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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

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
The choice we make, or justify it made;
Proud of an easy conquest all along,
She but removes weak Passions for the strong :
So, when small humours gather to a gout,
The doctor fancies he has driv'n them out. 160
Yes, Nature's road must ever be preferr'd;
Reason is here no guide, but still a guard:
'Tis her’s to rectify, not overthrow,
And treat this passion more as friend than foe:
A mightier Pow'r the strong direction sends, 165
And sev'ral Men impels to sev'ral ends:
Like varying winds, by other passions tost,
This drives them constant to a certain coast.
Let pow'r or knowledge, gold or glory, please,
Or (oft more strong than all) the love of ease; 170
Through life 'tis follow'd, even at life's expense;
The merchant's toil, the sage's indolence,
The monk's humility, the hero's pride,
All, all alike, find reason on their side.
Th’ Eternal Art educing good from ill, 175
Grafts on this Passion our best principle : -


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,
Strong grows the Virtue with his nature mix'd ;
The dross cements what else were too refin'd,
And in one int’rest body acts with mind. 180
As fruits, ungrateful to the planter's care,
On savage stocks inserted, learn to bear;
The surest Virtues thus from Passions shoot,
Wild Nature's vigour working at the root.
What crops of wit and honesty appear 185
From spleen, from obstinacy, hate, or fear !
See anger, zeal, and fortitude, supply;
Ev’n avarice, prudence; sloth, philosophy;
Lust, through some certain strainers well refin'd,
Is gentle love, and charms of womankind; 190
Envy, to which th' ignoble mind's a slave,
Is emulation in the learn'd or brave,
Nor Virtue, male or female, can we name,
But what will grow on pride, or grow on shame.


After Ver. 194 in the MS.

How oft with Passion, Virtue points her charms:
Then shines the Hero, then the Patriot warms.
Peleus’ great Son, or Brutus, who had known,
Had Lucrece been a Whore, or Helen none !
But Virtues opposite to make agree,
That, Reason 1 is thy task; and worthy Thee.
Hard task, cries Bibulus, and Reason weak.
—Make it a point, dear Marquess' or a pique.
Once, for a whim, persuade yourself to pay
A debt to Reason, like a debt at play.
For right or wrong have mortals suffer'd more
B— for his prince, or ** for his Whore?
Whose self-denials Nature must control?
His, who would save a Sixpence, or his Soul?

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

Web for his health, a Chartreux for his Sin,
Contend they not which soonest shall grow thin 2
What we resolve, we can: but here's the fault,
We ne'er resolve to do the thing we ought.

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,
And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will.”

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,
And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.
This light and darkness in our chaos join'd,
What shall divide : The God within the mind. .
Extremes in Nature equal ends produce, 205
In Man they join to some mysterious use;
Tho' each by turns the other's bound invade,
As, in some well-wrought picture, light and shade,
And oft so mix, the diff'rence is too nice
Where ends the Virtue, or begins the Vice. 210
Fools' who from hence into the notion fall,
That Vice or Virtue there is none at all.
If white and black blend, soften, and unite
A thousand ways, is there no black or white 7
Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain ; 215
'Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.


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;
"Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.”

This is an error of speculation, which leads men so foolishly to conclude, that there is neither vice nor virtue. W.

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