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Best Famous Alexander Pope Poems

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by Alexander Pope |

Ode on Solitude

I.
How happy he, who free from care The rage of courts, and noise of towns; Contented breathes his native air, In his own grounds.
II.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire.
III.
Blest! who can unconcern'dly find Hours, days, and years slide swift away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day, IV.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease Together mix'd; sweet recreation, And innocence, which most does please, With meditation.
V.
Thus let me live, unheard, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.


by Alexander Pope |

Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness

 I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?


by Alexander Pope |

Solitude: An Ode

 I.
How happy he, who free from care The rage of courts, and noise of towns; Contented breaths his native air, In his own grounds.
II.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire.
III.
Blest! who can unconcern'dly find Hours, days, and years slide swift away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day, IV.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease Together mix'd; sweet recreation, And innocence, which most does please, With meditation.
V.
Thus let me live, unheard, unknown; Thus unlamented let me dye; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lye.


by Alexander Pope |

On a certain Lady at Court

 I know the thing that's most uncommon;
(Envy be silent and attend!)
I know a Reasonable Woman,
Handsome and witty, yet a Friend.
Not warp'd by Passion, aw'd by Rumour, Not grave thro' Pride, or gay thro' Folly, An equal Mixture of good Humour, And sensible soft Melancholy.
`Has she no Faults then (Envy says) Sir?' Yes she has one, I must aver: When all the World comspires to praise her, The Woman's deaf, and does not hear.


