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Think, and if still the things thy envy call,
Say, would'st thou be the man to whom they fall ?
To sigh for ribands if thou art so silly,
Mark how they grace Lord Umbra, or Sir Billy.
Is yellow dirt the passion of thy life?
Look but on Gripus, or on Gripus' wife.
If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shind,
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind :
Or ravish'd with the whistling of a name,
See Cromwell damn'd to everlasting fame!
If all, united, thy ambition call,
From ancient story learn to scorn them all.
There, in the rich, the honour'd, fam’d, and great,
See the false scale of happiness complete !
In hearts of kings, or arms of queens who lay,
How happy! those to ruin, these betray.
Mark by what wretched steps their glory grows,
From dirt and sea-weed as proud Venice rose;
In each how guilt and greatness equal ran,
And all that rais'd the hero, sunk the man :
Now Europe's laurels on their brows behold,
But stain’d with blood, or ill exchang’d for gold :
Then see them broke with toils, or sunk in ease,
Or infamous for plunder'd provinces.
Oh wealth ill-fated! which no act of fame
E’er taught to shine, or sanctified from shame !
What greater bliss attends their close of life?
Some greedy minion, or imperious wife,
The trophied arches, storied halls invade,
And haunt their slumbers in the pompous shade.
Alas! not dazzled with their noontide ray,
Compute the morn and evening to the day?
The whole amount of that enormous fame,
A tale that blends their glory with their shame!
Know then this truth (enough for man to know)
Virtue alone is happiness below.'
The only point where human bliss stands still,
And tastes the good without the fall to ill;
Where only merit constant pay receives,
Is blest in what it takes, and what it gives ;
The joy unequall'd if its end it gain,
And if it lose, attended with no pain :
Without satiety, though e'er so bless'd,
And but more relish'd as the more distress'd :
The broadest mirth unfeeling folly wears,
Less pleasing far than virtue's very tears :
Good, from each object, from each place acquir'd,
For ever exercis'd, yet never tir'd ;
Never elated, while one man's oppress'd ;
Never dejected, while another's bless'd :
And where no wants, no wishes can remain,
Since but to wish more virtue, is to gain.
Yes, you despise the man to books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human kind;
Tho' what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some gen'ral maxims, or be right by chance.
The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave,
That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and knave,
Tho' many a passenger he rightly call,
You hold him no philosopher at all.
And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
Men may be read, as well as books, too much.
To observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th’ observer's sake ;
To written wisdom, as another's, less :
Maxims are drawn from notions, those from guess.
There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain,
Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein :
Shall only man be taken in the gross ?
Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss.
That each from other differs, first confess;
Next, that he varies from himself no less :
Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife,
And all opinion's colours cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds?
On human actions reason tho' you can,
It may be reason, but it is not man :
His principle of action once explore,
That instant 'tis his principle no more.
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more; the diff'rence is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own ;
Or come discolour'd through our passions shown.
Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dies.
Nor will life's stream for observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way :
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Oft, in the passions' wide rotation tost,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost:
Tir'd, not determin'd, to the last we yield,
And what comes then is master of the field.
As the last image of that troubled heap,
When sense subsides, and fancy sports in sleep,
(Tho' past the recollection of the thought,)
Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought :
Something as dim to our internal view,
Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do.
True some are open, and to all men known; Others so very close they're hid from none; (So darkness strikes the sense no less than light ;) Thus gracious Chandos is belov'd at sight; And ev'ry child hates Shylock, tho' his soul Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole.
At half mankind when gen'rous Manly raves,
All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves :
When universal homage Umbra pays,
All see 'tis vice, and itch of vulgar praise.
When flatt'ry glares, all hate it in a queen.
While one there is who charms us with his spleen.
But these plain characters we rarely find;
Tho' strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind :
Or puzzling contraries confound the whole ;
Or affectations quite reverse the soul.
The dull, flat falsehood serves for policy ;
And in the cunning, truth itself 's a lie;
Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise ;
The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.
See the same man, in vigour, in the gout;
Alone, in company ; in place, or out ;
Early at bus'ness, and at hazard late;
Mad at a fox-chase, wise at a debate ;
Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball ;
Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall.
Catius is ever moral, ever grave,
Thinks who endures a knave, is next a knave,
Save just at dinner-then prefers, no doubt,
A rogue with ven’son to a saint without.
Who would not praise Patritio's high desert,
His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart,
His comprehensive head! all interests weigh'd,
All Europe sav'd, yet Britain not betray'd.
He thanks you not, his pride is in picquet,
Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.
What made (say Montaigne, or more sage Charron !)
Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon ?
A perjur'd prince a leaden saint revere,
A godless regent tremble at a star ?
The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit,
Faithless through piety, and dup'd through wit ?
Europe a woman, child, or dotard rule,
And just her wisest monarch made a fool?
Know, God and Nature only are the same : In man, the judgment shoots at flying game; A bird of passage! gone as soon as found; Now in the moon perhaps, now under ground.
In vain the sage, with retrospective eye, Would from th' apparent What conclude the Why, Infer the motive from the deed, and show, That what we chanc'd was what we meant to do. Behold ! if fortune or a mistress frowns, Some plunge in bus'ness, others shave their crowns : To ease the soul of one oppressive weight, This quits an empire, that embroils a state : The same adust complexion has impell’d Charles to the convent, Philip to the field. Not always actions now the man :
Who does a kindness, is not therefore kind ;
Perhaps prosperity becalm'd his breast;
Perhaps the wind, just shifted from the east :
Not therefore humble he who seeks retreat,
Pride guides his steps, and bids him shun the great:
Who combats bravely, is not therefore brave,
He dreads a death-bed like the meanest slave ;
Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise,
His pride in reas'ning, not in acting lies.
But grant that actions best discover man;
Take the most strong, and sort them as you can.
The few that ġlare each character must mark,
You balance not the many in the dark.
What will you do with such as disagree?
Suppress them, or miscall them policy?
Must then at once (the character to save)
The plain rough hero turn a crafty knave ?
Alas! in truth the man but chang'd his mind,
Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not din'd.
Ask why from Britain Cæsar would retreat ?
Cæsar himself might whisper he was beat.
Why risk the world's great empire for a punk?
Cæsar perhaps might answer he was drunk