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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!
3 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.
4 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.
5 Most strength the moving principle requires;
Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires,
Sedate and quiet the comparing lies,
Form’d but to check, delib’rate, and advise.
Self-love still stronger, as its object's nigh;
Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie:
That sees immediate good by present sense;
Reason, the future, and the consequence.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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 flow'r:
Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil or our greatest good.
9 Modes of self-love the passions we may call;
'Tis real good, or seeming, moves them all;
But since not ev'ry 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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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 color of our life.
13 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 diff'rent senses diff'rent objects strike;
Hence diff'rent 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.
14 Yes, nature's road must ever be preferr'd: Reason is here no guide, but still a guard:
'Tis hers to rectify, not overthrow,
And treat this passion more as friend than foe:
A mightier pow'r the strong direction sends,
And sev’ral men impels to sey'ral ends.
15 Like varying winds, by other passions tost, This drives them constant to a certain coast.
16 Th' eternal art, educing good from ill,
Grafts on this passion our best principle.
?Tis thus the mercury of man is fix’d,
Strong grows the virtue with his nature mix'd;
The dross cements what else were too refind,
And in one int’rest body acts with mind.
17 As fruits ungrateful to the planter's care,
On savage stocks inserted learn to bear;
The surest virtues thus from passions shoot,
Wild nature's vigor working at the root.
What crops of wit and honesty appear
From spleen, from obstinacy, hate or fear!
See anger, zeal and fortitude supply;
Ev'n avarice, prudence; sloth, philosophy;
Envy, to which th' ignoble mind's a slave,
Is emulation in the learn’d or brave:
Nor virtue, male or female, can we name,
But what will grow on pride, or grow on shame.
18 Thus nature gives us (let it check our pride)
The virtue nearest to our vice ally'd;
Reason the bias turns to good from ill,
And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will.
The fiery soul abhorr'd in Catiline,
In Decius charms, in Curtius is divine.
The same ambition can destroy or save,
And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.
19 This light and darkness in our chaos join'd,
What shall divide? The God within the mind. *
Extremes in nature equal ends produce,
In man they join to some mysterious use;
* A Platonic phrase for conscience; and here employed with great judgment and propriety. For conscience either signifies, speculatively, the judgment we pass of things upon whatever principle we chance to have; and then it is only opinion, a very unable judge and divider. Or else it signifies, practically, the application of the eternal rule of right (received by us as the law of God) to the regulations of our actions; and then it is properly conscience, the God (or the law of God) within the mind, of power to divide the light from the darkness in this chaos of the passions.
Though each by turns the other's bounds invade,
As in some well-wrought picture, light and shade;
And oft so mixt, the diff'rence is too nice
Where ends the virtue, or begins the vice.
20 Fools! who from hence into the notion fall, That vice or virtue there is none at all. If white and black blend, soften and unite A thousand ways, is there no black or white? Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; 'Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.
21 Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
But where th' extreme of vice, was ne'er agreed;
Ask where's the North? at York, 'tis on the Tweed:
In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,
At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where.
22 No creature owns it in the first degree,
But thinks his neighbor farther gone than he:
Ev’n those who dwell beneath its very zone,
Or never feel the rage, or never own;
What happier natures shrink at with affright,
The hard inhabitant contends is right.
23 Virtuous and vicious every man must be,
Few in th' extreme, but all in the degree;
The rogue and fool by fits is fair and wise,
And ev’n the best, by fits, what they despise.
'Tis but by parts we follow good or ill,
For, vice or virtue, self directs it still ;
Each individual seeks a sev'ral goal;
But Heav'n's great view is one, and that the whoic:
24 That counterworks each folly and caprice;
That disappoints th' effect of ev'ry vice:
That, happy frailties to all ranks apply'd,
Shame to the virgin, to the matron pride,
Fear to the statesman, rashness to the chief,
To kings presumption, and to crowds belief:
That; virtue's ends from vanity can raise,
Which seeks no intrest, no reward but praise;
And build on wants, and on defects of mind,
The joy, the peace, the glory of mankind.
25 Heav'n, forming each on other to depend, A master, or a servant, or a friend,
Bids each on other for assistance call,
Till one man's weakness grows the strength of all..
Wants, frailties, passions, closer still ally
The common int’rest, or endear the tie.
26 To these we owe true friendship, love sincere,
Each home-felt joy that life inherits here:
Yet from the same we learn, in its decline,
Those joys, those loves, those int'rests to resign:
Taught half by reason, half by mere decay,
To welcome death, and calmly pass away,
27 Whate'er the passion, knowledge, fame, or pelf,
Not one will change his neighbor with himself.
The learn'd is happy nature to explore,
The fool is happy that he knows no more;
The rich is happy in the plenty giv'n,
The poor contents him with the care of Heav'n.
28 See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,
The sot a hero, lunatic a king;
The starving chymist in his golden views
Supremely blest, the poet in his muse.
See some strange comfort ev'ry state attend,
And pride bestow'd on all, a common friend;
See some fit passion ev'ry age supply,
Hope travels through, nor quits us when we die.
29 Behold the child, by nature's kindly law,
Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a straw;
Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight,
A little louder, but as empty quite:
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage;
And beads and pray’r-books are the toys of age:
Pleas'd with this bauble still, as that before;
Till tir'd he sleeps, and life's poor play is o'er!
30 Meanwhile opinion gilds with varying rays
Those painted clouds that beautify our days;
Each want of happiness by hope supply’d;
And each vacuity of sense by pride:
These build as fast as knowledge can destroy;
In folly's cup still laughs the bubble, joy;
One prospect lost, another still we gain;
And not a vanity is giv’n in vain;
Ev'n mean self-love becomes, by force divine,
The scale to measure others' wants by thine.
See! and confess one comfort still must rise;
'Tis this, though man's a fool, yet God is wise.