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ESSAY ON MAN,
IN FOUR EPISTLES.
TO H. ST. JOHN, LORD BOLINGBROK E.
THE DESIGN. Having proposed to write some pieces on human life and manners, such as (to use my Lord Bacon's
exprelion)" come home to men's business and bosoms,” I thought it more satisfactory to begin with conliderisg man in the abstract, his nature, and his state ; since, to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the pro
per end and purpose of its being. The science of human nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points : There are not
many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the mind as in that of the body more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by ladying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these laft; and I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the przdice, more than advanced the theory of morality. If I could flatter myself that this essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite, in passing over tarms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a temperate, yet not inconsistent, and a short, yet not
imperfect, system of ethics. This I might have done in prose ; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will
appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts, so written, both frikc the reader more firingly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards : The other may seem odd, but it is true; I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their conciseness. I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or, more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning: If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capa
city. What is now publihed, is only to be considered as a general map of man, marking out no more than
the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connection, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow. Consequently these epiftles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress), will be less dry, and more susceptible of poctical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage. To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agree
EPIST L E I.
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can;
J. Say first, of God above, or man below,
What can we reason, but from what we know? Of tbe Na'ure and State of Man with respect to the
Of man, what fee we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer? 20 Or man in the abftra&.-1. That we can judge Through worlds upnumber'd, though the God be only with regard to our own system, being ig
known, norant of the relations of systems and things, 'T'is ours to trace him only in our own. ver. 17, &c. II. That man is not to be deemed He, who through vast immensity can pierce, imperfect, but a being suited to his place and See worlds on worlds compose one universe, rank in the creation, agreeable to the general Observe how system into system runs, order of things, and conformable to ends and what other planets circle o:her suns, relations to him unknownr, ver. 35, &c. III. That What vary'd being peoples every star, it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, May tell why heaven has made us as we are. and partly upon the hope of a future state, that But of this frame the bearings and the ties, all his happiness in the present depends, ver. The ftrong connections, nice dependencies, 77, &c. IV. The pride of aiming at niore know. Gradations just, has thy pervading soul ledge, and pretending to more perfection, the Look'd through ? or can a part contain the whole? cause of man's error and misery. The impiety is the great chain, that draws all to agree, of putting himself in the place of God, and And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or 11. Prefumptuous man! the reason would'it imperfe&ion, justice or unjustice, of his dispen.
thou find, sations, ver. 109, &c. v. The absurdity of con. Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind? ceiting himself the final cause of the creation, First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, or expeding that perfection in the moral world, Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less ? which is not in the natural, ver. 131, &c. VI. Aík of thy mother earth, why oaks are made The unreasonableness of his complaints againft Taller or weaker than the weeds they shade! 40 providence, while on the one hand he demands Or ask of yonder argent fields above, the perfection of the angels, and on the other Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove? the bodily qualifications of the brutes; though, of systems possible, if ’tis conferi, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher That Wildon Infinite nust form the best, degree, would rer.der him miserable, ver. 173,
Where all must fall or not coherent be, &c. VII. That throughout the whole visible world, / And all that rises, rise in due degree; an universal order and gradation in the fensual Then, in the scale of reasoning life, 'ris plain, and mental faculties is observed, which causes a There must be, somewhere, such a rank as man: fubordination of creature to creature, anıl oi all
And all the qucstion (wrangle e'er so long), creatures to man. The gradations of seríe, in Is only this, il God has plac'd him wrong? So Itinct, thought, reflection, reason; that reason Respecting man, wherever wrong we call alone countervails all the other faculties, ver. May, must be right, as relative to all. 207. VII. How much farther this order and In human works, though labour'd on with pain, subordination of living creatures may extend
A thousand movements scarce ove purpose gain : above and below us; were any part of which
In God's, one single can its end produce ; broken, not that part only, buç the whole con
Yet serves to second too some other use. nected creation must be destroyed, ver. 233.
So man, who here seems principle alone, IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown, such a desire, ver 250. X. The consequence Touches some wheel or verges to some goal ; of all the absolute submission due to providence, / 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole. 60 both as to our present and future state, ver.
When the proud feed Mall know why man re281, &c. to the end.
His fiery ecurse, or drives him o'er the plains; Awake, my St. John leave all meaner things
When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod, To low ambition, and the pride of kings.
