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How oft by these at fixty are undone
Trust, 185 Content, or Pleasure, but the Good and Just? Judges and Senates have been bought for gold, Esteem and Love were never to be fold.
COMMENTARY. VER. 185. To whom can Riches give Repute, or Truf,] The poet now enters more at large upon the matter : And still continuing his discourse to this third sort of complainers (whom he indulgeth, as much more pardonable than the first or second, in rectifying all their doubts and mistakes) he proves, both from reason and example, how unable any of those things are which the world most admires, to make a good man happy. For as to the Philosophic mistakes concerning Happiness, there being little danger of their making a general impression, he had, after a short confutation, dismissed them at once. But External goods are those Syrens which so bewitch the world with dreams of Happiness, that it is of all things the most difficult to awaken it out of its delusions ; though, as he proves in an exact review of the most pretending, they dishonour bad men, and add no luftre to the good. That it is only this third and least criminal sort of complainers, against which the remaining part of the discourse is levelled, appeareth from the poet's so frequently addressing himself, while he inforceth his arguments in behalf of Providence, from henceforward to his friend.
I. He beginneth therefore (from x 184 to 205) with confidering Riches. 1. He examines, first, what there is of real value or enjoyment in them; and sheweth, they can give the good man only that very Contentment and that very Esteem and Love which he had before : And scornfully cries out to those of a different opinion,
Ob fool! to think God hates the worthy mind,
Oh fool! to think God hates the worthy mind, The lover and the love of human-kind, 190 Whose life is healthful, and whose conscience clear, Because he wants a thousand pounds a year.
Honour and shame from no Condition rife; Act well your part, there all the honour lies. 194 Fortune in Men has some small diff'rence made, One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade The cobler apron'd, and the parson gown'd, The frier hooded, and the monarch crown'd. “What differ more (you cry) than crown and cowl?” I'll tell you, friend ! a wise man and a Fool. 200
COMMENTARY. 2. Next he examines the imaginary value of Riches, as the fountain of Honour. For his adversaries' objection standeth thus : -As Honour is the genuine claim of Virtue, and Shame the just retribution of Vice; and as Honour, in their opinion, follows Riches, and Shame Poverty; therefore the good man should be rich. He tells them in this they are much mistaken:
Honour and frame from no Condition rise;
Axt well your part, there all the honour' liés. What power then has Fortune over the Man ? None at all; for as her favours can confer neither worth nor wisdom; so neither can her displeasure cure him of any of his follies. On his Garb indeed the hath some little influence; but his Heart still semains the fame :
Fortune in Men has some small difforence made,
One ficunts in rags, one flutters in brocade. But this difference extends no farther than to the habit ; the pride of heart is the fame both in the flaunter and the flutterer, as it is the poct's intention to infinuate by the use of those terms.
You'll find, if once the monarch acts the monk,
Stuck o'er with titles and hung round with strings,
blood of an illustrious race,
crept thro’ scroundels ever since the flood,
The richest blood, right-honourably old,
What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards? 215
Look next on Greatness ; say where Greatness lies> “ Where, but
the Heroes and the Wife?”
COMMENTARY. VER. 217. Look next on Greatness ; &c.] III. The poet in the next place (from 216 to 237) unmasks the false pretences of GREATNESS; whereby it is seen that the Hero and Politician (the two characters that would monopolize that quality) after all their bustle effect only this, if they want Virtue, that the one
They err who count it glorious to subdue
Par. Reg. B.ili.
Not one looks backward, onward still he goes,
What's Fame? a fancy'd life in others breath, A thing beyond us, ev’n before our death.
COMMENTARY. proves himself a Fool, and the other a Knave: And Virtue they but too generally want; the art of Heroism being understood to consist in Ravage and Desolation, and the art of Politics in Circumvention.
It is not success, therefore, that constitutes true Greatness; but the end aimed at, and the means which are employed : And if these be right, Glory will be the reward, whatever be the issue:
Who noble ends by noble means obtains,
Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.