Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
On the Origin of Evil
By John Byrom (1692–1763)
 
EVIL, if rightly understood,
Is but the skeleton of good
Divested of its flesh and blood.
 
While it remains, without divorce,
Within its hidden secret source,        5
It is the good’s own strength and force.
 
As bone has the supporting share
In human form divinely fair,
Although an evil when laid bare;
 
As light and air are, fed by fire,        10
A shining good while all conspire,
But, separate, dark raging ire;
 
As hope and love arise from faith
Which then admits no ill, nor hath,
But, if alone, it would be wrath;        15
 
Or any instance thought upon
In which the evil can be none
Till unity of good is gone:—
 
So, by abuse of thought and skill,
The greatest good, to wit, Free Will,        20
Becomes the origin of ill.
 
Thus when rebellious angels fell,
The very Heaven where good ones dwell
Became the apostate spirits’ hell;
 
Seeking against eternal right        25
A force without a love and light
They found, and felt its evil might.
 
Thus Adam, biting at their bait
Of good and evil, when he ate
Died to his first thrice-happy state,        30
 
Fell to the evils of this ball
Which, in harmonious union all,
Were Paradise before his fall,
 
And, when the life of Christ in men
Revives its faded image, then        35
Will all be Paradise again.
 
 
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