Is now a vi&im, and now Fgypt's god : us (since life can little more supply
Then shall man's pride and dulnefs comprehend Than just to look about us, and to dic),
His actions', pallons', being's, use and end; Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man;
Why doing, fufiering, check'd, impelld; and why A mighty maze! but not without a plan: [floot;
This hour a Nave, the next a deity.
In the former editions, ver. 64. Try what the open, what the covert yicid; 10 Now wears a garland an Egyptian god. The latent trias, the giddy heights, explore After ver. 68, the following lines in the first Of all who blindly creep, or fightiess foar;
edition. Fye nature's walks, Moot foliy as it flies,
If to be perfe& in a certain sphere,
Then fay not man's imperfe&, heaven in fault; | Call imperfection what thou fancy'st fuch; Say rather, man's as perfe&t as he ought: 70
Say, here he gives too little, there too much: His knowledge measur'd to his state and place; Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust, His time a moment, and a point his space. Yet say, if man's uuhappy, God's unjust ; If to be perfect in a certain fphere,
If man alone ingross not heaven's high care, What matter, foon or late, or here, or there? Alone made perfect here, immortal there : The blest to-day is as completely so,
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, As whe began a thousand years ago.
Re-judge his justice, be the god of God. III. Heaven from all creatures hides the book in pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies; of fate,
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies. All but the page prescrib'd, their present state : Pride ftill is aiming at the blest abodes, From brutes what men, from men what spirits Men would be angels, angels would be gods. know :
Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell, Or who could suffer being here below ? 80 Aspiring to be angels, men rebel : The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
And who but withes to invert the laws Had he thy reason, would he skip and play? Of order, sins against th' eternal cause.
130 Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flowery food,
V. Ak for what end the heavenly bodies shine, And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood. Earth for whose use ? Pride answers, “ 'Tis for Oh, blindness to the future ! kindly given,
“ mine : That each may fill the circle mark'd by heaven:
“ For me kind nature wakes her genial power; Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
“ Suckles each herb, and spreads out every flower; A hero perifh, or a sparrow fall,
“ Annual for me, the grape, the rose, renew Atoms or systems into ruin hurld,
“ The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew; And now a bubble burst, and now a world. “ For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings; Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions
“ For me, health guhes from a thousand springs ; soar;
“ Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise ; "Wait the great teacher death; and God adore, “ My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies.” 140 What future bliss, he gives not thee to know, But errs not nature from this gracious end, But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
From burning suns when livid deaths descend, Hope springs eternal in the human breast : When earthquakes swallow, or when temperts Man never is, but always to be blest :
sweep The foul, uneasy, and confin d from home, Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep? Reits and expatiates in a life to come.
“ No ('tis reply'J) the first Almighty cause Lo, the poor Indian ! whose untutor'd mind “ Acts not by partial, but by general laws; Sces God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; 100 “ Th' exceptions fow; some change since all beHa loul proud science never taught to stray
gan : Far as the folar walk, or milky way;
“ And what created perfc?"-Why then man? Yet fimple nature to his hope has given,
If the great end be human happiness, Echind the clond-topt hill, an humbler heaven;
Then nature deviates; and can man do less ? 150 Some safer world in depth of woods enbrac'd,
As much that end a constant course requires Some happier island in the watery waste,
Of showers and fun-fhine, as of man's desires; Where daves once more their native land behold, As much eternal springs and cloudless skics, No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold. As men for ever temperate, calm, and wise. To be, contents his natural desire,
If plagues or earthquakes break not heaven's design, He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
Why then a Borgio, or a Catiline? (forms, But hinks, admitted to that equal sky,
Who knows, but he whofe hand the lightning Ha faithful dog shall bear him company.
Who heaves old ocean, and who wings the storms; IV. Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense,
Pours fierce ambition in a Caesar's mind, Weigh thy opinion against providence;
Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind?
160 From pride, from pride, onr very reasoning springs
Account for moral as for natural things :
Why charge we heaven in those, in these acquit? As who began ten thousand years ago.
In both, to reason right, is to submit.
Better for us, perhaps, it might appear, Aster ver. 88, in the MS.
Were there all harmony, all virtue here;
That never air or ocean felt the wind,
That never pallion discompos'd the inind.
But all sublists by elemental strife; But gives that hope to be thy bliss below.
And passions are the elements of life.
170 After ver. 108, in the first edition.
The general order, since the whole began, Bat does he say the Maker is not good,
Is kept in nature, and is kept in man. Till he's exalted to what state he wou'd ;
Vi. What would this man? Now upward will
he soar, Himself alone high heaven's peculiar care, Abone made happy when he will, and where?
