1 Nothing thou Elder Brother even to Shade
2 Thou hadst a being ere the world was made
3 And (well fixt) art alone of ending not afraid.
4 Ere Time and Place were, Time and Place were not
5 When Primitive Nothing, somthing straight begott
6 Then all proceeded from the great united what---
7 Somthing, the Generall Attribute of all
8 Severed from thee its sole Originall
9 Into thy boundless selfe must undistinguisht fall.
10 Yet Somthing did thy mighty power command
11 And from thy fruitfull Emptinesses hand
12 Snatcht, Men, Beasts, birds, fire, water, Ayre, and land.
13 Matter, the Wickedst offspring of thy Race
14 By forme assisted flew from thy Embrace
15 And Rebell-Light obscured thy Reverend dusky face.
16 With forme and Matter, Time and Place did joyne
17 Body thy foe with these did Leagues combine
18 To spoyle thy Peaceful Realme and Ruine all thy Line.
19 But Turncote-time assists the foe in vayne
20 And brib'd by thee destroyes their short liv'd Reign
21 And to thy hungry wombe drives back thy slaves again.
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22 Though Misteries are barr'd from Laick Eyes
23 And the Divine alone with warrant pries
24 Into thy Bosome, where thy truth in private lyes
25 Yet this of thee the wise may truly say
26 Thou from the virtuous Nothing doest delay
27 And to be part of thee the wicked wisely pray.
28 Great Negative how vainly would the wise
29 Enquire, define, distinguish, teach, devise,
30 Didst Thou not stand to poynt their blind Phylosophies.
31 Is or is not, the two great Ends of ffate
32 And true or false the Subject of debate
33 That perfect or destroy the vast designes of State---
34 When they have wrackt the Politicians Brest
35 Within thy Bosome most Securely rest
36 And when reduc't to thee are least unsafe and best.
37 But (Nothing) why does Somthing still permitt
38 That Sacred Monarchs should at Councell sitt
39 With persons highly thought, at best for nothing fitt,
40 Whilst weighty Somthing modestly abstaynes
41 ffrom Princes Coffers and from Statesmens braines
42 And nothing there like Stately nothing reignes?
43 Nothing who dwell'st with fooles in grave disguise
44 ffor whom they Reverend Shapes and formes devise
45 Lawn-sleeves and ffurrs and Gowns, when they like thee looke wise:
46 ffrench Truth, Dutch Prowess, Brittish policy
47 Hibernian Learning, Scotch Civility
48 Spaniards Dispatch, Danes witt, are Mainly seen in thee;
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49 The Great mans Gratitude to his best freind
50 Kings promises, Whors vowes towards thee they bend
51 fflow Swiftly into thee, and in thee ever end.
Daniel Defoe's remarks on this poem, from his Political History of the Devil:
Speakers = narrator, Devil, Lord Graceless
Having thus articled with the Devil for liberty of speech, 1 shall talk of him sometimes in the singular, as a person, and sometimes in the plural, as a host of devils, or of infernal spirits; just as occasion requires, and as the history of his affairs makes necessary.
But before I enter upon any part of his history, the nature of the thing calls me back, and my lord B-— of in his late famous orations in defence of liberty, summons me to prove that there is such a thing or such a person as the Devil; and, in short, unless I can give some evidence of his existence, as my lord said very well, I am talking of nobody.
D-mn me, sir, says a graceless comrade of his to a great man, your grace will go to the Devil.
D-mn ye, sir, says the d , then I shall go nowhere ; I wonder where you intend to go ?
Nay, to the Devil too, I doubt, says Graceless, for I am almost as wicked as my lord duke.
D. Thou art a silly empty dog, says the devil ,and if there is such a place as a hell, though I believe nothing of it, it is a place for fools, such as thou art.
Gr. I wonder, then, what heaven the great wits go to, such as my lord duke ? I don't care to go there, let it be where it will; they are a plaguy tiresome kind of people, there's no bearing them, they'll make a hell wherever they come.
D. Prithee, hold thy fool's tongue; I tell thee, if there is any such place as we call nowhere, that's all the heaven or hell that I know of, or believe anything about.
Gr. Very good, my lord —; so that heaven is nowhere, and hell is nowhere, and the Devil is nobody, according to my lord duke!
D. Yes, sir, and what then ?
Gr. And you are to go nowhere when you die, are you?
D. Yes, you dog; don't you know what that incomparable noble genius, my lord Rochester, sings upon the subject; I believe it unfeignedly ;
( sings,) After death nothing is,
And nothing death.
Gh. You believe it, my lord! you mean, you would fain believe it if you could ; but since you put that great genius, my lord Rochester, upon me, let me play him back upon your grace; I am sure you have read his fine poem upon Nothing, in one of the stanzas of which is this beautiful thought,
And to be part of thee
The wicked wisely pray.
D. You are a foolish dog.
Gr. And my lord duke is a wise infidel.
D. Why! is it not wiser to believe no Devil, than
to be always terrified at him ?
Gh. But shall I toss another poet upon you, my lord ?
If it should so fall out, as who can tell, / But there may be a God, a heaven, and hell,
/ Mankind had best consider well, for fear / 't should be too late when their mistakes appear.
D. D-mn your foolish poet, that's not my lord Rochester.
Gr. But how must I be damn'd, if there's no Devil ? Is not your grace a little inconsistent there ? My lord Rochester would not have said that, an 't please your grace.