Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies.
Fortune in men has some small difference made,
One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade;
The cobbler aproned, and the parson gowned,
The friar hooded, and the monarch crowned.
“What differ more (you cry) than crown and cowl?”
I ’ll tell you, friend; a wise man and a fool.
You ’ll find, if once the monarch acts the monk,
Or, cobbler-like, the parson will be drunk,
Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow;
The rest is all but leather or prunella.
Stuck o’er with titles, and hung round with strings,
That thou mayst be by kings, or whores of kings;
Boast the pure blood of an illustrious race,
In quiet flow from Lucrece to Lucrece;
But by your fathers’ worth if yours you rate,
Count me those only who were good and great.
Go! if your ancient but ignoble blood
Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood,
Go! and pretend your family is young,
Nor own your fathers have been fools so long.
What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards?
Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards.
* * * * *
Who wickedly is wise, or madly brave,
Is but the more a fool, the more a knave.
Who noble ends by noble means obtains,
Or, failing, smiles in exile or in chains,
Like good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed
Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.
Alexander Pope, from “An Essay on Man,” Epistle IV.