And, little less than angel, would be more ;
Or, meteor-like, flame lawless through the void, These mix'd with art, and to due bonnds confin'd, Destroying others, by himself destroy'd.
Make and maintain the balance of the mind; 120 Mot strength the moving principle requires ; The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife Alive its task, it prompts, impels, inspires. Gives all the strength and colour of our life. Sedate and quiet the comparing lies.
Pleasures are ever in our hands and eyes; Form'd but to check, deliberate, and advise. 70 And, when in act they cease, in prospect rise : Self-love, still stronger, as its objects nigh; Present to grasp, and future still to find, Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie:
The whole employ of body and of mind. That sees immediate good by present sense; All spread their charms, but charm not all alike; Reason, the future and the consequence.
On different senses, different objects Atrike; Thicker than arguments, témptations throng, Hence different passions more or less inflame, At best more watchful this, but that more (trong. As strong or weak, the organs of the frame; 13• The action of the ftronger to suspend,
And hence one master passion in the breast, Reason ftill use, to reason ftill attend.
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest. Attention, babit, and experience gains ;
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath, Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains. 80 Receives the lurking principle of death; Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight, The young disease, which must subdue at length, More ftudious to divide than to unite;
Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his And grace and virtue, sense and reason split,
strength : With all the rach dexterity of wit.
So, cast and mingled with his very frame, Wits, just like fools, at war about a name,
The mind's disease, its ruling passion came; Have full as oft no meaning, or the samc.
Each vital humour, which should feed the whole, Self-love and reason to one end aspire,
Soon flows to this, in body and in foul:
This taste the honey, and not wound the flower : Imagination plies her dangerous art,
And pours it all upon the peccant part.
III. Modes of self-love the pallions we may Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse; *Tis real good, or seeming, moves them all :
Reason itself but gives it edge and power; But since not every good we can divide,
As heaven's bleft beam turns vizegar móre four. And reason bids us for our own provide;
We, wretched subjects though to lawful fway, Paljons, though selfish, if their means be fair, In this weak queen, some favourite still obey : 159 Lift under reason, and deserve her care;
Ah! if the lend not arms, as well as rules, Those, that imparted, court a nobler aim,
What can the more than tell us we are fools? Exalt their kind, and take some virtue's name. 100 Teach us to mourn our nature, not to mend; In lazy apathy let stoics bcast
A sharp accufer, but a helpless friend!
The choice we make, or justify it made;
She but removes weak paslions for the strong :
The doctor fancies he has driv'n them ou:. 168 Reason the card, but passion is the gale;
Yes, nature's road niuft ever be preserr'd; Nor God alone in the still calm we find,
Rcason is here no guide, but fill a guard : He mounts the storm and walks upon the wind. 110 'Tis hers to rectify, not overthrow,
Passions, like elements, though born to fight. And treat this paffion more as friend than foe; Yet, mix'd and loften'd, in his work unite : A mightier power the strong direction sends, Thele, 'tis enough to temper and employ; And feveral nen impels to several ends : But what composes man, can man destroy ? Like varying winds, by other passions tost, Suffice that rcalon kecp to nature's road,
This drives theni constant to a certain coast. Subject, compound them, follow her and God. Let power or knowledge, grld or glory, please, Love, hope, and joy, fair pleasure's smiling train; Or (oft more ftrong than all) the love of ease ; 170 Hatc, fear, and grief, the family of pain ;
Through life 'tis follow'd, ev'n at life's expence;
The monk's humility, the hero's pride,
All, all alike, find reason on their fide. of good and evil gods what frighted fools,
'Th' eternal art, educing good from ill, Of good and evil rcafon puzzled schools,
Grafts on this paflion pur belt princi: le : Deceiv'd, deceiving, taughi--
'Tis thus the mercury of inan is fix’d, After. ver. 108, in the MS.
Strong grows the virtue with his nature mix'd; A tedious voyage! where how useless lies
The dross cements what elle were too refin'd, The compass, if no powerful gufts arise!
And in one intereft body acts with mind. 18 After ver. 112, in the MS.
