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THE UNIVERSAL PRAYER.
DEO OPT. MAX.
It may be proper to observe, that some passages, in the preceding Essay, having been unjustly suspected of a tendency towards fate and naturalism, the author composed this Prayer as the sum of all, to show that his system was founded in free-will, and terminated in piety: That the First Cause was as well the Lord and Governor of the universe as the Creator of it; and that, by submission to his will (the great principle enforced throughout the Essay, was not meant the suffering ourselves to be carried along by a blind determination, but the resting in a religious acquiescence, and confidence full of hope and immortality. To give all this the greater weight, the poet chose for his model the Lord's Prayer, which, of all others, best deserves the title prefixed to this paraphrase.
FATHER of all! in every age,
In every clime ador'd,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Thou Great First Cause, least understood;
To know but this, that thou art good,
And that myself am blind;
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill; And, binding nature fast in fate, Left free the human will:
What conscience dictates to be done, Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than hell to shun, That, more than heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
For God is paid when man receives:
Yet not to earth's contracted span
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Save me alike from foolish pride,
Teach me to feel another's woe,
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.
Mean though I am, not wholly so,
Through this day's life or death.
This day, be bread and peace my lot:
To thee, whose temple is all space,
One chorus let all being raise !
IN FOUR EPISTLES TO SEVERAL PERSONS.
Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
The Essay on Man was intended to have been comprised in four books:
The first of which, the author has given us under that title, in four epistles.
The second was to have consisted of the same number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable, together with those which are unuseful, and therefore unattainable. 3. Of the nature, ends, use, and application of the different capacities of men. 4 of the, use of learning, of the science of the world, and of wit; concluding with a satire against a misapplication of them, illustrated by pictures, characters, and examples.
The third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics, in which the several forms of a republic were to be examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, as far forth as they affect society; between which the au thor always supposed there was the most interesting relation and closest connexion; so that this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their full extent.
The fourth and last book concerned private ethics, or practical morality, considered in all the circumstances, orders, professions, and stations of human life.
The scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to Lord Bolingbroke, Dr. Swift, and one or two more, and was intended for the only work of his riper years; but was, partly through ill health, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on pru dential and other considerations, interrupted, postponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid aside.
But as this was the author's favourite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his strong capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poeta, that now remain, it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
The first, as it treats of man in the abstract, and considers him in general under every of his rela tions, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three following; so that,
The second book was to take up again the first and second epistles of the first book, and treats of man in his intellectual capacity at large, as has been ex plained above. Of this only a small part of the conclusion (which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit' and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad, and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.