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Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to
HERE then we rest: “ The universal cause
66 Acts to one end, but acts by various laws."
In all the madness of superfluous health,
The trim of pride, the impudence of wealth,
Let this great truth be present night and day;
But most be present, if we preach or pray.
2 Look round our world; behold the chain of love
Combining all below and all above.
See plastic nature working to this end,
The single atoms each to other tend,
Attract, attracted too, the next in place
Form'd and impell’d its neighbor to embrace.
See matter next, with various life endu’d,
Press to one centre still, the gen’ral good.
3 See dying vegetables life sustain,
See life dissolving vegetate again: .
All forms that perish other forms supply,
(By turns we catch the vital breath, and die:)
Like bubbles on the sea of matter borne,
They rise, they break, and to that sea return.
4 Nothing is foreign; parts relate to whole;
One all-extending, all-preserving soul
Connects each being, greatest with the least;
Made beast in aid of man, and man of beast;
All sery'd, all serving: nothing stands alone;
The chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown.
5 Has God, thou fool! work'd solely for thy good,
Thy joy, thy pastime, thy attire, thy food?
Who for thy table feeds the wanton fawn,
For him as kindly spreads the flow'ry lawn.
Is it for thee the lark ascends and sings?
Joy tunes his voice, joy elevates his wings.
Is it for thee the linnet pours his throat?
Loves of his own, and raptures swell the note.
6 The bounding steed you pompously bestride,
Shares with his lord the pleasure and the pride.
Is thine alone the seed that strews the plain?
The birds of heav'n shall vindicate their grain.
Thine the full harvest of the golden year?
Part pays, and justly, the deserving steer:
The hog, that plows not, nor obeys thy call,
Lives on the labors of this lord of all.
7 Know, nature's children all divide her care;
The fur that warms a monarch, warm’d a bear.
While man exclaims, “See all things for my use!”
66 See man for mine!” replies a pamper'd goose:
And just as short of reason he must fall,
Who thinks all made for one, not one for all.
8 Grant that the pow'rful still the weak control,
Be man the wit and tyrant of the whole:
Nature that tyrant checks; he only knows,
And helps, another creature's wants and woes.
Say, will the falcon, stooping from above,
Smit with her varying plumage, spare the dove?
Admires the jay the insect's gilded wings?
Or hears the hawk when Philomela sings?
9 Man cares for all: to birds he gives his woods,
To beasts his pastures, and to fish his floods;
For some his intrest prompts him to provide,
For more his pleasure, yet for more his pride:
All feed on one vain patron, and enjoy
The extensive blessing of his luxury.
10 That very life his learned hunger craves,
He saves from famine, from the savage saves:
Nay, feasts the animal, he dooms his feast,
And, till he ends the being, makes it blest;
Which sees no more the stroke, nor feels the pain,
Than favor'd man by touch ethereal slain:*
The creature had his feast of life before;
Thou too must perish when thy feast is o'er.
11 To each unthinking being, Heav'n a friend,
Gives not the useless knowledge of its end;
To man imparts it; but with such a view
As, while he dreads it, makes him hope it too:
The hour conceal’d, and so remote the fear,
Death still draws nearer, never seeming near.
Great standing miracle! that Heav'n assign'd
Its only thinking thing this turn of mind.
12 Whether with reason, or with instinct blest, Know, all enjoy that power which suits them best:
* Several of the ancients, and many of the orientals since, esteemed those who were struck by lightning as sacred persons and the particula, favorites of heaven).
To bliss alike by that direction tend,
And find the means proportion'd to their end.
Say, where full instinct is th’unerring guide,
What pope or council can they need beside?
13 Reason, however able, cool at best,
Cares not for service, or but serves when prest,
Stays till we call, and then not often near!
But honest instinct comes a volunteer;
Sure never to o'ershoot, but just to hit,
While still too wide or short is human wit;
Sure by quick nature happiness to gain,
Which heavier reason labors at in vain.
14 This too serves always, Reason never long;
One must go right, the other may go wrong.
See then the acting and comparing pow’rs,
One in their nature, which are two in ours;
And reason raise o'er instinct as you can,
In this 'tis God directs, and that 'tis man.
15 Who taught the nations of the field and wood
To shun their poison, and to choose their food?
Prescient, the tides or tempests to withstand,
Build on the wave, or arch beneath the sand?
