Covetousness, a Cause

Covetousness, a Cause

PLUTARCH, in his book whether the diseases of the body be more grievous than those of the soul, is of opinion, "if you will examine all the causes of our miseries in this life, you shall find them most part to have had their beginning from stubborn anger, that furious desire of contention, or some unjust or immoderate affection, as covetousness," &c. "From whence are wars and contentions amongst you?" St. James asks: I will add usury, fraud, rapine, simony, oppression, lying, swearing, bearing false witness, &c. are they not from this fountain of covetousness, that greediness in getting, tenacity in keeping, sordity in spending; that they are so wicked, "unjust against God, their neighbour, themselves;" all comes hence. "The desire of money is the root of all evil, and they that lust after it, pierce themselves through with many sorrows," 1 Tim. vi. 10. Hippocrates therefore in his Epistle to Crateva, an herbalist, gives him this good counsel, that if it were possible, "amongst other herbs, he should cut up that weed of covetousness by the roots, that there be no remainder left, and then know this for a certainty, that together with their bodies, thou mayst quickly cure all the diseases of their minds." For it is indeed the pattern, image, epitome of all melancholy, the fountain of many miseries, much discontented care and woe; this "inordinate or immoderate desire of gain, to get or keep money," as Bonaventure defines it: or, as Austin describes it, a madness of the soul, Gregory, a torture; Chrysostom, an insatiable drunkennese; Cyprian, blindness, speciosum supplicium, a plague subverting kingdoms, families, an incurable disease; Budæus, an ill habit, "yielding to no remedies:" neither, Æsculapius nor Plutus can cure them: a continual plague, saith Solomon, and vexation of spirit, another hell. I know there be some of opinion, that covetous men are happy, and worldly-wise, that there is more pleasure in getting of wealth than in spending, and no delight in the world like unto it. 'Twas Bias' problem of old, "With what art thou not weary I with getting money. What is more delectable? to gain." What is it, trow you, that makes a poor man labour all his lifetime, carry such great burdens, fare so hardly, macerate himself; and endure so much misery, undergo such base offices with so great patience, to rise up early, and lie down late, if there were not an extraordinary delight in getting and keeping of money? What makes a merchant that hath no need, satis superque domi, to range all over the world, through all those intemperate Zones of heat and cold; voluntarily to venture his life, and be content with such miserable famine, nasty usage, in a stinking ship; if there were not a pleasure and hope to get money, which doth season the rest, and mitigate his indefatigable pains? What makes them go into the bowels of the earth, an hundred fathom deep, endangering their dearest lives, enduring damps and filthy smells, when they have enough already, if they could be content, and no such cause to labour, but an extraordinary delight they take in riches. This may seem plausible at first show, a popular and strong argument; but let him that so thinks, consider better of it, and he shall soon perceive, that it is far otherwise than he supposeth; it may be haply pleasing at the first, as most part all melancholy is. For such men likely have some lucida intervalla, pleasant symptoms intermixed; but you must note that of Chrysostom, "Tis one thing to be rich, another to be covetous:" generally they are all fools, dizzards, mad-men, miserable wretches, living beside themselves, sine arte fruendi, in perpetual slavery, fear, suspicion, sorrow, and discontent, plus alús quam mellis habent; and are indeed, "rather possessed by their money, than possessors:" as Cyprian hath it, mancipati pecuniis; bound prentice to their goods, as Pliny; or as Chrysostom, servi divitiarum, slaves and drudges to their substance; and we may conclude of them all, as Valerius doth of Ptolomæus king of Cyprus, "He was in title a king of that island, but in his mind, a miserable drudge of money:"

