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KNOW thou this truth (enough for man to know) "Virtue alone is happiness below."
The only point where human bliss stands still,
And tastes the good without he fall to ill;
Where only Merit constant pay receives,
Is blest in what it takes, and what it gives;
The joy unequall'd if its end it gain,
And if to lose, attended with no pain ;
Without satiety, tho' e'er so bless'd,
And but more relish'd, as the more distress'd :
The broadest mirth unfeeling Folly wears,
Less pleasing far than Virtue's very tears:
Good, from each object, from each place acquir'd,
For ever exercis'd, yet never tir'd ;
Never elated, while one man's oppress'd;
Never dejected, while another's bless'd;
And where no wants, no wishes can remain,
Since but to wish more Virtue, is to gain.
See the sole bliss Heav'n could on all bestow!
Which who but feels can taste, but thinks can know
Yet poor with fortune, and with learning blind,
The bad must miss; the good, untaught, will find;
Slave to no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks thro Nature, up to Nature's God:
Pursues that Claim which links th' immense design,
Joins heav'n and earth, and mortal and divine;
Sees, that no Being any bliss can know,
But touches some above, and some below;
Learns, from this union of the rising Whole,
The first, last purpose of the human soul;
And knows where Faith, Law, Morals, all began
All end in Love of God, and Love of Man.
For him alone, Hope leads from goal to goal,
And opens still, and opens on his soul;
'Till lengthen'd on to Faith, and unconfin'd,
It pours the bliss that fills up all the mind.
He sees why Nature plants in man alone
Hope of known bliss, and Faith in bliss unknown;
(Nature, whose dictates to no other kind
Are given in vain, but what they seek they find)
Wise is her present; she connects in this
His greatest Virtue with his greatest Bliss ;
At once his own bright prospect to be blest,
And strongest motive to assist the rest.
Self-love thus push'd to social, to divine
Gives thee to make thy neighbour's blessing thine.
Is this too little for the boundless heart?
Extend it, let thy enemies have part:
Grasp the whole worlds of Reason, Life, and Sense,
In one close system of Benevolence;
Happier as kinder, in whate'er degree,
And height of Bliss but height of Charity.
God loves from Whole to parts: But human soul! Must rise from Individual to the Whole.
Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake,
As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake ;
The centre moy'd a circle strait succeeds,
Another still, and still another spreads;
Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace;
His country next; and next all human race;
Wide and more wide, th' overflowings of the mind.
Take ev'ry creature in of ev'ry kind;
Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blest,
And Heav'n beholds its image in his breast.
MANY by Numbers judge a Poet's song;
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong;
In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms conspire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire ;
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to Church repair
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
These equal syllables alone require,
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire;
While expletives their feeble aid do join ;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line :
While they ring round the same unvary'd chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhimes;
Where'er you find "the cooling western breeze,"
In the next line, it "whispers thro' the trees :"
If crystal streams "with pleasing murmurs creep,"
The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with "sleep :"
Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull rhimes, and know
What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
And praise the easy vigour of a line,
Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance.
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
"Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense;
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar :
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move slow;
Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Hear how Timotheus' vary'd lays surprise,
And bid alternate passions fall and rise!
While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove
Now burns with glory, and then melts with love;
Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow:
Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found,
And the World's victor stood subdued by Sound !
HOW to live happiest; how avoid the pains,
The disappointments, and disgusts of those
Who would in pleasure all their hours employ;
The precepts here of a divine old man
I could recite. Tho' old, he still retain'd
His manly sense, and energy of mind.
Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe;
He still remember'd that he once was young;
His easy presence check'd no decent joy.
Him even the dissolute admir'd; for he
A graceful looseness when he pleas'd put on,
And laughing could instruct. Much had he read,
Much more had seen; he studied from the life,
And in the original perus'd mankind.
Vers'd in the woes and vanities of life,
He pitied man: and much he pitied those
Whom falsely-smiling fate has curs'd with means
To dissipate their days in quest of joy.
Our aim is Happiness; 'tis yours, 'tis mine,
He said, 'tis the pursuit of all that live;
Yet few attain it, if 'twas e'er attain'd.
But they the wildest wander from the mark,
Who thro' the flow'ry paths of saunt'ring Joy
Seek this coy Goddess; that from stage to stage
Invites us still, but shifts as we pursue,
For, not to name the pains that pleasure brings
To counterpoise itself, relentless Fate
Forbids that we thro' gay voluptuous wilds
Should ever roam : And were the Fates more kind
Our narrow luxuries would soon be stale.
Were those exhaustless, Nature would grow sick,
And cloy'd with pleasure, squeamishly complain
That all was vanity, and life a dream.
Let nature rest: Be busy for yourself,
And for your friend; be busy even in vain,
Rather than teaze her sated appetites.
Who never fasts, no banquet e'er enjoys;
Who never toils or watches, never sleeps.
Let nature rest: And when the taste of joy
Grows keen, indulge; but shun satiety.
'Tis not for mortals always to be blest.
But him the least the dull or painful hours
Of life oppress, when sober Sense conducts,
And Virtue, thro' this labyrinth we tread.
Virtue and Sense are one: and, trust me, he
Who has not virtue is not truly wise.
Virtue (for mere Good nature is a fool)
Is sense and spirit, with humanity :
Tis sometimes angry, and its frown confounds;
Tis even vindictive, but in vengeance just.
Knaves fain would laugh at it; some great ones dare;