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On life's vast ocean diversely we sail,
After Ver. 108 in the MS.
A tedious Voyage! where how useless lies
Ver. 108. Reason the card,] This passage is exactly copied from Fontenelle, tom. i. p. 109.
“ Ces sont les passions qui font et qui defont tout. Si la raison dominoit sur la terre, il ne s'y passeroit rien. On dit que les pilotes craignent au dernier point ces mers pacifiques, ou l'on ne peut naviger, et qu'ils veulent du vent, au hazard d'avoir des tempêtes. Les passions sont chez des hommes des vents qui sont necessaires, pour mettre tout en mouvement, quoiqu'ils causent souvent les orages." He had also copied Fontenelle before, in Epistle i. v. 290.
All chance direction which thou canst not see, “ Tout est hazard dans le monde, pourvû que l'on donne ce nom à un ordre que l'on ne connoit point.” Tom. I. p. 81.
Ver. 109. Nor God alone in the still calm we find, . He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind.] The translator turns it thus,
“ Dieu lui-même, Dieu sort de son profond repos.” And so makes an Epicurean God of the Governor of the Universe. M. De Crousaz does not spare this expression of God's coming out of his profound repose: “It is,” says he,“excessively poetical, and presents us with ideas which we ought not to dwell upon," &c. and then, as usual, blames the Author for the blunder of his Translator.” Comm. p. 158. W.
Ver. 109. Nor God alone, &c.] These words are only a simple affirmation in the poetic dress of a similitude, to this purpose : Good is not only produced by the subdual of the Passions, but by the turbulent exercise of them. A truth conveyed under the most sublime imagery that poetry could conceive or paint. For the author is here only shewing the providential issue of the Pas
Passions, like elements, tho’ born to fight, Yet, mix'd and soften'd, in his work unite: These, 'tis enough to temper and employ; But what composes Man, can Man destroy ? Suffice that Reason keep to Nature's road, 115 Subject, compound them, follow her and God. Love, Hope, and Joy, fair Pleasure's smiling train, Hate, Fear, and Grief, the family of Pain, These mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd, Make and maintain the balance of the mind : 120 The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife Gives all the strength and colour of our life.
After Ver. 112 in the MS.
The soft reward the virtuous, or invite;
NOTES. sions; and how, by God's gracious disposition, they are turned away from their natural destructive bias, to promote the Happiness of Mankind. As to the method in which they are to be treated by Man, in whom they are found, all that he contends for, in favour of them, is only this, that they should not be quite rooted up and destroyed, as the Stoics, and their followers, in all Religions, foolishly attempted. For the rest, he constantly repeats this advice,
“The action of the stronger to suspend,
Reason still use, to Reason still attend." W. Ver. 110. walks upon the wind.] In Dryden's Ceyex and Alcione is,
“And now sublime she rides upon the wind.” Ver. 117. Love, Hope, and Joy,] This beautiful group of allegorical personages, so strongly contrasted, how does it act? The prosopopeia is unfortunately dropped, and the metaphor changed immediately in the succeeding lines, viz.
“ These 'mix'd with art," &c.
Pleasures are ever in our hands or eyes ;
As Man, perhaps, the moment of his breath,
Ver. 128. On diff'rent senses] A didactic poet, who has happily indulged himself in bolder flights of enthusiasm, supported by a more figurative style than our Author used, has thus nobly illustrated this very doctrine:
" Diff'rent minds
Of plantane shades.” Ver. 133. As Man, perhaps, &c.] “ Antipater Sidonius Poeta omnibus annis uno die natali tantum corripiebatur febre, et eo consumptus est satis longa senecta.” Plin. l. vii. N. H. This Antipater was in the times of Crassus; and is celebrated for the quickness of his parts by Cicero. W.
The young disease, that must subdue at length, 135 Grows with his growth, and strengthens with his
strength : So, cast and mingled with his very frame, The Mind's disease, its RULING Passion came; Each vital humour which should feed the whole, Soon flows to this, in body and in soul : 140 Whatever warms the heart, or fills the head, As the mind opens, and its functions spread, Imagination plies her dang’rous art, And pours it all upon the peccant part.
Nature its mother, Habit is its nurse; 145 Wit, Spirit, Faculties, but make it worse; Reason itself but gives it edge and power; As Heav'n's blest beam turns vinegar more sour.
We, wretched subjects, tho’ to lawful sway, In this weak queen, some fav’rite still obey : 150 Ah! if she lend not arms, as well as rules, . What can she more than tell us we are fools ? Teach us to mourn our Nature, not to mend, A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend !
Ver. 147. Reason itself, &c.] The Poet, in some other of his epistles, gives examples of the doctrines and precepts here delivered. Thus, in that of the Use of Riches, he has illustrated this truth in the character of Cotta. W.
Ver. 148. Turns vinegar] Taken from Bacon, De Calore; and the preceding verse, and comparison, 132.
“ Like Aaron's serpent,” is from Bacon likewise.
Ver. 149. We, wretched subjects,] The weakness and insuffi. ciency of Human Reason is here painted in the strongest colours: from whence the necessity and the utility of Revelation may be justly inferred.
Or from a judge turn pleader, to persuade 155
Yes, Nature's road must ever be preferrd;
Th’ Eternal Art educing good from ill, 175 Grafts on this passion our best principle :
NOTES. Ver. 157. Proud of an easy] From the Duc de la Rochefoucault, Maxim. 10; as is also Verse 170 from Maxim. 266; and also Verse 272, from the same author, Maxim. 36.
The late excellent Duke de la Rochefoucault, in a letter to Dr. Adam Smith, dated Paris, 3 Mars. 1778, speaks thus of the Maxims of his ingenious grandfather, as too severe on Human Nature: “ Perhaps it may be urged to excuse him, that he had seen and known men chiefly in a court, or in the time of a civil war; deux theatres sur lesquels ils sont certainement plus mauvais qu'ailleurs."