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consumeth. Mummy is become merchandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams.
In vain do individuals hope for immortality, or any patent from oblivion, in preservations below the moon: men have been deceived even in their flatteries above the sun, and studied conceits to perpetuate their names in heaven. The various cosmography of that part hath already varied the names of contrived constellations; Nimrod is lost in Orion, and Osiris in the dog-star. While we look for incorruption in the heavens, we find they are but like the earth; - durable in their main bodies, alterable in their parts; whereof, beside comets and new stars, perspectives begin to tell tales, and the spots that wander about the sun, with Phaeton's favour, would make clear conviction.
There is nothing strictly immortal, but immortality. Whatever hath no beginning, may be confident of no end;-which is the peculiar of that necessary essence that cannot destroy itself;-and the highest strain of omnipotency, to be so powerfully constituted as not to suffer even from the power of itself: all others have a dependent being and within the reach of destruction. But the sufficiency of Christian immortality frustrates all earthly glory, and the quality of either state after death, makes a folly of posthumous memory. God who can only destroy our souls, and hath assured our resurrection, either of our bodies or names hath directly promised no duration. Wherein there is so much of chance, that the boldest expectants have found unhappy frustration; and to hold long subsistence seems but a scape in oblivion. But man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature *.
Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us. A small fire sufficeth for life, great flames seemed too little after death, while men vainly affected furious fires, and to burn like Sardanapalus; but the wisdom of funeral laws found the folly of prodigal blazes, and reduced undoing fires unto the rule of sober obsequies, wherein few could be so mean as not to provide wood, pitch, a mourner, and an
Five languages secured not the epitaph of Gordianus. The man of
• Southey, who quotes this passage in his 'Colloquies,' conjectures that Browne wrote infimy.
God lives longer without a tomb than any by one, invisibly interred by angels, and adjudged to obscurity, though not without some marks directing human discovery. Enoch and Elias, without either tomb or burial, in an anomalous state of being, are the great examples of perpetuity, in their long and living memory, in strict account being still on this side death, and having a late part yet to act upon this stage of earth. If in the decretory term of the world we shall not all die but be changed, according to received translation, the last day will make but few graves; at least quick resurrections will anticipate lasting sepultures. Some graves will be opened before they be quite closed, and Lazarus no wonder. When many that feared to die, shall groan that they can die but once, the dismal state is the second and living death, when life puts despair on the damned; when men shall wish the coverings of mountains, not of monuments, and annihilation shall be courted.
While some have studied monuments, others have studiously declined them, and some have been so vainly boisterous, that they durst not acknowledge their graves; wherein Alaricus seems most subtle, who had a river turned to hide his bones at the bottom. Even Sylla, that thought himself safe in his urn, could not prevent revenging tongues and stones thrown at his monument. Happy are they whom privacy makes innocent, who deal so with men in this world, that they are not afraid to meet them in the next; who, when they die, make no commotion among the dead, and are not touched with that poetical taunt of Isaiah.
Pyramids, arches, obelisks, were but the irregularities of vain-glory, and wild enormities of ancient maguanimity. But the most magnani, mous resolution rests in the Christian religion, which trampleth upon pride, and sits on the neck of ambition, humbly pursuing that infallible perpetuity unto which all others must diminish their diameters, and be poorly seen in angles of contingency.
Pious spirits who passed their days in raptures of futurity, made little more of this world than the world that was before it, while they lay obscure in the chaos of pre-ordination, and night of their forebeings. And if any have been so happy as truly to understand Christian annihilation, ecstasies, exolution, liquefaction, transformation, the kiss of the spouse, gustation of God, and ingression into the divine shadow, they have already had an handsome anticipation of heaven;
the glory of the world is surely over, and the earth in ashes unto them.
To subsist in lasting monuments, to live in their production, to exist in their names and predicament of chimeras, was large satisfaction unto old expectations, and made one part of their elysiums. But all this is nothing in the metaphysics of true belief. To live indeed, is to be again ourselves, which being not only an hope, but an evidence in noble believers, 'tis all one to lie in St. Innocent's churchyard, as in the sands of Egypt. Ready to be any thing, in the ecstasy of being ever, and as content with six foot as the moles of Adrianus.
[ROBERT MUDIE, a voluminous writer of our own times, died in 1842, aged 64. He was a self-educated Scotsman, full of various knowledge, but that knowledge not always of the most accurate character. As a writer he was singularly unequal; which may be attributed to the constant pressure of his circumstances, which made him ready to employ his pen upon any subject however unsuited to his taste or acquirements. He had been a diligent observer of nature before he became familiar with a life of literary toil in London; and there are passages in some of his writings on Natural History which exhibit the same powers of the genuine naturalist that characterise the works of White, of Wilson, and of Audubon. He is occasionally obscure in the attempt to be grand or impressive, but no one can read the following extract from his Feathered Tribes of the British Islands (and the work abounds with passages of similar interest) without being satisfied that this man, neglected as he was by his learned contemporaries, had a rare talent for observation, a vivid imagination, and a power of description that might have achieved very high things, under circumstances more favourable for mental cultivation and moral discipline than his lot afforded.]
