Poverty and Want, Causes of Melancholy.

Poverty and Want, Causes of Melancholy.

POVERTY and want are so violent oppugners, so unwelcome guests, so much abhorred of all men, that I may not omit to speak of them apart. Poverty, although (if considered aught, to a wise, understanding, truly regenerate, and contented man) it be donum Dei, a blessed estate, the way to heaven, as Chrysostom calls it, God's gift, the mother of modesty, and much to be preferred before riches (as shall be shown in his place), yet as it is esteemed in the world's censure, it is a most odious calling, vile and base, a severe torture, summum scelus, a most intolerable burden; we shun it all, cane pejus et angue (worse than a dog or a snake), we abhor the name of it, Paupertas fugitur, totoque arcessitur orbe, as being the fountain of all other miseries, cares, woes, labours, and grievances whatsoever. To avoid which, we will take any pains,-- extremos currit mercator ad Indos, we will leave no haven, no coast, no creek of the world unsearched, though it be to the hazard of our lives; we will dive to the bottom of the sea, to the bowels of the earth, five, six, seven, eight, nine hundred fathom deep, through all five zones, and both extremes of heat and cold: we will turn parasites and slaves, prostitute ourselves, swear and lie, damn our bodies and souls, forsake God, abjure religion, steal, rob, murder, rather than endure this insufferable yoke of poverty, which doth so tyrannise, crucify, and generally depress us.

For look into the world, and you shall see men most part esteemed according to their means, and happy as they are rich: Ubique tanti quisque quantum habuit fuit. If he be likely to thrive, and in the way of preferment, who but he? In the vulgar opinion, if a man be wealthy, no matter how he gets it, of what parentage, how qualified, how virtuously endowed, or villainously inclined; let him be a bawd, a gripe, an usurer, a villain, a pagan, a barbarian, a wretch, Lucian's tyrant, "on whom you may look with less security than on the sun;" so that he be rich (and liberal withal) he shall be honoured, admired, adored, reverenced, and highly magnified. "The rich is had in reputation because of his goods," Eccl. x. 31. He shall be befriended: "for riches gather many friends," Prov. xix. 4.-- multos numerabit amicos, all happiness ebbs and flows with his money. He shall be accounted a gracious lord, a Mecænas, a benefactor, a wise, discreet, a proper, a valiant, a fortunate man, of a generous spirit, Pullus Jovis, et gallinus filius albæ: a hopeful, a good man, a virtuous, honest man. Quando ego te Junonium puerum et matris partum vere aureum, as Tully said of Octavianus, while he was adopted Cæsar, and an heir apparent of so great a monarchy, he was a golden child. All honour, offices, applause, grand titles, and turgent epithets are put upon him, omnes omnia bona dicere; all men's eyes are upon him, God bless his good worship, his honour; every man speaks well of him, every man presents him, seeks and sues to him for his love, favour and protection, to serve him, belong unto him, every man riseth to him, as to Themistocles in the Olympics, if he speak, as of Herod, Vox Dei, non hominis, the voice of God, not of man. All the graces, Veneres, pleasures, elegances attend him, golden fortune accompanies and lodgeth with him; and as to those Roman emperors, is placed in his chamber.

"-- Secura naviget aura
Fortunamque suo temperet arbitrio:"

he may sail as he will himself; and temper his estate at his pleasure, jovial days, splendour and magnificence, sweet music, dainty fare, the good things, and fat of the land, fine clothes, rich attires, soft beds, down pillows are at his command, all the world labours for him, thousands of artificers are his slaves to drudge for him, run, ride, and post for him: Divines (for Pythia Philippisat), lawyers, physicians, philosophers, scholars are his, wholly devote to his service. Every man seeks his acquaintance, his kindred, to match with him, though he be an oaf; a ninny, a monster, a goosecap, uxorem ducat Danaën (He may have Danae to wife), when and whom he will, hunc optant generum Rex et Regina -- he is an excellent match for my son, my daughter, my niece, &c. Quicquid calcaverit hic, Rosa fiet, let him go whither he will, trumpets sound, bells ring, &c., all happiness attends him, every man is willing to entertain him, he sups in Apollo wheresoever he comes; what preparation is made for his entertainment, fish and fowl, spices and perfumes, all that sea and land affords. What cookery, masking, mirth to exhilarate his person!

