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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Power of Endurance
By Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667)
 
From ‘Rules and Exercises of Holy Dying’

IF we consider how much men can suffer if they list, and how much they do suffer for great and little causes, and that no causes are greater than the proper causes of patience and sickness,—that is, necessity and religion,—we cannot without huge shame to our nature, to our persons, and to our manners, complain of this tax and impost of nature. This experience added something to the old philosophy. When the gladiators were exposed naked to each other’s short swords, and were to cut each other’s souls away in portions of flesh, as if their forms had been as divisible as the life of worms, they did not sigh or groan: it was a shame to decline the blow but according to the just measures of art. The women that saw the wound shriek out, and he that receives it holds his peace. He did not only stand bravely, but would also fall so; and when he was down, scorned to shrink his head when the insolent conqueror came to lift it from his shoulders: and yet this man in his first design only aimed at liberty, and the reputation of a good fencer; and when he sunk down, he saw he could only receive the honor of a bold man, the noise of which he shall never hear when his ashes are crammed in his narrow urn. And what can we complain of the weakness of our strengths, or the pressures of diseases, when we see a poor soldier stand in a breach almost starved with cold and hunger, and his cold apt to be relieved only by the heats of anger, a fever, or a fired musket, and his hunger slaked by a greater pain and a huge fear? This man shall stand in his arms and wounds, patiens luminis atque solis, pale and faint, weary and watchful; and at night shall have a bullet pulled out of his flesh, and shivers from his bones, and endure his mouth to be sewed up from a violent rent to its own dimensions: and all this for a man whom he never saw, or if he did was not noted by him, but one that shall condemn him to the gallows if he runs from all this misery. It is seldom that God sends such calamities upon men as men bring upon themselves, and suffer willingly. But that which is most considerable is, that any passion and violence upon the spirit of man makes him able to suffer huge calamities with a certain constancy and an unwearied patience. Scipio Africanus was wont to commend that saying in Xenophon, That the same labors of warfare were easier far to a general than to a common soldier; because he was supported by the huge appetites of honor, which made his hard marches nothing but stepping forward and reaching at a triumph.  1
 
 
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