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So, cast and mingled with his very frame,
145 Wit, Spirit, Faculties, but make it worse; Reason itself but gives it edge and pow'r; 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
pater was in the times of Crassus, and is celebrated for the quickness of his parts by Cicero.
Warburton. 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 :
“ Old Cotta sham'd his fortune and his birth,
Yet was not Cotta void of wit or worth.
Than bramins, saints, and sages did before." Warburton. Ver. 148. turns vinegar] Taken from Bacon, De Calore; and the preceding verse, and comparison, 132.
“ Like Aaron's serpent,”is from Bacon likewise.
Warton. Ver. 149. We, wretched subjects, &c.] St. Paul himself did not choose to employ other arguments, when disposed to give us the highest idea of the usefulness of CHRISTIANITY, (Rom. vii.) But it may be, the Poet finds a remedy in NATURAL RELIGIỌN.
Ah! if she lend not arms, as well as rules,
Yes, Nature's road must ever be preferr'd; Reason is here no guide, but still a guard: 'Tis hers to rectify, not overthrow, And treat this passion more as friend than foe: A mightier Pow'r the strong direction sends, 165 And several men impels to several ends :
Ver. 161. Yes, Nature's road, &c.] Now as
from the account here given of the ruling Passion and its cause (which results from the structure of the organs), that it is the road of Nature, the Poet shews (from ver. 160 to 197.) that this road is to be followed. So that the office of Reason is not to direct us what passion to exercise, but to assist us in RECTIFYING, and keeping within due bounds, that which Nature hath so strongly impressed; because
“ A mightier Power the strong direction sends,
And several Men impels to several ends."
from it. He here leaves Reason unrelieved. What is this then, but an intimation that we ought to seek for a cure in that religion, which only dares profess to give it?
Warburton. Ver. 163. 'Tis hers to rectify, &c.] The meaning of this precept is, That as the ruling Passion is implanted by Nature, it is Reason's office to regulate, direct, and restrain, but not to overthrow it. To reform the passion of Avarice, for instance, into a
Like varying winds, by other passions tost,
Ver. 167. Like varying winds, &c.] The Poet having proved that the ruling passion (since Nature hath given it us) is not to be overthrown, but rectified; the next inquiry will be, of what use the ruling passion is ; for an use it must have, if reason be to treat it thus mildly. This use he shews us (from ver. 166 to 197.) is twofold, Natural and Moral.
1. Its Natural use is to conduct men steadily to one certain end, who would otherwise be eternally fluctuating between the equal violence of various and discordant passions, driving them up and down at random; and, by that means, to enable them to promote the good of society, by making each a contributor to the common stock:
“Let pow'r or knowledge, gold or glory, please," &c. 2. Its Moral use is to ingraft our ruling Virtue upon it; and by that means to enable us to promote our own good, by turning the exorbitancy of the ruling Passion into its neighbouring Virtue:
“ See anger, zeal and fortitude supply,” &c. The wisdom of the Divine Artist is, as the Poet finely observes, very illustrious in this contrivance; for the mind and body having
parsimonious dispensation of the public revenues : to direct the passion of Love, whose object is worth and beauty,
“ To the first good, first perfect, and first fair," the rò xanór ráyabòr, as his master Plato advises; and to restrain Spleen to a contempt and hatred of Vice. This is what the Poet meant; and what every unprejudiced man could not but see he must needs mean, by RectiFYING THE MAȘTER Passion, though he had not confined us to this sense, in the reason he gives of his precept in these words:
“ A mightier Pow'r the strong direction sends,
And several Men impels to several ends ;" for what ends are they which God impels to, but the ends of Virtue.
Through life 'tis follow'd, even at life's expense;
175 Grafts on this passion our best principle : '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 interest 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 all womankind; 190 Envy, to which the 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.
now one common interest, the efforts of Virtue will have their force infinitely augmented :
“ 'Tis thus the mercury,” &c.
After ver. 194. in the MS.
“How oft, with Passion, Virtue points her charms !
Thus Nature gives us (let it check our pride) 195 The virtue nearest to our vice allied : Reason the bias turns to good from ill, And Nero reigns à Titus, if he will.
COMMENTARY. 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
Peleus' great son, or Brutus, who had known,
- Make it a point, dear Marquess! or a pique.