George Atherton Aitken.

The life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians online

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tisement. The following poem was Pascal, which cannot make it less

wrote several years ago : as it may acceptable to the Public' — I have

do good to some, and cannot hurt printed this piece, the only one of

the reputation of the author, though which we have the author's manu-

he should be known, I have given script, first, as it was published, and

it to my bookseller to publish. It sccondly,as it was originally written.


Essence divine, with lifeless clay allayed,

By double nature, double instinct swayed,

With look erect, I dart my longing eye,

Seem winged to part, and gain my native sky ;

I strive to mount, but strive, alas ! in vain.

Tied to this massy globe with magic chain.

Now with swift thought I range from pole to pole.

View worlds around their flaming centres roll :

What steady powers their endless motions guide,

Through the same trackless paths of boundless void !

I trace the blazing comet's fiery trail.

And weigh the whu'ling planets in a scale ;

Those godlike thoughts, while eager I pursue,

Some glittering trifle offered to my view,

A gnat, an insect, of the meanest kind.

Erase the new born image from my mind ;

Some beastly want, craving, importunate,

Vile as the grinning mastiffs at my gate.

Calls off from heavenly truth this reasoning me,

And tells me I'm a brute as much as he.

If on sublimer wings of love and praise

My soul above the starry vault I raise.

Lured by some vain conceit, or shameful lust,

I flag, I drop, and flutter in the dust.

The towering lark thus from her lofty strain

Stoops to an emmet, or a barley grain.

By adverse gusts of jarring instincts tossed,

I rove to one, now to the other coast ;

To bliss vmknown my lofty soul aspires,

My lot unequal to my vast desires.

As 'mongst the hinds a child of royal birth

Finds his high pedigree by conscious worth.

So man, amongst his fellow brutes exposed,

Sees he's a king, but 'tis a king deposed.

Pity him, beasts ! you by no law confined.

Are barred from devious paths by being blind ;

Whilst man, through opening views of various ways.

Confounded, by the aid of knowledge strays ;

Too weak to choose, yet choosing still in haste.

One moment gives the pleasure and distaste ;

Bilked by past minutes, while the present cloy.


The flattering future still must give the joy.
Not happy, but amused upon the road,
And like you thoughtless of his last abode.
Whether next sun his being shall restrain
To endless nothing, happiness, or pain.

Around me, lo, the thinking thoughtless crew,
(Bewildered each) their different paths pursue ;
Of them I ask the way ; the first replies.
Thou art a god ; and sends me to the skies.
Down on this turf (the next) thou two-legged beast,
There fix thy let, thy bliss, and endless rest ;
Between those wide extremes the length is such,
I find I know too little or too much.

'Almighty power, by whose most wise command,
Helpless, forlorn, uncertain here I stand ;
Take this faint glimmering of thyself away,
Or break into my soul with perfect day ! '
This said, expanded lay the sacred text,
The balm, the light, the guide of souls perplexed :
Thus the benighted traveller that strays
Through doubtful paths, enjoys the morning rays;
The nightly mist, and thick descending dew.
Parting, unfold the fields, and vaulted blue.
' O truth divine ! enlightened by thy ray,
I grope and guess no more, but see my way ;
Thou clear'dst the secret of my high descent.
And told me what those mystic tokens meant ;
Marks of my birth, which I had worn in vain.
Too hard for worldly sages to explain ;
Zeno's were vain, vain Epicurus' schemes,
Their systems false, delusive were their dreams ;
Unskilled my twofold nature to divide,
One nursed by pleasure, and one nursed by pride ;
Those jarring truths which human art beguile,
Thy sacred page thus bid me reconcile.'
Ofspring of God, no less thy pedigree.
What thou once wert, art now, and still may be,
Thy God alone can tell, alone decree ;
Faultless thou dropped from His unerring skill.
With the bare power to sin, since free of will ;
Yet charge not with thy guilt His bounteous love;


For who has power to walk, has power to rove,

Who acts by force impelled, can nought deserve ;

And wisdom short of infinite, may swerve.

