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art among mankind, proceeds from a most noble and laudable temper of the mind, and tends to a very good purpose ; whereas the contrary temper is odious to the gods, and unbeneficial in itself. For they who break into extravagant praises of human nature, and the arts in vogue, and who lay themselves out in admiring the things they already possess, and will needs have the sciences cultivated among them, to be thought absolutely perfect and complete, in the first place, show little regard to the divine nature, whilst they extol their own inventions, almost as high as his perfection. In the next place, men of this temper are unserviceable and prejudicial in life, whilst they imagine themselves already got to the top of things, and there rest, without farther inquiry. On the contrary, they who arraign and accuse both nature and art, and are always full of complaints against them, not only preserve a more just and modest sense of mind, but are also perpetually stirred up to fresh industry and new discoveries. Is not, then, the ignorance and fatality of mankind to be extremely pitied, whilst they remain slaves to the arrogance of a few of their own fellows, and are dotingly fond of that scrap of Grecian knowledge, the Peripatetic philosophy; and this to such a degree, as not only to think all accusation or arraignment thereof useless, but even hold it suspect and dangerous ? Certainly the procedure of Empedocles, though furious—but especially that of Democritus (who with great modesty complained that all things were abstruse ; that we know nothing; that truth lies hid in deep pits; that falsehood is strangely joined and twisted along with truth, &c.)—is to be preferred before the confident, assuming, and dogmatical school of Aristotle. Mankind are, therefore, to be admonished, that the arraignment of nature and of art is pleasing to the gods, and that a sharp and vehement accusatiun of Prometheus, though a creator, a founder, and a master, obtained new blessings and presents from the divine bounty, and proved more sound and serviceable than a diffusive harangue of praise and gratulation. And let men be assured, that the fond opinion that they have already acquired enough, is a principal reason why they have acquired so little.
That the perpetual flower of youth should be the present which mankind received as a reward for their accusation, carries this moral: that the ancients seem not to have despaired of discovering methods, and remedies, for retarding old age, and prolonging the period of human life, but rather reckoned it among those things which, through sloth and want of diligent inquiry, perish and come to nothing, after having been once undertaken, than among such as are absolutely impossible, or placed beyond the reach of the human power. For they signify and intimate from the true use of fire, and the just and strenuous accu.sation and conviction of the errors of art, that the divine bounty is not wanting to men in such kind of presents, but that men indeed are wanting to themselves, and lay such an inestimable gift upon the back of a slow-paced ass; that is, upon
the back of the heavy, dull, lingering thing, experience; from whose sluggish and tortoise-pace proceeds that ancient complaint of the shortness of life, and the slow advancement of arts. And certainly it may well seem, that the two faculties of reasoning and experience are not hitherto properly joined and coupled together, but to be still new gifts of the gods, separately laid, the one upon the back of a light bird, or abstract philosophy, and the other upou an ass, or slow-paced practice and trial. And yet good hopes might be conceived of this ass, if it were not for his thirst and the accidents of the way. For we judge, that if any one would constantly proceed, by a certain law and method, in the road of experience, and not by the way thirst after such experiments as make for profit or ostentation, nor exchange his burden, or quit the original design for the sake of these, he might be an useful bearer of a new and accumulated divine bounty to mankind.
That this gift of perpetual youth should pass from men to -serpents, seems added by way of ornament, and illustration to the fable ; perhaps intimating, at the same time, the shame it is for men, that they, with their fire, and numerous arts, cannot procure to themselves those things which nature has bestowed upon many other creatures.
The sudden reconciliation of Prometheus to mankind, after being disappointed of their hopes, contains a prudent and useful admonition. It points out the levity and temerity of men in new experiments, when, not presently succeeding, or answering to expectation, they precipitantiy quit their
new undertakings, hurry back to their old ones, and grow reconciled thereto.
After the fable has described the state of man, with regard to arts and intellectual matters, it passes on to religion; for after the inventing and settling of arts, follows the establishment of divine worship, which hypocrisy presently enters into and corrupts. So that by the two sacrifices we have elegantly painted the person of a man truly religious, and of an hypocrite. One of these sacrifices contained the fat, or the portion of God, used for burning and incensing; thereby denoting affection and zeal, offered up to his glory. It likewise contained the bowels, which are expressive of charity, along with the good and useful flesh. But the other contained nothing more than dry bones, which nevertheless stuffed out the hide, so as to make it resemble a fair, beautiful, and magnificent sacrifice; hereby finely denoting the external and empty rites and barren ceremonies, wherewith men burden and stuff out the divine worship,—things rather intended for show and ostentation than conducing to piety: Nor are mankind simply content with this mock-worship of God, but also impose and father it upon him, as if he had chosen and ordained it. Certainly the prophet, in the person of God, has a fine expostulation, as to this matter of choice :
-“ Is this the fasting which I have chosen, that a man should afflict his soul for a day, and bow down his head like a bulrush ?”
