« PreviousContinue »
I. KNOW then thyself, prefume not God to scan,
The proper ftudy of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this ifthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wife, and rudely great :
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic fide,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or reft;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beaft;
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reafon fuch,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of Thought and Paffion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd or difabus'd;
Created half to rife, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jeft, and riddle of the world! [guides,
Go, wond'rous creature! mount where Science
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Inftruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the Sun;
Go, foar with Plato to th' empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his follow'rs trod,
And quitting fenfe 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 faw
A mortal Man unfold all Nature's Law,
Admir'd fuch wifdom in an earthly shape,
And fhew'd a NEWTON as we fhew an Ape.
Could he, whofe rules the rapid Comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his Mind?
Who faw its fires here rife, and there defcend,
Explain his own beginning, or his end;
Alas what wonder! Man's fuperior part
Uncheck'd may rife, and climb from art to art:
But when his own great work is but begun,
What Reason weaves, by Paffion is undone.
Trace Science then, with Modesty thy guide;
First strip off all her equipage of Pride;
Deduct but what is Vanity or Drefs,
Or Learning's Luxury, or Idleness;
Or tricks to fhew the stretch of human brain,
Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain;
Expunge the whole, or lop th' excrefcent parts
Of all, our Vices have created Arts;
Then fee how little the remaining fum,
Which ferv'd the past, and muft the times to come!
II. 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,
Afcribe all Good, to their improper Ill.
Self-love, the fpring of motion, acts the foul;
Reafon'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 thro' the void,
Destroying others, by himself destroy'd.
Moft ftrength the moving principle requires ;
Active its task, it prompts, impels, infpires.
Sedate and quiet the comparing lies,
Form'd but to check, delib'rate, and advise.
Self-love, ftill ftronger as its objects nigh;
Reason's at diftance, and in prospect lie :
That fees immediate good by present sense :
Reason, the future and the confequence.
Thicker than arguments, temptations throng.
At beft more watchful this, but that more strong.
The Action of the stronger to fufpend
Reason still use, to Reason still attend.
Attention, habit and experience gains;
Each ftrengthens Reason, and Self-love restrains.
Let fubtle fchoolmen teach thefe friends to fight.
More ftudious to divide than to unite;
And Grace and Virtue, Senfe and Reason split,
With all the rafh dexterity of wit.
Wits, juft like fools, at war about a name,
Have full as oft no meaning, or the same.
Self-love and Reason to one end afpire,
Pain their averfion, Pleasure their defire;
But greedy That, its object would devour,
This tafte the honey, and not wound the flow'r:
Pleafure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil, or our greatest good.
III. Modes of felf-love the paffions we may call:
'Tis real good, or feeming, moves them all:
But fince not every good we can divide,
And reafon bids us for our own provide:
Paffions, tho' felfish, if their means be fair,
Lift under Reason, and deferve her care;
Thofe, that imparted, court a nobler aim,
Exalt their kind, and take fome 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 ftrength of mind is exercise, not rest:
The rifing tempest puts in act the soul,
Parts it may ravage, but preferves the whole.
On life's vaft ocean diverfely we fail,
Reafon the chart, but paffion is the gale;
Nor GoD alone in the ftill calm we find,
He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind,
Paffions, like elements, tho' born to fight,
Yet, mix'd and foften'd, in his work unite:
Thefe 'tis enough to temper and employ;
But what composes mar, can man destroy?
Suffice that reafon keep to nature's road,
Subject, compound them, follow her and Gor.
Love, Hope, and Joy, fair Pleasure's fmiling train,
Hate, Fear, and Grief, the family of Pain,
Thefe mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd,
Make and maintain the balance of the mind:
The lights and fhades, whofe well accorded ftrife
Gives all the strength and colour of our life.
Pleafures are ever in our hands or eyes;
And when, in act, they cease, in profpect, rife :
Prefent to grafp, and future still to find,
The whole employ of body and of mind.
All spread their charms, but charm not all alike;
On different fenfes, different objects strike;
Hence different paffions more or less inflame,
As ftrong or weak, the organs of the frame;
And hence one MASTER PASSION in the breast,
Like Aaron's ferpent, fwallows up the rest.
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath,
Receives the lurking principle of death;
The young disease, that must fubdue at length,
Grows with his growth, aud ftrengthens with his
So, caft and mingled with his very frame, [ftrength:
The mind's disease, its RULING PASSION came;
Each vital humour which should feed the whole,
Soon flows to this, in body and in foul:
Whatever warms the heart, or fills the head,
As the mind opens, and its functions spread,
Imagination plies her dang'rous art,
And pours it all upon the peccant part.
Nature its mother, habit is its nurse;
Wit, fpirit, faculties, but make it worse ;
Reafon itself but gives it edge and power;
As heaven's bleft beam turns vinegar more four.
We, wretched fubjects tho' to lawful sway,
In this weak queen, fome fav'rite still obey :