No. 628. Friday, December 3, 1714.

Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis avum.'


'There are none of your Speculations which please me more than those upon Infinitude and Eternity. [1] You have already considered that Part of Eternity which is past, and I wish you would give us your Thoughts upon that which is to come.

'Your Readers will perhaps receive greater Pleasure from this View of Eternity than the former, since we have every one of us a Concern in that which is to come: Whereas a Speculation on that which is past is rather curious than useful.

'Besides, we can easily conceive it possible for successive Duration never to have an End; tho', as you have justly observed, that Eternity which never had a Beginning is altogether incomprehensible; That is, we can conceive an Eternal Duration which may be, though we cannot an Eternal Duration which hath been; or, if I may use the Philosophical Terms, we may apprehend a Potential though not an Actual Eternity.

'This Notion of a future Eternity, which is natural to the Mind of Man, is an unanswerable Argument that he is a Being designed for it; especially if we consider that he is capable of being Virtuous or Vicious here; that he hath Faculties improvable to all Eternity, and by a proper or wrong Employment of them, may be happy or miserable throughout that infinite Duration. Our Idea indeed of this Eternity is not of an adequate or fixed Nature, but is perpetually growing and enlarging itself toward the Object, which is too big for human Comprehension. As we are now in the Beginnings of Existence, so shall we always appear to our selves as if we were for ever entring upon it. After a Million or two of Centuries, some considerable Things, already past, may slip out of our Memory; which, if it be not strengthened in a wonderful Manner, may possibly forget that ever there was a Sun or Planets. And yet, notwithstanding the long Race that we shall then have run, we shall still imagine ourselves just starting from the Goal, and find no Proportion between that Space which we know had a Beginning, and what we are sure will never have an End.

'But I shall leave this Subject to your Management, and question not but you will throw it into such Lights as shall at once improve and entertain your Reader.

'I have enclos'd sent you a Translation [2] of the Speech of Cato on this Occasion, which hath accidentally fallen into my Hands, and which for Conciseness, Purity, and Elegance of Phrase, cannot be sufficiently admired.

CATO _solus, &c_.
'Sic, sic se habere rem necesse prorsus est,
Ratione vincis, do lubens manus_, Plato.
_Quid enim dedisset, Quá dedit frustra nihil,
Æternitatis insitam cupidinem
Natura? Quorsum hác dulcis Expectatio;
Vitáque non explenda melioris sitis?
Quid vult sibi aliud iste redeundi in nihil
Horror, sub imis quemque agens precordiis?
Cur territa in se refugit anima, cur tremit
Attonita, quoties, morte ne pereat, timet?
Particula nempe est cuique nascenti indita
Divinior; quá corpus incolens agit;
Hominique succinit, Tua est Æternitas,
Æternitas! O lubricum nimis aspici,
Mixtumque dulci Gaudium formidine?
Quá demigrabitur alia hinc in corpora?
Quá Terra mox incognita? Quis orbis novus
Manet incolendus? Quanta erit mutatio?
Hác intuenti spatia mihi quaquà patent
Immensa: Sed caliginosa nox premit;
Nec luce clarâ vult videri singula.
Figendus hic pes; certa sunt hác hactenus:
Si quod gubernet Numen Humanum genus,
(At, quod gubernet, esse clamant omnia)
Virtute non gaudere certè non potest:
Nec esse non Beata, quâ gaudet, potest.
Sed quâ Beata sede? Quove in tempore?
Hác quanta quanta terra, tola est_ Cásaris.
_Quid dubius háret animus usque adeo? Brevi
Hic nodum hic omnem expediet. Arma en induor_
Ensi manum admovens,
_In utramque partem facta; quáque vim inferant,
Et quá propulsent! Dextera intentat necem;
Vitam sinistra: Vulnus hác dabit manus;
Altera medelam vulneris: Hic ad exitum
Deducet, ictu simplici; hác vetant mori.
Secura ridet anima mucronis minas,
Ensesque strictos, interire nescia.
Extinguet átas sidera diuturnior:
Ætate languens ipse Sol, obscurius
Emittet Orbi consenescenti jubar:
Natura et ipsa sentiet quondam vices
Ætatis, annis ipsa deficiet gravis:
At tibi juventus, at tibi immortalitas,
Tibi parta Divûm est vita. Periment mutuis
Elementa sese, et interibunt ictibus:
Tu permanebis sola semper integra,
Tu cuncta rerum quassa, cuncta naufraga,
Jam portu in ipso tuta, contemplabere.
Compage rupta, corruent in se invicem,
Orbesque fractis ingerentur orbibus;
Illása tu sedebis extra Fragmina.'
_CATO_ alone, &c.
'It must be so--_Plato_, thou reason'st well--
Else whence this pleasing Hope, this fond Desire,
This Longing after Immortality?
Or whence this secret Dread, and inward Horror,
Of falling into Nought? Why shrinks the Soul
Back on her self, and startles at Destruction?
'Tis the Divinity that stirs within us;
'Tis Heaven it self, that points out an Hereafter,
And intimates Eternity to Man.
Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful, Thought!
Through what Variety of untry'd Being,
Through what new Scenes and Changes must we pass!
The wide, th' unbounded Prospect, lyes before me;
But Shadows, Clouds, and Darkness rest upon it.
Here will I hold. If there's a Pow'r above us,
(And that there is all Nature cries aloud
Through all her Works) He must delight in Virtue;
And that which he delights in, must be happy.
But when! or where!--This World was made for _Cásar._
I'm weary of Conjectures--This must end 'em.
Laying his Hand on his Sword._
Thus am I doubly arm'd: my Death and Life,
My Bane and Antidote are both before me.
This in a Moment brings me to an End;
But This informs me I shall never die.
The Soul, secur'd in her Existence, smiles
At the drawn Dagger, and defies its Point.
The Stars shall fade away, the Sun himself
Grow dim with Age, and Nature sink in Years;
But thou shalt flourish in immortal Youth,
Unhurt amidst the War of Elements,
The Wrecks of Matter and the Crush of Worlds.'

[Footnote 1: Nos. 565, 571, 580, and 590.]

[Footnote 2: By Mr., afterwards Dr., Bland, who became Provost of Eton and Dean of Durham.]

Translation of motto:
MOR. 1 Ep. ii. 43.
'It rolls, and rolls, and will for ever roll.'