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Gradations just, has thy pervading soul
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? II. Presumptuous Man! the reason would'st thou find,
35 Why form’d so weak, fo little, and so blind ? First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less ? Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade! 40
NOT e s. of body and spirit. · By the strong connections, therefore, the Poet alluded to the natural part; and by the nice dependencies to the moral. For the Ejay on Manis not a system of Natu. RALISM, on the Philosophy of Bolingbroke, but a system of NATURAL RELIGION on the Philosophy of Newton. Hence it is, that where he supposes disorders may tend to some greater 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,
Ver. 35 to 42.] In these lines the Poet has joined the beauty of argumentation to the sublimity of thought; where the similar instances, proposed for his adversaries examination, shew as well the absurdiry of their complaints against Order, as the fruitlesnefs of their enquiries into the arcana of the Godhead.
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Of Systems possible, if 'tis confest
COMMENTARY. Ver. 43. Of systems possible, &c.) So far the Poet's modest and sober Introduction; in which he truly observes, that no wisdom less than omniscient
"Can tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.” Yet, though we be unable to discover the particular reasons for this mode of our existence, we may be assured in general that it is right. For now, entering upon his argument, he lays down this evident proposition as the foundation of his Thesis, which he reasonably supposes will be allowed him, That, of all possible systems, infinite wisdom hath formed the best. (Ver. 43, 44.) From whence he draws two consequences :
1. The first, (from Ver. 44 to 51.) is, that as the best system cannot but be such a one as hath no inconnected Void;
. NOT E S. VER. 41. Or ask of yonder, &c.] On these lines M. Voltaire thus discants.--" Pope dit que l'homme ne peut savoir pour« quoi les Lunes de Jupiter font moins grandes que Jupiter ? « Il se trompe en cela c'est une erreur pardonable. Il n'y a “ point de Mathematicien qui n'ent fait voir," &c. (Ver. 2. p. 384, Ed. Gen.] And so goes on to shew, like a great Mathematician as he is, that it would be very inconvenient for the Page to be as big as his Lord and Master. It is pity all this fine reasoning should proceed on a ridiculous blunder. The Poet thus reproves the impious complainer of the order of Providence. " You are dissatisfied with the weakness of your condition. But, in your situation, the nature of things requires just such a creature as you are: in a different situation it might have required, that you should be still weaker. And though you see not the reason of this in your own case ; but, that reasons there are, you may see in the case of other of God's creatures,
Where all must full or not coherent be,
45 And all that rises, rise in due degree; Then, in the scale of reas’ning life, 'tis plain, There must be, fomewhere, such a rank as Man: And all the question (wrangle e'er so long) Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong? 50
Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call, May, muft be right, as relative to all.
COMMENTA RY. such a one in which there is a perfect coherence and gradual subordination in all its parts; there must needs be, in some part or other of the scale of reasoning life, such a creature as MAN: Which reduces the dispute to this absurd question, IV hether God hus placed him wrong?
Ver. 51. Refpesting Man, &c.] It being sewn that Man, the Subject of this enquiry, has a necessary place in such a
NOT E S. 6 Ark of thy mother Earth, why Oaks were made « Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade. " Or ask of yonder argent fields above, “ Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove.”
Here the ridicule of the weeds and the Satellites' complaint, had they the faculties of speech and reasoning, (says the Poet) is obvious to all, because their very situation and office might have convinced them of their folly. Your folly, says the Poet, to his complainers, is as great, though not so evident, because the reason is more out of sight; but that a reason there is, may be demonstrated from the attributes of the Deity. This is the Poet's clear and strong reasoning; from whence, we see, he was so far from saying, that Man could not know the cause why yove's Satellites were less than Jove, that all the force of his reasoning turns upon this, that Man did see and know it, and fhould from thence conclude, that there was a cause of this inferiority as well in the rational, as in the irrational Creation.
In human works, tho' labour'd on with pain ;
system as this is confessed to be; and it being evident, that the abuse of Free-will, from whence proceeds all moral evil, is the certain effect of such a creature's existence; the next question will be, How these evils can be accounted for, consistently with the idea we have of God's moral attributes ? Therefore,
2. The second consequence he draws from his principle, That of all possible liftems, infinite wisdom has formed the best, is, that whatever is wrong in our private system, is right as relative to the whole :
• Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,
“ May, must be right, as relative to ALL.' That it may, he proves (from Ver. 52 to 61.) by shewing in what consists the difference between the fiematic works of God, and those of Man; viz. that, in the latter, a thousand movements scarce gain one purpose ; in the former, one movement gains many purposes. So that
“ Man, who here seems principal alone,
" Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown." And acting thus, the appearance of wrong in the partial system may be right in the universal : For
« Tis but a part we see, and not a whole."
When the proud steed shall know why Man
restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains ; When the dull Ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Ægypt's God:
VARIATION S. In the former Editions, Ver. 64.
Now wears a garland an Ægyptian God. altered as above for the reason given in the note.
COMMENTAR Y. That it must, the whole body of this epistle is employed to illustrate and enforce. Thus partial Evil, is universal Good; and thus Providence is fairly acquitted.
VER. 61. When the priud pleid, &c.] From all this the Poet draws a general conclusion (from Ver 60 to 91.) that, as what has been said is sufficient to vindicate the ways of Providence, Man should rest submissive and content; and own every thing to be disposed for the best; that to think of discovering the manner how God conducts this wonderful scheme to its comp'etion, is as absurd as to imagine that the horse and ox thall ever be able to comprehend why they undergo such different treatment in the hand of Man; nay, that such knowledge, if communicated, would be even ternicious, and make us neglect or d fert our Duty here. This he illustrates by the case of the lamb, which is happy in not knowing the fate that attends it from the
NOTE s. Ver. 64.- Ægypt's God.) Called so, because the God Apis was worshipped universally over the whole land of Egypt.