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That whilst our bodies ficken, and decay,
Their's are for ever healthy, young, and gay
Why, whilst we struggle in this vale beneath,
With want' and forrow, with disease and death,
Do they more bless'd perpetual life employ
On songs of pleafure, and in scenes of joy?
Now when my mind has all this world survey'd,
And found, that nothing by itself was made ;
When thought has rais'd itself by just degrees,
From vallies crown'd with flow'rs, and hills with trees,
From smoaking min'rals, and from rising streams;
From fate'ning Nilus, or victorious Thames;
From all the living, that four foored move
Along the shore, the meadow, or the grove ;
From all that can with fins, or feathers fly
Through the aerial, or the warry fky ;
From the poor reptile with a reas'ning soul,
That miserable master of the whole :
From this great object of the body's eye,
This fair half-round, this ample azure sky,
Terribly large, and wonderfully bright
With stars unnumber'd, and unmeasur'd light;
From effences unseen, celestial names,
Enlighe’ning spirits, and ministerial flames, !
Angels, dominions, potentates, and thrones,
All that in each degree the name of creature owns :
Lift we our reason to that Sov'reign Cause
Who bleft the whole with life, and bounded it with
Who forth from nothing call'd this comely frame, His will and act, his word and work the same ;
To whom a thousand years are but a day;
Who bade the light her genial beams display;
And set the moon, and taught the sun his way :
Who waking time, his creature, from the source
Primaeval, order'd his predestin'd course :
Himself, as in the hollow of his hand,
Holding, obedient to his high command,
The deep abyss, the long continu'd store,
Where months, and days, and hours, and minutes
Their foating parts, and thenceforth are no more.
This Alpha and Omega, first and last,
Who like the polter in a mold has cast
The world's great frame, commanding it to be.
Such as the eyes of sense and reason see
Yet if he wills, may change or spoil the whole :
May take yon' beauteous, mystic, starry roll,
And burn it, like an useless parchment scroll:
May from its basis in one moment pour
This melted earth-
Like liquid metal, and like burning ore:
Who sole in pow'r at the beginning faid;
Let fea, and air, and earth, and heav'n be made :
And it was so And when he fall ordain
In other sort, has but to speak again,
And they shall be no more : of this great theme,
This glorious, hallow'd, everlasting name,
This God, I would discourse
The learn'd elders fat appal'd, amaz'd;
And each with mutual look on other gaz'd.
Nor speech they meditate, nor answer frame :
Too plain, alas! their filence fpake their shame :
'Till one, in whom an outward mien appear'dg.
And turn superior to the vulgar herd,
Began ;, that human learning's furthest reach
Was but to note the doctrines I could teach ;
That mine to speak, and theirs was to obey :
For I in knowledge more, than pow'r did sway:
And the astonish'd world in me beheld
Moses eclips'd, and Jeffe's fon excell'd.
Humble a second bow'd, and took the word ;
Foresaw my name by future age ador'd.
O live, said he, thou wiselt of the wife !"
As none has equallid, none fhall ever rise:
Parent of wicked, bane of honest deeds,
Pernicious flatt'ry! thy malignant feeds,
In an ill hour, and by a fatal hand
Sadly diffus'd o'er virtue's gleby land
With riling pride amidst the corn appear,
And choak the hopes and harvest of the yeară
And now the whole perplex'd ignoble crowd
Mute to my questions, in my praises loud,
Echo'd the word : whence things arose, or how
They thus exist, the apteft nothing know:
is not, but is ordain'd to be, All veil of doubt apart, the dullest see:
My prophets, and my fophifts finifh'd here
Their civil efforts of the verbal war :
Not so my Rabbins, and logicians yield ;
Retiring still they combat: from the field
Of open arms unwilling they depart)
And sculk behind the fubterfuge of art.
To speak one thing mix'd dialects they join ;
Divide the simple, and the plain define ;
Fix fancy'd laws, and form imagin'd rules,
Terms of their art, and jargon of their schools,
Ill.grounded maxims by false glofs enlarg’d;
And captious fcience against reason charg'd.
Soon their crude notions with each other fought ::
The adverse fect deny'd, what this had taught ;
And he at length the amplest triumph gain'd,
Who contradiated what the last maintain'd.
O wretched impotence of human mind!
We erring still excuse for error find;
And darkling grope, not knowing we are blind.
Vain man! fince first the blushing fire eflay'd
His folly with connected leaves to shade ;
How does the crime of thy resembling race
With like attempt that pristine error trace?
Too plain thy nakedness of foul efpy'd,
Why dost thou strive the conscious shame to hide
By masks of eloquence, and veils of pride?
With outward smiles their fatt'ry I receiv'd;
Own'd my fick mind by their discourse seliev'd ;
But bent and inward to myself again
Perplex'd, these matters I revolv'd; in vain.
My search still tir'd, my labour still renew'd,
At length I ignorance and knowledge view'd,
Impartial ; both in equal ballance laid; Eweigh’d.
Light flew the knowing scale : the doubtful heavy
Forc'd by reflective reafon, I confess, That human science is uncertain guess. Alas! we grasp at clouds, and beat the air, Vexing that spirit we intend to clear.
Can thought beyond the bounds of matter climb ?
Or who shall tell me what is space or time?
In vain we list up our presumptuous eyes
To what our Maker to their ken denies :
The searcher follows fast; the object faster flies.
The little which imperfectly we find,
Seduces only the bewilder'd mind
To fruitless search of something yet behind.
Various discussions tear our heated brain
Opinions often turn; ftill doubts remain;
And who indulges-thought, increases pain?
How narrow limits were to wisdom giv'n?
Earth the surveys; she thence would measure hear'n;
Thro' mists obscure, now wings her tedious ways.
Now wanders dazl'd with too bright a day ;,
And from the summit of a pathless coaft:
Sees infinite, and in that fight is lost.
Remember, that the curs'd desire to know Offspring of Adam, was thy source of woe. Why wilt thou then renew thy vile pursuit, And rafhly catch at the forbidden fruit ? With empty labour and eluded strife Seeking, by knowledge, to attain to life ; For ever from that fatal tree debarr’d, Which flaming: swords and angry Cherubs guard.