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Above, how high, progressive life may go!

235 Around, how wide! how deep extend below! Vast chain of Being ! which from God began, Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,

COMMENTARY.

make upon our frame, if the members were set upon invading each other's office:

“ What if the foot,” &c. Who will not acknowledge, therefore, that a connexion in the disposition of things, so harmonious as here described, is transcendently beautiful ? But the Fatalists suppose such an one. What then? Is the First Free Agent, the great Cause of all things, debarred a contrivance infinitely exquisite, because some Men, to set up their idol, Fate, absurdly represent it as presiding over such a system?

NOTES.

any seen

Ver. 235. Above, how high,] This is a magnificent passage.

Has
The mighty chain of beings, lessening down
From infinite Perfection, to the brink
Of dreary Nothing, desolate abyss !
From which astonish'd Thought recoiling turns ?

THOMSON..' Warton. The passage in Locke on this topic is so eloquent, that the reader will pardon its insertion:

“ That there should be more species of intelligent creatures above us, than there are of sensible and material below us, is probable to me from hence : That in all the visible corporeal world we see no chasms, or gaps. All quite down from us, the descent is by easy steps, and a continued series of things, that in each remove differ

very

little from the other. And when we consider the infinite power and wisdom of the Maker, we have reason to think that it is suitable to the magnificent harmony of the Universe, and the great design and infinite goodness of the Architect, that the species of creatures should also, by gentle degrees, ascend upwards from us towards his infinite Perfection, as we see from us they gradually descend downward.” Vol. i. p. 4.

Bowles.

one

Beast, bird, fish, insect, what no eye can see,
No glass can reach ; from infinite to thee, 240
From thee to nothing! On superior pow'rs
Were we to press, inferior might on ours :
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd:
From Nature's chain whatever link you strike, 245
Tenth, or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.

And if each system in gradation roll,
Alike essential to th' amazing Whole,
The least confusion but in one, not all
That system only, but the Whole must fall. 250

NOTES.

“ Na

Ver. 240. No glass can reach ;] “ There are," says Hooke, the naturalist, “ 8,280,000 animalculæ in one drop of water.” ture, in many instances,” says Themistius, “appears to make her transitions so imperceptibly, and by little and little, that in some beings it may be doubted whether they are animal or vegetable.”

Warton. Ver. 244. the great scale's destroy'd :] All that can be said of the supposition of a scale of beings gradually descending from perfection to non-entity, and complete in every rank and degree, is to be found in the third chapter of King's Origin of Evil, and in a note of the Archbishop, marked G, p. 137, of Law's Translation, ending with these emphatical words: “Whatever system God had chosen, all creatures in it could not have been equally perfect; and there could have been but a certain determinate multitude of the most perfect; and, when that was completed, there would have been a station for creatures less perfect, and it would still have been an instance of goodness to give them a being as well as others.”

Warton, Ver. 245. From Nature's chain] Almost the words of Marcus Antoninus, l. v. c. 8; as also v. 265. from the same. Warton.

VARIATIONS.

Ver. 238.] Ed. 1st.

Ethereal essence, spirit, substance, man.

Warburtor,

Let Earth unbalanc'd from her orbit fly,
Planets and stars run lawless through the sky;
Let ruling angels from their spheres be hurl’d,
Being on Being wreck’d, and world on world;

NOTES.

Ver. 251. Let Earth unbalanc'd] i. e. Being no longer kept within its orbit by the different directions of its progressive and attractive motions; which, like equal weights in a balance, keep it in an equilibre.

