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I see that all are wand'rers, gone astray Each in his own delusions; they are lost In chase of fancied happiness, still woo'd. And never won. Dream after dream ensues; And still they dream that they shall still succeed, And still are disappointed. Rings the world With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind And add two thirds of the remaining half, And find the total of their hopes and fears Dreams, empty dreams. The million fit as gay, As if created only like the fly, That spreads his motley wings in th’ eye of noon, To sport their season, and be seen no more. The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise, And pregnant with discoveries new and rare. Some write a narrative of wars, and feats of heroes little known; and call the rant A history : describe the man, of whom His own coevals took but little note, And paint his person, character, and views, As they had known bim from his mother's womb. They disentangle from the puzzled skein, in which obscurity has wrapp'd them up, The threads of politick and shrewd design, That ran through all his purposes, and charge His mind with meanings that he never had, Or, having, kept conceal'd. Some drill and bore The solid earth, and from the strata there Extract a register, by which we learn, That he who made it and reveal'd its date To Moses, was mistaken in its age. Some, more acute, and more industrious still, Contrive creation; travel nature up To the sharp peak of her sublimest height, And tell us whence the stars; why some are 8x'd, And planetary some; what gave them first
Rotation, from what fountain flow'd their light.
Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life's poor shallow lamp
In playing tricks with nature, giving laws
To distant worlds, and trifling in their own.
Is't not a pity now, that tickling rheums
Should ever tease the lungs, and blear the sight
of oracles like these? Great pity, too,
That having wielded th' eleinents, and built
A thousand systems, each in his own way,
They should go out in fume, and be forgot!
Ab! what is life thus spent ? and what are they
But frantick, who thus spend it ? all for smo
Eternity for bubbles, proves at last
A senseless bargain. When I see such games
Play'd by the creatures of a pow'r who swears
That he will judge the Earth, and call the fool
To a sharp reck’ning, that has liv'd in vain ;
And when I weigh this seeming wisdom well,
And prove it in th' infallible result
So hollow and so false, I feel my heart
Dissolve in pity, and account the learn'd,
If this be learning, most of all deceiv'd.
Great crimes alarm the conscience, but it sleeps,
While thoughtful man is plausibly amused.
Defend me, therefore, common sense, say I,
From reveries so airy, from the toil
Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
And growing old in drawing nothing up!
'Twere well, says one, sage, erudite, profound Terribly arch'd and aquiline his nose, And overbuilt with most impending brows, 'Twere well, could you permit the World to live As the world pleases : what's the World to you?
Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk
As sweet as charity from human breasts.
I think, articulate-I laugh and weep,
And exercise all functions of a man.
How then should I and any man that lives
Be strangers to each other? Pierce my vein,
Take of ihe crimson stream mean d'ring there,
And catechise it well : apply thy glass,
Search it, and prove now if it be not blood
Congenial with thine own: and, if it be,
What edge of subtlety canst thou suppose
Keen enough, wise and skilful as thou art,
To cut the link of brotherhood, by which
One common Maker bound me to the kind ?
True; I am no proficient, I confess,
In arts like yours. I cannot call the swift
And perilous lightnings from the angry clouds,
And bid them hide themselves in earth beneath ;
I cannot analyze the air, nor catch
The parallax of yonder luminous point,
That seems half quench'd in the immense abyss :
Such powers I boast not-neither can I rest
A silent witness of the headlong rage,
Or heedless folly, by which thousands die,
Bone of my bone, and kindred souls to mine.
God never meant that man should scale the Heav'ns
By strides of human wisdom. In his works,
Though wondrous, he commands us in his word
To seek him rather where his mercy shines.
The mind, indeed, enlighten'd from above,
Views him in all; ascribes to the grand cause
The grand effect; acknowledges with joy
His manner, and 'with rapture tastes his style.
But never yet did philosophick tube,
That brings the planets home into the eye
of observation, and discovers, else
Not visible, his family of worlds,
Discover him that rules them , such a veil
Hangs over mortal eyes, blind from the birth,
And dark in things divine. Full often too,
Our wayward intellect, the more we learn
Of nature, overlooks her author more ;
From instrumental causes proud to draw
Conclusions retrograde, and mad mistake.
But if his word once teach 115-shoot a ray
Through all the heart's dark chambers, and reveal
Truths undiscern'd but by that holy light;
Then all is plain. Philosophy, baptiz’d
In the pure fountain of eternal love,
Has eyes indeed ; and viewing all she sees
As meant to indicate a God to man,
Gives him his praise, and forfeits not her own.
Learning has borne such fruit in other days
On all her branches: piety has found
Friends in the friends of science, and true pray'r
Has flow'd from lips wet with Castalian dews.
Such was thy wisdom, Newton, childlike sage!
Sagacious reader of the works of God,
And in his word sagacious. Such, too, thine,
Milton, whose genius had angelick wings,
And fed on manna! And such thine, in whom
Our British Themis gloried with just cause,
Iunmortal Hale! for deep discernment prais'd,
And sound integrity, not more than fam'd
For sanctity of manners undefil'd.
All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades
Like the fair How'r dishevell'd in the wind;
Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream ;
The man we celebrate must find a tomb,
And we that worship him, ignoble graves.
Nothing is proof against the gen'ral curse
of vanity that seizes all below.
The only amaranthine flow'r on earth
Is virtue; th’ only lasting treasure, truth.
But what is truth? 'Twas Pilate's question put
To Truth itself, that deign'd him no reply.
And wherefore? will not God impart his light
To them that ask it?-Freely—'lis his joy,
His glory, and his nature, to impart.
But to the proud, uncandid, insincere,
Or negligent inquirer, not a spark.
What's that which brings contempt upon a book,
And him who writes it, though the style be neat,
The method clear, and argument exact?
That makes a minister in holy things
The joy of many, and the dread of more.
His name a theme for praise and for reproach?
That, while it gives us worth in God's account,
Depreciates and undoes us in our own?
What pearl is it, that rich men cannot buy,
That learning is too proud to gather up;
But which the poor, and the despis’d of all,
Seek and obtain, and often find unsought;
Tell me--and I will tell thee what is truth.
O friendly to the best pursuits-of man,
Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace!
Domestick life in rural leisure pass'd!
Few know thy value, and few taste thy sweets;
Though many boast thy favours, and affect
To understand and choose thee for their own.
But foolish man foregoes his proper bliss,
E'en as his first progenitor, and quits,
Though plac'd in Paradise, (for earth has still,
Some traces of her youthful beauty left)
Substantial happiness for transient joy :
Scenes form'd for contemplation, and to nurse
The growing seeds of wisdom; that suggest
By ev'ry pleasing image they present,