A Moral Discourse of Man and Beast


Man is a creature like2 himself alone;
In him all qualities do join3 as one.
When man4 is injured, and his honor stung,5
He seems a lion, furious, fierce, and strong.
With greedy covetousness, like to6 wolves and bears,           5
Right he devours,7 and truth in pieces tears.
Or like as crafty foxes lie in wait
To catch young novice kids8 by their deceit,
So subtle knaves do watch who errors9 make,
That they thereby advantages might10 take,                             10
Not for examples them to rectify,
But that much mischief they can make thereby.
Others, like crouching spaniels, close will set,
Creeping about the partridge to in-net.
Some humble seem, and lowly bend the knee                        15
To men of11 power and authority,
Not out of love to honor and12 renown,
But to ensnare, and so to pull them down.
For13 as a mastiff flies at every throat,
So spite will fly at all that are14 of note.                                    20
With slanderous words, as teeth, good deeds they15 tear,
No power, strength, nor greatness do they spare,16
And are so mischievous,17 love not to see
Any to live without an infamy.
Most do like18 ravenous beasts in blood delight,                     25
And only to do mischief, love to fight.
But some are like to horses, strong and free,
Will gallop over wrong, and injury,
Who19 fear no foe, nor enemies do dread,20
Will21 fight in battles till they fall down dead.                         30
Their heart with noble rage so hot will grow,
That22 from their nostrils clouds of smoke do blow.
And with their hooves the firm hard ground will strike23
In24 anger, that they cannot go to fight.
Their eyes, like flints,25 will shoot26 out sparks of fire;          35
They’ll27 neigh out loud when combats they desire.
So valiant men their foe aloud will call,
To try their strength, and grapple arms withal.
And in their eyes such courage doth appear,
As if god28 Mars did rule that hemisphere.                               40
Some, like to slow, dull asses, full of fear,
Contented are heavy burdens to29 bear,
And every clown doth beat his back and side
Because he’s slow, and faster30 he would31 ride.
Then will he bray out loud, but dare not bite,                          45
For why he hath not courage for32 to fight.
Base minds will yield their heads under the yoke,
Offer their backs to every tyrant’s stroke.
Like fools they’ll33 grumble, but they34 dare not speak,
Nor strive for liberty, their bonds to break.                              50
So dull will those that live in slav’ry35 grow;
Dejected spirits make the body slow.
Others as swine lie groveling in the mire,
Have no heroic thoughts to rise up higher;
They36 from their birth do never sport nor play,                     55
But eat and drink, and grunting run away,
Of grumbling natures, never doing good,37
And cruel are, as of a boorish brood.38
So gluttons, sluggards care for nought but ease,
In conversations seek no man to39 please,                                60
Ambition none,40 to make their name to41 live,
Nor have they generosity to give,
And42 are so churlish, that if any pray
To help their wants, they’ll43 cursing go away.
So cruel are,44 so far from death to save,                                  65
That they will take away the life they45 have.
Some, as the46 fearful hart, or frighted hare,
Shun every noise, and their own shadows fear.
So cowards, that are47 sent in wars to fight,
Think not to beat, but how to make their flight.                      70
The trumpet, when48 to charge the foe it calls,
Then with that sound49 the heart o’th’coward50 falls.
Others, as harmless sheep, in peace do live,
Contented are, no injury will give,
But on the tender grass they51 gently feed,                               75
And neither52 spite nor rankled malice breed.
They53 never in the ways of mischief stood,
To set their teeth in flesh or drink up blood.
They54 grieve to walk alone, and55 pine away,
Grow fat in flocks, and56 with each other play.                        80
The naked they do57 clothe with their soft wool;
The ewes do feed the hungry stomach full.
So gentle natures and sweet dispositions58
Contented live, and shun foolish ambitions,59
Full of compassion, pitying the distressed,                               85
And with their bounty help they60 the oppressed.
They swell not with the pride of self-conceit,
Nor for their neighbor’s life do lie in wait,
Nor innocence by their extortions tear,
Nor fill the widow’s heart with grief or care,                           90
Nor any bribes do take with cov’tous61 hands,
Nor set they back the mark of th’owners’ lands,
But gratefully all courtesies requite,62
Free from all envy, malice, spleen and spite,63
And in64 their conversation,65 meek and mild,                        95
Without lascivious words or actions wild.
Those men66 are fathers to a commonwealth
Where justice lives,67 and truth may show herself.68
Others, as apes, do imitate the rest,
And when they mischief do, seem but to jest.                          100
So are buffoons, which69 seem for mirth to sport,
Whose liberty makes70 factions in a court.
