The Felicitie of Man, or, His Summum Bonum

His Summum Bonum
Written by Sr,
R: Barckley, Kt

In Caeli summum permanet arce bonum.
Boeth. De Consol Philos Lib. 3

Printed by R.Y.and are Sold by Rich: Roystoneat his shop in Ivie Lane. Ao 1631.

[Page 367]

1. THE

1.1. Chap. I.

Wherein the true property of felicity consisteth: The difference betwixt the felicity of this life, and the Summum bonum: The life of Tymonof Athens: Divers weighty considerations touching the life of man: Of the Sea-man: The life of the Husband-man: of the Marchant: Of the Souldier: Calamities of warre: Of Miriam: Inhumane Cruelty of the Jewes: Of the Numantians: The misery of Famine: The insolency of warre: Of Paris: The estate of a Souldier truly deciphered: The estate of a Lawyer: The miseries of a Client.

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Of the husbandman.And if we looke into the life of husbandmen, which at the first sight seemeth pleasant, quiet, simple, without guile, and happy, and such as Patriarkes and Prophets have made choise of, as that which hath in it least fraud & deceit: and also great Emperours have forsaken their stately Palaces, their Pompe and Dominion, to give themselves to the planting of gardens and orchards: yet he that will looke throughly into the matter, shall find that among these roses, there be many thornes: for whe~ God cast man out of Paradise, hee sent him abroad as an exile; saying, The earth shall be cursed for thy sake, thou shalt eate thereof with travell all the dayes of thy life: for it shall bring forth thornes and thistles, and thou shalt eate the hearbes of the earth: with the sweat of thy browes thou shalt eate thy bread, untill thou returne to the earth againe, from whence thou camest: and who hath more experience of that the Lord spake, then those poore soules, who after they have laboured in the fields day after day, tilled & sowed their ground, endured the rigour of the heat and cold, and sweat as it were water and blood, in the middest of their hope to gather the fruites of their travell, there happeneth unseasonable weather, overmuch plentie or want of raine, frost and snowe, mildewes, and such like? Some lose their cattell, other suffer spoile of their corne, and all that they have long travelled for, in a moment by [Page 380] men of warre, even as they are labouring in the fields: so that in place of comfort and rest, he returneth home sorrowing, where he findeth his wife and children weeping and lamenting for feare of famine: so that this kind of life is full of trouble and unquietnes, alwaies in feare of some thing or other. But let us leave the husbandmen in their labours, and see what goodnes is in the trafficke of merchandize:The Merchant this trade of life, if we looke into it superficially, will seeme to bee exempt from all manner of miserie and unhappinesse, and to promise quietnesse and ease because of riches, wherein it aboundeth: a trade invented for the necessity of our life, which many wise men, as Thales, Solon, Hippocrates and others have exercised; and which nourisheth amitie and love betweene Princes, transporting their commodities from one countrey to another; yet notwithstanding that trade canot so be disguised with faire shewes, but it will easily appeare to him that will enter further into the view of the matter, how full of unquietnesse and troubles their life is, as the Poet saith;
Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos,Per mare pauperiem fugiens per saxa, per ignes.

To how many dangers they are continually subject, either in their own persons, or in the losse of their goods, both by sea and by land, by tempests, by pyrates and theeves, and how great a part of their life many of them spend in strange countries, differing nothing from exiles, saving that their banishments are voluntary; and all this through an excessive desire of gaine, which maketh them leave the pleasure and comfort of their wives and children, of their friends, and native countrey: and what craft (an epytheton peculiar to them in time past, [Page 381] but now growne more generall) and deceit is used of many of that trade, their owne countrey proverbe seemeth to discover, That there needeth nothing but to turne their backe to God a fewe yeeres, and a little to inlarge the entrie into their conscience, to make themselves rich, and to overcome fortune. But we will passe over many things that bee written, and may bee said of them, & conclude with the words of Saint Chrysostome and Saint Augustine: That it is hard for them to please God, or duly and rightly to repent them of their sinnes.

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Nulla fidesx, pietasque viris qui castra sequuntur,
Venalesque manus, ibi fas, vbi maxima merces.
No faith, no piety's in those,
That are of Mars his traine.
Their servile hands hold all as just,
Where they can rub to gaine.

