Concupiscible Appetite, as Desires, Ambition, Causes.

Concupiscible Appetite, as Desires, Ambition, Causes.

THESE concupiscible and irascible appetites are as the two twists of a rope, mutually mixed one with the other, and both twining about the heart: both good, as Austin holds, l. 14, c. 9, de civ. Dei, "if they be moderate; both pernicious if they be exorbitant." This concupiscible appetite, howsoever it may seem to carry with it a show of pleasure and delight, and our concupiscences most part affect us with content and a pleasing object, yet if they be in extremes, they rack and wring us on the other side. A true saying it is, "Desire hath no rest;" is infinite in itself endless; and as one calls it, a perpetual rack, or horse-mill, according to Austin, still going round as in a ring. They are not so continual, as divers, felicius atomos denumerare possem, saith Bernard, quam motus cordis; nunc hæc, nunc illa cogito, you may as well reckon up the motes in the sun as them. "It extends itself to every thing," as Guianerius will have it, "that is superfluously sought after:" or to any desire, as Fernelius interprets it; be it in what kind soever, it tortures if immoderate, and is (according to Plater and others) an especial cause of melancholy. Multuosis concupiscenutiis dilaniantur cogitationes meæ. Austin confessed, that he was torn a pieces with his manifold desires: and so doth Bernard complain, "that he could not rest for them a minute of an hour: this I would have, and that, and then I desire to be such and such." 'Tis a hard matter therefore so confine them, being they are so various and many, impossible to apprehend all. I will only insist upon some few of the chief; and most noxious in their kind, as that exorbitant appetite and desire of honour, which we commonly call ambition; love of money, which is covetousness, and that greedy desire of gain: self-love, pride, and inordinate desire of vain-glory or applause, love of study in excess; love of women (which will require a just volume of itself), of the other I will briefly speak, and in their order.

Ambition, a proud covetousness, or a dry thirst of honour, a great torture of the mind, composed of envy, pride, and covetousness, a gallant madness, one defines it a pleasant poison, Ambrose, "a canker of the soul, an hidden plague:" Bernard, "a secret poison, the father of livor, and mother of hypocrisy, the moth of holiness, and cause of madness, crucifying and disquieting all that it takes hold of." Seneca calls it, rem solicitam, timidam, vanam, ventosam, a windy thing, a vain, solicitous, and fearful thing. For commonly they that, like Sysiphus, roll this restless stone of ambition, are in a perpetual agony, still perplexed, semper taciti, tristesque recedunt (Lucretius), doubtful, timorous, suspicious, loath to offend in word or deed, still cogging and collogueing, embracing, capping, cringing, applauding, flattering, fleering, visiting, waiting at men's doors, with all affability, counterfeit honesty and humility.

If that will not serve, if once this humour (as Cyprian describes it) possess his thirsty soul, ambitionis salsugo ubi bibulam animam possidet, by hook and by crook he will obtain it, "and from his hole he will climb to all honours and offices, if it be possible for him to get up, flattering one, bribing another, he will leave no means unessay'd to win all." It is a wonder to see how slavishly these kind of men subject themselves, when they are about a suit, to every inferior person; what pains they will take, run, ride, cast, plot, countermine, protest and swear, vow, promise, what labours undergo, early up, down late; how obsequious and affable they are, how popular and courteous, how they grin and fleer upon every man they meet; with what feasting and inviting, how they spend themselves and their fortunes, in seeking that many times, which they had much better be without; as Cyneas the orator told Pyrrhus: with what waking nights, painful hours, anxious thoughts, and bitterness of mind, inter spemque metumque, distracted and tired, they consume the interim of their time. There can be no greater plague for the present. If they do obtain their suit, which with such cost and solicitude they have sought, they are not so freed, their anxiety is anew to begin, for they are never satisfied, nihil aliud nisi imperium spirunt, their thoughts, actions, endeavours are all for sovereignty like Lues Sforsia that huffing duke of Milan, "a man of singular wisdom but profound ambition, born to his own, and to the destruction of Italy," though it be to their own ruin, and friends' undoing, they will contend, they may not cease, but as a dog in a wheel, a bird in a cage, or a squirrel in a chain, so Budæus compares them; they climb and climb still, with much labour, but never make an end, never at the top. A knight would be a baronet, and then a lord, and then a viscount, and then an earl, &c.; a doctor, a dean, and then a bishop; from tribune to præetor; from bailiff to major; first this office, and then that; as Pyrrhus in Plutarch, they will first have Greece, then Africa, and then Asia, and swell with Æsop's frog so long, till in the end they burst, or come down with Sejanus, ad Gemonias scalas, and break their own necks; or as Evangelus the piper in Lucian, that blew his pipe so long, till he fell down dead. If he chance to miss, and have a canvass, he is in a hell on the other side; so dejected, that he is ready to hang himself, turn heretic, Turk or traitor in an instant. Enraged against his enemies, he rails, swears, fight; slanders, detracts, envies, murders: and for his own part, si appetitum explere non potest, furore corripitur; if he cannot satisfy his desire (as Bodine writes) he runs mad. So that both ways, hit or miss, he is distracted so long as his ambition lasts, he can look for no other but anxiety and care, discontent and grief in the meantime, madness itself; or violent death in the end. The event of this is common to be seen in populous cities, or in princes' courts for a courtier's life (as Budæus describes it) "is a gallimaufry of ambition, lust, fraud, imposture, dissimulation, detraction, envy, pride; the court, a common conventicle of flatterers, time-servers, politicians," &c.; or as Anthony Perez will, "the suburbs of hell itself." If you will see such discontented persons, there you shall likely find them. And which he observed of the markets of old Rome,

Qui perjurum convenire vult hominum, mitto in Comitium;
Qui mendacem et gloriosum, apud Cluasinæ sacrum;
Dites, damnosos marisos, sub basilica quærito," &c.

Perjured knaves, knights of the post, liars, crackers, bad husbands, &c. keep their several stations; they do still, and always did in every commonwealth.

Previous Next