Abbildungen der Seite

Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? II. Presumptuous Man ! the reason wouldīt thou find,

Why form’d fo weak, so 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
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Why Jove's Satellites are lefs than Jove ?

Of Systems poffible, if ’tis confest
That Wisdom infinite must form the best,

COMM È NTAR Y. VER. 43. Of Systems posible, &c.] So far his 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 cannot discover the particular reasons for this mode of our existence, we may be assured in gen:ral that it is right. For now, entering upon his argument, he lajs down this felf-evident proposition as the foundation of his Thelis,

NOTES. Ver. 35. to 42.) In these shew as well the ablurility of lines the poet has joined the their complaints against Order, beauty of argumentation to the as the fruitlesriefs of their ersublimity of thought ; where quiries into the arcana of the the similar instances, proposed Godhead. for his adverfaries examination,

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, somewhere, 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, must be right, as relative to all.

[ocr errors]

COMMENTARY. which he reasonably supposes will be allowed him, That, of all tollible Systems, infinite wisdom hath formed the best ($ 43, 44) From whence he draws two consequences :

1. The first (from Ý 44 to 51) is, that as the best system cannot but be such a one as hath no inconnected Void ; 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, Whether God has placed him wrong?

VER. 51. Respecting Man, &c.] It being shewn that Man, the Subject of his enquiry, has a neceffary place in such a 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 attributes ? Therefore,

2. The second consequence he draws from his principle, That of all possible systems, 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 * 52 to 61) by shewing in what consists the difference between the Systematic works of God,


In human works, tho' labour'd on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain ;
In God's, one single can its end produce ;

55 Yet ferves to second too some other use. So Man, who here seems principal alone, Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown, Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal; 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole, 60 When the proud steed shall know why Man

restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains;

COMMENTARY. 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 aets second to some sphere unknown. And acting thus, the appearances of wrong in the partial system, may be right in the universal: For

'Tis but a part we fee, and not a whole. That it must, the whole body of this epistle is employed to ile lustrate and inforce. Thus partial Evil is universal Good; and thus Providence is fairly acquitted.

VER. 61. When the proud fteed &c.] From all this he draws a general conclusion (from * 60 to 91) that, as what has been faid is sufficient to vindicate the ways of Providence, Man should rest submissive and content, and confess every thing to be disposed for the best; that to pretend to enquire into the manner how God conducts this wonderful scheme to its completion, is as absurd as to imagine that the horse and ox shall

Atoms or systems into ruin hurld,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

90 Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soary Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore.


occasion to observe, that God is the equal master of all his creatures, and provides for the proper happiness of each being.

Ver. 91. Hope humbly then ; &c.] But now the objector is fupposed to put in, and say, You tell us indeed, that all things will terminate in good ; but we see ourselves surrounded with present Evil ; and yet you forbid us all inquiry into the manner how we are to be extricated ; and, in a word, leave us in a very disconsolate condition. Not so, replies the poet, you may reasonably, if you so please, receive much comfort from the HOPE of a happy futurity; a Hope implanted in the human breast for this very purpose by God himself, as an earnest of that Bliss, which here perpetually flying us, is reserved for the good Man hereafter. The reason why the poet chuses to insist on this proof of a future ftate, in preference to others, is in order to give his system (which is founded in a sublime and improved Platonism) the higher grace of uniformity. For HOPE was Plato's peculiar argument for a future state ; and the words here employed the soul uneasy &c. his particular expression. The poet in this place, therefore, says in express terms, that God gave us Hope to supply that future bliss, which he at present keeps hid from us. In his second epistle, $ 274, he goes still farther, and says, this hope quits us not even at Death, when every thing mortal drops from us :

Hope travels thro', nor quits us when we die. And, in the fourth epistle, he shews how the same HOPE is a proof of a future state, from the consideration of God's giving man no appetite in vain, or what he did not intend should be satisfied ;

He sees, why Nature plants in Man alone
Hope of known bliss, and Faith in bliss unknown :

What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that Hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never Is, but always To be blest:


In the first Fol. and Quarto,
What bliss above he gives not thee to know,
But gives that Hope to be thy bliss below.

COMMENTARY. (Nature, whose dietates to no other kind

Are giv’n in vain, but what they seek they find) It is only for the good man, he tells us, that Hope leads from goal to goal &c. It would be strange indeed then if it would

prove a delusion.


VER.93. What future bliss, , arguments, that it strength&c.] It hath been objected, ens and supports them. For if that the System of the best weak those evils, to which good men ens the other natural arguments are subject, be mere Disorders, for a future state ; because, if without any tendency to the the evils which good Men suf greater good of the whole fer promote the benefit of the then, though we must indeed whole, then every thing is here conclude that they will herein order; and nothing amiss after be set right, yet this view that wants to be set right: Nor of things, representing God, as has the good man any reason fuffering disorders for no other to expect amends, when the end than to set them right, evils he suffered had such a gives us a very low idea of the tendency. To this it may be divine wisdom. But if those replied, 1. That the poet tells evils (according to the system us (Ep. iv. * 361) that God loves of the best) contribute to the from whole to parts. 2. That greater perfection of the whole; the System of the best is so far such a reason may be then given from weakening those natural for their permission, as supports


« ZurückWeiter »