"-- potiore metallis
Libertate carens --"

wanting his liberty, which is better than gold. Damasippus the Stoic, in Horace, proves that all mortal men dote by fits, some one way, some another, but that covetous men "are madder than the rest; and he that shall truly look into their estates, and examine their symptoms, shall find no better of them, but that they are all fools, as Nabal was, Re et nomine (1. Reg. 25). For what greater folly can there be, or madness, than to macerate himself when he need not? and when, as Cyprian notes, "he may be freed from his burden, and eased of his pains, will go on still, his wealth increasing, when he hath enough, to get more, to live besides himself," to starve his genius, keep back from his wife and children, neither letting them nor other friends use or enjoy that which is theirs by right, and which they much need perhaps; like a hog, or dog in the manger, he doth only keep it, because it shall do nobody else good, hurting himself and others: and for a little momentary pelf damn his own soul! They are commonly sad and tetric by nature, as Ahab's spirit was, because he could not get Naboth's vineyard, (3. Reg. 21.) and if he lay out his money at any time, though it be to necessary uses, to his own children's good, he brawls and scolds, his heart is heavy, much disquieted he is, and loath to part from it: Miser abstinet et timet uti, Hor. He is of a wearish, dry, pale constitution, and cannot sleep for cares and worldly business; his riches, saith Solomon, will not let him sleep, and unnecessary business which he heapeth on himself; or if he do sleep, 'tis a very unquiet, interrupt, unpleasing sleep: with his bags in his arms,

"--- congestis undique saccis
Indormit inhians,---"

And though he be at a banquet, or at some merry feast, "he sighs for grief of heart (as Cyprian hath it) and cannot sleep though it be upon a down bed; his wearish body takes no rest, troubled in his abundance, and sorrowful plenty, unhappy for the present, and more unhappy in the life to come." Basil. He is a perpetual drudge, restless in his thoughts, and never satisfied, a slave, a wretch, a dust-worm, semper quod idolo suo immolet, sedulus observat, Cypr. prolog. ad sermon. still seeking what sacrifice he may offer to his golden god, per fas et nefas, he cares not how, his trouble is endless, crescunt divinæ, tamen curtæ nescio quid semper abest rei: his wealth increaseth, and the more he hath, the more he wants: like Pharaoh's lean kine, which devoured the fat, and were not satisfied. Austin therefore defines covetousness, quarumlibet rerum inhonestam et insatiabilem cupiditatem, a dishonest and insatiable desire of gain; and in one of his epistles compares it to hell; "which devours all, and yet never hath enough, a bottomless pit," an endless misery; in quem scopulum avaritiæ cadaverosi senes ut plurimum impingunt, and that which is their greatest corrosive, they are in continual suspicion, fear, and distrust. He thinks his own wife and children are so many thieves, and go about to cozen him, his servants are all false:

"Rem suam perlisse, seque eradicarier,
Et divium atque hominum clamat continuo fidem
De suo tigillo fumus si qua exit foras."

"If his doors creak, then out he cries anon,
His goods are gone, and he is quite undone."

Timidus Plutus, an old proverb, As fearful as Plutus; so doth Aristophanes and Lucian bring him in fearful still, pale, anxious, suspicious, and trusting no man, "They are afraid of tempests for their corn; they are afraid of their friends lest they should ask something of them, beg or borrow; they are afraid of their enemies lest they hurt them, thieves lest they rob them; they are afraid of war and afraid of peace, afraid of rich and afraid of poor; afraid of all." Last of all, they are afraid of want, that they shall die beggars, which makes them lay up still, and dare not use that they have: what if a dear year come, or dearth, or some loss? and were it not that they are loath to lay out money on a rope, they would be hanged forthwith, and sometimes die to save charges, and make away themselves, if their corn and cattle miscarry; though they have abundance left, as Agellius notes. Valerius makes mention of one that in a famine sold a mouse for 200 pence, and famished himself: such are their cares, griefs and perpetual fears. These symptoms are elegantly expressed by Theophrastus in his character of a covetous man; "lying in bed, he asked his wife whether she shut the trunks and chests fast, the carcase be sealed, and whether the hall door be bolted; and though she say all is well, he riseth out of his bed in his shirt, barefoot and barelegged, to see whether it be so, with a dark lantern searching every corner, scarce sleeping a wink all night." Lucian in that pleasant and witty dialogue called Gallas, brings in Mycillus the cobbler disputing with his cock, sometimes Pythagoras; where after much speech pro and con to prove the happiness of a mean estate, and discontents of a rich man, Pythagoras' cock in the end, to illustrate by examples that which he had said, brings him to Gryphon the usurer's house at midnight, and after that to Eucrates; whom they found both awake, casting up their accounts, and telling of their money, lean, dry, pale and anxious, still suspecting lest somebody should make a hole through the wall, and so get in; or if a rat or mouse did but stir, starting upon a sudden, and running to the door to see whether all were fast. Plautus, in his Aulularia, makes old Euclio commanding Staphyla his wife to shut the doors fast, and the fire to be put out, lest any body should make that an errand to come to his house: when he washed his hands, he was loath to fling away the foul water, complaining that he was undone, because the smoke got out of his roof. And as he went from home, seeing a crow scratch upon the muck-hill, returned in all haste, taking it for malum omen, an ill sign, his money was digged up; with many such. He that will but observe their actions, shall find these and many such passages not feigned for sport, but really performed, verified indeed by such covetous and miserable wretches, and that it is,

