Farewell "It Can't Be Nature, For It Is Not Sense"

Horton Foote

"It Can't Be Nature, For It Is Not Sense"

Context: Charles Churchill, whose early ambitions turned toward an ecclesiastical career ran afoul of love for wine, women, and wrangling, wrote toward the end of his short life a poetic conversation about his proposal to leave Europe and go to India. "P" probably stands for the poet, and "F" for his friend, who questions his decision by asking what could some other part of the world offer as better targets for satire than England, where he can find vice and folly aplenty? The poet says he is tired of hearing repeated protests of love for England, despite her faults. The same patriotic utterance has frequently been voiced in the United States, as, for example, when Commander Stephen Decatur (1779–1820) of the U.S. Navy declared at a banquet in 1815 after defeating the Algerian pirates: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she be always in the right, but our country, right or wrong!" And Senator John J. Crittenden (1787–1863) of Kentucky, with one son in the Northern armies and one in the Confederacy, vowed to stand by his country, right or wrong. The Friend in the poem sees no difference in mankind, whether in England or Japan. In a slight shift of thought, the poet agrees that man is usually partial to the land of his birth. To call all lands alike "may be PHILOSOPHY, but can't be SENSE." However, the friend says that while Nature must receive its due, one should not cloud Reason and argue that the Master Passion for one's country is "fix'd by Nature in the human breast." If one's native land is found by comparison with other places to be a spot of Virtue, Plenty, Honesty in Politics, with sacred Love, and Liberty certain, even a Hottentot would love it. But if the place of one's birth is some barren spot where injustice and slavery exist, nobody would love it, any more than the Devil is enraptured of Hell. However, at the conclusion, the poet gets around to his point. Since Clive and those accompanying him as governor of India had left for the Orient on June 4, 1764, the poet concludes that he will find abundant material for his satires when he reaches India. In saying that a country must offer certain qualities before it will be loved, the Friend declares:

But if, by Fate's decrees, you owe your birth
To some more barren and penurious earth,
Where, ev'ry comfort of this life denied,
Her real wants are scantily supplied,
Where Pow'r is Reason, Liberty's a joke,
Laws never made, or made but to be broke,
To fix thy love on such a wretched spot . . .
. . .
Is Folly which admits not of defence;
It can't be Nature, for it is not Sense.
By the same argument which here you hold
(When Falsehood's insolent, let Truth be bold)
If Propagation can in torments dwell,
A Devil must, if born there, love his hell.