Death and Her Empire

Death and Her Empire

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez Villegas (14 September 1580 – 8 September 1645) was a Spanish nobleman, politician and writer of the Baroque era. He was one of the most prominent Spanish poets of the age.

The Second Vision found in The Visions of Dom Francisco de Quevedo Villego, Knight of the Order of St. James.
— Orly

THE SECOND VISION OF DEATH AND HER EMPIRE

Mean souls do naturally breed sad thoughts, and in solitude, they gather together in troops to assault the unfortunate; which is the trial (according to my observation) wherein the coward does most betray himself; and yet cannot I for my life, when I am alone, avoid those accidents and surprises in myself, which I condemn in others.  I have sometime, upon reading the grave and severe Lucretius, been seized with a strange damp; whether from the striking of his counsels upon my passions, or some tacit reflection of shame upon myself, I know not.  However, to render this confession of my weakness the more excusable, I’ll begin my discourse with somewhat out of that elegant and excellent poet.

“Put the case,” says he, “that a voice from heaven should speak to any of us after this manner; what dost thou ail, O mortal man, or to what purpose is it, to spend thy life in groans, and complaints under the apprehension of death? where are thy past tears and pleasures?  Are they not vanished and lost in the flux of time, as if thou hadst put water into a sieve?  Bethink thyself then of a retreat, and leave the world with the same content, and satisfaction, as thou wouldst do a plentiful table, and a jolly company upon a full stomach.  Poor fool that thou art! thus to macerate and torment thyself, when thou may’st enjoy thy heart at ease, and possess thy soul with repose and comfort, etc.”

This passage brought into my mind the words of Job, cap. 14, and I was carried on from one meditation to another, till at length, I fell fast asleep over my book, which I ascribed rather to a favourable providence, than to my natural disposition.  So soon as my soul felt herself at liberty, she gave me the entertainment of this following comedy, my fancy supplying both the stage and the company.

In the first scene, entered a troop of physicians, upon their mules, with deep foot-cloths, marching in no very good order, sometime fast, sometime slow, and to say the truth, most commonly in a huddle.  They were all wrinkled and withered about the eyes; I suppose with casting so many sour looks upon the piss-pots and close-stools of their patients, bearded like goats; and their faces so over-grown with hair, that their fingers could hardly find the way to their mouths.  In the left hand they held their reins, and their gloves rolled up together; and in the right, a staff à la mode, which they carried rather for countenance, than correction; (for they understood no other menage than the heel) and all along, head and body went too, like a baker upon his panniers.  Divers of them, I observed, had huge gold rings upon their fingers, and set with stones of so large a size, that they could hardly feel a patient’s pulse, without minding him of his monument.  There were more than a good many of them, and a world of puny practisers at their heels, that came out graduates, by conversing rather with the mules than the doctors: well! said I to myself, if there goes no more than this to the making a physician, it is no marvel we pay so dear for their experience.

After these, followed a long train of mountebank-apothecaries, laden with pestles, and mortars, suppositories, spatulas, glister-pipes and syringes, ready charged, and as mortal as gun-shot, and several titled boxes with remedies without, and poisons within: ye may observe that when a patient comes to die, the apothecary’s mortar rings the passing-bell, as the priest’s requiem finishes the business.  An apothecary’s shop is (in effect) no other than the physician’s armoury, that supplies him with weapons; and (to say the truth) the instruments of the apothecary and the soldier are much of a quality: what are their boxes but petards? their syringes, pistols; and their pills, but bullets?  And after all, considering their purgative medicines, we may properly enough call their shops purgatory; and why not their persons hell? their patients the damned? and their masters the devils?  These apothecaries were in jackets, wrought all over with Rs, struck through like wounded hearts, and in the form of the first character of their prescriptions, which (as they tell us) signifies recipe (take thou) but we find it to stand for recipio (I take.)  Next to this figure, they write ana, ana, which is as much as to say an ass, an ass; and after this, march the ounces and the scruples; an incomparable cordial to a dying man; the former to dispatch the body, and the latter, to put the soul into the highway to the devil.  To hear them call over their simples, would make you swear they were raising so many devils.  There’s your opopanax, buphthalmus, astaphylinos, alectorolophos, ophioscorodon, anemosphorus, etc.

And by all this formidable bombast, is meant nothing in the world but a few paltry roots, as carrots, turnips, skirrets, radish and the like.  But they have the old proverb at their fingers’ end: “he that knows thee will never buy thee;” and therefore everything must be made a mystery, to hold their patients in ignorance, and keep up the price of the market.  And were not the very names of their medicines sufficient to fright away any distemper, ’tis to be feared the remedy would prove worse than the disease.  Can any pain in nature, think ye, have the confidence to look a physician in the face, that comes armed with a drug made of man’s grease? though disguised under the name of mummy, to take off the horror and disgust of it: or to stay for a dressing with Dr. Whachum’s plaster, that shall fetch up a man’s leg to the size of a mill-post?  When I saw these people herded with the physicians, methought the old sluttish proverb, that says, “there is a great distance between the pulse and the arse,” was much to blame for making such a difference in their dignities, for I find none at all; but the physician skips in a trice from the pulse to the stool and urinal, according to the doctrine of Galen, who sends all his disciples to those unsavoury oracles, from whose hands the devil himself, if he were sick, would not receive so much as a glister.  Oh! these cursed and lawless arbitrators and disposers of our lives! that without either conscience or religion, divide our souls and bodies, by their damned poisonous potions, scarifications, incisions, excessive bleedings, etc., which are but the several ways of executing their tyranny and injustice upon us.

In the tail of these, came the surgeons, laden with pincers, cranes-bills, catheters, desquamatories, dilaters, scissors, saws; and with them so horrid an outcry, of cut, tear, open, saw, flay, burn, that my bones were ready to creep one into another for fear of an operation.

The next that came in, I should have taken by their mien, for devils disguised, if I had not spied their chains of rotten teeth, which put me in some hope they might be tooth-drawers, and so they proved; which is yet one of the lewdest trades in the world; for they are good for nothing but to depopulate our mouths, and make us old before our time.  Let a man but yawn, and ye shall have one of these rogues examining his grinders, and there’s not a sound tooth in your head, but he had rather see’t at his girdle, than in the place of its nativity: nay, rather than fail, he’ll pick a quarrel with your gums.  But that which puts me out of all patience, is to see these scoundrels ask twice as much for drawing an old tooth as would have bought ye a new one.

