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1. KNOW then thyself
, presume not God to scan, The proper study of Mankind is Man, Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle ftate, A Being darkly wise, and rudely great : With too much knowledge for the Sceptic fide, With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or reft; In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beat ; In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer; Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err ; Alike in ignorance, his reason fuch, 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! [guides,
Go, wond'rous creature ! mount where Science Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides; Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, Correct old Time, and regulate the Sun; Go, foar 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 an earthly Thape,
And shew'd a Newton as we shew 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 but what is Vanity or Dress,
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;
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,
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 foul ;
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, Aame lawless thro' 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, delib'rate, and advise.
Self-love, Itill 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.
At best more watchful this, but that more strong.
The Action of the stronger to suspend
Reason fill use, to Reason ftill attend.
Attention, habit and experience gains;
Each strengthens Reason, and Self-love restrains.
Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight,
More studious to divide than to unite;
And Grace and Virtue, Sense and Reason fplit,
With all the raih 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 flow'r :
Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil, or our greatest good.
TII. Modes of self-love the passions we may
'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, tho’ felfish, if their means be fair,
Lift 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 tempeft puts in act the soul,
Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole.
On life's vast ocean diversely we fail,
Reason the chart, but passion is the gale;
Nor God alone in the still calm we find,
He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind.
Passions, like elements, tho' born to fight,
Yet, mix'd and soften’d, in his work unite :
These 'tis enough to temper and employ ;
But what composes mar, can man destroy?
Suffice that reason keep to nature's road,
Subject, compound them, follow her and Gor.
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 :
The lights and Mades, whose well accorded strife
Gives all the strength and colour of our life.
Pleasures are ever in our hands or 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 fenfes, different objects strike;
Hence different paffions more or less inflame,
As strong or weak, the organs of the frame;
And hence one MASTER PASSION in the breat,
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath,
Receives the lurking principle of death;
The young diseafe, that must subdue at length,
Grows with his growth, aud 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 foul :
Whatever warms the heart, or fills the head,
As the mind opens, and its functions spread,
Imagination plies her dang'rous, art,
And pours it all upon the peccant part.
Nature its mother, habit is its nurse;
Wit, fpirit, faculties, but make it worse ;
Reason itfelt but gives it edge and power;
As heaven's bleft beam turns vinegar more sour.
We, wretched fubjects tho' to lawful fway,
In this weak queen, Sonne fav'rite still obey :