Those that delight in fools must in good part
Take what they say, although their71 words are smart.
And72 many times they73 rankled thoughts beget                   105
In hearts of princes, and much envy set
By praising rivals, or else do reveal
Those faults they should with privacy conceal.74
For when75 a fool unpleasing truth doth tell—76
Or be it false, if like a77 truth it smell—78                                  110
It gets such hold, e’en79 in a wise man’s brain,
That hardly it will ever out again.
Some are80 like worms, upon which others tread,81
And some like ven’mous vipers do sting dead.82
Some like to83 subtle serpents wind about,                               115
To compass their designs crawl in and out,
And never leave until some nest they find,
Suck out the eggs, and leave the shells behind.
So flatterers with praises wind about
A noble mind, to get a secret out,                                                120
For84 flattery through every ear will glide
Down to the heart, and there some time abide,
And in the breast with feignèd friendship lie,
Till to the death it85 stings it86 cruelly.
Thus some like beasts, and some like worms87 are such,      125
But some do flying birds88 resemble much.
Some, like a89 soaring eagle, mount up high;
Wings of ambition bear them to the sky.
And some, like90 hawks, fly round to catch their prey;
Some,91 like to puttocks, bear the chick away;                        130
Some, are like92 ravens, which on carrion feed,
Feeding on spite, which spite doth93 slanders breed.
And like as peacocks proud their tails do94 show,
So men95 that followers have will haughty grow.
Some melancholy owls that hate the light,                               135
And like as bats fly96 in the shades of night;
So envious men their neighbor97 hate to see,
When that he shines98 in great prosperity,
Keep home in discontent, repine at all,
Until some mischief on the good do fall.                                   140
Others, like99 cheerful larks, sing as they fly,
So they100 are merry and101 have no envy,
And some, like102 nightingales, do sweetly sing,
As messengers when they good news do bring.
Thus men, beasts, birds,103 in humours much agree,             145
But several properties in these there104 be.
’Tis proper for a lively horse to neigh,
And for a slow, dull, foolish ass to bray.
For dogs to bark, bulls roar, wolves howl, pigs squeak,
For men to frown, to weep, to laugh, to speak.                        150
Proper for flies to buzz, birds sing and chatter,
Only for men105 to promise, swear, and flatter.
Thus can man’s shape their properties express,106
Yet they have some which all his skill surpass.107
For men want108 wings to fly up to the sky,                             155
Nor can they like to109 fish in waters lie.
What110 man like roes can run so swift, and long?111
Nor are they like to horse, or lions strong.
Nor have they scent like dogs, a hare to find,
Nor112 sight like swine, to see the subtle wind.                       160
Thus several creatures, by their113 several sense,
Have better far (than man)114 intelligence.

These115 several creatures several arts know116 well,117
But man in gen’ral118 doth them far excel.
For arts in men as well did nature119 give,                               165
As other qualities to beasts120 to live.
And from men’s121 brains such fine inventions flow,
As in his head all other heads do grow.
What creature builds like man such122 stately towers,123
And makes124 such things as time cannot devour?                 170
What creature makes such engines as man’s hand,125
To traffic and to use, at sea and land,126
To kill, or127 spoil, or else alive to take,
Destroying all that other creatures make?
This makes man seem of all the world a king,                         175
Because he power hath of everything.
He’ll teach birds words, in measure beasts128 to go,
Makes passions in the mind to ebb and flow.
And though he cannot fly as birds, with wings,
Yet he can take the height and breadth of things.                   180
He knows the course and number of the stars,
But129 birds and beasts are no astrologers.
And though he cannot like to fishes swim,130
Yet nets he makes to catch those fishes in.131
And with his ships the world he’ll circle132 round;                 185
What beast or bird that doth so is yet133 found?
He’ll fell down woods; with axes sharp he’ll134 strike;
Whole herds of beasts can never do the like.
What beast can plead to save another’s life,
Or by his eloquence can end a strife?                                        190
Or counsels give, great dangers for to135 shun,
Or tell the cause of the eclipsèd sun?136
He’ll turn the current of the waters137 clear,
And make that they do like new seas138 appear;
Where fish do139 only in old waters glide,                                195
Can140 cut new rivers out on any side.
He’ll mountains make, which clouds almost do141 touch,
Mountains142 of moles or ants scarce do so much.