“Certainly,” said I to myself, “we are now past the worst, unless the devil himself come next.”  And in that instant I heard the brushing of guitars, and the rattling of citterns, raking over certain passacailles and sarabands.  These are a kennel of barbers thought I, or I’ll be hanged; and any man that had ever seen a barber’s shop might have told you as much without a conjurer, both by the music and by the very instruments, which are as proper a part of a barber’s furniture as his comb-cases and wash-balls.  It was to me a pleasant entertainment, to see them lathering of asses’ heads, of all sorts and sizes, and their customers all the while winking and sputtering over their basins.

Presently after these, appeared a consort of loud and tedious talkers, that tired and deafened the company with their shrill, and restless gaggle; but as one told me, these were of several sorts.  Some they called swimmers from the motion of their arms in all their discourses, which was just as if they had been paddling.  Others they called apes (and we mimics); these were perpetually making of mops, and mows, and a thousand antic ridiculous gestures, in derision and imitation of others.  In the third place, were make-bates, and sowers of dissension, and these were still rolling their eyes (like a Bartlemey puppet, without so much as moving the head) and leering over their shoulders, to surprise people at unawares in their familiarities, and privacies, and gather matter for calumny and detraction.  The liars followed next; and these seemed to be a jolly contented sort of people, well fed, and well clothed; and having nothing else to trust to, methought it was a strange trade to live upon.  I need not tell you, that they are never without a full audience, since all fools and impertinents are of their congregation.

After these, came a company of meddlers, a pragmatical insolent generation of men that will have an oar in every boat, and are indeed the bane of honest conversation, and the troublers of all companies and affairs, the most prostitute of all flatterers, and only devoted to their own profit.  I thought this had been the last scene, because no more came upon the stage for a good while; and indeed I wondered that they came so late themselves, but one of the babblers told me (unasked) that this kind of serpent carrying his venom in his tail; it seemed reasonable, that being the most poisonous of the whole gang, they should bring up the rear.

I began then to take into thought, what might be the meaning of this oglio of people of several conditions and humours met together; but I was quickly diverted from that consideration by the apparition of a creature which looked as if ’twere of the feminine gender.  It was a person, of a thin and slender make, laden with crowns, garlands, sceptres, scythes, sheep-hooks, pattens, hobnailed shoes, tiaras, straw hats, mitres, Monmouth caps, embroideries, skins, silk, wool, gold, lead, diamonds, shells, pearl, and pebbles.  She was dressed up in all the colours of the rainbow; she had one eye shut, the other open; young on the one side, and old o’ the other.  I thought at first, she had been a great way off, when indeed she was very near me, and when I took her to be at my chamber door, she was at my bed’s head.  How to unriddle this mystery I knew not; nor was it possible for me to make out the meaning of an equipage so extravagant, and so fantastically put together.  It gave me no affright, however, but on the contrary I could not forbear laughing, for it came just then into my mind that I had formerly seen in Italy a farce, where the mimic, pretending to come from the other world, was just thus accoutred, and never was anything more nonsensically pleasant.  I held as long as I could, and at last, I asked what she was.  She answered me, “I am Death.”  Death! (the very word brought my heart into my mouth) “and I beseech you, madam,” quoth I (with great humility and respect) “whither is your honour a going?”  “No further,” said she, “for now I have found you, I am at my journey’s end.”  “Alas, alas! and must I die then,” said I.  “No, no,” quoth Death, “but I’ll take thee quick along with me; for since so many of the dead have been to visit the living, it is but equal for once, that one of the living should return a visit to the dead.  Get up then and come along; and never hang an arse for the matter; for what you will not do willingly, you shall do in spite of your teeth.”  This put me in a cold fit; but without more delay up I started, and desired leave only to put on my breeches.  “No, no,” said she, “no matter for clothes, nobody wears them upon this road; wherefore come away, naked as you are, and you’ll travel the better.”  So up I got, without a word more and followed her, in such a terror, and amazement, that I was but in an ill condition to take a strict account of my passage; yet I remember, that upon the way, I told her: “Madam, under correction, you are no more like the Deaths that I have seen, than an apple’s like an oyster.  Our Death is pictured with a scythe in her hand; and a carcass of bones, as clean as if the crows had picked it.”  “Yes, yes,” said she, turning short upon me, “I know that very well; but in the meantime your designers and painters are but a company of buzzards.  The bones you talk of are the dead, or otherwise the miserable remainders of the living; but let me tell you that you yourselves are your own death, and that which you call death, is but the period of your life, as the first moment of your birth is the beginning of your death; and effectually, ye die living, and your bones are no more than what death has left and committed to the grave.  If this were rightly understood, every man would find a memento mori, or a death’s head, in his own looking-glass; and consider every house with a family in’t but as a sepulchre filled with dead bodies; a truth which you little dream of, though within your daily view and experience.  Can you imagine a death elsewhere, and not in yourselves?  Believe’t y’are in a shameful mistake; for you yourselves are skeletons before ye are aware.”

“But, madam, under favour, what may all these people be that keep your ladyship company? and since you are Death (as you say) how comes it, that the babblers, and make-bates, are nearer your person, and more in your good graces than the physicians?”  “Why,” says she, “there are more people talked to death and dispatched by babblers, than by all the pestilential diseases in the world.  And then your make-bates, and meddlers kill more than your physicians, though (to give the gentlemen of the faculty their due) they labour night and day for the enlargement of our empire.  For you must understand, that though distempered humours make a man sick, ’tis the physician kills him; and looks to be well paid for’t too: (and ’tis fit that every man should live by his trade) so that when a man is asked, what such or such a one died of, he is not presently to make answer, that he died of a fever, pleurisy, the plague, purples, or the like; but that he died of the doctor.  In one point, however, I must needs acquit the physician; ye know that the style of right honourable, and right worshipful, which was heretofore appropriate only to persons of eminent degree and quality, is now in our days used by all sorts of little people; nay the very barefoot friars, that live under vows of humility and mortification, are stung with this itch of title and vainglory.  And your ordinary tradesmen, as vintners, tailors, masons, and the like, must be all dressed up forsooth in the right worshipful: whereas your physician does not so much court honour of appellation (though, if it should rain dignities, he might be persuaded happily to venture the wetting) but sits down contentedly with the honour of disposing of your lives and moneys, without troubling himself about any other sort of reputation.”

