« ForrigeFortsæt »
To written Wisdom, as another's, lefs:
conjectures of the observer: But when the writer joins his fpeculation to the experience of the obferver, his notions are rectified into principles and when the observer regulates his experience on the general principles of the writer, his conjectures advance into science. Such is the reasoning of this introduction; which, befides its propriety to the general fubject of the Epiftle, has a peculiar relation to each of its parts or members: For the causes of the difficulty in coming at the knowledge and characters of men, explained in the firft, will fhew the importance of what is here delivered, of the joint affiftance of fpeculation and practice to furmount it; and the wrong means, which both philofaphers and men of the world have employed in overcoming those difficulties difcourfed of in the fecond, have their fource here deduced, which is feen to be a feparate adherence of each to his own method of ftudying men, and a mutual contempt of the others. Laftly, the right means delivered in the third, will be of little ufe in the application, without the direction here delivered: For tho' obfervation discovered a ruling paffion, yet, without a philofophic knowledge of the human mind, we may eafily mistake a fecondary and fubfidiary paffion for the principal, and fo be never the nearer in the Knowledge of Men. But the elegant and eafy Form of the introduction equals the Propriety of its matter; for the epiftle being addreffed to a noble. perfon, diftinguifhed for his knowledge of the World, it opens, as it were, in the midst of a familiar converfe, which lets us at once into his character; where the poet, by affecting only to ridicule the useless Knowledge of Men confined to Books, and under the appearance of extolling only that acquired by the World, artfully infinuates how equally defective this may be,. when conducted on the fame narrow principle: Which is too often the cafe, as men of the world are more than ordinarily prejudiced in favour of their own obfervations for the fake of the
VER. 5. The coxcomb bird, c.] A fine turn'd allufion to what Philoftratus faid of Euxenus, the Tutor of Apollonius,
that he could only repeat fome
There's fome Peculiar in each leaf and grain,
That each from other differs, first confess;
obferver, and, for the fame reason, less indulgent to the difcoveries of others.
- but as many forts of Mind as Mofs.
VER. 15. There's fome Peculiar &c.] The poet enters on the Firft divifion of his fubject, the difficulties of coming at the Knowledge and true Characters of Men. The firft caufe of this difficulty which he profecutes (from 14 to 19) is the great diverfity of Characters, of which, to abate our wonder, and not difcourage our inquiry, he only defires we would grant him
Hereby artfully infinuating, that if Nature has varied the most worthlefs vegetable into above three hundred fpecies, we need not wonder at the like diverfity in the human mind: And if a variety in that vegetable has been thought of importance enough to employ the leisure of a serious enquirer, much more will the fame quality in this master-piece of Nature deserve our study and attention.
VER. 19. That each from other differs, &c.] A fecond caufe of this difficulty (from 18 to 21) is Man's inconftancy, whereby not only one man differs from another, but each man from himself.
Ζεὺς ἵλεως, but knew not what they fignified.
VER. 10. And yet - Men may be read, as well as Books too much, &c.] The poet has here covertly deferib'd a famous fyftem of a man of the world, the celebrated Maxims of M.
de la Rochefoucault, which are one continued fatire on human Nature, and hold much of the ill language of the Parrot: The reafon of the cenfure, our author's fyftem of hunan nature will explain.
Add Nature's, Custom's, Reason's, Paffion's, ftrife, And all Opinion's colours caft on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds, Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds? On human actions reason tho' you can,
be Reason, but it is not Man:
VER. 21. Add Nature's, &c.] A third caufe (from 20 to 23) is that obfcurity thrown over the Characters of men, through the ftrife and conteft between nature and cuftom, between reason and appetite, between truth and opinion. And as moft men, either thro' education, temperature, or profeffim, have their Characters warp'd by cuflom, appetite, and opinion, the obscurity arifing from thence is almoft univerfal.
VER. 23. Our depths who fathoms, &c.] A fourth caufe (from 20 to 25) is deep diffimulation, and reftlefs caprice, whereby the fhallows of the mind are as difficult to be found, as the depths of it to be fathom'd.
VER. 25. On human actions &c.] A fifth caufe (from ✯ 24 to 31) is the fudden change of his Principle of action, either on the point of its being laid open and detected, or thro' mere inconftancy.
VER. 22. And all Opinion's colours caft on life.] The poet refers here only to the effects: In the Effay on Man he gives
VER. 26. It may be Reafon, but it is not Man:] i. e. The Philofopher may invent a rational hypothefis that fhall account for the appearances he
both the efficient and the final caufe: The Firft in the third Ep. 231.
E'er Wit oblique had broke that feddy light.
For oblique Wit is Opinion. The other, in the second Ep. ✯ 283.
Mean-while Opinion gilds with varying rays
would inveftigate; and yet
His Principle of action once explore,
Yet more; the diff'rence is as great between
It hurries all too fast to mark their
VER. 31. Yet more; the difference &c.] Hitherto the poet hath spoken of the causes of difficulty arifing from the obscurity of the Object; he now comes to those which proceed from defects in the Obferver. The First of which, and a fixth cause of difficulty, he fhews (from 30 to 37) is the perverse manners, affections, and imagination of the obferver, whereby the Characters of others are rarely feen either in their true light, complexion, or proportion.
VER. 37. Nor will Life's ftream for Obfervation &c.] The
VER. 29. Like following life thro' creatures you diffect, You lofe it in the moment you detect.] This Simile is extremely beautiful. To fhew the difficulty of discovering the operations of the heart in a moral fenfe, he illuftrates it by another attempt ftill more difficult, the discovery of its operations in a natural: For the
feat of animal life being in the heart, our endeavours of tracing it thither must neceffarily drive it from thence.
VER. 33. All Manners take a tincture from our own;Or come difcolour'd thro' our Paffions fhown.] These two lines are remarkable for the exactness and propriety of expreffion. The word tincture,
In vain fedate reflections we wou'd make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Second of these, and feventh caufe of difficulty (from 36 to 41) is the Shortness of human life, which will not fuffer the obferver to felect and weigh out his knowledge, but just to snatch it as it rolls rapidly by him down the current of Time.
VER. 41. Oft, in the Paffions' &c.] We come now to the eighth and last cause, which very properly concludes the account, as, in a fort, it fums up all the difficulties in one (from
40 to 51) namely, that very often the man himself is ignorant of his own motive of action; the caufe of which ignorance our author has admirably explain'd: When the mind (fays he) is now quite tired out by the long conflict of oppofite motives, it withdraws its attention, and fuffers the will to be feized upon by the first that afterwards obtrudes itself, without taking notice what that motive is. This is finely illuftrated by what he fupposes the general caufe of dreams; where the fancy, just let loofe, poffeffes itself of the last image which it meets with on the confines between fleep and waking, and on that erects all its vifionary operation; yet this image is, with great difficulty, recollected; and never, but when fome accident happens to interrupt our first flumbers: Then (which proves the truth of the hypothefis) we are fometimes able to trace the workings of the Fancy backwards, from image to image, in a chain, till we come to that from whence they all arofe.
which implies a weak colour given by degrees, well defcribes the influence of the Manners; and the word dif
colour, which implies a quicker change and by a deeper dye, denotes as well the operation of the Paffions.