Essay on Man, Epistle I [excerpt]
VI. What would this Man? Now upward will he soar, And little less than Angel, would be more; Now looking downwards, just as griev'd appears To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears. Made for his use all creatures if he call, Say what their use, had he the pow'rs of all? Nature to these, without profusion kind, The proper organs, proper pow'rs assign'd; Each seeming want compensated of course, Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force; All in exact proportion to the state; Nothing to add, and nothing to abate. Each beast, each insect, happy in its own; Is Heav'n unkind to Man, and Man alone? Shall he alone, whom rational we call, Be pleas'd with nothing, if not bless'd with all? The bliss of Man (could Pride that blessing find) Is not to act or think beyond mankind; No pow'rs of body or of soul to share, but what his nature and his state can bear. Why has not Man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason, Man is not a Fly. Say what the use, were finer optics giv'n, T' inspect a mite, not comprehend the heav'n? Or touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er, To smart and agonize at ev'ry pore? Or quick effluvia darting thro' the brain, Die of a rose in aromatic pain? If nature thunder'd in his op'ning ears, And stunn'd him with the music of the spheres, How would he wish that Heav'n had left him still The whisp'ring Zephyr, and the purling rill? Who finds not Providence all good and wise, Alike in what it gives, and what denies? VII. Far as Creation's ample range extends, The scale of sensual, mental pow'rs ascends: Mark how it mounts, to Man's imperial race, From the green myriads in the peopled grass: What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme, the mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam: Of smell, the headlong lioness between, And hound sagacious on the tainted green: Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood, To that which warbles thro' the vernal wood: The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine! Feels at each thread, and lives along the line: In the nice bee, what sense so subtly true From pois'nous herbs extracts the healing dew: How Instinct varies in the grov'ling swine, Compar'd, half-reas'ning elephant, with thine: 'Twixt that, and Reason, what a nice barrier; For ever sep'rate, yet for ever near! Remembrance and Reflection how ally'd; What thin partitions Sense from Thought divide: and Middle natures, how they long to join, Yet never pass th' insuperable line! Without this just gradation, could they be Subjected these to those, or all to thee? The pow'rs of all subdu'd by thee alone, Is not thy Reason all these pow'rs in one? VIII. See, thro' this air, this ocean, and this earth, All matter quick, and bursting into birth. Above, how high progressive life may go! Around, how wide! how deep extend below! Vast chain of being, which from God began, Natures æthereal, human, angel, man, Beast, bird, fish, insect! what no eye can see, No glass can reach! from Infinite to thee, From thee to Nothing—On superior pow'rs Were we to press, inferior might on ours: Or in the full creation leave a void, Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd: From Nature's chain whatever link you strike, Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike. And if each system in gradation roll, Alike essential to th' amazing whole; The least confusion but in one, not all That system only, but the whole must fall. Let Earth unbalanc'd from her orbit fly, Planets and Suns run lawless thro' the sky, Let ruling Angels from their spheres be hurl'd, Being on being wreck'd, and world on world, Heav'n's whole foundations to their centre nod, And Nature tremble to the throne of God: All this dread Order break—for whom? for thee? Vile worm!—oh Madness, Pride, Impiety! IX. What if the foot, ordain'd the dust to tread, Or hand to toil, aspir'd to be the head? What if the head, the eye, or ear repin'd To serve mere engines to the ruling Mind? Just as absurd for any part to claim To be another, in this gen'ral frame: Just as absurd, to mourn the tasks or pains The great directing Mind of All ordains. All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body Nature is, and God the soul...
This poem is in the public domain.