The entertainment of these lectures, and discourses made the way seem short and pleasant, and we were just now entering into a place, betwixt light and dark, and of horror enough, if Death and I had not by this time been very well acquainted.  Upon one side of the passage, I saw three moving figures, armed, and of human shape, and so alike, that I could not say which was which.  Just opposite, on the other side, a hideous monster, and these three to one, and one to three, in a fierce, and obstinate combat.  Here Death made a stop, and facing about, asked me if I knew these people.  “Alas! no,” quoth I, “Heaven be praised, I do not, and I shall put it in my litany that I never may.”  “Now to see thy ignorance,” cried Death; “these are thy old acquaintance, and thou hast hardly kept any other company since thou wert born.  Those three are the world, the flesh, and the devil, the capital enemies of thy soul; and they are so like one another, as well in quality, as appearance, that effectually, whoever has one, has all.  The proud and ambitious man thinks he has got the world, but it proves the devil.  The lecher, and the epicure, persuade themselves that they have gotten the flesh, and that’s the devil too; and in fine, thus it fares with all other kinds of extravagants.”  “But what’s he there,” said I, “that appears in so many several shapes? and fights against the other three?”  “That,” quoth Death, “is the devil of money, who maintains that he himself alone is equivalent to them three, p. 38and that wherever he comes, there’s no need of them.  Against the world, he argues from their own confession and experience: for it passes for an oracle, that there’s no world but money; he that’s out of money’s out of the world.  Take away a man’s money, and take away his life.  Money answers all things.  Against the second enemy, he pleads that money is the flesh too: witness the girls and the ganymedes it procures, and maintains.  And against the third, he urges that there’s nothing to be done without this devil of money.  Love does much but money does all; and money will make the pot boil, though the devil piss in the fire.”  “So that for ought I see,” quoth I, “the devil of money has the better end of the staff.”

After this, advancing a little further, I saw on one hand judgment, and hell on the other (for so Death called them).  Upon the sight of hell, making a stop, to take a stricter survey of it, Death asked me, what it was I looked at.  I told her, it was hell; and I was the more intent upon it, because I thought I had seen it somewhere else before.  She questioned me, where?  I told her, that I had seen it in the corruption and avarice of wicked magistrates; in the pride and haughtiness of grandees; in the appetites of the voluptuous; in the lewd designs of ruin and revenge; in the souls of oppressors; and in the vanity of divers princes.  But he that would see it whole and entire, in one subject, must go to the hypocrite, who is a kind of religious broker, and puts out at five-and-forty per cent. the very Sacraments and Ten Commandments.

“I am very glad too,” said I, “that I have seen judgment as I find it here, in its purity; for that which we call judgment in the world is a mere mockery: if it were like this, men would live otherwise than they do.  To conclude: if it be expected that our judges should govern themselves and us by this judgment, the world’s in an ill case; for there’s but little of’t there.  And to deal plainly, as matters are, I have no great maw to go home again: for ’tis better being with the dead, where there’s justice, than with the living, where there’s none.”

Our next step was into a fair and spacious plain, encompassed with a huge wall, where he that’s once in must never look to come out again.  “Stop here,” quoth Death, “for we are now come to my judgment-seat, and here it is that I give audience.”  The walls were hung with sighs and groans, ill-news, fears, doubts, and surprises.  Tears did not there avail either the lover or the beggar; but grief and care were without both measure and comfort; and served as vermin to gnaw the hearts of emperors and princes, feeding upon the insolent and ambitious, as their proper nourishment.  I saw Envy there dressed up in a widow’s veil, and the very picture of the government of one of your noblemen’s houses.  She kept a continual fast as to the shambles, preying only upon herself; and could not but be a very slender gentlewoman, upon so spare a diet.  Nothing came amiss to her teeth (good or bad) which made the whole set of them yellow and rotten, and the reason was that, though she bit, and set her mark upon the good and the sound, she could never swallow it.  Under her, sat discord; the legitimate issue of her own bowels.  She had formerly conversed much with married people, but finding no need of her there, away she went to colleges and corporations, where it seems they had more already than they knew what to do withal; and then she betook herself to courts and palaces, and officiated there, as the devil’s lieutenant.  Next to her was ingratitude, and she out of a certain paste made up of pride and malice, was moulding of new devils.  I was extreme glad of this discovery, being of opinion, till now, that the ungrateful had been the devils themselves, because I read, that the angels that fell were made devils for their ingratitude.  To be short, the whole place echoed with rage and curses.  “What a devil have we here to do,” said I, “does it rain curses in this country?”  With that; a death at my elbow asked me, what a devil could I expect else, in a place where there were so many matchmakers, attorneys, and common barristers, who are a pack of the most accursed wretches in nature.  Is there anything more common in the world, than the exclamations of husbands and wives?  “Oh! that damned devil of a pander: a heavy curse upon that bitch of a bawd that ever brought us together.”  “The pillory and ten thousand gibbets to boot take that pickpocket attorney, that advised me to this lawsuit; h’ as ruined me for ever.”  “But pray’e,” said I, “what do all these matchmakers and attorneys here together?  Do they come for audience?”  Death was here a little quick upon me, and called me fool for so impertinent a question.  “If there were no matchmakers,” said she, “we should not have the tenth part of these skeletons, and desperadoes.  Am not I here the fifth husband of a woman yet living in the world, that hopes to send twice as many more after me, and drink maudlin at the fifteenth funeral?”  “You say well,” said I, “as to the business of matchmakers; but why so many pettifoggers, I pray’e?”  “Nay, then, I perceive,” quoth Death, “now you have a mind to seize me; for that rascally sort of caterpillars have been my undoing.  Had not a man better die by the common hangman than by the hand of an attorney? to be killed by falsities, quirks, cavils, delays, exceptions, cheats, circumventions: yes, yes, and it must not be denied, that these makers of matches, and splitters of causes, are the principal support of this imperial throne.”

At these words, I raised my eyes, and saw Death seated in her chair of state, with abundance of little deaths crowding about her: as the death of love, of cold, hunger, fear, and laughter; all, with their several ensigns and devices.  The death of love, I perceived, had very little brain, and to keep herself in countenance, she kept company with Pyramus and Thisbe, Hero and Leander, and some Amadis’s and Palmerins d’Oliva; all embalmed, steeped in good vinegar, and well dried.  I saw a great many other sorts of lovers too, that were brought, in all appearance, to their last agonies, but by the singular miracle of self-interest recovered to the tune of

Will, if looking well won’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?

The death of cold was attended by a many prelates, bishops, abbots, and other ecclesiastics, who had neither wives, nor children, nor indeed anybody else that cared for them, further than for their fortunes.  These, when they come to a fit of sickness, are pillaged even to their sheets and bedding, before ye can say a paternoster.  Nay, many times they are stripped, ere they are laid, and destroyed for want of clothes to keep them warm.

The death of hunger was encompassed with a multitude of avaricious misers that were cording up of trunks, bolting of doors and windows, locking up of cellars and garrets, and nailing down of trap doors, burying of pots of money, and starting at every breath of wind they heard.  Their eyes were ready to drop out of their heads, for want of sleep; their mouths and bellies complaining of their hands, and their souls turned into gold and silver (the idols they adored.)