by Alexander Pope |

Eloisa to Abelard

 In these deep solitudes and awful cells, 
Where heav'nly-pensive contemplation dwells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns;
What means this tumult in a vestal's veins?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart its long-forgotten heat?
Yet, yet I love!--From Abelard it came,
And Eloisa yet must kiss the name.
Dear fatal name! rest ever unreveal'd, Nor pass these lips in holy silence seal'd.
Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise, Where mix'd with God's, his lov'd idea lies: O write it not, my hand--the name appears Already written--wash it out, my tears! In vain lost Eloisa weeps and prays, Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys.
Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains: Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn; Ye grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid thorn! Shrines! where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep, And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep! Though cold like you, unmov'd, and silent grown, I have not yet forgot myself to stone.
All is not Heav'n's while Abelard has part, Still rebel nature holds out half my heart; Nor pray'rs nor fasts its stubborn pulse restrain, Nor tears, for ages, taught to flow in vain.
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose, That well-known name awakens all my woes.
Oh name for ever sad! for ever dear! Still breath'd in sighs, still usher'd with a tear.
I tremble too, where'er my own I find, Some dire misfortune follows close behind.
Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow, Led through a sad variety of woe: Now warm in love, now with'ring in thy bloom, Lost in a convent's solitary gloom! There stern religion quench'd th' unwilling flame, There died the best of passions, love and fame.
Yet write, oh write me all, that I may join Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine.
Nor foes nor fortune take this pow'r away; And is my Abelard less kind than they? Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare, Love but demands what else were shed in pray'r; No happier task these faded eyes pursue; To read and weep is all they now can do.
Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief; Ah, more than share it! give me all thy grief.
Heav'n first taught letters for some wretch's aid, Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid; They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires, Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires, The virgin's wish without her fears impart, Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart, Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul, And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole.
Thou know'st how guiltless first I met thy flame, When Love approach'd me under Friendship's name; My fancy form'd thee of angelic kind, Some emanation of th' all-beauteous Mind.
Those smiling eyes, attemp'ring ev'ry day, Shone sweetly lambent with celestial day.
Guiltless I gaz'd; heav'n listen'd while you sung; And truths divine came mended from that tongue.
From lips like those what precept fail'd to move? Too soon they taught me 'twas no sin to love.
Back through the paths of pleasing sense I ran, Nor wish'd an Angel whom I lov'd a Man.
Dim and remote the joys of saints I see; Nor envy them, that heav'n I lose for thee.
How oft, when press'd to marriage, have I said, Curse on all laws but those which love has made! Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies, Let wealth, let honour, wait the wedded dame, August her deed, and sacred be her fame; Before true passion all those views remove, Fame, wealth, and honour! what are you to Love? The jealous God, when we profane his fires, Those restless passions in revenge inspires; And bids them make mistaken mortals groan, Who seek in love for aught but love alone.
Should at my feet the world's great master fall, Himself, his throne, his world, I'd scorn 'em all: Not Caesar's empress would I deign to prove; No, make me mistress to the man I love; If there be yet another name more free, More fond than mistress, make me that to thee! Oh happy state! when souls each other draw, When love is liberty, and nature, law: All then is full, possessing, and possess'd, No craving void left aching in the breast: Ev'n thought meets thought, ere from the lips it part, And each warm wish springs mutual from the heart.
This sure is bliss (if bliss on earth there be) And once the lot of Abelard and me.
Alas, how chang'd! what sudden horrors rise! A naked lover bound and bleeding lies! Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand, Her poniard, had oppos'd the dire command.
Barbarian, stay! that bloody stroke restrain; The crime was common, common be the pain.
I can no more; by shame, by rage suppress'd, Let tears, and burning blushes speak the rest.
Canst thou forget that sad, that solemn day, When victims at yon altar's foot we lay? Canst thou forget what tears that moment fell, When, warm in youth, I bade the world farewell? As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil, The shrines all trembl'd, and the lamps grew pale: Heav'n scarce believ'd the conquest it survey'd, And saints with wonder heard the vows I made.
Yet then, to those dread altars as I drew, Not on the Cross my eyes were fix'd, but you: Not grace, or zeal, love only was my call, And if I lose thy love, I lose my all.
Come! with thy looks, thy words, relieve my woe; Those still at least are left thee to bestow.
Still on that breast enamour'd let me lie, Still drink delicious poison from thy eye, Pant on thy lip, and to thy heart be press'd; Give all thou canst--and let me dream the rest.
Ah no! instruct me other joys to prize, With other beauties charm my partial eyes, Full in my view set all the bright abode, And make my soul quit Abelard for God.
Ah, think at least thy flock deserves thy care, Plants of thy hand, and children of thy pray'r.
From the false world in early youth they fled, By thee to mountains, wilds, and deserts led.
You rais'd these hallow'd walls; the desert smil'd, And Paradise was open'd in the wild.
No weeping orphan saw his father's stores Our shrines irradiate, or emblaze the floors; No silver saints, by dying misers giv'n, Here brib'd the rage of ill-requited heav'n: But such plain roofs as piety could raise, And only vocal with the Maker's praise.
In these lone walls (their days eternal bound) These moss-grown domes with spiry turrets crown'd, Where awful arches make a noonday night, And the dim windows shed a solemn light; Thy eyes diffus'd a reconciling ray, And gleams of glory brighten'd all the day.
But now no face divine contentment wears, 'Tis all blank sadness, or continual tears.
See how the force of others' pray'rs I try, (O pious fraud of am'rous charity!) But why should I on others' pray'rs depend? Come thou, my father, brother, husband, friend! Ah let thy handmaid, sister, daughter move, And all those tender names in one, thy love! The darksome pines that o'er yon rocks reclin'd Wave high, and murmur to the hollow wind, The wand'ring streams that shine between the hills, The grots that echo to the tinkling rills, The dying gales that pant upon the trees, The lakes that quiver to the curling breeze; No more these scenes my meditation aid, Or lull to rest the visionary maid.
But o'er the twilight groves and dusky caves, Long-sounding aisles, and intermingled graves, Black Melancholy sits, and round her throws A death-like silence, and a dread repose: Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene, Shades ev'ry flow'r, and darkens ev'ry green, Deepens the murmur of the falling floods, And breathes a browner horror on the woods.
Yet here for ever, ever must I stay; Sad proof how well a lover can obey! Death, only death, can break the lasting chain; And here, ev'n then, shall my cold dust remain, Here all its frailties, all its flames resign, And wait till 'tis no sin to mix with thine.
Ah wretch! believ'd the spouse of God in vain, Confess'd within the slave of love and man.
