« ElőzőTovább »
AS for nobility, in particular persons, it is a reverend thing to see an ancient castle, or building not in decay, or to see a fair timber-tree sound and perfect. How much more to behold an ancient noble family, which hath stood against the waves and weathers of time. For new no bility is but the act of power ; but ancient nobility is the act of time.
NOBILITY, or difference from the vulgar, was not in the beginning given to the succession of blood, but to succession of virtue. He is truly and intirely noble, who maketh a singular profession of public virtue, serving his prince and country, and being descended of parents and ancestors that have done the like.
SIR WALTER RALEGR.
I FORBEAR to mention the sordid ways of attaining to titles in our days, but whoever will take the pains to examine them, shall find that they rather defile than ennoble the possessors. And, whereas men are truly ennobled only by virtue, and respect is due to such as are descended from those who have bravely served their country, because it is presumed (till they shew the contrary) that they will resemble their ancestors : these modern courtiers, by their names and titles, frequently oblige us to call to mind such things as are not to be mentioned without blushing.
Whatever the ancient noblemen of England were, we are sure they were not such as these. And though it should be confessed, that no others than dukes, marquises, earls, and barons, had their places in the councils mentioned by Cæsar and Tacitus, or in the great assemblies of the Saxons, it could be to no advantage to such as now are called by those names. They were the titles of offices conferred upon those who did, and could best conduct the people in time of war, give counsel to the king, administer. justice, and perform other public duties ; but were never made hereditary, except by abuse, much less were they sold for money, or given as recompences of the vilest services. If the ancient order be totally inverted, and the ends of its institution perverted, they who from thence pretend to be distinguished from other men, must build their claim upon something very different from antiquity.
THE making of new lords lessens all the rest. 'Tis in the business of lords, as 'twas with St. Nicholas's image: the countryman, you know, could not find in his heart to adore the new image made of his own plum-tree, though he had formerly worshipped the old one. The lords that are ancient, we honour, because we know not whence they come, but the new ones .we slight, because we know their beginning.
ANCIENTLY the noblemen lay within the city, for safety and security. The bishops' houses were by the water-side, because they were held sacred persons, which nobody would hurt.
THE hall was the place where the great lord used to eat, (wherefore else were the halls made so big ?) where he saw all his servants and tenants about him. He ate not in private, except in time of sickness; when once he became a thing cooped up, all his greatness was spoiled. Nay, the king himself used to eat in the hall, and his lords sat with him, and then he understood men.
IT is not as faithless men take it, that he which sweareth to a man, to a sovereign, to a state, or to a king, and sweareth by the name of the living Lord, and in his presence, that this promise, if it be broken, is broken a man, to a society, to a state, or to a prince; but the promise in the name of God made, is broken to God. It im
God that we therein neglect; we therein profess that we fear him not, and that we set him at nought and defy him. If he, that without reservation of honour, giveth a lie in the presence of the king, or of his superior, doth, in point of honour, give the lie to the king himself, or to his superior; how much more doth he break faith with God, that giveth faith in the presence of God, promiseth in his name, and makes him a witness of the covenant made?
SIR WALTER Ralegh.
IF it be permitted, by the help of a ridiculous distinction, or by a God-mocking equivocation, to swear one thing by the name of the living God, and to reserve in silence, a contrary intent: the life of man, the estates of men, the faith of subjects to kings, of servants to their masters, of vassals to their lords, of wives to their husbands, and of children to their parents, and of all trials of right, will not only be made uncertain, but all the chains whereby freemen are tied in the world, be torn asunder.
It is by oath, when kings and armies cannot pass, that we enter into the cities of our enemies, and into their armies : it is by oath that wars take end which weapons cannot end. And what is it, or ought it to be, that makes an oath thus powerful, but this: That he that sweareth by the name of God, doth assure others that his words are true, as the Lord of all the world is true, whom he calleth for a witness, and in whose presence he that taketh the oath hath promised ? I am not ignorant of their poor evasions, which play with the severity of God's commandments in this kind: but this, indeed, is the best answer : That he breaks no faith, that bath none to,
break; for whosoever hath faith and the fear of God, dares not do it.
SIR WALTER RALEGE.
LAMENTABLE it is, that the taking of oaths, now-a-days, is rather made a matter of custom than of conscience.
THERE is no oath scarcely, but we swear to things we are ignorant of. For example, the oath of supremacy; how many know how the king is king? What are his right and prerogative? So, how many know what are the privileges of the parliament, and the liberty of the subject, when they take the protestation? But the meaning is, they will defend them when they know them. As if I should swear I would take part with all that wear red ribbands in their hats ; it may be I do not know which colour is red; but when I do know, and see a red ribband in a man's hat, then will I take his part.