"Da Trebio, pone ad Trebium, vis frater ab illis
Ilibus?--"

What dish will your good worship eat of?

"-- dulcia poma,
Et quoscunque feret cultus tibi fundus honores,
Ante Larem, gustet venerabilior Lare dives."

"Sweet apples, and whate'er thy fields afford.
Before thy Gods be served, let serve thy Lord."

What sport will your honour have? hawking, hunting, fishing, fowling, bulls, bears, cards, dice, cocks, players, tumblers, fiddlers, jesters, &c., they are at your good worship's command. Fair houses, gardens, orchards, terraces, galleries, cabinets, pleasant walks, delightsome places, they are at hand: in aureis lac, vinum in argenteis, adolescentulæ ad nutum speciosæ, wine, wenches, &c., a Turkish paradise, a heaven upon earth. Though he be a silly soft fellow, and scarce have common sense, yet if he be born to fortunes (as I have said), jure hæreditario sapere jubetur, he must have honour and office in his course: Nemo nisi dives honore dignis (Ambros. offic. 21.) none so worthy as himself: he shall have it, atque esto quicquid Servius aut Labeo. Get money enough and command kingdoms, provinces, armies, hearts, hands, and affections; thou shalt have popes, patriarchs to be thy chaplains and parasites: thou shalt have (Tamerlane-like) kings to draw thy coach, queens to be thy laundresses, emperors thy footstools, build more towns and cities than great Alexander, Babel towers, pyramids and mausolean tombs, &c., command heaven and earth, and tell the world it is thy vassal, auro emitur diadema, argento cúlum panditur, denarius philosophum conducit, nummus jus cogit, obolus literatum pascit, metallum sanitatem conciliat, æs amicos conglutinat (a diadem is purchased with gold; silver opens the way to heaven; philosophy may be hired for a penny; money controls justice; one obolus satisfies a man of letters; precious metal procures health; wealth attaches friends.) And therefore not without good cause, John de Medicis, that rich Florentine, when he lay upon his death-bed, calling his sons, Cosmo and Laurence, before him, amongst other sober sayings, repeated this, animo quieto digredior, quod vos sanos et divites post me relinquam, "It doth me good to think yet, though I be dying, that I shall leave you, my children, sound and rich:" for wealth sways all. It is not with us, as amongst those Lacedemonian senators of Lycurgus in Plutarch, "He preferred that deserved best, was most virtuous and worthy of the place, not swiftness, or strength, or wealth, or friends carried it in those days:" but inter optimos optimus, inter temperantes temperantissimus, the most temperate and best. We have no aristocracies but in contemplation, all oligarchies, wherein a few rich men domineer, do what they list, and are privileged by their greatness. They may freely trespass, and do as they please, no man dare accuse them, no not so much as mutter against them, there is no notice taken of it, they may securely do it, live after their own laws, and for their money get pardons, indulgences, redeem their souls from purgatory and hell itself, clausum possidet arca Jovem. Let them be epicures, or atheists, libertines, machiavelians (as they often are), "Et quam vis perjurus erit, sine gente, cruentus," they may go to heaven through the eye of a needle, if they will themselves, they may be canonised for saints, they shall be honourably interred in mausolean tombs, commended by poets, registered in histories, have temples and statues erected to their names, -- e manibus illis -- nascentur violæ.-- If he be bountiful in his life, and liberal at his death, he shall have one to swear, as he did by Claudius the Emperor in Tacitus, he saw his soul go to heaven, and be miserably lamented at his funeral. Ambubaiarum collegiæ, &c. Trimalcionis topanta in Petronius recta in cúlum abiit, went right to heaven: a base quean, "thou wouldst have scorned once in thy misery to have a penny from her;" and why? modio nummos metiit, she measured her money by the bushel. These prerogatives do not usually belong to rich men, but to such as are most part seeming rich, let him have but a good outside, he carries it, and shall be adored for a god, as Cyrus was amongst the Persians, ob splendidum apparatum, for his gay attires; now most men are esteemed according to their clothes. In our gullish times, whom you peradventure in modesty would give place to, as being deceived by his habit, and presuming him some great worshipful man, believe it, if you shall examine his estate, he will likely be proved a serving man of no great note, my lady's tailor, his lordship's barber, or some such gull, a Fastidius Brisk, Sir Petronel Flash, a mere outside. Only this respect is given him, that wheresoever he comes, he may call for what he will, and take place by reason of his outward habit.

