They use cordials, to keep the venom and malignity of the disease from the heart

They use cordials, to keep the venom and malignity of the disease from the heart

Nobilibusque Trahunt, a Cincto Corde, Venenum, Succis et Gemmis, et Quae Generosa, Ministrant Ars, et Natura, Instillant


John Donne

WHENCE can we take a better argument, a clearer demonstration, that all the greatness of this world is built upon opinion of others and hath in itself no real being, nor power of subsistence, than from the heart of man? It is always in action and motion, still busy, still pretending to do all, to furnish all the powers and faculties with all that they have; but if an enemy dare rise up against it, it is the soonest endangered, the soonest defeated of any part. The brain will hold out longer than it, and the liver longer than that; they will endure a siege; but an unnatural heat, a rebellious heat, will blow up the heart, like a mine, in a minute.

But howsoever, since the heart hath the birthright and primogeniture, and that it is nature's eldest son in us, the part which is first born to life in man, and that the other parts, as younger brethren, and servants in his family, have a dependance upon it, it is reason that the principal care be had of it, though it be not the strongest part, as the eldest is oftentimes not the strongest of the family. And since the brain, and liver, and heart hold not a triumvirate in man, a sovereignty equally shed upon them all, for his well-being, as the four elements do for his very being, but the heart alone is in the principality and in the throne, as king, the rest as subjects, though in eminent place and office, must contribute to that, as children to their parents, as all persons to all kinds of superiors, though oftentimes those parents or those superiors be not of stronger parts than themselves, that serve and obey them that are weaker.

Neither doth this obligation fall upon us, by second dictates of nature, by consequences and conclusions arising out of nature, or derived from nature by discourse (as many things bind us even by the law of nature, and yet not by the primary law of nature; as all laws of propriety in that which we possess are of the law of nature, which law is, to give every one his own, and yet in the primary law of nature there was no propriety, no “meum et tuum,” but an universal community over all; so the obedience of superiors is of the law of nature, and yet in the primary law of nature there was no superiority, no magistracy); but this contribution of assistance of all to the sovereign, of all parts to the heart, is from the very first dictates of nature, which is, in the first place, to have care of our own preservation, to look first to ourselves; for therefore doth the physician intermit the present care of brain or liver, because there is a possibility that they may subsist, though there be not a present and a particular care had of them, but there is no possibility that they can subsist, if the heart perish: and so, when we seem to begin with others, in such assistances, indeed, we do begin with ourselves, and we ourselves are principally in our contemplation; and so all these officious and mutual assistances are but compliments towards others, and our true end is ourselves. And this is the reward of the pains of kings; sometimes they need the power of law to be obeyed; and when they seem to be obeyed voluntarily, they who do it do it for their own sakes.

O how little a thing is all the greatness of man and through how false glasses doth he make shift to multiply it, and magnify it to himself! And yet this is also another misery of this king of man, the heart, which is also applicable to the kings of this world, great men, that the venom and poison of every pestilential disease directs itself to the heart, affects that (pernicious affection), and the malignity of ill men is also directed upon the greatest and the best; and not only greatness but goodness loses the vigour of being an antidote or cordial against it. And as the noblest and most generous cordials that nature or art afford, or can prepare, if they be often taken and made familiar, become no cordials, nor have any extraordinary operation, so the greatest cordial of the heart, patience, if it be much exercised, exalts the venom and the malignity of the enemy, and the more we suffer the more we are insulted upon.

When God had made this earth of nothing, it was but a little help that he had, to make other things of this earth: nothing can be nearer nothing than this earth; and yet how little of this earth is the greatest man! He thinks he treads upon the earth, that all is under his feet, and the brain that thinks so is but earth; his highest region, the flesh that covers that, is but earth, and even the top of that, that wherein so many Absaloms take so much pride, is but a bush growing upon that turf of earth. How little of the world is the earth!

And yet that is all that man hath or is. How little of a man is the heart, and yet it is all by which he is; and this continually subject not only to foreign poisons conveyed by others, but to intestine poisons bred in ourselves by pestilential sicknesses. O who, if before he had a being he could have sense of this misery, would buy a being here upon these conditions?

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