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Alas what wonder ! Man's superior part
Trace Science then, with Modesty thy guide ;
45 Or Learning's Luxury, or Idleness
COMMENTARY. Ver. 43. Trace Science then, &c.] The conclusion, therefore, from the whole is (from 42 to 53) that, as on the one
NOTES. ton, in calculating the velocity of a Comet's motion, and the course it describes, when it becomes visible in its descent to, and ascent from the Sun, conjectured, with the highest appearance of truth, that Comets revolve perpetually round the Sun, in ellipses vastly eccentrical, and very nearly approaching to parabolas. In which he was greatly confirmed, in obserying between two Comets a coincidence in their perihelions, and a perfect agreement in their velocities.
VER. 45.-Vanity, or dress,] These are the first parts of what the Poet, in the preceding line, calls the scholar's equipage of Pride. By vanity, is meant that luxuriancy of thought an i expression in which a writer indulges himself, to shew the fruitfulness of his fancy or invention. By dress, is to be understood a lower degree of that practice, in amplification of thought and ornamental expression, to give force to what the writer would convey: but even this, the poet, in a severe search after truth, condemns; and with great judgment. Concifeness of thought and simplicity of expression, being as well the best instruments, as the best vehicles of Truth. Shakespear touches upon this latter advantage with great force and humour. The Flatterer fays to Timon in distress, “ I cannot “ cover the monstrous bulk of their ingratitude with any size of “ words.” The other replies, “Let it go naked, men may “ see't the better.” Vol. III,
Or tricks to thew the stretch of human brain,
50 Then see how little the remaining sum, Which serv'd the past, and must the times to come!
II. Two Principles in human nature reign; Self-love, to urge, and Reason, to restrain ;
COMMENTARY. hand, we should persist in the study of Nature; so, on the other, in order to arrive at Science, we should proceed in the fimplicity of Truth; and the product, tho' small, will yet be real.
VER. 53. Two Principles, &c.] The poet having thus shewn the difficulty attending the study of Man, proceeds to remove it, by laying before us the elements or true principles of this science, in an account of the Origin, Use, and End of the PasSIONS; which, in my opinion, contains the trueft, clearest,
NOTES. VER. 46. Or Learning's Luxury, or Idleness ;] The Luxury o. Learning confifts in dreifing up and disguising old notions in a new way, so as to make them more fashionable and palateable; instead of examining and scrutinizing their truth. As this is often done for pomp and shew, it is called luxury ; as it is often done too to save pains and labour, it is called idleness
47. Or tricks to her the stretch of human brain,] Such as the mathematical demonstrations concerning the small quantity of matier ; the endless divisibility of it, @c.
Ver. 48. Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain ;] That is, when Admni: ation sets the mind on the rack.
VER. 49. Expunge the whole, or lip th' excrescent parts---Of all our vices have created Arts ;] i. e. Those parts of natural Philosophy, Logic, Rhetoric, Poetry, &c. that admibifter to luxury, deceit, ambition, effeminacy, &c.
Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call, 55
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul ;
COMMENTARY. shortest, and consequently the best system of Ethics that is any where to be met with. He begins (from y 52 to 59) with pointing out the two grand principles in human nature, SHIFLove and Reason. Describes their general nature : The first sets Man upon acting, the other regulates his action. However, these principles are natural, not moral; and, therefore, in themselves, neither good nor bad, but so only as they are directed. This observation is made with great judgment, in opposition to the desperate folly of those fanatics, who, as the Ascetic, pretend to eradicate Self-love ; as the Mystic, would Side Reason; and both, on the absurd fancy of their being moral, not natural principles.
VÆR. 59. Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the foul ;] The poet proceeds (from y 58 to 67) more minutely to mark out the distinct offices of these two principles, which he had before assigned only in general ; and here he thews their necessity; for without Self-love, as the spring, Man would be unactive ; and without Reason, as the balance, active to no purpose.
Most strength the moving principle requires ;
COMMENTARY. Ver. 67. Moff strength the moving principle requires ; ] Having thus explained the ends and offices of each principle, he goes on (from y 66 to 79) to speak of their qualities, and shews how they are fitted to discharge those functions, and answer their respective intentions. The business of Self-love being to excite to action, it is quick and impetuous; and moving inItinctively, has, like attraction, its force prodigiously increased as the object approaches, and proportionably lesiened as that recedes. On the contrary, Reason, like the Author of attraction, is always calm and fedate, and equally preserves itself, whether the object be near or far off. Hence the moving principle is made more itrong, though the restraining be more quick-fighted. The consequence he draws from this is, that if we would not be carried away to our destruction, we must always keep Reafon upon guard.
NOTES. Ver. 74. Reason, the future and the consequence.] i.e. By experience Reason collects the future; and by argumentation, the confequence.
Attention, habit and experience gains ; 79
85 Have full as oft no meaning, or the same.
Of good and evil Gods what frighted Fools,
COMMENTARY. Ver. 79. Attention, &c,] But it would be objected, that, if this account were true, human life would be most miserable ; and, even in the wisest, a perpetual conflict between Reason and the Passions. To this, therefore, the poet replies (from 78 to 81) first, that Providence has fo graciously contrived, that even in the voluntary exercise of Reason, as in the mere mechanic motion of a limb, Habit makes what was at first done with pain, easy and natural. And, fecondly, that the experience gained by the long exercise of Realon, goes a great way towards eluding the force of Self-love. Now the attending to Reason, as here recommended, will gain us this habit and experience. Hence it appears, that this station, in which Reason is to be kept constantly upon guard, is not so uneasy a one as may be at first imagined.
VER. 81. Let subtle schoolmen, &c.] From this description of Self-love and Reason it follows, as the poet obferves (trom v 80 to 93) that both conspire to one end, namely, human happiness, though they be not equally expert in the choice of he means; the difference being this, that the first haftily ici_es