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When fell Corruption dark and deep, like Fate,
Yet Satire oft assumes a gentler mien, And beams on Virtue's friends a smile serene! She wounds reluctant; pours her balm with joy; Glad to commend where worth attracts her eye. But chief, when virtue, learning, arts decline, She joys to see unconquer'd Merit shine; Where bursting glorious, with departing ray, True genius gilds the close of Britain's day : With joys she sees the stream of Roman art From Murray's tongue flow purer to the heart: Sees Yorke to Fame, ere yet to manhood known, And just to every virtue, but his own; Hears unstain'd Cam with generous pride proclaim A sage's, critic's, and a poet's name : Beholds, where Widcombe's happy hills ascend, Each orphan'd art and virtue find a friend, To Hagley's honour'd shade directs her view; And culls each flower, to form a wreath for you. But tread with cautious step this dangerous Beset with faithless precipices round : Truth be your guide: disdain Ambition's call; And if you fall with Truth, you greatly fall, 'Tis Virtue's native lustre that must shine; The poet can but set it in his line: And who unmov'd with laughter can behold A sordid pebble meanly grac'd with gold? Let real merit then adorn your lays, For shame attends on prostituted praise: And all your wit, your most distinguish'd art, But makes us grieve you want an honest heart.
Nor think the Muse by Satire's laws confin'd: She yields description of the noblest kind. Inferior art the landscape may design, And paint the purple evening in the line; Her daring thought essays a higher plan; Her hand delineates passion, pictures man. And great the toil, the latent soul to trace, To paint the heart, and catch internal grace; By turns bid vice or virtue strike our eyes, Now bid a Wolsey or a Cromwell rise; Now, with a touch more sacred and refin'd, Call forth a Chesterfield's or Lonsdale's mind. Here sweet or strong may every colour flow, Here let the pencil warm, the canvas glow: Of light and shade provoke the noble strife, And wake each striking feature into life,
THROUGH ages thus has Satire keenly shin'd: The friend to trath, to virtue, and mankind :
Yet the bright flame from virtue ne'er had sprung'
Then sportive Horace caught the generous fire; For Satire's bow resign'd the sounding lyre; Each arrow polish'd in his hand was seen, And, as it grew more polish'd, grew more keen. His art, conceal'd in study'd negligence, Politely sly, cajol'd the foes of sense; He seem'd to sport and trifle with the dart, But, while he sported, drove it to the heart. In graver strains majestic Persius wrote, Big with a ripe exuberance of thought : Greatly sedate, contemn'd a tyrant's reign, And lash'd Corruption with a calin disdain. More ardent eloquence, and boundless rage, Inflam'd bold Juvenal's exalted page. His mighty numbers aw'd corrupted Rome, And swept audacious Greatness to its doom; The headlong torrent, thundering from on high, Rent the proud rock that lately brav'd the sky. But to the fatal victor of mankind,
Swoln Luxury!--pale Ruin stalks behind!
At length, again fair Science shot her ray,
'Twas then plain Donne in honest vengeance rose, His wit harmonious, though his rhyme was prose: He 'midst an age of puns and pedants wrote
350 With genuine sense, and Roman strength of thought. Yet scarce had Satire well relum'd her tiame, (With grief the Muse records her country's shame) Ere Britain saw the foul revolt commence, And treacherous Wit began her war with Sense, Then rose a shameless mercenary train, Whom latest time shall view with just disdain: A race fantastic, in whose gaudy line Untutor'd thought and tinsel beauty shine: Wit's shatter'd mirror lies in fragments bright, 360 Reflects not Nature, but confounds the sight. Dry morals the court-poet blush'd to sing; 'Twas all his praise to say "the oddest thing." 430 Proud for a jest obscene, a patron's nod,
To martyr Virtue, or blaspheme his God
Ill-fated Dryden! who, unmov'd, can see Th' extremes of wit and meanness join'd in thee? Flames that could mount, and gain their kindred Low creeping in the putrid sink of Vice: [skies A Muse whom Wisdom woo'd, but woo'd in vain, The pimp of Power, the prostitute to Gain: Wreaths, that should deck fair Virtue's form alone, To strumpets, traitors, tyrants, vilely thrown : 440 Unrival'd parts, the scorn of honest fame; And genius rise, a monument of shanie!
More happy France: immortal Boileau there Supported Genius with a sage's care: Him with her love propitious Satire blest, And breath'd her airs divine into his breast: Fancy and Sense to form his line conspire, And faultless Judgment guides the purest fire.
