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Self-love and social at her birth began,
dress’d, Unbribed, unbloody, stood the blameless priest:
152 Man walk'd with beast, joint-tenant of the shade. The Platonic tradition was, that in the first ages brutes shared the language of men; the Lucretian theory was, that men possessed only the language of brutes. The shrine with gore unstain'd,' is contrary to the bighest authority; for sacrifice was among the earliest observances of man. Pope falls into the ascetic fantasy of attributing the crimes of the succeeding generations to the use of animal food; an use perhaps rendered necessary by the increase of population, and of which the natural alliance with crime is undiscoverable. But the evident fact is, that the use of animal food actually tends to the general advantages of the animal creation ; for on that use depends the care of man in multiplying animal life, in providing for its support, and in increasing its security. The millions of sheep and oxen, &c., which now live under the care of man, would have had no existence but for their services to him: their death, it is true, is one of pain; but it is their only suffering, and the suffering of a moment. Pope reasons more consequentially in the earlier lines :
Man cares for all : to birds he gives his woods,
Heaven's attribute was universal care;
Go, from the creatures thy instructions take:
171 Thus then to man the voice of Nature spake. This bold personification of Nature is evidently adopted from the celebrated passage of Lucretius:
Quid tibi tantopere est, mortalis, quod nimis ægris
Luctibus indulges ? It is unfortunate for the wisdom of a passage equally eloquent in the English poet and the Roman, that human experience has so totally disregarded the lessons for which Pope directs us to instinct. Perhaps there is no instance in which man has followed the guidance of the bird in his food, or of the beast in his physic: his building certainly owes nothing to the mechanical dexterity of the bee; and if he waited to learn his ploughing from the mole, his weaving from the worm, his navigation from the nautilus, or his arts of government from the pismire, be might wait for ever. Some tradition of the Indian discovery of the Jesuit's bark, and some fables of the adoption of antidotes to the poison of serpents, are almost the only remaining groundwork of this poetic phantasm.
Learn of the little nautilus to sail;
v. Great Nature spoke; observant men obey’d;
fear. Did here the trees with ruddier burdens bend, And there the streams in purer rills descend ? What war could ravish, commerce could bestow ; And he return'd a friend, who came a fue. 206
Converse and love mankind may strongly draw, : When love was liberty, and nature law :
Thus states were form’d; the name of king un
known, Till common interest placed the sway in one. 210 'Twas Virtue only, or in arts or arms, Diffusing blessings, or averting harms; The same which in a sire the sons obey'd, A prince the father of a people made. vi. Till then, by Nature crown'd, each patriarch sate,
215 King, priest, and parent of his growing state ; On him, their second Providence, they hung; Their law his eye, their oracle his tongue. He from the wondering furrow calld the
food ; Taught to command the fire, control the flood; 220 Draw forth the monsters of the abyss profound, Or fetch the aerial eagle to the ground; Till drooping, sickening, dying, they began Whom they revered as god to mourn as man; Then, looking up from sire to sire, explored 225 One great first Father, and that first adored. Or plain tradition that this all begun, Convey'd unbroken faith from sire to son; The worker from the work distinct was known, And simple reason never sought but one: 230 Ere wit oblique had broke that steady light, Man, like his Maker, saw that all was right; To virtue in the paths of pleasure trod, And own'd a father when he own'd a God. Love all the faith and all the allegiance then ; 235 For nature knew no right divine in men, No ill could fear in God; and understood A sovereign being but a sovereign good.
True faith, true policy, united ran ;
242 The enormous faith of many made for one. This popular line is the commencement of a description in which Pope has excelled himself; the graphic force, and picturesque power of bis sketch of superstition are of the first order. But the philosophy is inferior to the poetry. In ascribing the deepest possible evils of society to religious extravagance, atheism, a much more capacious, active, and envenomed instrument of guilt, is forgotten. It is true, that Bacon, in contradiction to Plutarch, thinks that “to have a wrong opinion of God is worse than to have no opinion of him at all.'-Essays. But the great philosopher has here done injustice to the question : ho considers atheism simply in the light of indifference. If he had lived to later times, he would have seen it capable of assuming a portentous and desperate activity, to which superstition was anile and feeble; joining the fury of popular passion to the sullen malignity of scepticism; and summoning from the hovel a fiend that threw into darkness and oblivion all the follies and vices of the cloister.
Bowles, with the feeling of a poet, adverts to the fine force of Milton's epithets, in describing the rites of idolatry :
In urns and altars round
A drear and dying sound
And sullen Moloch fled,
Hath left in shadows dread
In vain with cymbals' ring
They call the grisly king,
Hymn on the Nativity.