"-- manifesta phrenesis
Ut locuples moriaris egenti vivrere fato."

A mere madness, to live like a wretch, and die rich.

 

SUBSECT. XIII.-- Love of Gaming, &c., and pleasures immoderate, Causes.

IT is a wonder to see, how many poor, distressed, miserable wretches, one shall meet almost in every path and street, begging for an alms, that have been well descended, and sometimes in flourishing estate, now ragged, tattered, and ready to be starved, lingering out a painful life, in discontent and grief of body and mind, and all through immoderate lust, gaming, pleasure and riot. 'Tis the common end of all sensual epicures and brutish prodigals, that are stupified and carried away headlong with their several pleasures and lusts. Cebes in his table, S. Ambrose in his second book of Abel and Cain, and amongst the rest Lucian in his tract de Mercede conductis, hath excellent well deciphered such men's proceedings in his picture of Opulentia, whom he feigns to dwell on the top of a high mount, much sought after by many suitors; at their first coming they are generally entertained by pleasure and dalliance, and have all the content that possibly may be given, so long as their money lasts: but when their means fail, they are contemptibly thrust out at a back door, headlong, and there left to shame, reproach, despair. And he at first that had so many attendants, parasites, and followers, young and lusty, richly arrayed, and all the dainty fare that might be had, with all kind of welcome and good respect, is now upon a sudden stript of all, pale, naked, old, diseased and forsaken, cursing his stars, and ready to strangle himself; having no other company but repentance, sorrow, grief, derision, beggary and contempt, which are his daily attendants to his life's end. As the prodigal son had exquisite music, merry company, dainty fare at first; but a sorrowful reckoning in the end; so have all such vain delights and their followers. Tristes voluptatum exitus, et quisquis voluptatum suarum reminisci volet, intelliget, as bitter as gall and wormwood is their last; grief of mind, madness itself. The ordinary rocks upon which such men do impinge and precipitate themselves, are cards, dice, hawks and hounds, Insanum venandi studium, one calls it, insanæ substractiones: their mad structures, disports, plays &c., when they are unseasonably used, imprudently handled, and beyond their fortunes. Some men are consumed by mad fantastical buildings, by making galleries, cloisters, terraces, walks, orchards, gardens, pools, rillets, bowers, and such like places of pleasure; Inutiles domos, Xenophon calls them, which howsoever they be delightsome things in themselves, and acceptable to all beholders, an ornament and befitting some great men; yet unprofitable to others, and the sole overthrow of their estates. Forestus in his observations hath an example of such a one that became melancholy upon the like occasion, having consumed his substance in an unprofitable building, which would afterward yield him no advantage. Others, I say, are overthrown by those mad sports of hawking and hunting; honest recreations, and fit for some great men, but not for every base interior person; whilst they will maintain their falconers, dogs, and hunting nags, their wealth, saith Salimutze, "runs away with hounds, and their fortunes fly away with hawks." They persecute beasts so long, till in the end they themselves degenerate into beasts, as Agrippa taxeth them, Actæon-like, for as he was eaten to death by his own dogs, so do they devour themselves and their patrimonies, in such idle and unnecessary disports, neglecting