The Reigning Vice.

Book VI.

The following Book is an attempt to elucidate the manner in which the more violent
and evil passions of our nature take their rise :— to refer them all to the great sub-
ject of the whole Poem, viz. Self-love ;— and, at the same time, still further to
prove that Self-content is the dearest aim of our existence, by shewing, that what-
ever aids this mighty tendency is grateful to our nature ; while, on the other hand,
whatever counterworks it, is the cause of our most unhappy excesses.
Trace the dark passions ;— view their strength uncurb’d ;1
The wildest are but self-content disturb’d :2
As natures vary, they derive their growth3
From outraged Pride, or Vanity, or both :4
Envy and Spite, to Vanity allied,5
Hate and Revenge, the baneful tares of Pride.6
That Envy’s vex’d self-love from this is clear7
Each only envies what has cross’d his sphere ;8
There if superior wealth or parts be shewn,9
We feel the silent satire on our own.10
Comparison wakes rivalry. The clown11
Sighs for your night-cap, not a monarch’s crown.12
No lordly fete, but neighbour Stubbs’s ball,13
ngos the spendthrift grocer to his fall.14
Voltaire contented owns a Buffon’s fame,15
And breathes his vapours round a Corneille’s name.16
Eclipsed by others, how we strain our powers17
To reach their lot, or pull them down to ours !18
Hence Malice opes her keen unwinking eyes,19
And all her tongues industrious Slander plies.20
Detraction spreads her universal itch ;—21
What’s robb’d from others may ourselves enrich.22
Then, oh, the bliss, when they, whose radiant fire23
Fretted our sight ; in some dark shade expire !24
A thousand knaves exult o’er Virtue’s pall,25
And many a frail one hails Lucretia’s fall.26
Nor only joy we our reproof is gone ;—27
Our stars may twinkle, when the sun’s withdrawn.28
Hence does the soul, with microscopic eye,29
Its neighbour’s faults, its own perfections, spy ;30
For its own faults, for others’ virtues, grope31
Through the wrong end of Pride’s dim telescope.32
Hence, colour’d by our own distemper’d thoughts,33
Our faults seem virtues, others’ virtues, faults.34
Show is your glory, but Pomposo’s vice ;35
Prudence in you, in me is avarice.36
What in Amyntor is undue expense,37
In me is spirit, is benevolence.38
Our self-detraction self-applause betrays,39
Others we censure while we seem to praise.40
Thus Vappa cries— “ ’Tis Prudens we can trust,41
Whose maxim is—ere generous be just !42
Who to the world a rare example sets,43
And seldom gives, but always pays his debts.44
Sould I thus stint my hand, ’twere well for me45
But, ah, my vice is generosity !”46
How blest,” sighs Caleb, “ are the tranquil throng!47
Impetuous feeling ever leads me wrong,48
Quick is my temper, and my zeal offends ;—49
But, fire to foes, I’d go through fire for friends.50
Oh that like thee, Æqualis, I could prove,51
And, dipp’d in Lethe, neither hate nor love !”52
“Then why not,” Reason cries, “ conceal, correct53
That which you say you mourn as a defect ?54
Here, let me whisper truth !— It is a sin,55
Which, as it glitters, may be gloried in !”56
Next Jealousy’s mix’d agonies explore ;—57
Wounded Self-love lies rankling at the core.58
Pure Love were bless’d its object’s bliss to know,59
Ours, to be happy, must that bliss bestow.60
Deserted !— And a rival too preferr’d !61
Then, then, the depths of human hate are stirr’d !62
Thus all proclaims our Nature’s mighty bent63
To aim at Heaven and snatch supreme content.64
Reft of this light, how dark the prospect lies,65
How blind our hopes, how vain our tendencies !66
Blot this—how wild our joy and sorrow seems !67
Disclose it—order through the chaos beams !68
Why else should evil yield the soul delight ?69
Our very crimes betray the Infinite !70
On filth we prey, celestial food denied,71
And plunder Hell to calm insatiate Pride.72
More ! More ! she cries—till every source she drains,73
Then, lean as Famine, sucks her very veins.74
Explore her joys ;— of all the brood accurst75
Dominion glares, the strongest and the first.76
