especially if they have been formerly brought up to business, or to keep much company, and upon a sudden come to lead a sedentary life; it crucifies their souls, and seizeth on them in an instant; for whilst they are any ways employed, in action, discourse, about any business, sport or recreation, or in company to their liking; they are very well: but it alone or idle, tormented instantly again; one day's solitariness, one hour's sometimes, doth them more harm, than a week's physic, labour, and company can do good. Melancholy seizeth on them forthwith being alone, and is such a torture, that as wise Seneca well saith, Malo mihi male quam molliter esse, I had rather be sick than idle. This idleness is either of body or mind. That of body is nothing but a kind of benumbing laziness, intermitting exercise, which if we may believe Fernelius; "causeth crudities, obstructions, excremental humours, quencheth the natural heat, dulls the spirits, and makes them unapt to do any thing whatsoever."
"Neglectis urenda filix innascitur agris"
--"for, a neglected field
Shall for the fire its thorns and thistles yield."
As fern grows in untilled grounds, and all manner of weeds, so do gross humours in an idle body, Ignavum corrumpunt otia corpus. A horse in a stable that never travels, a hawk in a mew that seldom flies, are both subject to diseases; which left unto themselves, are most free from any such incumbrances. An idle dog will be mangy, and how shall an idle person think to escape? Idleness of the mind is much worse than this of the body; wit without employment is a disease, Ærugo animi, rubigo ingenii: the rust of the soul, a plague, a hell itself; Maximum animi nocumentum, Galen calls it. "As in a standing pool, worms and filthy creepers increase (et vitium capiunt ni moveantur aquæ, the water itself putrefles, and air likewise, if it be not continually stirred by the wind), so do evil and corrupt thoughts in an idle person," the soul is contaminated. In a commonwealth, where is no public enemy, there is likely civil wars, and they rage upon themselves: this body of ours, when it is idle, and knows not how to bestow itself, macerates and vexeth itself with cares, griefs. These fears, discontents, and suspicions; it tortures and preys upon his own bowels, and is never at rest. Thus much I dare boldly say, "He or she that is idle, be they of what condition they will, never so rich, so well allied, fortunate, happy, let them have all things in abundance and felicity that heart can wish and desire, all contentment, so long as he or she or they are idle, they shall never be pleased, never well in body and mind, but weary still, sickly still, vexed still, loathing still, weeping, sighing, grieving, suspecting, offended with the world, with every object, wishing themselves gone or dead, or else carried away with some foolish phantasy or other. And this is the true cause that so many great men, ladies, and gentlewomen, labour of this disease in country and city; for idleness is an appendix to nobility; they count it a disgrace to work, and spend all their days in sports, recreations, and pastimes, and will therefore take no pains; be of no vocation; they feed liberally; fare well, want exercise, action, employment (for to work, I say, they may not abide), and company to their desires, and thence their bodies become full of gross humours, wind, crudities; their minds disquieted, dull, heavy, &c. care, jealousy, fear of some diseases, sullen fits, weeping fits seize too familiarly on them. For what will not fear and phantasy work in an idle body? what distempers will they not cause? when the children of Israel murmured against Pharaoh in Egypt, he commanded his officers to double their task, and let them get straw themselves, and yet make their full number of bricks; for the sole cause why they mutiny, and are evil at ease, is, "they are idle." When you shall hear and see so many discontented persons in all places where you come, so many several grievances, unnecessary complaints, fear, suspicions, the best means to redress it is to set them awork, so to busy their minds: for the truth is, they are idle. Well they may build castles in the air for a time, and soothe up themselves with phantastical and pleasant humours, but in the end they will prove as bitter as gall, they shall be still I say discontent, suspicious, fearful, jealous, sad, fretting and vexing of themselves; so long as they be idle, it is impossible to please them, Otio qui nescit uti, plus habet negotii quam qui negotium in negotio, as that Agellius could observe: He that knows not how to spend his time, hath more business, care, grief, anguish of mind, than he that is most busy in the midst of all his business, Otiosus animus nescit quid volet: An idle person (as he follows it) knows not when he is well, what he would have, or whither he would go, Quum illuc ventum est illic lubet, he is tired out with everything, displeased with all, weary of his life: Nec bene domi, nec militiæ neither at home nor abroad, errat, et præter vitam vivitur, he wanders and lives besides himself. In a word, What the mischievous effects of laziness and idleness are, I do not find any where more accurately expressed, than in these verses of Philolaches in the Comical Poet, which for their elegancy I will in part insert.
"Novarum ædium esse arbitror similem ego homninem,
Quando hic natus est: Et rei argumenta dicam.
