"Wit, like the Belly, if it be not fed, / Will starve the Members, and distract the Head."

— Defoe, Daniel (1660?-1731)

Place of Publication
Printed, and are to be Sold by J. Nutt
1700, 1705
"Wit, like the Belly, if it be not fed, / Will starve the Members, and distract the Head."
Metaphor in Context
Wit, like a hasty Flood, may over-run us,
And too much Sense has oftentimes undone us:
Wit is a Flux, a Looseness of the Brain,
And Sense-abstract has too much Pride to reign:
Wit-unconcoct is the Extream of Sloth,
And too much Sense is the Extream of both;
Abstracted-Wit 'Tis own'd is a Disease,
But Sense-abstracted has no Power to please:
For Sense, like Water, is but Wit condense,
And Wit, like Air, is rarify'd from Sense:
Meer Sense is sullen; stiff, and unpolite,
Meer Wit is Apoplectick, thin, and light:
Wit is a King without a Parliament,
And Sense a Democratick Government:
Wit, like the French, wher'e'er it reigns destroys,
And Sense advanc'd is apt to Tyrannize:
Wit without Sense is like the Laughing-Evil,
And Sense unmix'd with Fancy is the D---l.
Wit is a Standing-Army Government,
And Sense a sullen stubborn P---t:
Wit by its haste anticipates its Fate,
And so does Sense by being obstinate:
Wit without Sense in Verse is all but Farce,
Sense without Wit in Verse is all mine A---.
Wit, like the French, performs before it thinks,
And thoughtful Sense without Performance sinks;
Sense without Wit is Flegmatick and pale,
And is all Head, forsooth, without a Tail:
Wit without Sense is Cholerick and Red,
Has Tail enough indeed, but has no Head.
Wit, like the jangling Chimes, rings all in one,
Till Sense, the Artist, sets them into Tune:
Wit, like the Belly, if it be not fed,
Will starve the Members, and distract the Head
Wit is the Fruitful Womb where Thoughts conceive,
Sense is the Vital Heat which Life and Form must give:
Wit is the Teeming Mother brings them forth,
Sense is the Active Father gives them Worth.
United: Wit and Sense, makes Science thrive,
Divided: neither Wit nor Sense can live;
For while the Parties eagerly contend,
The Mortal Strife must in their mutual Ruin end.
(pp. 165-7, ll. 353-394)
At least 4 entries in ECCO and ESTC (1700, 1705, 1711, 1721).

First published as The Pacificator. A Poem (London: Printed, and are to be Sold by J. Nutt, 1700). <Link to ESTC><Link to EEBO>

Text from A Second Volume of the Writings of The Author of The True-Born Englishman. Some whereof never before printed. Corrected and Enlarged by the Author. (London: Printed, and sold by the Booksellers, 1705).
Date of Entry

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