Sunday, August 15, 2010


A Querulous Cur

Joseph Hall (1574-1656), The Malecontent, from Characters of Virtues and Vices, Book II:
He is neither well, full nor fasting; and though he abound with complaints, yet nothing dislikes him but the present; for what he condemned while it was, once past he magnifies, and strives to recall it out of the jaws of time. What he hath, he seeth not; his eyes are so taken up with what he wants: and what he sees, he cares not for; because be cares so much for that which is not.

When his friend carves him the best morsel, he murmurs, "That it is a happy feast wherein each one may cut for himself." When a present is sent him, he asks, "Is this all?" and "What! no better?" and so accepts it as if he would have his friend know how much he is bound to him for vouchsafing to receive it: it is hard to entertain him with a proportionable gift: if nothing, he cries out of unthankfulness; if little, that he is basely regarded; if much, he exclaims of flattery and expectation of a large requital.

Every blessing hath somewhat to disparage and distaste it; children bring cares; single life is wild and solitary; eminency is envious; retiredness, obscure; fasting, painful; satiety, unwieldy; religion, nicely severe; liberty is lawless; wealth burdensome; mediocrity contemptible: every thing faulteth either in too much or too little.

This man is ever headstrong and self-willed; neither is he always tied to esteem or pronounce according to reason; some things be must dislike, he knows not wherefore, but he likes them not; and otherwhere, rather than not censure, he will accuse a man of virtue. Every thing he meddleth with, he either findeth imperfect or maketh so; neither is there any thing that soundeth so harsh in his ear as the commendation of another; whereto yet perhaps he fashionably and coldly assenteth, but with such an afterclause of exception as doth more than mar his former allowance; and if he list not to give a verbal disgrace, yet he shakes his head and smiles, as if his silence should say, "I could, and will not." And when himself is praised without excess, he complains that such imperfect kindness hath not done him right.

If but an unseasonable shower cross his recreation, he is ready to fall out with Heaven; and thinks he is wronged if God will not take his times, when to rain, when to shine. He is a slave to envy, and loseth flesh with fretting, not so much at his own infelicity as at others' good; neither hath he leisure to joy in his own blessings, whilst another prospereth.

Fain would he see some mutinies, but dares not raise them, and suffers his lawless tongue to walk through the dangerous paths of conceited alterations; but so, as, in good manners, he had rather thrust every man before him when it comes to acting. Nothing but fear keeps him from conspiracies, and no man is more cruel when he is not manacled with danger.

He speaks nothing but satires and libels, and lodgeth no guests in his heart but rebels. The inconstant and he agree well in their felicity, which both place in change; but herein they differ, the inconstant man affects that which will be, the malecontent commonly that which was.

Finally, he is a querulous cur, whom no horse can pass by without barking at; yea, in the deep silence of night, the very moonshine openeth his clamorous mouth; he is the wheel of a well couched firework, that flies out on all sides, not without scorching itself. Every ear was long ago weary of him, and he is now almost weary of himself: give him but a little respite, and he will die alone; of no other death than others' welfare.

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