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A Wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous shoot; Or Garden, tempting with forbidden Fruit.
Passions and Affection, both selfish and social; and the wrong pursuits of Power, Pleasure, and Hapiness. The Toth, 11th, 12th, &c. have relation to the subjects of the books intended to follow, viz. the Characters and Capacities of Men, and the Limits of Science, which once tranfgreffed, ignorance begins, and error follows. The 13th and 24th, to the Knowledge of Mankind, and the various Manners of the age. Next, in line 16, he tells us with what design he wrote, viz.
To vindicate the ways of God to Man. The Men he writes against, he frequently informs us, are fuchas weightheir opinion agains Providence (ver. 114.) such as cry, if man's unhappy, God's unjus (ver, 118.) or such as fall into the notion, that Vice and Virtue there is none at all, (Ep. ii. ver. 212.) This occasions the poet to divide his vindication of the ways of God into two parts. In the first of which he gives direct answers to those objections which libertine Men, on a view of the disorders arising from the perversity of the human will, have intended against Pro. vidence. And in the second, he obviates all those ob. jections, by a true delineation of human Nature; or a general, but exact, map of Man. The first epistle is employed in the management of the first part of this dispute ; and the three following in the discussion of the second. So that this whole book constitutes a complete Ejay on Man, written for the best purpose, to vindicate the ways of God.
VER:7, 8. A Wild, -or Garden,] The Wild relates to the human pasions, productive (as he explains in the second cpiftle) both of good and evil. The Garden, to human reasin, so often tempting us to transgress the bounds God has fet to it, and wander in fruitless enquiries.
Together let us beat this ample field,
I. Say first, of God above, or Man below,
Ver. 12. Of all who blindly creep, &c.]i. e. Those who only follow the blind guidance of their Passions; or those who leave behind them common sense and sober reason, in their high flightsthrough the regions of Metaphyfies. Both which follies are exposed in the fourth epistle, where the popularand philosophical errors concerning Happiness are detected. The figure is taken from animal Life.
Ver. 15. Laugh where we must, &c.] Intimating that human follies are so strangely absurd, that it is not in the power of the most compasionate, on some occasions, to restrain their mirth: And that human crimes are so flagitious, that the most candid have seldom an opportunity, on this subject, to exercise their virtue. VER. 19, 20, Of Man, what see we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?] the sense is, We see noth
of Man, but
he stands at pres sent in his flation here: From which station, all our reasonings on his nature and end must be drawn; and to this fation they
Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known,
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee?
muh be all referred. The consequence is, all our reasonings on his nature and end must needs be very imperfect.
VER. 21. Thro' worlds unnumber'd, &c.] Hunc cognofcimus folummodo per Proprietates fuas & Attributa, & per sapientifimas & optimas rerum structuras & caufas finales. Newtoni Princ. Schol. gen. fub fin.
Ver. 30. The ftrong connexions, nice dependencies,] The thought is very noble, and expressed with great philosophic beauty and exactness. The system of the Universe is a combination of natural and moral Fitnesses, as the human system is, of body and spirit. By the firong connexions, therefore, the Poet alluding to the natural part; and by the nice dependencies to the moral. For the Essay on man is not a system of Naturalism, but of natural Religion. Hence it is, that, where he supposes diforders may tend to some greater
II. Presumptuous Man! the reason wouldst thou find, Why form’d so weak, fo little, and so blind? 36 First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less. Alk of thy mother earth, why oaks are made Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade? 40 Or ask of yonder argent fields above, Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove?
Of Systems poffible, if 'tis confeft That Wisdom infinite must form the best, Where all must full or not coherent be, 45 And all that rises, rise in due degree;
good in the natural world, he supposes they may tend likewise to some greater good in the moral, as appears from these sublime images
in the following lines, If plagues or earthquakes break not Heav'n's design, Why then a Borgia, or a Catiline ? 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, Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge Mankind?
VER. 35 to 42.] In these lines the poet has joined the beauty of argumentation to the sublimity of thought; where the fimilar instances, proposed for his adversaries examination, shew as well the
absurdity of their complaints against Order, as the fruitlesness of their enquiries into the arcana of the Godhead.
Then in the scale of reas’ning life, 'tis plain,
Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,
When the proud steed shall know why Man restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er plains ; 'When the dull Ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Ægypt's God : Then shall Man's pride and dulness comprehend 65 His actions', passions', being's, use and end ;
VARIATIONS. In the former Editions, ver. 64.
Now wears a garland, an Ægyptian God : altered as above for the reason given in the note.
NOTES. VER. 64. — Ægypt's God ] Called fo, because the God Apis was worshiped universally over the whole land.