Born oa thy now-imped wings, thou took'st thy flight,

Left thy Creator, and the realms of light ;

Disdained His gentle precept to fulfil ;

And thought to grow a god by doing ill :

Though l>y foul guilt thy heavenly form defaced,

In nature changed, from happy mansions chased.

Thou still retain'st some sparks of heavenly fire.

Too faint to mount, yet restless to aspire ;

Angel enough to seek thy bliss again,

And brute enough to make thy search in vain.

The creatures now withdraw their kindly use,

Some fly thee^ some torment, and some seduce ;

Eepast ill-suited to such different guests,

For what thy sense desires, thy soul distastes ;

Thy lust, thy curiosity, thy pride.

Curbed, or deferred, or balked, or gratified,

Kage on, and make thee equally unblessed

In what thou want'st, and what thou hast possessed ;

In vain thou hop'st for bliss on this poor clod,

Return, and seek thy father, and thy God :

Yet think not to regain thy native sky.

Born on the wings of vain philosophy ;

Mysterious passage ! hid from human eyes ;

Soaring you'll sink, and sinking you will rise :

Let humble thoughts thy wary footsteps guide.

Regain by meekness what you lost by pride.


(^Frofii the autograph HIS. in t/ie British Mttseum.)

What am I ? how produc'd ? & for what end ?
Whence drew I being ? to what period tend ?
Am I th' Abandond orphan of blind chance?
Dropt by wild atoms, in disorderd dance ;
Or from an endless chain of causes wrought ?
And of unthinking substance Born with thought.
The purple stream, that through my vessels glides,
Dull & unconscious Flows like common tides.


The pipes through which the circling juices stray,

Are not that thinking I, no more than they.

This Frame compacted, with transcendent skill,

Of moving joynts obedient to my will,

Nurs'd from the fruitfuU Glebe, like yonder Tree,

Waxes & wasts ; 'tis mine, but 'tis not me.

New matter still my mouldering Mass sustains,

The Fabrick changd ; the Tenant still remains :

The self same I ; not Bone, nor Flesh, nor Blood ;

Not the fixed solid, nor the circling Flood.

Unchanged within the Fleeting Frame resides

& through each point of life, its Motion Guides.

What am I then ? sure, of a nobler Birth.

Thy parents Right, I own Mother Earth ;

But claim superior Lineage by my Sire,

Who warmd th'unthinking clod with heavenly Fire.

Essense divine, with lifeless clay allayd,

By double nature, double instinct swayd.

With Look erect, I dart my Longing eye.
Seem wingd to part, & climb my native Skye.
I strive to mount ; But strive alas in vain,
Tyd to this massy Globe by magick chain.
Now on swift thought I flye from i^ole to pole,
View worlds around theii* Flaming Centers Roll.
What steddy powers their Lasting motions guide,
Through the same trackless paths of Boundless Void.
I weigh the i:)onderous planets in a scale,
& trace the Blazing Comets Fiery Trail.
These godlike thoughts, while eager I pursue,
Some glittering trifle, offerd to my view,
A Gnat or insect of the meanest kind,
Can Rase the new Born image from my Mind.
Some Beastly want, urging, importunate,
Vile as the grinning mastifs at my gate.
Calls off from heav'nly truth this reasoning me,
& tells me I'me a Brute as much as he.
Whilst on seraphick wings of love & praise,
My Soul above the starry vault I raise,
Lur'd by some vain conceit, or shamefull Lust,
I flag, I drop, & Flutter, in the dust.
The Touring Lark, thus from her lofty strain,
Stoops to an emmet, or a Barly Grain.
By passing gusts of differing passions tost,
I rove to this, now to the other cost.
My restless soul at Bliss luitasted aims,
In earthy mansions Glows with heavenly Flames.

