Epistle To Bathurst Analysis Essay

Alexander Pope   Complete Poetical Works.  
 
 
        
To Allen, Lord Bathurst

  That it is known to few, most falling into one of the extremes, Avarice or Profusion. The point discussed, whether the invention of money has been more commodious or pernicious to mankind. That Riches, either to the Avaricious or the Prodigal, cannot afford happiness, scarcely necessaries. That Avarice is an absolute frenzy, without an end or purpose. Conjectures about the motives of avaricious men. That the conduct of men, with respect to Riches, can only be accounted for by the Order of Providence, which works the general good out of extremes, and brings all to its great end by perpetual revolutions. How a Miser acts upon principles which appear to him reasonable. How a Prodigal does the same. The due medium and true use of riches. The Man of Ross. The fate of the Profuse and the Covetous, in two examples; both miserable in life and in death. The story of Sir Balaam.

P.  W shall decide when doctors disagree,
And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me?
You hold the word from Jove to Momus giv’n,
That Man was made the standing jest of Heav’n,
And gold but sent to keep the fools in play,
For some to heap, and some to throw away.
  But I, who think more highly of our kind
(And surely Heav’n and I are of a mind),
Opine that Nature, as in duty bound,
Deep hid the shining mischief under ground:
But when by man’s audacious labour won,
Flamed forth this rival to its sire the sun,
Then careful Heav’n supplied two sorts of men,
To squander these, and those to hide again.
  Like doctors thus, when much dispute has past,
We find our tenets just the same at last:
Both fairly owning riches, in effect,
No grace of Heav’n, or token of th’ elect;
Giv’n to the fool, the mad, the vain, the evil,
To Ward, to Waters, Chartres, and the Devil.
  B.  What Nature wants, commodious gold bestows;
’T is thus we eat the bread another sows.
  P.  But how unequal it bestows, observe;
’T is thus we riot, while who sow it starve.
What Nature wants (a phrase I much distrust)
Extends to luxury, extends to lust.
Useful I grant, it serves what life requires,
But dreadful too, the dark assassin hires.
  B.  Trade it may help, Society extend.
  P.  But lures the pirate, and corrupts the friend.
  B.  It raises armies in a nation’s aid.
  P.  But bribes a senate, and the land ’s betray’d.
In vain may heroes fight and patriots rave,
If secret gold sap on from knave to knave.
Once, we confess, beneath the patriot’s cloak,
From the crack’d bag the dropping guinea spoke,
And jingling down the back-stairs, told the crew
‘Old Cato is as great a rogue as you.’
Blest paper-credit! last and best supply!
That lends Corruption lighter wings to fly!
Gold imp’d by thee, can compass hardest things,
Can pocket states, can fetch or carry kings;
A single leaf shall waft an army o’er,
Or ship off senates to some distant shore;
A leaf, like Sibyl’s, scatter to and fro
Our fates and fortunes as the winds shall blow;
Pregnant with thousands flits the scrap unseen,
And silent sells a King or buys a Queen.
  Oh, that such bulky bribes as all might see,
Still, as of old, incumber’d villany!
Could France or Rome divert our brave designs
With all their brandies or with all their wines?
What could they more than Knights and Squires confound,
Or water all the Quorum ten miles round?
A statesman’s slumbers how this speech would spoil,
‘Sir, Spain has sent a thousand jars of oil;
Huge bales of British cloth blockade the door;
A hundred oxen at your levee roar.’
  Poor Avarice one torment more would find,
Nor could Profusion squander all in kind.
Astride his cheese Sir Morgan might we meet;
And Worldly crying coals from street to street,
Whom with a wig so wild and mien so ’mazed,
Pity mistakes for some poor tradesman crazed.
Had Colepepper’s whole wealth been hops and hogs,
Could he himself have sent it to the dogs?
His Grace will game: to White’s a bull be led,
With spurning heels and with a butting head.
To White’s be carried, as to ancient games,
Fair coursers, vases, and alluring dames.
Shall then Uxorio, if the stakes he sweep,
Bear home six whores, and make his lady weep?
Or soft Adonis, so perfumed and fine,
Drive to St. James’s a whole herd of swine?
Oh, filthy check on all industrious skill,
To spoil the nation’s last great trade,—Quadrille!
Since then, my lord, on such a world we fall,
What say you?  B.  Say? Why, take it, gold and all.
  P.  What Riches give us let us then inquire:
Meat, Fire, and Clothes.  B.  What more?  P.  Meat, Clothes, and Fire.
Is this too little? would you more than live?
Alas! ’t is more than Turner finds, they give.
