THE HAPPY SAVAGE
Oh, happy he who never saw the face
Of man, nor heard the sound of human voice!
But soon as born was carried and exposed
In some vast desert, suckled by the wolf
Or shaggy bear, more kind than our fell race;
Who with his fellow brutes can range around
The echoing forest. His rude artless mind
Uncultivated as the soil, he joins
The dreadful harmony of howling wolves,
And the fierce lion’s roar; while far away
Th’ affrighted traveller retires and trembles.
Happy the lonely savage! nor deceived,
Nor vexed, nor grieved; in every darksome cave,
Under each verdant shade, he takes repose.
Sweet are his slumbers: of all human arts
Happily ignorant, nor taught by wisdom
Numberless woes, nor polished into torment.
From AN ESSAY ON VIRTUE
Were once these maxims fixed, that God’s
Virtue our good, and happiness our end.
How soon must reason o’er the world prevail,
And error, fraud, and superstition fail!
None would hereafter then with groundless fear
Describe th’ Almighty cruel and severe,
Predestinating some without pretence
To Heaven, and some to Hell for no offence;
Inflicting endless pains for transient crimes,
And favouring sects or nations, men or times.
To please him none would foolishly forbear
Or food, or rest, or itch in shirts of hair,
Or deem it merit to believe or teach
What reason contradicts, within its reach;
None would fierce zeal for piety mistake,
Or malice for whatever tenet’s sake,
Or think salvation to one sect confined,
And Heaven too narrow to contain mankind.
* * * * *
No servile tenets would admittance find
Destructive of the rights of humankind;
Of power divine, hereditary right,
And non-resistance to a tyrant’s might.
For sure that all should thus for one be cursed,
Is but great nature’s edict just reversed.
No moralists then, righteous to excess,
Would show fair Virtue in so black a dress,
That they, like boys, who some feigned sprite array,
First from the spectre fly themselves away:
No preachers in the terrible delight,
But choose to win by reason, not affright;
Not, conjurors like, in fire and brimstone dwell,
And draw each moving argument from Hell.
* * * * *
No more applause would on ambition wait,
And laying waste the world be counted great,
But one good-natured act more praises gain,
Than armies overthrown, and thousands slain;
No more would brutal rage disturb our peace,
But envy, hatred, war, and discord cease;
Our own and others’ good each hour employ,
And all things smile with universal joy;
Virtue with Happiness, her consort, joined,
Would regulate and bless each human mind,
And man be what his Maker first designed.