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ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE IV.
OF THE NATURE AND STATE OF MAN WITH RESPECT
1. False notions of happiness, philosophical and popular, an
swered from v. 19 to 27-II. It is the end of all men, and attainable by all, v. 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, v. 37. As it is necessary for order, and the peace and welfare of society, that external goods should be unequal, happiness is not made to consist in these, v.51 : but, notwithstanding that inequality, the balance of happiness among mankind is kept even by Providence, by the two passions of hope and fear, v. 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, v. 77. The error of imputing to virtue what are only the calamities of nature or of fortune, v. 94.-IV. The folly of expecting that God should alter his general laws in favor of particulars, v.121.–V. That we are not judges who are good; but that whoever they are, they must be happiest, v. 133, &c.—VI. That external goods are not the proper rewards, but often inconsistent with, or destructive of virtue, v. 165. That even these can make no man happy without virtue: instanced in riches, v. 183. honors, v. 191. nobility, v. 203. greatness, v. 215. fame, v. 235. superior talents, v. 257, &c. with pictures of human infelicity in men possessed of them all, v. 267, &c.—VII. That virtue only constitutes a happiness, whose object is universal, and whose prospect eternal, v. 307, &c. 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, v. 326, &c.
O HAPPINESS! our being's end and aim !
3 That something still. The second and third Epistles had examined the instruments and occasions of human exertion; the present one discusses the grand object, the “summum bonum.'
Warton hypercritically charges Pope with the poetic sin of making happiness a person in the first line, and a plant in the seventh : but, to address happiness as our being's end and aim,' is not a personification : some better ground for the charge might be discovered in line 18:
And fled from monarchs, St. John! dwells with thee : but it is feeble.
Fix'd to no spot is happiness sincere;
15 'Tis no where to be found, or every where : 'Tis never to be bought, but always free; And fled from monarchs, 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; 20 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 every thing, or doubt of all.
Who thus define it, say they more or less · Than this, that happiness is happiness?
Take Nature's path, and mad Opinion's leave; All states can reach it, and all heads conceive: 30 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 Cause 35 Acts not by partial, but by general 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 ; 40 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.