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MAN SUITED TO HIS PLACE IN THE CREATION. 63
From the Essay on Man.
Man suited to his place in the Creation.
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 connexions, 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?
Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why formed 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.
The Submission of all things to God.
SEE, through this air, this ocean, and this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high progressive life may go!
Around, how wide! how deep extend below!
Vast chain of being! which from God began,
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect, which no eye can see,
No glass can reach from infinite to thee,
From thee to nothing. On superior powers
Were we to press, inferior might on our ours;
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd:
From nature's chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth or ten thousandth breaks the chain alike.
THE SUBMISSION OF ALL THINGS TO GOD.
And if each system in gradation roll
Alike essential to the amazing whole,
The least confusion but in one, not all
That system only, but the whole must fall.
Let earth unbalanced from her orbit fly,
Planets and suns run lawless through the sky;
Let ruling angels from their spheres be hurl'd,
Being on being wreck'd, and world on world;
Heaven's whole foundations to their centre nod,
And nature trembles to the throne of God.
All this dread order break-for whom? for thee?
Vile worm!-Oh, madness! pride! impiety!
What if the foot, ordain'd the dust to tread,
Or hand to toil, aspired to be the head?
What if the head, the eye, or ear, repined
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another in this general frame;
Just as absurd to mourn the task or pains
The great directing Mind of all ordains.
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
That, changed through all, and yet in all the same,
Great in the earth as in the ethereal frame;
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees;
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent ;
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part;
As full as perfect in a hair as heart;
As full as perfect in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns:
To Him no high, no low, no great, no small,
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.
Cease, then, nor order imperfection name;
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.
Submit. In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless'd as thou canst bear;
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
Reason instructed by Enstinct.
NOR think in nature's state they blindly trod,
The state of nature was the reign of God;
Self-love and social at her birth began,
Union the bond of all things, and of man.
Pride then was not, nor arts that pride to aid;
Man walk'd with beast, joint tenant of the shade :
The same his table, and the same his bed;
No murder clothed him, and no murder fed.
In the same temple, the resounding wood,
All vocal beings hymn'd their equal God:
The shrine with gore unstain'd, with gold undress'd,
Unbribed, unbloody, stood the blameless priest :
Heaven's attribute was universal care,
And man's prerogative to rule, but spare.
Ah! how unlike the man of times to come!
Of half that live the butcher and the tomb;
Who, foe to nature, hears the general groan,
Murders their species, and betrays his own!
But just disease to luxury succeeds,
And every death its own avenger breeds;
The fury-passions from that blood began,
And turn'd on man a fiercer savage, man.
See him from nature rising slow to art!
copy instinct then was reason's part:
Thus then to man the voice of nature spake—
"Go, from the creatures thy instructions take;
Learn from the birds what food the thickets yield;
Learn from the beasts the physic of the field;
Thy arts of building from the bee receive;
Learn of the mole to plough, the worm to weave;
REASON INSTRUCTED BY INSTINCT.
Learn of the little Nautilus to sail,
Spread the thin oar, and catch the driving gale.
Here too all forms of social union find,
And hence let reason, late, instruct mankind:
Here subterranean works and cities see,
There towns aerial on the waving tree.
Learn each small people's genius, policies,
The ant's republic, and the realm of bees:
How those in common all their wealth bestow,
And anarchy without confusion know;
And these for ever, though a monarch reign,
Their separate cells and properties maintain.
Mark what unvaried laws preserve each state,
Laws wise as nature, and as fix'd as fate.
In vain thy reason finer webs shall draw,
Entangle justice in her net of law,
And right, too rigid, harden into wrong;
Still for the strong too weak, the weak too strong.
Yet go! and thus o'er all the creatures sway,
Thus let the wiser make the rest obey;
And for those arts mere instinct could afford,
Be crown'd as monarchs, or as gods adored."
Great nature spoke, observant man obey'd,
Cities were built, societies were made;
Here rose one little state, another near
Grew by like means, and join'd through love or fear.
Did here the trees with ruddier burdens bend,
And there the streams in purer rills descend?
What war could ravish, commerce could bestow;
And he return'd a friend who came a foe.
Converse and love mankind might strongly draw,
When love was liberty, and nature law.
Thus states were form'd, the name of king unknown,
Till common interest placed the sway in one.
'Twas virtue only (or in arts or arms,
Diffusing blessings or averting harms);
The same which in a sire the sons obey'd,
A prince the father of a people made.