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Virtuous and vicious ev'ry Man must be, Few in th’extreme, but all in the degree ; The
rogue and fool by fits is fair and wise; And ev’n the best, by fits, what they despise. 'Tis but by parts we follow good or ill; 235 For, Vice or Virtue, Self directs it still ; Each individual seeks a sev'ral goal ; But HEAVEN's great view is One, and that the
Whole. That counter-works each folly and caprice; That disappoints th'effect of ev'ry vice; 240
COMMENTARY. Vice being unsettled, Men conclude that Vice itself is only nominal.
VER. 231. Virtuous and vicious ev'ry Man must be,] There is yet a third cause of this error of no Vice, no Virtue, composed of the other two, i.e. partly speculative, and partly practical. And this also the Poet considers (from Ver. 230 to 239) Newing it ariseth from the imperfection of the best characters, and the inequality of all : whence it happens that no Man is extremely virtuous or vicious; nor extremely constant in the pursuit of either. Why it so happens, the Poet informs us, who with admirable fagacity assigns the cause in this line :
“ For, Vice or Virtue, Self directs it still.” An adherence or regard to what is, in the sense of the world, a man's own interest, making an extreme, in either, impossible, Its effect in keeping a good man from the extreme of Virtue, needs no explanation ; and in an ill Man, Self-interest shewing him the necessity of some kind of reputation, the procuring and preserving that, will necessarily keep him from the extreme of Vice.
VER. 229. That counter-works each folly and caprice ;] The mention of this principle, that Self directs vice and virtue, and its consequence, which is, that
That, happy frailties to all ranks apply'd ;
Heav'n forming each on other to depend,
250 Bids each on other for assistance call, Till one Man's weakness grows the strength of all. Wants, frailties, passions, closer still ally The common int'rest, or endear the tie.
COMMENTARY. " Each individual seeks a several goal," leads the Author to observe
“ That Heav'n's great View is One, and that the Whole." And this brings him naturally round again to his main subject, namely, God's producing good out of ill, which he prosecutes from Ver. 238 to 249.
Ver. 249. Hrau'n forming each on other to depend,] I. Hitherto the Poet hath been employed in discoursing of the use of the Passions, with regard to Society at large; and in freeing his doctrine from objections: This is the first general division of the subject of this epistle.
NOT E S.
The common int'relt, &c.] As these lines have been misunderstood, I shall give the rea. der their plain and obvious meaning. To these frailties (says
To these we owe true friendship, love sincere, 255
Whate’er the Passion, knowledge, fame, or pelf, Not one will change his neighbour with himself.
COMMENTARY. II. He comes now to Thew (from Ver. 248 to 261) the use of these Passions, with regard to the more confined circle of our friends, relations, and acquaintance: and this is the fecond general division.
VER. 261. Whate'er the Pasion, &c.) III. The Poet having thus shewn the use of the Passions in Society, and in Domestic life, comes, in the last place, (from 2bo to the end) to shew their use to the Individual, even in their illusions; the imaginary happiness they present, helping to make the real miseries of life Jess insupportable: And this is his third general division :
.“ Opinion gilds with varying rays
NOT E Si he) we owe all the endearments of private life; yet, when we come to that age, which generally disposes men to think more seriously of the true value of things, and consequently of their provision for a future state, the confideration, that the grounds of those joys, loves, and friendships, are wants, frailties, and passions, proves the best expedient to wean us from the world; a disengagement so friendly to that provision we are now making for another state. The observation is new, and would in any place be extremely beautiful, but has here an infinite grace and propriety, as it so well confirms, by an instance of great moment, the general thesis, That God makes IN, at every step, productive of Good.
The learn'd is happy nature to explore,
“ And not a vanity is givin in vain.” Which must needs vastly raise our idea of God's goodness ; who hath not only provided more than a counterbalance of real happiness to human miseries, but hath even, in his infinite compassion, bestowed on those who were so foolish as not to have made this provision, an imaginary happiness; that they may not be quite overborne with the load of human miseries. This is the Poet's great and noble ti ought; as strong and solid as it is new and ingenious: It teaches, that these illusions are the faults and follies of Men, which they willfully fall into ; and thereby deprive themselves of much happiness, and expose themselves to equal misery: but that still, God (according to his universal way of working) graciously turns these faults and follies so far to the advantage of his miserable creatures, as to become the present folace and support of their distresses:
“ – Tho' Man's a fool, yet God is wise.”
N O T E S. Ver. 270.--the poet in his Mule.] The Author haring said, that no one would change his profession or views for those of another, intended to carry his observation still further, and thew that men were unwilling to exchange their own acquirements even for those of the fame kind, confessedly larger, and infinitely more eminent, in another,
See some strange comfort ev'ry state attend,
Behold the child, by nature's kindly law, 275
Mean-while opinion gilds with varying rays Those painted clouds that beautify our days; Each want of happiness by Hope supply'd, 285 And each vacuity of sense by Pride:
NOT E s. To this end he wrote,
“ What partly pleases, totally will fock:
“ I question much, if Toland would be Locke." But wanting another proper instance of this truth, he reserved the lines above for some following edition of this Essay.
VER. 280. And beads and pray'r-bocks are the toys of age.] A Satire on what is called in Popery the Opus operatum. As this is a description of the circle of human life returning into itself by a second child-hood, the Poet has with great elegance concluded his description with the same image with which he set out— And life's poor play is o'er.
VER. 286. And each vacuity of Sense by Pride :) An emiDent Caluist, Father Francis Garasje, in his Somme Theologique, Vol. III.