« ZurückWeiter »
wander in them, it discovereth their weakness, but discerneth our meditation. It is (for the most) the fault, not of all, but of the seeliest women, who, next to the funeral of their friends, deem it a second widowhood to force their tears, and make it their happiness to seem most unhappy, as though they had only been left alive to be a perpetual map of dead folks' misfortunes : but this is to arm an enemy against ourselves, and to yield reason prisoner to passion, putting the sword in the rebel's hand, when we are least able to withstand his treason.
Sorrow once settled, is not lightly removed ; easily winning, but not so easily surrendering possession; and where it is not excluded in time, it challengeth a place by prescription. The Scripture warneth us, not to give our hearts to sadness, yea, rather to reject it as a thing not beneficial to the dead, yea prejudicial to ourselves. Ecclesiasticus' alloweth but seven days to mourning, judging moderation in plaint to be a sufficient testimony in good will, and a needful office of wisdom. Much sorrow for the dead, is either the child of self-love or of rash judgment: if we should shed our tears for others' death, as a mean to our contentment, we shew but our own wound, perfect lovers of ourselves; if we lament their decease as their hard destiny, we attach them of evil deserving with too peremptory a censure, as though their life had been an arise, and their death a leap into final perdition; for otherwise a good departure craveth small condoling, being but a harbour from storms, and an entrance unto felicity.
· But you know your sister too well to incur any blame in these respects; and experience of her life hath stored your thoughts with notice of so rare virtues, as might sooner make her memory an enforcement to joy than any inducement to sorrow, and move you to esteem her last duties rather the triumph of her victory than the farewels of her decease. She was by birth second to none, but unto the first in the realm, yet she measured only greatness by
i Ecclesiasticus 38.
SUCI (modesty &
goodness, making nobility but the mirror of virtue, as able to shew things worthy to be seen, as apt to draw many eyes to behold it; she suited her behaviour to her birth, and ennobled her birth with her piety, leaving her house more beholden to her for having honoured it with the glory of her virtues than she was to it for the titles of her degree; she was high minded in nothing but in aspiring to perfection and in the disdain of vice; in other things covering her greatness with humility among her inferiors, and shewing it with courtesy amongst her peers.
Of the carriage of herself, and her sober government may be a sufficient testimony that envy herself was dumb in her dispraise, finding in her much to repine at, but nought to reprove: the clearness of her honour I need not to mention, she having always armed it with such mo the most unten
to be silent in her presence, and answered their eyes with scorn and contempt that did but seem to make her an aim to passion ; yea, and in this behalf, as almost in all others, she hath the most honourable and known ladies of the land, so common and known witnesses, that those that least loved her religion, were in love with her demeanour, delivering their opinions in open praises. How mildly she accepted the check of fortune, fallen upon her without desert, experience hath been a most manifest proof, the temper of her mind being so easy that she found little difficulty in taking down her thoughts to a mean degree, which true honour, not pride, hath raised to the former height. Her faithfulness and love, where she found true friendship, is written with tears in many eyes, and will be longer registered in grateful memories of divers that have tried her in that kind, avowing her for secrecy, wisdom, and constancy, to be a miracle in that sex: yea, when she found least kindness in others, she never lost it in herself, more willingly suffering than offering wrong, and often weeping for their mishaps, whom though less loving her, she could not but affect.
Of the innocency of her life this general all can aver, that as
she was grateful many ways, and memorable for virtues, so was: she free from all blemish of any vice, using, to her power, the best means to keep continually an undefiled conscience. Her attire was ever such as might both satisfy a curious eye, and yet bear witness of a sober mind; neither singular nor vain, but such as her peers of least report used. Her tongue was very little acquainted with oaths, unless either duty or distrust did enforce them; and surely they were needless to those that knew her, to whom the truth of her words could not justly be suspected: much less was she noted of any unfitting talk, which, as it was ever hateful to her ears, so did it never defile her breath. Of feeding, she was very measurable, rather too sparing than too liberal a diet: so religious for observing of fasts, that never in her sickness she could hardly be won to break them; and if our souls be possessed in our patience, surely her soul was truly her own, whose rock, though often stricken with the rod of adversity, never yielded any more than to give issue of eye streams; and though these, through the tenderness of her. nature and aptness of her sex, were the customary tributes that her love paid more to her friends than her own misfortunes, yet were they not accompanied with distempered words or ill seeming actions ; reason never forgetting decency, though remembering pity.