What creature like to man can reasons show,
Which makes him know143 that he thereby doth know?       200
And who but man makes use of everything?144
For145 goodness out of poison he can bring.146
’Tis only man that’s fill’d147 with strong desire,
And by his rhet’rick148 sets the soul on fire.
Beasts no ambition have to get a fame,                                      205
Nor build they tombs t’eternalize149 their name.
They never war, high honor for150 to get,
But to secure themselves, or151 meat to eat.
But men are like to gods; they live152 for ever shall;
And beasts are153 like themselves, to dust shall154 fall.          210

  1. of Man and Beast] betwixt Man, and Beast. 1653
  2. like] by 1664, 1668
  3. In him all qualities do join] For in him joyn all Qualities 1664; For in him join all Qualities 1668
  4. man] he 1664, 1668
  5. his honor stung,] sustains a Wrong, 1664, 1668
  6. greedy covetousness, like to] He’s Greedy, Covetous like 1664; He’s Greedy, Covetous, like 1668
  7. Right he devours,] Devoures Right, 1653
  8. novice kids] Novice-Kids 1653; Novice-Kids 1668
  9. who errors] Errours to 1664; Errors to 1668
  10. might] may 1664, 1668
  11. men of] those which have 1653
  12. and] or 1653
  13. For] Or 1653
  14. are] is 1653
  15. they] out 1653
  16. No power, strength, nor greatness do they spare,] Which neither Power, nor Strength, nor Greatnesse spare. 1653
  17. are so mischievous,] so Mischievous they’re, 1664, 1668
  18. do like] like to 1653
  19. Who] For as they 1664; For, as they 1668
  20. do dread,] dread, 1664, 1668
  21. Will] But 1664, 1668
  22. That] As 1653
  23. hooves the firm hard ground will strike] Hoofs they’l strike the Ground, and bite 1664; Hoofs, they’l strike the ground, & bite, 1668
  24. In] For 1664, 1668
  25. like flints,] (like Flints) 1653
  26. shoot] beat 1653
  27. They’ll] Will 1653
  28. god] that 1653
  29. heavy burdens to] great Burthens for to 1653
  30. and faster] when fast that 1653; when faster 1664
  31. would] could 1664, 1668
  32. For why he hath not courage for] Why so? ’cause he no Courage has 1664; Why so, cause he no Courage has 1668
  33. they’ll] will 1653
  34. they] yet 1664, 1668
  35. So dull will those that live in slav’ry] Those that in Slavery live, so dull will 1653; So Dull will those, that Live in Slavery 1664
  36. They] And 1664, 1668
  37. Of grumbling natures, never doing good,] And Cruel are, as of a Boarish brood; 1664; And Cruel are, as of a Boarish Brood, 1668
  38. And cruel are, as of a boorish brood.] Of Grumbling Natures, never doing good. 1664, 1668
  39. seek no man to] will not any 1653
  40. none,] they do Slight 1664; they do slight, 1668
  41. their name to] them 1664, 1668
  42. And] But 1664; But 1668
  43. they’ll] will 1653
  44. are,] and 1664, 1668
  45. That they will take away the life they] As they’l take Life away, that others 1664, 1668
  46. as the] like to 1653
  47. that are] which when 1664, 1668
  48. The trumpet, when] When Trumpet sounds 1653
  49. Then with that sound] And with that noise, 1653
  50. o’th’coward] of th’Coward 1664, 1668
  51. they] do 1664, 1668
  52. And neither] Which do no 1653
  53. They] Which 1664, 1668
  54. They] But 1664; But 1668
  55. and] will 1653
  56. and] will 1653
  57. The naked they do] Which do the Naked 1664, 1668
  58. natures and sweet dispositions] Nature’s Disposition sweet 1653
  59. Contented live, and shun foolish ambitions,] Shun foolish Quarrels, loves the Peace to keep. 1653
  60. help they] helping 1664, 1668
  61. Nor any bribes do take with cov’tous] Nor Bribes will take with covetous 1653
  62. gratefully all courtesies requite,] with a gratefull Heart do still returne 1653
  63. Free from all envy, malice, spleen and spite,] The Curtesies that have for them been done. 1653
  64. And in] In all 1664, 1668
  65. conversation,] Conversations 1664, 1668
  66. Those men] And those 1664, 1668
  67. lives,] is Alive, 1664; is alive, 1668
  68. may show herself.] in Health. 1664; in health. 1668
