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Why did my parents send me to the schools,
That I with knowledge might enrich my mind? Since the desire to know first made men fools,
And did corrupt the root of all mankind;
For when God's hand had written in the hearts
Of the first parents all the rules of good, So that their skill infus’d, did pass all arts
That ever were before or since the flood;
And when their reason's eye was sharp and clear,
And (as an eagle can behold the Sun)
As th' intellectual angels could have done.
E'en then to them the spirit of lies suggests,
That they were blind, because they saw not ill, And breath'd into their incorrupted breasts
A curious wish, which did corrupt their will.
For that same ill they straight desir'd to know ;
Which ill, being nought but a defect of good, In all God's works the Devil could not show,
While man their lord in his perfection stood.
* This poem was published by Mr. Tate, with the universal ap. plause of the nation; and was, without dispute, except Spenser's Fairy Queen, the best that was written in Queen Elizabeth's, or even King James the first's time. W.T.
So that themselves were first to do the ill,
Ere they thereof the knowledge could attain, Like him that knew not poison's power to kill,
Until (by tasting it) himself was slain.
E'en so by tasting of that fruit forbid,
Where they sought knowledge, they did error Ill they desir'd to know, and ill they did; (find;
And to give passion eyes, made reason blind.
For then their minds did first in passion see
Those wretched shapes of misery and woe, Of nakedness, of shame, of poverty, (know.
Which then their own experience made them
But then grew reason dark, that she no more
Could the fair forms of good and truth discerni Bats they became, that eagles were before ;
And this they got by their desire to learn.
But we, their wretched offspring, what do wc?
Do not we still taste of the fruit forbid? Whilst with fond fruitless curiosity,
In books profane we seek for knowledge hid.
What is this knowledge ? but the sky-stoln fire,
For which the thief* still chain'd in ice doth sit? And which the poor rude satyrt did admirc,
And needs would kiss, but burnt his lips with it.
What is it? but the cloud of empty rain,
[got? Which when Jove's guest embrac'd, he monsters Or the false pails,* which oft being fill'd with pain,
of See Æsop's Fables.
Receiv'd the water, but retain'd it not?
In fine, what is it, but the fiery coach (withall ?
Which the youths sought, and sought his death Or the boyst wings, which, when he did approach
The Sun's hot beams, did melt and let him fall ?
And yet, alas! when all our lamps are burn'd,
Our bodies wasted, and our spirits spent; When we have all the learned volumes turn'd
Which yield men's wits both help and ornament:
What can we know? or what can we discern?
When error chokes the windows of the mind; The divers forms of things how can we learn,
That have been ever from our birth-day blind?
When reason's lamp, which (like the Sun in sky)
Throughout man's little world her beams did Is now become a sparkle, which doth lie (spread,
Under the ashes, half extinct and dead :
How can we hope, that through the eye
This dying sparkle, in this cloudy place,
Which were infus'd in the first minds by grace?
So might the heir, whose father hath, in play,
Wasted a thousand pounds of ancient rent, By painful earning of one groat a day,
Hope to restore the patrimony spent.
The wits that div'd most deep, and soar'd most high,
Seeking man's pow'rs, have found his weakness “Skill comes so slow, and life so fast doth fly, (such:
We learn so little, and forget so much."
For this the wisest of all moral men
Said, he knew nought, but that he nought did know, And the great mocking-master mock'd not then,
When he said, truth was buried deep below.
For how may we to other things attain,
When none of us his own soul understands? For which the Devil mocks our curious brain,
When,“ know thyself,” his oracle commands.
For why should we the busy soul believe,
When boldly she concludes of that and this, When of herself she can no judgment give,
Nor how, nor whence, nor where, nor what she is.
All things without, which round about we see,
We seek to know, and how therewith to do: But that whereby we reason, live, and be,
Within ourselves, we strangers are thereto.
We seek to know the moving of each sphere, (Nile;
And the strange cause of th' ebbs and floods of But of that clock within our breasts we bear,
The subtle motions we forget the while.
We that acquaint ourselves with every zone,
And pass both tropics, and behold each pole, When we come home, are to ourselves unknown,
And unacquainted still with our own soul.
We study speech, but others we persuade,
We leach-craft learn, but others cure with it, We interpret laws, which other men have made,
But read not those which in our hearts are writ.
It is because the mind is like the eye,
Through which it gathers knowledge by degrees, Whose rays reflect not, but spread outwardly;
Not seeing itself, when other things it sees?
No, doubtless; for the mind can backward cast
Upon herself, her understanding's light, But she is so corrupt, and so defac'd,
As her own image doth herself affright.
As is the fable of the lady fair,
Which for her lust was turn’d into a cow, When thirsty to a stream she did repair,
And saw herself transform'd she wist not how;
At first she startles, then she stands amaz’d;
At last with terror she from thence doth fly, And loaths the wat’ry glass wherein she gaz'd,
And shuns it still, though she for thirst doth die :
E'en so man's soul, which did God's image bear,
And was at first fair, good, and spotless pure, Since with her sins her beauties blotted were,
Doth of all sights her own sight least endure :
For e'en at first reflection she espies,
Such strange chimeras, and such monsters there, Such toys, such antics, and such vanities,
As she retires, and shrinks for shame and fear.