« AnteriorContinuar »
By Actions? those Uncertainty divides :
range : 179 Find, if you can, in what
you cannot change. Manners with Fortunes, Humours turn with
Climes, Tenets with Books, and Principles with Times.
COMMENTARY. gone through the mistakes both of the Philosopher and Man of the world, separately, turns now to both; and (from * 165 to 174) jointly addresses them in a recapitulation of his reasoning against cach : He Mews, that if we pretend to develope the Character by the natural disposition in general, we shall find it extremely difficult, because this is often effaced by Habit, overswayed by Interest, and suspended by Policy.-- If by Actions, their contrariety will leave us in utter doubt and uncertainty.-If by Paffiors, we shall be perpetually milled by the mask of Dissimulation.- If by Opinions, all these concur together to perplex the enquiry, Shew us, then, says he, in the whole range of your Philosophy and Experience, the thing we can be certain of: For (to sum up all in a word)
Manners with Fortunes, Humours turn with Climes,
Tenets with Books, and Principles with Times. We must seek therefore some other road to the point we aim at.
NOTES. less. He has only a little extended the conceit, and fupposed, that the terrors of a Court-God might have the like effect on a very devoted worshipper. SCRIBL.
VER. 172, 173, Manners with Fortunes, Humours turn with Climes, Tenets with Books, and Principles with Times.] The poct had hitherto reckoned up the several simple causes that hinder our knowledge of the natural characters of men. In these two fine lines he describes the complicated causes. Humours bear the same relation to Manners, that Principles do to Tenets; that is, the former are modes of the latter; our Manners 4
Search then the Ruling PASSION: There, alone, The Wild are constant, and the Cunning known; The Fool consistent, and the False fincere ; 176 Priests, Princes, Women, no dissemblers here. This clue once found, unravels all the rest, The prospect clears, and Wharton stands confeft. Wharton, the scorn and wonder of our days, 180 Whose ruling Passion was the Lust of Praise : Born with whate'er could win it from the Wise, Women and Fools must like him or he dies;
COMMENTARY. VER. 174. Search then the Ruling Paffion : &c.] And now we enter on the third and last part; which treats of the right means of surmounting the difficulties in coming to the Knowledge and Characters of Men: This the poet fhews, is by investigating the RULING PASSION : of whose origin and nature we may find an exact account in the second Ep. of the Efay on Man. This Principle he rightly observes (from x 173 to 180) is the clue that must guide us thro' all the intricacies in the ways of men: To convince us of which, he applies it (from 179 to 210) to the most wild and inconsistent Character that ever was; which (when drawn out at length, in a spirit of poetry as rare as the character itself) we see, this Principle unravels, and renders throughout of one plain consistent thread.
NOTES (says the Poet) are warped from nature by our Fortunes or Stations; our Tenets, by our Books or Professions; and then each drawn still more oblique, into humour and political principles, by the temperature of the climate, and the constitution of the government.
VER. 174. Search then the Ruling Passion :) See Efsay on Man, Ep. ii. x 133. & feq.
Ver. 181. The Luft of Praise :) This very well expresses
Tho' wond'ring Senates hung on all he spoke,
NOTES. the grossness of his appetite for it; where the strength of the Passion had destroyed all the delicacy of the Sensation.
Ver. 187. John Wilmot, E. of Rochester, famous for his Wit and Extravagancies in the time of Charles the Second. P.
Ver. 189. With the same fpirit] Spirit, for principle, not passion.
Ver. 200. A Fool, with more of Wit] Folly, join'd with much Wit, produces that behaviour which we call Absurdity; and this Absurdity the poet has here admirably described in the words,
Too ralh for Thought, for Action too refin’d.
A Tyrant to the wife his heart approves ;
Nature well known, no prodigies remain,
VARIATIONS. In the former Editions, x 208.
Nature well known, no Miracles remain. Alter'd, as above, for very obvious reasons,
NOTES by which we are made to understand, that the person defcribed gave a loose to his Fancy when he fhould have used his Judgment; and pursued his Speculations when he should have trusted to his Experience.
Ver. 205. And, harder fill! flagitious, yet not great.) To arrive at what the world calls Greatness, a man must either hide and conceal his vices, or he must openly and fteddily practise them, in the pursuit and attainment of one important end. This unhappy nobleman did neither.
VER. 207. 'Twas all for fear &c.] To understand this, we muft obferve, that the Luft of general praise made the person, whose Character is here fo admirably drawn, both extravagant and flagitious ; his Madness was to please the Fools,
Women and Fools must like him, or he dies. And his Crimes to avoid the censure of the Knaves,
'Twas all for fear the Knaves should call him Fool. Prudence and Honesty being the two qualities that Foals and Knaves are most interested, and confequently most induftrious, to misrepresent. V ER. 209. Comets are regular, and Wbarton plain.). This
Yet, in this search, the wisest may mistake, 210 If second qualities for first they take. When Catiline by rapine swell’d his store; When Cæfar made a noble dame a whore; In this the Luft, in that the Avarice Were means, not ends ; Ambition was the vice.
COMMENTARY. VER. 210. Yet, in this search, &c.] But here (from y 209 tó 222) he gives one very neceffary caution, that, in developing the Ruling Passion, we must be careful not to mistake a subsidiary passion for the principal; which, without great attention, we may be very liable to do; as the subsidiary, acting in support of the principal, has frequently all its vigour and much of its perSeverance : This error has milled several both of the ancient and modern historians; as when they supposed Luft and Luxury to be Characteristics of Cæfar and Lucullus; whereas, in truth, the Ruling Pallion of both was Ambition ; which is so certain, that, at whatsoever different time of the Republic these men had lived, their Ambition, as the Ruling Pasion, had been the
NOTES. illustration has an exquisite beauty, arising from the exactness of the analogy: For, as the appearance of irregularity, in a Comet's motion, is occafioned by the greatness of the force which pushes it round a very eccentric orb; so it is the violence of the Ruling Passion, that, impatient for its object, in the impetuofity of its course towards it, is frequently hurried to an immense distance from it, which occasions all that puzzling inconsistency of conduct we observe in it.
Ver. 213.-A noble Dame a whore ;] The sister of Cato, and mother of Brutus.
Ver. 215. Ambition was the vice.] Pride, Vanity, and Ambition are such bordering and neighbouring vices, and hold fo much in common, that we generally find them going together, and therefore, as generally mistake them for one another. This does not a little contribute to our confounding