Assist me, Heav'n! but whence arose that pray'r? Sprung it from piety, or from despair? Ev'n here, where frozen chastity retires, Love finds an altar for forbidden fires.
I ought to grieve, but cannot what I ought; I mourn the lover, not lament the fault; I view my crime, but kindle at the view, Repent old pleasures, and solicit new; Now turn'd to Heav'n, I weep my past offence, Now think of thee, and curse my innocence.
Of all affliction taught a lover yet, 'Tis sure the hardest science to forget! How shall I lose the sin, yet keep the sense, And love th' offender, yet detest th' offence? How the dear object from the crime remove, Or how distinguish penitence from love? Unequal task! a passion to resign, For hearts so touch'd, so pierc'd, so lost as mine.
Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state, How often must it love, how often hate! How often hope, despair, resent, regret, Conceal, disdain--do all things but forget.
But let Heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd; Not touch'd, but rapt; not waken'd, but inspir'd! Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue, Renounce my love, my life, myself--and you.
Fill my fond heart with God alone, for he Alone can rival, can succeed to thee.
How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd; Labour and rest, that equal periods keep; "Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep;" Desires compos'd, affections ever ev'n, Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to Heav'n.
Grace shines around her with serenest beams, And whisp'ring angels prompt her golden dreams.
For her th' unfading rose of Eden blooms, And wings of seraphs shed divine perfumes, For her the Spouse prepares the bridal ring, For her white virgins hymeneals sing, To sounds of heav'nly harps she dies away, And melts in visions of eternal day.
Far other dreams my erring soul employ, Far other raptures, of unholy joy: When at the close of each sad, sorrowing day, Fancy restores what vengeance snatch'd away, Then conscience sleeps, and leaving nature free, All my loose soul unbounded springs to thee.
Oh curs'd, dear horrors of all-conscious night! How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight! Provoking Daemons all restraint remove, And stir within me every source of love.
I hear thee, view thee, gaze o'er all thy charms, And round thy phantom glue my clasping arms.
I wake--no more I hear, no more I view, The phantom flies me, as unkind as you.
I call aloud; it hears not what I say; I stretch my empty arms; it glides away.
To dream once more I close my willing eyes; Ye soft illusions, dear deceits, arise! Alas, no more--methinks we wand'ring go Through dreary wastes, and weep each other's woe, Where round some mould'ring tower pale ivy creeps, And low-brow'd rocks hang nodding o'er the deeps.
Sudden you mount, you beckon from the skies; Clouds interpose, waves roar, and winds arise.
I shriek, start up, the same sad prospect find, And wake to all the griefs I left behind.
For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain; Thy life a long, dead calm of fix'd repose; No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows.
Still as the sea, ere winds were taught to blow, Or moving spirit bade the waters flow; Soft as the slumbers of a saint forgiv'n, And mild as opening gleams of promis'd heav'n.
Come, Abelard! for what hast thou to dread? The torch of Venus burns not for the dead.
Nature stands check'd; Religion disapproves; Ev'n thou art cold--yet Eloisa loves.
Ah hopeless, lasting flames! like those that burn To light the dead, and warm th' unfruitful urn.
What scenes appear where'er I turn my view? The dear ideas, where I fly, pursue, Rise in the grove, before the altar rise, Stain all my soul, and wanton in my eyes.
I waste the matin lamp in sighs for thee, Thy image steals between my God and me, Thy voice I seem in ev'ry hymn to hear, With ev'ry bead I drop too soft a tear.
When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll, And swelling organs lift the rising soul, One thought of thee puts all the pomp to flight, Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight: In seas of flame my plunging soul is drown'd, While altars blaze, and angels tremble round.
While prostrate here in humble grief I lie, Kind, virtuous drops just gath'ring in my eye, While praying, trembling, in the dust I roll, And dawning grace is op'ning on my soul: Come, if thou dar'st, all charming as thou art! Oppose thyself to Heav'n; dispute my heart; Come, with one glance of those deluding eyes Blot out each bright idea of the skies; Take back that grace, those sorrows, and those tears; Take back my fruitless penitence and pray'rs; Snatch me, just mounting, from the blest abode; Assist the fiends, and tear me from my God! No, fly me, fly me, far as pole from pole; Rise Alps between us! and whole oceans roll! Ah, come not, write not, think not once of me, Nor share one pang of all I felt for thee.
Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign; Forget, renounce me, hate whate'er was mine.
Fair eyes, and tempting looks (which yet I view!) Long lov'd, ador'd ideas, all adieu! Oh Grace serene! oh virtue heav'nly fair! Divine oblivion of low-thoughted care! Fresh blooming hope, gay daughter of the sky! And faith, our early immortality! Enter, each mild, each amicable guest; Receive, and wrap me in eternal rest! See in her cell sad Eloisa spread, Propp'd on some tomb, a neighbour of the dead.
In each low wind methinks a spirit calls, And more than echoes talk along the walls.
Here, as I watch'd the dying lamps around, From yonder shrine I heard a hollow sound.
"Come, sister, come!" (it said, or seem'd to say) "Thy place is here, sad sister, come away! Once like thyself, I trembled, wept, and pray'd, Love's victim then, though now a sainted maid: But all is calm in this eternal sleep; Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep, Ev'n superstition loses ev'ry fear: For God, not man, absolves our frailties here.
" I come, I come! prepare your roseate bow'rs, Celestial palms, and ever-blooming flow'rs.
Thither, where sinners may have rest, I go, Where flames refin'd in breasts seraphic glow: Thou, Abelard! the last sad office pay, And smooth my passage to the realms of day; See my lips tremble, and my eye-balls roll, Suck my last breath, and catch my flying soul! Ah no--in sacred vestments may'st thou stand, The hallow'd taper trembling in thy hand, Present the cross before my lifted eye, Teach me at once, and learn of me to die.
Ah then, thy once-lov'd Eloisa see! It will be then no crime to gaze on me.
See from my cheek the transient roses fly! See the last sparkle languish in my eye! Till ev'ry motion, pulse, and breath be o'er; And ev'n my Abelard be lov'd no more.
O Death all-eloquent! you only prove What dust we dote on, when 'tis man we love.
Then too, when fate shall thy fair frame destroy, (That cause of all my guilt, and all my joy) In trance ecstatic may thy pangs be drown'd, Bright clouds descend, and angels watch thee round, From op'ning skies may streaming glories shine, And saints embrace thee with a love like mine.
May one kind grave unite each hapless name, And graft my love immortal on thy fame! Then, ages hence, when all my woes are o'er, When this rebellious heart shall beat no more; If ever chance two wand'ring lovers brings To Paraclete's white walls and silver springs, O'er the pale marble shall they join their heads, And drink the falling tears each other sheds; Then sadly say, with mutual pity mov'd, "Oh may we never love as these have lov'd!" From the full choir when loud Hosannas rise, And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice, Amid that scene if some relenting eye Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie, Devotion's self shall steal a thought from Heav'n, One human tear shall drop and be forgiv'n.
And sure, if fate some future bard shall join In sad similitude of griefs to mine, Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore, And image charms he must behold no more; Such if there be, who loves so long, so well; Let him our sad, our tender story tell; The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost; He best can paint 'em, who shall feel 'em most.