Ædes quando sunt ad amussim expolitæ,
Quisque laudat fabrum, atque exemplum, expetit, &c.
At ubi illi migrat nequam homo indiligensque, &c.
Tempestas venit, contingit tegulas, imbricesque,
Putrefacit aer operam fabri, &c.
Dicam ut homines similes esse ædium arbitremini,
Fabri parentas fundamentum substruunt liberorum,
Expoliunt, docent literas, nec parcunt sumptui,
Ego autem sub fabrorum potestate frugi fui,
Postquam autem migravi in ingenium meum,
Perdidi operam fabrorum illico, oppido,
Venit ignavia, et mihi tempestas fuit,
Adventuque suo grandinem et imbrem attulit,
Illa mihi virtutem deturbavit, &c."
("A young man is like a fair new house, the carpenter leaves it well built, in good repair of solid stuff; but a bad tenant lets it rain in, and for want of reparation, fall to decay, &c. Our parents, tutors, friends, spare no cost to bring us up in our youth, in all manner of virtuous education; but when we are left to ourselves, idleness as a tempest drives all virtuous motions out of our minds, et nihili sumus, on a sudden, by sloth and such bad ways, we come to nought.")
Cousin german to idleness, and a concomitant cause, which goes hand in hand with it, is nimia solitudo, too much solitariness, by the testimony of all physicians, cause and symptom both, but as it is here put for a cause it is either coact, enforced, or else voluntarily. Enforced solitariness is commonly seen in students, monks, friars, anchorites, that by their order and course of life must abandon all company, society of other men, and betake themselves to a private cell: Otio superstitioso seclusi, as Bale and Hospinian well term it, such as are the Carthusians of our time, that eat no flesh (by their order), keep perpetual silence, never go abroad. Such as live in prison, or some desert place, and cannot have company, as many of our country gentlemen do in solitary houses, they must either be alone without companions, or live beyond their means, and entertain all comers as so many hosts, or else converse with their servants and hinds, such as are unequal, inferior to them, and of a contrary disposition: or else as some do, to avoid solitariness, spend their time with lewd fellows in taverns, and in alehouses, and thence addict themselves to some unlawful disports, or dissolute courses. Divers again are cast upon this rock of solitariness for want of means, or out of a strong apprehension of some infirmity, disgrace, or through bashfulness, rudeness, simplicity, they cannot apply themselves to others' company. Nullum solum infelici gratius solitudine, ubi nullus sit qui miseriam exprobret; this enforced solitariness takes place, and produceth his effect soonest in such as have spent their time jovially, peradventure in all honest recreations, in good company, in some great family or populous city, and are upon a sudden confined to a desert country cottage far off, restrained of their liberty, and barred from their ordinary associates; solitariness is very irksome to such, most tedious, and a sudden cause of great inconvenience.
Voluntary solitariness is that which is familiar with melancholy, and gently brings on like a syren, a shoeing-horn, or some sphinx to this irrevocable gulf, a primary cause, Piso calls it; most pleasant it is at first, to such as are melancholy given, to lie in bed whole days, and keep their chambers, to walk alone in some solitary grove, betwixt wood and water, by a brook side, to meditate upon some delightsome and pleasant subject, which shall affect them most; amabilis insania, et mentus gratissimus error: a most incomparable delight it is so to melancholize, and build castles in the air, to go smiling to themselves, acting an infinite variety of parts, which they suppose and strongly imagine they represent, or that they see acted or done: Blandæ quidem ab initio, saith Lemnius, to conceive and meditate of such pleasant things, sometimes, "present, past, or to come," as Rhasis speaks. So delightsome these toys are at first, they could spend whole days and nights without sleep, even whole years alone in such contemplations, and fantastical meditations, which are like unto dreams, and they will hardly be drawn from them, or willingly interrupt, so pleasant their vain conceits are, that they hinder their ordinary tasks and necessary business, they cannot address themselves to them, or almost to any study or employment, these fantastical and bewitching thoughts so covertly, so feelingly; so urgently, so continually set upon, creep in, insinuate, possess, overcome, distract, and detain them, they cannot, I say, go about their more necessary business, stave off or extricate themselves, but are ever musing, melancholizing, and carried along, as he (they say) that is led round about a heath with a Puck in the night, they run earnestly on in this labyrinth of anxious and solicitous melancholy meditations, and cannot well or willingly refrain, or easily leave off; winding and unwinding themselves, as so many clocks, and still pleasing their humours, until at last the scene is turned upon a sudden, by some bad object, and they being now habituated to such vain meditations and solitary places, can endure no company, can ruminate of nothing but harsh and distasteful subjects. Fear, sorrow, suspicion, subrusticus pudor, discontent, cares, and