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Eye Nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise;
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can;
But vindicate the ways of God to man.
I. Say first, of God above or man below
What can we reason but from what we know?
Of man what see we but his station here
From which to reason or to which refer?
Through worlds unnumbered though the God be known,
'Tis ours to trace Him only in our own.
He who through vast immensity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns,
What varied being peoples every star,
May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.
But of this frame the bearings and the ties,
The strong connections, nice dependencies,
Gradations just, has thy pervading soul
Looked through? or can a part contain the whole?
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree,
And drawn supports, upheld by God or thee?
II. Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find 35
Why formed so weak, so little, and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why formed no weaker, blinder, and no less?
Ask of thy mother earth why oaks are made
Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade?
Or ask of yonder argent fields above
Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove.
Of systems possible if 't is confessed
That Wisdom Infinite must form the best,
Where all must full or not coherent be,
And all that rises, rise in due degree,
Then, in the scale of reas'ning life, 't is plain
There must be, somewhere, such a rank as man;
And all the question (wrangle e'er so long)
Is only this-if God has placed him wrong?
Respecting man whatever wrong we call, May, must be right as relative to all.
In human works, though laboured on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God's one single can its end produce,
Yet serves to second too some other use:
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal;
'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains
His fiery course or drives him o'er the plains;
When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod,
Is now a victim, and now Egypt's god;
Then shall man's pride and dullness comprehend
His actions', passions', being's use and end;
Why doing, suff'ring, checked, impelled; and why
This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault;,
Say rather man's as perfect as he ought;
His knowledge measured to his state and place;
His time a moment, and a point his space.
If to be perfect in a certain sphere,
What matter soon or late, or here or there?
The blest to-day is as completely so
As who began a thousand years ago.
III. Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of Fate; All but the page prescribed, their present state: From brutes what men, from men what spirits know; Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleased to the last, he crops the flow'ry food,
And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood.
Oh, blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
That each may fill the circle marked by Heav'n,
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurled,
And now a bubble burst and now a world.
Hope humbly, then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore.
What future bliss, He gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is but always to be blest;
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo, the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds or hears Him in the wind!
His soul proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk or milky way;
Yet simple Nature to his hope has giv❜n,
Behind the cloud-topped hill, an humbler Heav'n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embraced,
Some happier island in the wat'ry waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire;
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire,
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
IV. Go, wiser thou! and, in thy scale of sense,
Weigh thy opinion against Providence.
Call imperfection what thou fanci'st such;
Say, “Here He gives too little, there too much";
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
Yet cry, "If man's unhappy, God's unjust";
If man alone engross not Heav'n's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there,
Snatch from His hand the balance and the rod,
Re-judge His justice, be the god of God.
In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes;
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods if angels fell,
Aspiring to be angels men rebel;
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of order sins against th' Eternal Cause.
V. Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine,
Earth for whose use, Pride answers, "T is for mine:
For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r,
Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev'ry flow'r;
Annual for me the grape, the rose, renew
The juice nectareous and the balmy dew;
For me the mine a thousand treasures brings;
For me health gushes from a thousand springs;
Seas roll to waft me, suns to ligh me rise;
My footstool earth, my canopy the skies."
But errs not Nature from this gracious end,
From burning suns when livid deaths descend,
When earthquakes swallow or when tempests sweep
Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep?
"No," 't is replied, "the first Almighty Cause
Acts not by partial but by gen'ral laws;
Th' exceptions few; some change, since all began,
And what created perfect?" Why then man?
If the great end be human happiness,
Then Nature deviates; and can man do less?
As much that end a constant course requires
Of show'rs and sunshine as of man's desires;
As much eternal springs and cloudless skies
As men forever temp'rate, calm, and wise.
If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav'n's design,
Why then a Borgia or a Catiline?
Who knows but He Whose hand the lightning forms,
Who heaves old ocean, and Who wings the storms,
Pours fierce ambition in a Cæsar's mind,
Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind?
From pride, from pride, our very reas'ning springs.
Account for moral as for nat'ral things:
Why charge we Heav'n in those, in these acquit?
In both to reason right is to submit.
Better for us, perhaps, it might appear,
Were there all harmony, all virtue, here;
That never air or ocean felt the wind,
That never passion discomposed the mind.
But all subsists by elemental strife,
And passions are the elements of life.
The gen'ral order, since the whole began,
Is kept in Nature and is kept in man.
VI. What would this man? Now upward will he soar, And, little less than angel, would be more;
Now, looking downwards, just as grieved appears
To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears.
Made for his use all creatures if he call;
Say what their use, had he the pow'rs of all?
Nature to these, without profusion kind,
The proper organs, proper pow'rs assigned;
Each seeming want compensated of course,
Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force;
All in exact proportion to the state;
Nothing to add, and nothing to abate.
Each beast, each insect, happy in its own,
Is Heav'n unkind to man, and man alone?
Shall he alone whom rational we call
Be pleased with nothing if not blest with all?
The bliss of man (could pride that blessing find)
Is not to act or think beyond mankind;
No pow'rs of body or of soul to share
But what his nature and his state can bear.
Why has not man a microscopic eye?
For this plain reason, man is not a fly.
Say what the use, were finer optics giv'n,
T' inspect a mite, not comprehend the heav'n?
Or touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er,
To smart and agonize at ev'ry pore?
Or, quick effluvia darting through the brain,
Die of a rose in aromatic pain?
If Nature thundered in his op'ning ears,
And stunned him with the music of the spheres,
How would he wish that Heav'n had left him still
The whisp'ring zephyr and the purling rill?
Who finds not Providence all good and wise,
Alike in what it gives and what denies?
VII. Far as Creation's ample range extends,
The scale of sensual, mental pow'rs ascends.
Mark how it mounts to man's imperial race
From the green myriads in the peopled grass;
What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme,
The mole's dim curtain and the lynx's beam;
Of smell, the headlong lioness between,
And hound sagacious on the tainted green;