"Sense is our helmet, Wit is but the plume; / The plume exposes, 'tis our helmet saves."

— Young, Edward (bap. 1683, d. 1765)

Place of Publication
Printed for G. Hawkins
"Sense is our helmet, Wit is but the plume; / The plume exposes, 'tis our helmet saves."
Metaphor in Context
"Sense is our helmet, Wit is but the plume; / The plume exposes, 'tis our helmet saves."
Wit, how delicious to man's dainty taste!
'Tis precious, as the vehicle of sense;
But, as its substitute, a dire disease.
Pernicious talent! flatter'd by the world,
By the blind world, which thinks the talent rare.
Wisdom is rare, Lorenzo! wit abounds;
Passion can give it; sometimes wine inspires
The lucky flash; and madness rarely fails.
Whatever cause the spirit strongly stirs,
Confers the bays, and rivals thy renown.
For thy renown 'twere well was this the worst:
Chance often hits it; and, to pique thee more,
See, Dulness, blundering on vivacities,
Shakes her sage head at the calamity
Which has exposed and let her down to thee.
But Wisdom, awful Wisdom, which inspects,
Discerns, compares, weighs, separates, infers,
Seizes the right, and holds it to the last;
How rare! in senates, synods, sought in vain!
Or if there found, 'tis sacred to the few;
While a lewd prostitute to multitudes,
Frequent, as fatal, Wit: in civil life,
Wit makes an enterpriser; Sense, a man.
Wit hates authority, commotion loves,
And thinks herself the lightning of the storm.
In states, 'tis dangerous; in religion, death:
Shall Wit turn Christian, when the dull believe?
Sense is our helmet, Wit is but the plume;
The plume exposes, 'tis our helmet saves.

Sense is the diamond, weighty, solid, sound;
When cut by Wit, it casts a brighter beam;
Yet, Wit apart, it is a diamond still.
Wit, widow'd of Good Sense, is worse than nought;
It hoists more sail to run against a rock.
Thus, a half-Chesterfield is quite a fool;
Whom dull fools scorn, and bless their want of wit.
(pp. 180-1, ll. 1232-1267)
Uniform title published in 9 volumes, from 1742 to 1745. At least 133 reprintings after 1745 in ESTC (1747, 1748, 1749, 1750, 1751, 1752, 1755, 1756, 1757, 1758, 1760, 1761, 1762, 1764, 1765, 1766, 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1782, 1783, 1785, 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1797, 1798, 1800).

Edward Young, The Complaint. Or, Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality. Night the Eighth. Virtue's Apology: Or, The Man of the World Answer'd. (London: Printed for G. Hawkins, 1745).

Text from The Complete Works, Poetry and Prose, of the Rev. Edward Young, LL.D., 2 vols. (London: William Tegg, 1854). <Link to Google Books>

Reading Edward Young, Night Thoughts, ed. Stephen Cornford (New York: Cambridge UP, 1989).
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.