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Boast the pure blood of an illustrious race,
lies ? “ Where, but among the Heroes and the Wise?"
The richest blood, right- honourably old,
COMMENTARY. (from Ver. 204 to 217.) is in itself as devoid of all real worth: as the reft; because, in the first case, the Title is generally gained by no merit at all ; in the second, by the merit of the first Founder of the Family; which, when reflected on, is generally the subject rather of humiliation than of glory
VER. 217. Look next on Greatness, &c.] III. The Poet now unmasks (from Ver. 216 to 237.) the false pretences of GREATNESS, whereby it is seen that the Hero and the Politician (the two characters which would monopolize that quality) do, after all their bustle, if they want Virtue, effect only
Heroes are much the same, the point's agreed,
COMMENTARY. this, that the one 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 good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed 235
What's Fame? a fancy'd life in others breath,
COMMENTARY. VER. 237. What's Fame?] IV. With regard to FAME, that still more fantastic blefling, he sheweth (from Ver. 236 to 259.) that all of it, besides what we hear ourselves, is merely nothing: and that even of this small portion, no more of it giveth the possessor a real fatisfaction, than
One self-approving hour whole years outweighs
In Parts superior what advantage lies ?
COMMENTARY. . what is the fruit of Virtue. Thus he fhews, that Honour, Nobility, Greatness, Glory, fo far as they have any thing real and substantial, that is, so far as they contribute to the Happiness of the possessor, are the sole issue of Virtue ; and that neither Riches, Courts, Armies, nor the Populace, are capable of conferring them.
Ver. 259. In Parts Superior what advantage lies?] V. But lastly, the Poet Mhews (from Ver. 258 to 269.) that as no exter. nal goods can make man happy, so neither is it in the power of all internal. For that even SUPERIOR PARTS bring no more real happiness to the possessor than the rest; nay, that they put him into a worse condition; for that the quickness
NOT E s. Ver. 267. Painful preheminence! &c.] This, to his friend;
nor does it at all contradict what he had said to him concerg. ipg Happiness, in the beginning of the epistle :
Bring then these blessings to a strict account: Make fair deductions ; see to what they mount; ! How much of other each is sure to cost; 271
How each for other oft is wholly loft ;
COMMENTARY. of apprehension and depth of penetration do but sharpen the miseries of life.
VER. 269. Bring then these blessings to a strict account, &c.] Having thus proved how empty and unsatisfactory all these greatest external goods are, from an examination of their nature; he proceeds to strengthen his argument (from Ver. 268 to 309.) by thefe three further considerations :
1. That the acquirement of these goods is made with the loss of one another, or of greater ; either as inconsistent with them, or as spent in attaining them.
2. That the possessors of each of these goods are generally such, as are so far from raising envy in a good man, that he would refuse to take their persons, though accompanied with their posseflions: and this the Poet illustrates by examples.
3. That even the possession of them altogether, where they have excluded Virtue, only terminates in more enormous misery.
NOT E S.
“ And fed from Monarchs, St. John! dwells with thee.” For he is now proving, that nothing either external to man, or what is not in man's power, and of his own acquirement, can make him happy here. The most plausible rival of Virtue is Kạowledge: yet even this is so far from giving any degree of real happiness, that it deprives us of those common comforts of life, which are a kind of support, under the want of happiness. Such as the more innocent of those delusions which he speaks of in the second Epistle : .
« Those painted clouds that beautify our days,” &c.
Now Knowledge destroyeth all those comforts, by setting man above life's weaknesses: So that in him, who thinketh 19