Alas! ’t is more than (all his visions past)
Unhappy Wharton waking found at last!
What can they give? To dying Hopkins, heirs?
To Chartres, vigour? Japhet, nose and ears?
Can they in gems bid pallid Hippia glow?
In Fulvia’s buckle ease the throbs below?
Or heal, old Narses, thy obscener ail,
With all th’ embroidery plaster’d at thy tail?
They might (were Harpax not too wise to spend)
Give Harpax’ self the blessing of a friend;
Or find some doctor that would save the life
Of wretched Shylock, spite of Shylock’s wife.
But thousands die without or this or that,
Die, and endow a College or a Cat.
To some indeed Heav’n grants the happier fate
T’ enrich a bastard; or a son they hate.
Perhaps you think the poor might have their part?
Bond damns the poor, and hates them from his heart:
The grave Sir Gilbert holds it for a rule
That ev’ry man in want is knave or fool.
‘God cannot love (says Blunt, with tearless eyes)
The wretch he starves’—and piously denies:
But the good bishop, with a meeker air,
Admits, and leaves them, Providence’s care.
  Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf,
Each does but hate his neighbour as himself:
Damn’d to the mines, an equal fate betides
The slave that digs it and the slave that hides.
  B.  Who suffer thus, mere charity should own,
Must act on motives powerful tho’ unknown.
  P.  Some war, some plague or famine, they foresee,
Some revelation hid from you and me.
Why Shylock wants a meal the cause is found;
He thinks a loaf will rise to fifty pound.
What made directors cheat in South-sea year?
To live on ven’son, when it sold so dear.
Ask you why Phryne the whole auction buys?
Phryne foresees a general excise.
Why she and Sappho raise that monstrous sum?
Alas! they fear a man will cost a plum.
  Wise Peter sees the world’s respect for gold,
And therefore hopes this nation may be sold.
Glorious ambition! Peter, swell thy store,
And be what Rome’s great Didius was before.
  The crown of Poland, venal twice an age,
To just three millions stinted modest Gage.
But nobler scenes Maria’s dreams unfold,
Hereditary realms, and worlds of gold.
Congenial souls! whose life one av’rice joins,
And one fate buries in th’ Asturian mines.
  Much-injured Blunt! why bears he Britain’s hate?
A wizard told him in these words our fate:
‘At length Corruption, like a gen’ral flood
(So long by watchful ministers withstood),
Shall deluge all; and Av’rice, creeping on,
Spread like a low-born mist and blot the sun;
Statesman and Patriot ply alike the stocks,
Peeress and Butler share alike the Box,
And judges job, and bishops bite the town,
And mighty Dukes pack cards for half a crown:
See Britain sunk in lucre’s sordid charms,
And France revenged of Anne’s and Edward’s arms!’
’T was no court-badge, great Scriv’ner! fired thy brain,
Nor lordly luxury, nor city gain:
No, ’t was thy righteous end, ashamed to see
Senates degen’rate, patriots disagree,
And nobly wishing party-rage to cease,
To buy both sides, and give thy country peace.
  ‘All this is madness,’ cries a sober sage:
‘But who, my friend, has Reason in his rage?
The Ruling Passion, be it what it will,
The Ruling Passion conquers Reason still.’
Less mad the wildest whimsy we can frame
Than ev’n that Passion, if it has no aim;
For tho’ such motives folly you may call,
The folly ’s greater to have none at all.
  Hear then the truth:—‘’T is Heav’n each Passion sends,
And diff’rent men directs to diff’rent ends.
Extremes in Nature equal good produce;
Extremes in Man concur to gen’ral use.’
Ask me what makes one keep, and one bestow?
That power who bids the ocean ebb and flow,
Bids seed-time, harvest, equal course maintain,
Thro’ reconciled extremes of drought and rain;
Builds life on death, on change duration founds,
And gives th’ eternal wheels to know their rounds.
  Riches, like insects, when conceal’d they lie,
Wait but for wings, and in their season fly.
Who sees pale Mammon pine amidst his store,
Sees but a backward steward for the poor;
This year a reservoir to keep and spare;
The next a fountain spouting thro’ his heir
In lavish streams to quench a country’s thirst,
And men and dogs shall drink him till they burst.
  Old Cotta shamed his fortune and his birth,
Yet was not Cotta void of wit or worth.
What tho’ (the use of barb’rous spits forgot)
His kitchen vied in coolness with his grot?
His court with nettles, moats with cresses stor’d,
With soups unbought, and salads, bless’d his board;
If Cotta lived on pulse, it was no more
Than Bramins, Saints, and Sages did before;
To cram the rich was prodigal expense,
And who would take the poor from Providence?
Like some lone Chartreux stands the good old hall,
Silence without, and fasts within the wall;
