1622
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thrifts Equipage: Meditation 3. Of Diligence.

Thrifts Equipage: viz. Five Divine and Morall Meditations, of 1. Frugalitie. 2. Providence. 3. Diligence. 4. Labour and Care. 5. Death.

Robert Aylett


Diligence is recommended with examples from scripture and the Book of Nature. As in other seventeenth-century essays on this topic, monasticism comes in for special censure.

The "little boat" in the last stanza had earlier been used as a metaphor for composition by Richard Barnfield and Phineas Fletcher, and of course Spenser himself.



Who, with a prudent heart, and godly minde,
Wil take a view how things are wrought below,
In all effects shall good and evill find,
As cause is good or ill, from whence they flow;
Thus God first Cause of all thy actions know,
As they be good; thy selfe as they be ill;
Which doth Gods pow'r and goodnesse greater show,
In using heere mans vile corrupted will,
As second cause his sound, good purpose to fulfill.

All evill then comes from mans vicious will,
Not moov'd thereto by meere necessity,
As senselesse Agents are to good or ill,
But gives consent thereto most willingly:
By Natures Light we good from ill descry,
But this us onely leaves without excuse,
When seeing better we the worst doe try,
And thus God of mans malice makes good use,
And he is justly punished for his abuse.

Oh mans perversenesse! grant him least freewill,
And he becomes vaine, proud and insolent:
Deny him any power to doe or will,
And he growes lazy, slothfull, negligent:
First kinde are meritorious, impudent,
And merit for themselves and others will,
The other Epicure-like, take content
In pleasure, eating, drinking of their fill,
Or in an idle, melancholique sitting still.

But Diligence, the Grace I next propound,
For this last evill is best remedy,
This Viper which most dang'rously doth wound
Our soules with senselesse spirituall Lethargy,
And brings too aspish-lazy Accidy:
Most perilous, because we feele least harme.
Oh, this is Satans subtillest Lullaby,
Our soules with stupid lazinesse to charme,
And then of spirituall armes and weapons to disarme.

Thou that hast promis'd endlesse happinesse,
To all which at thy comming thou dost find
Intent unto their Masters businesse,
And diligent in body and in minde,
Make all my Soules and Bodies powr's inclind
To Diligence, whilst I her praises write,
Unloose the chaines, the fetters strong unbind
Of Sloth and Dulnesse, which, to blackest night
Leade blindfold, drowsie soules that take therein delight.

Vigilance, Industry, and Diligence
So like indeed one to another are,
My plainer Muse scarse sees a difference,
And therefore all will but as one declare;
Our soules and bodies powers they prepare,
In ev'ry noble Vertue to transcend,
Nothing on earth that's admirable rare,
Without these can be brought to perfect end,
On these do honest care and labour aye attend.

For godly, just and necessary cares
Are parts substantiall of Diligence,
And as she for the future thus prepares,
Having to Truth and Justice reference,
She is a Grace of wondrous excellence:
But if she spring from Envy, emulation,
Ambition, Feare, or other base pretence,
She is a curious base abomination,
The busie vice that author is of desolation.

Industry best agreeth to the mind,
In which she frames a quicke Dexterity,
In Arts and Sciences the right to find,
And they that know her wondrous energy,
In Phisicke, Law, and in Divinity,
Know, that she tends the neerest to perfection,
And is to humane imbecillity
Most sound defence, secure, and safe protection,
'Gainst Satans Malice, their owne Lusts, and worlds infection.

We well Dame Nature may the Mother name
Of noble Industry and Diligence,
Yet oft we see their wondrous force doth tame,
Things against Nature, without violence;
All other Vertues glorious excellence,
Which we in Heroes justly do admire,
Have their Beginning and Perfection thence:
Where Industry and Diligence conspire,
Wants nothing that we can in mortall man desire.

For as she many evill things amends,
So is she of all good the consummation,
Most dissolute base manners she commends
Soone, unto honest thrifty reformation.
An infirme body by exercitation,
And Diligence, becommeth strong and sound:
She frees old-Age from grievous molestation
Of painefull sharpe Diseases that abound.
Fields of the diligent are fruitfull ever found.

For by this Diligence all well succeed,
No idle hower on her head doth shine,
She her best howers spends with prudent heed,
And all her businesse aright doth line,
She finds to all things an appointed time,
Except it be for Slouth and Idlenesse.
If idle words be judged such a crime,
Much more the losse of times high preciousnesse,
Which cannot be regain'd with cost and carefulnesse.

