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Add nature's, custom’s, reason's, passion's strife,
And all opinion's colours cast on life.

Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds ?
On human actions reason though you can,
It may be reason, but it is not Man:
His principle of action once explore,
That instant ’tis his principle no more ;
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.



Ver. 21. Add nature's, 8c.] A third cause (from ver. 20 to 23) is that obscurity thrown over the characters of men, through the strife and contest between nature and custom, between reason and appetite, between truth and opinion. And as most men, either through education, temperature, or profession, have their characters warped by custom, appetite, and opinion, the obscurity arising from thence is almost universal.

Ver. 23. Our depths who fathoms, &c.] A fourth cause (from ver. 22 to 25) is deep dissimulation, and restless caprice ; whereby the shallows of the mind are as difficult to be found, as the depths of it are to be fathomed.

Ver. 25. On human actions, &c.] A fifth cause (from ver. 24 to 31) is the sudden change of his principle of action ; either on the point of its being laid open and detected, or when it is reasoned upon, and attempted to be explored.


Ver. 22. And all opinion's colours cast on life, &c.] The Poet refers here only to the effects. In the Essay on Man he gives both the efficient and the final cause. The first in the third Ep. ver. 231.

“ Ere wit oblique had broke that steady_light.”
For oblique wit is opinion. The other, in the second Epistle, ver. 283.

“ Meanwhile opinion gilds with varying rays,
Those painted clouds that beautify our days,” &c.

Warburton. Ver. 23. Our depths who fathoms, fc.] “ A mesure qu'on a plus d'esprit,” says the profound Pascal, “ on trouve qu'il y a plus d'hommes originaux.” -Warton.

Ver. 26. It may be reason, but it is not Man :) i.e. The Philosopher may invent a rational hypothesis which shall account for the appearances he would investigate ; and yet that hypothesis be, all the while, very wide of fact, and the nature of things.-Warburton. Ver. 29. Like following life through creatures you dissect,

You lose it in the moment you detect.] This simile is extremely beautiful. In order to show the difficulty of discovering the operations of the heart in a moral sense, the Poet illustrates it by another attempt still more difficult, the discovery of its operations in a natural. For the seat of animal life being in the heart, our endeavours of tracing it thither must necessarily drive it from thence.-Warburton.

Yet more; the difference is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own;
Or come discolour'd, through our passions shown.
Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,

35 Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dies.

Nor will life's stream for observation stay ; It hurries all too fast to mark their way : In vain sedate reflections we would make, When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take. Oft, in the passions' wide rotation tost,

41 Our spring of action to ourselves is lost :


Ver. 31. Yet more; the difference, gc.] Hitherto the Poet hath spoken of the causes of difficulty arising from the obscurity of the object ; he now comes to those which proceed from defects in the observer. The first of which, and a sixth cause of difficulty, he shows (from ver. 30 to 37) is the perverse manners, affections, and imaginations of the observer ; whereby the characters of others are rarely seen either in their true light, complexion, or proportion.

Ver. 37. Nor will life's stream for observation, &c.] The seventh cause of difficulty, and the second arising from defects in the observer (from ver. 36 to 41), is the shortness of human life ; which will not suffer him to select and weigh out his knowledge, but just to snatch it, as it rolls swiftly by bim, down the rapid current of time.

Ver. 41. Oft, in the passions', &c.) We come now to the eighth and last cause, which very properly concludes the account ; as, in a sort, it sums up all the difficulties in one (from ver. 40 to 51), namely, that very

often the man himself is ignorant of his own motive of action ; the cause of which ignorance our author has admirably explained. When the mind (says he) is now tired out by the long conflict of opposite motives, it withdraws its attention ; and suffers the will to be seized upon by the first that afterwards obtrudes itself; without taking much notice what that motive is. This is finely illustrated by what he supposes to be the natural cause of dreams; where the fancy just let loose, possesses itself of the last image which it meets with, on the confines between sleeping and waking ; and on that erects all its ideal scenery ; yet this seizure is, with great difficulty, recollected ; and never, but when by some accident we happen to have our first slumbers suddenly interrupted. Then (which proves the truth of


Ver. 33. All manners take a tincture from our own ;

Or come discolour'd, through our passions shown.] These two lines are remarkable for the exactness and propriety of expression. The word tincture, which implies a weak colour given by degrees, well describes the influence of the manners ; and the word discolour, which implies a quicker change and by a deeper die, denotes as well the operation of the passions.-Warburton.