No rafter’d roofs with dance and tabor sound,
No noontide bell invites the country round;
Tenants with sighs the smokeless towers survey,
And turn th’ unwilling steeds another way;
Benighted wanderers, the forest o’er,
Curse the saved candle and unopening door;
While the gaunt mastiff, growling at the gate,
Affrights the beggar whom he longs to eat.
  Not so his son; he mark’d this oversight,
And then mistook reverse of wrong for right:
(For what to shun will no great knowledge need
But what to follow is a task indeed!)
Yet sure, of qualities deserving praise,
More go to ruin fortunes than to raise.
What slaughter’d hecatombs, what floods of wine,
Fill the capacious Squire and deep Divine!
Yet no mean motive this profusion draws;
His oxen perish in his country’s cause;
’T is George and Liberty that crowns the cup,
And zeal for that great House which eats him up.
The woods recede around the naked seat,
The sylvans groan—no matter—for the fleet;
Next goes his wool—to clothe our valiant bands;
Last, for his country’s love, he sells his lands.
To town he comes, completes the nation’s hope,
And heads the bold train-bands, and burns a pope.
And shall not Britain now reward his toils,
Britain, that pays her patriots with her spoils?
In vain at court the bankrupt pleads his cause;
His thankless country leaves him to her laws.
  The sense to value Riches, with the art
T’ enjoy them, and the virtue to impart;
Not meanly nor ambitiously pursued,
Not sunk by sloth, nor raised by servitude;
To balance fortune by a just expense,
Join with economy magnificence;
With splendour charity, with plenty health;
O teach us, Bathurst! yet unspoil’d by wealth,
That secret rare, between th’ extremes to move
Of mad Good-nature and of mean Self-love.
  B.  To worth or want well weigh’d be bounty giv’n
And ease or emulate the care of Heav’n
(Whose measure full o’erflows on human race):
Mend Fortune’s fault, and justify her grace.
Wealth in the gross is death, but life diffused,
As poison heals in just proportion used:
In heaps, like ambergris, a stink it lies,
But well dispers’d is incense to the skies.
  P.  Who starves by nobles, or with nobles eats?
The wretch that trusts them, and the rogue that cheats.
Is there a lord who knows a cheerful noon
Without a fiddler, flatt’rer, or buffoon?
Whose table Wit or modest Merit share,
Unelbow’d by a gamester, pimp, or player?
Who copies yours or Oxford’s better part,
To ease th’ oppress’d, and raise the sinking heart?
Where’er he shines, O Fortune! gild the scene,
And angels guard him in the golden mean!
There English bounty yet a while may stand,
And honour linger ere it leaves the land.
  But all our praises why should Lords engross?
Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross:
Pleas’d Vaga echoes thro’ her winding bounds,
And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.
Who hung with woods yon mountain’s sultry brow?
From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
Not to the skies in useless columns tost,
Or in proud falls magnificently lost,
But clear and artless, pouring thro’ the plain
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?
Whose seats the weary traveller repose?
Who taught that Heav’n-directed spire to rise?
The Man of Ross, each lisping babe replies.
Behold the market-place with poor o’erspread!
The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread:
He feeds yon almshouse, neat, but void of state,
Where age and want sit smiling at the gate:
Him portion’d maids, apprenticed orphans blest,
The young who labour, and the old who rest.
Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves,
Prescribes, attends, the medicine makes and gives:
Is there a variance? enter but his door,
Balk’d are the courts, and contest is no more:
Despairing quacks with curses fled the place,
And vile attorneys, now a useless race.
  B.  Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue
What all so wish, but want the power to do!
Oh say, what sums that gen’rous hand supply?
What mines to swell that boundless charity?
  P.  Of debts and taxes, wife and children clear,
This man possess’d—five hundred pounds a year.
Blush, Grandeur, blush! proud courts, withdraw your blaze!
Ye little stars, hide your diminish’d rays!
  B.  And what? no monument, inscription, stone,
His race, his form, his name almost unknown?
  P.  Who builds a church to God, and not to Fame,
Will never mark the marble with his name:
Go, search it there, where to be born and die,
Of rich and poor makes all the history;
Enough that Virtue fill’d the space between,
Prov’d by the ends of being to have been.
When Hopkins dies, a thousand lights attend
The wretch who living saved a candle’s end:
Should’ring God’s altar a vile image stands,