Wherefore good fathers of a Family,
First rise, and latest go to bed at night:
And those that love the Muses company,
Do use their eyes to read by Candle-light.
Artificer, good-Husband, Merchant, Knight,
And Magistrate, this Vertue doth defend.
Nothing so difficult, but by the might
Of Diligence, is conquer'd in the end,
Therefore in all affaires she is our surest friend.

But none more enemies than Negligence,
Slouth, Dulnesse, Carelesnesse, and Idlenesse,
Impurest mire of foule Concupiscence,
The forge of Lust, and draught of filthinesse;
Whence come all Vices, Sinne and Wickednes,
Which turne men into Beasts, like Sirens charmes.
Oh Slouth! the nurse and mother of excesse,
Like Statue standing still with folded armes,
And never moves to good, for feare of future harmes.

Unnecessary Burthen on the ground,
Who when he hath consumed all his owne,
Devoures his friends, and then a theefe is found,
More false, yea, than a begger bolder growne;
For though the beggers-bodies hands are sown,
And's mind is all on flouth and idlenesse,
Yet often in his mouth Gods Name is knowne:
But God all honesty and shamefastnesse,
He loaths that is possest of slouth and sluggishnesse.

A Sluggard is unto himselfe, and all
A most pernicious wicked enemy,
By Slouth his mind and body soone do fall
To sicknesses, and all impurity:
He is the bane to all good company,
The stinking Sepulchre of one alive,
Shadowes of men! Tunnes of Iniquity,
Whose soules base ease, of Reason doth deprive,
Whilst, as a Swine with Mast, their bodies fat and thrive.

We Sloth, like Lazy Asse, at home do finde:
But listen out, you lowd shall beare him bray,
Just like a coward dogge of currish kinde,
That doth at harmelesse Pilgrims barke and bay;
But comes a Wolfe, for feare he runnes away:
Like fearefull Hart, when as he comes to fight,
But as a Lyon greedy of the prey;
All day asleepe, but in the dead of night,
He woorrieth the fould, for hunger and despight.

Oh Diligence! perfection of all,
When as thou dost with truth and vertue dwell,
But if to Vice and errour thou doe fall,
Thou passest Haggs and Furies all of Hell;
Hels waking Cerberus is not so fell,
As popish priests, who compasse Sea and Land,
Into Cymmerian darknesse to compell
Those that in Sun-shine of the Gospel stand:
Thus diligently they obey their Lords command.

Oh would we be for Truth as diligent,
As they for errours and traditions vaine!
But I have too much of my hower spent,
Against the Vice, the Vertue to maintaine.
To Diligence I now returne againe,
Which like heav'ns glorious Sun doth never rest,
But like a gyant runnes his Course amaine,
Untill she of the garland be possest.
This life's no mansion, but a way to heav'nly rest.

In heav'n are many Mansions, heere we stay
Onely to finish that for which we come,
If trewantlike we spend our time in play,
And be with drinke, or sleeping overcome:
Oh! when our fatall hower-glasse is runne,
And we are call'd to render our account,
Of good and evill in the body done;
Our debts, alas! will all our wealth surmount,
And our Omissions more than numbers up can count.

This Diligence is like one in a Myne,
That digges much earth a little gold to find;
Like Silkeworme, who her slendrest silken twine,
By Diligence doth on a bottome wind:
Like husbandman, who little sheaves doth bind,
Wherewith he fils his Barnes and Garners full:
Like little stones by Morter fast combin'd,
Raisd to a Temple large and beautifull:
Like mighty hostes which Dukes of single men do cull.

Some by a night-Owle, and a Dragons eyes,
This vertue Diligence have figured,
And therefore Poets Fables do devise,
The Golden-fleece so highly valued,
Kept by a Dragons diligence and heed.
The Golden-fleece, the Kingdomes Peace I call:
The Dragon, him by whom all's ordered:
For on whose shoulders such a charge doth fall,
He must be vigilant, and diligent in all.

This Vertue is indeed most soveraigne,
In highest Rulers which the Publique sway,
Who are set over us for our owne gaine,
If them as Gods Vicegerents we obay:
They keepe continuall watch both night and day
For all our goods, so they be diligent:
God grant such Rulers ever governe may
His little Fold within this Iland pent,
To joy of all our friends, and foes astonishment.