by Alexander Pope |

Couplets on Wit

 I

But our Great Turks in wit must reign alone
And ill can bear a Brother on the Throne.
II Wit is like faith by such warm Fools profest Who to be saved by one, must damn the rest.
III Some who grow dull religious strait commence And gain in morals what they lose in sence.
IV Wits starve as useless to a Common weal While Fools have places purely for their Zea.
V Now wits gain praise by copying other wits As one Hog lives on what another sh---.
VI Wou'd you your writings to some Palates fit Purged all you verses from the sin of wit For authors now are so conceited grown They praise no works but what are like their own.


by Alexander Pope |

The Dying Christian to His Soul

 Vital spark of heav’nly flame!
Quit, O quit this mortal frame:
Trembling, hoping, ling’ring, flying,
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.
Hark! they whisper; angels say, Sister Spirit, come away! What is this absorbs me quite? Steals my senses, shuts my sight, Drowns my spirits, draws my breath? Tell me, my soul, can this be death? The world recedes; it disappears! Heav’n opens on my eyes! my ears With sounds seraphic ring! Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly! O Grave! where is thy victory? O Death! where is thy sting?


by Alexander Pope |

Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

 Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigu'd, I said, 
Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
The dog-star rages! nay 'tis past a doubt, All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out: Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand, They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide? They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide; By land, by water, they renew the charge; They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.
No place is sacred, not the church is free; Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me: Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme, Happy! to catch me just at dinner-time.
Is there a parson, much bemus'd in beer, A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer, A clerk, foredoom'd his father's soul to cross, Who pens a stanza, when he should engross? Is there, who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls With desp'rate charcoal round his darken'd walls? All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws, Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause: Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope, And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.
Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong, The world had wanted many an idle song) What drop or nostrum can this plague remove? Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love? A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped, If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead.
Seiz'd and tied down to judge, how wretched I! Who can't be silent, and who will not lie; To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace, And to be grave, exceeds all pow'r of face.
I sit with sad civility, I read With honest anguish, and an aching head; And drop at last, but in unwilling ears, This saving counsel, "Keep your piece nine years.
" "Nine years!" cries he, who high in Drury-lane Lull'd by soft zephyrs through the broken pane, Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before Term ends, Oblig'd by hunger, and request of friends: "The piece, you think, is incorrect: why, take it, I'm all submission, what you'd have it, make it.
" Three things another's modest wishes bound, My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound.
Pitholeon sends to me: "You know his Grace, I want a patron; ask him for a place.
" Pitholeon libell'd me--"but here's a letter Informs you, sir, 'twas when he knew no better.
Dare you refuse him? Curll invites to dine, He'll write a Journal, or he'll turn Divine.
" Bless me! a packet--"'Tis a stranger sues, A virgin tragedy, an orphan muse.
" If I dislike it, "Furies, death and rage!" If I approve, "Commend it to the stage.
" There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends, The play'rs and I are, luckily, no friends.
Fir'd that the house reject him, "'Sdeath I'll print it, And shame the fools--your int'rest, sir, with Lintot!" "Lintot, dull rogue! will think your price too much.
" "Not, sir, if you revise it, and retouch.
" All my demurs but double his attacks; At last he whispers, "Do; and we go snacks.
" Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door, "Sir, let me see your works and you no more.
" 'Tis sung, when Midas' ears began to spring, (Midas, a sacred person and a king) His very minister who spied them first, (Some say his queen) was forc'd to speak, or burst.
And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case, When ev'ry coxcomb perks them in my face? "Good friend, forbear! you deal in dang'rous things.
I'd never name queens, ministers, or kings; Keep close to ears, and those let asses prick; 'Tis nothing"--Nothing? if they bite and kick? Out with it, Dunciad! let the secret pass, That secret to each fool, that he's an ass: The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie?) The queen of Midas slept, and so may I.
You think this cruel? take it for a rule, No creature smarts so little as a fool.
Let peals of laughter, Codrus! round thee break, Thou unconcern'd canst hear the mighty crack: Pit, box, and gall'ry in convulsions hurl'd, Thou stand'st unshook amidst a bursting world.
Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb through, He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew; Destroy his fib or sophistry, in vain, The creature's at his dirty work again; Thron'd in the centre of his thin designs; Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines! Whom have I hurt? has poet yet, or peer, Lost the arch'd eye-brow, or Parnassian sneer? And has not Colley still his lord, and whore? His butchers Henley, his Free-masons Moore? Does not one table Bavius still admit? Still to one bishop Philips seem a wit? Still Sappho-- "Hold! for God-sake--you'll offend: No names!--be calm!--learn prudence of a friend! I too could write, and I am twice as tall; But foes like these!" One flatt'rer's worse than all.
Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right, It is the slaver kills, and not the bite.
A fool quite angry is quite innocent; Alas! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
One dedicates in high heroic prose, And ridicules beyond a hundred foes; One from all Grub Street will my fame defend, And, more abusive, calls himself my friend.
This prints my Letters, that expects a bribe, And others roar aloud, "Subscribe, subscribe.
" There are, who to my person pay their court: I cough like Horace, and, though lean, am short, Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high, Such Ovid's nose, and "Sir! you have an eye"-- Go on, obliging creatures, make me see All that disgrac'd my betters, met in me: Say for my comfort, languishing in bed, "Just so immortal Maro held his head:" And when I die, be sure you let me know Great Homer died three thousand years ago.
Why did I write? what sin to me unknown Dipp'd me in ink, my parents', or my own? As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.
I left no calling for this idle trade, No duty broke, no father disobey'd.
The Muse but serv'd to ease some friend, not wife, To help me through this long disease, my life, To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care, And teach the being you preserv'd, to bear.
But why then publish? Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write; Well-natur'd Garth inflamed with early praise, And Congreve lov'd, and Swift endur'd my lays; The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read, Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head, And St.
John's self (great Dryden's friends before) With open arms receiv'd one poet more.
Happy my studies, when by these approv'd! Happier their author, when by these belov'd! From these the world will judge of men and books, Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cookes.
Soft were my numbers; who could take offence, While pure description held the place of sense? Like gentle Fanny's was my flow'ry theme, A painted mistress, or a purling stream.
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill; I wish'd the man a dinner, and sat still.
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret; I never answer'd, I was not in debt.
If want provok'd, or madness made them print, I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad? If wrong, I smil'd; if right, I kiss'd the rod.
Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence, And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
Commas and points they set exactly right, And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite.
Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds, From slashing Bentley down to pidling Tibbalds.
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells, Each word-catcher that lives on syllables, Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim, Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakespeare's name.
Pretty! in amber to observe the forms Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms; The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare, But wonder how the devil they got there? Were others angry? I excus'd them too; Well might they rage; I gave them but their due.
A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find, But each man's secret standard in his mind, That casting weight pride adds to emptiness, This, who can gratify? for who can guess? The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown, Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown, Just writes to make his barrenness appear, And strains, from hard-bound brains, eight lines a year: He, who still wanting, though he lives on theft, Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left: And he, who now to sense, now nonsense leaning, Means not, but blunders round about a meaning: And he, whose fustian's so sublimely bad, It is not poetry, but prose run mad: All these, my modest satire bade translate, And own'd, that nine such poets made a Tate.
