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Parody and Reply to a Religious Meditation

By being too nice in the Choice of the little Pieces sent me by my Correspondents to be printed, I had almost discouraged them from writing to me any more. For the Time to come, and that my Paper may become still more generally agreeable, I have resolved not to regard my own Humour so much in what I print; and thereupon I give my Readers the two following Letters.

Mr. Franklin,

You gave us in your last a melancholy Account of Human Life, in the Meditation upon that Subject. The gloomy and splenetick Part of your Readers like it much; but as for me, I do not love to see the dark Side of Things; and besides, I do not think such Reflections upon Life altogether just. The World is a very good World, and if we behave our selves well, we shall doubtless do very well in it. I never thought even Job in the right, when he repin’d that the Days of a Man are few and full of Trouble; for certainly both these Things cannot be together just Causes of Complaint; if our Days are full of Trouble, the fewer of ’em the better. But as for the Author of the Meditation above-mention’d, besides what he says in common with Job, he seems to complain in several respects very weakly, and without the least shadow of Reason; in particular, That he cannot be alive now, and ten Years ago, and ten Years hence, at the same time: With very little Variation, as you shall see, his elegant Expressions will serve for a Child who laments that he cannot eat his Cake and have his Cake.

All the few days we live are full of Vanity; and our choicest Pleasures sprinkled with bitterness:

All the few Cakes we have are puffed up with Yeast; and the nicest Gingerbread is spotted with Flyshits!

The time that’s past is vanish’d like a dream; and that which is to come is not yet at all:

The Cakes that we have eaten are no more to be seen; and those which are to come are not yet baked.

The present we are in stays but for a moment, and then flies away, and returns no more:

The present Mouthful is chewed but a little while, and then is swallowed down, and comes up no more.

Already we are dead to the years we have liv’d; and shall never live them over again:

Already we have digested the Cakes we have eaten, and shall never eat them over again.

But the longer we live, the shorter is our life; and in the end we become a little lump of clay.

And the more we eat, the less is the Piece remaining; and in the end the whole will become Sir-reverence!

O vain, and miserable world! how sadly true is all this story!

O vain and miserable Cake-shop! &c.

Away with all such insignificant Meditations. I am for taking Solomon’s Advice, eating Bread with Joy, and drinking Wine with a merry Heart. Let us rejoice and bless God, that we are neither Oysters, Hogs, nor Dray-Horses; and not stand repining that He has not made us Angels; lest we be found unworthy of that share of Happiness He has thought fit to allow us.

I am, Yours, &c.
S. M.

SIR,

Seeing a very melancholy Piece in your Paper of last Week, asking your Pardon, I think we have enough of that Humour in the World already, without your Addition: I have therefore written the following few Lines in order to palliate it. And as that may be very acceptable to some of your Readers, this may to some others, if you think fit to give it a Place in your next.

I am, Yours, &c.
J. Anonymous.

Most happy are we, the sons of men, above all other creatures, who are born to behold the glorious rays of the sun, and to enjoy the pleasant fruits of the earth.

With what pleasure did our parents first receive us, first to hear us cry, then to see us smile, and afterwards to behold us growing up and thriving in the world.

By their good examples and a vertuous education, they put us in the right path to happiness, as all good parents do;

Then we, by making a right use of that share of reason with which God hath endued us, spend our days in gaining and enjoying the blessings of life, which are innumerable.

If we meet with crosses and disappointments, they are but as sowr sauce to the sweet meats we enjoy, and the one hath not a right relish without the other.

As time passes away, it carries our past pains with it, and returns no more; and the longer we live the fewer misfortunes we have to go through.

If death takes us off in the heighth of our prosperity, it takes us from the pains which may ensue.

And a great blessing attends old age, for by that we are naturally wean’d from the pleasures of youth, and a more solid pleasure takes place, The thoughts of our having so far escaped all the hazards that attend mankind, and a contemplation on all our former good actions.

And if we have done all the good we could, we have done all that we ought, and death is no terror to a good man.

And after we are far declined, with hearty praises and thanks we recommend our soul to God, the eternal Being from whom we received it.

Then comes the grave, and the sweet sleep of death, pleasant as a bed is to a weary traveller after a long journey.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, August 8, 1734