From An Essay On Man Epistle Ii

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Love, Hope, and Joy, fair Pleasure’s smiling train, Hate, Fear, and Grief, the family of Pain, These mix’d with art, and to due bounds confined, Make and maintain the balance of the mind: Pleasures are ever in our hands or eyes; And when, in act, they cease, in prospect, rise: Present to grasp, and future still to find, The whole employ of body and of mind.

Suffice that reason keep to Nature’s road; Subject, compound them, follow her and God.

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest; In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast; In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Born but to die, and reasoning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much: Chaos of thought and passion, all confused; Still by himself abused, or disabused; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

KNOW then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is Man.

Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule — Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, Correct old Time, and regulate the sun; Go, soar with Plato to the empyreal sphere, To the first Good, first Perfect, and first Fair; Or tread the mazy round his followers trod, And quitting sense call imitating God; As eastern priests in giddy circles run, And turn their heads to imitate the sun. Virtue and vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: What is the office of reason, ver. Self-love, still stronger, as its objects nigh; Reason’s at distance, and in prospect lie: That sees immediate good by present sense; Reason, the future and the consequence. How odious vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it, ver. Man, but for that, no action could attend, And, but for this, were active to no end: Fix’d like a plant on his peculiar spot, To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot; Or, meteor-like, flame lawless through the void, Destroying others, by himself destroy’d.If white and black blend, soften, and unite A thousand ways, is there no black or white?Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain; ’Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.Thus Nature gives us (let it check our pride) The virtue nearest to our vice allied: Reason the bias turns to good from ill, And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will.The fiery soul abhorr’d in Catiline, In Decius charms, in Curtius is divine: Extremes in Nature equal ends produce, In man they join to some mysterious use; Though each by turns the other’s bound invade, As, in some well-wrought picture, light and shade, And oft so mix, the difference is too nice Where ends the virtue, or begins the vice. who from hence into the notion fall, That vice or virtue there is none at all.if she lend not arms, as well as rules, What can she more than tell us we are fools?Teach us to mourn our nature, not to mend, A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend! The two principles of Man, self-love and reason, both necessary, ver. Passions, like elements, though born to fight, Yet, mix’d and soften’d, in his work unite: These ’tis enough to temper and employ; But what composes Man, can Man destroy? On life’s vast ocean diversely we sail, Reason the card, but passion is the gale; Nor God alone in the still calm we find, He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind.


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