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1. Know then thyself; presume not God to scan;
19 Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
1 Know then thyself. The division of the Epistles is clear and philosophical : the first treats of the ways of Provi. dence ; the second of man, considered as the subject of passions and powers; the third of man as a social being; and the fourth of man as the object of happiness.
20 Go, measure earth. In the early part of the reign of
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run;
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Superior beings, when of late they saw A mortal man unfold all nature's law, Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape, And show'd a Newton as we show an ape. George I. the public attention had been drawn to the problems of the longitude, and the true figure of the earth, in which Newton was much engaged. Newton also drew up a tract on ancient chronology, by desire of the princess of Wales, which was surreptitiously translated and published in France. To this an allusion is probably made in the line, · Correct old time, and regulate the sun. Newton died in 1726.
34 And show'd a Newton as we show an ape. Controversy, at once angry and amusing, has done its worst with this wellknown line. Warburton and his followers contend that the angelic wonder is at the sagacity of man : the opposite side contend, that it is at his burlesque imitation of the wisdom of superior beings. The truth may lie between. When Pope writes,
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule;
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool! he evidently ridicules the presumption of man in attempting knowlege above his sphere: and certainly our predominant feeling at the mimicries of an ape is not grave admiration of its intelligence, but amusement at the oddity of its imitation of acts whose meaning it is intirely inadequate to comprehend. Still, Newton was not in the condition of the ape; for he was adequate to comprehend what he undertook, the physical illustration of nature. The obvious conclusion is,
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind, 35
Trace science then, with modesty thy guide:
50 Then see how little the remaining sum, Which served the past, and must the times to come!
11. Two principles in human nature reign; Self-love to urge, and reason to restrain; Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call; 55 Each works its end, to move or govern all ; And to their proper operation still Ascribe all good, to their improper ill.
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul ; Reason's comparing balance rules the whole. 60
that Pope's idea was not clear to himself: his ear was caught by the epigram, while he was poetically careless of the philosophy. Warton traces the image to an obscure poem of modern latinity ; ' The Zodiac of Palingenius.' The quotation is certainly on the side of the burlesque :
Simia cælicolum risusque jocusque Deorum est
Man, but for that, no action could attend;
Most strength the moving principle requires :
Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight, More studious to divide than to unite; And grace and virtue, sense and reason split, With all the rash dexterity of wit. Wits, just like fools, at war about a name, Have full as oft no meaning, or the same. Self-love and reason to one end aspire, Pain their aversion, pleasure their desire;
11 Self-love still stronger, as its objects nigh. The contrast between the objects of self-love and reason is common; but the direct reference here was probably to Bacon :- The difference (of affection and reason) is that the affection beholdeth merely the present, reason beholdeth the future and sum of time.'