Cato major, of old age a poem / by the Honourable Sir John Denham ...

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Cato major, of old age a poem / by the Honourable Sir John Denham ...
Cicero, Marcus Tullius.
In the Savoy [London] :: Printed for Henry Herringman ...,

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"Cato major, of old age a poem / by the Honourable Sir John Denham ..." In the digital collection Early English Books Online 2. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 29, 2024.


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NOw must I draw my forces 'gainst that Host Of Pleasures, which i'th' Sea of age are lost. Oh, thou most high transcendent gift of age! Youth from its folly thus to disengage. And now receive from me that most divine Oration of that noble Tarentine, * 1.1 VVhich at Tarentum I long since did hear; VVhen I attended the great Fabius there. Yee Gods, was it man's Nature? or his Fate? Betray'd him with sweet pleasures poyson'd bait? VVhich he, with all designs of art, or power, Doth with unbridled appetite devour; And as all poysons seek the noblest part, Pleasure possesses first the head and heart;

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Intoxicating both, by them, she finds, And burns the Sacred Temples of our Minds. Furies, which Reasons divine chains had bound, (That being broken) all the VVorld confound. Lust, Murder, Treason, Avarice, and Hell It self broke loose; in Reason's Pallace dwell, Truth, Honour, Justice, Temperance, are fled, All her attendants into darkness led. But why all this discourse? when pleasure's rage Hath conquer'd reason, we must treat with age. Age undermines, and will in time surprize Her strongest Forts, and cut off all supplies. And joyn'd in league with strong necessity, Pleasure must flie, or else by famine die. Flaminius, whom a Consulship had grac'd (Then Censor) from the Senate I displac'd; VVhen he in Gaul a Consul, made a Feast, A beautious Curtesan did him request,

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To see the cutting off a Prisoner's head; This Crime I could not leave unpunished, Since by a private villany he stain'd That Publick Honour, which at Rome he gain'd. Then to our age (when not to pleasures bent) This seems an honour, not disparagement. We, not all pleasures like the Stoicks hate; But love and seek those which are moderate. (Though Divine Plato thus of pleasures thought, They us, with hooks and baits, like fishes caught.) VVhen Quaestor, to the Gods, in Publick Halls I was the first, who set up Festivalls. Not with high tastes our appetites did force, But fill'd with conversation and discourse; VVhich Feasts, Convivial Meetings we did name. Not like the Antient Greeks, who to their shame, Call'd it a Compotation, not a Feast; Declaring the worst part of it the best.

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Those Entertainments I did then frequent Sometimes with youthful heat and merriment: But now (I thank my age) which gives me ease From those excesses, yet my self I please VVith cheerful talk to entertain my guests, (Discourses are to age continual feasts) The love of meat and wine they recompence, And cheer the mind, as much as those the Sence. I'm not more pleas'd with gravity among The ag'd, than to be youthful with the young; Nor 'gainst all pleasures proclaim open war, To which, in age, some natural motions are. And still at my Sabinum I delight To treat my Neighbours till the depth of night. * But we the sence and gust of pleasure want, VVhich youth at full possesses, this I grant; But age seeks not the things which youth requires, And no man needs that, which he not desires.

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When Sophocles was ask'd if he deny'd Himself the use of pleasures, he reply'd, I humbly thank th' Immortal Gods, who me From that fierce Tyrants insolence set free. But they whom pressing appetites constrain, Grieve when they cannot their desires obtain. Young men the use of pleasure understand, As of an object new, and neer at hand: Though this stands more remote from age's fight, Yet they behold it not without delight: As ancient souldiers from their duties eas'd, VVith sense of Honour and Rewards are pleas'd. So from ambitious hopes, and lusts releast, Delighted with it self, our age doth rest. No part of life's more happy, when with bread Of ancient Knowledge, and new Learning fed; All youthful pleasures by degrees must cease, But those of age even with our years increase.

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VVe love not loaded Boards, and Goblets crown'd, But free from surfets, our repose is sound. VVhen old Fabritius to the Samnites went Ambassadour from Rome to Pyrrhus sent, He heard a grave Philosopher maintain, That all the actions of our life were vain; VVhich with our sence of pleasure not conspir'd. Fabritius the Philosopher desir'd, That he to Pyrrhus would that Maxime teach, And to the Satanites the same doctrine preach; Then of their Conquest he should doubt no more, VVhom their own pleasures overcame before. Now into Rustick matters I must fall, VVhich pleasure seems to me the chief of all. Age no impediment to those can give, VVho wisely by the Rules of Nature live. Earth (though our Mother) cheerfully obeys, All the commands her race upon her lays.

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For whatsoever from our hand she takes, Greater, or less, a vast return she makes, Nor am I only pleas'd with that resource, But with her wayes, her method, and her force, The seed her bosom (by the plough made fit) Receives, where kindly she embraces it, Which with her genuine warmth, diffus'd, and spread Sends forth betimes a green, and tender head, Then gives it motion, life, and nourishment, Which from the root through nerves and veins are sent, Streight in a hollow sheath upright it grows, And, form receiving, doth it self disclose, Drawn up in rancks, and files, the bearded spikes Guard it from birds as with a stand of pikes. When of the Vine I speak, I seem inspir'd, And with delight, as with her juice am fir'd; At Nature's God-like power I stand amaz'd, Which such vast bodies hath from Attoms rais'd.

