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All nature is but art, unknown to thee ;
Oh blind to truth, and God's whole scheme below, Who fancy bliss to vice, to virtue woe! Who sees and follows that great scheme the best, Best knows the blessing, and will most be blest. But fools, the good alone unhappy call, For ills or accidents that chance to all. See Falkland dies, the virtuous and the just!' See godlike Turenne prostrate on the dust ! See Sidney bleeds amid the martial strife! Was this their virtue, or contempt of life? Say, was it virtue, more tho' heaven ne'er gave, Lamented Digby! sunk thee to the grave ? Tell me, if virtue made the son expire, Why, full of days and honour, lives the sire ? Why drew Marseilles' good bishop purer breath, When nature sicken'd, and each gale was death? Or why so long (in life if long can be) Lent Heaven a parent to the poor and me?
What makes all physical or moral ill ? There deviates nature, and here wanders will. God sends not ill; if rightly understood, Or partial ill is universal good, Or change admits, or nature lets it fall, Short, and but rare, till man improv'd it all. We just as wisely might of Heaven complain That righteous Abel was destroy'd by Cain, As that the virtuous son is ill at ease, When his lewd father gave the dire disease. Think we, like some weak prince, th' Eternal Cause, Prone for his fav'rites to reverse his laws ?
Shall burning Etna, if a sage requires,
But still this world (so fitted for the knave)
Nay, why external for internal giv'n?
What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,
Honour and shame from no condition rise ;
“What differ more (you cry) than crown and cowl ?'
Stuck o'er with titles, and hung round with strings,
Look next on greatness : say where greatness lies, Where, but among the heroes and the wise ? Heroes are much the same, the point’s agreed, From Macedonia's madman to the Swede; The whole strange purpose of their lives to find, Or make, an enemy of all mankind ! Not one looks backward, onward still he goes, Yet ne'er looks forward further than his nose. No less alike the politic and wise ; All sly slow things, with circumspective eyes : Men in their loose unguarded hours they take, Not that themselves are wise, but others weak. But grant that those can conquer, these can cheat ; 'Tis phrase absurd to call a villain great : Who wickedly is wise, or madly brave, Is but the more a fool, the more a knave. Who noble ends by noble means obtains, Or failing, smiles in exile or in chains, Like good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.
What's fame, a fancied life in other's breath, A thing beyond us, ev'n before our death. Just what you hear, you have, and what's unknown The same (my lord) if Tully's, or your own. All that we feel of it begins and ends In the small circle of our foes or friends ; To all beside as much an empty shade An Eugene living, as a Cæsar dead : Alike or when, or where, they shone, or shine, Or on the Rubicon, or on the Rhine. A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod; | An honest man's the noblest work of God. Fame but from death a villain's name can save, As justice tears his body from the grave ; When what t oblivion better were resign'd, Is hung on high, to poison half mankind. All fame is foreign, but of true desert; Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart : One self-approving hour whole years outweighs Of stupid starers, and of loud huzzas ; And more true joy Marcellus exild feels, Than Cæsar with a senate at his heels.
In parts superior what advantage lies ? Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise ? 'Tis but to know how little can be known; To see all others' faults, and feel our own x Condemn'd in business or in arts to drudge, Without a second, or without a judge : Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land ? All fear, none aid you, and few understand. Painful preeminence! yourself to view Above life's weakness, and its comforts too.
Bring then these blessings to a strict account: Make fair deductions ; see to what they mount ; How much of other each is sure to cost ; How each for other oft is wholly lost : How inconsistent greater goods with these ; How sometimes life is risk'd, and always ease ;