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What's fame, a fancied life in other's breath, A thing beyond us, ev'n before our death. Just what you hear, you have, and what's unknown The same (my lord) if Tully's, or your own. All that we feel of it begins and ends In the small circle of our foes or friends ; To all beside as much an empty shade, An Eugene living, as a Cæsar dead : Alike or when, or where, they shone, or shine, Or on the Rubicon, or on the Rhine. A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod; An honest man's the noblest work of God. Fame but from death a villain's name can save, As justice tears his body from the grave ; When what ť oblivion better were resign'd, Is hung on high, to poison half mankind. All fame is foreign, but of true desert ; Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart One self-approving hour whole years outweighs Of stupid starers, and of loud huzzas ; And more true joy Marcellus exild feels, Than Cæsar with a senate at his heels.
In parts superior what advantage lies ? Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise ? 'Tis but to know how little can be known; To see all others' faults, and feel our own : Condemn'd in business or in arts to drudge, Without a second, or without a judge : Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land ? All fear, none aid you, and few understand. Painful preeminence! yourself to view Above life's weakness, and its comforts too.
Bring then these blessings to a strict account: Make fair deductions ; see to what they mount ; How much of other each is sure to cost ; How each for other oft is wholly lost : How inconsistent greater goods with these ; How sometimes life is risk'd, and always ease :
Think, and is still the things thy envy call,
Say, would'st thou be the man to whom they fall?
To sigh for ribands if thou art so silly,
Mark how they grace Lord Umbra, or Sir Billy.
Is yellow dirt the passion of thy life?
Look but on Gripus, or on Gripus' wife.
If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shin’d,
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind :
Or ravish'd with the whistling of a name,
See Cromwell damn'd to everlasting fame !
If all, united, thy ambition call,
From ancient story learn to scorn them all.
There, in the rich, the honour'd, fam'd, and great,
See the false scale of happiness complete !
In hearts of kings, or arms of queens who lay,
How happy! those to ruin, these betray.
Mark by what wretched steps their glory grows,
From dirt and sea-weed as proud Venice rose ;
In each how guilt and greatness equal ran,
And all that rais'd the hero, sunk the man :
Now Europe's laurels on their brows behold,
But stain'd with blood, or ill exchang'd for gold :
Then see them broke with toils, or sunk in ease,
Or infamous for plunder'd provinces.
Oh wealth ill-fated! which no act of fame
E’er taught to shine, or sanctified from shame!
What greater bliss attends their close of life?
Some greedy minion, or imperious wife,
The trophied arches, storied halls invade,
And haunt their slumbers in the pompous shade.
Alas! not dazzled with their noontide ray,
Compute the morn and evening to the day?
The whole amount of that enormous fame,
A tale that blends their glory with their shame!
Know then this truth (enough for man to know)
Virtue alone is happiness below.'
The only point where human bliss stands still,
And tastes the good without the fall to ill;
Where only merit constant pay receives,
Is blest in what it takes, and what it gives ;
The joy unequalld if its end it gain,
And if it lose, attended with no pain :
Without satiety, though e'er so bless'd,
And but more relish'd as the more distress'd :
The broadest mirth unfeeling folly wears,
Less pleasing far than virtue's very tears :
Good, from each object, from each place acquir'd,
For ever exercis'd, yet never tir'd ;
Never elated, while one man's oppress'd ;
Never dejected, while another's bless'd :
And where no wants, no wishes can remain,
Since but to wish more virtue, is to gain.
Yes, you despise the man to books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human kind;
Tho' what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some gen'ral maxims, or be right by chance.
The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave,
That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and knave,
Tho' many a passenger he rightly call,
You hold him no philosopher at all.
And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
Men may be read, as well as books, too much.
To observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th’ observer's sake ;
To written wisdom, as another 's, less :
Maxims are drawn from notions, those from guess.
There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain,
Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein :
Shall only man be taken in the gross ?
Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss
That each from other differs, first confess;
Next, that he varies from himself no less .
Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife,
And all opinion's colours cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds?
On human actions reason tho' you can,
It may be reason, but it is not man :
His principle of action once explore,
That instant 'tis his principle no more.
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more ; the diff'rence is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own ;
Or come discolour'd through our passions shown.
Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dies.
Nor will life's stream for observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way:
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Oft, in the passions' wide rotation tost,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost :
Tird, not determin'd, to the last we yield,
And what comes then is master of the field.
As the last image of that troubled heap,
When sense subsides, and fancy sports in sleep,
(Tho' past the recollection of the thought)
Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought :
Something as dim to our internal view,
Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do.
True some are open, and to all men known; Others so very close they 're hid from none ; (So darkness strikes the sense no less than light ;) Thus gracious Chandos is belov'd at sight; And ev'ry child hates Shylock, tho' his soul Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole.
At half mankind when gen'rous Manly raves,
All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves :
When universal homage Umbra pays,
All see 'tis vice, and itch of vulgar praise.
When flatt'ry glares, all hate it in a queen.
While one there is who charms us with his spleen.
But these plain characters we rarely find ;
Tho' strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind :
Or puzzling contraries confound the whole ;
Or affectations quite reverse the soul.
The dull, flat falsehood serves for policy ;
And in the cunning, truth itself's a lie;
Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise ;
The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.
See the same man, in vigour, in the gout;
Alone, in company; in place, or out;
Early at bus'ness, and at hazard late;
Mad at a fox-chase, wise at a debate ;
Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball ;
Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall.
Catius is ever moral, ever grave,
Thinks who endures a knave, is next a knave,
Save just at dinner-then prefers, no doubt,
A rogue with ven’son to a saint without.
Who would not praise Patritio's high desert,
His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart,
His comprehensive head! all interests weigh'd,
All Europe sav'd, yet Britain not betray'd.
He thanks you not, his pride is in picquet,
Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.
What made (say Montaigne, or more sage Charron!)
Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon?
A perjur'd prince a leaden saint revere,
A godless regent tremble at a star ?
The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit,
Faithless through piety, and dup'd through wit ?
Europe a woman, child, or dotard rule,
And just her wisest monarch made a fool ?