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The kernel of a grape, the figs's small grain Can cloath a Mountain, and o're shade a Plaine: But thou (dear Vine) forbid'st me to be long, Although thy trunck be neither large, nor strong, Nor can thy head (not helpt) it self sublime, Yet like a Serpent, a tall tree can climb, What'ere thy many fingers can intwine Proves thy support, and all it's strength is thine, Though Nature gave not legs, it gave thee hands, By which thy prop the proudest Cedar stands; As thou hast hands, so hath thy off-spring wings, And to the highest part of Mortals springs, But lest thou should'st consume thy wealth in vain, And starve thy self, to feed a numerous train, Or like the Bee (sweet as thy blood) design'd To be destroy'd to propagate his kind, Lest thy redundant, and superfluous juyce, Should fading leaves instead of fruits-produce,

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The Pruner's hand with betting blood must quench Thy heat, and thy exub'rant parts retrench: Then from the joynts of thy prolifick stemme A swelling knot is raised (call'd a gemme) Whence, in short space it self the cluster shews, And from earths moisture mixt with Sun-beams grows, I'th' Spring, like youth, it yields an acid taste, But Summer doth, like age, the sourness waste, Then cloath'd with leaves from heat, and cold secure, Like Virgins, sweet, and beauteous, when mature. On fruits, flowrs, herbs, and plants, I long could dwell At once to please my eye, my taste, my smell, My Walks of trees, all planted by my hand Like Children of my own begetting stand, To tell the several nature of each earth, What fruits from each most properly take birth: And with what arts to inrich every mold, The dry to moysten and to warm the cold.

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But when we graft, or Buds inoculate, Nature by Art we nobly meliorate, As Orpheus Musick wildest beasts did tame, From the sowr Crab the sweetest Apple came: The Mother to the Daughter goes to School, The species changed, doth her laws o're-rule; Nature her self doth from her self depart, (Strange transmigration) by the power of Art How little things, give law to great: we see The small Bud captivates the greatest Tree. Here even the Power Divine we imitate, And seem not to beget, out to create. Much was I pleas'd with fowls and beasts, the tame For food and profit, and the wild for game. Excuse me when this pleasant string I touch, (For age, of what delights it, speaks too much) Who, twice victorious Pyrrhus conquered, The Sabines and the Samnites captive led,

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Great Curius, his remaining dayes did spend, And in this happy life his triumphs end. My Farm stands neer, and when I there retire, His, and that Age's temper I admire, The Samnites chiefs, as by his fire he sate, With a vast sum of Gold on him did wait, Return, said he, your Gold I nothing weigh, When those, who can command it, me obey: This my assertion proves, he may he old And yet not sordid, who refuses Gold. In Summer to sit still, or walk, I love, Neer a cool Fountain, or a shadie Grove, What can in Winter render more delight? Then the high Sun at noon, and fire at night, While our old friends, and neighbours feast, and play, And with their harmless mirth turn night to day, Unpurchas'd plenty our full tables loads, And part of what they lent, returns to our Gods.

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That honour, and authority which dwells With age, all pleasures of our youth excells, Observe, that I that Age have only prais'd Whose pillars were on youth's foundations rais'd, And that (for which I great applause receiv'd) As a true maxime hath been since believ'd. That most unhappy age great pity needs, Which to defend it self, new matter pleads, Not from gray hairs authority doth flow, Not from bald heads, nor from a wrinckled brow, But our past life, when virtuously spent, Must to our age those happy fruits present, Those things to age most HOnorable are, Which easie, common, and but light appear, Salutes, consulting, complement, resort, Crouding attendance to, and from the Court, And not on Rome alone this honour waits, But on all Civill, and well-govern'd States.

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Lysander pleading in his City's praise, From thence his strongest argument did raise, That Sparta did with honour Age support, Paying them just respect, at Stage, and Court, But at proud Athens Youth did Age out-face, Nor at the Playes, would rise, or give them place, When an Athenian Stranger of great age, Arriv'd at Sparta, climbing up the Stage, To him the whole Assembly rose, and ran To place and ease this old and reverend man, Who thus his thanks returns, the Athenians know What's to be done, but what they know, not do. Here our great Senat's Orders I may quote, The first in age is still the first in vote, Nor honour, nor high-birth, nor great command In competition with great years may stand. Why should our Youths short, transient pleasures, dare With Age's lasting honours to compare?

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On the World's Stage, when our applause grows high, For acting here, life's Tragick Comedy, The lookers on will say we act not well, Unless the last the former Scenes excell: But Age is froward, uneasie, scrutinous, Hard to be pleas'd, and parcimonious; But all those errors from our Manners rise, Not from our years, yet some Morosities We must expect, since jealousie belongs To age, of scorn, and tender sense of wrongs, Yet those are mollify'd, or not discern'd, Where civil arts and manners have been learn'd, So the Twins humours in our Terence, * 1.2 are Unlike, this harsh, and rude, that smooth and faire, Our nature here, is not unlike our wine, Some sorts, when old, continue brisk, and fine, So Age's gravity may seem severe, But nothing harsh, or bitter ought to appear,

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Of Age's avarice I cannot see What colour, ground, or reason there should bee, Is it not folly? when the way we ride Is short, for a long voyage to provide. To Avarice some title Youth may own, To reap in Autumn, what the Spring had sown; And with the providence of Bees, or Ants, Prevents with Summers plenty, Winters wants, But Age scarce sows, till Death stands by to reap, And to a strangers hand transfers the heap; Affraid to be so once, she's alwayes poor, And to avoid a mischief, makes it sure Such madness, as for fear of death to dy, Is, to be poor for fear of Poverty.


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