As fruits, ungraictul to the planter's care, The soft reward the virtuous, or invite:
On savage Rocks inserted Icarn to bear; The fierce, the vicious punish or affiigh
The fureft virtues thus from passions shoot, In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there,
No creature owns it in the first degree,
Ev’n those who dwell beneath its very zone, Et'n avarice, prudence; foth, philosophy; Or never feel the rage, or never own; Lus, through some certain ftrainers well refin'd, What happier natures Shrink at with affright, 1. gentle love, and charms all womankind; 190 The hard inhabitant contends is right. 230 Eovy, to which th' ignoble mind 's a lave,
Virtuous and vicious every man must be, Is emulation in the learn'd or brave;
Few in th' extreme, but all in the degree; Nor virtue, male or female, can we name,
The rogle and fool by fits is fair and wise; Bat what will grow on pride, or grow on shame. And ev’n the best, by fits, what they despise.
Thas nature gives us (let it check our pride) 'Tis but by parts we follow good or ill; The virtue nearest to our vice ally'd;
For, vice or virtue, self directs it still; Reason the bias turns to good from ill,
Each individual seeks a several goal; [whole. And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will.
But heaven's great view, is one, and that the The fiery soul abhorr'd in Cataline,
That counter-works each solly and caprice; In Decius charms, in Curtius is divine :
That disappoints th' effect of every vice : The fame ambition can destroy or save,
That, happy frailtics to all ranks apply'd; And makes a patriot as it make, a knave. Shame to the virgin, to the matron pride;
This light and darkness in our chaos join'd. Fear to the statesman, rashness to the chief; What hall divide? The God within the mind. To kings presumption, and to crowds belief :
Extremes in nature equal ends produce, That, virtue's ends from vanity can raise, In man they join to some mysterious use; Which seeks no interest, no reward but praise ; Though each by turns the other's bound invade, And build on wants, and on defects of mind, As, in some well-wrought picture, light and hade, The joy, the peace, the glory of mankind. And oft so mix, the difference is too nice
Heaven forming cach on other to depend, Where ends the virtue, or begins the vice, A matter, or a fervant, or a friend,
250 Fouls! who from hence into the notion fall, Bids each on other for allista'ice call, That vice or virtue there is none at all.
Till one man's weakness grows the ftrength of all. li white and black blend, soften, and unite Wants, frailties, passions, clofer still ally A thousand ways, is there no black or white ? The common interest, or endear the tie. Ak your own heart, and nothing is so plain ; To these we owe true friendihip, love sincere, 'Tisto miftake them, costs the time and pain. Each home-felt joy that life inherits here; Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
Yet from the same we learn, in its decline, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen ;
Those joys, those loves, those interests, to resign; Yet feet too oft, familiar with her face,
Taught haif by reason, half by mere decay, We Erit endure, then pity, then embrace.
To welcome death, and calmly pass away. 260 Bet where th' extreme of vice, was ne'er agreed : Whate'er the passion, knowledge, fame, or pels, Ak where's the north; at York, 'tis on the I'weed; Not one will change his neighbour with himself.
The learn'd is happy nature to explore,
The rich is happy in the plenty given,
The poor contents him with the care of heaven. How oft with pafli in, virtue points her charms!
See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing, Then fines the hero, then the patriot warms.
The sot a hero, lunatic a king ; Peleus' great son, or Brutus, who had known,
The starving chemist in his golden views, Had Lucrece been a whore, or Helen none ?
Supremely blest, the poet in his muse. 270 But votues opposite to make agree,
See some strange comfort every late attend, That, reason is thy task, and worthy thee,
And pride bestow'd on all, a common friend : Hard talk, cries Bibulus, and reason weak.
Sze some fit paflion every age supply; -Make it a point, dear Marquiss, or a pique.
Hope travels through, nor quits us when we dic. Once, for a whim. persuade yourself to pay
Behold the child, by nature's kindly law, A debt to reason, like a debe at play.
Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a fraw: For right or wrong, have mortals suffer'd more!
for his prince, or • * for his whore? Whvie self-deniais nature molt controul ? H's, who wonid save a fixpence, or his soul?
VARIATIONS. Web for his health, a Chartreux for his fin,
After ver. 226, in the MS. Contend they not which sooneft shall grow thin? The colonel swears the agent is a dog ; What we reicve, we can : but here's the fault, The scrivener vows th' attorney is a rogue. We ne'er refolve to do the thing we ought. Against the thief th' attorney loud in veighs, Alter ver. 220, in the first edition followed these : For whose ten pounds the country twenty pays. A cheat: a whore! who starts not at the name, The thief damns judges, and the knaves of state; la all the inne of court or Drury-lane?.
And dying, mourns imall villain, hang'd by great