Belies his features, nay, extends his hands;
That livelong wig, which Gorgon’s self might own,
Eternal buckle takes in Parian stone.
  Behold what blessings Wealth to life can lend!
And see what comfort it affords our end.
  In the worst inn’s worst room, with mat half-hung,
The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repair’d with straw,
With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies—alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure and that soul of whim!
Gallant and gay, in Cliveden’s proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and Love;
Or just as gay at council, in a ring
Of mimic statesmen and their merry King.
No Wit to flatter, left of all his store—
No Fool to laugh at, which he valued more—
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends!
  His Grace’s fate sage Cutler could foresee,
And well (he thought) advised him, ‘Live like me.’
And well his Grace replied, ‘Like you, Sir John?
That I can do when all I have is gone!’
Resolve me, Reason, which of these is worse,
Want with a full or with an empty purse?
Thy life more wretched, Cutler! was confess’d;
Arise, and tell me, was thy death more bless’d?
Cutler saw tenants break and houses fall,
For very want; he could not build a wall:
His only daughter in a stranger’s power,
For very want; he could not pay a dower:
A few gray hairs his rev’rend temples crown’d;
’T was very want that sold them for two pound.
What ev’n denied a cordial at his end,
Banish’d the doctor, and expell’d the friend?
What but a want, which you perhaps think mad,
Yet numbers feel,—the want of what he had!
Cutler and Brutus dying both exclaim,
‘Virtue! and wealth! what are ye but a name!’
  Say, for such worth are other worlds prepared?
Or are they both in this their own reward?
A knotty point! to which we now proceed.
But you are tired—I ’ll tell a tale—B.  Agreed.
  P.  Where London’s column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies,
There dwelt a citizen of sober fame,
A plain good man, and Balaam was his name.
Religious, punctual, frugal, and so forth,
His word would pass for more than he was worth;
One solid dish his week-day meal affords,
An added pudding solemnized the Lord’s;
Constant at Church and ’Change; his gains were sure,
His givings rare, save farthings to the poor.
  The Devil was piqued such saintship to behold,
And long’d to tempt him like good Job of old;
But Satan now is wiser than of yore,
And tempts by making rich, not making poor.
  Rous’d by the Prince of Air, the whirlwinds sweep
The surge, and plunge his father in the deep;
Then full against his Cornish lands they roar,
And two rich shipwrecks bless the lucky shore.
  Sir Balaam now, he lives like other folks,
He takes his chirping pint, and cracks his jokes.
‘Live like yourself,’ was soon my lady’s word;
And lo! two puddings smoked upon the board.
  Asleep and naked as an Indian lay,
An honest factor stole a gem away:
He pledg’d it to the knight; the knight had wit,
So kept the diamond, and the rogue was bit.
Some scruple rose, but thus he eas’d his thought:
‘I ’ll now give sixpence where I gave a groat;
Where once I went to church I ’ll now go twice—
And am so clear too of all other vice.’
  The tempter saw his time; the work he plied;
Stocks and subscriptions pour on ev’ry side,
Till all the demon makes his full descent
In one abundant shower of cent per cent,
Sinks deep within him, and possesses whole,
Then dubs Director, and secures his soul.
  Behold Sir Balaam, now a man of Spirit,
Ascribes his gettings to his parts and merit;
What late he call’d a blessing now was wit,
And God’s good providence a lucky hit.
Things change their titles as our manners turn,
His counting-house employ’d the Sunday morn:
Seldom at church (’t was such a busy life),
But duly sent his family and wife.
There (so the Devil ordain’d) one Christmas-tide
My good old lady catch’d a cold and died.
  A nymph of quality admires our knight;
He marries, bows at court, and grows polite;
Leaves the dull cits, and joins (to please the fair)
The well-bred cuckolds in St. James’s air:
First for his son a gay commission buys,
Who drinks, whores, fights, and in a duel dies;
His daughter flaunts a viscount’s tawdry wife;
She bears a coronet and p—x for life.
In Britain’s senate he a seat obtains,
And one more pensioner St. Stephen gains.
My lady falls to play; so bad her chance,
He must repair it; takes a bribe from France:
The house impeach him; Coningsby harangues;
The court forsake him, and Sir Balaam hangs.
Wife, son, and daughter, Satan! are thy own,
His wealth, yet dearer, forfeit to the crown:
The Devil and the King divide the prize,
And sad Sir Balaam curses God and dies.
 



