Page images

Alas what wonder! Man's superior part
Uncheck'd may rise, and climb from art to art; 40
But when his own great work is but begun,
What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.

Trace Science then, with Modesty thy guide ;
First Atrip off all her equipage of Pride ;
Deduct what is but Vanity, or Dress,

45 Or Learning's Luxury, or Idleness ;

it describes, when it becomes visible in its descent to, and ascent from the Sun, conjectured, with the highest appearance of truth, that Comets revolve perpetually round the Sun, in ellipses vastly eccentrical, and very nearly approaching to parabolas. In which he was greatly confirmed, in observing between two Comets coincidence in their perihelions, and a perfect agreement in their velocities.

VIR. 45.-Vanity, or dress;] These are the first parts of what the Poet, in the preceding line, calls the scholar's equipage of Pride. By vanity, is meant that luxuriancy of thought and expression in which a writer indulges himself, to fhew the fruita fulness of his fancy or invention. By dress, is to be understood a lower degree of that practice, in amplification of thought and ornamental expression, to give force to what the writer would convey: but even this, the poet, in a severe search after truth, condemns; and with great judgment. Conciseness of thought and simplicity of expression, being as well the best inftruments, as the best vebicles of Truth,

Ver. 46. Or Learning's Luxury, Idleness ;] The Luxury of Learning consists in dressing up and disguising old notions in a new way, so as to make them more fashionable and palateable ; instead of examining and scrutinizing their truth. As this is often done for pomp and shew, it is called luxury ; as it is often done too to save pains and labour, it is called idler.ess.


Or tricks to shew the stretch of human brain,
Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain;
Expunge the whole, or lop th'excrescent parts
Of all our Vices have created Arts ;

50 Then fee how little the remaining sum, Which serv'd the past, and must the times to come!

· IT. Two Principles in human nature reign; Self-love, to urge, and Reason, to restrain ; Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call, 55 Each works its end, to move or govern all: And to their proper operation still, Ascribe all Good, to their improper, Ill.

Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul ; Reason's comparing balance rules the whole. 60 Man, but for that, no action could attend, And, but for this, were active to no end : Fix'd like a plant on his peculiar spot, To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot; Or, meteor-like, flame lawless thro’the void,

65 Destroying others, by himself destroy'd.

VER. 47. Or tricks to Mew the firetch of human brain,] Such as the mathematical demonstrations concerning the small quantity of matter; the endless divisibility of it, etc.

Ver. 48. Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain ;] That is, when Admiration sets the mind on the rack.

VER. 49. Expunge the whole, or lop th’excrescent parts of all our vices have created Arts;] i. e. Those parts of natural Philosophy, Logic, Rhetoric, Poetry, etc. that administer to luxury, deceit, ambition, effeminacy, etc.


Most strength the moving principle requires ; Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires. Sedate and quiet, the comparing lies, Form’d but to check, delib’rate, and advise. 70 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 consequence. Thicker than arguments, temptations throng, 75 At beft more watchful this, but that more strong. The Action of the stronger to suspend Reason ftill use, to Reason ftill attend. Attention, habit and experience gains; Each strengthens Reason, and Self-love restrains. 80 Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight, More ftudious to divide than to unite; And Grace and Virtue, Sense and Reason fplit, With all the rash dexterity of wit. Wits, just like Fools, at war about a name, Have full as oft no meaning, or the same. Self-love and Reason to one end aspire, Pain their aversion, Pleasure their desire ;

VER. 74. Reafon, the future and the consequence.] i. e. By experience Reason collects the future ; and by argumentation, the confcquence.

After x 86. in the MS.

Of good and evil Gods what frighted Fools,
Of good and evil Reason puzzled Schools,
Deceiv’d, deceiving, taught--


[ocr errors]


But greedy That, its object would devour,
This taste the honey, and not wound the flow'r: 90
Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood,
Our greatest evil, or our greatest good.

III. Modes of self-love the Passions we may call: 'Tis real good, or seeming, moves them all: But since not ev'ry good we can divide,

And reason bids us for our own provide;
Passions, tho' selfish, if their means be fair,
Lift 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 boaft
Their Virtue fix'd ; 'tis fix'd as in a frost;
Contracted all, retiring to the breast;
But strength of mind is Exercise, not Reft:
The rising tempest puts in act the soul,

Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole.
On life’s vast ocean diversely we fail,
Reason the card, but passion is the gale;
Nor God alone in the still calm we find,
He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind. 110

Passions, like elements, tho' born to fight, Yet, mix'd and soften'd, in his work unite :

VARIATIONS. After x 108. in the MS.

A tedious Voyage! where how useless lies

The compass, if no pow'rful gusts arise ?
After x 112. in the MS.

The soft reward the virtuous, or invite;
The fierce, the vicious punish or affright,



These tis enough to temper and employ;
But what composes Man, can Man destroy ?
Suffice that Reason keep to Nature's road,
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 :
The lights and shades, whose well accorded strife
Gives all the strength and colour of our life.

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, 125
The whole employ of body and of mind.
All spread their charms, but charm not all alike;
On diff'rent senses diff'rent objects ftrike;
Hence diff'rent Passions more or less inflame,
As strong or weak, the organs of the frame; 130
And hence one MASTER PASSion in the breast,
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.

As Man, perhaps, the moment of his breath, Receives the lurking principle of death ;

VER. 133. As Man perhaps, etc.] “ Antipater Sidonius Poeta os omnibus annis uno die natali tantum corripiebatur febre, et “ eo consumptus est satis longa senecta.” Plin. I. vii. N. H. This Antipater was in the times of Crassus, and is celebrated for the quickness of his parts by Cicero.

« PreviousContinue »