The death of fear had the most magnificent train and attendance of all the rest, being accompanied with a great number of usurpers arid tyrants, who commonly do justice upon themselves, for the injuries they have done to others, their own consciences doing the office of tormentors, and avenging their public crimes by their private sufferings; for they live in a perpetual anguish of thought, with fears and jealousies.

The death of laughter was the last of all, and surrounded with a throng of people, hasty to believe, and slow to repent, living without fear of justice, and dying without hope of mercy.  These are they that pay all their debts and duties with a jest.  Bid any of them, “Give every man his due, and return what he has either borrowed, or wrongfully taken,” his answer is, “You’d make a man die with laughing.”  Tell him, “My friend, you are now in years, your dancing days are done, and your body is worn out; what should such a scarecrow as you are do with a bed-fellow?  Give over your bawdy haunts for shame, and don’t make a glory of a sin, when you’re past the pleasure of it, and yourself upon all accounts contemptible into the bargain.”  “This fellow,” says he, “would make a man break his heart with laughing.”  “Come, come, say your prayers, and bethink yourself of eternity; you have one foot in the grave already, and ’tis high time to fit yourself for the other world.”  “Thou wilt absolutely kill me with laughing.  I tell thee I’m as sound as a rock, and I do not remember that ever I was better in my life.”  Others there are, that, let a man advise them upon their deathbeds and even at the last gasp to send for a divine, or to make some handsome settlement of their estates, “Alas, alas!” they’ll cry; “I have been as bad as this many a time before, and (with Falstaffe’s hostess) I hope in the Lord there’s no need to think of him yet.”  These men are lost for ever, before they can be brought to understand their danger.  This vision wrought strangely upon me, and gave me all the pains and marks imaginable of a true repentance.  “Well,” said I, “since so it is, that man has but one life allotted him and so many deaths; but one way into the world and so many millions out of it, I will certainly at my return make it more my care than it has been to live with a good conscience, that I may die with comfort.”

These last words were scarce out of my mouth, when the crier of the court with a loud voice called out, “The dead, the dead; appear the dead.”  And so immediately, I saw the earth begin to move, and gently opening itself, to make way, first for heads and arms, and then by degrees for the whole bodies of men and women, that came out, half muffled in their nightcaps, and ranged themselves in excellent order, and with a profound silence.  “Now,” says Death, “let everyone speak in his turn;” and in the instant, up comes one of the dead to my very beard, with so much fury and menace, in his face and action, that I would have given him half the teeth in my head for a composition.  “These devils of the world,” quoth he, “what would they be at? my masters, cannot a poor wretch be quiet in his grave for ye? but ye must be casting your scorns upon him, and charging him with things that upon my soul he’s as innocent of as the child that’s unborn.  What hurt has he done any of you (ye scoundrels you) to be thus abused?”  “And I beseech you, sir,” said I, “(under your favourable correction) who may you be? for I confess I have not the honour either to know or to understand ye.”  “I am,” quoth he, “the unfortunate Tony, that has been in his grave now this many a fair year, and yet your wise worships forsooth have not wit enough to make yourselves and your company merry, but Tony must still be one-half of your entertainment and discourse.  When any man plays the fool or the extravagant, presently he’s a Tony.  Who drew this or that ridiculous piece?  Tony.  Such or such a one was never well taught: no, he had a Tony to his master.  But let me tell ye, he that shall call your wisdoms to shrift and take a strict account of your words and actions, will upon the upshot find you all a company of Tonys, and in effect the greater impertinents.  As for instance: did I ever make ridiculous wills (as you do) to oblige others to pray for a man in his grave, that never prayed for himself in his life?  Did I ever rebel against my superiors?  Or, was I ever so arrant a coxcomb, as by colouring my cheeks and hair, to imagine that I could reform nature, and make myself young again?  Can ye say that I ever put an oath to a lie? or broke a solemn promise, as you do every day that goes over your heads?  Did I ever enslave myself to money?  Or, on the other side, make ducks and drakes with it? and squander it away in gaming, revelling, and whoring?  Did my wife ever wear the breeches?  Or, did I ever marry at all, to be revenged of a false mistress?  Was I ever so very a fool as to believe any man would be true to me, who had betrayed his friend?  Or, to venture all my hopes upon the wheel of fortune?  Did I ever envy the felicity of a court-life, that sells and spends all for a glance?  What pleasure did I ever take in the lewd discourses of heretics and libertines?  Or, did I ever list myself in the party, to get the name of a gifted brother?  Who ever saw me insolent to my inferiors, or basely servile to my betters?  Did I ever go to a conjurer, or to your dealers in nativities, and horoscopes upon any occasion of loss or death?  Now if you yourselves be guilty of all these fopperies, and I innocent, I beseech ye where’s the Tony?  So that you see Tony is not the Tony you take him for.  But (to crown his other virtues) he is also endued with so large a stock of patience that whoever needed it had it for the asking, unless it were such as came to borrow money; or in cases of women, that claimed marriage of him; or lackeys that would be making sport with his bauble; and to these, he was as resolute as John Florio.”

While we were upon this discourse, another of the dead came marching up to me, with a Spanish pace and gravity; and giving me a touch o’ the elbow, “Look me in the face,” quoth he with a stern countenance, “and know, sir, that you are not now to have to do with a Tony.”  “I beseech your lordship,” said I, “(saving your reverence) let me know your honour, that I may pay my respects accordingly; for I must confess, I thought all people here had been, hail fellow well met.”  “I am called,” quoth he, “by mortals, Queen Dick; and whether you know me or not, I’m sure you think and talk of me often enough; and if the devil did not possess ye, you would let the dead alone, and content yourselves to persecute one another.  Ye can’t see a high crowned hat, a threadbare cloak, a basket-hilt sword, or a dudgeon dagger, nay not so much as a reverend matron, well stricken in years, but presently ye cry, “This or that’s of the mode or date of Queen Dick.”  If ye were not every mother’s child of ye stark mad, ye would confess that Queen Dick’s were golden days to those ye have had since, and ’tis an easy matter to prove what I say.  Will ye see a mother now teaching her daughter a lesson of good government?  ‘Child,’ says she, ‘you know that modesty is the great ornament of your sex; wherefore be sure, when ye come in company, that you don’t stand staring the men in the face, as if ye were looking babies in their eyes, but rather look a little downward, as a fashion of behaviour more suitable to the obligations of your sex.’  ‘Downward?’ says the girl, ‘I beseech you, madam, excuse me: this was well enough in the days of Queen Dick, when the poor creatures knew no better.  Let the men look downward towards the clay of which they were made, but man was our original, and it will become us to keep our eyes upon the matter from whence we came.’  If a father give his son in charge, to worship his Creator, to say his prayers morning and evening, to give thanks before and after meat, to have a care of gaming and swearing, ye shall have the son make answer, that ’tis true, this was practised in the time of Queen Dick, but it is now quite out of mode; and in plain English, men are better known nowadays by their atheism and blasphemy than by their beards.”

