« НазадПродовжити »
The young disease, that must subdue at length, 135
NOTES. 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. Wer. 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 insufficiency 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
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.”
'Tis thus the Mercury of Man is fix’d,
After Ver. 194 in the MS.
How oft with Passion, Virtue points her charms:
Thus Nature gives us (let it check our pride) 195 The virtue nearest to our vice ally'd : Reason the bias turns from good to ill, And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will. The fiery soul abhorr'd in Catiline, In Decius charms, in Curtius is divine: 200
NoTEs. Ver. 197. Reason the bias, &c.] But lest it should be objected, that this account favours the doctrine of Necessity, and would insinuate that men are only acted upon, in the production of good out of evil; the Poet teacheth (from Ver. 196 to 203) that Man is a free agent, and hath it in his power to turn the natural passions into virtues or into vices, properly so called:
“Reason the bias turns to good from ill,
Secondly, If it should be objected, that though he doth, indeed, tell us some actions are beneficial and some hurtful, yet he could not call those virtuous, nor these vicious, because, as he hath described things, the motive appears to be only the gratification of some passion; give me leave to answer for him, that this would be mistaking the argument, which (to Ver. 249 of this epistle) considers the passions only with regard to Society, that is, with regard to their effects rather than their motives: that, however, it is his design to teach that actions are properly virtuous and vicious; and though it be difficult to distinguish genuine virtue from spurious, they having both the same appearance, and both the same public effects, yet that they may be disentangled. If it be asked, by what means? He replies (from Ver. 202 to 205) by conscience;—the God within the mind;— and this is to the purpose; for it is a Man's own concern, and no one's else, to know whether his virtue be pure and solid; for what is it to others, whether this virtue (while, as to them, the effect of it is the same) be real or imaginary 2 W.
The same ambition can destroy or save,
Ver. 205. Extremes in Nature equal ends produce, &c.] But still it will be said, Why all this difficulty to distinguish true virtue from false? The Poet shews why (from Ver. 204 to 211), That though indeed vice and virtue so invade each other's bounds, that sometimes we can scarce tell where one ends and the other begins, yet great purposes are served thereby, no less than the perfecting the constitution of the Whole, as lights and shades, which run into one another insensibly in a well-wrought picture, make the harmony and spirit of the composition. But on this account, to say there is neither vice nor virtue, the Poet shews (from Ver. 210 to 217), would be just as wise as to say, there is neither black nor white; because the shade of that, and the light of this, often run into one another, and are mutually lost:
“Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain;
This is an error of speculation, which leads men so foolishly to conclude, that there is neither vice nor virtue. W.