« ZurückWeiter »
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.
Oh Happiness! to which we all aspire,
Ver. 1. Oh Happiness !] He begins his address to Happiness after the manner of the ancient hymns, by enumerating the titles and various places of abode of this goddess. He has undoubtedly personified her at the beginning, but he seems to have dropped that idea in the seventh line, where the deity is suddenly transformed into a plant; from thence this metaphor of a vegetable is carried on distinctly through the eleven succeeding lines, till he suddenly returns to consider Happiness again as a person, in the eighteenth line,
" And fled from Monarchs, St. John! dwells with thee." For to fly and to dwell, cannot justly be predicated of the same subject, that immediately before was described as twining with laurels, and being reaped in harvests.
Of the numberless treatises that have been written on Happiness, one of the most sensible is that of Fontenelle, in the third volume of his works. Our Author's leading principle is, that Happiness is attainable by all men;
“For mourn our various portions as we please,
Plant of celestial seed! if dropt below,
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
So Horace also in Epist. xviii. b. 1.
“ Æquum mî animum ipse parabo." “ But Horace,” says a penetrating observer on human life,“ grossly mistaken: the thing for which he thought he stood in no need of Jupiter's assistance, was what he could least expect from his own ability. It is much more easy to get even riches and honours by one's industry, than a quiet and contented mind. If it be said that riches, and honours depend on a thousand things which we cannot dispose of at pleasure, and that therefore it is necessary to pray to God that he would turn them to our advantage; I answer that the silence of the passions, and the tranquillity and ease of the mind, depend on a thousand things that are not under our jurisdiction. The stomach, the spleen, the lymphatic vessels, the fibres of the brain, and a hundred other organs, whose seat and figure are yet unknown to the anatomists, produce in us many uneasinesses, jealousies, and vexations. Can we alter these organs? Are they in our own power?"
Seneca, by writing De Beata Vita, made neither his readers nor himself happy.
Ver. 18. St. John! dwells with thee.] Among the many passages in Bolingbroke's Posthumous Works that bear a close resemblance to the tenets of this Essay, are the following: Vol. iv.
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,
25 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?
octavo edition, pp. 223. 324. 388, 389. also pp. 49. 316. 328. 336, 337. 339. And in Vol. v. pp. 5, 6. 17. 51. 92. 113. 310. Ver. 21, 23. Some place the bliss in action,
Some sunk to Beasts, &c.] 1. Those who place Happiness, or the summum bonum, in Pleasure, 'Hồovn; such as the Cyreniac sect, called, on that account, the Hedonic. 2. Those who place it in a certain tranquillity or calmness of mind, which they call Evovuía ; such as the Democritic sect. 3. The Epicurean. 4. The Stoic. 5. The Protagorean, which held that Man was πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον, the measure of all things; for that all things which appear to him, are, and those things which appear not to any Man, are not; so that every
imagination or opinion of every man was true. 6. The Sceptic: : whose absolute doubt is, with great judgment, said to be the effect of Indolence, as well as the absolute trust of the Protagoréan : for the same dread of labour attending the search of truth, which makes the Protagorean presume it is always at hand, makes the Sceptic conclude it is never to be found. The only difference is, that the laziness of the one is desponding, and the laziness of the other sanguine; yet both can give it a good name, and call it HAPPINESS. W.
Ver: 23. Some sunk-to Beasts, &c.] These four lines added in the last Edition, as necessary to complete the summary of the false pursuits after Happiness, among the Greek Philosophers. W.
Of which Greek Philosophers, I imagine, Pope did not think, nor allude to.
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 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; 40 No Bandit fierce, no Tyrant mad with pride, No cavern'd hermit, rests self-satisfy’d: Who most to shun or hate Mankind pretend, Seek an admirer, or would fix a friend : Abstract what others feel, what others think, 45 All 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 Heav'n's first law; and this confest, Some are, and must be, greater than the rest, 50
Ver. 34. Equal is Common Sense,] The experience of every day and every hour convinces us of the falsehood of this Stoical boast.
Ver. 49. ORDER is Heao'n's first law;} A writer of uncommon sagacity and penetration has made the following reflection: “Our notion of order in civil society, is frequently false; it is taken from the analogy of subjects inanimate and dead; we consider commotion and action as contrary to its nature; we think it consistent only with obedience, secrecy, and the silent passing of affairs through the hands of a few; the good order of stones in a wall, is their being properly fixed in the places for which they were hewn; were they to stir, the building must fall: but the
More rich, more wise; but who infers from hence
Say not, "Heav'n's here profuse, there poorly saves,
good order of men in society, is their being placed where they are properly qualified to act. The first is a fabric made of dead and inanimate parts; the second is made of living and active members. When we seek in society for the order of mere inaction and tranquillity, we forget the nature of our subject, and find the order of slaves, not of men.” Ferguson. Ver. 50. Some are, and must be,] So much has of late years
been said of the doctrine of Equality, and so much has it been perversely misinterpreted and misunderstood, that it is to be wished, that those who declaim on this subject, would only look into the three following fashionable French authors, who surely were staunch lovers of liberty, to see the absurdity of the notion of Equality of Ranks ; namely, I. Montesquieu, in the third Chapter of his eighth Book. II. D'Alembert, in his Comment on this Chapter of Montesquieu. III. Voltaire, in the Essay on the Spirit of Nations, Chapter 67, on Switzerland. “You are not, by
6 this term Equality,” says the last, "to understand that absurd and impossible Equality, by which the master and the servant, the magistrate and the artificer, the plaintiff and the judge, are confounded together; but that Equality by which the subject depends only on the laws."