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“ The Ruling Passion, be it what it will,
the Divine Artist himself has, in his heavenly skill and bounty, set to rights ; by so ordering, that these of the moral world, like those of the natural, should, even by the very means of their contrariety and diversity, concur to defeat the malignity of one another :
“ Extremes in Nature equal good produce ;
Extremes in Mun concur to general use." For as the various seasons of the year are supported and sustained by the reconciled extremes of wet and dry, cold and heat; so all the orders and degrees of civil life are kept up by avarice and profusion, selfishness and vanity. The Miser being but the steward of the Prodigal; and only so much the more backward as the other is precipitate:
“ This year a reservoir, to keep and spare;
The next, a fountain, spouting thro' his heir."
Ver. 154. conquers Reason still.”] See what is said before of the pernicious tenet of a Ruling Passion.
· Warton. And see also the Preliminary Note on the first of these Moral Epistles. Ver. 158. The folly's greater] Verbatim from Rochefoucault.
Builds life on death, on change duration founds, And gives th' eternal wheels to know their rounds.
Riches, like insects, when conceal'd they lie, Wait but for wings, and in their season fly.
170 Who sees pale Mammon pine amidst his store, Sees but a backward steward for the poor; This year a reservoir, to keep and spare; The next, a fountain, spouting thro' his heir, In lavish streams to quench a country's thirst, 175 And men and dogs shall drink him till they burst.
Old Cotta sham'd his fortune and his birth, Yet was not Cotta void of wit or worth:
Ver. 177. Old Cotta sham'd his fortune, 8c.] The Poet now proceeds to support the principles of his Philosophy by examples ; but before we come to these, it will be necessary to look back upon the general economy of the Poem.
In the first part, to ver. 109, the use and abuse of Riches are satirically delivered in precept. From thence to ver. 177, the causes of the abuse are philosophically inquired into : and from thence to the end, the use and abuse are historically illustrated by examples. Where we may observe, that the conclusion of the first part, concerning the Miser's cruelty to others, naturally introduceth the second, by a satirical apology, which shews that he is full as cruel to himself. The explanation of this extraordinary phænomenon brings the author into the Philosophy of his subject; and this ending in an observation of avarice and profusion's correcting and reconciling one another, as naturally introduces the third, which proves the truth of the observation from fact. And thus the Philosophy of his subject standing between his Precepts and Examples, gives strength and light to both, and receives it reflected back again from both.
Ver. 173. This year a reservoir,] The same comparison was before used by Young, Sat. vi. line 34. Pope collected gold from many a dunghill; for this allusion is taken from Fuller's Church History, p. 28.
What tho' (the use of barbarous spits forgot)
He first gives us two examples (from ver. 176 to 219.) of these opposite ruling Passions, and (to see them in their full force) taken from subjects, as he tells us, not void of wit or worth; from such as could reason themselves (as we see by ver. 183, et seq. and ver. 205, et seq.) into the whole length of each extreme: for the Poet had observed of the ruling Passion, that
“ Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse ;
Essay, Ep. ii. ver. 146. Old Cotta and his Son therefore afforded him the most happy illustration of his doctrine.
Ver. 182. With soups unbought]
dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis." VIRG. Pope.
Not so his son, he mark'd this oversight, And then mistook reverse of wrong for right. For what to shun will no great knowledge need, But what to follow, is a task indeed.
200 Yet sure, of qualities deserving praise, More go to ruin fortunes, than to raise. What slaughter'd hecatombs, what floods of wine, Fill the capacious 'squire, and deep divine! Yet no mean motive this profusion draws, 205 His oxen perish in his country's cause; 'Tis GEORGE and LIBERTY that crowns the cup, And zeal for that great House which eats him up. The woods recede around the naked seat, The sylvans groan-no matter—for the fleet: 210 Next goes his wool—to clothe our valiant bands; Last, for his country's love, he sells his lands.
Ver. 199. For what to shun will no great knowledge need,
But what to follow, is a task indeed.] The Poet is here speaking only of the knowledge gained by erperience. Now there are so many miserable examples of ill conduct, that no one, with his eyes open, can be at a loss to know what to shun; but, very inviting examples of a good conduct are extremely rare. Besides, the mischiefs of folly are eminent and obvious ; but the fruits of prudence, remote and retired from common observation; and, if seen at all, yet their dependence on their causes not being direct and immediate, they are not easily understood.
Warburton. Ver. 200.] Here I found two lines in the Poet's MS.
“ Yet sure, of qualities deserving praise,
More go to ruin fortunes, than to raise;" which, as they seemed to be necessary to do justice to the imaginary character going to be described, I advised him to insert in their place.
Warburton. The expression of “more qualities go," is surely faulty.
To town he comes, completes the nation's hope,
The sense to value Riches, with the art
Ver. 219. The sense to value Riches, &c.] The author having now largely exposed the ABUSE of Riches by example; not only the Plan, but the Philosophy of his Poem, required that he should, in the same way, shew the Use likewise : he, therefore, (from ver. 218 to 249,) calls for an example, in which may be found, against the PRODIGAL, the sense to value Riches ; against the VAIN, the urt to enjoy them; and against the AVARICIOUS, the virtue to impart them, when acquired. This whole Art (he tells us) may be comprised in one great and general precept, which is this : “That the rich man should consider himself as the substitute of Providence, in this unequal distribution of things; as the person who is
“ To ease, or emulate, the care of Heaven." “ To mend the faults of Fortune, or to justify her graces.” And thus the Poet slides naturally into the prosecution of his subject, in an example of the true use of Riches.
Ver. 218.] It is to be regretted, that the political feelings of Pope have in this instance been indulged so far as to induce him
injure his argument for the sake of a sarcasm on the House of Hanover. What he had undertaken to demonstrate was, that the
After ver. 218, in the MS.
Where one lean herring furnish'd Cotta's board,