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Hope humblythen; with trembling Pimions soar; Caithe great teacher Death; and God adere!
P I S T L Ē AWAKE, my St. John! leave all meaner I things To low ambition, and the pride of Kings. Let us (since Life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die) Expatiate free o’er all this scene of Maní 5 A mighty maze! but not without a plan ; A Wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous
shoot, Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
COMMENTARY. THÉ Opening of this poem, [in fifteen lines] is taken up · in giving an account of the Subject; which, agreeably to the title, is an ESSAY on MAN, or a Philosophical Enquiry into his Nature and End, his. Pasions and Pursuits.
The Exordium relates to the whole work, of which the Esay on Man was only the first book. The 6th, 7th, and 8th lines allude to the subjects of this Ejay, viz. the general Order and Design of Providence; the Constitution of the human Mind; the origin, use, and end of the Passions and Affections, both selfish and social ; and the wrong pursuits of Power, Pleasure, and Happiness. The roth, 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 transgressed, ignorance begins, and er:
NOT E $. VÉR. 7,8. A WildOr Garden, ] The Wild relates to the human pali:ns, productive (as he explains in the second epistle) both of good and evil. The Garden, to human reafin, so often tempting us to transgress the bounds God has set to it, and to wander in fruitless enquiries.
Together let us beat this ample field,
COMMENTARY. rors without end succéed. The 13th and 14th, to the Knowledge of Mankind, and the various Manners of the Age.
The Poet tells us next [line 16th] with what design he wrote, viz.
“ To vindicate the ways of God to Man.” The Men he writes against, he frequently informs us, are such as weigh their opinion against Providence (ver. 114.) such as cry, if Man's unhappy, God's unjust, (ver. 1 18.) 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
NOTE S. VER. 12. Of all who blindly cresp, &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 flights through the regions of Metaphysics. Both which follies are exposed in the fourth epistle, where the popular and philosophical errors concerning Happiness are detected. The figure is taken from animal life. ...Ver. 15 Laugh where we mult, &c.] Intimating, that human follies are so strangely absurd, that it is not in the power of the most compassionat', on some occasions, to restrain their mirth: And that its crimes are so flagitious, that the most candid have feldom an opportunity, on this subject, to exercise their virtue. • Ver. 16. Vindicate the ways of God to Man.) Milton's phrase judiciously altered, who says, JUSTIFY the ways of God
I. Say first, of God above, or Man below, What can we reason, but from what we know? Of Man, what see we but his station here, From which to reason, or to which refer? 20
COMMENTAR Y. 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 Providence. And in the second, he obviates all those objections, by a true delineation of human Nature; or a general, but exact, map of Mar. The first epistle is employed in the management of the first part of this dispute ; and the three following in the discussion of the fecond. So that this whole book constitutes a complete Essay on Man, written for the best purpose, to vindicate ihe u ays of God.
Ver. 17. Say first, of God above, or Man below, &c.] The Poet having declared his Subject ; his End of writing ; and the Quality of his Adversaries ; proceeds (from Ver. 16 to 23.) to instruct us, from whence he intends to draw his arguments; namely, from the visible things of God in this system, to de
NOT E s. to Man. Milton was addressing himself to BELIEVERS, and delivering reasons, or explaining the ways of God: this idea, the word justisy, precisely conveys. Pope was addressing himself to UNBELIEVERS, and exposing such of their objections whose ridicule and absurdity arises from the blindness of the objecters; he therefore more fitly employs the word VINDICATE, which conveys the idea of a confutation attended with punishment. Thus, suscipere vindiliam Legis, to undertake the defence of the Law, implies punishing the violators of it. VER. 19, 20. Of Man, what see we but his flation here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?] The sense is, “we see nothing of Man, but as he stands at pre" sent in his station here : From which station, all our rea« sonings on his nature and end must be drawn; and to this * station they must all be referred.” The consequences is, that our reasonings on his nature and end must needs be very imperfect.
Thro’worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known,
COMMENTARY. monstrate the invisible things of God, his eternal Power and God-head: And why? because we can reason only from what we know; and as we know no more of Man than what we fee of his station here; so we know no more of God than what we see of his dispensations in this station ; being able to trace him no further than to the limits of our own system. This naturally leads the Poet to exprobrate the miserable Folly and Impiety of pretending to pry into, and call in question, the profound dispensations of Providence: Which reproof contains (from Ver. 22 to 43.) a sublime description of the Omniscience of God, and the miserable Blindness and Prefumption of Man.
NOTE S. VER. 21. Thro' Worlds unnumber'd, &c.] Hunc cognoscimus solummodo per Proprietates suas & Attributa, & per sapientiflimas & optimas rerum structuras & caufas finales. Nwtoni Princ. Schul. gen. fi.b fin.
Ver. 30. The firong connections, nice dependencies.] The thought is very noble, and expressed with great beauty, and philosophic exactness. The system of the Universe is a combination of natural and moral Fitnesses, as the human system is,