But on the contrary, if he be poor, Prov. xv. 15. "all his days are miserable," he is under hatches, dejected, rejected and forsaken, poor in purse, poor in spirit; prout res nobis fluit, ita et animus se habet; money gives life and soul. Though he be honest, wise, learned, well deserving, noble by birth, and of excellent good parts; yet in that he is poor, unlikely to rise, come to honour, office or good means, he is contemned, neglected, frustra sapit, inter literas esurit, amicus molestus. "If he speak, what babbler is this?" Ecclus. his nobility without wealth, is projecta vilior alga, (Hor. "more worthless than rejected weeds.") and he not esteemed: nos viles pulli nati infelicibus ovis, if once poor, we are metamorphosed in an instant, base slaves, villains, and vile drudges: for to be poor, is to be a knave, a fool, a wretch, a wicked, an odious fellow, a common eye-sore, say poor and say all: they are born to labour, to misery, to carry burdens like juments, piscum stercus comedere with Ulysses' companions, and as Chremilus objected in Aristophanes, salem lingere, lick salt, to empty jakes, fay channels, carry out dirt and dunghills, sweep chimneys, rub horse-heels, &c. I say nothing of Turks, galley-slaves, which are bought and sold like juments, or those African negroes, or poor Indian drudges, qui indies hinc inde deferendis oneribus occumbunt, nam quod apud nos boves et asini vehunt, trahunt, &c. ("Who daily faint beneath the burdens they are compelled to carry from place to place: for they carry and draw the loads which oxen and asses formerly use, &c.") Id omne misellis indis, they are ugly to behold, and though erst spruce, now rusty and squalid, because poor, immundas fortunas æqum est squalorum sequi, it is ordinarily so. "Others eat to live, but they live to drudge," Servilis et misera gens nihil recusare audit, a servile generation, that dare refuse no task.--"Heus tu, dromo, cape hoc flabellum, ventulum hinc facito dum lavamus," sirrah, blow wind upon us while we wash, and bid your fellow get him up betimes in the morning, be it fair or foul, he shall run fifty miles afoot to-morrow, to carry me a letter to my mistress, Socia ad pistrinum, Socia shall tarry at home and grind malt all day long, Tristan thresh. Thus are they commanded, being indeed some of them as so many footstools for rich men to tread on, blocks for them to get on horseback, or as "walls for them to piss on." They are commonly such people, rude, silly, superstitious idiots, nasty, unclean, lousy, poor, dejected, slavishly humble: and as Leo Afer observes of the commonalty of Africa, natura viliores sunt, nec apud suos duces majore in precio quam si canes assent: base by nature, and no more esteemed than dogs, miseram, laboriosam, calamitosam vitam agunt, et inopem, infúlicem, rudiores asinis, ut e brutis plane natos dicas: no learning, no knowledge, no civility, scarce common sense, naught but barbarism amongst them, belluino more vivunt, neque calceos gestant, neque vestes, like rogues and vagabonds, they go barefooted and barelegged, the soles of their feet being as hard as horsehoofs, as Radzivilus observed at Damietta in Egypt, leading a laborious, miserable, wretched, unhappy life, "like beasts and juments, if not worse:" (for a Spaniard in Incatan, sold three Indian boys for a cheese, and a hundred negro slaves for a horse) their discourse is scurrility, their summum bonum a pot of ale. There is not any slavery which these villains will not undergo, interillos plerique latrinas evacuant, alii culinarum curant, alii stabularios agunt, urinatores, et id genus similia exercent, &c. like those people that dwell in the Alps, chimney-sweepers, jakes-farmers, dirt-daubers, vagrant rogues, they labour hard some, and yet cannot get clothes to put on, or bread to eat. For what can filthy poverty give else, but beggary, fulsome nastiness, squalor, content, drudgery, labour, ugliness, hunger and thirst; pediculorum, et pulicum numerum? as he well followed it in Aristophanes, fleas and lice, pro pallium vestem laceram, et pro pulvinari lapidem bene magnum ad caput, rags for his raiment, and a stone for his pillow, pro cathedra, ruptæ caput urnæ, he sits in a broken pitcher, or on a block for a chair, et malvæ ramos pro panibus comedit, he drinks water, and lives on wort leaves, pulse, like a hog, or scraps like a dog, ut nunc nobis vita afficitur, quis non putabit insaniam esse, infelicitatemque? as Chremilus concludes his speech, as we poor men live now-a-days, who will not take our life to be infelicity, misery, and madness?

