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With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much ;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hursd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides ;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun ;
Go, soar with Plato to th' empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun,
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
Superior beings, when of late they saw A mortal man unfold all Nature's law, Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape, And show'd a Newton as we show an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning or his end ?
Alas! what wonder! man's superior part
Uncbeck'd may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What reason weaves, by passion is undone.
Trace science then, with modesty thy guide ;
First strip off all her equipage of pride;
Deduct what is but vanity or dress,
Or learning's luxury, or idleness ;
Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain,
Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain;
Expunge the whole, or lop th’excrescent parts
Of all our vices have created arts;
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which serv'd the past, and must the times to come!
2. Two principles in human nature reign,
Self-love to urge, and reason to restrain;
Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call ;
Each works its end, to move or govern all;
And to their proper operation still
Ascribe all good, to their improper—ill.
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul;
Reason's comparing balance rules the whole.
Man but for that no action could attend,
And but for this were active to no end;
Fix'd like a plant on his peculiar spot,
To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot;
Or, meteor-like, flame lawless through the void,
Destroying others, by himself destroy'd.
Most strength the moving principle requires ;
Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires.
Sedate and quiet the comparing lies,
Form’d but to check, deliberate, and advise.
Self-love still stronger, as its objects nigh;
Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie:
That sees immediate good by present sense ;
Reason, the future and the consequence.
Thicker than arguments, temptations throng;
At best more watchful this, but that more strong.
The action of the stronger to suspend,
Reason still use, to reason still attend.
Attention habit and experience gains;
Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains.
Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight,
More studious to divide than to unite;
And grace and virtue, sense and reason split,
With all the rash dexterity of wit.
Wits, just like fools, at war about a name,
Have full as oft no meaning, or the same.
Self-love and reason to one end aspire,
Pain their aversion, pleasure their desire;
But greedy that, its object would devour;
This taste the honey, and not wound the flower:
Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil or our greatest good.
3. Modes of self-love the passions we may call; 'Tis real good or seeming moves them all.
But since not every good we can divide,
And reason bids us for our own provide,
Passions, though selfish, if their means be fair,
List under reason, and deserve her care;
Those that imparted court a nobler aim,
Exalt their kind, and take some virtue's name.
In lazy apathy let stoics boast
Their virtue fix'd ; 'tis fix'd as in a frost;
Contracted all, retiring to the breast;
But strength of mind is exercise, not rest;
The rising tempest puts in act the soul,
Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole.
On life's vast ocean diversely we sail,
Reason the card, but passion is the gale ;
Nor God alone in the still calm we find,
He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind.
Passions, like elements, though born to fight, Yet, mix'd and soften'd, in his work unite : These 'tis enough to temper and employ; But what composes man can man destroy ? Suffice that reason keep to nature's road; Subject, compound them, follow her and God. Love, hope, and joy, fair pleasure's smiling train, Hate, fear, and grief, the family of pain, These mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd, Make and maintain the balance of the mind; The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife Gives all the strength and colour of our life.
Pleasures are ever in our hands or eyes, And when in act they cease, in prospect rise ;
Present to grasp, and future still to find,
The whole employ of body and of mind.
All spread their charms, but charm not all alike;
On different senses different objects strike;
Hence different passions more or less inflame,
As strong or weak the organs of the frame;
And hence one master-passion in the breast,
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath,
Receives the lurking principle of death,
The young disease, that must subdue at length,
Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his
So, cast and mingled with his very frame,
The mind's disease, its ruling passion, came ;
Each vital humour, which should feed the whole,
Soon flows to this in body and in soul;
Whatever warms the heart or fills the head,
As the mind opens and its functions spread,
Imagination plies her dangerous art,
And pours it all upon the peccant part.
Nature its mother, habit is its nurse ;
Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse ;
Reason itself but gives it edge and power,
As Heaven's bless'd beam turns vinegar more
We, wretched subjects, though to lawful sway,
In this weak queen some favourite still obey :
Ah! if she lend not arms as well as rules,
What can she more than tell us we are fools ?