Hereupon, Queen Dick withdrew, and then appeared a large glass-bottle, wherein was luted up (as I heard) a famous necromancer, hacked and minced according to his own order, to render him immortal.  It was boiling upon a quick fire, and the flesh by little and little began to piece again, and made first an arm, then a thigh, after that a leg; and at last there was an entire body, that raised itself upright in the bottle.  Bless me (thought I!) what’s here?  A man made of a pottage, and brought into the world out of the belly of a bottle?  This vision affrighted me to the very heart; and while I was yet panting and trembling, a voice was heard out of the glass.  “In what year of our Lord are we?”  “1636,” quoth I.  “And welcome,” said he; “for ’tis the happy year I have longed for so many a day.”  “Who is it, I pray’e,” quoth I, “that I now see and hear in the belly of this bottle?”  “I am,” said he, “the great necromancer of Europe; and certainly you cannot but have heard both of my operations in general, and of this particular design.”  “I have heard talk of you from a child,” quoth I, “but all those stories I took only for old wives’ fables.  You are the man then it seems: I must confess that at first, at a distance I took this bottle for the vessel that the ingenious Rabelais makes mention of; but coming near enough to see what was in it, I did then imagine it might be some philosopher by the fire, or some apothecary doing penance for his errors.  In fine, it has cost me many a heavy step to come hither, and yet to see so great a rarity I cannot but think my time and pains very well bestowed.”  The necromancer called to me then to unstop the bottle, and as I was breaking the clay to open it, “Hold, hold a little,” he cried; “and I prithee tell me first how go squares in Spain?  What money?  Force?  Credit?”  “The plate fleets go and come,” said I, “reasonably well; but the foreigners that come in for their snips have half spoiled the trade.  The Genoeses run out as far as the mountains of Potosi, and have almost drained them dry.”  “My child,” quoth he, “that trade can never be secure and open, so long as Spain has any enemy that’s potent at sea.  And for the Genoeses, they’ll tell you this is no injustice at all, but on the contrary, a new way of quitting old scores, and justifying his Catholic Majesty for a good paymaster.  I am no enemy to that nation, but upon the account of their vices and encroachments; and I confess, rather than see these rascals prosper, I’d turn myself into a bouillonagain, as ye saw me just now; nay, I did not care if ’twere into a powder, though I ended my days in a tobacco-box.”  “Good sir,” said I, “comfort yourself, for these people are as miserable as you’d wish them.  You know they are cavaliers and signiors already, and now (forsooth) they have an itch upon them to be princes: a vanity that gnaws them like a cancer; and by drawing on great expenses, breeds a worm in their traffic, so that you’ll find little but debt and extravagance at the foot of the accompt.  And then the devil’s in them for a wench, insomuch, that ’tis well, if they bring both ends together; for what’s gotten upon the ’Change is spent in the stews.”

“This is well,” quoth the necromancer, “and I’m glad to hear it.  Pray’e tell me now, what price bears honour and honesty in the world?”  “There’s much to be said,” quoth I, “upon that point; but in brief, there was never more of it in talk, nor less in effect.  ‘Upon my honesty,’ cries the tradesman; ‘Upon my honour,’ says his lordship.  And in a word, every man has it, and every thing is it, in some disguise or other; but duly considered, there’s no such thing upon the face of the earth.  The thief says ’tis more honourable to take than beg.  He that asks an alms, pleads that ’tis honester to beg than steal.  Nay the false witnesses and murderers themselves stand upon their points, as well as their neighbours, and will tell ye that a man of honour will rather be buried alive than submit (though they will not always do as they say).  Upon the whole matter, every man sets up a court of honour within himself, pronounces everything honourable that serves his purpose, and laughs at them that think otherwise.  To say the truth, all things are now topsy-turvy.  A good faculty in lying is a fair step to preferment; and to pack a game at cards, or help the frail die, is become the mark and glory of a cavalier.  The Spaniards were heretofore, I confess, a very brave, and well governed people; but they have evil tongues among them nowadays, that say they might e’en go to school to the Indians to learn sobriety and virtue.  For they are not really sober, but at their own tables, which indeed is rather avarice than moderation; for when they eat or drink at another man’s cost, there are no greater gluttons in the world; and for fuddling, they shall make the best pot-companion in Switzerland knock under the table.”

The necromancer went on with his discourse, and asked me what store of lawyers and attorneys in Spain at present.  I told him, that the whole world swarmed with them, and that there were of several sorts: some, by profession; others, by intrusion and presumption; and some again by study, but not many of the last, though indeed sufficient of every kind to make the people pray for the Egyptian locusts and caterpillars in exchange for that vermin.  “Why then,” quoth the necromancer, “if there be such plagues abroad, I think I had best e’en keep where I am.”  “It is with justice,” said I, “as with sick men; in time past, when we had fewer doctors (as well of law as of physic) we had more right, and more health: but we are now destroyed by multitudes, and consultations, which serve to no other end than to inflame both the distemper and the reckoning.  Justice, as well as truth, went naked, in the days of old; one single book of laws and ordinances, was enough for the best ordered Government in the world.  But the justice of our age is tricked up with bills, parchments, writs, and labels; and furnished with millions of codes, digests, pandects, pleadings, and reports; and what’s their use, but to make wrangling a science? and to embroil us in seditions, suits, and endless trouble and confusion.  We have had more books published this last twenty years than in a thousand before, and there hardly passes a term without a new author, in four or five volumes at least under the titles of glosses, commentaries, cases, judgments, etc.  And the great strife is, who writes most, not best; so that the whole bulk is but a body without a soul, and fitter for a churchyard than a study.  To say the truth, these lawyers and solicitors are but so many smoke-merchants, sellers of wind, and troublers of the public peace.  If there were no attorneys, there would be no suits; if no suits, no cheats, no serjeants; no catchpoles, no prisons; if no prisons, no judges; no judges, no passion; no passion, no bribery or subornation.

