« PreviousContinue »
The fureft Virtues thus from passions shoot,
Thus Nature gives us (let it check our pride) 195 The virtue nearest to our vice ally'd :
After ver. 194 in the MS.
How oft, with Paflion, Virtue points her Charms!
Reason the byas turns to good from ill,
Whose self-denials nature molt controul?
Ver. 197. Reason the hyas, &c.] Let it should be objected, that this account favours the doctrine of Necessity, and would infinuate that Men are only acted upon, in the production of Good out of Evil; the poet here teacheth, that Man is a free-agent, and hath it in his own power to turn the natural paffions into Virtue or into Vices, properly so called :
Reason the byas turns to good from ill,
And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will. VER. 204. The God within the mind.) A Platonic phrase for Conscience; and here employed with great judgment and propriety. For Conscience either fignifies, speculatively, the judgment we pass of things upon whatever principles we chance to have; and then it is only Opinion,
Extremes in Nature equal ends produce, 205
Fools! who from hence into the notion fall,
a very unable judge and divider. Or else it fignifies, practically, the application of the eternal rule of right (received by us as the law of God) to the regulation of our actions ; and then it is properly Conscience, the God (or the law of God) within the mind, of power to divide the light from the darkness in this chaos of the passions.
Ver. 285. Extremes in Nature equal ends produce.] The poet here reasons to this effect, That though indeed Vice and Virtue so invade each other's bounds, that sometimes we can search tell where one ends, and the other begins, yet great purposes are served thereby, no less than the perfecting the constitution of the whole, as lights and shades, which run into one another in a well-wrought picture, make the harmony and spirit of the composition. But, on this account, to say there is neither Vice nor Virtue, the poet Thews would be just as wise as to say, there is neither black nor white; because the shade of that, and the light of this, often run into one another:
Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain;
Ask your own heart, and nothing is-fo plain? 215 'Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen: Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace. But where th’ Extreme of Vice, was ne'er agreed : Ask where's the North ?'at York, 'tis on the Tweed; In Scotland, at the Orcades; and there, At Greenland, Zembla, or the Lord knows where. No creature owns it in the first degree, 225 But thinks his neighbour further gone than he ; Ev’n those who dwell beneath its very zone, Or never feel the rage, or never own; What happier natures shrink at with affright, The hard inhabitant contends is right. 230
A Cheat! a whore! who starts not at the name,
In all the Inns of court or Drury-lane?
The Col’nel swears the Agent is a dog,
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 Heav'n'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 That, happy frailties to all ranks apply'd ; Shame to the virgin, to the matron pride, Fear to the Statesman, rashness to the chief, To kings presumption, and to crowds belief:
YER.231. Virtuous and viciousev'ry Man must be, - Few, in th extreme, but all in the degree ;] Of this the Poet, with admirable fagacity, affigns the cause, in the following line :
For, Vice or Virtue, Sely 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 Vice or Virtue almost impossible. Its effect in keeping a good Man from the extreme of Virtue, needs no explanation ; and in an ill Man, Self-interest fhewing him the necessity of fome kind of reputation, the procuring, and preserving that, will keep him from the extreme of Vice,