Mirth and merry company, fair objects, remedies.

Mirth and merry company, fair objects, remedies.

     Mirth and merry company may not be separated from music, both concerning and necessarily required in this business. "Mirth," (saith Vives) "purgeth the blood, confirms health, causeth a fresh, pleasing, and fine colour," prorogues life, whets the wit, makes the body young, lively and fit for any manner of employment. The merrier the heart the longer the life; "A merry heart is the life of the flesh," Prov. xiv. 30. "Gladness prolongs his days," Ecclus. xxx. 22; and this is one of the three Salernitan doctors, Dr. Merryman, Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, which cure all diseases -- Mens hilaris, requies, moderata dieta. Gomesius, præfat. lib. 3. de sal. gen. is a great magnifier of honest mirth, by which (saith he) "we cure many passions of the mind in ourselves, and in our friends;" which Galateus assigns for a cause why we love merry companions: and well they deserve it, being that as Magninus holds, a merry companion is better than any music, and as the saying is, comes jucundus in via pro vehiculo, as a wagon to him that is wearied on the way. Jucunda confabulatio, sales, joci, pleasant discourse, jests, conceits, merry tales, melliti verborum globuli, as Petronius, Pliny, Spondanus, Caelius, and many good authors plead, are that sole Nepenthes of Homer, Helena's bowl, Venus's girdle, so renowned of old to expel grief and care, to cause mirth and gladness of heart, if they be rightly understood, or seasonably applied. In a word,

"Amor, voluptas, Venus, gaudium,
Jocus, ludus, sermo suavis, suaviatio."

"Gratification, pleasure, love, joy,
Mirth, sport, pleasant words and no alloy,"

are the true Nepenthes. For these causes our physicians generally prescribe this as a principal engine to batter the walls of melancholy, a chief antidote, and a sufficient cure of itself. "By all means" (saith Mesue) "procure mirth to these men in such things as are heard, seen, tasted, or smelled, or any way perceived, and let them have all enticements and fair promises, the sight of excellent beauties, attires, ornaments, delightsome passages to distract their minds from fear and sorrow, and such things on which they are so fixed and intent." "Let them use hunting, sports, plays, jests, merry company," as Rhasis prescribes, "which will not let the mind be molested, a cup of good drink now and then, hear music, and have such companions with whom they are especially delighted;" "merry tales or toys, drinking, singing, dancing, and whatsoever else may procure mirth:" and by no means, saith Guianerius, suffer them to be alone. Benedictus Victorius Faventinus, in his empirics, accounts it an especial remedy against melancholy, "to hear and see singing, dancing, maskers, mummers, to converse with such merry fellows and fair maids." "For the beauty of a woman cheereth the countenance," Ecclus. xxxvi. 22. Beauty alone is a sovereign remedy against fear, grief, and all melancholy fits; a charm, as Peter de la Seine and many other writers affirm, a banquet itself; he gives instance in discontented Menelaus, that was so often freed by Helena's fair face: and Tully, 3 Tusc. cites Epicurus as a chief patron of this tenet. To expel grief, and procure pleasure, sweet smells, good diet, touch, taste, embracing, singing, dancing, sports, plays, and above the rest, exquisite beauties, quibus oculi jucunde moventur et animi, are most powerful means, obvia forma, to meet or see a fair maid pass by, or to be in company with her. He found it by experience, and made good use of it in his own person, if Plutarch belie him not; for he reckons up the names of some more elegant pieces; Leontia, Boedina, Hedieia, Nicedia, that were frequently seen in Epicurus' garden, and very familiar in his house. Neither did he try it himself alone, but if we may give credit to Atheneus, he practised it upon others. For when a sad and sick patient was brought unto him to be cured, "he laid him on a down bed, crowned him with a garland of sweet-smelling flowers, in a fair perfumed closet delicately set out, and after a portion or two of good drink, which he administered, he brought in a beautiful young wench that could play upon a lute, sing, and dance," &c. Tully, 3. Tusc. scoffs at Epicurus, for this his profane physic (as well he deserved), and yet Phavorinus and Stobeus highly approve of it; most of our looser physicians in some cases, to such parties especially, allow of this; and all of them will have a melancholy, sad, and discontented person, make frequent use of honest sports, companies, and recreations, et incitandos ad Venerem, as Rodericus a Fonseca will, aspectu et contactu pulcherrimarum fśminarum, to be drawn to such consorts, whether they will or no. Not to be an auditor only, or a spectator, but sometimes an actor himself. Dulce est desipere in loco, to play the fool now and then is not amiss, there is a time for all things. Grave Socrates would be merry by fits, sing, dance, and take his liquor too, or else Theodoret belies him; so would old Cato, Tully by his own confession, and the rest. Xenophon, in his Sympos. brings in Socrates as a principal actor, no man merrier than himself, and sometimes he would "ride a cockhorse with his children."--equitare in arundine longa. (Though Alcibiades scoffed at him for it) and well he might; for now and then (saith Plutarch) the most virtuous, honest, and gravest men will use feasts, jests, and toys, as we do sauce to our meats. So did Scipio and Laelius,

"Qui ubi se a vulgo et scena in secreta remorant,
Virtus Scipiadæ et mitis sapientia Læli,
Nugari cum illo, et discincti ludere, donec
Decoqueretur olus, soliti"------

"Valorous Scipio and gentle Lælius,
Removed from the scene and rout so clamorous,
Were wont to recreate themselves their robes laid by,
Whilst supper by the cook was making ready."