“See now what a train of mischiefs one wretched pettifogger draws after him!  If you go to him for counsel, he hears your story, reads your case, and tells you very gravely: ‘Sir, this is a nice point, and would be well handled; we’ll see what the law says.’  And then he runs ye over with his eye and finger a matter of a hundred volumes, grumbling all the while, like a cat that claws in her play ’twixt jest and earnest.  At last, down comes the book, he shows the law, bids ye leave your papers, and he’ll study the question.  ‘But your cause is very good,’ says he, ‘by what I see already, and if you’ll come again in the evening, or to-morrow morning, I’ll tell ye more.  But pardon me, sir, now I think on’t, I am retained upon the business of the Fens, it cannot be till Monday next, and then I’m for ye.’  When ye are to part, and that you come to the greasing of his fist (the best thing in the world both for the wit, and memory), ‘Good Lord! sir,’ says he, ‘what do you mean!  I beseech you, sir; nay, pray’e sir,’ and if he spies you drawing back, the paw opens, seizes the guineas, and good-morrow countryman.”  “Sayst thou me so?” quoth the good fellow in the glass, “stop me up close again as thou lovest me then: for the very air of these rascals will poison me, if ever I put my head out of this bottle, till the whole race of them be extinct.  In the meantime, take this for a rule: he that would thrive by law, must fee his enemies’ counsel as well as his own.

“But now ye talk of great cheats; what news of the Venetians?  Is Venice still in the world or no?”  “In the world do ye say?  Yes, marry is’t,” said I, “and stands just where it did.”  “Why then,” quoth he, “I prithee give it to the devil from me as a token of my love; for ’tis a present equal to the severest revenge.  Nothing can ever destroy that Republic but conscience; and then you’ll say ’tis like to be long-lived; for if every man had his own, it would not be left worth a groat.  To speak freely, ’tis an odd kind of common-wealth.  ’Tis the very arse-gut, the drain and sink of monarchies, both in war and peace.  It helps the Turk to vex the Christians, and the Christians to gall the Turk, and maintains itself to torment both.  The inhabitants are neither Moors nor Christians, as appears by a Venetian captain, in a combat against a Christian enemy: ‘Stand to’t my masters,’ says he, ‘ye were Venetians before ye were Christians.’

“Enough, enough of this,” cried the necromancer, “and tell me, how stand the people affected?  What malcontents and mutineers?”  “Mutiny,” said I, “is so universal a disease that every kingdom is (in effect) but a great hospital, or rather a Bedlam (for all men are mad) to entertain the disaffected.”  “There’s no stirring for me then,” quoth the necromancer, “but pray’e commend me however to those busy fools, and tell them, that carry what face they will, there’s vanity and ambition in the pad.  Kings and princes have their nature much of quick-silver.  They are in perpetual agitation, and without any repose.  Press them too hard (that is to say beyond the bounds of duty and reason) and they are lost.  Ye may observe that your guilders and great dealers in quick-silver are generally troubled with the palsy; and so should all subjects tremble that have to do with majesty, and better to do it at first, out of respect, than afterward, upon force and necessity.

“But before I fall to pieces again, as you saw me e’en now (for better so than worse) I beseech ye, one word more, and it shall be my last.  Who’s King of Spain now?”  “You know,” said I, “that Philip the 3rd is dead.”  “Right,” quoth he, “a prince of incomparable piety, and virtue (or my stars deceive me).”  “After him,” said I, “came Philip the 4th.”  “If it be so,” quoth he, “break, break my bottle immediately, and help me out; for I am resolved to try my fortune in the world once again, under the reign of that glorious prince.”  And with that word, he dashed the glass to pieces against a rock, crept out of his case and away he ran.  I had a good mind to have kept him company; but as I was just about to start, “Let him go, let him go,” cried one of the dead, and laid hold of my arm.  “He has devilish heels, and you’ll never overtake him.”

So I stayed, and what should I see next but a wondrous old man, whose name might have been Bucephalus by his head; and the hair on his face might very well have stuffed a couple of cushions: take him together, and you’ll find his picture in the map, among the savages.  I need not tell ye that I stared upon him sufficiently; and he taking notice of it, came to me, and told me: “Friend,” says he, “my spirit tells me that you are now in pain to know who I am; understand that my name is Nostradamus.”  “Are you the author, then,” quoth I, “of that gallimaufry of prophecies that’s published in your name?”  “Gallimaufry say’st thou?  Impudent and barbarous rascal that thou art; to despise mysteries that are above thy reach, and to revile the secretary of the stars, and the interpreter of the destinies; who is so brutal as to doubt the meaning of these lines?

“From second causes, this I gather,
Nought shall befall us, good, or ill,
Either upon the land or water,
But what the Great Disposer will.

“Reprobated and besotted villains that ye are! what greater blessing could betide the world than the accomplishment of this prophecy? would it not establish justice and holiness, and suppress all the vile suggestions and motions of the devil?  Men would not then any longer set their hearts upon avarice, cozening, and extortion; and make money their god, that vagabond money, that’s perpetually trotting up and down like a wandering whore, and takes up most commonly with the unworthy, leaving the philosophers and prophets, which are the very oracles of the heavens (such as Nostradamus) to go barefoot.  But let’s go on with our prophecies, and see if they be so frivolous and dark, as the world reports them.

“When the married shall marry,
Then the jealous will be sorry;
And though fools will be talking,
To keep their tongues walking;
No man runs well I find,
But with’s elbows behind.”

This gave me such a fit of laughing that it made me cast my nose up into the air, like a stone-horse that hath got a mare in the wind: which put the astrologer out of all patience.  “Buffoon, and dog-whelp, as ye are,” quoth he, “there’s a bone for you to pick; you must be snarling and snapping at everything.  Will your teeth serve ye now to fetch out the marrow of this prophecy?  Hear then in the devil’s name, and be mannerly.  Hear, and learn I say, and let’s have no more of that grinning, unless ye have a mind to leave your beard behind ye.  Do you imagine that all that are married marry?  No, not the one half of them.  When you are married, the priest has done his part; but after that, to marry, is to do the duty of a husband.  Alack! how many married men live as if they were single; and how many bachelors on the other side, as if they were married! after the mode of the times.  And wedlock to divers couples is no other than a more sociable state of virginity.  Here’s one half of my prophecy expounded already, now for the rest.  Let me see you run a little for experiment, and try if you carry your elbows before, or behind.  You’ll tell me perhaps, that this is ridiculous, because everybody knows it.  A pleasant shift: as if truth were the worse for being plain.  The things indeed that you deliver for truths are for the most part mere fooleries and mistakes; and it were a hard matter to put truth in such a dress as would please ye.  What have ye to say now, either against my prophecy or my argument? not a syllable I warrant ye, and yet somewhat there is to be said, for there’s no rule without an exception.  Does not the physician carry his elbow before him, when he puts back his hand to take his patient’s money?  And away he’s gone in a trice, so soon as he has made his purchase.  But to proceed, here’s another of my prophecies for ye,

“Many women shall be mothers,
   And their babbies,
   Their n’own daddies.

