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On once a flock-bed, but repair’d with straw, With tape-ty'd curtains, never meant to draw, The George and Garter dangling from that bed Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red, Great Villers lies---alas! how chang’d from him, That life of pleasure, and that foul of whim! 306 Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove, The bow'r of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
COMMENTARY. And now, as if fully determined to resolve this doubtful question, he assumes the air and importance of a Profesfor ready addressed to plunge himself into the very depths of Theology:
“ A knotty point! to which we now proceed—”
when, on a sudden, the whole scene is changed,
“ But you are tir'd-I'll tell a tale-Agreed.”
And thus, by the most easy transition, we are come to the concluding doctrine of his poem.
NOT E s. VER. 305. Great Villers lies-- ] This Lord, yet more famous for his vices than his misfortunes, having been possessed of about 50,000l. a year, and passed through many of the highest posts in the kingdom, died in the year 1687, in a remote inn in Yorkshire, reduced to the utmost misery. P.
Ver. 307. Cliveden] A delightful palace, on the banks of the Thames, built by the D. of Buckingham. P.
Ver. 308. Shrewsbury] The Countess of Shrewsbury, a woman abandoned to gallantries. The Earl her husband was killed by the Duke of Buckingham in a duel; and it has been said, that during the combat she held the Duke's horses in the habit of a page.
Or just as gay, at Council, in a ring
311 No Fool to laugh at, which he valu'd more. There, Victor of his health, of fortune, friends, And fame; this lord of useless thousands ends.
His Grace's fate fage Cutler could foresee, 315 Andwell (he thought) advis’dhim,“Livelikeme.” As well his Grace reply'd, “ Like you, Sir John? " That I can do, when all I have is gone." Resolve, me Reason, which of these is worse, Want with a full, or with an empty purse ? 320
VER. 312. No Fool to laugh at, which he valu'd more.] That is, he liked disguised Aattery better than the more direct and open.
And no wonder a man of wit should have this taste. For the taking pleasure in fools, for the sake of laughing at them, is nothing else but the complaisance of flattering ourselves, by an advantageous comparison which the mind makes between itself and the object laughed at. Hence too we may see the reason of men's preferring this to every other kind of Flattery. For we are always inclined to think that work done best which we do ourselves." VER. 319. Resolve me, Realin, which of these is worse,
Want with a full, or with an empty purse?] The Poet did well in appealing to Reason, from the Parties concerned; who, it is likely, had made but a very foolish decision. The abhorrence of an empty purse would have certainly perverted the judgment of Want with a full one : And the longings for a full one would probably have as much milled Want with an empty one. Whereas Reason refolves this
Thy life more wretched, Cutler, was confess’d,
NOT E s. matter in a trice: there being a possibility that Want with an empty purse may be relieved; but none, that Want with a full puise ever can.
VER. 321.-Cutler - Arise and tell me, &c.] This is to be understood as a folemn evocation of the Shade of this illustrious Knight, in the manner of the Ancients; who ufed to call up their departed Heroes by the things they principally loved and det fted, as the mast potent of all charms. Hence this Sage is called up by the powerful adjuration of a full, and of an empty purse. Ver. 333. Cutler and Brutus, dying both exclaim,
“Virtue! and Wealth! what are ye but a name !"] There is a greater beauty in this comparison than the common reader is aware of. Brutus was, in morals, at least, a Stoic,
And how much addicted to that sect in general, appears from his professing himself of the old Academy,
like his uncle.
Say, for such worth are other worlds prepar’d? Or are they both, in this their own reward? 336 A knotty point! to which we now proceed. But you
tir'd---I'll tell a tale---B. Agreed. P. Where London's column, pointing at the
skies Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies; 340
That knotty point, my Lord, shall I discuss,
COMMENTARY. Ver. 339. Where London's Column, &c.] For, the foregoing examples of profufion and avarice having been given to thew, that wealth misapplied, was not enjoyed; it only remained to prove, that, in such circumstances, wealth became the heaviest punishment; and this was the very point
NOT BS. and being a most passionate admirer of Antiochus Ascalonites, an essential Stoic, if ever there was any. Now Stoical virtue was, as our Author truly tells us, not exercise, but apathy, Contracted all, retiring to the breast. In a word, like Sir Cutler's purse, nothing for use, but kept close shut, and centered all within himself. --Now virtue and wealth, thus circumStanced, are, indeed, no other than mere names.
VER. 339. Where London's column] The Monument built in memory of the fire of London, with an inscription importing that city to have been burnt by the Papists. P.
VER. 340. Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies.] It were to be wished, the City monument had been compared to fomething of more dignity': As, to the Court-champion, for instance, fince, like him, it only spoke the sense of the Government,
There dwelt a Citizen of fober fame,
to conclude with, as it is the great MORAL of this instructive Poem; which is to teach us, how miserable men make themselves by not endeavouring 10 restrain the ruling Passion, though it be indeed implanted in us by the constitution of things; while, at the same time, it is an answer to the latter part of the question,
“ Say, for such worth are other worlds prepar'd ?
“ Or are they both, in this their own reward ?" For the solution of which only, this Example was jocularly pretended to have been given.
All this, the Poet has admirably supported, in the artful construction of his fable of Sir Balaam; whose character is fo drawn, as to let the Reader see he had it in his power to regulate the ruling Pafion by reason, as having in himself the seeds of integrity, religion, and fobriety. These are all gradually worked out by an insatiable thirit of wealth; and this again (through a false sense of his own abilities in acquiring it) succeeded by as immoderate a vanity: Which will lead us to another beauty in the management of the Story. For, in order to fee, in one concluding Example, the miseries of exorbitant wealth, ill employed, it was necessary to set before the Reader, at once, all the misuse that flowed both from avarice and profufion. The vices of the Citizen and the NOBLE, therefore, which were separated and contrafted in the foregoing instances, are here shewn incorporated in a Courtly Čit. Perhaps it will be said, that the character has, by this means, the appearance of two ruling Passions : but those studied in human nature know the contrary: and that alieni appetens fui profufus, is frequently as much one as either. the profuse or avaricious apart. Indeed, this is so far from an inaccuracy, that it produces a new beauty. The Ruling Passion is of two kinds, the simple and the complex. The first fort, the Poet had given examples of before. Nothing then remained to complete his philosophic plan, but conclud