As 'mongst the Hinds a child of Royal Birth
Finds his high pedegree, by conscious worth,
So man amongst his fellow Brutes exposd
Feels he's a King, but 'tis a King depos'd.
Pity him, Beasts ; you by no Law confin'd
Are Bar'd from Devious paths by being Blind.


Whilst man, by opening views of various wayes
Confounded, by the aid of knowledge strays.
To find impatient, yet too weak to chuse
Fond to discover what he should refuse,
Pleas'd with his vain amusements on the Road
Yet like yow thoughtless of his Last abode.
Whether next sun, his Being shall restrain
To endless nothing, Hap2>iness, or jxain ?

AiTOund me I behold the thinking crew,
Bewilder'd each their different paths pursue.
Of them I ask the way ; the First rejilys,
Thow art a god, & sends me to the skys.
Down on this Turf (the next) thow two-Iegd Beast,
Here fix thy Lett, thy Bliss, & endless rest.
Between those wide extremes my doubts are such,
I find I know too litle or too much.

Allmighty Power, by whose most dread command.
Helpless, Forlorn, uncertain here I stand.
Take this faint glimmering of thy self away,
Or Bi'eak into my Sovil vdth perfect day.
This said ; expanded lay the sacred text,
The light the Balm the Guide of Souls perplexd :
Stupendous is thy power ; light divine
The sons of darkness tremble at each Line.
Black doubt, & Hell-Born error shun thy Ray
As tardy sprights are startled at the day.
Thow cleard the secret of my high descent,
Thow told me what those Motly tokens meant,
Marks of my Birth, which I had worn in vain,
Too hard for worldly sages to explain.
Zenos were false, vain Epicui-us s[c] hemes.
Their systems false ; delusive were their dreams.
Unskilld my two fold nature to divide ;
One nursd by pleasure, & one nursd my pride.
Those jarring truths which human art beguild
Thus in thy page I read ; & reconcild.
I am thy god ; thow canst alone from me
Learn what thow wert, thow art, & still may Be.
Faultless thou di'opt from my unerring Skill,
With the Bare power to sin, since Free of will.
Nor for this freedome, could thow blame my love.
For he may wander, who has power to move.
Born on thy new urgd wings, thow took thy Flight,
Left thy Creator, & the Realms of light ;
Under thy Feet, my diead commandments trode.
And thought by doing ill, to grow a god.
Thy heavnly Beauty thus by sin defacd,
In nature changd, from happy Mansions chasd,
Thow still conceals't some sparks of heavnly Fire,
Too faint to mount, yet restless to aspire.
Angel enough to seek thy Bliss again.
And Brute enough, to make this search in vain.


From hence it is that warring temijests Roll
Within thy Breast, & Rend thy torturd soul.
Thy lust, thy curiosity, thy Pride,
Curbd, or deferrd, or Baulkd, or Gratifyd
Rage on, & make the[e] equally unblessd
In what thow wants or what thou hast possesst ;
Repast ill swited, to such differing guests
For what thy sense desires thy soul distasts.
In vain thow seeks thy Bliss, on this poor clod,
Return to me, thy Father, & thy god.
But think not to regain thy native Skye
By towring thoughts of vain philosophy ;
Strange is the way that Leads to paradise
Thow must by creeping mount & sinking Rise.
Lett Lowly thoughts thy wary Footsteps guide,
Regain thus humbly, what thow lost by pride.






Many remarkable passages, ^^^th an Inscription designed

Non moreris G te voles, sed vivus ad Astra,

Aetheriis vectus qiialis Enoclius eqiiis. — Dr. Bentley.

Thursday, March io, i7i4(-5).

Quicquid erit vitae, scribam, color. — Ror.