How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe? And swear, not Addison himself was safe.
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires, Blest with each talent and each art to please, And born to write, converse, and live with ease: Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne, View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes, And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise; Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer; Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike; Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend, A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend; Dreading ev'n fools, by flatterers besieg'd, And so obliging, that he ne'er oblig'd; Like Cato, give his little senate laws, And sit attentive to his own applause; While wits and templars ev'ry sentence raise, And wonder with a foolish face of praise.
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be? Who would not weep, if Atticus were he? What though my name stood rubric on the walls, Or plaister'd posts, with claps, in capitals? Or smoking forth, a hundred hawkers' load, On wings of winds came flying all abroad? I sought no homage from the race that write; I kept, like Asian monarchs, from their sight: Poems I heeded (now berhym'd so long) No more than thou, great George! a birthday song.
I ne'er with wits or witlings pass'd my days, To spread about the itch of verse and praise; Nor like a puppy, daggled through the town, To fetch and carry sing-song up and down; Nor at rehearsals sweat, and mouth'd, and cried, With handkerchief and orange at my side; But sick of fops, and poetry, and prate, To Bufo left the whole Castalian state.
Proud as Apollo on his forked hill, Sat full-blown Bufo, puff'd by every quill; Fed with soft dedication all day long, Horace and he went hand in hand in song.
His library (where busts of poets dead And a true Pindar stood without a head,) Receiv'd of wits an undistinguish'd race, Who first his judgment ask'd, and then a place: Much they extoll'd his pictures, much his seat, And flatter'd ev'ry day, and some days eat: Till grown more frugal in his riper days, He paid some bards with port, and some with praise, To some a dry rehearsal was assign'd, And others (harder still) he paid in kind.
Dryden alone (what wonder?) came not nigh, Dryden alone escap'd this judging eye: But still the great have kindness in reserve, He help'd to bury whom he help'd to starve.
May some choice patron bless each grey goose quill! May ev'ry Bavius have his Bufo still! So, when a statesman wants a day's defence, Or envy holds a whole week's war with sense, Or simple pride for flatt'ry makes demands, May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands! Blest be the great! for those they take away, And those they left me--for they left me Gay; Left me to see neglected genius bloom, Neglected die! and tell it on his tomb; Of all thy blameless life the sole return My verse, and Queensb'ry weeping o'er thy urn! Oh let me live my own! and die so too! ("To live and die is all I have to do:") Maintain a poet's dignity and ease, And see what friends, and read what books I please.
Above a patron, though I condescend Sometimes to call a minister my friend: I was not born for courts or great affairs; I pay my debts, believe, and say my pray'rs; Can sleep without a poem in my head, Nor know, if Dennis be alive or dead.
Why am I ask'd what next shall see the light? Heav'ns! was I born for nothing but to write? Has life no joys for me? or (to be grave) Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save? "I found him close with Swift"--"Indeed? no doubt", (Cries prating Balbus) "something will come out".
'Tis all in vain, deny it as I will.
"No, such a genius never can lie still," And then for mine obligingly mistakes The first lampoon Sir Will.
or Bubo makes.
Poor guiltless I! and can I choose but smile, When ev'ry coxcomb knows me by my style? Curs'd be the verse, how well soe'er it flow, That tends to make one worthy man my foe, Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear, Or from the soft-ey'd virgin steal a tear! But he, who hurts a harmless neighbour's peace, Insults fall'n worth, or beauty in distress, Who loves a lie, lame slander helps about, Who writes a libel, or who copies out: That fop, whose pride affects a patron's name, Yet absent, wounds an author's honest fame; Who can your merit selfishly approve, And show the sense of it without the love; Who has the vanity to call you friend, Yet wants the honour, injur'd, to defend; Who tells what'er you think, whate'er you say, And, if he lie not, must at least betray: Who to the Dean, and silver bell can swear, And sees at Cannons what was never there; Who reads, but with a lust to misapply, Make satire a lampoon, and fiction, lie.
A lash like mine no honest man shall dread, But all such babbling blockheads in his stead.
Let Sporus tremble--"What? that thing of silk, Sporus, that mere white curd of ass's milk? Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel? Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings, This painted child of dirt that stinks and stings; Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys, Yet wit ne'er tastes, and beauty ne'r enjoys, So well-bred spaniels civilly delight In mumbling of the game they dare not bite.
Eternal smiles his emptiness betray, As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.
Whether in florid impotence he speaks, And, as the prompter breathes, the puppet squeaks; Or at the ear of Eve, familiar toad, Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad, In puns, or politics, or tales, or lies, Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies.
His wit all see-saw, between that and this , Now high, now low, now Master up, now Miss, And he himself one vile antithesis.
Amphibious thing! that acting either part, The trifling head, or the corrupted heart, Fop at the toilet, flatt'rer at the board, Now trips a lady, and now struts a lord.
Eve's tempter thus the rabbins have express'd, A cherub's face, a reptile all the rest; Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust, Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.
Not fortune's worshipper, nor fashion's fool, Not lucre's madman, nor ambition's tool, Not proud, nor servile, be one poet's praise, That, if he pleas'd, he pleas'd by manly ways; That flatt'ry, even to kings, he held a shame, And thought a lie in verse or prose the same: That not in fancy's maze he wander'd long, But stoop'd to truth, and moraliz'd his song: That not for fame, but virtue's better end, He stood the furious foe, the timid friend, The damning critic, half-approving wit, The coxcomb hit, or fearing to be hit; Laugh'd at the loss of friends he never had, The dull, the proud, the wicked, and the mad; The distant threats of vengeance on his head, The blow unfelt, the tear he never shed; The tale reviv'd, the lie so oft o'erthrown; Th' imputed trash, and dulness not his own; The morals blacken'd when the writings 'scape; The libell'd person, and the pictur'd shape; Abuse, on all he lov'd, or lov'd him, spread, A friend in exile, or a father, dead; The whisper, that to greatness still too near, Perhaps, yet vibrates on his sovereign's ear:-- Welcome for thee, fair Virtue! all the past: For thee, fair Virtue! welcome ev'n the last! "But why insult the poor? affront the great?" A knave's a knave, to me, in ev'ry state: Alike my scorn, if he succeed or fail, Sporus at court, or Japhet in a jail, A hireling scribbler, or a hireling peer, Knight of the post corrupt, or of the shire; If on a pillory, or near a throne, He gain his prince's ear, or lose his own.
Yet soft by nature, more a dupe than wit, Sappho can tell you how this man was bit: This dreaded sat'rist Dennis will confess Foe to his pride, but friend to his distress: So humble, he has knock'd at Tibbald's door, Has drunk with Cibber, nay, has rhym'd for Moore.
Full ten years slander'd, did he once reply? Three thousand suns went down on Welsted's lie.
To please a mistress one aspers'd his life; He lash'd him not, but let her be his wife.
Let Budgell charge low Grub Street on his quill, And write whate'er he pleas'd, except his will; Let the two Curlls of town and court, abuse His father, mother, body, soul, and muse.
Yet why? that father held it for a rule, It was a sin to call our neighbour fool: That harmless mother thought no wife a whore,-- Hear this! and spare his family, James Moore! Unspotted names! and memorable long, If there be force in virtue, or in song.
Of gentle blood (part shed in honour's cause, While yet in Britain honour had applause) Each parent sprung--"What fortune, pray?"--Their own, And better got, than Bestia's from the throne.
Born to no pride, inheriting no strife, Nor marrying discord in a noble wife, Stranger to civil and religious rage, The good man walk'd innoxious through his age.
No courts he saw, no suits would ever try, Nor dar'd an oath, nor hazarded a lie: Un-learn'd, he knew no schoolman's subtle art, No language, but the language of the heart.
By nature honest, by experience wise, Healthy by temp'rance and by exercise; His life, though long, to sickness past unknown; His death was instant, and without a groan.
O grant me, thus to live, and thus to die! Who sprung from kings shall know less joy than I.
O friend! may each domestic bliss be thine! Be no unpleasing melancholy mine: Me, let the tender office long engage To rock the cradle of reposing age, With lenient arts extend a mother's breath, Make langour smile, and smooth the bed of death, Explore the thought, explain the asking eye, And keep a while one parent from the sky! On cares like these if length of days attend, May Heav'n, to bless those days, preserve my friend, Preserve him social, cheerful, and serene, And just as rich as when he serv'd a queen.
Whether that blessing be denied or giv'n, Thus far was right, the rest belongs to Heav'n.


