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Book III.


Pleasure in observing the tempers and manners of men, even where vicious or absurd. The origin of vice, from false representations of the fancy, producing false opinions concerning good and evil. Inquiry into ridicule. The general sources of ridicule in the minds and characters of men, enumerated. Final cause of the sense of ridicule. The resemblance of certain aspects of inanimate things to the sensations and properties of the mind. The operations of the mind in the production of the works of imagination, described. The secondary pleasure from imitation. The benevolent order of the world illustrated in the arbitrary connection of these pleasures with the objects which excite them. The nature and conduct of taste. Concluding with an account of the natural and moral advantages resulting from a sensible and well-formed imagination.

WHAT Wonder therefore, since the endearing ties
Of passion link the universal kind

Of man so close, what wonder if to search
This common nature through the various change
Of sex, and age, and fortune, and the frame
Of each peculiar, draw the busy mind
With unresisted charms? The spacious west,
And all the teeming regions of the south,
Hold not a quarry, to the curious flight
Of knowledge, half so tempting or so fair,
As man to man. Nor only where the smiles
Of Love invite; nor only where the applause

Of cordial Honour turns the attentive eye
On Virtue's graceful deeds. For since the course
Of things external acts in different ways
On human apprehensions, as the hand
Of Nature temper'd to a different frame
Peculiar minds; so haply where the powers
Of Fancy neither lessen nor enlarge

The images of things, but paint, in all.
Their genuine hues, the features which they wore
In nature; there Opinion will be true,
And Action right. For Action treads the path
In which Opinion says he follows good,
Or flies from evil; and Opinion gives
Report of good or evil, as the scene
Was drawn by Fancy, lovely or deform'd:
Thus her report can never there be true
Where Fancy cheats the intellectual eye,
With glaring colours and distorted lines.
Is there a man, who at the sound of Death
Sees ghastly shapes of terrour conjur'd up,
And black before him; nought but death-bed groans
And fearful prayers, and plunging from the brink
Of light and being, down the gloomy air

An unknown depth? Alas! in such a mind,
If no bright forms of excellence attend

The image of his country; nor the pomp
Of sacred senates, nor the guardian voice
Of Justice on her throne, nor aught that wakes
The conscious bosom with a patriot's flame;
Will not Opinion tell him, that to die,
Or stand the hazard, is a greater ill
Than to betray his country? And in act

Will he not choose to be a wretch and live?

Here vice begins then. From the enchanting cup
Which Fancy holds to all, the unwary thirst
Of youth oft swallows a Circæan draught,
That sheds a baleful tincture o'er the eve
Of Reason, till no longer he discerns,
And only guides to err. Then revel forth

A furious band that spurns him from the throne !
And all is uproar.
Thus Ambition grasps
The empire of the soul: thus pale Revenge
Unsheaths her murderous dagger; and the hands
Of Lust and Rapine, with unholy arts,

Watch to o'erturn the barrier of the laws

That keeps them from their prey: thus all the plagues

The wicked bear, or o'er the trembling scene
The tragic Muse discloses, under shapes
Of honour, safety, pleasure, ease, or pomp,
Stole first into the mind. Yet not by all
Those lying forms which Fancy in the brain
Engenders, are the kindling passions driven
To guilty deeds; nor Reason bound in chains,
That Vice alone may lord it: oft adorn'd
With solemn pageants, Folly mounts the throne,
And plays her idiot-antics, like a queen.
A thousand garbs she wears; a thousand ways
She wheels her giddy empire. - Lo! thus far
With bold adventure, to the Mantuan lyre
I sing of Nature's charms, and touch well pleas'd
A stricter note: now haply must my song
Unbend her serious measure, and reveal
In lighter strains, how Folly's awkward arts

Excite impetuous Laughter's gay rebuke;
The sportive province of the comic Muse.

See! in what crowds the uncouth forms advance : Each would outstrip the other, each prevent Our careful search, and offer to your gaze, Unask'd, his motley features. Wait a while, My curious friends! and let us first arrange, In proper order, your promiscuous throng.

Behold the foremost band; of slender thought, And easy faith; whom flattering Fancy soothes With lying spectres, in themselves to view Illustrious forms of excellence and good, That scorn the mansion. With exulting hearts They spread their spurious treasures to the Sun, And bid the world admire! but chief the glance Of wishful Envy draws their joy-bright eyes, And lifts with self-applause each lordly brow. In numbers boundless as the blooms of spring, Behold their glaring idols, empty shades By Fancy gilded o'er, and then set up For adoration. Some in Learning's garb, With formal band, and sable-cinctur'd gown, And rags of mouldy volumes. Some elate With martial splendour, steely pikes and swords Of costly frame, and gay Phoenician robes Inwrought with flowery gold, assume the port Of stately Valour: listening by his side There stands a female form; to her, with looks Of earnest import, pregnant with amaze, He talks of deadly deeds, of breaches, storms, And sulphurous mines, and ambush: then at once Breaks off, and smiles to see her look so pale,

And asks some wondering question of her fears.
Others of graver mien; behold, adorn'd
With holy ensigns, how sublime they move,
And bending oft their sanctimonious eyes
Take homage of the simple-minded throng;
Ambassadors of Heaven! Nor much unlike
Is he whose visage, in the lazy mist
That mantles every feature, hides a brood
Of politic conceits; of whispers, nods,

And hints deep-omen'd with unwieldy schemes,
And dark portents of state.
Ten thousand more,
Prodigious habits and tumultuous tongues,
Pour dauntless in, and swell the boastful band.
Then comes the second order, all who seek
The debt of praise, where watchful Unbelief
Darts through the thin pretence her squinting eye
On some retir'd appearance, which belies
The boasted virtue, or annuls the applause
That Justice else would pay. Here side by side
I see two leaders of the solemn train

Approaching one a female old and grey,
With eyes demure, and wrinkle-furrow'd brow,
Pale as the cheeks of Death; yet still she stuns
The sickening audience with a nauseous tale;
How many youths her myrtle-chains have worn,
How many virgins at her triumphs pin'd!
Yet how resolv'd she guards her cautious heart;
Such is her terrour at the risks of love,

And man's seducing tongue! The other seems
A bearded sage, ungentle in his mien,

And sordid all his habit; peevish Want
Grins at his heels, while down the gazing throng

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