Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
[ocr errors]

ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE IV.

Qf the Nature and State of Man with respect to Happiness.

I, False notions of happiness, philosophical and popular, answered from ver. 19 to 77. II. It is the end of all men, and attainable by all, ver. 30. God intends happiness to be equal; and, to be so, it must be social, since all particular happiness depends on general, and since he governs by general, not particular laws, ver. 37. As it is necessary for order, and the peace and welfare of society, that external poods should be unequal, happiness is not made to consist in these, ver. 51. But, notwithstanding that inequality, the balance of happiness among mankind is kept even by Providence, by the two passions of hope and fear, ver. 70. III. What the happiness of individuals is, as far as is consistent with the constitution of this world; and that the good man has here the advantage, ver. 77. The error of imputing to virtue what are only the calamities of nature, or of fortune, ver. 0/1. IV. The folly of expectiog that God should alter his general laws in favour of particulars, ver. 121. V. That we are not judges who are good; but that, whoever they are, they must be happiest, ver. 133, &c. VI. That external goods are not the proper rewards, but often inconsistent with, or destructive of, virtue, lG7. That even these can make no man happy without virtue : instanced in riches, ver. 185. Honours, ver. 107. Nobility, ver. 205. Greatness, ver. 217. Fame, ver, 237. Superior talents, ver. 257, &c. With pictures of human infelicity in men, possessed of them alt, ver. 269, &c. VII. That virtue only constitutes a happiness, whose object is universal and whose prospect eternal, ver. 307. That the perfection of virtue and happiness consists in a conformity to the order of Providence here, and a resignation to it here and hereafter, ver. 326, &c.

EPISTLE IV.

OH Happiness! our being's end and aim! Good, pleasure, ease, content! whate'er thy name:

That something still which prompts th' eternal sigh,

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

Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies,

O'erlook'd, seen double, by the fool and wise:

Plant of celestial seed! if dropp'd below,

Say, in what mortal soil thou deign'st to grow?

Fair opening to some court's propitious shine,

Or deep with diamonds in the flaming mine?

Twin'd with the wreaths Parnassian laurels yield,

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 soil:

Fix'd to no spot is happiness sincere,

'Tis no where to be found, or every where:

*Tis never to be bought, but always free,

And fled from monarch*, St. John! dwells with thee.

Ask of the learn'd the way? The learn'd are blind: This bids to serve, and that to shun mankind; Some place the bliss in action, some in ease, Those call it pleasure, and contentment these: Some, sunk to beasts, find pleasure end in pain; Some, swell'd to gods, confess ev'n virtue vain; Or, indolent, to each extreme they fall, To trust in ev'ry thing, or doubt of all.

Who thus define it, say they more or less. Than this, that happiness is happiness?

II. Take nature's path, and mad opinion's leave; All states can reach it, and all heads conceive; Obvious her goods, in no extreme they dwell; There needs but thinking right, and meaning well; And, mourn our various portions as we please, Equal is common sense, and common ease.

Remember, man, ' the Universal Canse Acts not by partial, but by gen'ral laws And makes what happiness we justly call, Subsist not in the good of one, but all. There's not a blessing individuals find, But some way leans and hearkens to the kind: No bandit fierce, no tyrant mad with pride, 'No cavern'd hermit, rests self-satisfied: Who most to shun or hate mankind pretend, Seek an admirer, or would fix a friend: Abstract what others feel, what others think, Alt pleasures sicken, and all glories sink: Each has his share; and who would more obtain, Shall find, the pleasure pays not half the pain.

Order is Heaven's first law; and this confest, Some are, and must be, greater than the rest, More rich, more wise; but who infers from hence That such are happier, shocks all common sense, Heaven to mankind impartial we confess, If all are equal in their happiness: But mutual wants this happiness increase; All nature's difference -keeps all nature's peace. Condition, circumstance, is not the thing; .Bliss is the same in subject or in king, In who obtain defence, or who defend, In him who is, or him who finds a friend: Heaven breathes through every member of the whole One common blessing, as one common soul. But fortune's gifts if each alike possest, And each were equal, must not all contest? If then to all men happiness was meant, God in externals could not place content.

Fortune her gifts may variously dispose, And these be happy call'd, unhappy those;

But Heaven's just balance equal will appear,
While those are plac'd in hope and these in fear:
Not present good or ill, the joy or curse,
But future views of better or of worse.

O, sons of earth! attempt ye still to rise,
By mountains pil'd on mountains, to the skies?
Heaven still with langhter the vain toil surveys,
And buries madmen in the heaps they raise.

III. Know, all the good that individuals find,
Or God and nature meant to mere mankind,
Keason's whole pleasure, all the joys of sense,
Lies in three words, health, peace, and competence,
But health consists with temperance alone:
And peace, O virtue ! peace is all thy own.

The good or bad the gifts of fortune gain;

But these less taste them, as they worse obtain.

Say, in pursuit of profit or delight,

Who risk the most, that take wrong means, or right?

Of vice or virtue, whether blest or curst,

Which meets contempt, or which compassion first? Count all th' advantage prosperous vice attains,

,Tis but what virtue flies from and disdains:

And grant the bad what happiness llicy would.

One they must want, which is to pass for good.
Oh blind to truth, and God's whole scheme below,

Who fancy bliss to vice, to virtue woe!

'Who sees and follows that great scheme the best.

Best knows the blessing, and will most be blest.

But fools the good alone unhappy call,

For ills or accidents that chance to all.

See Falkland dies, the virtnous and the just!

Sec godlike Turenne prostrate on the dust!

See Sidney bleeds amid the martial strife 1

Was this their virtue, or contempt of life?

Say, was it virtue, more through Heaven ne'er gave,

Lamented Digby! sunk thee to the grave?

Tell me, if virtue made the son expire,

Why, full of days and honour, lives the sire?
Why drew Marseilles' good bishop purer breath
When nature sicken'd, and each gale was death?

Or why so long (in life if long can be)
Lent Heaven a parent to the poor and me?

What makes all physical or moral ill!
There deviates nature, and here wanders will.
God sends not ill, if rightly understood,
Or partial ill is universal good,
Or change admits, or nature lets it fall,
Short, and but rare, till man improv'd it all.
We just as wisely might of Heaven complain
That righteous Abel was destroy'rf by Cain,
As that the virtnous son is ill at ease
When his lewd father gave the dire disease.
Think we, like some weak prince, th' Eternal Cause
Prone for his favourites to reverse his laws?

IV. Shall burning JEtna, if a sage requires, Forget to thunder, and recall her fires?

On air or sea new motions be imprest,

Oh blameless Bethel! to relieve th; breast?

When the loose mountain trembles from on high.

Shall gravitation cease, if you go by?

Or some old temple, nodding to its fall.

For Chartres' head reserve the hanging wall?

V. But still this world (so fitted for the knave) Contents us not. A better shall we have?

A kingdom of the just then let it be:
But first consider how those just agree.
The good must merit God's peculiar care;
But who, but God, can tell us who they are?
One thinks on Calvin Heaven's own spirit fell;
Another deems him instrument of hell;
If Calvin feels Heaven's blessing, or its rod,
This cries, there is, and that there is no God.
What shocks one part, will edify the rest.
Nor with one system can they all be blest.
The very best will variously incline.
And what rewards your virtue punish mine.
WHATEVER IS IS RIGHT.-This world, 'tis
Was made for Caesar—but for Titus too; [true,
And which more blest? who chain'd his country, say,
Or he whose virtue sigh'd to lose a day?

« ZurückWeiter »