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But, continucs he, that the Reader may see in one View, the Exactness of the Method, as well as Force of the Argument; I shall here draw up a short Synopsis of this Epistle. The Poet begins in telling us his Subject is An Efay on Man.His End of Writing is to vindicate Providence. --Tells us against whom he wrote, the Atheists.-From whence he intends to fetch his Arguments, From the visible Things of God
seen in this System.--Lays down this Proposition as the Foundation of his Thesis that of all possible Systems infinite Wisdom has form’d the best.-Draws from thence two Consequences; 1. That there must needs be somewhere such a Creature as Mah; 2. That the moral Evil which He is the Author of, is productive of the Good of the Whole. This is his general Thesis ; from whence he draws this conclufion, That Man should rest fubmiffive and content, and make the Hopes of Futurity his Comfort,,but not suffer this to be the Occasion of Pride, which is the Cause of all his impious Complaints.
He proceeds to confirm his Thesis:--- Previously endeavours to abate our Wonder at the Phänomenon. of moral Evil. ---Shews first its Use to the Perfection of the Universe, by Analogy, from the Use of Phyfical Evil in this particular System. Secondly, its Use in this System, where it is turned; providentially, from its natural Bials, to promote Virtue. Then goes on to vindicate Providence from the Imputation of certain supposed natural Evils, as he had before juftified it for the Permiffion of real moral Evil, in Thewing that tho the Atheist's Complaint against Providence be on Pretence of real moral Evil, yet the true Cause is his Impatience under imaginary natural Evil; the Iflue of a depraved Appetite for fantastical Advantages, which he shews, if obtain?d, would be useless, or hurtful to Man;--and deforming and deVOL. II.
structive to the Universe; as breaking into that Order by which it is supported.He describes that Order, Harmony, and close Connection of the Paris. And by Thewing the intimate Presence of God to his whole Creation, gives a Reason for an Universe so amazingly beautiful, and perfect. From all this he deduces his general Conclusion, that Nature being neither a blind Chain of Causes and Effects, nor yet the fortuitous Result of wandering Atoms, but the wonderful Art and Direction of an all-wise, all-good, and free Being ; IV hatever is, is right, with regard to the Disposition of God and its ultimate Tendency, which once granted, all Complaints against Providence are at an End.
The Consequence and Result of all this, Mr. Pope says in a Note to Verse 273, is the absolute Submilfion due to Providence, both as to a present and future State.
As to the Objections made against these Epistles by M. de Croufaz, many of them are caus’d by reading a bad Translation, and as he does not under stand English, he is therefore in fome Measure excuseable ; but as the pointing out the Errors in the French Translation, can with an English Reader neither do Good nor Harm to the original Poem, I fhall take no Notice of them, but proceed to the Confideration and Illustration of the second Epistle Of the Nature and State of Man with Respect to himJef, as an Individual. Mr. Pope having taken it for prov'd and granted, from the Arguments in the first Epistle, that all Things being under the wise Dispofition of Providence, must be and are now RIGHT, desires
Man to make no Enquiry at all, or suffer himSelf to ask Questions concerning the Deity: Know then thyfelf, presume not God to scan, The only Science of Mankind is Man.
In this last Line he recommends, instead of prying into God, the Study of ourselves, which Study he now confefses to be his own, and on looking into himself, makes the following Discovery :
A Being darkly wise and rudely great,
Here describing the State of the human Underftanding to be a dark and feeble State, with regard to the Knowledge of ourselves, and to give still more Strength to this Argument, he shows, to prove the Difficulty of rightly knowing ourselves, that after the highest Acquirement of the Knowledge of the Nature of Things Man is capable of, he still may remain in Ignorauce of himself:
Go wondrous Creature ! mount where Science
guides, Go measure Earth, weigh Air, and state the Tides, Instruct the Planets in what Orbs to run, Correct old Time, and regulate the Sun. Y 2*
Go foar with Plato to th' empireal Sphere,
To give, says Mr. Pope's Commentator, this fecond Argument its full Force, he illustrates it by the nobleft Example that ever was in Science, the in comparable Newton, whom he makes fo fuperior to Humanity, as to represent the Angelick Beings in doubt, when they observ'd him of late unfold all the Laws of Nature, whether he was not to be reckon'd in their Number; just as Men, when they see the furprising Marks of Reason in an Ape, are almost tempted to believe him of their own Species. Yet this wondrous Creature,' who saw so far into the Works of Nature, could go no farther in human Knowledge, than the Generality of bis Kind. For which the Poet assigns this very juft and adequate Cause: In all other Sciences, the Understanding is: uncheck'd and uncontrould by any opposite Principle; but in the Science of Man, the Pafions overturn, as fast as Reason can build up.
This is a brief Account of the Poet's Introduction, and ferves to recommend the Study of Man, on a Suppofition that by reasoning with and about himself, he may at last fo ftrengthen his Judgment, as to determine rightly between Truth and Fallhood.
The Commentator having before given fom Rea son why Mr. Pope made the Angels compare Sir Ifaac Newton to an Ape, fays further, that they beheld him with Admiration ; nor was it Mr. Pope's
Intention, to bring any of the Ape's Qualities, but its Sagacity into the Comparison. But why the Ape's it may be said, rather than the Sagacity of some more decent Animal ; particularly the half-reafoning Elephant, as the Poet calls it, which, as well on Account of this its Superiority, as for its having no ridiculous Side, like the Ape, on which it could be viewed, feemas better to have defery'd this Honour ? I reply, because as none but a Shape resembling kuman, accompanied with great Sagacity, could occasion the Douht of that Animal's Relation to Man, the Ape only having that Resemblance, no other Animal was fitted for the Comparison. And on this Ground of Relation the whole Beauty of the Thought depends; Newton, and those superior Beings being equally immortal Spirits, tho' of different Orders. And here let me take Notice of a new Species of the Sublime, of which our Poet may be juftly said to be the Maker; so new that we have yet no Name for it, tho' of a Nature distinct from every other poetical Excellence. The two great Perfections of Works of Genius are Wit and Sublimity. Many Writers have been witty, several have been sublime, and fome few have even poffefled both these Qualities separately. But none that I know of, besides our Poet, hath had the Art to incorporate them. Of which he hath given many Examples, both in this Essay, and in his other Poems. One of the noblest being the Passage in Question. This seems to be the last Effort of the Imagination, to poetical Perfection. And in this compounded Excellence the Wit receives a Dignity from the Sublime, and the Sublime a Splerdar from the Wits, which, in their Stare of separate Existence, they both wanted.
Superior Beings, when of late they saw A mortal Man unfold all Nature's Law,