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Boast the pure blood of an illustrious race,
In quiet flow from Lucrece to Lucrece:
But by your father's worth, if yours you rate,
Count me those only who were good and great.
Go! if your ancient, but ignoble blood
Has crept through scoundrels, ever since the flood,
Go! and pretend your family is young;
Nor own your fathers have been fools so long.
What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards,
Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards.
Look next on greatness; say where greatness lies?
Where, but among the heroes and the wise.”
Heroes are much the same, the point's agreed,
From Macedonia's madman to the Swede:
The whole strange purpose of their lives, to find
Or make an enemy of all mankind!
Not one looks backward, onward still he goes,
Yet ne'er looks forward further than his nose.
No less alike the politic and wise;
All fly slow things with circumspective eyes;
Men in their loose unguarded hours they take,
Not that themselves are wise, but others weak.
that those can conquer,
can cheat: 'Tis phrase absurd, to call a villain great; Who wickedly is wise, or madly brave, Is but the more a fool, the more a knave.
Who noble ends by noble means obtains,
Or failing, smiles in exile or in chains;
Like good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed
Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.
What's fame? a fancy'd 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 Cesar 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's a rod;
An honest man's the noblest work of God.
Fame but froin death a villain's name can save,
As justice tears his body from the grave;
When what t'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 buzzas;
And more true joy Marcellus exil'd 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 pre-eminence! 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 risq’d, and always ease: Think, and if still these things thy envy call, Say, wouldst thou be the man to whom they fall? To sigh for ribbands 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, fan'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 hy 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.
O wealth ill-fated! which no act of fame
E’er taught to shine, or sanctified from shame;
What greater bliss attends the close of life:
Some greedy minion, or imperious wife,
The trophy'd arches, story'd halls invade,
And haunt their slumbers in the pompous shade.
Alas! not dazzled in their noon-tide ray,
Compute the morn and ev'ning to the day;
The whole amount of that enormous fame,
A taie, that blends their glory with their shame!
Know then this ruth (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 unequall’d, if its end is gain,
And if it lose, attended with no pain:
Without satiety, though e'r so blest,
And but more relish'd as the more distrest;
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 want's no wishes can remain,
Since but to wish more virtue is to gain.
See the sole bliss Heav'n could on all bestow!
Which who but feels can taste, but thinkscan know;
Yet poor with fortune, and with learning blind,
The bad must miss, the good; untaught, will find;
Slave to no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks through nature up to nature's God:
Pursues that chain which links th’immense design,
Joins heav'n and earth, and mortal and divine;
Sees, that no being any bliss can know,
But touches some above and some below;