Tird, not determin’d, to the last we yield,
And what comes then is master of the field.
As the last image of that troubled heap,
When sense subsides, and fancy sports in sleep,
(Tho' past the recollection of the thought,)
Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought,
Something as dim to our internal view,
Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do.

True, some are open, and to all men known;
Others so very close they're hid from none;
(So darkness strikes the sense no less than light ;)
Thus gracious CHANDOS is belov’d at sight;
And every child hates Shylock, tho' his soul
Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole.




the hypothesis) we are sometimes able to trace the workings of the fancy backwards, from idea to idea, in a chain, till we come to that from whence they all arose.

Ver. 51. True, some are open, &c.] But now, in answer to all this, an objector (from ver. 50 to 63) may say, " That these difficulties seem to be aggravated. For many characters are so plainly marked, that no man can mistake them : and not so only in the more open and frank, but in the closest and most recluse likewise.” Of each of these the objector gives an instance ; by which it appears, that the forbidding closeness and concealed hypocrisy in the one, are as conspicuous to all mankind, as the gracious openness and frank plain-dealing of the other. The reader sees this objection is more particularly levelled at the doctrine of ver. 23.

“Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds ;" for here it endeavours to prove, that both are equally explorable.


Ver. 48. Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought,] Giraldus Cambrensis, speaking of a divine vision with which he was favoured, seems yet to think that it might be made out of the stuff of his waking thoughts. His words are these : “ Cum igitur super universis quæ nobis acciderant, mecum non mediocriter anxius extiterim-suspiriosæ mihi multoties cogitationes in animum ascenderint, nocte quadam in somnis Ex RELIQUIIS FORTE COGITATIONUM Visionem vidi,” &c. De rebus a se gestis, lib. ii. c. 12.— By which we see, and it is worth remarking, that to philosophize on our superstitions is so far from erasing them, that it engraves them but the more deeply in the mind. The reason is plain ; it turns the objection to them, to a solution in their credit.--Warburton.

Ver. 56. peeps not from its hole.] Which shows that this grave person was content with his present situation, as finding but small satisfaction in what a famous Poet reckons one of the advantages of old age :

“ The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made.”

SCRIBL.- Warburton.


At balf mankind when generous Manly raves,
All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves :
When universal homage Umbra pays,
All see 'tis vice, and itch of vulgar praise.
When flattery glares, all hate it in a queen,
While one there is who charms us with his spleen.

But these plain characters we rarely find ;
Tho' strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind :


Ver. 63. But these plain characters, &c.] To this objection, therefore, our author replies (from ver. 62 to 71) that indeed the fact may be true, in the instances given ; but that such plain characters are extremely rare. And for the truth of this, he not only appeals to experience, but explains the causes of those perplexed and complicated humours which diffuse themselves over the whole species. 1. The first of which is, the vivacity of the imagination ; that when the bias of the passions is sufficiently determined to mark out the character, the vigour of the fancy generally rising in proportion to the strength of the appetites, the one no sooner draws the bias, than the other turns it to a contrary direction :

" Tho'strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind.” 2. A second cause is the contrariety of appetites, which drawing several ways, as avarice and luxury, ambition and indolence, &c. expressed in the Jine,

“Or puzzling contraries confound the whole ;" must needs make the same character inconsistent to itself, and of course inexplicable by the observer.