Why turns the tyrant to a frantic brute ?77
Abuse of power proclaims it absolute.78
We strain the cords that bind our struggling prey,79
Because ’tis luxury to feel our sway,80
And, if our triumph other eyes tatest,81
Exult—for captives grace a pageant best.82
This governs insult, regulates caprice83
Towards the paid flatterer, or dependant niece.84
Ev’n village pedants feel the joys of power,85
The beadle struts his consequential hour,86
And the starch’d housekeeper, with rustling state,87
Against th’ unlicensed stranger locks the gate.88
Hence the strange bliss of cruelty, confest89
(Dread truth !) an instinct of the human breast.90
Babes torture flies, as Nero tortured men,91
To feel the privilege of giving pain.92
As cruelty to sentient beings shewn,93
’Tis mischief exercised on wood and stone,94
All own the mighty impulse to destroy,95
The king, an rae and the child, a toy.96
For Pride would dwell alone beneath the skies,97
And on the ruins of Creation rise.98
Hence to insult the fall’n mankind are prone,99
Eager to prove authority their own.100
New power is nectar. ’Tis a pleasant thing101
To cage a lion, or to try a King.102
Behold unsceptred Charles from trial led !103
What jeering crowds heap insult on his head !104
He drops his truncheon ;— none of all around105
Will stoop to lift Power’s emblem from the ground.106
Buffooning soldiers mock his kingly grace,107
And puff tobacco in the royal face.108
Nor less Napoleon; bound by fortune’s chain,109
Swell’d the base triumph of the low and vain.110
What dear delight, and at how cheap a price,111
To reign—an oracle of good advice !112
To roll the homily, that never ends,113
O’er scape-grace nephews, and imprudent friends !114
Should they amend, to us the praise be due,115
They do us credit, and our precepts too.116
Should their wild courses lead to want and woe,117
Why then—we always said it would be so.118
Next by comparison we raise our pride,119
And smile to see the balance on our side.120
Not in themselves mankind’s misfortunes please,121
But as, by contrast, they enhance our ease.122
When others tumble, how the laugh runs round123
From us who stand with both legs on the ground !124
Hence the sad tale, hence tragic scenes delight,125
And howling tempests lull the wintry night.126
Hence children strive the idiot to annoy,127
While his poor rage provokes their brutal joy.128
Themselves widekian unconscious they compare,129
And shew him off to make the contrast glare,130
Their reason glories in his folly’s length,131
His weakness is a flattery on their strength.132
Distinctions charm—illustrious or absurd133
No matter ! so they mark us from the herd !134
A star—a ribbon—a conceit—a lie135
Queens have no legs, and monarchs never die.136
Cheap joys we scorn, and emulously seize137
The post of Fame before the post of Ease.138
The lowest fear lest lower should encroach,139
As boors press forward when they mount a coach,140
Hence rarest baubles virtuosos seek,141
And all their pleasure’s watchword is— “ Unique.”142
As natures vary, tyrants rack their brain143
To find new pleasure, or invent new pain ;144
And, in a humbler sphere, at fame we try,145
With singing, drinking, or a neckcloth’s tie.146
Hence all monopolies delight the mind,147
They raise our fame, and mark us from mankind ;148
Monopolies of Wisdom, Rule, or Place,149
And—direr still—monopolies of Grace.150
Religion’s self, who should enlarge our powers151
To her vast sphere, is narrow’d down to ours,152
And Satan triumphs while his slaves compel153
The arms of Heaven to aid the cause of Hell,154
One truth at least no sophistry can hide155
The pride of bigots is the basest pride.156
What ! shall we see indulgent Heaven unfold157
Hopes for the timid, warnings for the bold,158
Love for the generous, interest for the mean,159
Yet stint her drama to a single scene ?160
Shall bounded man the Infinite confine,161
And mete the Measureless by rule and line?162
Or Him restrain, whose universal soul163
Rolls in the restless wave from Pole to Pole,164
Sweeps in the wind, spreads effluent in the light,165