After thus touching the state of religion, the fable next turns to manners, and the conditions of human life. And though it be a very common, yet is it a just interpretation, that Pandora denotes the pleasures and licentiousness which the cultivation and luxury of the arts of civil life introduce, as it were, by the instrumental efficacy of fire ; whence the works of the voluptuary arts are properly attributed to Vulcan, the God of Fire. And hence infinite miseries and calamities have proceeded to the minds, the bodies, and the fortunes of men, together with a late repentance; and this not only in each man's particular, but also in kingdoms and states; for wars, and tumults, and tyrannies, have all arisen from this same fountain, or box of Pandora.
It is worth observing, how beautifully and elegantly the fable has drawn two reigning characters in human life, and
given two examples, or tablatures of them, under the persons of Prometheus and Epimetheus. The followers of Epimetheus are improvident, see not far before them, and prefer such things as are agreeable for the present; whence they are oppressed with numerous straits, difficulties, and calamities, with which they almost continually struggle; but in the mean time gratify their own temper, and, for want of a better knowledge of things, feed their minds with many vain hopes; and as with so many pleasing dreams, delight themselves, and sweeten the miseries of life.
But the followers of Prometheus are the prudent, wary men, that look into futurity, and cautiously guard against, prevent, and undermine many calamities and misfortunes. But this watchful, provident temper, is attended with a deprivation of numerous pleasures, and the loss of various delights, whilst such men debar themselves the use even of innocent things, and what is still worse, rack and torture themselves with cares, fears, and disquiets; being bound fast to the pillar of necessity, and tormented with numberless thoughts (which for their swiftness are well compared to an eagle), that continually wound, tear, and gnaw their liver or mind, unless, perhaps, they find some small remission by intervals, or as it were at nights; but then new anxieties, dreads, and fears, soon return again, as it were in the morning. And, therefore, very few men, of either temper, have secured to themselves the advantages of providence, and kept clear of disquiets, troubles, and misfortunes.
Nor indeed can any man obtain this end without the assistance of Hercules; that is, of such fortitude and constancy of mind as stands prepared against every event, and remains indifferent to every change ; looking forward without being daunted, enjoying the good without disdain, and enduring the bad without impatience. And it must be observed, that even Prometheus had not the power to free himself, but owed his deliverance to another; for no natural inbred force and fortitude could prove equal to such a task. The power of releasing him came from the utmost confines of the ocean, and from the sun; that is, from Apollo, or knowledge; and again, from a due consideration of the uncertainty, instability, and fluctuating state of human life, which is aptly represented by sailing the ocean.
ingly, Virgil has prudently joined these two together, accounting him happy who knows the causes of things, and has conquered all his fears, apprehensions, and superstitions.
It is added, with great elegance, for supporting and confirming the human mind, that the great hero who thus delivered him sailed the ocean in a cup, or pitcher, to prevent fear, or complaint ; as if, through the narrowness of our nature, or a too great fragility thereof, we were absolutely incapable of that fortitude and constancy to which Seneca finely alludes, when he
says, It is a noble thing, at once to participate in the frailty of man and the security of a god.”
We have hitherto, that we might not break the connection of things, designedly omitted the last crime of Prometheus—that of attempting the chastity of Minerva—which heinous offence it doubtless was, that caused the punishment of having his liver gnawed by the vulture. The meaning seems to be this,—that when men are puffed up with arts and knowledge, they often try to subdue even the divine wisdom and bring it under the dominion of sense and reason, whence inevitably follows a perpetual and restless rending and tearing of the mind. A sober and humble distinction must, therefore, be made bet vixt divine and human things, and betwixt the oracles of sense and faith, unless mankind had rather choose an heretical religion, and a fictitious and romantic philosophy.a
The last particular in the fable is the Games of the Torch, instituted to Prometheus, which again relates to arts and sciences, as well as the invention of fire, for the commemoration and celebration whereof these games were held. And here we have an extremely prudent admonition, directing us to expect the perfection of the sciences from succession, and not from the swiftness and abilities of any single person; for he who is fleetest and strongest in the course may perhaps be less fit to keep his torch a-light, since there is danger of its going out from too rapid as well as from too slow a motion.e
.“ Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
Quique metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari.”—Georg. ii. 495. d De Augmentis Scientiarum, sec. xxviii. and supplem. xv.
e An allusion which, in Plato's writings, is applied to the rapid succession of generations, through which the continuity of human life is