by Alexander Pope |

EPISTLE II: TO A LADY (Of the Characters of Women)

 NOTHING so true as what you once let fall, 
"Most Women have no Characters at all.
" Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear, And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair.
How many pictures of one Nymph we view, All how unlike each other, all how true! Arcadia's Countess, here, in ermin'd pride, Is, there, Pastora by a fountain side.
Here Fannia, leering on her own good man, And there, a naked Leda with a Swan.
Let then the Fair one beautifully cry, In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye, Or drest in smiles of sweet Cecilia shine, With simpering Angels, Palms, and Harps divine; Whether the Charmer sinner it, or saint it, If Folly grow romantic, I must paint it.
Come then, the colours and the ground prepare! Dip in the Rainbow, trick her off in Air; Choose a firm Cloud, before it fall, and in it Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute.
Rufa, whose eye quick-glancing o'er the Park, Attracts each light gay meteor of a Spark, Agrees as ill with Rufa studying Locke, As Sappho's diamonds with her dirty smock; Or Sappho at her toilet's greasy task, With Sappho fragrant at an evening Masque: So morning Insects that in muck begun, Shine, buzz, and flyblow in the setting sun.
How soft is Silia! fearful to offend; The Frail one's advocate, the Weak one's friend: To her, Calista prov'd her conduct nice; And good Simplicius asks of her advice.
Sudden, she storms! she raves! You tip the wink, But spare your censure; Silia does not drink.
All eyes may see from what the change arose, All eyes may see--a Pimple on her nose.
Papillia, wedded to her amorous spark, Sighs for the shades--"How charming is a Park!" A Park is purchas'd, but the Fair he sees All bath'd in tears--"Oh odious, odious Trees!" Ladies, like variegated Tulips, show; 'Tis to their Changes half their charms we owe; Fine by defect, and delicately weak, Their happy Spots the nice admirer take, 'Twas thus Calypso once each heart alarm'd, Aw'd without Virtue, without Beauty charmed; Her tongue bewitch'd as oddly as her Eyes, Less Wit than Mimic, more a Wit than wise; Strange graces still, and stranger flights she had, Was just not ugly, and was just not mad; Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create, As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.
Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild, To make a wash, would hardly stew a child; Has ev'n been prov'd to grant a Lover's pray'r, And paid a Tradesman once to make him stare; Gave alms at Easter, in a Christian trim, And made a Widow happy, for a whim.
Why then declare Good-nature is her scorn, When 'tis by that alone she can be borne? Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name? A fool to Pleasure, yet a slave to Fame: Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs, Now drinking citron with his Grace and Chartres: Now Conscience chills her, and now Passion burns; And Atheism and Religion take their turns; A very Heathen in the carnal part, Yet still a sad, good Christian at her heart.
See Sin in State, majestically drunk; Proud as a Peeress, prouder as a Punk; Chaste to her Husband, frank to all beside, A teeming Mistress, but a barren Bride.
What then? let Blood and Body bear the fault, Her Head's untouch'd, that noble Seat of Thought: Such this day's doctrine--in another fit She sins with Poets thro' pure Love of Wit.
What has not fir'd her bosom or her brain? Caesar and Tallboy, Charles and Charlemagne.
As Helluo, late Dictator of the Feast, The Nose of Hautgout, and the Tip of Taste, Critick'd your wine, and analyz'd your meat, Yet on plain Pudding deign'd at home to eat; So Philomede, lecturing all mankind On the soft Passion, and the Taste refin'd, Th' Address, the Delicacy--stoops at once, And makes her hearty meal upon a Dunce.
Flavia's a Wit, has too much sense to Pray; To Toast our wants and wishes, is her way; Nor asks of God, but of her Stars, to give The mighty blessing, "while we live, to live.
" Then all for Death, that Opiate of the soul! Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl.
Say, what can cause such impotence of mind? A spark too fickle, or a Spouse too kind.
Wise Wretch! with Pleasures too refin'd to please; With too much Spirit to be e'er at ease; With too much Quickness ever to be taught; With too much Thinking to have common Thought: You purchase Pain with all that Joy can give, And die of nothing but a Rage to live.
Turn then from Wits; and look on Simo's Mate, No Ass so meek, no Ass so obstinate.
Or her, that owns her Faults, but never mends, Because she's honest, and the best of Friends.
Or her, whose life the Church and Scandal share, For ever in a Passion, or a Pray'r.
Or her, who laughs at Hell, but (like her Grace) Cries, "Ah! how charming, if there's no such place!" Or who in sweet vicissitude appears Of Mirth and Opium, Ratafie and Tears, The daily Anodyne, and nightly Draught, To kill those foes to Fair ones, Time and Thought.
Woman and Fool are two hard things to hit; For true No-meaning puzzles more than Wit.
But what are these to great Atossa's mind? Scarce once herself, by turns all Womankind! Who, with herself, or others, from her birth Finds all her life one warfare upon earth: Shines, in exposing Knaves, and painting Fools, Yet is, whate'er she hates and ridicules.
No Thought advances, but her Eddy Brain Whisks it about, and down it goes again.
Full sixty years the World has been her Trade, The wisest Fool much Time has ever made.
From loveless youth to unrespected age, No passion gratify'd except her Rage.
So much the Fury still outran the Wit, The Pleasure miss'd her, and the Scandal hit.
Who breaks with her, provokes Revenge from Hell, But he's a bolder man who dares be well.
Her ev'ry turn with Violence pursu'd, Nor more a storm her Hate than Gratitude: To that each Passion turns, or soon or late; Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate: Superiors? death! and Equals? what a curse! But an Inferior not dependant? worse.
Offend her, and she knows not to forgive; Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live: But die, and she'll adore you--Then the Bust And Temple rise--then fall again to dust.
Last night, her Lord was all that's good and great; A Knave this morning, and his Will a Cheat.
