All noble monuments of Greece are come
Unto my hands, with those of ancient Rome.
The pontificial, and the civil law,
I study still, and thence orations draw;
And to confirm my memory, at night,
What I hear, see, or do, by day, recite. 420
These exercises for my thoughts I find;
These labours are the chariots of my mind.
To serve my friends, the Senate I frequent,
And there what I before digested vent;
Which only from my strength of mind proceeds,
Not any outward force of body needs;
Which, if I could not do, I should delight
On what I would to ruminate at night.
Who in such practices their minds engage,
Nor fear nor think of their approaching age, 430
Which by degrees invisibly doth creep:
Nor do we seem to die, but fall asleep.
Now must I draw my forces ’gainst that host
Of pleasures, which i’ th’sea of age are lost.
O thou most high transcendant gift of age!
Youth from its folly thus to disengage.
And now receive from me that most divine
Oration of that noble Tarentine,
Which at Tarentum I long since did hear,
When I attended the great Fabius there. 440
Ye gods, was it man’s nature, or his fate,
Betray’d him with sweet pleasure’s poison’d bait?
Which he, with all designs of art or power,
Doth with unbridled appetite devour:
And as all poisons seek the noblest part,
Pleasure possesses first the head and heart;
Intoxicating both by them, she finds,
And burns the sacred temples of our minds.
Furies, which reason’s divine chains had bound,
(That being broken) all the world confound. 450
Lust, murder, treason, avarice, and hell
Itself broke loose, in reason’s palace 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 surprise
Her strongest forts, and cut off all supplies;
And join’d in league with strong necessity,
Pleasure must fly, or else by famine die. 460
Flaminius, whom a consulship had graced,
(Then Censor) from the Senate I displaced;
When he in Gaul, a Consul, made a feast,
A beauteous courtesan did him request
To see the cutting off a pris’ner’s head;
This crime I could not leave unpunished,
Since by a private villany he stain’d
That public honour which at Rome he gain’d.
Then to our age (when not to pleasures bent)
This seems an honour, not disparagement. 470
We not all pleasures like the Stoics hate,
But love and seek those which are moderate.