The Bittern is, in many respects, an interesting bird, but it is a bird of the wilds-almost a bird of desolation, avoiding alike the neighbourhood of man, and the progress of man's improvements. It is a bird of rude nature, where the land knows no character save that
which the untrained working of the elements impresses upon it; so that, when any locality is in the course of being won to usefulness, the bittern is the first to depart, and when any one is abandoned it is the last to return. “The bittern shall dwell there," is the final curse, and implies that the place is to become uninhabited and uninhabitable. It hears not the whistle of the ploughman, or the sound of the mattock; and the tinkle of the sheep-bell, or the lowing of an ox, (although the latter bears so much resemblance to its own hollow and dismal voice, that it has given foundation to the name,) is a signal for it
to be gone.
Extensive and dingy pools,-if moderately upland, so much the better, which lie in the hollows catching, like so many traps, the lighter and more fertile mould which the rains wash, and the winds blow, from the naked heights around, and converting it into harsh and dingy vegetation, and the pasture of those loathsome things which mingle in the ooze, or crawl and swim in the putrid and mantling waters, are the habitations of the bittern: places which scatter blight and mildew over every herb which is more delicate than a sedge, a carex, or a rush, and consume every wooded plant that is taller than the sapless and tasteless crowberry, or the creeping upland willow; which shed murrain over the quadrupeds, or chills which eat the flesh off their bones; and which, if man ventures there, consume him by putrid fever in the hot and dry season, and shake to pieces with ague when the weather is cold and humid :—places from which the heath and the lichen stand aloof, and where even the raven, lover of disease, and battener upon all that expires miserably and exhausted, comes rarely, and with more than wonted caution, lest that death which he comes to seal, or riot upon in others, should unawares come upon himself. The raven loves carrion on the dry and unpoisoning moor, scents it from afar, and hastens to it upon his best and boldest wing; but "the reek o' the rotten fen" is loathsome to the sense of even the raven, and it is hunger's last pinch ere he come nigh to the chosen habitation—the only loved abode of the bittern.
The bittern appears as if it hated the beams of that sun which calls forth the richness and beauty of nature which it so studiously avoids; for, though with any thing but music, it hails the fall of night with as much energy, and no doubt, to its own feeling, with as much glee and joy as the birds of brighter places hail the rising of the morn. Alto
gether it is a singular bird; and yet there is a sublimity about it of a more heart-stirring character than that which is to be found where the air is balmy and the vegetation rich, and nature keeps holiday in holiday attire. It is a bird of the confines, beyond which we can imagine nothing but utter ruin; and all subjects which trench on that terrible bourn have a deep, though a dismal interest.
And, to those who are nerved and sinewed for the task, the habitation of the bittern is well worthy of a visit, not merely as it teaches us how much we owe to the successive parent generations that subdued those dismal places, and gradually brought the country to that state of richness and beauty in which we found it, but also on account of the extreme of contrast, and the discovery of that singular charm and enchantment with which nature is, in all cases, so thoroughly imbued and invested; so that, where man cannot inhabit, he must still admire; and even there he can trace the plan, adore the power, and bless the goodness of that Being, in whose sight all the works of the creation are equally good.
On a fine clear day in the early part of the season, when the winds of March have dried the heath, and the dark surface, obedient to the action of the sun, becomes soon warm and turns the exhalations which steal from the marsh upwards, so that they are dissipated in the higher atmosphere, and cross not that boundary to injure the more fertile and cultivated places—even the sterile heath and the stagnant pool, though adverse to our cultivation, have their uses in wild nature; but for these in a climate like ours, and in the absence of nature, the chain of life would speedily be broken.
Upon such a day, it is not unpleasant to ramble toward the abode of the bittern, and, to those especially who dwell where all around is art, and where the tremulous motion of the ever trundling wheel of society dizzies the understanding, till one fancies that the stable laws of nature turn round in concert with the minor revolutions of our pursuits, it is far from being unprofitable. Man, so circumstanced, is apt to descend in intellect as low, or even lower, than those unclad men of the woods whom he despises; and there is no better way of enabling him to win back his birthright as a rational and reflective being, than a taste of the cup of wild nature, even though its acerbity should make him writhe at the time. That is the genuine medicine of the mind, far better than all