Her devotions she daily observed, offering the daily sacrifice of an innocent heart, and stinting herself to her times of prayer, which she performed with so religious a care as well shewed that she knew how high a Majesty she served. I need not write how dutifully she discharged all the behoofs of a most loving wife, since that was the commonest theme of her praise; yet this may be said without improof to any, that whosoever in this behalf may be counted her equal, none can justly be thought her superior: where she owed, she payed duty; where she found, she turned courtesy; wheresoever she was known, she deserved amity; desirous of the best, yet disdaining none but evil company, she was readier to requite benefits than revenge wrongs; more grieved than angry with unkind
ness of friends, when either mistaking or misreport occasioned any breaches; for if their words carry credit, it entered deepest into her thoughts, they have acquitted her from all spice of malice, not only against her friends, whose dislikes were but a retire to slip further into friendship, but even her greatest enemies, to whom if she had been a judge as she was a suppliant, I assuredly think she would have redressed, but not revenged her wrongs. In sum, she was an honour to her predecessors, a light to her age, and a pattern to her posterity ; neither was her conclusion different from her premises, or her death from her life; she shewed no dismay, being warned of her danger, carrying in her conscience the safe conduct of innocency. But having sent her desires to heaven before with a mild countenance, and a most calm mind, in more hope than fear, she expected her own passage, she commended both her duty and goodwill to all her friends, and cleared her heart from all grudge towards her enemies, wishing true happiness to them both, as best became so soft and gentle a mind, in which anger never stayed but as an unwelcome stranger.
She made open profession that she did die true to her religion, true to her husband, true to God and the world; she enjoyed her judgment as long as she breathed, her body earnestly offering her last devotions, supplying in thought what faintness suffered not her tongue to utter: in the end, when her glass was run out, and death began to challenge his interest, some labouring with too late remedies to hinder the delivery of her sweet soul, she desired them eftsoons to let her go to God; and her hopes calling her to eternal kingdoms, as one rather falling asleep than dying, she most happily took her leave of all mortal miseries.
Such was the life, such was the death of your dearest sister, both so full of true comfort, that this surely of her virtues may be a sufficient lenitive to your bitterest griefs. For you are not (I hope) in the number of those that reckon it a part of their pain to hear of their best remedies, thinking the rehearsal of your dead friends' praises an upbraiding of their loss : but sith the oblivion of her virtues were injurious to her, let not the mention of her person be offensive unto you, and be not you grieved with her death, with which she is best pleased. So blessed a death is rather to be wished of us, than pitied in her, whose soul triumpheth with God, whose virtues still breatheth in the mouths of infinite praises, and liveth in the memories of all to whom either experience made her known, or fame was not envious to conceal her deserts : she was a jewel, that both God and you desired to enjoy ; he to her assured benefit without self-interest, you for allowable respects, yet employing her restraint among certain hazards and most uncertain hopes.
Be then umpire in your own cause, whether your wishes or God's will importeth more love, the one the adornment of her exile, the other her return into a most blessed country; and sith it pleased God in this love to be your rival, let your discretion decide the doubt, whom in due should carry the suit, the prerogative being but a right to the one; for nature and grace being the motives of both your loves, she had the best title in them, that was author of them ; and she, if worthy to be beloved of either, as she was of both, could not but prefer him to the dearest portion of her deepest affection ; let him with good leave gather the grape of his own vine, and pluck the fruit of his own planting, and think so curious works ever safest in the artificer's hand, who is likeliest to love them, and best able to preserve them ; she did therefore her duty in dying willingly: and if you will do yours, you must be willing with her death, sith to repine at her liking is discourtesy at God's, an impiety both unfitting for your approved virtue. She being in place where no grief can annoy her, she hath little need, or less joy of your sorrow; neither can she allow in her friends that she would loathe in herself, love never affecting likeness : if she had been evil she had not deserved our tears; being good, she cannot desire them, nothing being less to the likeness of goodness, than to see itself any cause