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EPISTLE II.

KNOW then thyself, presume not God to scan ;

The proper study of mankind is man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great : With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, 5 With too much weakness for the stoic's pride, He hangs between ; in doubt to act, or rest, In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast ; , In doubt his mind or body to prefer, Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err ; Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much : Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d; Still by himself abus'd or disabus'd : Created half to rise, and half to fall;

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Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; -
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world !
Go, wondrous creature ! mount where science guides,
Go measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides ; 20
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun ;
Go, soar 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 sense 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 saw
A mortal man unfold all nature's law,
Admir'd such wisdom in au earibly shape,
And show'd a Newton as we show an ape :

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Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind, 35
Describe or fix one movement of his mind ?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning, or his end ?
Alas, what wonder ! map's superior part
Uncheck'd may rise, and climb from art to art: 40
But when his own great work is but begun,
What reason weaves, by passion is undone.
· Trace science then, with modesty thy guide ;
First strip off all her equipage of pride,
Deduct but what is vanity, or dress,
Or learning's luxury, or idleness ;
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 time to come!

Two principles in human nature reign ;
Self-love to urge, and reason to restrain ;
Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call,

55 Each works itsend to move or govern all ; And to their proper operation still Ascribe all good ; to their improper, ill.

Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul ; Reason's comparing balance rules the whole. 60 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, 65 Destroying others, by himself destroy’d.

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. 70 Self-love, still stronger, as its object's nigh ; Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie i

That sees immediate good by present sense ;
Reason the future and the consequence.
Thicker than arguments, temptations throng, 75
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. 80

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, 85
Have full as oft no meaning, or the same.
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 : 90
Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil, or our greatest good.

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, tho' 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. 100

In lazy apatby 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, 105 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. 110

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Passions, like elements, tho’ born to fight, Yet, mix'd and soften’d, in his work unite : These 'tis enough toʻtemper and employ ; But what composes man, can man destroy ? Suffice that reason keep to nature's road, Subject, compound them, follow her and God. 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 : 120 The lights and shades, whose well accorded strife Gives all the strength and colour of our life.

Pleasures are ever in our hands and eyes, And when in act they cease, in prospect rise : Present to grasp, and future still to find, 125 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 ; 130 And hence one master-passion in the breast, Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.

As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath, Receives the lurking principle of death ; The young disease, that must subdue at length, 135 Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his

strength : So, cast and mingled with his very frame, The mind's disease, its ruling passion came ; Each vital humour, which should feed the whole, Soon flows to this, in body and in soul. Whatever warms the heară, or fills the head, As the mind opens, and its functions spread, Imagination plies her dang’rons art, And pours it all upon the peccant part. Nature its mother, habit is its nurse ;

145 Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse ;

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Reason itself but gives it edge and pow'r,
As heav'n's blest beam turns vinegar more sour ;
We, wretched subjects, tho’ to lawful sway,
In this weak queen, some fav’rite still obey. 150
Ah ! if she lend not arms, as well as rules,
What can she more than tell us we are fools ?
Teach us to mourn our nature, not to mend ;
A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend !
Or from a judge turn pleader, to persuade 155
The choice we make, or justify it made ;
Proud of an easy conquest all along,
She but removes weak passions for the strong:
So, when small humours gather to a gout,
The doctor fancies he has driv’n them out. 160

Yes, Nature's road must ever be preferr'd ;
Reason is here no guide, but still a guard :
'Tis her's to rectify, not overthrow,
And treat this passion more as friend than foe :
A mightier pow'r the strong direction sends, 165
And sev'ral men impels to sev'ral ends,
Like varying winds, by other passions tost,
This drives them constant to a certain coast.
Let pow'r or knowledge, gold or glory, please,
Or (oft more strong than all) the love of ease ; 170
Thro’ life 'tis follow'd, ev'n at life's expense ;
The merchant's toil, the sage's indolence,
The monk's humility, the hero's pride,
All, all alike, find reason on their side.
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 refin'd,
And in one int’rest body acts with mind. 180
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 vigour working at the root.

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