  69. which] that 1653
  70. makes] fills 1653
  71. their] the 1653
  72. And] But 1653
  73. they] such 1653
  74. they should with privacy conceal.] most fit for privacy to conceale. 1653
  75. when] though 1653
  76. unpleasing truth doth tell—] if he an ill truth tells, 1653
  77. like a] but like 1664, 1668
  78. smell—] smels; 1653
  79. e’en] though 1653; ev’n 1668
  80. Some are] And so 1653
  81. upon which others tread,] some will be troad to Earth, 1653
  82. And some like ven’mous vipers do sting dead.] Others as venemous Vipers stung to death. 1653
  83. Some like to] For like as 1664; For, like as 1668
  84. For] And 1664, 1668
  85. it] he 1653
  86. it] him 1653
  87. like beasts, and some like worm] as Birds, and Beasts, and Flies, 1653
  88. But some do flying birds] To every Creature men 1653; But some, do Flying-birds 1668
  89. a] to 1653
  90. And some, like] Or, like to 1653
  91. Some,] Or like to 1653
  92. are like] like to 1653
  93. Feeding on spite, which spite doth] And some their spight feed on, what 1653
  94. And like as peacocks their tails do] Some like to Peacock his taile to 1653
  95. men] some, 1664, 1668
  96. like as bats fly] as the Bat flyes 1653
  97. neighbor] Neighbours 1664, 1668
  98. that he shines] as they Shine 1664; as they shine 1668
  99. like] as 1653
  100. they] men 1653
  101. and] wich 1653
  102. like] as 1653
  103. beasts, birds,] Birds, Beasts, 1653
  104. But several properties in these there] Though in them all several Proprieties 1664; Though, in them all, several Proprieties 1668
  105. men] Meu 1668
  106. Thus can man’s shape their properties express,] So Men these Properties can imitate, 1653
  107. Yet they have some which all his skill surpass.] But not their Faculties that Nature made. 1653
  108. For men want] Men have no 1653
  109. to] the 1664, 1668
  110. What] No 1664, 1668
  111. long?] long; 1664, 1668
  112. Nor] Or 1653
  113. by their] by 1653
  114. (than man)] than Man, 1664, 1668
  115. These] And 1664, 1668
  116. know] do 1653
  117. Note that while this line begins a separate stanza in 1653, it is run together with the previous lines in 1664 and 1668.
  118. gen’ral] generall, 1653
  119. arts in men as well did nature] Nature Arts as well to Man did 1664; Nature, Arts, as well to Man did 1668
  120. to beasts] in Beast 1653
  121. men’s] Man’s 1664, 1668
  122. such] a 1664, 1668
  123. towers,] Tower, 1664, 1668
  124. makes] make 1653
  125. man’s hand] Man can? 1653
  126. land,] Land? 1664, 1668
  127. or] to 1653
  128. beasts] Beast 1653; Beast 1664. In the 1664 Errata list, “Beast” is corrected to “Beasts”; this correction is also carried forward into 1668.
  129. But] When 1664, 1668
  130. like to fishes swim,] Swim like Fish, he’l make 1664, 1668
  131. Yet nets he makes to catch those fishes in.] Angles and Nets, those Fish withall to take; 1664; Angles and Nets, those Fish withall to take: 1668
  132. the world he’ll circle] hee’l circle the World 1653
  133. doth so is yet] can do so, is 1653
  134. he’ll] will 1653
  135. great dangers for to] how Dangers may be 1664, 1668
  136. of the eclipsèd sun?] or how Eclipses come? 1653
  137. waters] Water 1653
  138. that they do like new seas] them like new Seas for to 1653
  139. fish do] Fishes 1653
  140. Can] He’l 1664, 1668
  141. He’ll mountains make, which clouds almost do] Hee Mountaines makes so high, the Cloudes will 1653
  142. Mountains] Small Hills 1664, 1668
  143. know] sure, 1664, 1668
  144. everything?] every thing, 1653
  145. For] As 1653
  146. bring.] bring? 1653
  147. ’Tis only man that’s fill’d] Thus Man is filled a 1653
  148. rhet’rick] Rhetorick 1664, Rhetorick, 1668
  149. t’eternalize] thereon to write 1653
  150. high honor for] Honour and Fame 1664; Honour and Fame 1668
  151. or] their 1664, 1668
  152. But men are like to gods; they live] In short, Men like to Gods, 1664; In short, Men like to Gods, 1668
  153. And beasts are] Live; but Beasts 1664; Live: but Beasts, 1668
  154. shall] must 1664, 1668