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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 ; 10 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;
15 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, 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 tħ' 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, Admir’d such wisdom in an earibly shape, And show'd a Newton as we show an ape :
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 time to come!
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 itsend 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
Most strength the moving principle requires ;
That sees immediate good by present sense ;
Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight,
greatest good. Modes of self-love the passions we may
; 'Tis real good, or seeming, moves them all : But since not ev'ry good we can divide,
In lazy apathy let stoics boast
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 man, can man destroy ? Suffice that reason keep to nature's road, 115 Subject, compound them, follow her and God. Love, bope, 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,
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath,
young disease, that must subdue at length, 135 Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his
strength : So, cast and mingled with his very
frame, 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.
140 Whatever warms the heart, or fills the head, As the mind opens, and its functions spread, Imagination plies her dang’rons art, And pours it all upon the peccant part. Nature its mother, habit is its nurse ;
145 Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse ;
Reason itself but gives it edge and pow'r,
Yes, Nature's road must ever be preferr’d ;
175 Grafts on this passion our best principle : 'Tis thus the mercury of man is fix’d, Strong grows the virtue with his nature mix'd ; The dross cements what else were too refin'd, And in one int’rest body acts with mind.
180 As fruits, ungrateful to the planter's care, On savage stocks inserted, learn to bear ; The surest virtues thus from passions shoot, Wild nature's vigour working at the root.