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Meditation X


THIS is nature's nest of boxes: the heavens contain the earth; the earth, cities; cities, men. And all these are concentric; the common centre to them all is decay, ruin; only that is eccentric which was never made; only that place, or garment rather, which we can imagine but not demonstrate. That light, which is the very emanation of the light of God, in which the saints shall dwell, with which the saints shall be apparelled, only that bends not to this centre, to ruin; that which was not made of nothing is not threatened with this annihilation. All other things are; even angels, even our souls; they move upon the same poles, they bend to the same centre; and if they were not made immortal by preservation, their nature could not keep them from sinking to this centre, annihilation. In all these (the frame of the heavens, the states upon earth, and men in them, comprehend all), those are the greatest mischiefs which are least discerned; the most insensible in their ways come to be the most sensible in their ends. The heavens have had their dropsy, they drowned the world; and they shall have their fever, and burn the world. Of the dropsy, the flood, the world had a foreknowledge one hundred and twenty years before it came; and so some made provision against it, and were saved; the fever shall break out in an instant and consume all; the dropsy did no harm to the heavens from whence it fell, it did not put out those lights, it did not quench those heats; but the fever, the fire, shall burn the furnace itself, annihilate those heavens that breathe it out. Though the dogstar have a pestilent breath, an infectious exhalation, yet, because we know when it will rise, we clothe ourselves, and we diet ourselves, and we shadow ourselves to a sufficient prevention; but comets and blazing stars, whose effects or significations no man can interrupt or frustrate, no man foresaw: no almanack tells us when a blazing star will break out, the matter is carried up in secret; no astrologer tells us when the effects will be accomplished, for that is a secret of a higher sphere than the other; and that which is most secret is most dangerous. It is so also here in the societies of men, in states and commonwealths. Twenty rebellious drums make not so dangerous a noise as a few whisperers and secret plotters in corners. The cannon doth not so much hurt against a wall, as a mine under the wall; nor a thousand enemies that threaten, so much as a few that take an oath to say nothing. God knew many heavy sins of the people, in the wilderness and after, but still he charges them with that one, with murmuring, murmuring in their hearts, secret disobediences, secret repugnances against his declared will; and these are the most deadly, the most pernicious. And it is so too with the diseases of the body; and that is my case. The pulse, the urine, the sweat, all have sworn to say nothing, to give no indication of any dangerous sickness. My

forces are not enfeebled, I find no decay in my strength; my provisions are not cut off, I find no abhorring in mine appetite; my counsels are not corrupted nor infatuated, I find no false apprehensions to work upon mine understanding; and yet they see that invisibly, and I feel that insensibly, the disease prevails. The disease hath established a kingdom, an empire in me, and will have certain arcana imperii, secrets of state, by which it will proceed and not be bound to declare them. But yet against those secret conspiracies in the state, the magistrate hath the rack; and against these insensible diseases physicians have their examiners; and those these employ now.

John Donne