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Submit. In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless'd as thou canst bear :
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art, unknown to thee
All chance, direction which thou canst not see: 290 All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good.
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE II.
On the Nature and State of Man with respect to himself, as an Individual.
I. The business of man not to pry into God, but to study himself. His middle nature; his powers and frailties, ver. 1 to 19. The limits of his capacity, ver. 19, &c. II. The two principles of man, self-love and reason, both necessary, ver. 53, &c. Self-love the stronger, and why, ver. 67, &c. Their end the same, ver. 81, &c. III. The passions, and their use, ver. 93 to 130. The predominant passion, and its force, ver. 132 to 160. Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes, ver. 165, &c. Its providential use, in fixing our principle, and ascertaining our virtue, ver. 177. IV. Virtue and vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: what is the office of reason, ver. 202 to 216. V. How odious vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it, ver. 217. VI. That, however, the ends of Providence and general good are answered in our passions and imperfections, ver. 231, &c. How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men, ver. 241. How useful they are to society, ver. 251. And to individuals, ver. 263. In every state, and every age of life, ver. 273, &c.
I. KNOW then thyself, presume not God to scan⚫ The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great :
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
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 reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, or half to fall;
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; 26
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to the empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers 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,
Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And show'd a Newton as we show an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
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;
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,
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 the excrescent parts
Of all our vices have created arts;
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which served 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,
Each works its end, 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.
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,
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, deliberate, and advise.
Self-love still stronger, as its object's 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,
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,
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 flower: 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 every good we can divide,
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. 100
In lazy apathy let Stoics boast
Their virtue's 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;
Parts it may ravage, but preserve 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
Passions, like elements, though born to fight,
Yet mix'd and soften'd, in his work unite:
These 'tis enough to temper 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,
The whole employ of body and of mind,
All spread their charms, but charm not all alike
On different senses, different objects strike:
Hence different passions more or less inflame,
As strong or weak, the organs of the frame;
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, which must subdue at length,
Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his
So, cast and mingled with his very frame, [strength:
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 heart, or fills the head,
As the mind opens, and its functions spread.
Imagination plies her dangerous art,
And pours it all upon the peccant part.
Nature its mother, habit is its nurse;
Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse;
Reason itself but gives it edge and power;
As Heaven's blest beam turns vinegar more sour.
We wretched subjects, though no lawful sway,
In this weak queen some favourite still obey;
Ah! if she lent 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!