“What say ye to this now? are there not many husbands do ye think (if the truth were known) that father more children than their own?  Believe me, friend, a man had need have good security upon a woman’s belly, for children are commonly made in the dark, and ’tis no easy matter to know the workman, especially having nothing but the woman’s bare word for’t.  This is meant of the court of assistance; and whoever interprets my prophecies to the prejudice of any person of honour, abuses me.  You little think what a world of our gay folks in their coaches and six, with lackeys at their heels by the dozens, will be found at the last day, to be only the bastards of some pages, gentlemen-ushers, or valets de chambre of the family; nay perchance the physician may have had his hand in the wrong box, and in case of a necessity, good use has been made of a lusty coachman.  Little do you think (I say) how many noble families upon that grand discovery, will be found extinct for want of issue.”

“I am now convinced,” said I to the mathematician, “of the excellency of your predictions; and I perceive (since you have been pleased to be your own interpreter) that they have more weight in them than we were aware of.”  “Ye shall have one more,” quoth he, “and I have done.

“This year, if I’ve any skill i’ th’ weather,
Shall many a one take wing with a feather.

“I dare say that your wit will serve ye now to imagine, that I’m talking of rooks and jackdaws; but I say, No.  I speak of lawyers, attorneys, clerks, scriveners, and their fellows, that with the dash of a pen can defeat their clients of their estates, and fly away with them when they have done.”

Upon these words Nostradamus vanished, and somebody plucking me behind, I turned my face upon the most meagre, melancholic wretch that ever was seen, and covered all in white.  “For pity’s sake,” says he, “and as you are a good Christian, do but deliver me from the persecution of these impertinents and babblers that are now tormenting me, and I’ll be your slave for ever” (casting himself at my feet in the same moment; and crying like a child).  “And what art thou,” quoth I, “for a miserable creature?”  “I am,” says he, “an ancient, and an honest man, although defamed with a thousand reproaches and slanders: and in fine, some call me another, and others somebody, and doubtless ye cannot but have heard of me.  As somebody says, cries one, that has nothing to say for himself; and yet till this instant, I never so much as opened my mouth.  The Latins call me Quidam, and make good use of me to fill up lines, and stop gaps.  When you go back again into the world, I pray’e do me the favour to own that you have seen me, and to justify me for one that never did, and never will either speak or write anything, whatever some tattling idiots may pretend.  When they bring me into quarrels and brawls, I am called forsooth, a certain person; in their intrigues, I know not who; and in the pulpit, a certain author; and all this, to make a mystery of my name, and lay all their fooleries at my door.  Wherefore I beseech ye help me;” which I promised to do.  And so this vision withdrew to make place for another.

And that was the most frightful piece of antiquity that ever eye beheld in the shape of an old woman.  She came nodding towards me, and in a hollow, rattling tone (for she spoke more with her chops than her tongue) “Pray’e,” says she, “is there not somebody come lately hither from the other world?”  This apparition, thought I, is undoubtedly one of the devil’s scarecrows.  Her eyes were so sunk in their sockets, that they looked like a pair of dice in the bottom of a couple of red boxes.  Her cheeks and the soles of her feet were of the same complexion.  Her mouth was pale, and open too; the better to receive the distillations of her nose.  Her chin was covered with a kind of goose-down, as toothless as a lamprey; and the flaps of her cheeks were like an ape’s bags; her head danced, and her voice at every word kept time to’t.  Her body was veiled, or rather wrapped up in a shroud of crape.  She had a crutch in one hand, which served her for a supporter; and a rosary in t’other, of such a length, that as she stood stooping over it, a man would have thought she had been fishing for death’s heads.  When I had done gaping upon this epitome of past ages, “Hola! grannum,” quoth I, good lustily in her ear, taking for granted that she was deaf, “what’s your pleasure with me?”  With that she gave a grunt, and being much in wrath to be called grannum, clapped a fair pair of spectacles upon her nose, and pinking through them, “I am,” quoth she, “neither deaf, nor grannum; but may be called by my name as well as my neighbours,” (giving to understand, that women will take it ill to be called old, even in their very graves).  As she spake, she came still nearer me, with her eyes dropping, and the smell about her perfectly of a dead body.  I begged her pardon for what was past, and for the future her name, that I might be sure to keep myself within the bounds of respect.  “I am called,” says she, “Doüegna, or Madam the Gouvernante.”  “How’s that?” quoth I, in a great amazement.  “Have ye any of those cattle in this country?  Let the inhabitants pray heartily for peace then; and all little enough to keep them quiet.  But to see my mistake now.  I thought the women had died, when they came to be gouvernantes, and that for the punishment of a wicked world, the gouvernantes had been immortal.  But I am now better informed, and very glad truly to meet with a person I have heard so much talk of.  For with us, who but Madam the Gouvernante, at every turn?  ‘Do ye see that mumping hag,’ cries one?  ‘Come here ye damned jade,’ cries another.  ‘That old bawd,’ says a third, ‘has forgotten, I warrant ye, that ever she was a whore, and now see if we do not remember ye.’”  “You do so, and I’m in your debt for your remembrance, the great devil be your paymaster, ye son of a whore, you; are there no more gouvernantes than myself?  Sure there are, and ye may have your choice, without affronting me.”  “Well, well,” said I, “have a little patience, and at my return, I’ll try if I can put things in better order.  But in the meantime, what business have you here?”  Her reverence upon this was a little qualified, and told me that she had now been eight hundred years in hell, upon a design to erect an order of the gouvernantes; but the right worshipful the devil-commissioners are not as yet come to any resolution upon the point.  For say they, if your gouvernantes should come once to settle here, there would need no other tormentors, and we should be but so many Jacks out of office.  And besides, we should be perpetually at daggers-drawing about the brands and candle-ends which they would still be filching, and laying out of the way; and for us to have our fuel to seek, would be very inconvenient.  “I have been in purgatory too,” she said, “upon the same project, but there so soon as ever they set eye on me, all the souls cried out unanimously, libera nos, etc.  As for heaven, that’s no place for quarrels, slanders, disquiets, heart-burnings, and consequently none for me.  The dead are none of my friends neither, for they grumble, and bid me let them alone as they do me; and be gone into the world again if I please, and there (they tell me) I may play the gouvernante in sæcula sæculorum.  But truly I had rather be here at my ease than spend my life crumpling, and brooding over a carpet at a bed-side, like a thing of clouts, to secure the poultry of the family from strange cocks, which would now and then have a brush with a virgin pullet, but for the care of the gouvernantes.  And yet ’tis she, good woman, bears all the blame, in case of any miscarriage: the gouvernante was presently of the plot, she had a feeling in the cause, a finger in the pie.  And ’tis she in fine that must answer for all.  Let but a sock, an old handkercher, the greasy lining of a masque, or any such frippery piece of business be missing, ask the gouvernante for this, or for that.  And in short, they take us certainly for so many storks and ducks, to gather up all the filth about the house.  The servants look upon us as spies and tell-tales: my cousin forsooth, and t’other’s aunt dares not come to the house, for fear of the gouvernante.  And indeed I have made many of them cross themselves, that took me for a ghost.  Our masters they curse us too for embroiling the family.  So that I have rather chosen to take up here, betwixt the dead and the living, than to return again to my charge of a Doüegna, the very sound of the name being more terrible than a gibbet.  As appears by one that was lately travelling from Madrid to Vailladolid, and asking where he might lodge that night.  Answer was made at a small village called Doüegnas.  ‘But is there no other place,’ quoth he, ‘within some reasonable distance, either short or beyond it?’  They told him no, unless it were at a gallows.  ‘That shall be my quarter then,’ quoth he, ‘for a thousand gibbets are not so bad to me as one Doüegnas.’  Now ye see how we are abused,” quoth the gouvernante, “I hope you’ll do us some right, when it lies in your power.”