And gazes through the myriad eyes of Night166
If such thy aim, all sounds to one subdue,167
And bleach the rainbow to a single hue !168
As gems deep-buried bear a costlier price,169
Forbidden-joys the spirit most entice,170
Vex’d that one bliss should lie beyond her grasp,171
Pride drops all else, the coy delight to clasp.172
Of flowers beneath our feet we take no heed,173
But climb Sin’s precipice to snatch a weed,174
And Disobedience, perilously sweet,175
To stolen waters lures the wandering feet.176
Ev’n in small things the same caprice enchains,177
The spot, that’s near us, still unseen remains ;178
The book, we sent for with such eager haste,179
Rests on the shelf, and vainly courts our taste.180
What we possess appears of homelier cost ;181
But how we prize it when the thing is lost !182
Swift to his nymph the lover spurs his horse,183
But, near her gate, he checks his headlong course.184
With adverse winds the sea of Love runs high,185
But, with the dying gale, the billows die.186
Why thus should Pride remoter joys pursue,187
Why slight the old, and sigh for something new ?188
She strives by fresh excitement to create189
Perpetual feeling of her high estate190
Heaps proof on proof—demands with every hour191
Revived assurance of her sovereign power192
With stronger walls her citadel enfolds,193
And frames new titles to the store she holds.194
The miser’s treasure, which he starves to win,195
Is but an outpost of the wealth within.196
Each added mite confirms his morbid pride,197
Charms for a moment—then is flung aside, .198
And all seems nothing, while the globe contains199
One spark of precious metal in her veins.200
Ev’n Power itself grows worthless, when possest ;201
Could boundless empire calm the Persian’s breast ?202
He weeps for other kingdoms to subdue,203
And cannot rest with all the stars in view.204
Nor yet all evil are the joys of Pride,205
At times to loftiest ecstasy allied.206
Aspiring Natures hence the world adorn,207
And frown on pleasure with a virtuous scorn.208
Hence patriot ardour fires the generous blood,209
The noble selfishness of doing good.210
Bold thought, bright fancy, hence their bliss have won,211
And try their eagle pinions at the sun.212
Hence the deep rapture, when in youth, at first,213
The soul’s own glories on her vision burst.214
Ere yet she knows the limits of her reign,215
Imagination doubles the domain,216
A joy unmatch’d by all that life can bring,217
Where Truth still halts behind Invention’s wing.218
All-potent Flattery, universal Lord !219
Reviled, yet courted ; censured, yet adored !220
How thy strong spell each human bosom draws,221
The very echo to our self-applause !222
Tis thine to smooth the furrow’d brow of Pique,223
Wrinkle with smiles the sour reluctant cheek,224
Silence the wrathful, make the sullen speak,225
Disarm a tyrant, tame a father’s curse,226
Wring the slow farthing from the miser’s purse,227
Subdue Lucretia even when gold shall fail,228
And make Apicius smile o’er cheese and ale !229
At thy behest, with contradiction strange,230
Our thoughts of others in a moment change.231
We call Hydaspes a conceited dunce ;232
We learn he praised us—he’s a wit at once !233
Thou, who through life on dainty fare wouldst live,234
Caress’d, prized, honour’d—hear the rules I give !235
’Tis skill, not force, guides music’s tuneful sphere,236
Storms lull to sleep, but Zephyrs wake the year.237
First, learn to listen well. Both old and young238
Love listening ears beyond a Seraph’s tongue.239
Attention charms, when praise steals noteless by,240
And silence is the sweetest flattery.241
Use positives in praise ;— there lurks a sting242
In— “ very excellent—considering !”243
See some old beauty bridle up with rage,244
To hear— “ How well you look, Ma’am—for your age !”245
The candles blaze, the fire burns bright and clear,246
We breathe our poem in a critic’s ear.247
Far above mediocrity !” he cries ;—248
We sigh and shrug, and drop our woeful eyes !249
Of the dull phrase— “ You are improved”—take heed ;250
It hints still more improvement one may need.251
We love the praise to wit, not labour, given,252
For native Genius is a ray from Heaven.253
Else why, Philomelus, so prompt to say,254
I draw untutor’d, and by ear I play ?”255
Examine with due caution, ere you speak,256
Who love direct eulogium, who oblique.257
The man you cannot to his face commend,258
Praise through the medium of a mutual friend.259
Assent, unvaried, tries the nicer ear,260
And haply breeds a doubt if you’re sincere.261
Advance your own opinion then, and still262
Seem only vanquish’d by superior skill.263
But, chief, the ruling foible well explore,264
Where each is soonest flatter’d, soonest sore.265
With master hand call forth the master tone,266
Strike but that chord, and all the man’s your own.267
What all concede ’tis labour lost to praise,268
Reserve your breath some doubtful point to raise; .269
Consult a blockhead, laugh at wit in Lords,270
For actions always flatter more than words :271
When fools tell stories, change your wondering tones272
From the gay giggle to pathetic groans.273
By seeming censure oft applause confer ;—274
Say to old Hunks— “ You’re far too liberal, sir !”275
So shall mankind approve thy honest zeal,276
And thy fair stomach never lack a meal.277
But, oh! ’twere better dig the hardest soil !278
Appeasing vanity is heavy toil ;279
hen life is ending, ’tis but just begun,280
And oft the work of years is in an hour undone.281
If Pride be thus in smiling peace disclosed,282
How must she shake creation, when opposed !283
We judge not rivers from their quiet course,284
But learn their fury from the torrent’s force.285
Scan then her wrath ;— behold her in the hour286
Of baffled will, and ineffectual power ;287
On blind dull elements she wreaks her hate,288
Grows mad with Nature, and contends with Fate.289
In monarchs’ hands, she wields the whip and chain290
To scourge and fetter the rebellious main ;291
In fractious children, clamours for the moon,292
Or rends, in mobs, the long-delay’d balloon.293
Howe’er men differ—all in this agree,294
A slight is nature’s keenest injury. .295
What marvel this should raise the soul to strife !296
It touches on the very nerve of life ;297
Our inmost being in its fort assails,298
Stings to the quick, and flays us to the nails.299
’Tis Discord’s apple—tis the Centaur’s robe !300
It fires the tamest, it embroils the globe !301
Keen at St James’s points the civil speech,302
And bursts at Billingsgate in “ W—e and B—h !”303
When Pride meets Pride, then Strife her banner shakes,304
Gods rush to combat, and Olympus quakes.305
True, one must fail, yet spoils can neither boast,306
For ’tis the weakest shews her strength the most.307
Crush’d, but not conquer’d, she the field maintains,308
Triumphant o’er her victor and her pains.309
No sigh shall reach the air, no muscle start,310
While Agony is eating out her heart.311
Then, then, the soul is all transform’d to Hate,312
Blood, blood alone its frantic thirst can sate.313
What bitter joys the immortal spirit swell,314
To tread the trampler, triumph where we fell !315
Grant but revenge, what grief can touch the soul,316
What pain can torture ?— We have won the goal !317
Midst crumbling ruin Pride undaunted glows,318
Like Samson, blest to perish with her foes,319
What makes revenge the manna of the heart ?320
The cure is dearest of the bitterest smart.321
Why can this only yield the spirit rest ?322
It re-enthrones the idol of the breast !323
Hence, when a thousand wrongs convulse the mind,324
It curdles into hate of all mankind,325
Pride’s rage, as boundless as her thwarted aim,326
Slaughters whole hecatombs to clear her shame.327
Read Byron by this light ;— how strangely clear328
Does then this riddle of our age appear !329
In early conflict with the mean and coarse,330
His springs of life were poison’d at the source.331
Capricious Fortune chafed his restless pride332
Alike in what she granted and denied.333
She gave him titles, but refused him gold,334
Gave manly beauty, yet deform’d its mould ;335
Smiled for a few brief hours, then wrapt his name336
In darkest vapours of opprobrious fame.337
With strange extremes she mark’d his wayward fate,338
A nation’s worhip and a nation’s hate ;339
Bade him in grief to distant lands retire,340
A widow’d husband and a childless sire ;341
Till all the tenor of his troubled life342
Became a contradiction and a strife.343
What marvel, then, alternate throbs should form344
His verse an earthquake, and his soul a storm ?345
That aicomy wrath with kindness should contend,346
And all seem foes, himself to all a friend ?347
Oh judge him gently ! for to him was given348
A feeling soul—that fatal gift of Heaven !349
And every thrill that through the poet ran,350
Was only keener torture to the man.351
Oh judge him gently ! Were thy soul as much352
Form’d to exult or shiver at a touch,353
Couldst thou, like him, draw fame from every sigh,354
Like him, in Freedom’s noblest quarrel die ?355
Neglect, what thousand woes attest thy smart,356
The ruin’d temper, and the broken heart ;357
Beauty turn’d canker in deserted bloom,358
Pale Genius fading to an early tomb ;359
Louring Distrust, Suspicion’s darker mien,360
And all the virulence of letter’d spleen !361
Neglect’s an ill nor gods nor men endure,362
Worse—that it scarce admits complaint or cure :363
Injustice rouses—force inspires mankind,—364
But this dead weight is nightmare to the mind.365
In vain contempt to raise the spirit tries,366
We feel ourselves below what we despise.367
Coldness and Scorn, so loftily belied,368
Are but uneasy stilts of halting Pride.369
Elaborate despising is pretence,370
For true contempt is but indifference.371
How sad his lot, who, laid upon the shelf,372
Finds that no mortal rates him as himself !373
The blank misgivings of a twilight mind,374
To its own meanness conscious, not resign’d.375
’Mid talent’s circle neither in nor out,376
Perpetual effort, and perpetual doubt !377
In nobler souls Neglect more error breeds,378
As desert gardens bear the rankest weeds.379
The poor in good to mighty mischief fly,380
And, failing Fame, will catch at Infamy ;381
Then right and left the venom’d arrows hurl’d,382
Take wild sarcastic vengeance on the world.383
Hence sudden rancour in the words of some384
Strikes in a moment friendly converse dumb ;385
A spiteful something, which, in careless hours,386
Glares on you, like the serpent’s eye through flowers.387
They purr and purr, then lance their talons out,388
And what has roused their malice is a doubt.389
As ’tis a joy to weigh our lot with worse,390
To weigh it with the better is a curse.391
Hence the strong bias of the human mind,392
To its own level to bring all mankind.393
Ye stanch republicans, who loudly hide394
Your pride beneath the very hate of pride,395
Why does Equality your ardour move,—396
The fondest dream of exquisite Self-love ?397
Hence sour Old Age looks grim on girls and boys,398
And mars the pleasure it no more enjoys.399
Sum, in one word, what Pride would most escape400
’Tis Degradation in its every shape.401
Hence to small favours gratitude belongs402
Favours too great to be return’d are wrongs :403
Make a dependent, and your lavish pelf404
Hell’s keenest curse !— degrades him to himself.405
Hence the world’s pity Pride indignant flies,406
Because she knows ’tis Triumph in disguise ;407
Griefs may be shewn from which there’s none exempt ;408
But all hide sorrows that ensure contempt.409
Ev’n its own pity will the spirit shun,410
And talk of happiness when most undone.411
’Tis for this cause we suffer with less pain412
The world’s abhorrence than the world’s disdain,413
Rather than fools amuse, the virtuous shock,414
And stand a portent, than a laughing-stock.415
Mortals, though censured, may be great and wise,416
But what all laugh at is what all despise.417
Bear to be laugh’d at !— Bring me forth the man,418
The Devil, or the Demi-god, who can.419
Heroes sword-proof are vulnerable here420
All-daring Virtue withers at a sneer ;421
Ev’n awful Wisdom dreads the jesting fool,422
And Truth herself turns pale at ridicule.423
Go, brave the tempest’s shock—the cannon’s roar424
Wild howling monsters on a savage shore425
Earth’s, Ocean’s, Heaven’s artillery—and then426
Shrink into nothing at the laugh of men !427
There is in each a more especial part,428
Where Self sits throned, great Empress of the heart.429
Touch not on this, and men with grateful ease430
Will hear advice—nay, take it—if they please !431
We, in our friends, may certain errors chide,432
For there are faults which well assort with pride ;433
But here Self-love—her tenderness is such434
Shrinks, like the snail, from ev’n a distant touch.435
Attack thy friend—his wife—his purse—his game436
Succeeding years may still endear thy name437
Hurt his Self-love—then timely quit the field438
Self-love’s deep wounds are never to be heal’d.439
You mourn your fault—why, that confirms it more,440
And explanation frets the rankling sore.441
His tongue forgives, while fury swells his breast,442
For deepest injuries are least exprest.443
Go,” he exclaims, “ you wrong me, my good friend,444
To think so small a matter could offend.”445
Young Harry whored and drank, and fought and gamed,446
Still his sire’s will the darling spendthrift named.447
Young Harry drew him dancing in the gout,448
And then the graceless rascal was struck out.449
For one more sin no mercy hope to meet,450
A once successful, now detected cheat.451
Pride hates to think that ev’n a mote can shun452
Her eyes, more piercing than the noon-day sun.453
Unhappy Fire King ! hence a nation’s rage454
Drove thee and all thy wonders from the stage.455
Away, vile wretch, of fame and bread bereaved,456
For cheating those who wish’d to be deceived !457
Opinion’s difference we from Pride detest,458
The true Procrustes of the human breast.459
While others’ sentiments with ours agree,460
How kind—how meek—how moderate are we !461
When others’ arguments our own supplant,462
How rude—how furious—how intolerant !463
Oh, not for kingdoms would our wrath afford464
The paltry triumph of the poor last word !465
What makes our struggle and our wrath so strong ?466
Are others right ?— why then we’re in the wrong.467
To each, the landmark of unerring taste468
Is ever that which he himself hath placed,469
And all mankind must rise or fall in sense,470
To that approaching, or receding thence.471
O, man of soundest intellect !” we cry472
In Truth’s plain dialect— “ he thinks as I.”473
While— “ prating coxcomb—shallow-pated elf!”474
Means— “ toto cœlo, differing from myself.”475
Howe’er the little pronoun we disguise476
Sink it in sounds, in letters pluralize,477
We think,’— “ Men say,”—or “ This the world has pass’d,”—478
Is “ So I think,” and “ So I act,” at last.479
Of all the ills that curse life’s thorny waste,480
Preserve me from the bigotry of Taste !481
Some think the man, who dares to disagree482
With their dear selves, far gone in villainy ;483
Who to their favourite pudding are averse,484
Forsooth, are dangerous, and might steal your purse ;485
Who on their darling author fail to dote,486
Would hardly hesitate to cut a throat !487
A san-benito, pitch and fire, and sticks,488
Were far too good for such vile heretics.489
Their soul ’s in arms, that such vile taste is shewn,490
So very vile !— because ’tis not their own.491
Go, in eternal folly pass thy life,492
Seduce a virgin, or corrupt a wife ;493
Thy flatterers feed, thy creditors defraud ;—494
The world will pardon and perhaps applaud !495
Or be ridiculous to make men stare,496
And they will laud thee to the empty air ;—497
But dare not for thyself be singular !498
From men’s dull boundaries if thou dare depart,499
For thy own comfort, or thy peace of heart ;500
Instruct by wisdom, by example teach,501
And grasp at excellence they cannot reach ;502
Choose thy own morals, or thy shoe-string’s tie,503
Tis pride, ’tis treason, ’tis insanity !504
Down with the wretch, who gains that height accurst,505
To differ from themselves, of crimes the worst !506
The reason’s clear ;— by differing you condemn,507
Your conduct is a silent lash at them.508
Besides, you shew you scorn their paltry laws,509
Above their worthless censure, or applause.510
’Tis in Opinion—arbitrary Queen511
The strongest features of vex’d Pride are seen,512
Ev’n now I see her banner wide unfurl’d ;513
I see her rise, Bellona of the World !514
Her arms a poniard, and a sword, embrued,515
That with domestic, this with foreign blood ;516
A torch, a stake, some holy blood in bottle ;517
A Hobbes, a Bible, and an Aristotle !518
Wide slips of parchment on her head she ties,519
Scribbled with curses, ravings, blasphemies.520
Sedition, Tyranny, around her dance,521
Mad Hate, blind Zeal, and drunken Ignorance.522
Exploding vapours, kindling, round her roll,523
Now rend an eggshell, now convulse the pole :—524
Thrones, footstools, altars, mandarins o’erturn ;525
And now a book, and now a martyr burn.526
Where’er she moves, ten million throats are stirr’d ;527
All gabble, each unhearing, each unheard ;528
Opprobrious names rise jostling o’er the din,529
Eutychian, Witch, Whig, Tory, Jacobin530
Swine-eater, Saint ;— and, ’midst the mighty pother,531
Each mortal excommunicates the other.532
They dance, they riot, they embrace, they fight,533
And all are wrong, and each is in the right.534
Come, pierce with me yon last abode of ill,535
Where Reason guides no more the human will ;536
Explore the cause of her dominion lost,537
’Tis Pride o’erstrained to ecstasy in most.538
Here gaze on Nature’s workings unrestrain’d,539
Here souls are free, although the limbs be chain’d.540
The fane is rent, the veils are drawn aside,541
Yet still enthroned remains the idol—Pride.542
The woes she wrought, she teaches to endure,543
For mighty mischiefs tend themselves to cure.544
Here only true content the soul can gain,545
Burst from the bars ’gainst which she beat in vain.546
See how she climbs, when nought impedes her road !547
Who shall control yon maniac? He is God !548
The golden secret theirs, fond dreamers rest,549
And scholars square the circle, and are blest.550
Weep not for these ; let men thy grief employ,551
Who walk abroad, not mad enough for joy ;552
Who, scarce deluded, try from straw to frame553
The crown of empire, or the wreath of Fame !554
See, then, through all, one bias of the mind ;555
Pride ’s the last passion that deserts mankind.556
It prompts the future, chronicles the past,557
Clings to the lowest, haunts us to the last.558
From their true names the knave and scoundrel fly ;559
Thieves have their honour, whores their chastity,560
To men’s opinions ev’n in death we cling,561
With cries of innocence our scaffolds ring ;562
And the lost wretch still acts his human part,563
Smiles on his lip, self-murder in his heart.564
The soul deprest, to find its level, boils,565
Turn’d from its point the magnet back recoils.566
Self-preservation is not more confest567
The i of life, than to make being blest ;568
And if our peace be ruin’d beyond hope,569
What can remain ?— A pistol, or a rope !570
Thy rack, Disgrace, what mortal can abide ?571
The worst of human ills is humbled Pride.572
But all these pangs, each arm’d with tenfold force,573
Assail the stormy bosom of Remorse.574
What kind relief can Hope or Memory urge,575
Thyself the offender, and thyself the scourge ?576
On whom can Pride the soul to vengeance stir,577
When Self ’s the injured and the injurer ?578
If Guilt such torments can on earth create,579
How dread th’ eternity of fix’d Self-hate !580
This the true Hell, the worm beyond the tomb,581
The unconsuming fires, that still consume.582
Despair’s true form was ne’er beheld below,583
Ev’n dark Self-murder is escape from woe !584
Death brings the dread reality to light,585
Once fled from life, man finds no farther flight.586
Then wakes a pang beyond our fancy’s scope,587
Joy’s strong desire without its power or hope.588
No sense remains, soft minister of joy,589
No frame which impious frenzy may destroy.590
Bound down to gaze, with everlasting eye,591
On its own loathsome, mean deformity,592
The soul shall writhe, still sensitive to fame,593
One thought of horror, and immortal shame.594