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You cannot mend the world, whate'er you do,
And, since plain-speaking has such charms for you,
I'll plainly tell you that this crabbed spirit,
This railing at all forms that men inherit,
This bent to sourly moralize and mock,
of town and court the laughing-stock.
Al. By Heaven! I would not have it otherwise!
Such laughter is approval in disguise.
Let the world laugh! I laugh at it in turn,
I court its scorn, and its good will I spurn.
Ph. I crave selection. You condemn pell-mell.
Al. All! All! I hate them like the gates of hell.
Ph. What! All poor mortals, all, from best to worst,
Without one sole exception stand accursed?
Still there are some even in this sorry age
Al. No, all are damned—mine is a general rage!
I hate all men; some for their scurvy ways,
And some because these scurvy rogues they praise,
And never feel those wrathful tempests roll
That vice should waken in a virtuous soul.
See with what ease the party to my suit,
Despite his crimes, keeps his usurped repute!
Through his false mask men see the rascal's face,
And his true self is known in every place.
His upturned eyes and his mellifluous speeches
Discredit all the virtues that he preaches.
All know the rogue's so conversant with evil
To gain his ends he'd bargain with the devil;
His courtiers love his titles, power, and pelf,
But where's the man who loves the wretch himself?
Call him a rogue, accuse, revile, convict,
All will agree, and none will contradict;
They know by what vile arts he made his way,
And all his vices are as plain as day;
this fellow's welcomed in all houses,
With town and court he hobnobs and carouses,
And every golden honor in the state
Becomes the booty of this reprobate.
I vow it cuts me to the quick
That vice should find us grown so politic;
It fills me with such rage
I long to flee into a hermitage.
Ph. Come, come-let's not disparage poor mankind;
They are not all, nor wholly, mad and blind,
Nor are they wholly wicked. The true sage
Surveys them with an equitable rage,
And strives with lenience to conciliate
His high ideal with their mortal state.
His ripened wisdom is not exigent,
And asking much with little is content.
The time's grown mild; rigor is out of date,
We quote salvation at a cheaper rate;
We know the world; we know that men are men,
And that even women stumble—now and then.
In short, it is the acme of all folly
To wish to mend mankind. 'Tis melancholy
Daily to see a hundred horrid things
That might be heavenly-if men sprouted wings;
And yet, although I wish them otherwise,
I view them without anger or surprise;
I take them as they are; I cannot change them:
Then why with grumbling diatribes estrange them?
Nay, nay—all men of sense in court and town
Cry up my calm and cry your fury down.
Al. And would it hold-this calm-if you should find Your friends turned traitors? or your foes combined
To filch your pockets, blast your reputation,
And paint yourself a scandal to the nation?
Ph. Yes, truly; for these vices that misfeature
The limpid crystalline of human nature
Are nature's livery. Why should we grieve
If woman play us false, if man deceive?
Nature that bids the wolf devour the lamb,
That self-same nature made me what I am.
She fashioned man and beast. How slight the span
That severs monkey, vulture, wolf, from man!
Al. What! shall I see myself betrayed, robbed, bilked,
And stand here patient as a cow that's milked!
No more!—by Heaven! you argue like a fool.
Ph. I'll say no more. I beg you to keep cool,
To be by random feelings less distraught
And give your suit some portion of your thought.
Al. Think of
suit! I tell you I will not!
Ph. Come! who shall be the pleaders of your cause?
Al. My pleaders? Reason-justice--and the laws!
Ph. And don't you mean to grease their wheels a little?
Al. No! Is my case so weak? my right so brittle?
Ph. By no means; yet intrigue may turn the scale.
Al. I lean on justice: if it fails, I fail.
I stand upon my right.
Don't trust to that!
Al. I will not budge!
Beware! This acrobat
May overlcap the laws.
I do not care.
Ph. You'll lose your case. Once more I say: Beware!
Al. I will not-I will sooner lose my suit.
Ph. Come, come!
I'll see if wrong so absolute . . Ph. But, sir Al.
I'll make probation in this case Whether the age we live in is so base,
And labors under so malign a curse,
'Twill wrong me in the eyes o' the universe.
Ph. O foolish wrath!
I care not what it cost,
I'll test it, though my suit be ten times lost.
Ph. Be calm, be calm! If men could hear but half Of your wild words, how loudly they would laugh!
Al. My curse light on the laughers!
Let me submit you to a different test.
You harp on virtue, honor, truth—and yet
Do you not worship a confirmed coquette?
How does it come that you, who darkly frown
On the whole human race and set them down
As fools and villains all, still from that race
Choose for your adoration one fair face?
Why does your rigorous judgment not forswear
A fair face coupled with a heart unfair?
Eliante, a lady beauteous, pure, and good,
Smiles on you; so too does that haughty prude
Arsinoë--yet you let these fond ones sigh,
And only Celimene can draw your eye.
Do you admire in her those horrid crimes
And scandals that you censure in the times?
Do you condone, when lodged in her fair breast,
The faults that elsewhere make your soul protest?
Are they no longer faults in one so fair?
Or do you only see them otherwhere?
Al. Noby my faith—those foibles others see
In her I love-ah! how they torture me!
Yes, even when they lodge in her fair breast,
I see those blots that elsewhere I detest.
And yet, 'tis true, I cannot quite despair,
Whate'er her faults-she is so heavenly fair!
I see them, I deplore them, but in vain!
I chide, I melt; I scold, yet love again;
And love condones and cancels all. I trust
Love will redeem her sins—it can—it must!
Ph. God speed you! That would be a nine days' wonder.
Think you she loves you truly?
May Heaven's thunder Impugn me if I doubt-I know she loves me!
Ph. But, if you can avouch her constancy, Why does the fear of rivals fret
Al. Ah! 'tis the very trick of love to start
At every half-heard sound, and quake with fear
If even a rival's shadow fall too near.
Therefore I mean this day to fix a date
To hopes and fears and learn from her my fate.
Ph. Ah me! if I to-day the wooer were,
I'd woo sweet Eliante instead of her.
Perchance, hid in that heart so pure, so true,
Gleams the rare pearl of happiness—for you.
Al. My judgment echoes yours--and yet—'tis fated;
For when were love and judgment ever mated?
Your fears and doubts fill me with melancholy,
But reason never yet ruled lover's folly.
Ph. I would this day by an auspicious end
Might crown your love ...
Good sir, behold a friend! Excuse me, if I take you unawares. The ladies being gone, I've climbed the stairs