3. A third cause is Affectation, which aspires to qualities that neither nature nor education has given us ; and consequently, will be exerted with the same restraint and difficulty that a tumbler walks upon his hands ; on which account it is that he says

“ Affectations quite reverse the soul;" natural passions may, indeed, turn it from that bias which the ruling one has given it; but the affected passions distort all its faculties, and cramp all its operations : so that humanity itself, as well as its qualities, is no longer a distinguishable thing.

4. A fourth cause lies in the Inequalities of the human mind, which expose the wise to unexpected frailties, and conduct the weak to as unlooked-for wisdom.


Ver. 57. At half mankind] The character alluded to is the principal one in the Plain Dealer of Wycherley, a comedy taken from the Misanthrope of Moliere, but much inferior to the original. Alcestes has not that bitterness of spirit, and has much more humanity and honour than Manly. Writers transfuse their own characters into their works : Wycherley was a vain and profligate libertine ; Moliere was beloved for his candour, sweetness of temper, and integrity.--Warton.

Ver. 61. hate it in a queen,] Meaning Queen Caroline, whom he was fond of censuring ; as was Bolingbroke. See vol. i. p. 123 of his works, for a bitter ridicule on her affectation of science.- Warton. Ver. 62. who charms us with his spleen.] Closely copied from Boileau :

Un esprit né chagrin plaît par son chagrin même.” A compliment to Swift.- Warton.



Or puzzling contraries confound the whole;
Or affectations quite reverse the soul.
The dull, flat falsehood serves for policy;
And in the cunning, truth itself's a lie:
Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise;
The fool lies hid in inconsistencies.

See the same man, in vigour, in the gout;
Alone, in company; in place, or out;
Early at business, and at hazard late;
Mad at a fox-chase, wise at a debate;
Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball;
Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall.



Ver. 71. See the same man, &c.] Of all these four causes he here gives EXAMPLES : 1. Of the vivacity of the imagination (from ver. 70 to 77)—2. Of the contrariety of Appetites (from ver. 76 to 81)—3. Of Affectations (from ver. 80 to 87)—and, 4. Of the Inequalities of the human mind (from ver. 86 to 95).


Ver. 69. Unthought-of frailties] The night before the battle of Blenheim, after a council of war had been held in the Duke of Marlborough's tent, at which Prince Louis of Baden and Prince Eugene had assisted, the latter, after the council had broke up, stepped back to the tent to communicate something he had forgot to the Duke, whom he found giving orders to his aid-de-camp Colonel Selwyn (who related this fact) at the table, on which there was now only a single taper burning, all the others being extinguished the moment the council was over. “ What a man is this," said Prince Eugene, “who at such a time can think of saving the ends of candles !”Warton.

Ver. 72. Alone, in company ;] The unexpected inequalities of our minds and tempers is a subject that has been exhausted by Montaigne in the 1st chap. of the 2nd book of his Essays, which, it is evident, Pope had been reading. Nothing can be finer than the picture which Tully has given, in his oration for Cælius, of the inconsistencies and varieties of Catiline's conduct ; ending with, “ Quis clarioribus viris quodam tempore jucundior? Quis turpioribus conjunctior ? Quis civis meliorum partium aliquando ? Quis tetrior hostis huic civitati ? Quis in voluptatibus inquinatior ? Quis in laboribus patientior ? Quis in rapacitate avarior ? Quis in largitione effusior?”. The learned Markland, in defending Euripides from a wellknown objection made to the inconsistency of the character of Iphigenia, is of opinion, that the Poet's design, through the whole tragedy, was, in general, to show the inequality and inconsistency of the human character ; and gives instances of this inconsistency in the behaviour of Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, the Chorus, and all the persons introduced, except Clytemnestra ; intending to display “humani animi levitatem et inconstantiam in consiliis suis, et nos omnes æquè esse homincs." Eurip. Iphig. in Aul.



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