From An Essay On Man Epistle Ii

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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.

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 preferr’d; 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 tost, This drives them constant to a certain coast.

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.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; But what will grow on pride, or grow on shame. That, however, the ends of Providence and general good are answered in our passions and imperfections, ver. How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men, ver. Two principles in human nature reign — Self-love, to urge, and reason, to restrain; Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call, Each works its end, to move or govern all: And to their proper operation still, Ascribe all good; to their improper, ill. Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain; Expunge the whole, or lop th’ excrescent parts Of all our vices have created arts; II. In lazy apathy let Stoics boast Their virtue fix’d; ’tis fix’d 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. 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. The business of Man not to pry into God, but to study himself. 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: Ah! 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 one master passion in the breast, Like Aaron’s serpent, swallows up the rest.Let power or knowledge, gold or glory, please, Or (oft more strong than all) the love of ease; Th’ eternal Art educing good from ill, Grafts on this passion our best principle: ’Tis thus the mercury of Man is fix’d, Strong grows the virtue with his nature mix’d; 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.


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