Rose at five : slipped on my moming-go'VN'Ti : purified my out-
side. Meditated on the vanity of washings, and the superfluity
of habits. Walked about my room half an hour precisely.
Exercise useful ; throws off cornipt humours ; much need of it.
Look out the window ; hemmed three times ; much easier than
before. Three ejaculations for that. Cast my eyes about. I
am positive I see a Romish priest : omen of an evil import. O I
the depths of Satan ! few know them ; I do. Look into the
glass : choler begins to rise ; face reddens, eyes sparkle, handis
shake, body trembles. Sad meditation ! whence could that
fellow come ? Rome, Rome ! debaucher of morals, seducer
of souls, painted whore, filthy abomination ! Great perturbation
of mind : sigh for ease in the spirit. Servant enters : inquire

' As regards this attack on Gilbert might sometimes have been more

Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, see discreet to keep silent. Swift at-

page 85. Burnet was a politician tacked him in ' A Preface to tla-

and broad churchman, whose chief Bishop of Sarum's Introduction to the

weakness was vanity. He always third volume of the History of the Re-

said what he thought, though it formation,' and elsewhere.


who that fellow is ? answered, the small-coal-man : imexpected
exultation, dawnings of comfort, gleams of recovery ! Give my
man sixpence for the good news : a guinea saved in a doctor.
Ask again if he is sure it was the small-coal-man? answered,
yes. Am satisfied. Call for my tea ; drink thii-ty dishes :
read over the Daily Courant : more work in the North : dangerous
conjunctions ! Saxony, Sweden. Poor protestants ! Few people
understand the interests of princes : I have been acquainted
with all Europe for near half a century. Company comes in :
politics inteniipted. They stay till night : talk of secret history ;
I tell a great many stories : all friends, eveiybody pleased.
Eetire to my chamber : read over a small treatise of my own :
go to sleep.

Friday Morning.

Non si male nunc, et ollm

Sic erit.
Waked at three : ,

. . . Lie upon my left side, get a little rest ; dream that I
am dead, and conversing with the ghosts of emperors, popes,
and kings. Wake in a cold sweat at five : call for a light :
look into Partridge's Almanack : some obscure hints about a
Eight Reverend : sick at heart. March, ay March : dismal Ides
of March ! Abundance of Caesars died in that month ; desperate,
lion-like, killing month ; pray a little : faith and grace, good
things : worldly possessions hard to part with. Rise in a fright.
Consider of my dream : prove myself no proj)het, and therefore
an unfit vessel for visions of truth : more comfort from the
proverb, ' dream of death, hear of marriage ' : new fears ! perhaps
son Tom is married ' : better than my dying still. Sure he has
more grace ; heartily afraid he has not. Variety of doubts,
perplexities, and uncertain anxieties. Send for Tom. Wish
Radcliffe^ was alive: hang him, he would not come to me.
Come to no resolution. Tom not to be found : a sad child.
Resolved not to be afraid : repeat three verses of the 1 1 oth
Psalm ; say, what is man ? three times : call for my tea : tea is

' Thomas Burnet (1694-1753), baiichee, but is said to have turned

Bishop Burnet's youngest son. He out an upright judge,

was knighted in 1745 ; and never " Dr. John Radcliffe.
married. He was a wit and de-


insipid, nauseous, offends my stomach : tiy to expectorate :
phlegm viscid. Bad signs. Everything out of order : suppose
I should bleed : signifies nothing ; things predestinated must
come to pass. Want diversion : call for a pamphlet at twelve :
read over ten pages all in my own commendation : grow better
apace : order a light dinner. Diink a glass of sack. New
spii-its, ncAV life. Partridge a fool, and no trust in almanacks,
especially the Oxford. March as good a month as any in the
year. Go to dinner, eat moderately : drink prosjierity to their
high and mightinesses ; to Lord Thomas, Lord John, Lord
Charles, and all our friends. Grow merry ; don't despair of
L[ambe]th still : he is older than I am : a good man, a very good
man ; — but we must all die \ A sudden qualm comes upon me :
retire to my chamber : consider of the crime of forecasting our
neighbour's death. Grow worse and worse. Think of my own
age : past seventy : high tune to set my house in order. A
friend from the other end of the town interrupts me at eight.
Talk of state-affairs two hours. Revived ■with some good news
at first. Differences among our friends : nonsense to quarrel.
He must be the man. Tories may make an advantage. Tell
my friend a stoiy that I told to three kings to the same jDurpose.
Memorandum : he smiled, and said he had never heard it before.
Sei-vant brings a bottle of wine : whisper a great secret while he
is in the room : forgot to apply an old saying of Queen
Elizabeth's : resolved to remember it next tune upon the same
stoiy. Friend takes his leave, promises to come to-moiTow.
Muse upon my state of health : go to bed : think that repentance
is as necessary as impeachments.

