THE MAN AND THE FLEA
by: John Gay (1685-1732)
POEMS BY JOHN GAY
- HETHER on earth, in air, or main,
- Sure ev'ry thing alive is vain!
- Does not the hawk all fowls survey,
- As destin'd only for his prey?
- And do not tyrants, prouder things,
- Think men were born for slaves to kings?
- When the crab views the pearly strands,
- Or Tagus bright with golden sands,
- Or crawls beside the coral grove,
- And hears the ocean roll above,
- "Nature is too profuse," says he,
- "Who gave all these to pleasure me!"
- When bord'ring pinks and roses bloom,
- And ev'ry garden breathes perfume,
- When peaches glow with sunny dyes
- Like Laura's cheek when blushes rise,
- When with huge figs the branches bend,
- When clusters from the vine depend,
- The snail looks round on flow'r and tree,
- And cries, "All these were made for me!"
- "What dignity's in human nature,"
- Says Man, the most conceited creature,
- As from a cliff he cast his eye,
- And view'd the sea and arched sky!
- The sun was sunk beneath the main,
- The moon and all the starry train
- Hung the vast vault of heav'n. The Man
- His contemplation thus began:
- "When I behold this glorious show,
- And the side watry world below,
- The scaly people of the main,
- The beasts that range the wood or plain,
- The wing'd inhabitants of air,
- The day, the night, the various year,
- And know all these by heav'n design'd
- As gifts to pleasure human kind,
- I cannot raise my worth too high;
- Of what vast consequence am I!"
- "Not of th'importance you suppose,"
- Replies a Flea upon his nose;
- "Be humble; learn thyself to scan;
- Know, pride was never made for Man.
- 'Tis vanity that swells thy mind.
- What, heav'n and earth for thee design'd!
- For thee! made only for our need,
- That more important Fleas might feed."