Who made the spider parallels design,
Sure as De Moivre, without rule or line?
Who bid the stork, Columbus-like, explore
Heav'ns not his:own, and worlds unknown before?
Who calls the council, states the certain day,
Who forms the phalanx, and who points the way?
16 God, in the nature of each being, founds
Its proper bliss, and sets its proper bounds:
But, as he fram’d the whole, the whole to bless,
On mutual wants built mutual happiness:
So from the first, eternal order ran,
And creature link'd to creature, man to man.
Whate'er of life all-quick’ning ether keeps,
Or breathes through air, or shoots beneath the deeps,
Or pours profuse on earth, one nature feeds
The vital flame, and swells the genial seeds.
The young dismiss'd to wander earth or air,
There stops the instinct, and there ends the care.
18 A longer care man's helpless kind demands;
That longer care contracts more lasting bands:
Reflection, reason, still the ties improve,
At once extend the int rest and the love;
With choice we fix, with sympathy we burn;
Each virtue in each passion takes its turn;
And still new needs, new helps, new habits rise,
That graft benevolence on charities.
19 Still as one brood, and as another rose,
These natral love maintain’d, habitual those:
The last, scarce ripen’d into perfect man,
Saw helpless him from whom their life began:
Mem’ry and forecast just returns engage,
That pointed back to youth, this on to age;
While pleasure, gratitude, and hope combin'd,
Still spread the int’rest, and preserv'd the kind.
20 Nor think, in nature's state they blindly trod;
The state of nature was the reign of God:
Self-love and social at her birth began,
Union the bond of all things, and of man.
Pride then was not; nor arts, that pride to aid:
Man walk'd with beast, joint tenant of the shade;
The same his table, and the same his bed;
No murder cloth’d him, and no murder fed.
21 In the same temple, the resounding wood,
All vocal beings hymn'd their equal God:
The shrine with gore unstain’d, with gold undrest,
Unbrib'd, unbloody, stood the blameless priest:
Heav'n's attribute was aniversal care,
And man's prerogative, to rule, but spare.
Ah! how unlike the man of times to come!
Of half that live, the butcher, and the tomb;
Who, foe to nature, hears the gen’ral groan,
Murders their species, and betrays his own.
22 But just disease to luxury succeeds,
And every death its own avenger breeds;
The fury passions from that blood began,
And turn'd on man a fiercer savage, man.
23 Converse and love, mankind might strongly draw, When love was liberty, and nature law. Love all the faith, and all th' allegiance then; For nature koew no right divine in men:
No ill could fear in God; and understood
A sovereign being, but a sovereign good.
True faith, true policy, united ran,
That was but love of God, and this of man.
24 Who first taught souls enslav’d, and realms undone,
Th' enormous faith of many made for one;
That proud exception to all nature's laws,
T' invert the world, and counterwork its cause?
Force first madc conquest, and that conquest, law;
Till superstition taught the tyrant awe.
Then shar'd the tyranny, then lent it aid,
And gods of conqu’rors, slaves of subjects made:
She, 'midst the lightning's blaze, and thunder's sound,
When rock'd the mountains, and when groan'd the ground,
She taught the weak to bend, the proud to pray,
To power unseen, and mightier far than they:
25 She, from the rending earth, and bursting skies,
Saw gods descend, and fiends infernal rise:
Here fix'd the dreadful, there the blest abodes;
Fear made her devils, and weak hope her gods;
Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust,
Whose attributes were rage, revenge or lust;
Such as the souls of cowards might conceive,
And, form'd like tyrants, tyrants would believe.
26 Zeal then, not charity, became the guide,
And hell was built on spite, and heav'n on pride.
Then sacred seem'd th' ethereal vault no more;
Altars grew marble then, and reek'd with gore:
Then first the Flamen tasted living food;
Next his grim idol smear'd with human blood.
27 So drives self-love, through just, and through unjust,
To one man's power, ambition, lucre, lust:
The same self-love, in all, becomes the cause
Of what restrains him, government and laws.
28 For, what one likes, if others like as well,
What serves one will, when many wills rebel,
How shall he keep, what, sleeping or awake,
A weaker may surprise, a stronger take?
His safety must his liberty restrain:
All join'd to guard what each desires to gain.
Forc'd into virtue thus, by self-defence,
E’en kings learn'd justice and benevolence:
Self-love forsook the path it first pursu'd,
And found the private in the public good.