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(Nature, whose dictates to no other kind
Are given in vain, but what they seek they find :)
Wise is her present; she connects in this
His greatest virtue with his greatest bliss ;
At once his own bright prospect to be blest;
And strongest motive to assist the rest.
Self-love thus push'd to social, to divine,
Gives thee to make thy neighbour's blessing thine.
Is this too little for the boundless heart?
Extend it, let thy enemies have part.
Grasp the whole worlds of reason, life, and sense,
In one close system of benevolence:
Happier as kinder, in whate'er degree,
And height of bliss but height of charity.
God loves from whole to parts: but human soul Must rise from individual to the whole. Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake, As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake; The centre mov'd, a circle straight succeeds, Another still, and still another spreads; Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace; His country next; and next all human race; Wide and more wide, th' o'erflowings of the mind Take every creature in, of every kind; Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blest, And Heaven beholds its image in his breast.
Come then, my friend ! my genius! come along ! Oh master of the poet, and the song! And while the Muse now stoops, or now ascends, To man's low passions, or their glorious ends, Teach me, like thee, in various nature wise, To fall with dignity, with temper rise;
Form'd by thy converse, happily to steer,
From grave to gay, from lively to severe;
Correct with spirit, eloquent with ease,
Intent to reason, or polite to please.
Oh ! while along the stream of time thy name
Expanded Aies, and gathers all its fame;
Say, shall my little bark attendant sail,
Pursue the triumph, and partake the gale ?
When statesmen, heroes, kings, in dust repose,
Whose sons shall blush their fathers were thy foes,
Shall then this verse to future age pretend
Thou wert my guide, philosopher, and friend?
That, urg'd by thee, I turn'd the tuneful art,
From sounds to things, from fancy to the heart;
For Wit's false mirror held up Nature's light;
Show'd erring Pride, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT;
That reason, passion, answer one great aim;
That true self-love and social are the same;
That virtue only makes our bliss below;
And all our knowledge is, ourselves to know.
IN FOUR EPISTLES TO SEVERAL PERSONS.
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
Impediat verbis lassas onerantibus aures :
Et sermone opus est modo tristi, supe jocoso,
Defendente vicem modo Rhetoris atque Poëta,
Interdum urbani, parcentis viribus, atque
Extenuantis eas consulto.
To SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, L. COBHAM.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTERS OF MEX.
Argument. I. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to
consider man in the abstract: books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant and certain but God and nature. No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary
motives, and the same motives influencing contrary actions. II. Yet, to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree : the utter uncertainty of this, from nature itself, and from policy. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world : and some reason for it. Education alters the nature, or at least character of many. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion : that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath.
Yes, you despise the man to books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human-kind;
Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some general maxims, or be right hy chance.
The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave,
That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and knave,
Though many a passenger he rightly call,
You hold him no philosopher at all.
And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
Men may be read, as well as books, too much.
To observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th' observer's sake ;
To written wisdom, as another's, less :
Maxims are drawn from notions, these from guess,
There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain,
Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein :
Shall only man be taken in the gross ?
Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss.
That each from other differs, first confess;
Next, that he varies from himself no less;
Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife,
And all opinion's colours cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds ? .
On human actions reason though you can,
It may be reason, but it is not man :
His principle of action once explore,
That instant ’tis his principle no more.
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more; the difference is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own;
Or come discolour'd through our passions shown
Or Fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.
Nor will life's stream for observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way :
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Oft, in the passion's wild rotation tost,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost :
Tir'd, not determin'd, to the last we yield,
And what comes then is master of the field.
As the last image of that troubled heap,
When sense subsides and fancy sports in sleep,