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And when I weigh this seeming wisdom well,
And prove it in the 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 deceived.
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 the crimson stream meandering 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 heavens 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 philosophic tube, That brings the planets home unto 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 us, 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, baptized . 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 prayer Has flow'd from lips wet with Castalian dews. Such was thy wisdom, Newton, child-like sage! Sagacious reader of the works of God, And in his word sagacious. Such too thine, Milton, whose genius had angelic wings, And fed on manna! And such thine, in whom Our British Themis gloried with just cause, Immortal Hale ; for deep discernment praised,
And sound integrity, not more than famed • For sanctity of manners undefiled. *
* See Note 2 to Book II.
All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades
Like the fair flower 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 general curse
Of vanity, that seizes all below
The only amaranthine flower on earth
Is virtue; the 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-—'tis 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 despised of all,
Seek and obtain, and often find unsought ?
Tell me - and I will tell thee what is truth.
Oh, friendly to the best pursuits of man,
Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace,
Domestic 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 placed 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 every pleasing image they present,
Reflections such as meliorate the heart,
Compose the passions, and exalt the mind;
Scenes such as these 'tis his supreme delight
To fill with riot and defile with blood.
Should some contagion, kind to the poor brutes
We persecute, annihilate the tribes
That draw the sportsman over hill and dale
Fearless, and rapt away from all his cares ;
Should never game-fowl hatch her eggs again,
Nor baited hook deceive the fish's eye ;
Could pageantry and dance, and feast and song,
Be quell'd in all our summer months' retreats ;
How many self-deluded nymphs and swains,
Who dream they have a taste for fields and groves,
Would find them hideous nurseries of the spleen,
And crowd the roads, impatient for the town!
They love the country, and none else, who seek
For their own sake its silence and its shade;
Delights which who would leave that has a heart
Susceptible of pity, or a mind
Cultured and capable of sober thought,
For all the savage din of the swift pack,
And clamours of the field ?- Detested sport,
That owes its pleasures to another's pain ;
That feeds upon the sobs and dying shrieks
Of harmless nature, dumb, but yet endued
With eloquence, that agonies inspire,
Of silent tears and heart-distending sighs!
Vain tears, alas! and sighs that never find
A corresponding tone in jovial souls.
Well—one at least is safe. One shelter'd hare
Has never heard the sanguinary yell
Of cruel man, exulting in her woes.
Innocent partner of my peaceful home,
Whom ten long years' experience of my care
Has made at last familiar ; she has lost
Much of her vigilant instinctive dread,
Not needful here, beneath a roof like mine.
Yes—thou may’st eat thy bread, and lick the hand
That feeds thee; thou may'st frolic on the floor
At evening, and at night retire secure
To thy straw couch, and slumber unalarm'd ;
For I have gain'd thy confidence, have pledged
All that is human in me to protect
Thine unsuspecting gratitude and love.
If I survive thee, I will dig thy grave;
And, when I place thee in it, sighing say,
I knew at least one hare that had a friend. ?
How various his employments, whom the world
Calls idle, and who justly in return
Esteems that busy world an idler too!
Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry, enjoy'd at home,
And Nature in her cultivated trim
Dress’d to his taste, inviting him abroad,
Can he want occupation who has these?
Will he be idle who has much to enjoy ?
Me, therefore, studious of laborious ease,
Not slothful; happy to deceive the time,
Not waste it; and aware that human life
Is but a loan, to be repaid with use
When He shall call his debtors to account,
From whom are all our blessings; business finds
Even here: while sedulous I seek to improve,
At least neglect not, or leave unemploy'd,
The mind he gave me ; driving it, though slack
Too oft, and much impeded in its work
By causes not to be divulged in vain,
To its just point — the service of mankind.
He that attends to his interior self,
That has a heart, and keeps it; has a mind
That hungers, and supplies it; and who seeks
A social, not a dissipated life,
Has business ; feels himself engaged to achieve
No unimportant, though a silent task.
A life all turbulence and noise may seem
To him that leads it wise, and to be praised ;.
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still water, and beneath clear skies.
He that is ever occupied in storms,