If they be of little better condition than those base villains, hunger-starved beggars, wandering rogues, those ordinary slaves and day-labouring drudges; yet they are commonly so preyed upon by polling officers for breaking the laws, by their tyrannizing landlords, so flayed and fleeced by perpetual exactions, that though they do drudge, fare hard, and starve their genius, they cannot live in some countries; but what they have is instantly taken from them, the very care they take to live, to be drudges, to maintain their poor families, their trouble and anxiety "takes away their sleep," Sirac. xxxi. 1. it makes them weary of their lives: when they have taken all pains, done their utmost and honest endeavours, if they be cast behind by sickness, or overtaken with years, no man pities them, hard-hearted and merciless, uncharitable as they are, they leave them so distressed, to beg, steal, murmur, and rebel, or else starve. The feeling and fear of this misery compelled those old Romans, whom Menenius Agrippa pacified, to resist their governors, outlaws, and rebels in most places, to take up seditious arms, and in all ages hath caused uproars, murmurings, seditions, rebellions, thefts, murders, mutinies, jars and contentions in every commonwealth: grudging, repining, complaining, discontent in each private family, because they want means to live according to their callings, bring up their children, it breaks their hearts, they cannot do as they would. No greater misery than for a lord to have a knight's living, a gentleman a yeoman's, not to be able to live as his birth and place require. Poverty and want are generally corrosives to all kind of men, especially to such as have been in good and flourishing estate, are suddenly distressed, nobly born, liberally brought up, and by some disaster and casualty miserably dejected. For the rest, as they have base fortunes, so have they base minds correspondent, like beetles, e stercore orti, e stercore victus, in stercore delicium, as they were obscurely born and bred, so they delight in obscenity; they are not so thoroughly touched with it. Angustas animas angusto in pectore versant ("A narrow breast conceals a narrow soul"). Yea, that which is no small cause of their torments, if once they come to be in distress, they are forsaken of their fellows, most part neglected, and left unto themselves; as poor Terence in Rome was by Scipio, Iselius, and Furius, his great and noble friends.

"Nil Publius Scipio profuit, nil ei Lælius, nil Furius,
Tres per idem tempus qui agitabant nobiles facillime,
Horum ille opera ne domum quidem habuit conductitiam."

("Publius Scipio, Lælius and Furius, three of the most distinguished noblemen at that day in Rome, were of so little service to him, that he could scarcely procure a lodging through their patronage.")

'Tis generally so, Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris, he is left cold and comfortless, nullus ad amissas ibit amicus opes, all flee from him as from a rotten wall, now ready to fall on their heads. Prov. xix. 4. "Poverty separates them from their neighbours."

"Dum fortuna favet, vultum servatis, amici,
Cum cecidit, turpi vertitis ora fuga."

"Whilst fortune favour'd, friends, you smiled on me,
But when she fled, a friend I could not see."

Which is worse yet, if he be poor every man contemns him, insults over him, oppresseth him, scoffs at, aggravates his misery.

