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AN

Essay on Man.

EPISTLE I.

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AWAKE! my St. John ! 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 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, 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 the ways of God to man.

I. 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?

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Through worlds unnumber'd, though the God be known,
'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He, who through vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,

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What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples every star,
May tell, why Heaven has made us as we are.
But of this frame, the bearings and the ties,
The strong connexions, nice dependencies,

30 Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Look'd through? 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, 35
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? 40
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove?

Of systems possible, if 'tis confest
That wisdom infinite must form the best,
Where all must full or not coherent be,

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And all that rises, rise in due degree;
Then, in scale of reas'ning life, 'tis plain,
There must be, somewhere, such a rank as man;
And all the question (wrangle e'er so long)
Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong?

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Respecting man, whatever wrong we call,
May, must be right, as relative to all.
In human works, though 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.

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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;
Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend 65
His actions', passions', being's use and end ;
Why doing, suffring, check’d, impelld; 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;

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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 to-day, is as completely so,
As who began a thousand years ago.

III. Heaven 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,

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Had he thy reason would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flowery food,
And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood.
O 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 heay’ı;
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 wings, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitied to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.

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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;
Yet cry, if man's unhappy, God's unjust;
If man alone engross not Heaven's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there;

120 Snatch from his hand the balance 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,

125 Men would be angels, angels would be gods. Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell, Aspiring to be afgels, men rebel ; And who but wishes to invert the laws Of order, sins against th’ Eternal Cause.

130 V. Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine, Earth for whose use ? Pride answers, “ Tis for mine : “For me kind Nature wakes her genial power, “ Suckles each herb, and spreads out every flower ; 66 Annual for me, the grape, the rose renew

135 " 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 footstool earth, my canopy the skies.”

140 But errs not nature from this gracious end, From burning suns when livid deaths descend, When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep

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