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Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies
NOTES. It is to be obferved, that the Pagan deities had each their several names and places of abode, with 'some of which they were supposed to be more delighted than others, and consequently to be then most propitious when invoked by the favourite name and place : Hence we find, the Hymns of Homer, Orpheus, and Callimachus to be chiefly employed in reckoning up the several names - and places of abode by which the patron God was dis
tinguished. Our poet hath made these two circumstances serve to introduce his subject. His purpose is to write of Happiness ; method therefore requires that he firft define what men mean by Happiness, and this he does in the ornament of a poetic Invocation ; in which the leveral names, that happiness goes by, are enumerated,
Oh Happiness ! our being's end and aim,
Good, Pleasure, Ease, Content! whate'er thy Name. After the Definition, that which follows next, is the propofition, which is, that human Happiness confifts not in external Advantages, but in Virtue. For the subject of this epistle is the detecting the false notions of Happiness, and settling and explaining the true; and this the poet lays down in the next sixteen lines. Now the enumeration of the several situations in which Happinefs is fuppofed to reside, is a summary of false Happiness, placed in Externals :
Plant of celeftial feed ! if dropt below,
in'd with the wreaths Parnassian laurels yield,
Plant of celestial feed; if dropt below,
15 'Tis no where to be found, or ev'ry where : 'Tis never to be bought, but always free, And fled from monarchs, St. John! dwells with thee.
Ask of the Learn’d the way? The Learn’d are blind; This bid to serve, and that to shun Mankind; 20
NOTES. The fix remaining lines deliver the true notion of Happi. ness to be in Virtue. Which is summ'd up in these two :
Fix'd to no spot is Happiness fincere,
'Tis no where to be found, or ev'ry where. The Poet having thus defined his terms, and laid down his proposition, proceeds to the support of his Thesis ; the various arguments of which make up the body of the Epiftle.
Ver. 6. O'erlook'd, feen double,) O'erlook'd by those who place Happiness in any thing exclusive of Virtue ; seen double by those who admit any thing else to have a share with Virtue in procuring Happiness; these being the two general mistakes that this epifle is employed in confuting.
Some place the bliss in action, some in ease,
Who thus define it, say they more or less
Ver. 21, 23. Some place the bliss in action, -Some sunk to beasts, &c.] 1. Those who place Happiness, or the summum bonum, in Pleasure 'Hdonn, fuch as the Cyrenaic sect, called, on that account, the Hedonic. 2. Those who place it in a certain tranquillity or calmness of Mind, which they call Evlucía, such as the Democratic fect. 3. The Epicurean. 4. The Stoic.
5. The Protagorean, which held that Man was σάντων χρημάτων μέτρον, the mea/furt of all things; for that all things which appear to him are, and those things which appear not to any
Man are not; so that every imagination or opinion of every Man was true. 6. The Sceptic ; whose absolute Doubt is, with great judgment, said to be the effect of Indolence, as well as the absolute Trust of the Protagorean : For the same dread of labour attending the search of truth, which makes the Protagorean presume it to be always at hand, makes the Sceptic conclude it is never to be found. The only difference is, that the laziness of the one is desponding, and the laziness of the other fanguine ; yet both can give it a good name, and call it Happiness.
VER. 23. Some funk to beasts, &c.] These four lines added in the last Edition, as necessary to complete the summary of the false pursuits after happiness amongst the Greek philofophers.
Take Nature's path, and mad opinions leave;
Remember, Man, “the Universal Cause 35
There's not a blessing Individuals find, But some way leans and hearkens to the kind, 40 No Bandit fierce, no Tyrant mad with pride, No cavern'd Hermit rests self-satisfy’d: Who most to shun or hate Mankind pretend, Seek an admirer, or would fix a friend : Abstract what others feel, what others think, 45 All pleasures ficken, and all glories fink: Each has his share ; and who would more obtain, Shall find, the pleasure pays not half the pain.
Order is Heav'n's first law; and this confest, Some are, and must be, greater than the rest, 50
VER. 49. Order is Heav'n's firf law;) i.e. The first law made by God relates to Order ; which is a beautiful allusion to the Scripture-history of the Creation, when God first appeased the disorders of Chaos, and separated the light from the darkness.
More rich, more wise; but who infers from hence,
65 God in externals could not place Content.
Say not, “Heav'n's here profuse, there poorly faves,
'Twas for the thousand Heav'n has made that one. After ver. 66. in the MS. 'Tis peace
of mind alone is at a fay :