The Latines, Diligence derive from Love:
For he that loveth, doth ev'n all fulfill,
Yea nothing hard or difficult doth prove
To him, that knowes 'tis his beloveds will;
Whose hearts this glorious Grace of Love doth fil,
They here despise all losses, griefe, and paine:
Let heav'nly love into mine heart distill,
I worlds discouragements will all disdaine:
For Diligence on earth, I love in heav'n shall gaine.

This love in Davids heart doth so abound,
It from his eyes and eye-lids did expell
All sleepe, till he a resting place had found,
Wherein the Lord of life might alwaies dwell,
This made the Mount of Sion so excell,
That it the glory of the earth became.
This diligence makes all to prosper well,
Though but a sparke of Loves celestiall flame,
It gaines us love in heav'n, on earth eternall fame.

Oh blessed Paul! had I thy eloquence,
Thy indefatigable paines to sound,
Thy wondrous travell, care, and diligence,
Thy Masters will to know, do, and propound.
How many Sees of Bishops didst thou found?
How didst thou preach by day, and work by night?
How diligently Heretickes confound?
And ev'n in Hels, Worlds, Tyrants, Jewes despight,
By Diligence declare the power of Loves might.

Should I the Fathers lives trace to the Floud,
And into Egypt, follow them from thence;
From thence, through wildernesse to their abode,
By Jordans bankes, in Houses, Cities, Tents,
They all are Maps to us of Diligence:
From Genesis unto the Revelation,
Their Pilgrimages all have reference,
To new Jerusalem, Saints habitation:
And we all stones, and Builders on that one foundation.

As God, so we must worke before we rest,
We may not cease till all be finished:
In heav'n we shall enjoy eternall Rest,
Which by the Sabbaoth was prefigured.
The Spouse may seeke, but finds not in the Bed
Her Bridegroome: he is like the nimble Hind,
He must be diligently followed:
But if by Diligence we once him find,
He skipping comes o're hils, and mountains like the wind.

But if I onely speake of Diligence,
And image-like to others point out-right,
Yet live in Carelesnesse, and Negligence:
I, like the blind, may others Lampes in light,
But stray and wander all the while in night.
Our life's a moment here, if we regard
Eternity: A cloud to heav'nly light:
Like drop unto the Ocean compar'd,
Is earthly Joy, to that which is in Heav'n prepar'd.

The Ayer without motion putrifies:
The standing-Poole becomes unsavourie:
The hottest Fier without blowing dies:
The Land with thornes and weeds doth barren lie,
That is not exercis'd with husbandry.
Thy house and houshold-stuffe do soone decay,
Except they be emploid continually:
Thy lockt-up garments are to Moth's a prey:
All things not us'd, like Steele by rust, consume away.

Looke on the nimble Motions of the skie,
How all move diligently to their end:
Looke on the Beasts that creepe; the Birds that fly,
How they no time to Idlenesse will lend:
Earth, though the dullest Element doth spend
Her strength, for all the Creatures preservation:
The Creatures ev'n their bloud and life do send
To man, for Life's and Bodies sustentation.
Thus all are diligent here in their occupation.

Oh man! though Lord of all, who yet art borne
To labour, as the Sparkes do upward flie,
To learne here of thy Vassals do not scorne,
But eate thy Bread in sweat continually.
In Labour did the Fathers live and die,
To do Gods will was Christ his drinke and food,
Not to dispute thereof with subtilty,
And nice distinctions, which do little good,
But make things easie erst, now hardlier understood.

One thing is necessary, doe and live:
Practice and Knowledge, must goe hand in hand:
The gods for labours, blessings here do give,
Not curious knowledge: They that understand,
And yet forbeare to doe their Lords command,
Thereby most inexcusable become,
When all before the dreaded Judge shall stand,
More then shall heare the finall dreadfull doome,
For things omitted here, than things which they have done.

Like Plutarchs Lamiae, we are quicke of sight
Abroad, at home we lay aside our eyes:
If each his owne affaires could order right,
That town would soone to wealth and honour rise:
The street, where ech his dore sweeps, cleanly lies.
I do not here forbid all forraine care:
To paire of Compasses I like the wise,
Halfe of their thoughts at their hearts center are,
The other, round about, do for the publique care.

The Cynicke, that he might his hate expresse
To Slouth, would often tumble up and downe
His Tunne, to keepe himselfe from Idlenesse.
Base Commodus, of all the Caesars knowne
To be most wicked, was not of his owne
Nature so vile: but when his youth by ease,
Into contempt of Businesse was growne,
This was the Empires fatall last disease,
Which lost the Caesars all their fathers did increase.