And when they returne from the warres, many of the common sort that lived honestly before, by want of discipline and good example, get such licentiousnesse and dissolutenesse of manners, that they become beggers or theeves, and so lead & end their lives in myserie, of whom the Italian hath a proverb; Warres make theeves, and Peace hangeth them up. The better souldier (saith one) the worse man: but that wee may the better see what fruits spring out of this profession, let us produce some examples of the miseries and calamities that men have suffered by the warres; yet not of the great number of thousands of men that have beene slaine in the field with the sword at one battayle: or the goodly cities that have beene utterly destroyed and made desolate,Sundry calamities suffered by the warres. (for those examples be infinite) but of some few that be more strange, and not so common.

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Josephus reporteth, that when Jerusalem was besieged by the Emperour Titus, besides wonderfull things that the people suffred by the extremitie of famine, as the eating of the leather of their girdles, shooes, targets, and also of their old hay: Her name was Mariam.There was a rich woman had gathered together her goods into a house within the Citie, and lived sparingly upon that she had left: but the souldiers in short time tooke all away, and she could no sooner begge a morsell of meat to helpe to relieve her, but they would take it from her and devoure it themselVes: at last seeing her selfe ready to famish, she committed a horrible Act against nature: shee tooke her childe that she had sucking upon her brests, O unhappie child (quoth shee) but much more unhappie is thy mother! what shall I doe with thee in this Warre, in this famine, and among these seditious people? If I should save thy life, thou shalt live in perpetuall servitude with the Romanes: come hither therefore (my little wretch) and serve thy mother for meat to relieve her, and for a terrour to the Souldiers that have left me nothing, and for a perpetuall memorie of the miseries of mans life, which onely wanteth to the calamities of the Jewes: after shee had spoken these words, shee killed the poore infant, and put him upon the broach, and roasted him, and ate the one halfe, and laid up the rest: which was no sooner done, but the Souldiers came into the house againe, who smelling the savour of the roasted meat, threatned to kill her, except shee brought it foorth: Content your selves, my friends (quoth shee) I have dealt well with you; looke how I have reserved the one moitie for you; and therewith shee set the rest of her childe upon the table before them. The souldiers being amazed with [Page 384] the horrour of this lothsome spectacle, stood silent, unable to speake a word: but the woman contrariwise beholding them with a sterne and sturdie countenance; What now my friends (quoth she?) this is my fruit, this is my childe, this is my fact; why eate yee not? I have eaten before you, are ye more daintie or scrupulous then the mother that brought him foorth? doe yee disdaine the meate that I have tasted before you, and will eate the rest, if yee leave it? The souldiers were not able any longer to endure this lamentable sight, but went trembling away, leaving her alone with the rest of her childe.

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In the Numantians.The people of Numantia in Spaine were driven to such extremitie when Scipio besieged the Citie, that they would hunt after the Romanes, as men doe use to hunt after a Hare or Deare, and eate their flesh, and drinke their blood as hungerly as if it had beene Beefe or Mutton: they would vowe to their Gods not to breake their fast but with the flesh of a Romane, nor to drinke wine or water untill they had tasted of the blood of their enemies which they should kill: so that none of the Romanes were taken prisoners, but when they had killed any of them, they would flay him, quarter him, & wey him in the shambles, and sell him more deare being dead, then his ransome would yeeld being alive. When Scipio perceived the great harmes the Romanes sustained by those desperate men that would accept of no reasonable conditions, nor commit themselves to the clemencie of the Romanes: who would answer, that seeing they had lived so many yeeres in libertie, they would not now die slaves: hee remooved his campe something farther from the towne, and entrenched them so straightly round about, that no victuals could come unto them: Then was there great cries of the women within the Citie: lamentable complaints made by the Priests to their Gods: and shrill and pitifull exclamations made by the men to Scipio, that hee would let them come out to fight like men of Warre, and not [Page 386] to destroy them by famine like cowards: O Scipio (said they) thou that art a noble and valiant young Romane, doest not advisedly consider what thou doest, nor they that give thee counsell: thus to keepe us in, is but a policie of Warre, but if thou overcome us in battell, thou shalt then winne to thy selfe immortall fame and glory.

But when the Numantines perceived that Scipio would not be remooved from his resolution, after they had endured the siege a yeere and seven moneths, the young and lustie men assembled themselves together, Desperate solution.and killed all the old men, women and children, and brought all the riches of the Citie, and Temples, and heaped them up in the Market place, and gave fire to all parts of the Citie, and then poysoned themselves; so as the Temples, Houses, Riches and People of Numantia ended all in one day, leaving to Scipio, neither goods to spoyle, nor men or women upon whom to triumph. When Scipio entered the Citie, and beheld this lamentable spectacle, not without sheading teares: Conquered, but not overcome.O happy Numantia (quoth he) the Gods would thou shouldest one day have an end, but never to be overcome. The Danes under their King Hading making Warre in Suecia, in the winter suffered a wonderfull famine: for being so straightly besieged by Uffo King of Suecia, that they had no meanes to proceede further in their enterprise, nor yet returne into their countrey: when their victuals were all consumed, they were driven to eate the hearbs and grasse in the fields, then the roots and barkes of trees, when all their Cats, and Rats, and Horses were consumed, The misery of famine.they that were left alive, killed many of their owne fellowes and ate them.