in the mean time their more necessary business, and to follow their vocations. Over-mad too sometimes are our great men in delighting, and doting too much on it. "When they drive poor husbandmen from their tillage," as Sarisburiensis objects, Polycrat. l. 1. c. 4. "fling down country farms, and whole towns, to make parks, and forests, starving men to feed beasts, and punishing in the mean time such a man that shall molest their game, more severely than him that is otherwise a common hacker, or a notorious thief." But great men are some ways to be excused, the meaner sort have no evasion why they should not be counted mad. Poggius the Florentine tells a merry story to this purpose, condemning the folly and impertinent business of such kind of persons. A physician of Milan, saith he, that cured mad men, had a pit of water in his house, in which he kept his patients, some up to their knees, some to the girdle, some to the chin, pro mode insaniæ, as they were more or less affected. One of them by chance, that was well recovered, stood in the door, and seeing a gallant ride by with a hawk on his fist, well mounted, with his spaniels after him, would needs know to what use all this preparation served; he made answer to kill certain fowls; the patient demanded again, what his fowl might be worth which he killed in a year; he replied 5 or 10 crowns; and when he urged him farther what his dogs, horse, and hawks stood him in, he told him 400 crowns; with that the patient bade him be gone, as he loved his life and welfare, for if our master come and find thee here, he will put thee in the pit amongst mad men up to the chin: taxing the madness and fully of such vain men that spend themselves in those idle sports, neglecting their business and necessary affairs. Leo decimus, that hunting pope, is much discommended by Jovius in his life, for his immoderate desire of hawking and hunting, in so much that (as he saith) he would sometimes live about Ostia weeks and months together, leave suitors unrespected, bulls and pardons unsigned, to his own prejudice, and many private men's loss. "And if he had been by chance crossed in his sport, or his game not so good, he was so impatient, that he would revile and miscall many times men of great worth with most bitter taunts, look so sour, be so angry and waspish, so grieved and molested, that it is incredible to relate it." But if he had good sport, and been well pleased,on the other side, incredibili munificentia, with unspeakable bounty and munificence he would reward all his fellow hunters, and deny nothing to any suitor when he was in that mood. To say truth, 'tis the common humour of all gamesters, as Galatæus observes, if they win, no men living are so jovial and merry, but if they lose, though it be but a trifle, two or three games at tables, or a dealing at cards for twopence a game, they are so choleric and testy that no man may speak with them, and break many times into violent passions, oaths, imprecations, and unbeseeming speeches, little differing from mad men for the time. Generally of all gamesters and gaming, if it be excessive, thus much we may conclude, that whether they win or lose for the present, their winnings are not Munera fortunæ, sed insidiæ, as that wise Seneca determines, not fortune's gifts, but baits, the common catastrophe is beggary, Ut pestis vitam, sic adimit alea pecuniam, as the plague takes away life, doth gaming goods, for omnes nudi, inopes et egeni;

"Alea Scylla vorax, species certissima furti,
Non contenta bonis animum quoque perfida mergit,
Fúda, furax, infamis, iners, furiosa, ruina."

