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Mark how it mounts to man's imperial race,
From the green myriads in the peopled grass:
What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme,
The mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam;
Of smell, the headlong lioness between,
And hound sagacious on the tainted green;
Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood,
To that which warbles through the vernal wood!
The spider's touch how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line;
In the nice bee, what sense so subtly true,
From poisonous herbs extracts the healing dew? 220
How instinct varies in the grovelling swine,
Compared, half-reasoning elephant, with thine?
Twixt that and reason what a nice barrier;
For ever separate, yet for ever near!
Remembrance and reflection how allied;
What thin partitions sense from thought divide!
And middle natures, how they long to join,
Yet never pass the insuperable line!
Without this just gradation, could they be
Subjected, these to those, or all to thee?
The powers of all subdued by thee alone,
Is not thy reason all these powers in one?
VIII. See, through this air, this ocean, and this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high progressive life may go !
Around, how wide! how deep extend below!
Vast chain of being! which from God began,
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect, which no eye can see,
No glass can reach; from infinite to thee;
From thee to nothing.-On superior powers
Were we to press, inferior might on ours:
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd
From nature's chain whatever link you strike,
enth, or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.
And, if each system in gradation roll Alike essential to the amazing whole, The least confusion but in one, not all That system only, but the whole must fall. Let earth unbalanced from her orbit fly, Planets and suns run lawless through the sky; Let ruling angels from their spheres be hurl'd, Being on being wreck'd, and world on world; Heaven's whole foundations to their centre nod, And nature trembles to the throne of God. All this dread order break-for whom? for thee? Vile worm!-oh madness! pride! impiety!
IX. What if the foot, ordain'd the dust to tread, Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head? What if the head, the eye, or ear, repined To serve mere engines to the ruling mind? Just as absurd for any part to claim To be another in this general frame; Just as absurd, to mourn the task or pains The great directing Mind of all ordains.
All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
That, changed through all, and yet in all the same,
Great in the earth, as in the ethereal frame;
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees;
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent ;
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart;
As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns;
To him no high, no low, no great, no small;
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.
X. Cease then, nor order imperfection name: Our proper bliss depends on what we blame. Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.
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: 294 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.
The business of man not to pry into God, but to study himself. Ilis 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; 20
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.