"Quum cúpit quassata dumus subsidere, partes
in proclinitas omne recumbit onus."

"When once the totteritg house begins to shrink,
Thither comes all the weight by an instinct."

Nay, they are odious to their own brethren and dearest friends, Prov. xix. 7, "His brethren hate him if he be poor," omnes vicini oderunt, "his neighbours hate him," Prov. xiv. 20. omnes me noti ac ignoti deserunt, as he complained in the comedy, friends and strangers, all forsake me. Which is most grievous, poverty makes men ridiculous, Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se, quam quod ridiculos homines facit, they must endure jests, taunts, flouts, blows of their betters, and take all in good part to get a meal's meat: magnum pauperies opprobrium, jubet quidvis et facere et pati. He must turn parasite, jester, fool, cum desipientibus desipere; saith Euripides, slave, villain, drudge to get a poor living, apply himself to each man's humours, to win and please, &c., and be buffeted when he hath all done, as Ulysses was by Melanthius in Homer, be reviled, baffled, insulted over, for potentiorum stultitia perferenda est, and may not so much as mutter against it. He must turn rogue and villain; for as the saying is, Necessitas cogit ad turpia, poverty alone makes men thieves, rebels, murderers, traitors, assassins, "because of poverty we have sinned," Ecclus. xxvii. 1. swear and forswear, bear false witness, lie, dissemble, any thing, as I say, to advantage themselves, and to relieve their necessities: Culpæ sclerisque magistra est, when a man is driven to his shifts, what will he not do?

"-- sit miserium fortuna Sinonem
Finxit, vanum etiam mendacemque improba finget"

("Since cruel fortune has made Sinon poor, she has made him vain and mendacious")

he will betray his father, prince, and country, turn Turk, forsake religion, abjure God and all, nulla quam Horrenda proditio, quam illi lucri causa (saith Leo Afer) perpetrare nolint. Plato, therefore, calls poverty, "thievish, sacrilegious, filthy, wicked and mischievous:" and well he might. For it makes many an upright man otherwise, had he not been in want, to take bribes, to be corrupt, to do against his conscience, to sell his tongue, heart, hand, &c., to be churlish, hard, unmerciful, uncivil, to use indirect means to help his present estate. It makes princes to exact upon their subjects, great men tyrannise, landlords oppress, justice mercenary, lawyers vultures, physicians harpies, friends importunate, tradesmen liars, honest men thieves, devout assassins, great men to prostitute their wives, daughters, and themselves, middle sort to repine, commons to mutiny, all to grudge, murmur, and complain. A great temptation to all mischief it compels some miserable wretches to counterfeit several diseases, to dismember, make themselves blind, lame, to have a more plausible cause to beg, and lose their limbs to recover their present wants. Jodocus Damhoderius, a lawyer of Bruges, praxi rerum criminal. c. 112, hath some notable examples of such counterfeit cranks, and every village almost will yield abundant testimonies amongst us; we have dummerers, Abraham men, &c. And that which is the extent of misery, it enforceth them, through anguish and wearisomeness of their lives, to make away themselves: they had rather be hanged, drowned, &c., than to live without means.

"In mare cútiferum, ne te premet aspera egestas,
Desili, et a celsis corrue Cerne jugis."

"Much better 'tis to break thy neck,
Or drown thyself I' the sea,
Than suffer irksome poverty;
Go make thyself away."

