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How much a dunce that has been sent to roam Excels a dunce that has been kept at home.
Accomplishments have taken virtue's place, And wisdom falls before exterior grace; We slight the precious kernel of the stone, And toil to polish its rough coat alone. A just deportment, manners graced with ease, Elegant phrase, and figure form'd to please, Are qualities that seem to comprehend Whatever parents, guardians, schools intend: Hence an unfurnish'd and a listless mind, Though busy, trifling; empty, though refined; Hence all that interferes, and dares to clash With indolence and luxury, is trash: While learning, once the man's exclusive pride, Seems verging fast towards the female side. Learning itself, received into a mind By nature weak, or viciously inclined, Serves but to lead philosophers astray, Where children would with ease discern the way. And of all arts sagacious dupes invent, To cheat themselves and gain the world's assent, The worst is—Scripture warp'd from its intent.
The carriage bowls along, and all are pleased If Tom be sober, and the wheels well greased; But if the rogue have gone a cup too far, Left out his linchpin, or forgot his tar, It suffers interruption and delay, And meets with hinderance in the smoothest way. When some hypothesis absurd and vain Has fill'd with all its fumes a critic's brain, The text, that sorts not with his darling whim, Though plain to others, is obscure to him.
The will made subject to a lawless force,
All is irregular and out of course;
And Judgment drunk, and bribed to lose his way,
Winks hard, and talks of darkness at noonday.
A critic on the sacred book should be
Candid and learn'd, dispassionate and free;
Free from the wayward bias bigots feel,
From fancy's influence, and intemperate zeal:
But above all (or let the wretch refrain,
Nor touch the page he cannot but profane),
Free from the domineering power of lust;
A lewd interpreter is never just.
How shall I speak thee, or thy power address,
Thou god of our idolatry, the press?
By thee religion, liberty, and laws
Exert their influence, and advance their cause;
By thee worse plagues than Pharaoh's land befell,
Diffused, make earth the vestibule of Hell;
Thou fountain, at which drink the good and wise;
Thou ever bubbling spring of endless lies;
Like Eden's dread probationary tree,
Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.
No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest,
Till half mankind were like himself possess'd.
Philosophers, who darken and put out
Eternal truth, by everlasting doubt;
Church quacks, with passions under no command,
Who fill the world with doctrines contraband,
Discoverers of they know not what, confined
Within no bounds—the blind that lead the blind;
To streams of popular opinion drawn,
Deposit in those shallows all their spawn.
The wriggling fry soon fill the creeks around,
Poisoning the waters where their swarmsabound;
Scorn'd by the nobler tenants of the flood,
Minnows and gudgeons gorge the unwholesome
The propagated myriads spread so fast, [food.
E’en Leuwenhoeck himself would stand aghast,
Employ'd to calculate the enormous sum,
And own his crab-computing powers o'ercome.
Is this hyperbole? The world well known,
Your sober thoughts will hardly find it one.
Fresh confidence the speculatist takes
From every hairbrain'd proselyte he makes;
And therefore prints. Himself but half deceived,
Till others have the soothing tale believed.
Hence comment after comment, spun as fine
As bloated spiders draw the flimsy line:
Hence the same word, that bids our lusts obey,
Is misapplied to sanctify their sway. -
If stubborn Greek refuse to be his friend,
Hebrew or Syriac shall be forced to bend:
If languages and copies all cry No—
Somebody proved it centuries ago.
Like trout pursued, the critic in despair
Darts to the mud, and finds his safety there.
Women, whom custom has forbid to fly
The scholar's pitch (the scholar best knows why),
With all the simple and unletter'd poor,
Admire his learning, and almost adore.
Whoever errs, the priest can ne'er be wrong,
With such fine words familiar to his tongue.
Ye ladies! (for indifferent in your cause,
I should deserve to forfeit all applause)
Whatever shocks, or gives the least offence
To virtue, delicacy, truth, or sense
(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 some thing precious ventured 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 Heaven to bless the dear deceit. So one, whose story serves at least to show Men loved their own productions long ago, Woo'd an unfeeling statue for his wife, Nor rested till the gods had given it life. If some mere driveller suck the sugar'd fib, 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 blunderer 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 Selfwill confirms him so. Tell him he wanders; that his error leads To fatal ills; that, though the path he treads Be flowery, 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 raised 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 every wind.
Thus men grow 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 the elastic string,
It err but little from the 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 steadfast eye:
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 assumed; but when we strive
To strip them off, 'tis being flay’d alive.