Strange! by the Means defeated of the Ends, By Spirit robb'd of Pow'r, by Warmth of Friends, By Wealth of Followers! without one distress Sick of herself thro' very selfishness! Atossa, curs'd with ev'ry granted pray'r, Childless with all her Children, wants an Heir.
To Heirs unknown descends th' unguarded store, Or wanders, Heav'n-directed, to the Poor.
Pictures like these, dear Madam, to design, Asks no firm hand, and no unerring line; Some wandering touches, some reflected light, Some flying stroke alone can hit 'em right: For how should equal Colours do the knack? Chameleons who can paint in white and black? "Yet Chloe sure was form'd without a spot--" Nature in her then err'd not, but forgot.
"With ev'ry pleasing, ev'ry prudent part, Say, what can Chloe want?"--She wants a Heart.
She speaks, behaves, and acts just as she ought; But never, never, reach'd one gen'rous Thought.
Virtue she finds too painful an endeavour, Content to dwell in Decencies for ever.
So very reasonable, so unmov'd, As never yet to love, or to be lov'd.
She, while her Lover pants upon her breast, Can mark the figures on an Indian chest; And when she sees her Friend in deep despair, Observes how much a Chintz exceeds Mohair.
Forbid it Heav'n, a Favour or a Debt She e'er should cancel--but she may forget.
Safe is your Secret still in Chloe's ear; But none of Chloe's shall you ever hear.
Of all her Dears she never slander'd one, But cares not if a thousand are undone.
Would Chloe know if you're alive or dead? She bids her Footman put it in her head.
Chloe is prudent--Would you too be wise? Then never break your heart when Chloe dies.
One certain Portrait may (I grant) be seen, Which Heav'n has varnish'd out, and made a Queen: The same for ever! and describ'd by all With Truth and Goodness, as with Crown and Ball.
Poets heap Virtues, Painters Gems at will, And show their zeal, and hide their want of skill.
'Tis well--but, Artists! who can paint or write, To draw the Naked is your true delight.
That robe of Quality so struts and swells, None see what Parts of Nature it conceals: Th' exactest traits of Body or of Mind, We owe to models of an humble kind.
If QUEENSBURY to strip there's no compelling, 'Tis from a Handmaid we must take a Helen.
From Peer or Bishop 'tis no easy thing To draw the man who loves his God, or King: Alas! I copy (or my draught would fail) From honest Mah'met, or plain Parson Hale.
But grant, in Public Men sometimes are shown, A Woman's seen in Private life alone: Our bolder Talents in full light displayed; Your Virtues open fairest in the shade.
Bred to disguise, in Public 'tis you hide; There, none distinguish twixt your Shame or Pride, Weakness or Delicacy; all so nice, That each may seem a Virtue, or a Vice.
In Men, we various Ruling Passions find; In Women, two almost divide the kind; Those, only fix'd, they first or last obey, The Love of Pleasure, and the Love of Sway.
That, Nature gives; and where the lesson taught Is but to please, can Pleasure seem a fault? Experience, this; by Man's oppression curst, They seek the second not to lose the first.
Men, some to Business, some to pleasure take; But ev'ry Woman is at heart a Rake: Men, some to Quiet, some to public Strife; But ev'ry Lady would be Queen for life.
Yet mark the fate of a whole Sex of Queens! Pow'r all their end, but Beauty all the means: In Youth they conquer, with so wild a rage, As leaves them scarce a subject in their Age: For foreign glory, foreign joy, they roam; No thought of peace or happiness at home.
But Wisdom's triumph is a well-tim'd Retreat, As hard a science to the Fair as Great! Beauties, like Tyrants, old and friendless grown, Yet hate repose, and dread to be alone, Worn out in public, weary ev'ry eye, Nor leave one sigh behind them when they die.
Pleasures the sex, as children Birds, pursue, Still out of reach, yet never out of view; Sure, if they catch, to spoil the Toy at most, To covet flying, and regret when lost: At last, to follies Youth could scarce defend, It grows their Age's prudence to pretend; Asham'd to own they gave delight before, Reduc'd to feign it, when they give no more: As Hags hold Sabbaths, less for joy than spite, So these their merry, miserable Night; Still round and round the Ghosts of Beauty glide, And haunt the places where their Honour died.
See how the World its Veterans rewards! A Youth of Frolics, an old Age of Cards; Fair to no purpose, artful to no end, Young without Lovers, old without a Friend; A Fop their Passion, but their Prize a Sot; Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot! Ah Friend! to dazzle let the Vain design; To raise the Thought, and touch the Heart be thine! That Charm shall grow, while what fatigues the Ring, Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing: So when the Sun's broad beam has tir'd the sight, All mild ascends the Moon's more sober light, Serene in Virgin Modesty she shines, And unobserv'd the glaring Orb declines.
Oh! blest with Temper, whose unclouded ray Can make tomorrow cheerful as today; She, who can love a Sister's charms, or hear Sighs for a Daughter with unwounded ear; She, who ne'er answers till a Husband cools, Or, if she rules him, never shows she rules; Charms by accepting, by submitting sways, Yet has her humour most, when she obeys; Let Fops or Fortune fly which way they will; Disdains all loss of Tickets, or Codille; Spleen, Vapours, or Smallpox, above them all, And Mistress of herself, though China fall.
And yet, believe me, good as well as ill, Woman's at best a Contradiction still.
Heav'n, when it strives to polish all it can Its last best work, but forms a softer Man; Picks from each sex, to make the Favorite blest, Your love of Pleasure, our desire of Rest: Blends, in exception to all general rules, Your Taste of Follies, with our Scorn of Fools: Reserve with Frankness, Art with Truth ally'd, Courage with Softness, Modesty with Pride; Fix'd Principles, with Fancy ever new; Shakes all together, and produces--You.
Be this a Woman's Fame: with this unblest, Toasts live a scorn, and Queens may die a jest.
This Phoebus promis'd (I forget the year) When those blue eyes first open'd on the sphere; Ascendant Phoebus watch'd that hour with care, Averted half your Parents' simple Pray'r; And gave you Beauty, but deny'd the Pelf That buys your sex a Tyrant o'er itself.
The generous God, who Wit and Gold refines, And ripens Spirits as he ripens Mines, Kept Dross for Duchesses, the world shall know it, To you gave Sense, Good Humour, and a Poet.


