A Dialogue betwixt Man and Nature

’Tis1 strange,
How we do change.2
First to live, and then to die,
Is a great3 misery.

To give us sense, great4 pains to feel!5                                         5
To make6 our lives to be7 Death’s wheel,8
To give us sense and reason too,9
Yet know not what we’re made to do.10
Whether to atoms turn, or to Heav’n11 fly,
Or change into new forms12 and never die,                               10
Or else to matter prime to13 fall again,
Thence14 take new forms, and so always15 remain.
Nature gives no such knowledge to mankind,
But strong desires to torment the16 mind,
And senses, which like hounds do run about,                           15
Yet never can the perfect truth find out.
O Nature—Nature!—17cruel to mankind,
Gives knowledge none, but misery to find.

Why doth mankind complain and make such moan?18
May not I work my will with what’s my own?                           20
But men amongst19 themselves contract and make
A bargain for my tree; that tree they20 take,
Which21 cruelly they22 chop in pieces small,
And form23 it as they24 please, then build25 withal,
Although that tree by me was made to stand26                         25
Just as it grows, not to be cut by man.27

O Nature,28 trees are dull and have no sense,
And therefore feel no29 pain, nor take offense.

But beasts have life and sense, and passions30 strong,31
Yet cruel man doth kill, and doth them wrong.                         30
To take that life I gave before the time32
I did ordain, the injury is mine.33

What ill man doth, Nature did make him do,34
For35 he by Nature is prompt thereunto.
For it was in great Nature’s power and will                               35
To make him as she pleased, either good36 or ill.
Though beasts have37 sense, feel38 pain, yet whilst they live,
They reason want for to dispute or grieve.
Beasts have39 no pain but what in sense doth lie,
Nor troubled thoughts to think how they shall die.                  40
Reason doth stretch man’s mind upon the rack,
With hopes and40 joys pulled up, with fear pulled back.
Desire whips him forward, makes him run;41
Despair doth wound, and pulls him back again.
For Nature, thou mad’st man betwixt extremes,                       45
Wants perfect knowledge, yet42 thereof he dreams.
For had he been like to a stock or stone,
Or like a beast, to live with sense alone.
Then might he eat, or43 drink, or lie stone-still,44
Ne’er troubled be, neither for Heav’n nor45 Hell.                     50
Man knowledge hath enough for to inquire,
Ambition great enough for to aspire.
He hath this knowledge: that46 he knows not all,
And that himself he knoweth least of all,47
Which makes him wonder, and think there are mixed48        55
Two several qualities in nature fixed.
The one like love, the other like to hate,
And49 striving both they do shut out wise fate.50
And then sometimes, man thinks as one they be,
Which makes contrariety51 so well agree,                                  60
That though the world was52 made by love and hate,
Yet all is ruled and governèd by Fate.
These are man’s fears; man’s hopes run smooth and high,
Who53 thinks his mind is some great deity.
For though the body is of low degree,                                         65
In sense like beasts, their souls54 like gods shall be.

Says Nature: Why doth man complain and cry,
If he believes his soul shall never die?

  1. ’Tis] TT is most 1664; IT is most 1668. The 1664 Errata list corrects “TT” to “it” (“IT”).
  2. change.] change! 1668
  3. Is a great] Is the greatest 1664, 1668
  4. great] for nought but 1664, 1668
  5. feel!] feele, 1653; feel, 1664
  6. make] makes 1664
  7. to be] only to be 1664, 1668
  8. wheel,] Wheel! 1668
  9. sense and reason too,] Reason, and yet not to know 1664; Reason, and yet not to know 1668
  10. Yet know not what we’re made to do.] What we are made for, or what we must do, 1664; What we are made for, or what we must do; 1668
  11. to Heav’n] Heaven up 1653
  12. change into new forms] into new Formes change, 1653
  13. matter prime to] the prime Matter 1664, 1668
  14. Thence] From thence to 1653
  15. so always] so 1653
  16. to torment the] which do torment his 1664, 1668
  17. O Nature—Nature!—] O Nature! Nature! 1653, 1668; O Nature, Nature, 1664
  18. moan?] moan, 1664
  19. amongst] among 1653
  20. they] will 1653
  21. Which] Most 1653
  22. they] do 1653
  23. form] formes 1653
  24. they] he 1653
  25. build] builds 1653
  26. was made to stand] to stand, was grac’d, 1664, 1668
  27. not to be cut by man.] by none to be Defac’d. 1664; by none to be defac’d. 1668
  28. Nature,] Nature! 1668
  29. no] not 1653
  30. passions] passion 1653
  31. A marginal note in 1664 and 1668 reads, “Nature.” This note does not appear in 1653.
  32. I gave before the time] before the time, which I 1664, 1668
  33. I did ordain, the injury is mine.] Ordain’d for them, ’s to me an Injury. 1664; Ordain’d for them, to me’s an Injury. 1668
  34. A marginal note in 1664 and 1668 reads, “Man.” This note does not appear in 1653.
  35. For] And 1664, 1668
  36. either good] good 1664; Good 1668
  37. beasts have] Beast hath 1653
  38. feel] feels 1653
  39. Beasts have] Beast hath 1653
  40. and] with 1653
  41. whips him forward, makes him run;] doth Whip and makes him run amain; 1664; doth whip, and makes him run amain: 1668
  42. yet] though 1664, 1668
  43. or] and 1664, 1668
  44. or lie stone-still,] and all be well, 1664; and all be well; 1668
  45. neither for Heav’n nor] either for Heaven, or 1653
  46. He hath this knowledge: that] And Knowledge hath, that yet 1653
  47. that himself he knoweth least of all,] of himself his Knowledge is but small, 1664; of himself, his Knowledg is but small: 1668
  48. think there are mixed] thinks there is mixt 1653; think there are mixt, 1668
  49. And] By 1653
  50. they do shut out wise fate.] hinders Predestinate. 1653
  51. makes contrariety] makes that Contraries 1664; makes, that Contraries 1668
  52. was] were 1653
  53. Who] Which 1653
  54. souls] Soul’s 1664
  55. The speech prefix “Nature” appears in 1664 and 1668, but not in 1653.