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Human Frailty

Weak and irresolute is man;

The purpose of to-day,

Woven with pains into his plan,

To-morrow rends away.


The bow well bent, and smart the spring,

Vice seems already slain;

But passion rudely snaps the string,

And it revives again.


Some foe to his upright intent

Finds out his weaker part;

Virtue engages his assent,

But pleasure wins his heart.


'Tis here the folly of the wise

Through all his art we view;

And, while his tongue the charge denies

His conscience owns it true.


Bound on a voyage of awful length

And dangers little known,

A stranger to superior strength,

Man vainly trusts his own.


But oars alone can ne'er prevail

To reach the distant coast.

The breath of heav'n must swell the sail,

Or all the toil is lost.


William Cowper, 1779

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