Posted in Essay On Man, Language, Music

Essay On Man : Piece III

III. Modes of self-love the passions we may call; ’Tis real good, or seeming, moves them all: But since not every good we can divide, And reason bids us for our own provide; Passions, though selfish, if their means be fair, List under Reason, and deserve her care; Those, that imparted, court a nobler aim, Exalt their kind, and take some virtue’s name. In lazy apathy let stoics boast Their virtue fixed; ’tis fixed as in a frost; Contracted all, retiring to the breast; But strength of mind is exercise, not rest: The rising tempest puts in act the soul, Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole. 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. Passions, like elements, though born to fight, Yet, mixed and softened, in his work unite: These, ’tis enough to temper and employ; But what composes man, can man destroy? Suffice that Reason keep to Nature’s road, Subject, compound them, follow her and God. Love, hope, and joy, fair pleasure’s smiling train, Hate, fear, and grief, the family of pain, These mixed with art, and to due bounds confined, Make and maintain the balance of the mind; The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife Gives all the strength and colour of our life. 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. All spread their charms, but charm not all alike; On different senses different objects strike; Hence different passions more or less inflame, As strong or weak, the organs of the frame; And hence once master passion in the breast, Like Aaron’s serpent, swallows up the rest. As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath Receives the lurking principle of death; The young disease that must subdue at length, Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his strength: So, cast and mingled with his very frame, The mind’s disease, its ruling passion came; Each vital humour which should feed the whole, Soon flows to this, in body and in soul: Whatever warms the heart, or fills the head, As the mind opens, and its functions spread, Imagination plies her dangerous art, And pours it all upon the peccant part. Nature its mother, habit is its nurse; Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse; Reason itself but gives it edge and power; As Heaven’s blest beam turns vinegar more sour. We, wretched subjects, though to lawful sway, In this weak queen some favourite still obey: Ah! 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! Or from a judge turn pleader, to persuade The choice we make, or justify it made; Proud of an easy conquest all along, She but removes weak passions for the strong; So, when small humours gather to a gout, The doctor fancies he has driven them out. Yes, Nature’s road must ever be preferred; Reason is here no guide, but still a guard: ’Tis hers to rectify, not overthrow, And treat this passion more as friend than foe: A mightier power the strong direction sends, And several men impels to several ends: Like varying winds, by other passions tossed, This drives them constant to a certain coast. Let power or knowledge, gold or glory, please, Or (oft more strong than all) the love of ease; Through life ’tis followed, even at life’s expense; The merchant’s toil, the sage’s indolence, The monk’s humility, the hero’s pride, All, all alike, find reason on their side. The eternal art, educing good from ill, Grafts on this passion our best principle: ’Tis thus the mercury of man is fixed, Strong grows the virtue with his nature mixed; The dross cements what else were too refined, And in one interest body acts with mind. As fruits, ungrateful to the planter’s care, On savage stocks inserted, learn to bear; The surest virtues thus from passions shoot, Wild nature’s vigour working at the root. What crops of wit and honesty appear From spleen, from obstinacy, hate, or fear! See anger, zeal and fortitude supply; Even avarice, prudence; sloth, philosophy; Lust, through some certain strainers well refined, Is gentle love, and charms all womankind; Envy, to which th’ ignoble mind’s a slave, Is emulation in the learned or brave; Nor virtue, male or female, can we name, But what will grow on pride, or grow on shame. 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 abhorred in Catiline, In Decius charms, in Curtius is divine: The same ambition can destroy or save, And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.
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"If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive. Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution." I have so much to say to you that I am afraid I shall tell you nothing."

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