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AWAKE, my St. John! leave all meaner things To low ambition, and the pride of Kings. Let us (since Life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die) Expatiate free o'er all this scene of Man; A mighty maze! but not without a plan; A wild, where weeds and flow’rs promiscuous shoot, Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar ; Eye Nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies, And catch the manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can ; 15 But vindicate the ways of God to Man.
NOTES. Ver, 12. Of all who blindly creep, &c.] i.e. Those who only follow the blind guidance of their passions ; or those who leave behind them common sense and sober reason, in their high flights through the regions of Metaphysics. Both which follies are exposed in the fourth epistle, where the popular and philosophical errors concerning Happiness are detected. The figure is taken from animal life. W. Ver. 13. Eye Nature's walks,] These metaphors, drawn from
* of setting and shooting, seem much below the
4, and an unnatural mixture of the ludicrous
must,) “ La sottise (says old Moncould Pope, in the letter which he wrote to Racine, the son, 1742, venture to say, that his opinions were exactly conformable to those of Pascal, who, throughout all his Thoughts, is incessantly inculcating the absolute necessity of believing that man is in a fallen and degraded state ; an opinion which is strongly denied in every line of the Essay on Man ? And which opinion of Pope, Racine has justly stated in the following lines ; La Religion, Chant. 2.
Quelque abstrait Raisonneur, qui ne se plaint de rien,
Nous place à notre rang pour orner son tableau !" Pope has indeed inadvertantly borrowed some passages from Pascal, but they have only served to make this system more inconsistent. For how can man be a “ chaos of thought and passion all confus'd, and yet be as perfect a being as he ought to be ?" The doctrine obviously intended to be inculcated in this Essay is, “That the dispensations of Providence in the distribution of good and evil, in this life, stand in no need of any hypothesis to justify them; all is adjusted in the most perfect order; whatever is, is right; and we have no occasion to call in the notion of a future life to vindicate the ways of God to man, because they are fully and sufficiently benevolent and just in the present.” If we cannot subscribe, on one hand, to Dr. Warburton's opinion, “ that these epistles have a precision, force, and closeness of connexion, rarely to be met with, even in the most formal treatises of philosophy;" yet neither can we assent to the severe sentence that Dr. Johnson has passed on the other hand; namely,“ that penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment, were never so happily disguised as in this Essay; the reader feels his mind full, though he learns nothing; and, when he meets it in his new array, no longer knows the talk of his mother and his nurse.”
It has been alleged, that Pope did not fully comprehend the drift of the system communicated to him by Bolingbroke; but the following remarkable words of his intimate friend, Mr. Jonathan Richardson, a man of known integrity and honour, clearly evince that he did : “ As for this Essay on Man, as I was witness to the whole conduct of it in writing, and actually have his original manuscripts for it, from the first scratches of the four books, to the several finished copies (of his own neat and elegant writing these last); all which, with the manuscript of his Essay on Criti cism, and several of his other works, he gave me himself, for the pains I took in collating the whole with the printed editions, at his request, on my having proposed to him the making an edition of his works in the manner of Boileau's. As to this noblest of his works, I know that he never dreamed of the scheme he afterward adopted; perhaps for good reasons ; for he had taken terror about the clergy, and Warburton himself, at the general alarm of its fatalism and deistical tendency; of which, however, we talked with him (my father and I) frequently at Twickenham, without his appearing to understand it otherwise, or even thinking to alter those passages, which he suggested as what might seem the most exceptionable.”
To this testimony of Richardson, which is decisive, I will now add that Lord Lyttleton, with his usual frankness and ingenuity, assured me,
that he had frequently talked with Pope on the subject, whose opinions were at that time conformable to his own; before he had written his Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul, when he and his friends (not excepting Mr. Gilbert West) were, as he most candidly confessed, too much inclined to deism, but had fortunately become a most serious and earnest believer of Christianity. Is it not more probable and reasonable to suppose, that Pope might also change his opinion, though, at the time of writing the Essay on Man, he was tinctured with principles of another kind; and that he was equally in earnest when he was a disciple of Bolingbroke, as he afterward was when he became a disciple of Warburton? It is incredible that he should not be acquainted with the objections that Bolingbroke held against revealed religion ; which objections are perpetually repeated, and pervade all his works. But Pope might not indeed know the real opinions of his guide concerning a particular important topic—the moral attributes of the Deity. These two cases are widely different: and there lies a vast space betwixt these two species of infidelity. A man may be unhappily and unjustly prejudiced against the Christian religion, and yet be fully and firmly persuaded of the belief of a God, and his moral attributes. Mr. Harte more than once assured me, that he had seen the pressing letter Dr. Young wrote to Pope, urging him to write something on the side of revelation ; to which he alluded in the first Night-thought :
“ O had he press’d his theme, pursu'd the track
And when Harte frequently made the same request, he used to answer, “No, no! you have already done it ;" alluding to Harte's Essay on Reason, which Harte thought a lame apology, and hardly serious. With respect to what has just been mentioned, that Pope was not acquainted with the opinions of his philosophic guide, on the subject of the moral attributes of the Deity, it seems rather strange and incredible that he should not understand the following, among many other passages, to this purpose :
“ Clarke, after repeating over and over all the moral attributes, that they are the same in God as they are in our ideas, and that he who denies them to be so, may as well deny the divine physical attributes, insists only on two of the former, on those of justice and goodness. He was much in the right to contract the generality of his assertion. The absurdity of ascribing temperance, for instance, or fortitude, to God, would have been too gross and too risible, even to eyes that prejudice had blinded the most. But that of ascribing justice and goodness to him, according to our notions of them, might be better covered, and was enough for his purpose, though not less really absurd.” Vol. iv. p. 298. It is somewhat remarkable, that this very opinion, that we have no clear and adequate ideas of God's moral attributes, is strongly maintained by that excellent man and writer, Archbishop King, in his sermon on Divine Predestination, 1709, which was answered by Anthony Collins, author of the Essay on Freethinking. The person who wrote the spirited and elegant anonymous letter to Dr. Warburton on the supposed severity with which he was thought to have treated Lord Bolingbroke in the View of his Philosophy, was the late Lord Mansfield; and this letter was answered by Dr. Warburton, with much force and apparent mortification, in the apology prefixed to the last edition of this View.
AWAKE, my St. John ! leave all meaner things To low ambition, and the pride of Kings. Let us (since Life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die) Expatiate free o'er all this scene of Man; A mighty maze! but not without a plan; A wild, where weeds and flow’rs promiscuous shoot, Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; 10 The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar; Eye Nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies, And catch the manners living as they rise ; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can ; 15 But vindicate the ways of God to Man.
Ver, 12. Of all who blindly creep, &c.] i. e. Those who only follow the blind guidance of their passions; or those who leave behind them common sense and sober reason, in their high flights through the regions of Metaphysics. Both which follies are exposed in the fourth epistle, where the popular and philosophical errors concerning Happiness are detected. The figure is taken from animal life. W.
Ver. 13. Eye Nature's walks,] These metaphors, drawn from the field sports of setting and shooting, seem much below the dignity of the subject, and an unnatural mixture of the ludicrous and serious.
Ver. 15. Laugh where we must,] “ La sottise (says old Mon