Cornaro

 

 

Such are some of the recreations and diversions of my old age, which is so much the more to be valued than the old age, or even the youth of other men; as, being freed by God's grace from the perturbations of the mind and the infirmities of the body, I no longer experience any of those contrary emotions which rack such a number of young men and as many old ones, who, by reason of their careless living and intemperate habits, are destitute of health and strength, and consequently of all true enjoyment. 

And if it be lawful to compare little matters to affairs of importance, I will further venture to say, that such are the effects of this sober life, that, at my present age of eighty-three, I have been able to write an entertaining comedy, abounding with innocent mirth and pleasant jests. 

I have yet another comfort which I will mention; that of seeing a kind of immortality in a succession of descendants; for, as often as I return home, I find before me, not one or two, but eleven grandchildren, the oldest of them eighteen, all the offspring of one father and mother, and all blessed with good health. Some of the youngest I play with; those older, I make companions of; and, as nature has bestowed good voices upon them, I amuse myself by hearing them sing, and play on different instruments. Nay, I sing myself, as I have a better voice now, clearer and louder, than at any period of my life. Such are the recreations of my old age. And these are two great evils to all men who live a free life; the one is troublesome and painful, the other, dreadful and insupportable, especially when they reflect on the errors to which this mortal life is subject, and on the vengeance which the justice of God is wont to take on sinners. Whereas, I, in my old age, praise to the Almighty, am exempt from these torments; from the first, because I cannot fall sick, having removed all the cause of illness by my regularity and moderation; from the other, that of death, because from so many years' experience, I have learned to obey reason whereas, I not only think it a great folly to fear that which cannot be avoided, but likewise firmly expect some consolation, from the grace of Jesus Christ, when I arrive at that period. 

But though I know I must, like others, reach that term, it is yet at so great a distance that I cannot discern it, because I know I shall not die except by were dissolution having already, by my regular course of life, shut up all other avenues of death, and thus prevented the humours of my body making any other war upon me, than that which I must expect from the elements employed in the composition of this mortal frame. I am not so simple as not to know that, as I was born, so I must die; but the natural death that I speak of does not overtake one, until after a long course of years; and even then, I do not expect the pain and agony which most men suffer when they die. But I, by God's blessing, reckon that I have still a long time to live in health and spirits, and enjoy this beautiful world, which is, indeed, beautiful to those who know how to make it so, but its beauty can only be realized by those who, by reason of temperance and virtue, enjoy sound health of body and mind.

Now, if this sober and moderate manner of living brings so much happiness; if the blessings that attend it are so stable and permanent, then I beseech every man of sound judgment to embrace this valuable treasure, that of a long and healthful life, a treasure which exceeds all other worldly blessings, and, there fore, should be sought after; for what is wealth and abundance to a man who is possessed with a feeble and sickly body ? This is that divine sobriety, agreeable to God, the friend of nature, the daughter of reason, the sister of all the virtues, the companion of temperate living, modest, courteous, content with little, regular, and perfectly mistress of all her operations. From her, as from their proper root, spring life, health, cheerfulness, industry, learning and all those actions and employments worthy of noble and generous minds. The laws of God are all in her favour. Repletion, excess, intemperance, superfluous humours, diseases, fevers, pains, and the dangers of death, vanish in her presence, as mists before the sun. Her comeliness ravishes every well-disposed mind. Her influence is so sure, as to promise to all a long and agreeable life. And, lastly, she promises to be a mild and pleasant guardian of life, teaching how to ward off the attacks of death. Strict sobriety, in eating and drinking, renders the senses and understanding clear, the memory tenacious, the body lively and strong, the movements regular and easy; and the soul, feeling so little of her earthly burden, experiences much of her natural liberty. The man thus enjoys a pleasing and agreeable harmony, there being nothing in his system to disturb; for his blood is pure, and runs freely through his veins, and the heat of his body is mild and temperate.

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