Alexander Pope   Complete Poetical Works.  
 
 
        
        Est brevitate, opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
Impediat verbis lassas onerantibus aures:
Et sermone opus est modo tristi, sæpe jocoso,
Defendente vicem modo rhetoris atque poetæ,
Interdum urbani, parcentis viribus, atque
Extenuantis eas consulto.
  
  The present order of the Moral Essays is very different from that of their original publication. The fifth epistle (to Addison) was written in 1715, and published five years later in Tickell’s edition of Addison’s works. The fourth epistle (to the Earl of Burlington) was published in 1731, under the title Of Taste. The third epistle (to Lord Bathurst) was published in 1732, and followed in 1733 by the first epistle (to Lord Cobham). The second epistle (to a Lady) was published in 1735. The whole series appeared in their present order, under the direction of Warburton, after Pope’s death.
  Though it is doubtful how far it suggests Pope’s primary intention, Warburton’s Advertisement is here printed because Pope undoubtedly wished it, with its flattering implication of his philosophical breadth, to be accepted as a true statement of a plan which was plainly broader than its execution.
  
  The Essay on Man was intended to be comprised in four books:—
  The first of which the author has given us under that title in four epistles.
  The second was to have consisted of the same number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable; together with those which are unuseful, and therefore unattainable. 3. Of the nature, ends, use, and application of the different capacities of men. 4. Of the use of learning; of the science of the world; and of wit; concluding with a satire against the misapplication of them, illustrated by pictures, characters, and examples.
  The third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics; in which the several forms of a republic were to be examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, as far forth as they affect society: between which the author always supposed there was the most interesting relation and closest connection. So that this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their full extent.
  The fourth and last book concerned private ethics, or practical morality, considered in all the circumstances, orders, professions, and stations of human life.
  The scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to Lord Bolingbroke, Dr. Swift, and one or two more; and was intended for the only work of his riper years; but was, partly through ill health, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times; and partly on prudential and other considerations, interrupted, postponed, and lastly, in a manner, laid aside.
  But as this was the author’s favourite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his strong capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poetæ that now remain, it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
  The first, as it treats of man in the abstract, and considers him in general under every one of his relations, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects of the three following: so that—
  The second book was to take up again the first and second epistles of the first book, and to treat of man in his intellectual capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this only a small part of the conclusion (Which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad; and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.
  The third book, in like manner, was to reassume the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part the poet afterwards conceived might be best executed in an epic poem, as the action would make it more animated, and the fable less invidious; in which all the great principles of true and false governments and religions should be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.
  The fourth and last book was to pursue the subject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of ethics, or practical morality; and would have consisted of many members, of which the four following epistles are detached portions; the two first, on the characters of men and women, being the introductory part of this concluding book.
  
Epistle I

To Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham

Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men

  I. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider Man in the abstract; Books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own Experience singly. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own Passions, Fancies, Faculties, &c. The shortness of Life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the Principles of action in men to observe by. Our own Principle of action often hid from ourselves. Some few Characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature. No judging of the Motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary Motives, and the same Motives influencing contrary actions. II. Yet to form Characters we can only take the strongest actions of a man’s life, and try to make them agree: the utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from Policy. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world; and some reason for it. Education alters the Nature, or at least the Character, of many. Actions, Passions, Opinions, Manners, Humours, or Principles, all subject to change. No judging by Nature. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his Ruling Passion: that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind. Examples of the strength of the Ruling Passion, and its continuation to the last breath.

