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Nor speech they meditate, nor answer frame:
(Too plain, alas ! their filence spake their shame :)
'Till one, in whom an outward mien appear’d,
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 power did sway:
And the astonish'd world in me beheld
Mofes ecclips'd, and Jesse's fon excell'd.
Humble a second bow'd, and took the word;
my name by future age ador’d;
O live, said he, thou wiseft of the wise!
As none has equall’d, none Mall ever rise
Parent of wicked, bane of honest deeds,
Pernicious Aattery? thy malignant seeds
In an ill hour, and by a fatal hand
Sadly diffus'd o'er Virtue’s gleby land,
With rifing pride amidst the corn appear,
And choak the hopes and harvest of the year.
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 exift, the aptest nothing know:
What yet is not, but is ordain’d to be,
All veil of doubt apart, the dullest see.
My prophets, and my sophists finish'd here
Their civil efforts of the verbal war:
Not so my rabbins, and logicians yield;
Retiring till they combat: from the field
Of open arms unwilling they depart,
And sculk behind the subterfuge 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 science against reason charg’d.
Soon their crude notions with each other fought:
The adverse sect deny’d, what this had taught;
And he at length the ampleft triumph gain’d,
Who contradicted 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 soul espy'd,
Why dost thou strive the conscious shame to hide
By marks of eloquence, and veils of pride ?
· With outward smiles their flattery I receiv'd;
Own'd my fick mind by their discourse reliev'd;
But bent and inward to myself again
Perplex'd, these matters I revolv'd in vain.
My search ftill tir’d, my labour still renew'd,
At length I ignorance, and knowledge view'd,
Impartial; both in equal balance laid ;
Light flew the knowing scale; the doubtful heavy
Forc'd by reflective reason, 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 lift up our presumptuous eyes
To what our Maker to their ken denies:
The searcher follows fast: the object fafter 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; still doubts remain;
And who indulges thought, increases pain.
How narrow limits were to wisdom given !
Earth she surveys; she thence would measure Heaven:
Through mists obscure, now wings her tedious way;
Now wanders dazled with too bright a day;
And from the summit of a pathless coast
Sees Infinite, and in that fight is loft.
Remember, that the curs’d desire to know,
Offspring of ADAM! was thy source of woe.
Why wilt thou then renew the vain pursuit,
And rashly catch at the forbidden fruit?
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.
I said in my own heart, Go to now, I will prove
thee with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure. Eccle
fiaftes, chap. II. verf. 1. I made me great works, I builded me houses, I plant
ed me vineyards. Verf. 4. I made me gardens and orchards; and I planted
trees in them of all kind of fruit. Verf. 5. I made me pools of water, to water therewith the
wood that bringeth forth trees. Vers. 6. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had
wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: And behold all was vanity, and vexation of spirit; and there was no profit under the sun.
I gat me men-fingers and women-fingers, and the
delights of the sons of men, as musical inftruments,
and that of all sorts. Verf. s. I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine (yet
acquainting mine heart with wisdom) and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under
Heaven, all the day of their life. Verf. 3. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth unto the fool, so it happeneth even unto me; and why was
I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that
this also is vanity Therefore I hated life, because the work that is
wrought under the sun is grievous unto me. Chap.
Dead flies cause the ointment to fend forth a stink
ing favour: fodoth the little folly him that is in
reputation for wisdom and honour. Chap. X.
memory of the just is blessed, but the memory of the wicked shall rot.
Proverbs, Chap. X.