weariness of life surprise them in a moment, and they can think of nothing else, continually suspecting no sooner are their eyes open, but this infernal plague of melancholy seizeth on them, and terrifies their so representing some dismal object to their minds, which now by no means, no labour, no persuasions they can avoid, hæret lateri lethalis arundo (the arrow of death still remains in the side), they may not be rid of it, they cannot resist. I may not deny but that there is some profitable meditation, contemplation, and kind of solitariness to be embraced, which the fathers so highly commended, Hierom, Chrysostom, Cyprian, Austin, in whole tracts, which Petrarch, Erasmus, Stella, and others, so much magnify in their books; a paradise, a heaven on earth, if it be used aright, good for the body, and better for the soul: as many of those old monks used it, to divine contemplations, as Simulus a courtier in Adrian's time, Dioclesian the emperor, retired themselves, &c., in that sense, Vatia solus scit vivere, Vatia lives alone, which the Romans were wont to say, when they commended a country life. Or to the bettering of their knowledge, as Democritus, Cleanthus, and those excellent philosophers have ever done, to sequester themselves from the tumultuous world, or as in Pliny's villa Laurentana, Tully's Tusculan, Jovius' study, that they might better vacare studiis et Deo, serve God, and follow their studies. Methinks, therefore, our too zealous innovators were not so well advised in that general subversion of abbeys and religious houses, promiscuously to fling down all; they might have taken away those gross abuses crept in amongst them, rectified such inconveniences, and not so far to have raved and raged against these fair buildings, and everlasting monuments of our forefathers' devotion, consecrated to pious uses; some monasteries and collegiate cells might have been well spared, and their revenues otherwise employed, here and there one, in good towns or cities at least, for men and women of all sorts and conditions to live in, to sequester themselves from the cares and tumults of the world, that were not desirous, or fit to marry; or otherwise willing to be troubled with common affairs,and know not well where to bestow themselves, to live apart in, for more conveniency, good education, better company sake, to follow their studies (I say), to the perfection of arts and sciences, common good, and as some truly devoted monks of old had done, freely and truly to serve God. For these men are neither solitary, nor idle, as the poet made answer to the husbandman in Æsop, that objected idleness to him; he was never so idle as in his company; or that Scipio Africanus in Tully, Nunquam minus solus, qum cum solus; nunquam minus otiosus, quam quum esset otiosus; never less solitary, than when he was alone, never more busy, than when he seemed to be most idle. It is reported by Plato in his dialogue de Amore, in that prodigious commendation of Socrates, how a deep meditation coming into Socrates' mind by chance, he stood still musing, eodem vestigio cogitabundus, from morning to noon, and when as then he had not yet finished his meditation, perstabat cogitans, he so continued till the evening, the soldiers (for he then followed the camp) observed him with admiration, and on set purpose watched all night, but he persevered immoveable ad exortum solis, till the sun rose in the morning, and then saluting the sun, went his ways. In what humour constant Socrates did thus, I know not, or how he might be affected, but this would be pernicious to another man; what intricate business might so really possess him, I cannot easily guess but this is otiosum otium, it is far otherwise with these men, according to Seneca, Omnia nobis mala solitudo persuadet; this solitude undoeth us, pugnat cum vita sociali; 'tis a destructive solitariness. These men are devils alone, as the saying is, Homo solus aut Deus, aut Dæmon: a man alone, is either a saint or a devil, mens ejus aut languescit, aut tumesci;t and Væ soli in this sense, woe be to him that is so alone. These wretches do frequently degenerate from men, and of sociable creatures become beasts, monsters, inhumane, ugly to behold, Misanthropi; they do even loathe themselves, and hate the company of men, as so many Timons, Nebuchadnezzars, by too much indulging to these pleasing humours, and through their own default. So that which Mercurialis, consil. 11. sometimes expostulated with his melancholy patient, may be justly applied to every solitary and idle person in particular. Natura de te videtur conqueri posse, &c. "Nature may justly complain of thee, that whereas she gave thee a good wholesome temperature, a sound body, and God hath given thee so divine and excellent a soul, so many good parts, and profitable gifts, thou hast not only contemned and rejected, but hast corrupted them, polluted them, overthrown their temperature, and perverted those gifts with riot, idleness, solitariness, and many other ways, thou art a traitor to God and nature, an enemy to thyself and to the world." Perditio tua ex te; thou hast lost thyself wilfully, cast away thyself; "thou thyself art the efficient cause of thine own misery, by not resisting such vain cogitations, but giving way unto them."