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EPISTLE II.

IO

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.'
After ver. 18. in the MS.

For more perfection than this state can bear,
Ja vain ye sigh, Heav'n made us as we are.

As

15

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
To be like man, whose faculties and frame
He sees, he feels, as you or 1 to be
An angel thing we neither know nor see.
Observe how near he edges on our race ;
What human tricks ! how risible of face!
It must be so why else have I the sense
Of more than monkey charms and excellence ?
Why else to walk on two so oft essay’d?
And why this ardent longing for a maid ?'
So

pug might plead, and call his Gods unkind,
'Till set on end, and married to his mind.
Go, reas’ning thing! assume the Doctor's chair,
As Plato deep, as Seneca severe :
Fix moral fitness, and to God give rule,

Then drop into thyself, &c.
Ver. 21. Ed. 4th and 5th.

Show by what rules the wand'ring planets stray,
Correct old time, and teach the sun his way.
12

Admir'd

Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And shew'd a Newton as we shew an ape.

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 ! man'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 what is but vanity, or dress,

45
Or learning's luxury, or idleness ;
Or tricks to shew 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;

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,
Describe or fix one movement of the soul?
Who mark'd their points to rise, or to descend,
Explain his own beginning, or his end?

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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. бо
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 through 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 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,

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.

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,

95
And reason bids us for our own provide ;
Passions, though 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.

In lazy apathy 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
After ver. 86. in the MS.

Of good and evil Gods what frighted fools,
Of good and evil reason puzzled schools,

Deceiv'd, deceiving, taught
After ver. 108 in the MS.

A tedious voyage! where how useless lies
The compass, if no pow'rful gust arise ?

IO

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