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from the contrary motives, and the same motives influencing contrary actions, ver. 100. 11. 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, ver. 120. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world, ver. 135. And some reason for it, ver. 140. Education alters the nature, or at least character, of many, ver. 149. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature, from ver. 158 to ver. 168. 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 in consistency of all his actions, ver. 175. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio, yer. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destoy all possibility knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the raling passion, and its continuation to the last breath, ver.
I. Yes, you despise the man to books confined,
Who from his study rails at human kind;
Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance
Some general maxims, or be right by chance.
The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave,
That from his cage cries cuckold, whore, and knave,
Though 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 the observer's sake:
To written wisdom, as another's, less
Maxims are drawn from notions, these 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 us many sorts of mind as moss.
That each from other differs, first confess :
Next, that he varies from himself no less:
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,
His principle of action once explore,
That instant 'tis his principle no more.
be reason, but it is not man:
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more; the difference is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own;
Or some discolour'd through 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 passion's wild rotation toss'd,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost:
Tired, not determined, 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
(Though 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.
T'rue, 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 beloved at sight;
And every child hates Shylock, though his soul
Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole.
At half mankind when generous Manly raves,
All know tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves:
When universal homage Umbra pays,
All see 'tis vice, an 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:
Though 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 business, and at hazzard 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 venison to a saint without.
Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,
His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart,
His comprehensive head, all interests 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, Montagne, 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 through piety, and duped through 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.
II. In vain the sage, with retrospective eye,
Would from the apparent what conclude the why, 100
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 business, 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 reasoning, 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 dined.
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 perhaps might answer, he was drunk.
But sage historians! 'tis your task to prove
One action, conduct; one, heroic love.
'Tis 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 every thing: Court virtues bear, like gems, the highest rate,
Born where Heaven's influence scarce can penetrate •
In life's low vale, the soil the virtues like,
They please as beauties, here as wonders strike.
Though 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.