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Nor will life's stream for observation stay, It hurries all too fast to mark their way: In vain sedate reflections we would make, When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take. Oft in the passions' wild rotation toss'd, Our spring of action to ourselves is lost: Tired, not determined, to the last we yield, And what comes then, is master of the field. As the least image of that troubled heap, When sense subsides, and fancy sports in sleep, (Though past the recollection of the thought) Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought: Something as dim to our internal view Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do.
True, some are open, and to all men known; Others so very close, they're hid from none; (So darkness strikes the sense no less than light) Thus gracious Chandos is beloved at sight; \ And every child hates Shylock, though his soul Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole. At half mankind when generous Manly raves, All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves: When universal homage Umbra pays, All see 'tis vice, and itch of vulgar praise. When flattery glares, all hate it in a queen, While one there is who charms us with his spleen. But these plain characters we rarely find; Though strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind: Or puzzling contraries confound the whole; Or affectations quite reverse the soul. The dull flat falsehood serves for policy; And in the cunning, truth itself's a lie: Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise: The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.
See the same man in vigour, in the gout, Alone, in company, in place, or out; Early at business, and at hazard late, Mad at a fox-chase, wise at a debate, Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball, Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall! Catius is ever moral, ever grave, Thinks who endures a knave is next a knave, Save just at dinner-then prefers, no doubt, A rogue with venison to a saint without. Who would not praise Patricio's high desert, His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart, His comprehensive head, all interests weigh'd, All Europe saved, yet Britain not betray'd? He thanks you not, his pride is in piquet, Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.
What made (say Montaigne, or more sage CharOtho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon? A perjured prince a leaden saint revere, A godless regent tremble at a star? The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit, Faithless through piety, and duped through wit? Europe a woman, child, or dotard, rule; And just her wisest monarch made a fool?
Know, God and Nature only are the same: In man the judgment shoots at flying game, A bird of passage! gone as soon as found; Now in the moon, perhaps, now under ground,
IN vain the sage, with retrospective eye,
Infer the motive from the deed, and show
That what we chanced, was what we meant to do.
Not always actions show the man: we find
But grant that actions best discover man; Take the most strong, and sort them as you can; The few that glare each character must mark; You balance not the many in the dark. What will you do with such as disagree? Suppress them, or miscal them policy? Must then at once (the character to save) The plain rough hero turn a crafty knave? Alas! in truth the man but changed his mind; Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not dined. Ask why from Britain Cæsar would retreat? Cæsar himself might whisper, he was beat. Why risk the world's great empire for a punk? Cæsar perhaps might answer, he was drunk. But, sage historians! 'tis your task to prove One action, conduct, one heroic love.
"Tis from high life high characters are drawn ;
More wise, more learn'd, more just, more every thing.
Court virtues bear, like gems, the highest rate,
'Tis education forms the common mind;
The gay freethinker, a fine talker once,
Judge we by nature?-habit can efface, Interest o'ercome, or policy take place:
By actions?-those uncertainty divides:
SEARCH then the ruling passion: there, alone,