« PreviousContinue »
But thinks admitted to that equal sky,
IV. Go wiser thou; and in thy scale of sense,
this common HOPE of Mankind : But though his untutored mind had betrayed him into many childish fancies concerning the nature of that future state, yet he is so far from excluding any part of his own fpecies (a vice which could proceed only from the pride of science) that he humanely admits even his faithful dog to bear him company.
VER. 123. In Pride, &c.] Arnobius has passed the fame censure on these very follies, which he supposes to arise from the cause here asigned. “Nihil eft quod nos “ fallat, nihil quod nobis polliceatur spes cassas (id quod “ nobis à quibusdam dicitur viris immoderata fui opinione “ sublatis) animas immortales esse, Deo rerum ac principi, “ gradu proximas dignitatis, genitor illo ac patre prola. “ tas, divinas, fapientes, doctas, neque ulla corporis attre« Etatione contiguas." Adverfus gentes.
Pride ftill is aiming at the bleft abodes,
V. Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine, Earth for whose use? Pride answers, “'Tis for mine: “ For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r, « Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev'ry flow'r;
the rose renew 135 “ The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew; “For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings; “ For me, health gushes from a thousand springs ;
66 Annual for me,
Ver.131. Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine, &c.] The ridicule of imagining the greater portions of the material system to be folely for the use of man, Philosophy has sufficiently exposed: and Common sense, as the poet observes, instructs us to know that our fellow-creatures, placed by providence the joint-inhabitants of this globe, are designed by Providence to be joint-sharers with us of its bleffings.
Ver. ib. Ak for what end, &c.] If there be any fault in these lines, it is not in the general sentiment, but a want of exactness in expressing it. It is the highest absurdity to think that Earth is man's footstool, his canopy the skies, and the heavenly bodies lighted up principally for his use; yet not so, to suppose fruits and minerals given, for this end.
“ Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise; “ My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies.” 140
But errs not Nature from this gracious end, From burning suns when livid deaths descend, When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep? “ No, ('tis reply'd) the first Almighty Cause 145 " Acts not by partial, but by gen’ral laws; có Th'exceptions few; some change fince all began : “ And what created perfect?”-Why then Man? If the great end be human happiness, Then nature deviates ; and can man do less? 15@ As much that end a constant course requires Of show'rs and fun-fhine, as of Man's desires ; As much eternal springs and cloudless skies, As Men for ever temp'rate, calm, and wise, If plagues or earthquakes break not heav'n's designs Why then a Borgia, or a Catiline ?
Ver. 150. Tben Nature deviates, &c.] While comets
move in very eccentric orbs, in all manner of posi“ tions, blind Fate could never make all the planets
move one and the same way in orbs concentric; some
inconsiderable irregularities excepted, which may have “ risen from the mutual actions of comets and planets “ upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till
this system wants à reformation.” Sir Isaac Newton's Optics, Quaft. ult.
Ver. 155. If plagues, &c.] What hath misled some
Who knows but he, whose hand the light’ning forms, Who heaves old Ocean, and who wings the storms; Pours fierce Ambition in a Cæsar's mind, 159 Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind ?
persons in this passage, is their supposing the comparison to be between the effects of two things in this sublunary world; when not only the elegancy, but the juftness of it, confifts in its being becween the effects of a thing in the universe at large, and the familiar and known effects of one in this fublunary world. For the position inforced in these lines is this, that partial evil tends to the good of the whole.
Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,
ver. 51. How does the poet inforce it? if you will believe these persons, in illustrating the effeas of partial moral evil in a particular system, by that of partial natural evil in the Same system, and so he leaves his pofition in the lurch. But the poet reasons at another rate : The way to prove his point, he knew, was to illustrate the effect of partial moral evil in the universe, by partial natural evil in a particular system. Whether partial moral evil tend to the good of the universe, being a question which, by reason of our ignorance of many parts of that universe, we cannot decide, but from known effects; the rules of argument require that it be proved by analogy, i. e. setting it by, and comparing it with, a thing certain; and it is a thing certain that partial natural evil tends to the good of our particular Siem.
Who knows but be, &c.] The sublimity with which the great Author of Nature is here characterised, is but the second beauty of this fine passage. The greatest is the making the very dispensation objected to, the periphrafis of his Title.
From pride, from pride, our very reas'ning springs;
Better for Us, perhaps, it might appear, 165
NOTES. Ver. 165. Better for Us, &c.] It might, says he, perhaps, appear better to us, that there were nothing in this world but peace and virtue.
That never air or ocean felt the wind ;
That never passion discompos’d the mind. But then consider, that as our natural system is supported by the strife of its elementary particles ; so is our intellectual lysiem by the conflict of our Passions, which are the elements of human action.
In a word, as without the benefit of tempestuous winds, both air and ocean would stagnate, corrupt, and spread universal contagion throughout all the ranks of animals that inhabit, or are supported by them; so, without the benefit of the Passions, such virtue as was merely the effect of the absence of those Passions would be a lifeless calm, a ftoical Apathy.
Contracted all, retiring to the breaft:
But health of mind is Exercise, not Refl. Ep. ii. ver. 103. Therefore, instead of regarding the confi&t of the elements, and the passions of the mind as disorders, you ought to consider them as part of the general order of Providence. And that they are so, appears from their always preserving the same unvaried course, throughout all ages, from the creation to the present time:
The gen'ral order, since the Whole began,