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(Try the criterion, 'tis a faithful guide,)
Nor has, nor can have, Scripture on its side.
None but an author knows an author's cares,
Or Fancy's fondness for the child she bears.
Committed once into the public arms,
The baby seems to smile with added charms.
Like something precious ventur'd far from shore,
"Tis valued for the danger's sake the more.
He views it with complacency supreme,
Solicits kind attention to his dream;
And daily more enamour'd of the cheat,
Kneels, and asks Heav'n to bless the dear deceit.
So one, whose story serves at least to show
Men lov'd their own productions long ago,
Woo'd an unfeeling statue for his wife,
Nor rested till the gods had giv'n it life.
If some mere driv'ller suck the sugar'd fiḥ,
One that still needs his leading-string and bib,
And praise his genius, he is soon repaid
In praise applied to the same part-his head:
For 'tis a rule that holds for ever true,
Grant me discernment, and I grant it you.
Patient of contradiction as a child,
Affable, humble, diffident, and mild;
Such was Sir Isaac, and such Boyle and Locke:
Your blund'rer is as sturdy as a rock.
The creature is so sure to kick and bite,
A muleteer's the man to set him right.
First Appetite enlists him Truth's sworn foe,
Then obstinate Self-will confirms him so.
Tell him he wanders; that his error leads
To fatal ills; that, though the path he treads
Be flow'ry, and he see no cause of fear,
Death and the pains of Hell attend him there:
In vain; the slave of arrogance and pride,
He has no hearing on the prudent side.
His still refuted quirks he still repeats;
New rais'd objections with new quibbles meets;
Till, sinking in the quicksand he defends,
He dies disputing, and the contest ends.-
But not the mischiefs; they, still left behind,
Like thistle-seeds, are sown by ev'ry wind.
Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill;
Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will;
And with a clear and shining lamp supplied,
First put it out, then take it for a guide.
Halting on crutches of unequal size,
One leg by truth supported, one by lies;
They sidle to the goal with awkward pace,
Secure of nothing-but to lose the race.
Faults in the life breed errors in the brain,
And these reciprocally those again.
The mind and conduct mutually imprint
And stamp their image in each other's mint:
Each, sire and dam, of an infernal race,
Begetting and conceiving all that's base.
None sends his arrow to the mark in view,
Whose hand is feeble, or his aim untrue.
For though, ere yet the shaft is on the wing,
Or when it first forsakes th' elastic string,
It err but little from th' intended line,
It falls at last far wide of his design:
So he, who seeks a mansion in the sky,
Must watch his purpose with a stedfast
That prize belongs to none but the sincere;
The least obliquity is fatal here.
With caution taste the sweet Circean cup:
He that sips often, at last drinks it up.
Habits are soon assum'd; but when we strive
To strip them off, 'tis being flay'd alive.
Call'd to the temple of impure delight,
He that abstains, and he alone, does right.
If a wish wander that way, call it home;
He cannot long be safe whose wishes roam.
But, if you pass the threshold, you are caught;
Die then, if pow'r Almighty save you not.
There, hard'ning by degrees, till double steel'd,
Take leave of nature's God, and God reveal'd;
Then laugh at all you trembled at before;
And, joining the free-thinkers' brutal roar,
Swallow the two grand nostrums they dispense-
That Scripture lies, and blasphemy is sense:
If clemency, revolted by abuse
Be damnable, then damn'd without excuse.
Some dream that they can silence when they will,
The storm of passion, and say, Peace, be still;
But Thus far and no farther,” when address'd
To the wild wave, or wilder human breast,
Implies authority that never can,
That never ought to be the lot of man,
But muse, forbear; long flights forebode a fall; Strike on the deep-ton'd chord the sum of all.
Hear the just law-the judgment of the skies! He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies: And he that will be cheated to the last, Delusions strong as Hell shall bind him fast. But if the wand'rer his mistake discern, Judge his own ways, and sigh for a return, Bewilder'd once, must he bewail his loss For ever and for ever? No-the cross! There and there only (though the deist rave, And athiest, if Earth bear so base a slave); There and there only is the pow'r to save. There no delusive hope invites despair; No mock'ry meets you, no deception there. The spells and charms, that blinded you before, All vanish there, and fascinate no more. I am no preacher, let this hint suffice— The cross, once seen, is death to ev'ry vice: Else he that hung there suffer'd all his pain, Bled, groan'd, and agoniz'd, and died, in vain.
Pensantur trutina.' Hor. Lib. ii. Epist. 1.
MAN, on the dubious waves of error toss'd,
His ship half-founder'd, and his compass lost,
Sees, far as human optics may command,
A sleeping fog, and fancies it dry land:
Spreads all his canvass, ev'ry sinew plies;
Pants for❜t, aims at it, enters it, and dies!
Then, farewell all self-satisfying schemes,
His well-built systems, philosophic dreams;
Deceitful views of future bliss farewell!
He reads his sentence at the flames of Hell.
Hard lot of man-to toil for the reward
Of virtue, and yet lose it! Wherefore hard?
He that would win the race must guide his horse
Obedient to the customs of the course;
Else, though unequall'd to the goal he flies,
A meaner than himself shall gain the prize.
Grace leads the right way: if you choose the wrong,
Take it and perish; but restrain your tongue;
Charge not, with light sufficient, and left free,
Your wilful suicide on God's decree.
O, how unlike the complex works of man
Heav'n's easy, artless, unencumber'd plan!
No meretricious graces to beguile,
No clust'ring ornaments to clog the pile;
From ostentation as from weakness free,
It stands like the cerulean arch we see,
Majestic in its own simplicity.
Inscrib'd above the portal, from afar
Conspicuous as the brightness of a star,
Legible only by the light they give,
Stand the soul-quick'ning words-Believe and live.
Too many, shock'd at what should charm them most,
Despise the plain direction, and are lost.
Heav'n on such terms! (they cry with proud disdain,)
Incredible, impossible, and vain!—
Rebel, because 'tis easy to obey;
And scorn, for its own sake, the gracious way.
These are the sober, in whose cooler brains
Some thought of immortality remains;
The rest, too busy or too gay to wait
On the sad theme, their everlasting state,
Sport for a day, and perish in a night,
The foam upon the waters not so light.
Who judg'd the Pharisee? What odious cause
Expos'd him to the vengeance of the laws?
Had he seduc'd a virgin, wrong'd a friend,
Or stabb'd a man to serve some private end?
Was blasphemy his sin? Or did he stray
From the strict duties of the sacred day?
Sit long and late at the carousing board?
(Such were the sins with which he charg'd his Lord.)
No-the man's morals were exact, what then?
'Twas his ambition to be seen of men;
His virtues were his pride; and that one vice
Made all his virtues gewgaws of no price;
He wore them as fine trappings for a show,
A praying, synagogue-frequenting beau.
The self-applauding bird, the peacock, see-
Mark what a sumptuous Pharisee is he!
Meridian sun-beams tempt him to unfold
His radiant glories, azure, green, and gold:
He treads as if, some solemn music near,
His measur'd step were govern'd by his ear:
And seems to say-Ye meaner fowl, give place,
I am all splendour, dignity, and grace!