Satires "The Worst Of Madmen Is A Saint Run Mad"


"The Worst Of Madmen Is A Saint Run Mad"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this poetic epistle, dedicated to William Murray, later Lord Mansfield, Pope says to his friend that some people subscribe to the notion of Horace, as translated by Richard Creech, "Not to admire, is all the art I know,/ To make men happy, and to keep them so." Pope, on the other hand, suggests that one can be led by such a thought to fear either to admire or to express admiration. He admits that the pleasures of the world are vain, but that one should not let life be guided by fear of admiring or desiring them. Pope, a true son of neoclassical, eighteenth century English culture, makes a case for the middle course, for going to neither extreme in desiring or disdaining worldly vanities:

If weak the pleasure that from these can spring,
The fear to want them is as weak a thing:
Whether we dread, or whether we desire,
In either case, believe me, we admire:
Whether we joy or grieve, the same the curse,
Surprised at better, or surprised at worse.
Thus good or bad, to one extreme betray
Th' unbalanced mind, and snatch the man away;
For Virtue's self may too much zeal be had;
The worst of madmen is a saint run mad.