And the Caliguritans, when Pompey besieged their Citie so straightly, that all [Page 387] things were consumed that might serve them for meat, they ate their wives and children. Among the rest of the infelicities and miseries that ensue of the Warres, this is not the least, that Olorus King of Thracia, when hee had subdued the Daces, compelled all the men to be servants or slaves to their wives, in token of extreme servitude, & of the most spitefull disgrace and ignominie that he could devise to inflict upon them. And this was no lesse spitefull, that Attilus King of Suecia made a Dog King of the Danes, in revenge of a great many injuries received by them. And Gunno likewise King of the Danes made a Dog King of Norway, & appointed Counsellers to doe all things under his title and name. But the Emperour Fredericke the second used a more moderation, when hee had overcome the people in Hungary: We have (said the Emperour) done a great worke, but now there remaineth a greater worke, that we overcome and master our selves; that wee make an end of our covetousnesse and desire of revenge: words worthy of an Emperour. Marcus Aurelius noting the infelicitie of these kinde of men among the Romanes, saith; After our men of Warre are gone out of Rome, they neither feare the Gods, nor honour the Temples: they reverence not the Priests: they have no obedience to their Fathers, nor shame to the people, dread of justice, neither compassion of their countrey: some rob the Temples, others breake up doores: the nights they passe in playes, the dayes in blasphemies: to day they fight like Lyons, to morrow they fly like Cowards: some rebell against their Captaines, and others flie to the enemies: finally, they are unmeet for all good, and meete for all evill: and therefore, to speake of their filthinesse, I am ashamed to describe them: they leave [Page 388] their owne wives, and take the wives of others: they dishonour the daughters of the good, and they beguile the innocent virgins: there is no neighbour but they covet, nor Oastesse but they force: they breake their old wedlocke, and yeerely seeke a new marriage: so that they doe all things what they list, and nothing what they ought.

What? wilt thou I tell thee more of the injuries which the Captaines doe to the Cities whereby they passe? of the slanders which they raise in the Provinces where they abide? the Moths doe not so much harme to the garments, nor the Locusts to the corne, as the Captaines doe to the people: for they leave no beast but they kill, nor orchard but they rob, nor wine but they drinke, nor dove-house but they climbe, nor Temple but they spoile, nor villanie but they commit: they eate, without meaning to pay: they will not serve, unlesse they be well paid: and the worst of all is, if they have their pay, immediately they spend and play it away; if they be not paid, they rob and mutine: so that with povertie they are not content, and with riches they are luxurious and insolent. I heard one day (saith the Emperour) but hee saw not mee, a Captaine of mine say to an Oastesse of his, that would not let him doe in the house what hee would: Yee of the countrey did never know Captaines of Armies, and therefore know it now (mother) that the earth doth never tremble,A Cowardly boaster. but when it is threatned with a Romane Captaine: and the Gods doe never suffer the Sunne to shine, but where we are obeyed. Within short space after, this Captaine went to a battell in Arabia, where hee was the first that fled and left the Standard alone, which had almost made mee lose the battell; but in recompence of his valiant service, I [Page 389] commanded his head to be cut off. Of these men one speaketh thus;

Viviolas leges & ferro jura lacessit,
Obterit innoc os, alieno pascitur are.
Gods Lawes and Mans, by steele and force
Dissolve and breake they would,
The Innocent they grieve, and seeke
To prey on others gold.

But what need we seeke so farre for examples of this kinde, when our owne age yeeldeth us more then sufficient, to proove the miseries that follow this trade of life?The siege of Sanserra. In these Civill Warres of France, Sanserra was so straightly besieged, that for want of victuals almost halfe the people were consumed by famine: when they had eaten up all their Dogs, Cats, Mice, and Wants, they fell to the hides of their Oxen, and Kine, and Sheepe: then to their leather girdles, saddles, bridles, and halters: to their purses, points, and all manner of leather garments: then they ate the hooffs of Horses, Oxen, Stags and Goats, whereof many had long hanged at their keyes: when all their corne was consumed, they made bread of straw cut in small pieces and stamped in a morter, and of a kinde of tile-stones: and when all these things were spent, the rage of their hunger was so extreme, that they ate the dung of beasts: and also their owne excrements: they would also seeke among the dung-mixens for the bones and hornes of beasts that had long lien there rotting, and eate them greedily.

