網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Virtuous and vicious ev'ry Man must be,
Few in th' extreme, but all in the degree;
The rogue and fool by fits is fair and wife;
And ev❜n the beft, by fits, what they despise.
'Tis but by parts we follow good or ill; 235
For, Vice or Virtue, Self directs it still;
Each individual feeks a fev'ral goal;

But HEAVEN'S great view is One, and that the
Whole.

That counter-works each folly and caprice;
That difappoints th'effect of ev'ry vice;

240

COMMENTARY.

O Vice being unfettled, Men conclude that Vice itself is only

nominal.

VER. 231. Virtuous and vicious ev'ry Man must be,] There is yet a third cause of this error of no Vice, no Virtue, compofed of the other two, i. e. partly fpeculative, and partly practical. And this alfo the Poet confiders (from Ver. 230 to 239) fhewing it arifeth from the imperfection of the beft characters, and the inequality of all: whence it happens that no Man is extremely virtuous or vicious; nor extremely conftant in the pursuit of either. Why it fo happens, the Poet informs us, who with admirable fagacity affigns the caufe in this line:

"For, Vice or Virtue, SELF directs it ftill."

An adherence or regard to what is, in the fenfe of the world, a man's own intereft, making an extreme, in either, impoffible. Its effect in keeping a good man from the extreme of Virtue, needs no explanation; and in an ill Man, Self-interest shewing him the neceffity of fome kind of reputation, the procuring and preferving that, will neceffarily keep him from the extreme of Vice.

VER. 239 That counter-werks each folly and caprice ;] The mention of this principle, that Self directs vice and virtue, and its confequence, which is, that

That, happy frailties to all ranks apply'd ;
Shame to the virgin, to the matron pride,
Fear to the statesman, rashness to the chief,
To kings prefumptión, and to crowds belief:
That, Virtue's ends from Vanity can raise,
245
Which seeks no int'reft, no reward but praise;
And build on wants, and on defects of mind,
The joy, the peace, the glory of Mankind.

Heav'n forming each on other to depend,
A master, or a fervant, or a friend,

COMMENTARY.

"Each individual feeks a feveral goal,"

Bids each on other for affistance call,

Till one Man's weakness grows the strength of all. Wants, frailties, paffions, closer still ally

The common int'reft, or endear the tie.

leads the Author to obferve

250

"That HEAV'N's great View is One, and that the Whole." And this brings him naturally round again to his main subject, namely, God's producing good out of ill, which he prosecutes from Ver. 238 to 249.

VER. 249. Heav'n forming each on other to depend,] I. Hitherto the Poet hath been employed in difcourfing of the ufe of the Paffions, with regard to Society at large; and in freeing his doctrine from objections: This is the first general divifion of the subject of this epiftle.

NOTES.

VER. 253. Wants, frailties, paffions, clofer ftill ally
The common int'reft, &c.]

As these lines have been misunderstood, I fhall give the reader their plain and obvious meaning. To thefe frailties (fays

To these we owe true friendship, love fincere, 255
Each home-felt joy that life inherits here;
Yet from the fame we learn, in its decline,
Those joys, those loves, those int'rests to refign;
Taught half by Reason, half by mere decay,
To welcome death, and calmly pafs away. 260
Whate'er the Paffion, knowledge, fame, or pelf,
Not one will change his neighbour with himself.

COMMENTARY.

II. He comes now to fhew (from Ver. 248 to 261) the ufe of these Paffions, with regard to the more confined circle of our friends, relations, and acquaintance: and this is the fecond general divifion.

VER. 261. Whate'er the Paffion, &c.] III. The Poet having thus fhewn the ufe of the Paffions in Society, and in Domestic life, comes, in the laft place, (from 260 to the end) to fhew their ufe to the Individual, even in their illufions; the imaginary happiness they prefent, helping to make the real miseries of life lefs infupportable: And this is his third general division :

"Opinion gilds with varying rays

"Those painted clouds that beautify our days," &c.

NOTES:

he) we owe all the endearments of private life; yet, when we come to that age, which generally difpofes men to think more seriously of the true value of things, and confequently of their provifion for a future ftate, the confideration, that the grounds of thofe joys, loves, and friendships, are wants, frailties, and paffions, proves the best expedient to wean us from the world; a difengagement fo friendly to that provision we are now making for another state. The obfervation is new, and would in any place be extremely beautiful, but has here an infinite grace and propriety, as it fo well confirms, by an inftance of great moment, the general thefis, That God makes Ill, at every step, productive of Good.

265

The learn'd is happy nature to explore,
The fool is happy that he knows no more;
The rich is happy in the plenty given,
The poor contents him with the care of Heav'n.
See the blind beggar dance, the cripple fing,
The fot a hero, lunatic a king;

The starving chemist in his golden views
Supremely bleft, the poet in his Muse.

COMMENTARY.

One profpect loft, another ftill we gain; "And not a vanity is giv'n in vain."

66

270

Which muft needs vastly raise our idea of God's goodness; who hath not only provided more than a counterbalance of real happiness to human miferies, but hath even, in his infinite compaffion, beftowed on those who were fo foolish as not to have made this provifion, an imaginary happiness; that they may not be quite overborne with the load of human miferies. This is the Poet's great and noble t ought; as ftrong and folid as it is new and ingenious: It teaches, that thefe illufions are the faults and follies of Men, which they willfully fall into; and thereby deprive themfelves of much happiness, and expose themfelves to equal mifery: but that ftill, God (according to his univerfal way of working) graciously turns thefe faults and follies fo far to the advantage of his miferable creatures, as to become the present folace and fupport of their diftreffes:

"-Tho' Man's a fool, yet God is wife.”

NOTES.

VER. 270.-the poet in his Mufe.] The Author having faid, that no one would change his profeffion or views for those of another, intended to carry his obfervation still further, and fhew that men were unwilling to exchange their own acquirements even for thofe of the fame kind, confeffedly larger, and infinitely more eminent, in another.

See fome strange comfort ev'ry state attend, And pride bestow'd on all, a common friend: See fome fit paffion ev'ry age fupply, Hope travels thro', nor quits us when we die.

Behold the child, by nature's kindly law, 275
Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a straw:
Some livelier play-thing gives his youth delight,
A little louder, but as empty quite :

Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage,
And beads and pray'r-books are the toys of age:
Pleas'd with this bauble ftill, as that before, 281
'Till tir'd he fleeps, and Life's poor play is o'er.

Mean-while opinion gilds with varying rays Those painted clouds that beautify our days; Each want of happiness by Hope supply'd, 285 And each vacuity of sense by Pride:

NOTES.

To this end he wrote,

"What partly pleases, totally will fhock:
"I question much, if Toland would be Locke."

But wanting another proper inftance of this truth, he reserved the lines above for fome following edition of this Essay.

VER. 280. And beads and pray'r-bocks are the toys of age.] A Satire on what is called in Popery the Opus operatum. As this is a description of the circle of human life returning into itself by a fecond child-hood, the Poet has with great elegance concluded his defcription with the fame image with which he fet out-And life's poor play is o'er.

VER. 286. And each vacuity of Senfe by Pride:] An eminent Caluift, Father Francis Garaffe, in his Somme Theologique, VOL. III.

I

« 上一頁繼續 »