Page images

equally true, that the worft kind of government, when the form of it is preserved, and the administration perfect, is the most pernicious.

However, I am free to confess, that though, taking the whole context together, the meaning of these lines may be well ascertained, yet the expression is, to say no more, obfcure; and does by no means convey that meaning with our author's usual perspicuity. For, notwithstanding his apology, and the very ingenious expofition of his commentator, the expression is too general to admit of such limitations as the true construction requires.

The poet, having explained the true principles of policy and religion, and shewn, that however the world may disagree about religious and political principles, yet charity is, nevertheless, the concern of all mankind, he concludes this epistle with the following incomparable lines.

“Man, like the gen’rous vine, supported lives; “ The strength he gains is from th’embrace

" he gives.

« On their own Axis as the Planets run,
“ Yet make at once their circle round the Sun;
“ So two consistent motions act the Soul;
“ And one regards itself, and one the Whole*."


* The same sentiment we find in substance, thus expressed by Lord Bacon—“ There is formed in every thing a double “ nature of good : the one, as every thing is a total or sub

6 Aance

The poet has here, with peculiar skill and felicity, contrived, that the same ornaments which embellith his verse, should strengthen his argument.

These beautiful and fublime fimilies, afford the most apt and powerful illustration of the truth of that proposition, which he would imprint on the reader's mind, namely, that Self-love and Social are the fame.

Having thus displayed the nature of man in his various relations, in his fourth and last Epistle, he considers his nature and state with respect to happiness, the end which every human being pursues.

This epistle opens with an invocation to happiness; and the reader will find a summary of false and true felicity in the following lines : wherein the poet, with his usual address, has contrived to illustrate the proposition he would prove, by the most beautiful images, conveyed in the most harmonious versification.

“ Oh Happiness! our being's end and aim ! “ Good, Pleasure, Eafe, Content! whate'er thy

name :

“That something still which prompts


6 nal sigh,

For which we bear to live, or dare to die,

“ stance in itself; the other, as it is a part or member of a

great body; whereof the latter is in degree the greater " and the wortbier, because it tendeth to the conservation "S of 2 more general form.” R 4

56 Which

" Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies,
“ O'erlook'd, seen double, by the fool, and

" wife.
“ Plant of celestial feed ! if dropt below,
Say in what mortal foil though deign'st to

“ grow? “ Fair op'ning to fome Court's propitious shine, " Or decp with di’monds in the flaming mine? - Twin'd with the wreaths Parnaslian laurels

“yicid, “ Or reap'd in iron harvests of the field ? Where grows ? --where grows it not? If vain "

our toil, “ We ought to blame the culture, not the

os foil :

“ Fix'd to po spot is Happiness fincere,
“ 'Tis no where to be found, or ev'ry where."

The poet having farther exposed and consuted the idle notions concerning happiness, which were propagated by the antient philosophers; of whom fome placed it in action, fome in case*, &c. he proceeds more particularly to explain in what it truly consists.

“ TakeNature's path, and mad Opinion's leave, “ All states can reach it, and all heads conceive;

* Mr. Pope, in one of his letters to Mr. Allen, has, in few words, expressed his idea of Happiness---- To be at " ense,” says he, " is the greatest of happiness (at cail,

I " mean, both of mind and body) but to be ide is the greatest “ of unhappiness, both to the one and the other."

$ Obvious

ss Obvious her goods, in no extreme they dwell; “There needs but thinking right, and mean

“ ing well; - And mourn

our various portions as we “ please, " Equal is Common Sense, and Common Ease.”

It will probably occur to the learned reader, that the poet has here adopted the sentiments of the Grecian sage, who said " That if we " live according to Nature, we shall never be

poor; and if we live according to Opinion, we “ shall never be rich.”

Our poet then goes on to fhew in what true happiness conlists; which he thus forcibly explains.

“ Know, all the good that individuals find, “Or God and Nature meant to mere mankind, “Reason's whole pleasure, all the joys of sense, “Lie in three words, Health, Peace, and Com

petence. But Health consists with Temperance alone; “ And Peace, oh Virtue ! Peace is all thy

" own."

The strong and affecting manner in which these sentiments are expressed, naturally disposes a mind of any sensibility, to that serene and placid state which is attendant on virtue. The invocation, and emphatic repetition in the last line, have a peculiar energy and pathos.


To those who impiously arraign providence for not preventing the evils which befal the good and just in this world; our author answers in the following lines.

“ Shall burning Etna, if a fage requires,

Forget to thunder, and recall her fires ? « On air or sea new motions be imprest, “Oh blameless Bethel *! to relieve thy breast? “ When the loose mountain trembles from on

' high, “ Shall gravitation cease, if you go by? “ Or fome old temple, nodding to its fall, “ For Chartres' head reserve the hanging

66 wall ?",

This argument, by which the poet shews that the evils complained of, could not be prevented, without continually reversing the established laws of nature, is finely illustrated.

* In a letter which our author, soon after the death of his mother, wrote to Mr. Bethel, he seems to hint at this pasfage :

“ I have now but too much melancholy leisure, and no « other care but to finish my Efay on Man. There will " be in it but one line that will offend you (I fear) and yet “ I will not alter it or omit it, unless you come to town and “ prevent me before I print it, which will be in a fortnight “ in all probabil ty. In plain truth, I will not deny mytelf " the greatest pleasure I am capable of receiving, because « another may have the modesty not to share it. It is all a

poor poet can do, to bear testimony to the virtue he can" not reach: belides that, in this age, I fee too few good “ examples, not to lay hold on any I can find.”


« PreviousContinue »