Y you despise the man to books confin’d,
Who from his study rails at humankind;
Tho’ what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some gen’ral maxims, or be right by chance.
The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave,
That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and knave,
Tho’ many a passenger he rightly call,
You hold him no philosopher at all.
  And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
Men may be read, as well as books, too much.
To observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th’ observer’s sake;
To written wisdom, as another’s, less:
Maxims are drawn from Notions, those from Guess.
There ’s some peculiar in each leaf and grain,
Some unmark’d fibre, or some varying vein.
Shall only man be taken in the gross?
Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss.
  That each from other differs, first confess;
Next, that he varies from himself no less:
And 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 tho’ you can,
It may be Reason, but it is not Man:
His Principle of action once explore,
That instant ’t is his Principle no more.
Like following life thro’ creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.
  Yet more; the diff’rence is as great between
The optics seeing as the objects seen.
All Manners take a tincture from our own,
Or come discolour’d thro’ our Passions shown;
Or Fancy’s beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.
  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 toss’d,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost:
Tired, 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 ev’ry child hates Shylock, tho’ his soul
Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole.
At half mankind when gen’rous Manly raves,
All know ’t is virtue, for he thinks them knaves:
When universal homage Umbra pays,
All see ’t is vice, and itch of vulgar praise.
When Flatt’ry 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:
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 bus’ness, 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!
  Catius is ever moral, ever grave,
Thinks who endures a knave is next a knave,
Save just at dinner—then prefers, no doubt,
A rogue with ven’son to a saint without.
  Who would not praise Patricio’s high desert,
His hand unstain’d, his uncorrupted heart,
His comprehensive head? all int’rests weigh’d,
All Europe saved, yet Britain not betray’d!
He thanks you not, his pride is in Piquet,
Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.
  What made (say, Montaigne, or more sage Charron)
Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon?
A perjured prince a leaden saint revere,
A godless regent tremble at a star?
The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit,
Faithless thro’ piety, and duped thro’ wit?
Europe a woman, child, or dotard, rule;
And just her wisest monarch made a fool?
  Know, God and Nature only are the same:
In man the judgment shoots at flying game;
A bird of passage! gone as soon as found;
Now in the moon, perhaps now under ground.
 
In vain the sage, with retrospective eye,
Would from th’ apparent What conclude the Why,
Infer the Motive from the Deed, and show
That what we chanced was what we meant to do.
Behold! if Fortune or a Mistress frowns,
Some plunge in bus’ness, others shave their crowns:
To ease the soul of one oppressive weight,
This quits an empire, that embroils a state,
The same adust complexion has impell’d
Charles to the convent, Philip to the field.
  Not always Actions show the man: we find
Who does a kindness is not therefore kind;
Perhaps Prosperity becalm’d his breast;
Perhaps the wind just shifted from the east:
Not therefore humble he who seeks retreat;
Pride guides his steps, and bids him shun the great:
Who combats bravely is not therefore brave;
He dreads a death-bed like the meanest slave:
Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise;
His pride in reas’ning, not in acting, lies.
  But grant that Actions best discover man;
Take the most strong, and sort them as you can:
The few that glare each character must mark;
You balance not the many in the dark.
What will you do with such as disagree?
Suppress them, or miscall them Policy?
Must then at once (the character to save)
The plain rough hero turn a crafty knave?
Alas! in truth the man but changed his mind;
Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not din’d.
Ask why from Britain Cæsar would retreat?
Cæsar himself might whisper he was beat.
Why risk the world’s great empire for a punk?
Cæsar himself might whisper he was drunk.
But, sage historians! ’t is your task to prove
One action, Conduct, one, heroic Love.
  ’T is from high life high characters are drawn;
A saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn;
A judge is just, a chancellor juster still;
A gownman learn’d; a bishop what you will;
Wise if a minister; but if a king,
More wise, more learn’d, more just, more ev’rything.
Court-virtues bear, like gems, the highest rate,
Born where Heav’n’s influence scarce can penetrate.
In life’s low vale, the soil the virtues like,
They please as beauties, here as wonders strike.
Tho’ the same sun, with all-diffusive rays,
Blush in the rose, and in the diamond blaze,
We prize the stronger effort of his power,
And justly set the gem above the flower.
  ’T is education forms the common mind;
Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclin’d.
Boastful and rough, your first son is a Squire;
The next a Tradesman, meek, and much a liar;
Tom struts a Soldier, open, bold, and brave;
Will sneaks a Scriv’ner, an exceeding knave.
Is he a Churchman? then he ’s fond of power:
A Quaker? sly: a Presbyterian? sour:
A smart Free-thinker? all things in an hour.
  Ask men’s opinions! Scoto now shall tell
How trade increases, and the world goes well:
Strike off his pension by the setting sun,
And Britain, if not Europe, is undone.
  That gay Free-thinker, a fine talker once,
What turns him now a stupid silent dunce?
Some god or spirit he has lately found,
Or chanced to meet a Minister that frown’d.
  Judge we by Nature? Habit can efface,
Int’rest o’ercome, or Policy take place:
By Actions? those Uncertainty divides:
By Passions? these Dissimulation hides:
Opinions? they still take a wider range:
Find, if you can, in what you cannot change.
  Manners with Fortunes, Humours turn with Climes,
Tenets with Books, and Principles with Times.
 
