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What made (say Montaigne, or more sage Charron) Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon; A perjur'd prince a leaden saint revere, A godless regent tremble at a star? The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit, Faithless through piety, and dup'd 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 n the moon perhaps, now under ground.
vain the sage, with retrospective eye,
Would from the' apparent what conclude the why, Infer the motive from the deed, and show
That what we chanc'd 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 shew 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 chang'd 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 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 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,
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.
'Tis 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 scrivener, an exceeding knave.
Is he a Churchman? then he's fond of power;
A Quaker? sly: a Presbyterian? sour:
A smart Freethinker? all things in an hour.
Ask men's opinion; 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 Freethinker, à fine talker once,
What turns him now a stupid silent dunce?
Some god or spirit he has lately found,
Or chanc'd to meet a minister that frown'd.
Judge we by nature? habit can efface,
Interest 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.
EARCH then the ruling passion; 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; Though wondering 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 general 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 through every rule? 'Twas 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 the' 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 business to the last;
As weak as earnest, and as gravely out
As sober Lanesb'rough dancing in the gout.
Behold a reverend 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 every 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! 'twould 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 lifeless face: One would not, sure, be frightful when one's deadAnd-Betty-give this cheek a little red."
The courtier smooth, who forty years had shin'd An humble servant to all human kind,
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 Eucho 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 cry'd; "Not that-I cannot part with that"-and dy'd. And you, brave Cobham! to the latest breath Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death; Such in those moments as in all the past, "Q! save my country, Heav'n!" shall be your last,