Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
Poems of Sentiment: II. Life
The Ruling Passion
Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
From “Moral Essays,” Epistle I.

  SEARCH thou the ruling passion; there, alone,
The wild are constant, and the cunning known;
The fool consistent and the false sincere;
Priests, princes, women, no dissemblers here.
*        *        *        *        *
In this the lust, in that the avarice,        5
Were means, not ends; ambition was the vice.
*        *        *        *        *
  In this one passion man can strength enjoy,
As fits give vigor just when they destroy.
Time, that on all things lays his lenient hand,
Yet tames not this; it sticks to our last sand.        10
Consistent in our follies and our sins,
Here honest Nature ends as she begins.
  Old politicians chew on wisdom past,
And totter on in business to the last;
As weak, as earnest; and as gravely out,        15
As sober Lanesborough dancing in the gout.
  Behold a reverend sire, whom want of grace
Has made the father of a nameless race,
Shoved from the wall perhaps, or rudely pressed
By his own son, that passes by unblessed:        20
Still to his wench he crawls on knocking knees,
And envies every sparrow that he sees.
  A salmon’s belly, Helluo, was thy fate.
The doctor, called, declares all help too late.
“Mercy!” cries Helluo, “mercy on my soul!        25
Is there no hope?—Alas!—then bring the jowl.”
  The frugal crone, whom praying priests attend,
Still tries to save the hallowed taper’s end,
Collects her breath, as ebbing life retires,
For one puff more, and in that puff expires.        30
  “Odious! in woollen! ’t would a saint provoke,”
Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke;
“No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace
Wrap my cold limbs, and shade my lifeless face:
One would not, sure, be frightful when one ’s dead,—        35
And—Betty—give this cheek a little red.”
  The courtier smooth, who forty years had shined
An humble servant to all human-kind,
Just brought out this, when scarce his tongue could stir,
“If—where I ’m going—I could serve you, sir?”        40
  “I give and I devise” (old Euclio said,
And sighed) “my lands and tenements to Ned.”
Your money, sir? “My money, sir! what, all?
Why—if I must” (then wept)—“I give it Paul.”
The manor, sir? “The manor, hold!” he cried,        45
“Not that,—I cannot part with that,”—and died.
And you, brave Cobham! to the latest breath
Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death;
Such in those moments as in all the past,
“O, save my country, Heaven!” shall be your last.        50

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