Search then the R P there alone,
The wild are constant, and the cunning known;
The fool consistent, and the false sincere;
Priests, princes, women, no dissemblers here.
This clue once found unravels all the rest,
The prospect clears, and Wharton stands confest:
Wharton! the scorn and wonder of our days,
Whose Ruling Passion was the lust of praise:
Born with whate’er could win it from the wise,
Women and fools must like him, or he dies:
Tho’ wond’ring Senates hung on all he spoke,
The Club must hail him master of the joke.
Shall parts so various aim at nothing new?
He ’ll shine a Tully and a Wilmot too:
Then turns repentant, and his God adores
With the same spirit that he drinks and whores;
Enough if all around him but admire,
And now the Punk applaud, and now the Friar.
Thus with each gift of Nature and of Art,
And wanting nothing but an honest heart;
Grown all to all, from no one vice exempt,
And most contemptible, to shun contempt;
His passion still to covet gen’ral praise;
His life, to forfeit it a thousand ways;
A constant bounty which no friend has made;
An angel tongue which no man can persuade!
A fool with more of wit than half mankind,
Too rash for thought, for action too refin’d;
A tyrant to the wife his heart approves;
A rebel to the very king he loves—
He dies, sad outcast of each church and state,
And, harder still! flagitious, yet not great!
Ask you why Wharton broke thro’ ev’ry rule?
’T was all for fear the Knaves should call him Fool.
  Nature well known, no prodigies remain;
Comets are regular, and Wharton plain.
  Yet in this search the wisest may mistake,
If second qualities for first they take.
When Catiline by rapine swell’d his store,
When Cæsar made a noble dame a whore,
In this the Lust, in that the Avarice
Were means, not ends; Ambition was the vice.
That very Cæsar, born in Scipio’s days,
Had aim’d, like him, by chastity at praise,
Lucullus, when Frugality could charm,
Had roasted turnips in the Sabine farm.
In vain th’ observer eyes the builder’s toil,
But quite mistakes the scaffold for the pile.
  In this one passion man can strength enjoy,
As fits give vigour just when they destroy.
Time, that on all things lays his lenient hand,
Yet tames not this; it sticks to our last sand.
Consistent in our follies and our sins,
Here honest Nature ends as she begins.
  Old politicians chew on wisdom past,
And totter on in bus’ness to the last;
As weak, as earnest, and as gravely out
As sober Lanesb’row dancing in the gout.
  Behold a rev’rend sire, whom want of grace
Has made the father of a nameless race,
Shov’d from the wall perhaps, or rudely press’d
By his own son, that passes by unbless’d;
Still to his wench he crawls on knocking knees,
And envies ev’ry sparrow that he sees.
  A salmon’s belly, Helluo, was thy fate;
The doctor call’d, declares all help too late.
‘Mercy!’ cries Helluo, ‘mercy on my soul!
Is there no hope?—Alas!—then bring the jowl.’
  The frugal crone, whom praying priests attend,
Still strives to save the hallow’d taper’s end,
Collects her breath, as ebbing life retires,
For one puff more, and in that puff expires.
  ‘Odious! in woollen! ’t would a saint provoke’
(Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke);
‘No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace
Wrap my cold limbs, and shade my life-less face:
One would not, sure, be frightful when one’s dead—
And—Betty—give this cheek a little red.’
  The courtier smooth, who forty years had shined
An humble servant to all humankind,
Just brought out this, when scarce his tongue could stir:—
‘If—where I ’m going—I could serve you, sir?’
  ‘I give and I devise (old Euclio said,
And sigh’d) my lands and tenements to Ned.’
‘Your money, sir?’—‘My money, sir! what, all?
Why—if I must—(then wept) I give it Paul.’
‘The manor, sir?’—‘The manor! hold,’ he cried,
‘Not that—I cannot part with that!’—and died.
  And you, brave C to the latest breath
Shall feel your Ruling Passion strong in death;
Such in those moments as in all the past,
‘O save my country, Heav’n!’ shall be your last.
 



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