Sunday, June 23, 2013


False Greatness

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), "False Greatness," in his Horae Lyricae, 2nd ed. (London: Printed by J. Humfreys, for N. Cliff, 1709), pp. 173-174:
Mylo, forbear to call him blest
That only boasts a large Estate,
Should all the Treasures of the West
Meet, and conspire to make him Great.
I know thy better Thoughts, I know
Thy Reason can't descend so low.
Let a broad Stream with Golden Sands
    Thro' all his Meadows roll,
He's but a Wretch with all his Lands
    That wears a narrow Soul.

He swells amidst his wealthy Store,
And proudly poizing what he weighs,
In his own Scale he fondly lays
    Huge Heaps of shining Oar.
He spreads the Ballance wide to hold
    His Mannors and his Farms,
And cheats the Beam with Loads of Gold
    He hugs between his Arms.
So might the Plough-Boy climb a Tree
    When Croesus mounts his throne,
And both stand up, and smile to see
    How long their Shadow's grown.
Alas! how vain their Fancies be
    To think that Shape their own!

Thus mingled still with Wealth and State
Croesus himself can never know;
His true Dimensions and his Weight
Are far inferiour to their Show.
Were I so tall to reach the Pole,
Or grasp the Ocean with my Span,
I must be measur'd by my Soul:
The Mind's the standard of the Man.

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