Reason Not a Goddess

June 27th, 2007

From John Dryden’s Religio Laici

[Of the limitations of reason]

Dim, as the borrow’d beams of Moon and Stars

To lonely, weary, wandring Travellers,

Is Reason to the Soul: and as on high,

Those rowling Fires discover but the Sky

Not light us here; so Reason’s glimmering Ray

Was lent not to assure our doubtful way,

But guide us upward to a better Day.

And as those nightly Tapers disappear

When Day’s bright Lord ascend our Hemisphere

So pale grows Reason at Religions Sight:

So dyes, and so dissolves in Supernatural Light.

Some few, whose Lamp shone brighter, have been led

From Cause to Cause, to Natures secret Head;

And found that one first Principle must be:

But what, or who, that universal he;

Whether some Soul incompassing this Ball

Unmade, unmov’d; yet making, moving all;

Or various Atoms’ interfering Dance

Leapt into Form (the Noble work of Chance;)

Or this great All was from Eternity;

Not even the Stagirite himself could see;

And Epicurus Guess’d as well as He:

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