Satukday, March 12.
Aspice venture laetantur ut omnia Saeclo !

Rested well all night : rise at seven : begin to think of the old
argument about Bishops and Presbyters : much the same in the
Greek. Resolved to spend the morning in writing to Zurich,
Geneva, and Holland. Drink my usual quantity of tea first :
read the Flying Post . he is an honest man, tells truth, I must
try to prefer him : rewards as necessaiy for friends, as punish-

' Archbishop Tenison died in December, 1715, in his seventy-ninth


merits for high-flyers. Set down to write : a letter in French to
Van Munden of Utrecht, full of politics : a new scheme for the
Barrier : to Le Clerc in Latin about my last book, with a note of
fifty pounds : tell hmi what I would have him say of me in his
Journal ; skill in antiquities, history, critical learning, modera-
tion. Leave my piety to himself. Memorandum ; to advise him
in my postscrijit to brand my enemies in Britain with the style
and titles of Nehtdones impuri, Eccleslae Festcs, Rltimm Fautores
nequissimi, in Litcris et Historid plane Pueri. After this to
sum them up by name : to end Avith something like this ; Vivat
diutissime magnum illucl Ecclesiae decus, Hlstoriae et Antiquitath
Instaurafor felicissimus. A letter of thanks to Zurich : another
to my old friend who has so many children and grandchildren
at Geneva. Eesolved to go abroad to-day. Friend comes.
Mahomet and Mustapha. No more of that. Go out to visit my
brother ^ across the water. Nothing venture nothing have : my
cold may go off. Enter into the following dialogue with my

Scot I am glad to see you well, brother : these glorious
times give us all a new life ; for my part I fancy myself twenty
years younger than I was ten months ago.

Broth. You may do so ; but I am old, very old : I can't read

your last book, but I thank you for it. — I will ask Dr. G n

about it.

Scot. I have been at some pains truly : but there are some
things I should have left out, had I foreseen how matters would
have happened : they were calculated for some fears that are
now blown over.

Broth. We can never be too much afraid of the P[o]pe :
the man of sin flourisheth still.

Scot. But now is our time to lop off his branches ; we shall
see the completion of some prophecies in the Eevelations in oui'
days, I trust.

Broth. I can't, I can't tell : interpreters are doubtful, and I
can't read now.

Scot. You have done a great deal of good in your time : oui'
ages require us both to leave off painstaking. But I can't
forbear turning over my beloved pages still : I own I read

' Sir Thomas Burnet, Fellow of was the Thesaurus Medicae. He ap-
tlie Royal College of Physicians, pears to have died in 17 15.
Edinburgh. His principal work


Calvin in a morning still, and Buchanan's Psalms at night : they
please me, and I love to be pleased.

Broth. I have done ■\^dth pleasure now : the good woman is
departed, and I must follow.

Scot. I have had a cold these two days, and am now alarmed
with a difficulty of breath : I must take my leave — for fear of
the worst. Farewell, brother ; and if thou seest me no more,
remember there was such an one as Scoto.