For a little pleasure they take, and some small gains and gettings now and then, their wives and children are wringed in the mean time, and they themselves with loss of body and soul rue it in the end. I will say nothing of those prodigious prodigals, perdendæ pecuniæ genitos, as he taxed Anthony, Qui patrimonium sine ulla fori calumnia amittunt, saith Cyprian, and mad Sybaritical spendthrifts, Quique una comedunt patrimonia cúna; that eat up all at a breakfast, at a supper, or amongst bawds, parasites, and players, consume themselves in an instant, as if they had flung it into the Tiber with great wagers, vain and idle expenses, &c., not themselves only, but even all their friends, as a man desperately swimming drowns him that comes to help him, by suretiship and borrowing they will willingly undo all their associates and allies. Irati pecuniis, as he saith, angry with their money: "what with a wanton eye, a liquorish tongue, and a gamesome hand, when they have indiscreetly impoverished themselves, mortgaged their wits together with their lands, and entombed their ancestors' fair possessions in their bowels, they may lead the rest of their days in prison, as many times they do; they repent at leisure; and when all is gone begin to be thrifty: but Sera est in fundo parsimonia, 'tis then too late to look about; their end is misery, sorrow, shame, and discontent. And well they deserve to be infamous and discontent. Catamidiari in Amphitheatro, as Adrian the emperor's edict they were of old, decoctores bonorurn suorum, so he calls them, prodigal fools, to be publicly shamed, and hissed out of all societies, rather than to be pitied or relieved. The Tuscans and Boëtians brought their bankrupts into the market place in a bier with an empty purse carried before them, all the boys following, where they sat all day circumstante plebe, to be infamous and ridiculous. At Patina in Italy they have a stone called the stone of turpitude, near the senate house, where spendthrifts, and such as disclaim non-payment of debts, do sit with their hinder parts bare, that by that note of disgrace, others may be terrified from all such vain expense, or borrowing more than they can tell how to pay. The civilians of old set guardians over such brain-sick prodigals, as they did over madmen, to moderate their expenses, that they should not so loosely consume their fortunes, to the utter undoing of their families.

I may not here omit those two main plagues, and common dotages of human kind, wine and women, which have infatuated and besotted myriads of people: they go commonly together.

"Qui vino indulget, quemque alea decoquit, ille
In venerem putret --"

(Persius, Sat. 5. "One indulges in wine, another the die consumes, a third is decomposed by venery")

To whom is sorrow, saith Solomon Pro. xxiii. 29. to whom is woe, but to such a one as loves drink? it causeth torture (vino tortus et ira), and bitterness of mind, Sirac. 31. 21. Vinum furoris, Jeremy calls it, 15. cap. wine of madness, as well he may, for insanire facit sanos, it makes sound men sick and sad, and wise men mad, to say and do they know not what. Accidit hodie terribilis casus (saith Austin), hear a miserable accident; Cyrillus' son this day in his drink, Matrem prægnantem nequiter oppressit, sororem violare voluit, patrem occidit fere, et duas alias sorores ad mortem vulneravit, would have violated his sister, killed his father, &c. A true saying it was of him, Vino dari lætitiam et dolorem, drink causeth mirth, and drink causeth sorrow, drink "causeth poverty and want," (Prov. xxi.) shame and disgrace. Multi ignobiles evasere ob vini potum, et (Austin) amissis honoribus profugi aberrarunt: many men have made shipwreck of their fortunes, and go like rogues and beggars, having turned all their substance into aurum potabile, that otherwise might have lived in good worship and happy estate, and for a few hours' pleasure, for their Hilary term's but short, or free madness, as Seneca calls it, purchase unto themselves eternal tediousness and trouble.

That other madness is on women, Apostatare facit cor, saith the wise man, Atque homini cerebrum minuit. Pleasant at first she is, like Dioscorides' Rhododaphne, that fair plant to the eye, but poison to the taste, the rest as bitter as wormwood in the end (Prov. v. 4.) and sharp as a two-edged sword. (vii. 27.) "Her house is the way to hell, and goes down to the chambers of death." What more sorrowful can be said? they are miserable in this life, mad, beasts, led like "oxen to the slaughter:" and that which is worse, whoremasters and drunkards shall be judged, amittunt gratiam, saith Austin, perdunt gloriam, incurrunt damnationem æternam. They lose grace and glory;

"-- brevis illa voluptas
Abrogat æternum cúli decus --"

they gain hell and eternal damnation.

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