Oh cursed Negligence! that dost confound
Soules, Bodies, Churches, Cities, Families;
No gracious Thrift will grow upon thy ground,
Thy field like wildernesse all barren lies.
It Soules, like deadly Opium, stupifies:
It with diseases doth our Bodies fill,
Puls downe our Temples, which did dare the skies,
Layes ope the City walls to Victors will,
And thorow houses roofes rain-droppings makes distill.

Bewaile with me the ruthfull Tragedy,
That Slouth hath made within this holy Land,
I meane, those Houses faire of Sanctity,
Which like so many Pyrami'ds did stand,
Erected first by holy Founders hand:
First raisd by Diligence, now raz'd to ground
By Slouth, those lazie-belly-gods to brand
With shame, whose Idlenesse did thus confound
Those Places, where Gods holy Worship should abound.

Behold, with Salomon, the sluggards field,
Which all ore-growne with Mosse and Bushes lies,
Whilst Rents and Sales to him abundance yeeld,
He lookes not after Industries supplies,
Like Grasse-hopper, he skipping lives, and dies,
Or sterves, if Winter bringeth Poverty:
Th' industrious Ant, and Bee he doth despise.
Oh Slouth! the sinke of all iniquitie,
That changest men to swinish Bestiality.

Awake you sluggards, you that powre in wine,
The day's at hand, when you account shall make;
As of your workes, so of your idle time:
To some employment do your selves betake,
And sayle not alwaies on the idle Lake:
It is a filthy, muddy, standing poole,
No good, or honest mind can pleasure take,
To row at ease in such a muddy hole,
Though there his vessel's subject to no winds controule.

Oh you, whom God, ev'n gods on earth, doth style,
Withdraw not from the weight of governement
Your shoulders, nor let Ease your soules beguile
Of time, which should be in devotion spent:
Rulers must most of all be diligent,
All evill cleaves on them by Idlenes.
Looke on all States, and forraine Regiment,
They all corrupt by Ease and slouthfulnes,
But flourish, and grow strong by frequent Busines.

You heav'nly-Watchmen, of whom I desire
Rather to learne, than teach you ought to mend,
Marke onely what Paul doth of you require,
With diligence your selves and flockes attend;
God made you overseers for that end:
As nought more than assiduous Exercise
Of Soule and Body, doth from sinnes defend,
So nothing fills them with iniquities,
More than this sluggish slouth, and idle vanities.

Elian doth of th' Egyptian Dogge report,
That when he drinkes, he never standeth still
By Rivers side, lest poysonous beasts him hurt,
Who lie in waite, him whilst he drinks, to kill:
Oh could we see the poysoning serpent still,
Waiting occasion with invenom'd sting,
Our bones with Lust, and Luxury to fill,
And us by slouth, and idlenesse to bring
To carelesnesse of God, and any holy thing.

That thus would wind us from all Diligence,
Like lazie Sluggards, onely to rely
Upon th' Almighties care and Providence;
But lo, the Israelites send first to spie
The earthly Canaan, which did typifie
That heav'nly; whither, through this Wildernesse,
We must not hope to passe so easily;
They wanne the cities which they do possesse,
With paines and Diligence, not slouth and idlenesse.

This was their way, this also must be ours;
Priests feet the flouds of Jordane may divide,
Their trumpets throw downe Jericho's proud towres:
But Ai will many bloudy blowes abide.
He little thinkes Hels force, that never tride.
Th' Amalekites, and Moab will assay
To stop thy course to Jordans fruitfull side:
Thou must with Diligence maintaine thy way,
And fight with hardy resolution night and day.

Lord grant I may, like Paul, be diligent,
Who wrought his owne, and all the Soules to save,
That with him in the ship to Caesar went:
And though he knew, that God, who to him gave
Ev'n all their lives, his promise would not wave:
Yet see, he leaves not any meanes untride.
Lord grant me Diligence aright to crave,
And Patience thy leasure to abide,
So nothing that I aske, shall be to me denide.

My Muse would faine aboord, but Diligence
Would never let my Meditation end,
And blames me sore, that I with Negligence,
Too briefe the story of her Praise have pen'd;
But Care and Labour next I must attend;
Which two, with Diligence, go hand in hand:
God, better lucke, me in their praises send!
I now will drive my little Boat to land,
And rest, that I more stoutly may to labour stand.

[pp. 24-35]