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vidual. The poet here recommends the study of mankind, and thews the imperfect state of the human understanding with regard to the knowledge of ourselves. He represents man as doubting and wavering between the objects of right and wrong.
“ With too much knowledge for the Sceptic
" With too much weakness for the Stoic's
pride, “ He hangs between; in doubt to act, or reft; “ In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beaft; “ In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer ; “ Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err; “Alike in ignorance, his reason such, " Whether he thinks too little, or too much : " Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd; “ Still by himself abus’d, or dis-abus'd
i “ Created half to rise, and half to fall
; « Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all ; “ Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd : “ The glory, jest, and riddle of the world !”
Nothing can be more animated, more pointed, and at the same time more just, than this description of man's imperfect state, with respect to the knowledge of himself, which is of all others the most difficult ; For to whatever extent he may stretch his understanding in other sciences, yet in the knowledge of his own nature, he will necessarily be more limited, as the intervention of the passions will check and impede the operations of his reason. .
There are, as the poet observes, two principles in human nature, Self-love and Reafon : of which the distinct offices are explained.
Self-love is the spring of action; Reafon the balance which governs it
“ Most strength the moving principle requires : “ Active its task, it prompts, impels, in
« fpires. “ Sedate and quiet, the comparing lies, “ Form'd but to check, delib’rate, and advise. “ Self-love still stronger, as its objects nigh; “ Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie : “ That fees immediate good by present sense ; “ Reason, the future and the confequence*."
The passions, our author observes, are but modes of self-love : and their influence and use in human life is admirably described in the following lines.
6 Passions, tho‘selfish, if their means be fair, “ List under Reason, and deserve her care;
Those, that imparted, court a nobler aim, “ Exalt their kind, and take some Virtue's
name. “In lazy Apathy let Stoics boast “ Their Virtue fix'd; 'tis fix'd as in a frost;
* To the same effect Lord Bacon expresses himself. “ The « affections,” says he, “ carry ever an appetite to good, !" as reason doth.
The difference is, that the affection “ beholdeth merely the present, reason beholdeth the future " and sum of time.”.
“ Contracted all, retiring to the breast; « But strength of mind is Exercise, not Rest: “ The rising tempest puts in act the foul, “ Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole. “ On life's vast ocean diverfely we fail, “Reason the card, but passion is the gale t; “ Not God alone in the still calm we find, “ He mounts the storm, and walks upon the
Perhaps strength of reasoning and harmony of numbers were never more happily united than in the foregoing extract; and the image, by which the truth of the argument is illustrated in the two concluding lines, is as sublime as poetry can express.
· Nor are the succeeding lines less poetical or just
, wherein our author remarks, that though all the passions, in their turn, influence the human mind, yet there is one master passion, which, in the end, over-powers and absorbs the rest.
" Pleasures are ever in our hands or eyes; “ And when, in act, they cease, in prospect,
" rise : “ Present to grasp, and future still to find, “ The whole employ of body and of mind.
+ “The mind," says Lord Bacon, “ would be temperate and stayed, if the affections, as winds, did not put it into tumult and perturbation."
“ All spread their charms, but charm not all
“ On diff'rent senses diff'rent objects strike; “ Hence diff'rent Passions more or less inflame, “ As strong or weak, the organs of the frame; “And hence one master passion * in the breast, “ Like Aaron's serpent, fwallows up
These truths are so forcibly and beautifully conveyed, that at the same time we are convinced by the sentiments, we are charmed with the expressions. Nor is the poet less happy in explaining the growth of the ruling passion.
“ Nature its mother, Habit t is its nurse; “ Wit, Spirit, Faculties, but make it worse;
* The strength of the ruling paffion, and the necessity of attending to it in our commerce with mankind, is remarked by Lord Bacon, who says, “ It is not sufficient to inform
ourselves in mens ends and natures of the variety of them “ only, but also of the predominancy, what'humour reigneth “ most, and what end is principally sought.”
I will add, that the reader will find the predominance of the ruling passion farther exemplified by Mr. Pope, in his first Ethic epiftle, of which hereafter.
+ Our author's strong fenfe of the prevalence of Habit is well described in one of his letters to Mr. Bethel, where he says
« Habit is the mistress of the world, and whatever is “ generally said, has more sway than opinion. Yours consa hnes you to the wolds of Yorkshire, mine to the banks of " the Thames : and yet I think I have less dependance on « others, and others less on me, than most men I have ever
" known ;
“ Reason itself but gives it edge and pow'r; " As Heav'n's bleft beam turns vinegar more
But the poet rises with his subject, till he leads us into extacy. Speaking of the inefficacy of reason to controul the ruling passion, he says,
“ We, wretched subjects, tho' to lawful sway, “ In this weak queen, some fav'rite still obey: « Ah! if she lend not arms, as well as rules, * What can the more than tell us we are
fools ? « Teach us to mourn our Nature, not to mend, “A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend ! « Or from a judge turn pleader, to persuade " Thę choice we make, or justify it made; « Proud of an easy conquest all along, ļ She but removes weak Passions for the
“ strong * ; * So, when small humours gather to a gout, şi The doctor fancies he has driven them out."
" known; fo that I should be free. So should a female “ friend of ours t; but habit is her Goddess, I wish I could “ not say worse, her tyrant : The not only obeys, but suffers “ under her: and reason and friendship plead in vain. Out 6 of hell, and out of babit, there is no redemption."
* It is of special use in morality, as Lord Bacon observes, to set affection against affection, and endeavour to master one passion by another, as we hunt beast with beast, &c.
+ Meaning Mrs. Blount.