But see, at length, the British genius smile, And shower her bounties o'er her favour'd isle: 450 Behold for Pope she twines the laurel crown, And centers every poet's power in one : Each Roman's force adorns his various page; Gay smiles, collected strength, and manly rage. Despairing Guilt and Dulness loath the sight, As spectres vanish at approaching light: In this clear mirror with delight we view Each image justly fine, and boldly true:
Here Vice, dragg'd forth by Truth's supreme decree,
But oh, what thoughts, what nainbers shall I find,
Did friendship e'er mislead thy wandering Muse?
Ye deathless names, ye sons of endless praise, By virtue crown'd with never-fading bays! Say, shall an artless Muse, if you inspire, Light her pale lamp at your immortal fire? Or if, O Warburton, inspir'd by you, The daring Muse a nobler path pursue, By you inspir'd, on trembling pinions soar, The sacred founts of social bliss explore, In her bold numbers chain the tyrant's rage, And bid her country's glory fire her page; If such her fate, do thou, fair Truth, descend, And watchful guard her in an honest end: Kindly severe, instruct her equal line To court no friend, nor own a foe but thine. But if her giddy eye should vainly quit Thy sacred paths, to run the maze of Wit; If her apostate heart should e'er incline To offer incense at Corruption's shrine; Urge, urge thy power, the black attempt confound, And dash the smoaking censer to the ground. Thus aw'd to fear, instructed bards may see That guilt is doom'd to sink in infainy.
ESSAY ON MAN:
TO H. ST. JOHN, LORD BOLINGBROKE
HAVING proposed to write some pieces on human life and manners, such as (to use my lord Bacon's expression) come home to men's business and bosoms," I thought it more satisfactory to begin with considering man in the abstract, his nature, and his state; since, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.
The science of human nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points: there are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the mind as in that of the body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these last; and I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice, more than advanced the theory of morality. If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines scemingly opposite, in passing over terms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a temperate yet not inconsistent, and a short, yet not imperfect, system of ethics,
This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: the other may seem odd, but it is true; I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness. I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning: if any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.
What is now published is only to be considered as a general map of man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connection, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow. Consequently, these Epistles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage. To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, observe their effects, may be a task more able.
AN ESSAY ON MAN,
throughout the whole visible world, an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, reason; that reason alone countervails all the other faculties, ver. 207. VIII. How much farther this order and subor dination of living creatures may extend above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, ver. 233. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire, ver. 250. X. The consequence of all the absolute submission due to Providence, both as to our present and future state, ver. 281, to the end,
AWAKE, my St. 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 shoot; Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. agree-Try what the open, what the covert yield; Together let us beat this ample field, 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.
IN FOUR EPISTLES, TO H. ST. JOHN, LORD BOLINGBROKE.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE I.
OF THE NATURE AND STATE OF MAN WITH RESPECT TO THE UNIVERSE.
Or man in the abstract.-I. That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things, ver. 17, &c. II; That man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general order of things, and conformable to ends and relations to him unknown, ver. 35, &c. III. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happiness in the present depends, ver. 77, &c. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of man's errour and misery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations, ver. 109, &c. V. The absurdity of concejting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world, which is not in the natural, ver. 131, &c. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand he demands the perfection of the angels, and on the other the bodily qualifications of the brutes; though, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miserable, ver. 173, &c. VII. That
I. Say first, of God above, or man below,
Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind
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)
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call
His soul proud Science never taught to stray 50 Far as the solar walk, or milky way;
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains
His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains;
Then say not Man's imperfect, Heaven in fault;
III Heaven from all creatures hides the book of All but the page prescrib'd, 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-day, Had he thy reason, would he skip and play? Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flowery food, And licks the hand just rais'd 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 hurl'd, And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar Wait the great teacher, Death; and God adore. What future bliss, he gives not thee to know, But gives that hope to be thy blessing now. Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never Is, but always To he blest: The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor'd mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; 100
In the former editions, ver. 64.
Now wears a garland an Egyptian god.
What matter, soon or late, or here or there?
After ver. 88, in the MS.
No great, no little; 'tis as much decreed That Virgil's gnat should die as Cæsar bleed,
Ver. 93, in the first folio and quarto,
What bliss above he gives not thee to know,
Yet simple Nature to his hope has given,
V. Ask for hat end the heavenly bodies shine,.
Th' exceptions few; some change since all begun i
Who knows, but he whose hand the lightning forms,
After ver. 108, in the first edition:
But does he say the Maker is not good,
Why charge we Heaven in those, in these acquit?
Better for us, perhaps, it might appear,
VIII. See, through this air, this ocean, and this
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
If Nature thunder'd in his opening cars,
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
VII. Far as creation's ample range extends,
Ethereal essence, spirit, substance, man.
Reason, to think of God, when she pretends,