"Coldly Profane And Impiously Gay"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The poet begins by saying that books are a refuge for the despondent, as the pains in books are less than those of real life; or they may be so much greater than our own that we are reconciled to our lot. He describes how the books are arranged in the library: first, noble folios, followed by quartos, octavos, and duodecimos. They are also grouped by subject, the first being divinity. These books, however, do not give us the great and important truths by which we could live; instead, they are mainly concerned with religious controversy and hair-splitting distinctions. The writers have been motivated more by spleen than by desire to inform. Sect contends against sect, from the Athanasians against the Arians down to the controversies of modern times. Next to the works on divinity are those on skepticism, which are for the most part of the modern period. The writers of these works lack deep learning, genius, and grace. But what they lack in depth of learning they make up in numbers. Some are serious in their dubious claims; others are more flippant, coldly profane, and impiously gay.

Near to these seats, behold yon slender frames,
All closely fill'd and mark'd with modern names;
Where no fair science ever shows her face,
Few sparks of genius, and no spark of grace;
There sceptics rest, a still-increasing throng,
And stretch their widening wings ten thousand strong;
Some in close fight their dubious claims maintain;
Some skirmish lightly, fly and fight again;
Coldly profane, and impiously gay,
Their end the same, though various in their way.