She would have talked me to death, if I had not given her the slip upon the removing of her spectacles; but I could not ’scape so neither, for looking about me for a guide to carry me home again, I was arrested by one of the dead; a good proper fellow, only he had a pair of rams’ horns on his head, and I was about to salute him for Aries in the Zodiac; but when I saw him plant himself, just before me, with his best leg forward, stretching out his arms, clutching his fists, and looking as sour as if he would have eaten me without mustard, “Doubtless,” said I, “the devil is dead and this is he.”  “No, no,” cried a bystander, “this is a man:” “Why then,” said I, “he’s drunk, I perceive, and quarrelsome in his ale, for here’s nobody has touched him.”  With that, as he was just ready to fall on, I stood to my guard, and we were armed at all points alike, only he had the odds of the headpiece.  “Now, sirrah,” says he, “have at ye, slave that you are to make a trade of defaming persons of honour.  By the death that commands here, I’ll ha’ my revenge, and turn your skin over your ears.”  This insolent language stirred my choler I confess, and so I called to him “Come, come on, sirrah; a little nearer yet, and if ye have a mind to be twice killed, I’ll do your business; who the devil brought this cornuto hither to trouble me?”  The word was no sooner out, but we were immediately at it, tooth and nail, and if his horns had not been flatted to his head, I might have had the worst on’t.  But the whole ring presently came in to part us, and did me a singular kindness in’t, for my adversary had a fork, and I had none.  As they were staving and tailing, “You might have had more manners,” cried one, “than to give such language to your betters, and to call Don Diego Moreno cuckold.”  “And is this that Diego Moreno then?” said I.  “Rascal that he is to charge me with abusing persons of honour.  A scoundrel,” said I, “that ’tis a shame for death to be seen in’s company, and was never fit for anything in his whole life, but to furnish matter for a farce.”  “And that’s my grievance, gentlemen,” quoth Don Diego, “for which with your leave he shall give me satisfaction.  I do not stand upon the matter of being a cuckold, for there’s many a brave fellow lives in Cuckold’s-Row.  But why does he not name others, as well as me?  As if the horn grew upon nobody’s head but mine: I’m sure there are others that a thousand times better deserve it.  I hope, he cannot say that ever I gored any of my superiors; or that my being cornuted has raised the price of post-horns, lanthorns, or pocket-ink-horns.  Are not shoeing-horns and knife-handles as cheap now as ever?  Why must I walk the stage then more than my neighbours?  Beyond question there never lived a more peaceable wretch upon the face of the earth, all things considered, than myself.  Never was man freer from jealousy, or more careful to step aside at the time of visit: for I was ever against the spoiling of sport, when I could make none myself.  I confess I was not so charitable to the poor as I might have been; the truth of’t is, I watched them as a cat would do a mouse, for I did not love them.  But then in requital, I could have out-snorted the Seven Sleepers, when any of the better sort came to have a word in private with my wife.  The short on’t is, we agreed blessedly well together, she and I; for I did whatever she would have me; and she would say a thousand and a thousand times ‘Long live my poor Diego, the best conditioned, the most complaisant husband in the world; whatever I do is well done, and he never so much as opens his mouth good or bad.’  But by her leave that was little to my credit, and the jade when she said it was beside the cushion.  For many and many a time have I said ‘This is well,’ and ‘That’s ill.’  When there came any poets to our house, fiddlers or morrice-dancers, I would say, ‘This is not well.’  But when the rich merchants came ‘Oh, very good,’ would I say, ‘this is as well as well can be.’  Sometimes we had the hap to be visited by some penniless courtier, or low-country officer perchance; then should I take her aside, and rattle her to some tune: ‘Sweetheart,’ would I say, ‘pray’e what ha’ we to do with these frippery fellows and damme boys.  Shake them off, I’d advise ye, and take this for a warning.’  But when any came that had to do with the mint or exchequer, and spent freely (for lightly come, lightly go), ‘I marry, my dear,’ quoth I, ‘there’s nothing to be lost by keeping such company.’  And what hurt in all this now?  Nay, on the contrary, my poor wife enjoyed herself happily under the protection of my shadow, and being a femme couverte, not an officer durst come near her.  Why should then this buffoon of a poetaster make me still the ridiculous entertainment of all his interludes and farces, and the fool in the play?”  “By your favour,” quoth I, “we are not yet upon even terms; and before we part, you shall know what ’tis to provoke a poet.  If thou wert but now alive, I’d write thee to death, as Archilocus did Lycambes.  And I’m resolved to put the history of thy life in a satire, as sharp as vinegar, and give it the name of The Life and Death of Don Diego Moreno.”  “It shall go hard,” quoth he, “but I’ll prevent that,” and so we fell to’t again, hand and foot, till at length the very fancy of a scuffle waked me, and I found myself as weary, as if it had been a real combat.  I began then to reflect upon the particulars of my dream, and to consider what advantage I might draw from it: for the dead are past fooling, and those are the soundest counsels which we receive from such as advise us without either passion or interest.

FINIS

Aztec Religion

Discovery of Fellow-Minds