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To written Wisdom, as another’s, less :
COMMENTARY. conjectures of the observer : But when the writer joins his speculation to the experience of the observer, his notions are rectified into principlis : and when the observer regulates his experience on the general principles of the writer, his conjectures advance into science. Such is the reasoning of this introduction ; which, besides its propriety to the general subject of the Epistle, has a peculiar relation to each of its parts or members : For the causes of the difficuliy in coming at the knowledge and characters of men, explained in the first, will shew the importance of what is here delivered, of the joint assistance of speculation and practice to surmourt it; and the wrong means, which both philosophers and men of the world have employed in overcoming those difficulties discoursed of in the second, have their fource here deduced, which is seen to be a separate adherence of each to his own method of studying men, and a mutual contempt of the others. Lastly, the right means delivered in the third, will be of little use in the application, without the direction here delivered : For tho' obfervation discovered a ruling passion, yet, without a philofophic knowledge of the human mind, we may easily mistake a secondary and subsidiary passion for the principal, and fo be never the nearer in the Knowledge of Men. But the elegant and easy Form of the introduction equals the Propriety of its matter; for the epistle being addressed to a noble perfon, distinguished for his knowledge of the World, it opens, as it were, in the midst of a familiar converse, which lets us at once into his character; where the poet, by affecting only to ridicule the useless Knowledge of Men confined to Books, and under the appearance of extolling only that acquired by the World, artfully infinuates how equally defective this may be, when conducted on the same narrow principle : Which is too often the case, as men of the world are more than ordinarily prejudiced in favour of their cwn obfervations for the sake of the
NOTES. VER. 5. The ccxcomb bird, that he could only repeat some
C.) A fine turn'd allusion to fentences of Pythagoras, like what Philostratus said of Euxe- those coxcomb birds, who were plus, the Tutor of Apollonius, taught their si agúils and their
There's some Peculiar in each leaf and grain,
forts of Mind as Moss.
COMMENTARY. observer, and, for the same reason, Jess indulgent to the discoveries of others.
1. Ver. 15. There's some Peculiar &c.] The poet enters on the First division of his subject, the difficulties of coming at the Knowledge and true Characters of Men. The first cause of this difficulty which he prosecutes (from ø 14 to 19) is the great diversity of Characters, of which, to abate our wonder, and not discourage our inquiry, he only desires we would grant him
but as many sorts of Mind as Moss. Hereby artfully insinuating, that if Nature has varied the most worthless vegetable into above three hundred species, we need not wonder at the like diversity in the human mind : And if a variety in that vegetable has been thought of importance enough to employ the leisure of a serious enquirer, much more will the fame quality in this master-piece of Nature deserve our study and attention.
VER. 19. That each from other differs, &c.] A second cause." of this difficulty (from y 18 to 21) is Man's inconstancy, whereby not only one man differs from another, but each man from himself.
NOTES. ZEUS PREws, but knew not what de la Rochefoucault, which are they signified.
one continued fatire on human VER. 10. And yet Men Nature, and hold much of the may be read, as well as Books
of the Parrot: The too much, &c.] The poet'has reason of the censure, our auhere covertly deferib'd a famous thor's system of lu.nan nature system of a man of the world,
will explain. the celebrated Maxims of M.
Add Nature's, Custom's, Reason's, Passion's strife, And all Opinion's colours cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds, Quick whirls, and thifting eddies, of our minds? On human actions reason tho' you can, 25 It may be Reason, but it is not Man:
COMMENTARY. VER. 21. Add Nature's, &c.] A third cause (from y 20 to 23) is that obfcurity thrown over the Characters of men, through the strife and contest between nature and custom, between reason and appetite, between truth and opinion. And as most men, either thro' education, temperature, or profesion, have their Characters warp'd by custom, appetite, and opinion, the obscurity arising from thence is almost universal.
VER, 23. Our depths who fathoms, &c.] A fourth cause (from x 20 to 25) is deep disimulation, and restless caprice, whereby the shallows of the mind are as difficult to be found, as the depths of it to be fathom’d.
VER. 25. On human actions &c.] A fifth cause (from x 24 to 31) is the sudden change of his Principle of action, either on the point of its being laid open and detected, or thro' mere inconstancy.
NOTES. VER. 22. And all Opinion's both the efficient and the final colours cast on life.] The poet cause: The First in the third refers here only to the effects : Ep. ¥ 231. In the Elay on Man he gives
E’er Wit oblique had broke that fleddy light. For oblique Wit is Opinion. The other, in the second Ep. X 283.
Mean-while Opinion gilds with varying rays
These painted clouds that beautify our days, &c. Ver. 26. It
be Reafon, would investigate ; and yet but it is not Man:] i. e. The that hypothefis be all the while Philosopher may invent a ra very wide of truth and the national hypothesis that shall ac ture of things. count for the appearances he
His Pținciple of action once explore,
between The optics seeing, as the objects seen. All Manners take a tincture from our own; Or come discolour'd thro' our Passions shown. Or Fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies, 35 Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.
Nor will Life's stream for Observation stay, It hurries all too fast to mark their
way: COMMENTARY. VER. 31. Yet more ; the difference &c.] Hitherto the poet hath spoken of the causes of difficulty arising from the obfcurity of the Object; he now comes to those which proceed from defeets in the Observer. The First of which, and a sixth cause of difficulty, he shews (from 30 to 37) is the perverse manners, affections, and imagination of the observer, whereby the Characters of others are rarely seen either in their true light, complexion, or proportion. VER. 37. Nor will Life's stream for Observation &c.] The
NOTES. VER. 29. Like following life | seat of animal life being in the thro' creatures you diseet, heart, our endeavours of traYou lose it in the moment you de- cing it thither must necessarily teft.] This Simile is extremely drive it from thence. beautiful. To shew the dif VER. 33. All Manners take ficulty of discovering the ope a tincture from our own ;rations of the heart in a moral Or come discolour'd thro? our Jense, he illustrates it by an Pasions shown.] These two other attempt still more diffi lines are remarkable for the cult, the discovery of its opera exactness and propriety of extions in a natural: For the | pression. The word tin&turf,
In vain sedate reflections we wou'd make,
COMMENTARY. Second of these, and seventh cause of difficulty (from * 36 to 41) is the shortness of human life, which will not suffer the observer to select and weigh out his knowledge, but just to snatch it as it rolls rapidly by him down the current of Time.
Ver. 41. Oft, in the Pasions' &c.] We come now to the eighth and last cause, which very properly concludes the account, as, in a fort, it sums up all the difficulties in one (from ř 40 to 51) namely, that very often the man himself is ignorant of his own motive of action; the cause of which ignorance our author has admirably explain’d: When the mind (says he) is now quite tired out by the long conflict of opposite motives, it withdraws its attention, and suffers the will to be feized upon by the first that afterwards obtrudes itself, without taking notice what that motive is. This is finely illustrated by what he supposes the general cause of dreams; where the fancy, just let loose, pofleffes itself of the lat image which it meets with on the confines between sleep and waking, and on that erects all its visionary operation ; yet this image is, with great difficulty, recollected; and never, but when some accident happens to interrupt our first slumbers: Then (which proves the truth of the hypothesis) we are sometimes able to trace the workings of the Fancy backwards, from image to image, in a chain, till we come to that from whence they all arose.
NOTES, which implies a weak colour celcur, which implies a quicker given by degrees, well de change and by a deeper dye, scribes the influence of the denotes as well the operation Manners ; and the word dif- l of the Passions,