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As fruits, ungrateful to the planter's care, On savage stocks inserted, learn to bear; . The surest Virtues thus from Passions shoot, Wild Nature's vigour working at the root. What crops of wit and honesty appear 185 From spleen, from obstinacy, hate, or fear ! See anger, zeal and fortitude supply; Ev'n av'rice, prudence; Noth, philosophy; Lust, thro' some certain strainers well refin’d, Is gentle love, and charms all womankind; 190 Envy, to which th'ignoble mind's a slave, Is emulation in the learn'd or brave; Nor Virtue, male or female, can we name, But what will grow on pride, or grow on shame.
Thus Nature gives us (let it check our pride) The virtue nearest to our vice ally'd: 196
How oft, with Passion, Virtue points her charms!
Make it a point, dear Marquess! or a pique.
Reason the byas turns to good from ill,
COMMENTARY. Ver. 197. Reason the byas, &c.) But left it should be objected that this account favours the doctrine of Necessity, and would insinuate that men are only acted upon, in the production of good out of evil ; the Poet teacheth (from Ver. 196 to 203) that Man is a free agent, and hath it in his power to turn the natural passions into virtues or into vices, properly so called :
“ Reason the byas turns to good from ill,
“ And Nero reigns a Titus, if he will." Secondly, if it should be objected, that tho’he doth, indeed, tell us some actions are beneficial and some hurtful, yet he could not call those virtuous, nor these vicious, because, as he hath described things, thé motive appears to be only the gratification of some passion; give me leave to answer for him, that this would be mistaking the argument, which (to Ver. 249 of this epistle) considers the passions only with regard to Society, that is, with regard to their effects rather than their mctives: That, however, it is his design to teach that actions ·are properly virtuous and vicious ; and though it be difficult to distinguish genuine virtue from spurious, they having both the
This light and darkness in our chaos join'd, What shall divide ? The God within the mind.
Extremes in Nature equal ends produce, 205 In Man they join to some mysterious use ;
COMMENTARY. same appearance, and both the same public effects, yet that they may be disentangled. If it be asked, by what means? He replies (from Ver. 202 to 205) by conscience: and this is to the purpose ; for it is a Man's own concern alone to know whether his virtue be pure and solid; for what is it to others, whether this virtue (while, as to them, the effect of it is the fame) be real or imaginary?
VER. 205. Extremes in Nature equal ends produce, &C.) But still it will be said, Why all this difficulty to distinguish true virtue from false? The Poet (hews why (from Ver. 204 to 211) That though indeed vice and virtue so invade each other's bounds, that sometimes we can scarce 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
NOT E S. Ver. 204. The God within the mind.] A Platonic phrafe for Conscience; and here employed with great judgment and propriety. For Conscience either signifies, speculatively, the judgment we pass of things upon whatever principles we chance to have ; and then it is only Opinion, a very unable judge and divider ; or else it signifies, practically, the appli. cation 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.
Tho' each by turns the other's bound invade,
Fools! who from hence into the notion fall,
Vice is a monster of fo frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
COMMENTAR Y. vice nor virtue, the Poet shews (from Ver. 210 to 217) 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 ;
“ 'Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.” This is an error of speculation, which leads Men lo foolishly to conclude, that there is neither vice nor virtue.
VER. 217. Dice is a monster, &c.] There is another Error, an error of practice, which hath more general and hurtful effects; and is next considered (from Ver. 216 to 221.) It is this, that though, at the first aspect, Vice be so horrible as to fright the beholder, yet, when by habit we are once grown familiar with her, we first suffer, and in time begin to lose the memory of her nature; which necessarily implies an equal ignorance in the nature of Virtue. Hence men conclude, that there is neither one nor the other.
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
A Cheåt! 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,
COMMENTARY. VER. 221. But where th' Extreme of Vice, &c.] But it is not only that extreme of Vice which stands next to Virtue, which betrays us into these mistakes. We are deceived too, as he shows us, (from Ver. 220 to 231) by our observations concerning the other extreme: For from the extreme of