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AWAKE, my Saint John! leave all meaner things
To low ambition and the pride of kings.
Let us, since life can little more supply
Than just to look about us, and to die,
Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan;
A wild, where weeds and flowers promiscuous
Or garden tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field,
Try what the open, what the covert yield!
The latent tracts, the giddy heights explore,
Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar;
Eye Nature's walks, shoot Folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise ;
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can,
But vindicate the ways of God to man.
Say first, of God above, or man below,
What can we reason, but from what we know?
Of man, what see we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?
Through worlds unnumbered though the God be
'T is ours to trace him only in our own.
He who through vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples every star,
May tell why Heaven has made us as we are.
But of this frame, the bearings and the ties,
The strong connections, nice dependencies,
Gradations just, has thy pervading soul
Look'd through ? or can a part contain the whole ?
Is the great chain that draws all to agree,
And drawn, supports, upheld by God or thee?
Presumptuous man! the reason would'st thou find
Why form’d so weak, so little, or so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why formed no weaker, blinder, and no less ?
Ask of thy mother earth why oaks are made
Taller and stronger than the weeds they shade ;
Or ask of yonder argent fields above
Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove.
Of systems possible, if 'tis confest That Wisdom infinite must form the best, Where all must full or not coherent be, And all that rises rise in due degree ; Then in the scale of reasoning life, 'tis plain, There must be somewhere such a rank as Man; And all the question (wrangle e'er so long) Is only this, if God has placed him wrong?
Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call, May, must be right, as relative to all. In human works, though labored on with pain, A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In Gods, one single can its end produce,
Yet serves to second, too, some other use;
So Man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel or verges to some goal ;
"T is but a part we see, and not a whole.
When the proud steed shall know why man
His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains;
When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod,
Is now a victim, and now Egypt's God;
Then shall Man's pride and dulness comprehend
His actions, passions, being's use and end;
Why doing, suffering, check’d, impell’d; and why
This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not Man's imperfect, Heaven at fault;
Say rather, Man's as perfect as he ought:
His knowledge measured to his state and place;
His time a moment, and a point his space.
Heaven from all creatures hides the book of
Fate, All but the page prescribed, their present state ; From brutes what men, from men what spirits
know; Or who could suffer Being here below ? The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-dayHad he thy reason would he skip and play? Pleased to the last, he crops the flowery food, And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood.
Oh, blindness to the future! kindly given,
That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heaven;
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall;
Atoms or systems into ruin hurled ;
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions
Wait the great teacher Death, and God adore.
What future bliss he gives not thee to koow,
But gives that Hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast :
Man never is, but always to be blest.
The soul, uneasy, and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind;
His soul proud Science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk or milky way;
Yet simple Nature to his hope has given
Behind the cloud-topt hill an humbler heaven;
Some safer world in depth of woods embraced,
Some happier island in the watery waste;
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire,
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Call imperfection what thou fanciest such ;
Say here he gives too little, there too much :
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust;
if Man's unhappy, God's unjust;
If Man alone engross not Heaven's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there:
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Re-judge his justice, be the God of God.
In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes;
Men would be angels, angels would be Gods.
Aspiring to be Gods, if angels fell,
Aspiring to be angels, men rebel :
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of Order, sins against th’ Eternal Cause.
Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine,
Earth for whose use? Pride answers,
“'Tis for mine: “For me kind Nature wakes her genial power, “ Suckles each herb, and spreads out every flower, “ Annual for me the grape,
the rose, renew “ The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew; “For me the mine a thousand treasures brings, “For me health gushes from a thousand springs; “ Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me, rise ; “My footstool earth, my canopy the skies.”