Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind, Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
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? man’s superior part Unchecked may rise, and climb from art to art; But when his own great work is but begun, What reason weaves, by passion is undone.
Teach us to mourn our nature, not to mend, A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend!
Or from a judge turn pleader, to persuade The choice we make, or justify it made; Proud of an easy conquest all along, She but removes weak passions for the strong; So, when small humours gather to a gout, The doctor fancies he has driven them out.
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: Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood, Our greatest evil, or our greatest good. 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.
In lazy apathy let stoics boast Their virtue fixed; ’tis fixed 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 preserves the whole.
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 showed a Newton as we show an ape.As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath Receives the lurking principle of death; The young disease that must subdue at length, 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: 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.This light and darkness in our chaos joined, What shall divide? Extremes in nature equal ends produce, In man they join to some mysterious use; Though each by turns the other’s bound invade, As, in some well-wrought picture, light and shade, And oft so mix, the difference is too nice Where ends the virtue or begins the vice. who from hence into the notion fall, That vice or virtue there is none at all.If white and black blend, soften, and unite A thousand ways, is there no black or white?Man, but for that, no action could attend, And but for this, were active to no end: Fixed 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 destroyed.Most strength the moving principle requires; Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires.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.Passions, like elements, though born to fight, Yet, mixed and softened, in his work unite: These, ’tis enough to temper and employ; But what composes man, can man destroy?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 th’ 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! 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.