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If then to all men happiness was meant,
God in externals could not place content.
9 Fortune her gifts may variously dispose,
And these be happy call'd, unhappy those;
But Heav'n's just balance equal will appear,
While those are plac'd in hope, and these in fear:
Not present good or ill, the joy or curse,
But future views of better, or of worse.
10 O sons of earth! attempt ye still to rise,
By mountains pil'd on mountains, to the skies?
Heaven still with laughter the vain toil surveys,
And buries madmen in the heaps they raise.
11 Know, all the good that individuals find,
Or God and nature meant to mere mankind,
Reason's whole pleasure, all the joys of sense,
Lie in three words, health, peace, and competence.
But health consists with temperance alone;
And peace, O virtue! peace is all thy own.
The good or bad the gifts of fortune gain;
But these less taste them, as they worse obtain.
12 Say, in pursuit of profit or delight,
Who risk the most, that take wrong means or right?
Of vice or virtue, whether blest or curst,
Which meets contempt, or which compassion first?
Count all th' advantage prosp'rous vice attains,
"Tis but what virtue flies from and disdains:
And grant the bad what happiness they would,
One they must want, which is, to pass for good.
13 Oblind to truth, and God's whole scheme below,
Who fancy bliss to vice, to virtue wo!
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.
14 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 though Heav'n ne'er gave,
Lamented Digby! sunk thee to the grave?
15 Tell me, if virtue made the son expire,
Why, full of days and honor, 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?
16 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.
Think we, like some weak prince, th' Eternal Cause
Prone for his fav'rites to reverse his laws?
17 Shall burning Etna, if a sage requires,*
Forget to thunder, and recall her fires?
On air or sea new motions be imprest,
O blameless Bethel! to relieve thy breast?
When the loose mountain trembles from on high,
Shall gravitation cease, if you go by?
Or some old temple, nodding to its fall,
For Chartres' head reserve the hanging wall?
18 But still this world (so fitted for the knave)
Contents us not. A better shall we have?
A kingdom of the just then let it be:
But first consider how those just agree.
The good must merit God's peculiar care;
But who, but God, can tell us who they are?
One thinks on Calvin Heaven's own spirit fell,
Another deems him instrument of hell;
If Calvin feel Heaven's blessing, or its rod,
This cries, there is, and that, there is no God.
19 What shocks one part will edify the rest,
Nor with one system can they all be blest;
The very best will variously incline,
And what rewards your virtue, punish mine.
"Whatever is, is right."-This world, 'tis true,
Was made for Cæsar-but for Titus too:
And which more blest? Who chain'd his country, say,
Or he whose virtue sigh'd to lose a day?
20 "But sometimes virtue starves, while vice is fed.”
What then? Is the reward of virtue bread?
That, vice may merit, 'tis the price of toil:
The knave deserves it, when he tills the soil.
* Alluding to the fate of those two great naturalists, Empedocles and Pliny, who both perished by too near an approach to Etna and Vesuvius, while they were exploring the cause of their eruptions
The knave deserves it, when he tempts the main
Where folly fights for kings, or dives for gain.
The good man may be weak, be indolent;
Nor is his claim to plenty, but content.
21 But grant him riches, your demand is o'er? "No: shall the good want health, the good want power?" Add health and power, and ev'ry earthly thing; "Why bounded pow'r? why private? why no king? "Nay, why external for internal giv'n? "Why is not man a God and earth a heav'n?" Who ask and reason thus, will scarce conceive God gives enough, while he has more to give; Immense the pow'r, immense were the demand; Say, at what part of nature will they stand?
22 What nothing earthly gives or can destroy,
The soul's calm sun-shine, and the heart-felt joy,
Is virtue's prize: a better would you fix?
Then give humility a coach and six,
Justice a conqu'ror's sword, or truth a gown,
Or public spirit, its great cure, a crown.
Weak, foolish man! will Heav'n reward us there
With the same trash mad mortals wish for here?
The boy and man an individual makes,
Yet sigh'st thou now for apples and for cakes?
23 Go, like the Indian, in another life,
Expect thy dog, thy bottle, and thy wife;
As well as dream such trifles are assign'd,
As toys and empires for a godlike mind.
Rewards, that either would to virtue bring
No joy, or be destructive of the thing;
How oft by these at sixty are undone
The virtues of a saint at twenty-one!
24 To whom can riches give repute, or trust,
Content or pleasure, but the good and just?
Judges and senates have been bought for gold;
Esteem and love were never to be sold.
O fool! to think God hates the worthy mind,
The lover and the love of human-kind,
Whose life is healthful, and whose conscience clear,
Because he wants a thousand pounds a year.
25 Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
Fortune in men has some small difference made,
One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade;
The cobbler apron'd, and the parson gown'd,
The friar hooded, and the monarch crown'd.
26 "What differ more (you cry) than crown and cowl?” I'll tell you, friend! a wise man and a fool. You'll find, if once the monarch acts the monk, Or, cobbler-like, the parson will be drunk, Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow: The rest is all but leather or prunello.
27 Stuck o'er with titles and hung round with strings, That thou may'st be by kings, or slaves of kings, Boast the pure blood of an illustrious race, In quiet flow from Lucrece to Lucrece: But by your fathers' worth if yours you rate, Count me those only who were good and great. 28 Go! if your ancient, but ignoble blood Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood, Go! and pretend your family is young! Nor own your fathers have been fools so long.
What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards?
Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards.
29 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.
30 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.
31 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.
*This is a solecism: wickedness and wisdom are incompatible. Wickedness is an infallible evidence of folly and mental imbecility.-Comp
32 What's fame? a fancy'd life in others' breath,
A thing beyond us, e'en 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.
33 A wit's a feather, and a chief's 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.
34 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 exil'd feels,
Than Cæsar with a senate at his heels.
35 In parts superior what advantage lies?
Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise?
Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land?
All fear, none aid you, and few understand.
Painful pre-eminence! yourself to view
Above life's weakness, and its comforts too.
36 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: Think, and if still the things thy envy call, Say, would'st thou be the man to whom they fall? 37 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 shin'd, The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind: Or, ravish'd with the whistling of a name, See Cromwell damn'd to everlasting fame!