Machiavel, in the eighth book of his Florentine history, gives this note of Cosmo de Medici, the wisest and gravest man of his time in Italy, that he would "now and then play the most egregious fool in his carriage, and was so much given to jesters, players and childish sports, to make himself merry, that he that should but consider his gravity on the one part, his folly and lightness on the other, would surely say, there were two distinct persons in him." Now methinks he did well in it, though Salisburiensis be of opinion, that magistrates, senators, and grave men, should not descend to lighter sports, ne respublica ludere videatur: but as Themistocles, still keep a stern and constant carriage. I commend Cosmo de Medici and Castruccius Castrucanus, than whom Italy never knew a worthier captain, another Alexander, if Machiavel do not deceive us in his life: "when a friend of his reprehended him for dancing beside his dignity," (belike at some cushion dance) he told him again, qui sapit interdiu, vix unquam noctii desipit, he that is wise in the day may dote a little in the night. Paulus Jovius relates as much of Pope Leo Decimus, that he was a grave, discreet, staid man, yet sometimes most free, and too open in his sports. And 'tis not altogether unfit or misbeseeming the gravity of such a man, if that decorum of time, place, and such circumstances be observed. Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem--and as he said in an epigram to his wife, I would have every man say to himself, or to his friend,

"Moll, once in pleasant company by chance,
I wished that you for company would dance:
Which you refus'd, and said, your years require,
Now, matron-like, both manners and attire.
Well, Moll, if needs you will be matron-like,
Then trust to this, I will thee matron-like:
Yet so to you my love, may never lessen,
As you for church, house, bed, observe this lesson:
Sit in the church as solemn as a saint,
No deed, word, thought, your due devotion taint:
Veil, if you will, your head, your soul reveal
To him that only wounded souls can heal:
Be in my house as busy as a bee.
Having a sting for every one but me;
Buzzing in every corner, gath'ring honey:
Let nothing waste, that costs or yieldeth money.
And when thou seest my heart to mirth incline,
Thy tongue, wit, blood, warm with good cheer and wine:
Then of sweet sports let no occasion scape,
But be as wanton, toying as an ape."

     Those old Greeks had their Lubentiam Deam, goddess of pleasure, and the Lacedaemonians, instructed from Lycurgus, did Deo Risui sucrificare, after their wars especially, and in times of peace, which was used in Thessaly, as it appears by that of Apuleius, who was made an instrument of their laughter himself: "Because laughter and merriment was to season their labours and modester life." Risus enim divum atque; hominum est æterna voluptas. Princes use jesters, players, and have those masters of revels in their courts. The Romans at every supper (for they had no solemn dinner) used music, gladiators, jesters, &c. as Suetonius relates of Tiberius, Dion of Commodus, and so did the Greeks. Besides music, in Xenophon's Sympos. Philippus ridendi artifex, Philip, a jester, was brought to make sport. Paulus Jovius, in the eleventh book of his history, hath a pretty digression of our English customs, which howsoever some may misconstrue, I, for my part, will interpret to the best. "The whole nation beyond all other mortal men, is most given to banqueting and feasts; for they prolong them many hours together, with dainty cheer, exquisite music, and facete jesters, and afterwards they fall a dancing and courting their mistresses, till it be late in the night." Volateran gives the same testimony of this island, commending our jovial manner of entertainment and good mirth, and methinks he saith well, there is no harm in it; long may they use it, and all such modest sports. Ctesias reports of a Persian king, that had 150 maids attending at his table, to play, sing, and dance by turns; and Lil. Geraldus of an Egyptian prince, that kept nine virgins still to wait upon him, and those of most excellent feature, and sweet voices, which afterwards gave occasion to the Greeks of that fiction of the nine Muses. The king of Ethiopia in Africa, most of our Asiatic princes have done so and do; those Sophies, Mogors, Turks, &c. solace themselves after supper amongst their queens and concubines, quæ jucundioris oblectamenti causa ( saith mine author) coram rege psallere et saltare consueverant, taking great pleasure to see and hear them sing and dance. This and many such means to exhilarate the heart of men, have been still practised in all ages, as knowing there is no better thing to the preservation of man's life. What shall I say, then, but to every melancholy man,

"Utere convivis, non tristibus utere amicis,
Quos nugæ et risus, et joca salsa juvant."

"Feast often, and use friends not still so sad,
Whose jests and merriments may make thee glad."

