Democritus and his Neighbours. Imitated from Fontaine.
No MS; 1713 Misc, 285-8.
[Page 285] IN Vulgar Minds what Errors do arise!
How diff'ring are the Notions, they possess,
From theirs, whom better Sense do's bless,
Who justly are enroll'd amongst the Learn'd and Wise!
Democritus, whilst he all Science taught,
Was by his foolish Neighbors thought
Distracted in his Wits;
Who call his speculative Flights,
His solitary Walks in starry Nights,
But wild and frantick Fits.
Bless me, each cries, from such a working Brain!
And to Hippocrates they send
The Sage's long-acquainted Friend,
To put in Tune his jarring Mind again,
And Pericranium mend.
[Page 286] Away the Skilful Doctor comes
Of Recipes and Med'cines full,
To check the giddy Whirl of Nature's Fires,
If so th' unruly Case requires;
Or with his Cobweb-cleansing Brooms
To sweep and clear the over-crouded Scull,
If settl'd Spirits flag, and make the Patient dull.
But asking what the Symptoms were,
That made 'em think he was so bad?
The Man indeed, they cry'd, is wond'rous Mad.
You, at this Distance, may behold him there
Beneath that Tree in open Air,
Surrounded with the Engines of his Fate,
The Gimcracks of a broken Pate.
Those Hoops a Sphere he calls,
That Ball the Earth;
And when into his raving Fit he falls,
'Twou'd move at once your Pity, and your Mirth,
To hear him, as you will do soon,
Declaring, there's a Kingdom in the Moon;
[Page 287] And that each Star, for ought he knows,
May some Inhabitants enclose:
Philosophers, he says, may there abound,
Such Jugglers as himself be in them found;
Which if there be, the World may well turn round;
At least to those, whose Whimsies are so strange,
That, whilst they're fixt to one peculiar Place,
Pretend to measure far extended Space,
And 'mongst the Planets range.
Behold him now contemplating that Head,
From which long-since both Flesh, and Brains are fled;
Questioning, if that empty, hollow Bowl
Did not ere while contain the Human Soul:
Then starts a Doubt, if 't were not to the Heart
That Nature rather did that Gift impart.
Good Sir, employ the utmost of your Skill,
To make him Wiser, tho' against his Will;
Who thinks, that he already All exceeds,
And laughs at our most solemn Words and Deeds:
[Page 288] Tho' once amongst us he wou'd try a Cause,
And Bus'ness of the Town discuss,
Knowing as well as one of us,
The Price of Corn, and standing Market-Laws;
Wou'd bear an Office in his Turn,
For which good Purposes all Men were born;
Not to be making Circles in the Sand,
And scaling Heav'n, till they have sold their Land;
Or, when unstock'd below their Pasture lies,
To find out Bulls and Rams, amidst the Skies.
From these Mistakes his Madness we conclude;
And hearing, you was with much Skill endu'd,
Your Aid we sought. Hippocrates amaz'd,
Now on the Sage, now on the Rabble gaz'd;
And whilst he needless finds his artful Rules,
Pities a Man of Sense, judg'd by a Croud of Fools.
Then how can we with their Opinions join,
Who, to promote some Int'rest, wou'd define
The People's Voice to be the Voice Divine?
Rpt of 1713: 1903 Reynolds, 208-10.
La Fontaine, "Democrite et les Abderitains," VIII, 26, 238-9 .
Perhaps her last poem derived La Fontaine, it's interesting that for once she calls attention to her source text. She has written a chaste or controlled Pindaric which is a close paraphrase of La Fontaine's original. Finch omit only La Fontaine's Epicurean atomist philosophy. She also adds Finch lively details of marketplaces and those sudden concise arresting landscapes, vastness turned into the very small which is the hallmark of great 18th century poetry (e.g., "His solitary Walks on starry Nights"). Finch was fascinated by forbidden "erring" philosopers in spite of herself. Tis is one of those poems which show Finch's taste or poetical spirit at cross-purposes from her chosen combined genres (here a pindaric fable).
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003