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Why these frequent the plain, and those the wood,
Why every land has her specific brood:
Where the tall crane, or winding swallow goes,
Fearful of gathering winds, and falling snows:
If into rocks, or hollow trees they creep,
In temporary death confin'd to sleep;
Or, conscious of the coming evil, fly
To milder regions, and a southern sky.
Of beasts and creeping insects shall we trace
The wondrous nature, and the various race ;
Or wild or tame, or friend to man or foe,
Of us what they, or what of them we know P
Tell me, ye studious, who pretend to see
Far into nature's bosom, whence the bee
Was first inform'd her vent’rous flight to steer
Through trackless paths, and an abyss of air.
Whence she avoids the slimy marsh, and knows
The fertile hills, where sweeter herbage grows,
And honey-making flowers their opening buds
How from the thicken'd mist, and setting sun,
Finds she the labour of her day is done?
Who taught her against winds and rain to strive.
To bring her burden to the certain hive,
And through the liquid fields again to pass
Duteous, and hearkening to the sounding brass?
And, O thou sluggard, tell me why the ant,
Midst summer's plenty thinks of winter’s want :
By constant journeys careful to prepare
Her stores; and bringing home the corny ear,
By what instruction does she bite the grain,
Lest hid in earth, and taking root again,
It might elude the foresight of her care 2
Distinct in either insect's deed appear
The marks of thought, contrivance, hope, and fear.
Fix thy corporeal, and internal eye
On the young gnat, or new-engender'd fly;
On the vile worm that yesterday began
To crawl; thy fellow creatures, abject man
Like thee they breathe, they move, they taste, they
They show their passions by their acts, like thee:
Darting their stings, they previously declare
Design'd revenge, and fierce intent of war:
Laying their eggs, they evidently prove
The genial power, and full effects of love.
Each then has organs to digest his food,
One to beget, and one receive the brood :
Has limbs and sinews, blood, and heart, and brain,
Life and her proper functions to sustain,
Tho' the whole fabric smaller than a grain.
What more can our pernicious reason grant
To the large whale, or castled elephant;
To those enormous terrors of the Nile,
The crested snake, and long-tail'd crocodile;
Than that all differ but in shape and name,
Each destin'd to a less or larger frame *
For potent nature loves a various act,
Prone to enlarge, or studious to contract :
Now forms her work too small, now too immense,
And scorns the measures of our feeble sense.
The object spread too far, or rais’d too high,
Denies its real image to the eye;
Too little it eludes the dazzled sight,
Becomes mix’d blackness, or unparted light.
Water and air the varied form confound; [round,
The straight looks crooked, and the square grows
Thus while with fruitless hope, and weary pain,
We seek great Nature's power, but seek in vain;
Safe sits the goddess in her dark retreat;
Around her, myriads of ideas wait,
And endless shapes which the mysterious queen
Can take or quit, can alter or retain:
As from our lost pursuit she wills to hide
Her close decrees, and chasten human pride.
Untam'd and fierce the tiger still remains:
He tires his life in biting on his chains:
For the kind gift of water and of food,
Ungrateful, and returning ill for good,
He seeks his keeper's flesh, and thirsts his blood:
While the strong camel, and the generous horse,
Restrain’d and aw’d by man's inferior force,
Do to the rider's will their rage submit,
And answer to the spur, and own the bit;
Stretch their glad mouths to meet the feeder's hand,
Pleas'd with his weight, and proud of his command.
Again: the lonely fox roams far abroad,
On secret rapine bent, and midnight fraud;
Now hunts the cliff, now traverses the lawn,
And flies the hated neighbourhood of man;
While the kind spaniel and the faithful hound,
Likest that fox in shape and species found,
Refuses through these cliffs and lawns to roam,
Pursues the noted path, and covets home;
Does with kind joy domestic faces meet,
Takes what the glutted child denies to eat,
And dying licks his long-lov'd master's feet.
By what immediate cause they are inclin'd,
In many acts, ’tis hard, I own, to find.
I see in others, or I think I see,
That strict their principles, and ours agree.
Evil like us they shun, and covet good;
Abhor the poison, and receive the food,
Like us they love or hate ; like us they know,
To joy the friend, or grapple with the foe.
With seeming thought their actions they intend,
And use the means proportion'd to the end.
Then vainly the philosopher avers,
That reason guides our deed, and instinct theirs.
How can we justly different causes frame,
When the effects entirely are the same,
Instinct and reason how can we divide 2
'Tis the fool's ignorance, and the pedant's pride.
With the same folly sure, man vaunts his sway:
If the brute beast refuses to obey.
For tell me, when the empty boaster's word
Proclaims himself the universal lord,
Does he not tremble, lest the lion's paw
Should join his plea against the fancied law
Would not the learned coward leave the chair,
If in the schools or porches should appear
The fierce hyaena, or the foaming bear?
The combatant too late the field declines, When now the sword is girded to his loins. When the swift vessel flies before the wind, Too late the sailor views the land behind. And 'tis too late now back again to bring Inquiry, rais'd and towering on the wing: Forward she strives, averse to be withheld From nobler objects, and a larger field.
Consider with me this ethereal space, Yielding to earth and sea the middle place. Anxious I ask ye, how the pensile ball Should never strive to rise, nor fear to fall. When I reflect, how the revolving sun Does round our globe his crooked journeys
I doubt of many lands, if they contain
Or herd of beast, or colony of man :
If any nations pass their destin'd days
Beneath the neighboring sun's directer rays;
If any suffer on the polar coast
The rage of Arctos, and eternal frost.
May not the pleasure of Omnipotence
To each of these some secret good dispense ?
Those who amidst the torrid regions live,
May they not gales unknown to us receive ;
See daily showers rejoice the thirsty earth,
And bless the flowery buds' succeeding birth 2
May they not pity us, condemn'd to bear
The various heaven of an obliquer sphere;
While by fix’d laws, and with a just return,