Ask for what end the heav’nly bodies shine,
Earth for whose use? Pride answers, “‘Tis for mine:
For me kind Nature wakes her genial Pow’r,
Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev’ry flow’r;
Annual for me, the grape, the rose renew
The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew;
For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings;
For me, health gushes from a thousand springs;
Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise;
My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies.”
But errs not Nature from his gracious end,
From burning suns when livid deaths descend,
When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep
Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep?
“No, (’tis reply’d) the first Almighty Cause
Acts not by partial, but by gen’ral laws;
Th’ exceptions few; some change since all began:
And what created perfect?” — Why then Man?
If the great end be human Happiness,
Then Nature deviates; and can Man do less?
As much that end a constant course requires
Of show’rs and sun-shine, as of Man’s desires;
As much eternal springs and cloudless skies,
As Men for ever temp’rate, calm, and wise.
If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav’n’s design,
Why then a Borgia, or a Catiline?
Who knows but he, whose hand the lightning forms,
Who heaves old Ocean, and who wings the storms;
Pours fierce Ambition in a Caesar’s mind,
Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind?
From pride, from pride, our very reas’ning springs;
Account for moral, as for nat’ral things:
Why charge we Heav’n in those, in these acquit?
In both, to reason right is to submit.
Better for Us, perhaps, it might appear,
Were there all harmony, all virtue here;
That never air or ocean felt the wind;
That never passion discompos’d the mind.
But All subsists by elemental strife;
And Passions are the elements of Life.
The gen’ral Order, since the whole began,
Is kept in Nature, and is kept in Man.
—from Epistle 1