Warburton. It is observable, that these noble lines were added after the first folio edition. It is a pleasing and useful amusement to trace out the alterations that a great and correct writer gradually makes in his works. At first it ran,

How instinct varies! What a hog may want,

Compar'd with thine, half-reasoning Elephant. And again ;

What the advantage if his finer eyes

Study a mite, not comprehend the skies.
Which lines at present stand thus :

How instinct varies in the grov'ling swine,
Compar'd, half-reas’ning Elephant, with thine!
Say what the use, were finer optics giv'n,

To inspect a mite, not comprehend the Heav'n.
Formerly it stood thus :

No self-confounding faculties to share,

No senses stronger than his brain can bear. present;

No pow'rs of body or of soul to share,

But what his nature and his state can bear. It appeared at first very exceptionably;

Expatiate far o'er all this scene of Man,

A mighty maze! of walks without a plan.
Which contradicted his whole system, and it was altered to,

A mighty maze! but not without a plan! Warton. Ver. 253. Let ruling angels, &c.] The Poet, throughout this Work, has, with great art, used an advantage which his employing a Platonic principle for the foundation of his Essay, had af

forded

At

Heav'n's whole foundations to their centre nod, 255
And Nature tremble to the throne of God;
All this dread ORDER break—for whom ? for thee?
Vile worm ! oh Madness! Pride! Impiety!

IX. What if the foot, ordain'd the dust to tread,
Or hand to toil, aspir'd to be the head ? 260
What if the head, the eye, or ear repin'd
To serve mere engines to the ruling mind?
Just as absurd for any part to claim
To be another, in this gen'ral frame:
Just as absurd, to mourn the tasks or pains, 265
The great directing Mind OF ALL ordains.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;

COMMENTARY.

Ver. 267. All are but parts of one stupendous whole,] Our author having thus given a representation of God's work, as one entire whole, where all the parts have a neces

cessary dependence on, and relation to each other, and where each particular part works and concurs to the perfection of the Whole, as such a system transcends vulgar ideas, to reconcile it to common conceptions he shews (from ver. 266 to 281.), that God is equally and intimately present to every sort of substance, to every particle of matter, and

in

NOTES.

forded him; and that is, the expressing himself (as here) in Platonic language; which, luckily for his purpose, is highly poetical, at the same time that it adds a grace to the uniformity of his reasoning

Warburton. Ver. 259. What if the foot, &c.] This fine illustration in defence of the System of Nature, is taken from St. Paul, who employed it to defend the System of Grace.

Warburton. Ver. 265. Just as absurd, &c.] See the prosecution and application of this in Ep. iv.

Pope. Ver. 266. The great directing Mind, &c.] “ Veneramur autem

et

That, chang'd through all, and yet in all the same; Great in the earth, as in th' ethereal frame; 270

COMMENTARY.

in every instant of being; which eases the labouring imagination, and makes us expect no less, from such a Presence, than such a Dispensation.

NOTES.

et colimus ob dominium. Deus enim sine dominio, providentiâ, et causis finalibus, nihil aliud est quam Fatum et Natura.Newtoni Princip. Schol. gener. sub finem.

Warburton. Ver. 267. All are but parts] These are lines of a marvellous energy and closeness of expression. They are exactly like the old Orphic verses quoted in Aristotle, De Mundo. Edit. Lugd. folio, 1590, p. 378; and line 289 as minutely resembles the doctrine of the sublime hymn of Cleanthes the Stoic; not that I imagine Pope or Bolingbroke ever read that hymn, especially the latter, who was ignorant of Greek.

Warton. Ver. 268. Whose body Nature is, &c.] Mr. de Crousaz remarks, on this line, that " A Spinozist would express himself in this manner." I believe he would; for so the infamous Toland has done, in his Atheist's Liturgy, called PANTHEISTICON. But so would St. Paul likewise, who, writing on this subject, the omnipresence of God in his Providence, and in his Substance, says, in the words of a pantheistical Greek Poet, In him zoe lide, and move, and have our being; i. e. we are parts of him, his offspring : And the reason is, because a religious theist and an impious pantheist both profess to believe the omnipresence of God. But would Spinoza, as Mr. Pope does, call God the great directing Mind of all, who hath intentionally created a perfect Universe? Or would a Spinozist have told us,

• The workman from the work distinct was known ?" a line that overturns all Spinozism from its very

foundations. But this sublime description of the Godhead contains not only the divinity of St. Paul; but, if that will not satisfy the men he writes against, the philosophy likewise of Sir Isaac Newton. The Poet says,

“ All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;" &c. The Philosopher :-" In ipso continentur et moventur universa, sed absque mutuâ passione. Deus nihil patitur ex corporum moti

bus;

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