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I. 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 ; Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all ; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurld: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, Ver. 2. Ed. Ist.
The only science of mankind is man.'
For more perfection than this state can bear,
Go, wond'rous 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, 25 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 ruleThen drop into thyself, and be a fool !
30 Superior beings, when of late they saw A mortal man unfold all nature's law,
As wisely sure a modest ape might aim
pug might plead, and call his Gods unkind,
Then drop into thyself, &c.
Show by what rules the wand'ring planets stray,
Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind, 35
Trace science then, with modesty thy guide :
50 Then see how little the remaining sum, Which serv'd the past, and must 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,
55 Each works its end, to move or govern all :
And Ver. 35. Ed. Ist.
Could he, who taught each planet where to roll,
And to their proper operation still,
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul;
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 objects nigh; Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie : 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
III. 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,
In lazy apathy let stoics boast
Of good and evil Gods what frighted fools,
Deceiv'd, deceiving, taught
A tedious voyage! where how useless lies