by Alexander Pope |

Essay on Man

 The First Epistle

Awake, my ST.
JOHN!(1) leave all meaner things To low ambition, and the pride of Kings.
Let us (since Life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die) Expatiate(2) free o'er all this scene of Man; A mighty maze! but not without a plan; A Wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous shoot, Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; The latent tracts(3), the giddy heights explore Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar; Eye Nature's walks, shoot Folly as it flies, And catch the Manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can; But vindicate(4) the ways of God to Man.
1.
Say first, of God above, or Man below, What can we reason, but from what we know? Of Man what see we, but his station here, From which to reason, or to which refer? Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known, 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He, who thro' vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how system into system runs, What other planets circle other suns, What vary'd being peoples ev'ry star, May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.
But of this frame the bearings, and the ties, The strong connections, nice dependencies, Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Look'd thro'? or can a part contain the whole? Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? II.
Presumptuous Man! the reason wouldst thou find, Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind! First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, Why form'd no weaker, blinder, and no less! Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade? Or ask of yonder argent fields(5) above, Why JOVE'S Satellites are less than JOVE?(6) Of Systems possible, if 'tis confest That Wisdom infinite must form the best, Where all must full or not coherent be, And all that rises, rise in due degree; Then, in the scale of reas'ning life, 'tis plain There must be, somewhere, such rank as Man; And all the question (wrangle e'er so long) Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong? Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call, Nay, must be right, as relative to all.
In human works, tho' labour'd on with pain, A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain; In God's, one single can its end produce; Yet serves to second too some other use.
So Man, who here seems principal alone, Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown, Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal; 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
When the proud steed shall know why Man restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains; When the dull Ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Egypt's God:(7) Then shall Man's pride and dullness comprehend His actions', passions', being's, use and end; Why doing, suff'ring, check'd, impell'd; and why This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not Man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault; Say rather, Man's as perfect as he ought; His knowledge measur'd to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space.
If to be perfect in a certain sphere, What matter, soon or late, or here or there? The blest today is as completely so, As who began a thousand years ago.
III.
Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of Fate, All but the page prescrib'd, their present state; From brutes what men, from men what spirits know: Or who could suffer Being here below? The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day, Had he thy Reason, would he skip and play? Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food, And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n, That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n; Who sees with equal eye, as God of all, A hero perish, or a sparrow fall, Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd, And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death, and God adore! What future bliss, he gives not thee to know, But gives that Hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never Is, but always To be blest: The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; His soul proud Science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk, or milky way; Yet simple Nature to his hope has giv'n, Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heav'n; Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd, Some happier island in the watry waste, Where slaves once more their native land behold, No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold! To Be, contents his natural desire, He asks no Angel's wing, no Seraph's(8) fire; But thinks, admitted to that equal sky, His faithful dog shall bear him company.
IV.
Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense Weigh thy Opinion against Providence; Call Imperfection what thou fancy'st such, Say, here he gives too little, there too much; Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,(9) Yet cry, If Man's unhappy, God's unjust; If Man alone ingross not Heav'n's high care, Alone made perfect here, immortal there: Snatch from his hand the balance(10) and the rod, Re-judge his justice, be the GOD of GOD! In Pride, in reas'ning Pride, our error lies; All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes, Men would be Angels, Angels would be Gods.
Aspiring to be Gods, if Angels fell, Aspiring to be Angels, Men rebel; And who but wishes to invert the laws Of ORDER, sins against th' Eternal Cause.
V.
Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine, Earth for whose use? Pride answers, "Tis for mine: For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r, Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev'ry flow'r; Annual for me, the grape, the rose renew The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew; For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings; For me, health gushes from a thousand springs; Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise; My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies.
" But errs not Nature from this gracious end, From burning suns when livid deaths descend, When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep? "No ('tis reply'd) the first Almighty Cause Acts not by partial, but by gen'ral laws; Th' exceptions few; some change since all began, And what created perfect?" -- Why then Man? If the great end be human Happiness, Then Nature deviates; and can Man do less? As much that end a constant course requires Of show'rs and sun-shine, as of Man's desires; As much eternal springs and cloudless skies, As Men for ever temp'rate, calm, and wise.
If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav'n's design, Why then a Borgia,(11) or a Catiline?(12) Who knows but he, whose hand the light'ning forms, Who heaves old Ocean, and who wings the storms, Pours fierce Ambition in a Caesar's(13) mind, Or turns young Ammon(14) loose to scourge mankind? From pride, from pride, our very reas'ning springs; Account for moral as for nat'ral things: Why charge we Heav'n in those, in these acquit? In both, to reason right is to submit.
Better for Us, perhaps, it might appear, Were there all harmony, all virtue here; That never air or ocean felt the wind; That never passion discompos'd the mind: But ALL subsists by elemental strife; and Passions are the elements of Life.
The gen'ral ORDER, since the whole began, Is kept in Nature, and is kept in Man.
VI.
What would this Man? Now upward will he soar, And little less than Angel,(15) would be more; Now looking downwards, just as griev'd appears To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears.
Made for his use all creatures if he call, Say what their use, had he the pow'rs of all? Nature to these, without profusion kind, The proper organs, proper pow'rs assign'd; Each seeming want compensated of course, Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force; All in exact proportion to the state; Nothing to add, and nothing to abate.
Each beast, each insect, happy in its own; Is Heav'n unkind to Man, and Man alone? Shall he alone, whom rational we call, Be pleas'd with nothing, if not bless'd with all? The bliss of Man (could Pride that blessing find) Is not to act or think beyond mankind; No pow'rs of body or of soul to share, But what his nature and his state can bear.
Why has not Man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason, Man is not a Fly.
Say what the use, were finer optics giv'n, T' inspect a mite,(16) not comprehend the heav'n? Or touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er, To smart and agonize at ev'ry pore? Or quick effluvia(17) darting thro' the brain, Die of a rose in aromatic pain? If nature thunder'd in his op'ning ears, And stunn'd him with the music of the spheres, How would he wish that Heav'n had left him still The whisp'ring Zephyr,(18) and the purling rill?(19) Who finds not Providence all good and wise, Alike in what it gives, and what denies? VII.
Far as Creation's ample range extends, The scale of sensual, mental pow'rs ascends: Mark how it mounts, to Man's imperial race, From the green myriads in the people 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(20) on the tainted(21) green: Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood,(22) To that which warbles thro' the vernal(23) 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 pois'nous herbs extracts the healing dew:(24) How Instinct varies in the grov'ling swine, Compar'd, half-reas'ning elephant, with thine: 'Twixt that, and Reason, what a nice barrier; For ever sep'rate, yet for ever near! Remembrance and Reflection how ally'd; What thin partitions Sense from Thought divide: And Middle natures,(25) how they long to join, Yet never pass th' insuperable line! Without this just gradation, could they be Subjected these to those, or all to thee? The pow'rs of all subdu'd by thee alone, Is not thy Reason all these pow'rs in one? VIII.
See, thro' 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,(26) human, angel, man Beast, bird, fish, insect! what no eye can see, No glass can reach! from Infinite to thee, From thee to Nothing! -- On superior pow'rs Were we to press, inferior might on ours: Or in the full creation leave a void, Where, one step broken, the great scale's destoy'd: From Nature's chain whatever link you strike, Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.
And if each system in gradation roll, Alike essential to th' amazing whole; The least confusion but in one, not all That system only, but the whole must fall.
Let Earth unbalanc'd from her orbit fly, Planets and Suns run lawless thro' the sky, Let ruling Angels from their spheres be hurl'd, Being on being wreck'd, and world on world, Heav'n's whole foundations to their centre nod, And Nature tremble 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, aspir'd to be the head? What if the head, the eye, or ear repin'd(27) To serve mere engines to the ruling Mind? Just as absurd, to mourn the tasks 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, chang'd thro' all, and yet in all the same, Great in the earth, as in th' ethereal frame, Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze, Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees, Lives thro' all life, extends thro' all extent, Spreads undivided, operates unspent, Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal parts, 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, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit -- In this, or any other sphere, Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear: Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow'r, Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee; All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see; 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 the Second Epistle: Of 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.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,(28) 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 reas'ning but to err; 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; 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! ENDNOTES: 1[His friend, Henry St.
John, Lord Bolingbroke] 2[to wander] 3[hidden areas] 4[explain or defend] 5[silvery fields, i.
e.
, the heavens] 6[the planet Jupiter] 7[ancient Egyptians sometimes worshipped oxen] 8[the highest level of angels] 9[pleasure] 10[the balance used to weigh justice] 11[Caesar Borgia (1476-1507) who used any cruelty to achieve his ends] 12[Lucious Sergius Catilina (108-62 B.
C.
) who was a traitor to Rome] 13[Julius Caesar (100-44 B.
C.
) who was thought to be overly ambitious Roman] 14[Alexander the Great (356-323 B.
C.
)] 15[Psalm 8:5--"Thou hast made him [man] a little lower than the angels.
.
.
.
"] 16[small insect] 17[vapors which were believed to pass odors to the brain] 18[the West Wind] 19[stream] 20[able to pick up a scent] 21[having the odor of an animal] 22[ocean] 23[green] 24[honey was thought to have medicinal properties] 25[Animals slightly below humans on the chain of being] 26[heavenly] 27[complained] 28[i.
e.
, on the chain of being between angels and animals]