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A wild, where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot;
Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
Together let us beat this ample field;
Try what the open, what the covert yield;
The latent tracts, the giddy heights explore
Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar;
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 unnumber'd 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 Heaven 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
Look'd 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, Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why form'd 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 'tis confess'd
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 reasoning life, 'tis 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 dulness comprehend
His actions', passions', being's, use and end;
Why doing, suffering; check'd, impell'd; and why
This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not Man's imperfect, Heaven 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 bless'd to-day is as completely so,
As who began a thousand years ago.
III. Heaven 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 flowery food,
And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood.
O, blindness to the future! kindly given,
That each may fill the circle marked by Heaven;
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall;
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd;
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 bless'd:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo the poor Indian ! whose untutor❜d 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 given,
Behind the cloud-topp'd hill, a humbler heaven;
Some safer world in depth of woods embraced,
Some happier island in the watery 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 fanciest 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 Heaven's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there;
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the God of God.
In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the bless'd 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 the Eternal Cause.
V. Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine, Earth for whose use; Pride answers, "Tis for mine : For me kind Nature wakes her genial power, Suckles each herb, and spreads out every flower; 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 light 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," ," 'tis replied; "the first Almighty Cause Acts not by partial, but by general laws ; The 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 showers and sunshine, as of Man's desires; As much eternal springs and cloudless skies, As men for ever temperate, calm and wise. If plagues or earthquakes break not Heaven'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 reasoning springs : Account for moral, as for natural things: