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Himself, as in the hollow of his hand,
The learned elders sat appallid, amaz’d,
And the astonish'd world in me beheld
Parent of wicked, bane of honest deeds,
And now the whole perplex'd ignoble crowd,
My prophets and my sophists finish'd here The civil efforts of the verbal war : Not so my rabbins and logicians yield; Retiring, still they combat; from the field Of open arms unwilling they depart, And skulk 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 gloss enlarg'd, And captious science against reason charg'd.
Soon their crude notions with each other fought;
O wretched impotence of human mind!
Vain man ! since first thy blushing sire essay'd
With outward smiles their flattery I receiv'd, Own'd my sick mind by their discourse reliev'd; But bent, and inward to myself, again Perplex’d, these matters I revolv'd in vain. My search still tir'd, my labour still renew'd, At length I ignorance and knowledge view'd, Impartial; both in equal balance laid, [weigh’d. 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 faster flies.
The little which imperfectly we find,
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 dazzled with too bright a day ; And from the summit of a pathless coast Sees infinite, and in that sight is lost.
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 ; With 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 ?
Book II. - PLEASURE.
Texts chiefly alluded to in Book II. “ I said in my own heart, Go to now, I will prove
thee with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure.”
Eccles. chap. ii. ver. 1. ti I made me great works, I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards.".
“ I made me gardens and orchards; and I planted
trees in them of all kind of fruits.”. Ver. 5. “ I made me pools of water, to water therewith the
wood that bringeth forth trees." - Ver. 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."Ver. 11. “ I gat me men-singers and women-singers, and the
delights of the sons of men, as musical instru
ments, and that of all sorts." - Ver. 8. “ 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 days of their life.".
Ver. 3. “ Then I said 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.” — Ver. 15. “ Therefore I hated life, because the work that is
wrought under the Sun is grievous unto me."
Ver. 17. « Dead Aies cause the ointment to send forth a
stinking savour : so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour."
- Ch.'a. ver. 1.