A Sybarite of old, as I find it registered in Athenæus, supping in Phiditiis in Sparta, and observing their bad fare, said it was no marvel if the Lacedæmonians were valiant men; "for his part he would rather run upon a sword point (and so would any man in his wits), than live with such base diet, or lead so wretched a life." In Japonia 'tis a common thing to stifle their children if they be poor, or to make an abortion, which Aristotle commends. In that civil commonwealth of China, the mother strangles her child if she be not able to bring it up, and had rather lose than sell it, or have it endure such misery as poor men do. Arnobius, lib. 7. adversus gentes, Lactantius, lib. 5. cap. 9. objects as much to those ancient Greeks and Romans, "they did expose their children to wild beasts, strangle or knock out their brains against a stone, in such cases." If we may give credit to Munster, amongst us Christians in Lithuania, they voluntarily mancipate and sell themselves, their wives and children to rich men, to avoid hunger and beggary; many make away themselves in this extremity. Apicius the Roman, when he cast up his accounts, and found but 100,000 crowns left, murdered himself for fear he should be famished to death. P. Forestus, in his medicinal observations, hath a memorable example of two brothers of Louvain that, being destitute of means, became both melancholy, and in a discontented humour massacred themselves. Another of a merchant, learned, wise otherwise and discreet, but out of a deep apprehension he had of a loss at seas, would not be persuaded but as Ventidius in the poet, he should die a beggar. In a word, thus much I may conclude of poor men, that though they have good parts they cannot show or make use of them: ab inopia ad virtutem obsepta est via, 'tis hard for a poor man to rise, haud facie emergunt, quoram virtutibus obstat rea angusta domi. (They cannot easily rise in the world who are pinched by povery at home.) "The wisdom of the poor is despised, and his words are not heard." Eccles. vi. 19. His works are rejected, contemned, for the baseness and obscurity of the author, though laudable and good in themselves, they will not likely take.

"Nulla placere diu, neque vivere carmine possunt,
Quæ scribuntur aquæ potoribus"--

"No verses can please men or live long that are written by water-drinkers." Poor men cannot please, their actions, counsels, consultations, projects, are vilified in the world's esteem, amittunt consilium in re, which Gnatho long since observed. Sapiens crepidas sibi nunquam nec soleas fecit, a wise man never cobbled shoes; as he said of old, but how doth he prove it? I am sure we find it otherwise in our days, pruinosis horret facundia pannis. Homer himself must beg if he want means, and as by report sometimes he did "go from door to door, and sing ballads, with a company of boys about him." This common misery of theirs must needs distract, make them discontent and melancholy, as ordinarily they are, wayward, peevish, like a weary traveller, for Fames et mora bilem in nares conciunt, still murmuring and repining: Ob inopiam morosi sunt, quibus est male, as Plutarch quotes out of Euripides, and that comical poet well seconds,

"Omnes quibus res sunt minus secundæ, nescio, quomodo
Suspitiosi, ad contumeliam omnia accipiunt magis,
Propter suam impotentiam se credunt negligi."

"If they be in adversity, they are more suspicious and apt to mistake: they think themselves scorned by reason of their misery:" and therefore many generous spirits in such cases withdraw themselves from all company, as that comedian Terence is said to have done; when he perceived himself to be forsaken and poor, he voluntarily banished himself to Stymphalus, a base town in Arcadia, and there miserably died.

"-- ad summam inopiam redactus,
Itaque e conspectu omnium abiit Græciæ in terram ultimam."

("Reduced to the greatest necessity, he withdrew from the gaze of the public to the most remote village in Greece")

Neither is it without cause, for we see men commonly respected according to their means (an dives sit omnes querunt, nemo an bonus), and vilified if they be in bad clothes. Philophæmen the orator was set to cut wood, because he was so homely attired, Terentius was placed at the lower end of Cecilius' table, because of his homely outside. Dante, that famous Italian poet, by reason his clothes were but mean, could not be admitted to sit down at a feast. Gnatho scorned his old familiar friend because of his apparel, Hominem video pannis, annisque obsitum, hice ego ilium contempsi præ me. King Persius overcome sent a letter to Paulus Æmilius, the Roman general; Persius P. Consuli, S. but he scorned him any answer, tacite exprobrans fortunam suam (saith mine author), upbraiding him with a present fortune. Carolus Pugnax, that great duke of Burgundy, made H. Holland, late duke of Exeter, exiled, run after his horse like a lackey, and would take no notice of him; 'tis the common fashion of the world. So that such men as are poor may justly be discontent, melancholy, and complain of their present misery, and all may pray with Solomon, "Give me, O Lord, neither riches nor poverty; feed me with food convenient for me."

Previous Next