     Use honest and chaste sports, scenical shows, plays, games; Accedant juvenumque Chori, mistæque puellæ. And as Marsilius Ficinus concludes an epistle to Bernard Canisianus, and some other of his friends, will I this tract to all good students, "Live merrily, O my friends, free from cares, perplexity, anguish, grief of mind, live merrily," lætitia cælum vos creavit: "Again and again I request you to be merry, if anything trouble your hearts, or vex your souls, neglect and contemn it, let it pass. And this I enjoin you, not as a divine alone, but as a physician; for without this mirth, which is the life and quintessence of physic, medicines, and whatsoever is used and applied to prolong the life of man, is dull, dead, and of no force." Dum fata sinunt, vivite læti (Seneca), I say be merry.

"Nec lusibus virentem Viduemus hanc juventam."

     It was Tiresias the prophet's council to Menippus, that travelled all the world over, even down to hell itself to seek content, and his last farewell to Menippus, to be merry. "Contemn the world" (saith he) "and count that is in it vanity and toys; this only covet all thy life long; be not curious, or over solicitous in anything, but with a well composed and contented estate to enjoy thyself, and above all things to be merry."

"Si Numerus uti censet sine amore jocisque,
Nil est jucundum, vivas in amore jocisque."

("If the world think that nothing can be happy without love and mirth, then live in love and jollity.")

     Nothing better (to conclude with Solomon, Eccles. iii. 22), "than that a man should rejoice in his affairs." 'Tis the same advice which every physician in this case rings to his patient, as Capivaccius to his, "avoid overmuch study and perturbations of the mind, and as much as in thee lies live at heart's-ease:" Prosper Calenus to that melancholy Cardinal Caesius, "amidst thy serious studies and business, use jests and conceits, plays and toys, and whatsoever else may recreate thy mind." Nothing better than mirth and merry company in this malady. "It begins with sorrow" (saith Montanus), "it must be expelled with hilarity."

     But see the mischief; many men, knowing that merry company is the only medicine against melancholy, will therefore neglect their business; and in another extreme, spend all their days among good fellows in a tavern or an alehouse, and know not otherwise how to bestow their time but in drinking; malt-worms, men-fishes, or water-snakes, Qui bibunt solum ranarum more, nihil comedentes, like so many frogs in a puddle. 'Tis their sole exercise to eat, and drink; to sacrifice to Volupia, Rumina, Edulica, Potina, Mellona, is all their religion. They wish for Philoxenus' neck, Jupiter's trinoctium, and that the sun would stand still as in Joshua's time, to satisfy their lust, that they might dies noctesque pergræcari et bibere. Flourishing wits, and men of good parts, good fashion, and good worth, basely prostitute themselves to every rogue's company, to take tobacco and drink, to roar and sing scurrilous songs in base places.

"Invenies aliquem cum percussore jacentem,
Permistum nautis, aut furibus, aut fugitivis."

(Juven. sat. 8. "You will find him beside some cutthroat, along with sailors, or thieves, or runaways.")

     Which Thomas Erastus objects to Paracelsus, that he would be drinking all day long with carmen and tapsters in a brothel-house, is too frequent among us, with men of better note: like Timocreon of Rhodes, multa bibens, et multa vorans, &c. They drown their wits, seethe their brains in ale, consume their fortunes, lose their time, weaken their temperatures, contract filthy diseases, rheums, dropsies, calentures, tremor, get swollen jugulars, pimpled red faces, sore eyes, &c.; heat their livers, alter their complexions, spoil their stomachs, overthrow their bodies; for drink drowns more than the sea and all the rivers that fall into it (mere funges and casks), confound their souls, suppress reason, go from Scylla to Charybdis, and use that which is a help to their undoing. Quid refert morbo an ferro pereamve ruina?( Hor. "What does it signify whether I perish by disease or by the sword?") When the Black Prince went to set the exiled king of Castile into his kingdom, there was a terrible battle fought between the English and the Spanish: at last the Spanish fled, the English followed them to the river side, where some drowned themselves to avoid their enemies, the rest were killed. Now tell me what difference is between drowning and killing? As good be melancholy still, as drunken beasts and beggars. Company a sole comfort, and an only remedy to all kind of discontent, is their sole misery and cause of perdition. As Hermione lamented in Euripides, malæ mulieres me fecerunt malam. Evil company marred her, may they justly complain, bad companions have been their bane. For, malus malum vult ut sit sui similis; one drunkard in a company, one thief, one whoremaster, will by his goodwill make all the rest as bad as himself,

------"Et si Nocturnos jures te formidare vapores,"

(Hor "Although you swear that you dread the night air.")

     be of what complexion you will, inclination, love or hate, be it good or bad, if you come amongst them, you must do as they do; yea, though it be to the prejudice of your health, you must drink venenum pro vino. And so like grasshoppers, whilst they sing over their cups all summer, they starve in winter; and for a little vain merriment shall find a sorrowful reckoning in the end.

 

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