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Here fix'd the dreadful, there the blest, abodes; 255
NOTES. Ver. 257. Gods partial, changeful, &c.] The ancient Pagan Gods are here very exactly described. this fact is a convincing evidence of the truth of that original, which the poet giveth to Superstition; for if these phantasms were first raised in the imagination of Tyrants, they must needs have the qualities here affigned to them. For Force being the Tyrant's Virtue, and Luxury his Happiness, the attributes of his God would of course be Revenge and Luft; in a word, the anti type of himself.
But there was another, and more fubftantial cause, of the resemblance between a Tyrant and a Pagan god; and that was the making Gods of Conquerors, as the poet fays, and fo canonizing a tyrant's vices with his perfon. VER. 262.- And heav'n on pride.] This might be very
. well said of thofe times, when no one was content to go to heaven without being received there on the footing of a God.
So drives Self-love, thro' just, and thro' unjust, To one Man's pow'r, ambition, lucre, lust: 270 The fame Self-love, in all, becomes the cause Of what restrains hiin, Government and Laws, For, what one likes if others like as well, What serves one will, when many wills rebel? How shall he keep, what, sleeping or awake, 275 A weaker may surprise, a stronger take? His safety must his liberty restrain : All join to guard what each desires to gain. Forc'd into virtue thus by Self-defence, Ev'n Kings learnt justice and benevolence : 280 Self-love forsook the path it first pursu'd, And found the private in the public good.
'Twas then, the studious head or gen'rous mind, Follow'r of God or friend of human-kind, Poet or Patriot, rose but to restore
285 The Faith and Moral, Nature gave before ; Relum'd her ancient light, not kindled new; If not God's image, yet his shadow drew:
Ver. 283. 'Twas then, &c.] The poet seemeth here to mean the polite and flourishing age of Greece ; and those benefactors to Mankind, which he had principally in view, were Socrates and ARISTOTLE ; who, of all the
pagan world, spoke best of God, and wrote beft of Government.
Taught Pow'r's due use to People and to Kings ;
VER. 295. Such is the world's great harmony, &c.] An harmony very different from the pre-established harmony of the celebrated Leibnitz, which fixeth us in a Fatality destructive of all Religion and Morality. Yet hath the poet been accused of espousing that impious whimsey. The pren. cfiablished harmony was built upon, and is an outrageous extension of, a conception of Plato, wha, combating the atheistical objections about the origin of Evil, employs this argument in the defence of Providence : “That amongst
an infinite number of possible worlds in God's idea, “ this, which he hath created and brought into being, and “ which admits of a mixture of Evil, is the best. But if “ the best, then Evil consequently is partial, compara.
tively small, and tendech to the greater perfection of the “ whole." This Principle is espoused and supported by Mr. Pope with all the power of reason and poetry. But neither was Plato a Fatalift, nor is there any fatalism in the argument. As to the truth of the notion, that is another question ; and how far it cleareth
the controversy about the origin of Evil, is still another. That it is a full solution of all difficulties, I cannot think, for reasons too long to be given in this place. Perhaps we shall never have a full solution in this world ; and it
may be no great matter though we have not, as we are demon
Where small and great, where weak and mighty, made
For Forms of Government let fools contest;
strably certain of the moral attributes of the Deity. However, Mr. Pope may be justified in receiving and inforcing this Platonic notion, as it hath been adopted by the most celebrated and orthodox divines both of the ancient and modern church.
Ver. 303. For Forms of Government let fools conteft ;] The seasonableness of this reproof will appear evident enough to those who know, that mad disputes about Liberty and Prerogative had once well nigh overturned our Constitution ; and that others about Mystery and ChurchAuthority had almost destroyed the very spirit of our Religion.
VER. 303. For forms of Government, &c.] Thefe fine lines have been strangely misunderstood: the author,against his own express words, against the plain sense of his fyItem, has been conceived to mean, That all Governments, and all Religions were, as to their forms and objects, indifferent. But as this wrong judgment proceeded from ignorance of the reason of the reproof, as explained above, that explanation is alone sufficient to rectify the mistake. But the reader will not be displeased to see the Poet's own apology, as I find it written in the year 1740, in his own hand, in the margin of a book, where he found these two celebrated lines misapplied; « The author of For modes of Faith let graceless zealots fight; 305 His can't be wrong whose life is in the right :
“ these lines was far from meaning, that no one form of “ Government is, in itself, better than another (as, that os mixed or limited Monarchy, for example, is not pre“ ferable to absolute) but that no form of Government, “ however excellent or preferable, in itself, can be fuffi“ cient to make a people happy, unless it be administered “ with integrity. On the contrary, the best sort of Go
vernment, when the form of it is preserved, and the administration corrupt, is most dangerous."
Ver.305. For Modes of Faith, &c.] To suppose the Poet to mean, that all Religions are indifferent, is an equally wrong as well as uncharitable suspicion. Mr. Pope, tho' his subject, in this Essay on Man, confineth him to Natural religion (his purpose being to vindicate God's natural dir. pensations to Mankind against the Atheist) yet giveth frequent intimations of a more sublime dispensation, and even of the neceffity of it; particularly in his second epistle (ver. 149, &c.) where he confesseth the weakness and insufficiency of human Reason.
And in his fourth epistle, where, speaking of the good Man, the favourite of Heaven, he faith,
For him alone Hope leads from goal to goal,
pours the bliss that fills up all the mind.
But Natural Religion never lengthen'd Hope on to Faith; nor did any Religion, but the Christian, ever conceive that Faith could fill the Mind with Happiness.
Lastly, In this very epistle, and in this very place, speaking of the great Restorers of the Religion of Nature, he in