A Dialogue betwixt Learning and Ignorance

Thou busy forester, that seek’st about1
The world, to find the heart of Learning out,
Or, Perseus-like, foul monsters thou dost kill,
Rude Ignorance, which nothing dost but2 ill.

O thou proud3 Learning, that stand’st4 on tiptoes high,      5
Yet canst not5 reach to know the deity,
Nor where the cause of any one thing lies,
But fill’st6 man full of care and miseries.
Learning inflames the thoughts to take great pains,
Doth nought but make an alms tub of the brains.                10

Learning doth seek about new things to find,
In that pursuit, doth recreate the mind.
It is a perspective, Nature to spy,7
Can all her curiosities8 descry.

Learning’s a9 useless pain, unless it have                              15
Some ways or means to keep us from the grave.
For what is all the world, if understood,
If we it do not use,10 nor taste its11 good?
Learning may come to know the use of things,
Yet not receive the good which from them springs.             20
For life is short, and learning long; ere we12
May come to use what’s learnèd, dead we be.13

O Ignorance, thou beast!14 which dull and lazy15 liest,
And only eat’st, sleepest,16 till thou diest.

The lesson Nature taught is, most delight                               25
To please the senses and17 the appetite.18
I, Ignorance, am still the Heav’n19 of bliss,
For in me lies the truest happiness.
Give me still20 Ignorance, that harmless ’state,21
That paradise, that’s free from envious hate.                        30
Learning that22 tree was whereon knowledge grew;
Tasting that fruit, man nought but mis’ry23 knew.
Had man but knowledge Ignorance to24 love,
He happy would have been as25 gods above.

O Ignorance! How foolish thou dost talk!26                           35
Is’t happiness in ignorance to walk?
Can there be joy in darkness more than light?
Or pleasure more in blindness than in sight?

  1. seek’st about] searchest ’bout 1653
  2. nothing dost but] alwaies doeth 1653
  3. O thou proud] Proud 1664, 1668
  4. that stand’st] thou that stands 1664, 1668
  5. Yet canst not] Can never 1653
  6. fill’st] fill 1653
  7. spy,] espie, 1653
  8. curiosities] Curiosity 1653; Curiosity 1664
  9. a] an 1653
  10. it do not use,] do use it not, 1653
  11. its] the 1653
  12. long; ere we] tedious, long: 1653
  13. May come to use what’s learnèd, dead we be.] Before we come to use what’s Learned, Life’s gone. 1653
  14. beast!] Beast, 1653, Beast, 1664
  15. dull and lazy] Lazy 1664; lazy 1668
  16. sleepest,] and Sleepest, 1664, 1668
  17. senses and] Sense, and eke 1653
  18. The lesson … appetite.] [In 1668, these two lines are assigned to Learning, not Ignorance.]
  19. Heav’n] Heaven 1653
  20. still] but 1664, 1668
  21. harmless ’state,] Innocent Estate,1653; harmless state, 1668
  22. that] a 1653
  23. nought but mis’ry] onely Misery 1653; nought but Misery 1664
  24. but knowledge, Ignorance to] to Ignorance but had more 1664; to Ignorance, but had more 1668
  25. as] as th’ 1664, 1668
  26. thou dost talk!] doest thou Talk? 1664; dost thou talk? 1668