There were that would have eaten the carcasses of dead men, but being taken with the manner, they were punished by the Magistrates: and when they were driven to this extremitie, that all manner of things that might bee eaten were almost consumed, [Page 390] they cast out of the towne all those that were unserviceable for the Warres; who were without any mercie or respect of humanitie most cruelly with stripes and wounds by the enemie driven into the towne againe: but the sight of the towne was so hatefull unto them, that many chose rather to suffer any extremitie then to returne thither againe, and were slaine with their shot. It was a lamentable sight to behold men, women and children like a dried corse, nothing left upon them but skinne and bone: but nothing could moove the hard hearts of their enemies, so as at last they were enforced to yeeld up the towne upon certaine conditions.

Of Paris.When the French King that now is and of Navarre besieged Paris of late yeeres, the famine grew so extreme within the Citie, that they fed upon their Horses, Asses, Dogs, Cats, Mice, Vineleaves; and after some Writers, there died by famine above thirtie thousand persons: and this lamentable History is also reported; that a Citizen having nothing wherewith to feede himselfe, his wife and his children, not able any longer to endure the sight of this miserie, nor to heare their lamentable complaints, he first hanged up his wife and his children, and then himselfe. But before this was done, he tyed a writing to his brest, declaring the only cause why he committed this act to be, that hee was no longer able to endure this miserie, and therefore hee prayed God that hee would forgive him this fault.


1.2. CHAP. III.

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Now if wee should prosecute in a generalitie this discourse of the miseries of man, as wee have done of their particular estates, how many kinds of paines and torments hee suffereth in this life, and how many wayes, and in what miserable estate hee commeth by his death, wee should rather lacke time then matter to write of. But to follow the course that we have already taken in other things: let us, of an infinite number of examples, select some few. What paines and troubles men suffer in this life, in labouring to attaine to [Page 455] their desires, something hath beene said before, and more shall be said hereafter. Likewise what miseries men have suffered by the warres, hath beene touched already. Now resteth to speake something of the calamities that happen to men by diseases and accidents, which bring them to their end: whereof we will recite some few examples of those that be rare and somewhat strange: But first wee will adde one more to that which hath beene spoken before of famine, a most miserable plague, and horrible kinde of death, one of the whips and scourges wherewith God useth to punish the sinnes of men. In the fourth booke of the Kings, mention is made of a famine in SamariaA great famine. in the time of Helizeus, which was in all extremitie: and when all their victuals were consumed, the mothers did eate their owne children; insomuch that a poore woman made her complaint to the King (seeing him upon the walles) that a woman, her neighbour, would not performe a bargaine made betweene them, which was, that they should eate her childe first, which, (said shee unto the King) I have performed: for wee sod and ate my childe, and shee presently hath conveyed away her childe, and hath hidden him, that I should not eate my part of him: which when the King heard, his heart was ready for griefe to breake and leape out of his body; and hee beganne to rent his garments, and covered his flesh with sackcloth, saying, God make mee so, and as followeth in the Text.

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1.3. CHAP. IIII.

Of sundry sorts of plagues and pestilence, and great mortalities. The Judgements of God upon divers evill men. Of PopyelusKing of Polonia and his Queene. Arnolphusand HottoBishop of Ments, &c. Other strange accidents concerning Gods great Justice. The miraculous effects of feare, sorrow, and joy approoved by History. The instability of fortune instanced in the story of PolicratesKing of Samos. His daughters ominous dreame. His great prosperity and miserable end. That no man can be said to be happy before death. Of the vaine trust in riches, and of rich and covetous men. Avarice reprooved and punished, &c.

This is a selection from the original text


cattle, corn, frost, plenty, rain, snow, trade, travel, war

Source text

Title: The Felicitie of Man, or, His Summum Bonum

Author: Sir Richard Barckley

Publisher: R. Y.

Publication date: 1631

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 1383 Physical description: [18], 368, 367526,607717,[17] p. Copy from: Cambridge University Library Reel position: STC / 651:06

Digital edition

Original author(s): Sir Richard Barckley

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) book 5: p. 367 (summary of book at the beginning), 379-81 (And if we look into the life of the husbandmen ... of their sinnes"), 382-84 (Nulla fides ... rest of her childe), 385-90 (The people of Numantia ... forgive him this fault), 454-56 (Now if wee should prosecute ... summary of chapter 4).


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Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

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Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > religion: theological treatises

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