Broth. Yes, all the world will remember thee. Fare thee

Took boat at six : meditated on my passage from one side of
the water to the other : like passing from this life into another.
Very like it. Cough violently at landing. Walk through the
Temple : look up at Tom's window : no light there : he
never studies: how then could he write that Letter^? Omnes
omnia bona diccre, et laudare fortunam meam qui Filium
haherem tali ingenio pracditinn. I was so when I was young :
happy days ! they are past. Cough again : get into the coach :
meditate on the sunilitude of Luther to a postillion in his oil-
coat lashing through a diiiy road. Some wit in it. Does
not reflect upon the Eeforaiation. Am set down at home out of
breath. Helped up to my chamber. Eheum tickles sadly.
Pectoral lozenges. Little help. Catched more cold upon the
water. Look over Baxter's ' Cordial to Fainting Sinners ' :
revive upon it. Draught of sack : as good as Baxter. Sold
fonnerly at the apothecaiy's only : now in every tavern.
Strange abuse of creatures ! thus an harlot is first gently used
by some man of quality, who by often tasting recommends the
wicked one : from whence (O fatal lapse !) she falls into the
hands of the multitude, and becomes the delight of eveiy vulgar
sinner, and is to be enjoyed at eveiy house of evil name in the

town ■ Query with

myself, why my head runs so much upon similitudes?
Perhaps it may be giddy. Look over the prayers for the sick :
forms, mere forms ! Effusions of the soul edify much. Go to
bed betimes. Think to-morrow is Sunday.

' Tom Burnet published The Necessity of impeaching ihelate Ministry, in a letter
to the Earl of Halifax, in 1715.



Sunday, March 13.

Aegrotante corpore animus quae futura sunt aut praevidet, aut sibi saepe
visus est praevidere. — Augustine.

Wake at four : reflect on the strange somniations of the
night. Eememhor the saying of Horace, Ydut aegri soninia :
what have I to do with heathen poets? The soul must be
inimoi'tal, but not Dodwell's way. Asgill a fool ; no man can be
translated but from one see to another : there is some sense in
that verily : spectres, pointed fires, headless mortals, visionary
elysiums, creatures of the fancy. That part of the dream about
walking on a great bridge, and falling from thence into a
boundless ocean, where I sunk down, and saw at the bottom
Daniel Burgess, William Penn, &c. carries a fine allegory.
Nothing at all in it however. The Lord has more work for me
to do still. Call for my man Jonathan. Brings a candle : fancy
Jonathan looks like death. Say a prayer and a half of my own.
Jonathan and I reason thus about his being Death :

Mast. Suppose you are Death, tell me what you would say
to me now, Jonathan.

Jonafh. I Death ! No, sii-, I can't be Death, nay I am no
relation of his ; never saw him in my life, Sii\

Blast Thou man of carnal understanding, and gross ignor-
ance : thou, and eveiy worm, (for what is man but a worm ?) are
related to him : Life and Death are akin, as much as flesh and
corruption : therefore suppose thyself Death, and speak to me in
his name,

Jonath. In the name of Death then, what is it you would
have, Sir?

Mast. You must say, you are come to visit me, and ask me
some questions ; and I will reply to you : this will fortify my
spirits, and make me less afraid of real Death, when he

JonatJi. I come. Sir, to tell you that you have lived long
enough, and enjoyed the good things of the world : it is not fit
you should live to be a week older ; your sense and reason are
gone ; you are a burthen to the eai-th ; repent and come away
with me.

Mast. That is too much : — you should have left out
burthen of the eaiih, and those things : I see you don't under-
stand my meaning. No more of this.


Jonathan depaits. TJiink of his stuiiidity. It could not be
out of design : he thinks his master mad. Eise at seven.
Indisposition increases. Send for a list of the Lent Preachers :
make pishes at some names : will it come to my turn ? St.
Andrews a large parish : a great many odd Saints' names about
this town should be abolished. The almanacks ought to be
corrected : red letters abomination. Eesolve to see nobody to-
day. Eesolve to drink three quarts of water-gruel instead of my

Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 40 of 47)