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What varied Being peoples ev'ry star,
May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.
But of this frame, the bearings and the ties,
The strong connexions, nice dependencies,

30 Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Look'd through? or can a part contain the whole ?

Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee?

II. Presumptuous Man! the reason would'st thou find, Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind? 36 First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, WI form'd no weaker, blinder, and no less. Ask of thy mother Earth, why oaks are made Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade; 40

NOTES.

Ver. 29. But of this frame, the bearings] The whole doctrine of Plato is contained in this one short sentence : Μέρος μεν ένεκα όλου, και ουχ' όλον {vera pépous å trepyágeral. See a very fine passage in A. Gellius, lib. vi. cap. 1, containing the opinion of Chrysippus on the origin of evil.—Warton.

Ver. 30. The strong connexions, nice dependencies,] The thought is very noble, and expressed with great beauty and philosophic exactness. The system of the Universe is a combination of natural and moral fitnesses, as the human system is of body and spirit. By the strong connexions, therefore, the poet alluded to the natural part ; and by the nice dependencies, to the moral. For the Essay on Man is not a system of NatuRALISM, on the philosophy of Bolingbroke, but a system of NATURAL Religion, on the philosophy of Newton. Hence it is, that where he supposes disorder3

may tend to some greater good in the natural world, he supposes they may tend likewise to some greater good in the moral, as appears from these sublime images in the following lines :

“ If plagues and earthquakes break not Heav'n's design,

Why then a Borgia or a Catiline ?
Who knows, but he whose hand the lightning forms,
Who heaves old ocean, and who wings the storms,
Pours fierce ambition in a Cæsar's mind,

Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind ?"-Warburton. Ver. 31. has thy pervading soul] The reader will perhaps remember some of the sublime apostrophes in Job :

“ Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea ? and hast thou walked in the search of the depth ? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee, or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death ? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth ? Declare, if thou knowest it all !-Bowles.

Ver. 35 to 42.] In these lines the Poet has joined the beauty of argumentation to the subiinity of thought ; where the similar instances, proposed for his adversaries' examination, show as well the absurdity of their complaints against Order, as the fruitlessness of their inquiries into the arcana of the Godhead.-Warburton.

Or ask of yonder argent fields above,
Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove.

Of systems possible, if ’tis confess'd
That Wisdom infinite must form the best,

COMMENTARY.

Ver. 43. Of systems possible, &c.] So far the Poets modest and sober Introduction : in which he truly observes, that no wisdom less than omniscient

“ Can tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.” Yet though we be unable to discover the particular reasons for this mode of our existence, we may be assured in general that it is right. For now, entering upon his argument, he lays down this evident proposition as the foundation of his Thesis, which he reasonably supposes will be allowed him, That, of all possible systems, infinite wisdom hath formed the best. Ver. 43, 44. From whence he draws two consequences :

1. The first (from ver. 44 to 51) is, that as the best system cannot but be such a one as hath no unconnected void ; such a one in which there is a perfect coherence and gradual subordination in all its parts; there must needs be, in some part or other of the scale of reasoning life, such a creature as Man: which reduces the dispute to this absurd question, Whether God has placed him wrong?

NOTES. Ver. 41. Or ask of yonder, 8c.] On these lines M. Voltaire thus descants :

Pope dit que l'homme ne peut savoir pourquoi les Lunes de Jupiter sont moins grandes que Jupiter. Il se trompe en cela ; c'est une erreur pardonable. Il n'y a point de Mathématicien qui n'eût fait voir,” &c. [Vol. ii. p. 384. Ed. Gen.) And so goes on to show, like a great mathematician as he is, that it would be very inconvenient for the Page to be as big as his Lord and Master. It is pity all this fine reasoning should proceed on a ridiculous blunder. The Poet thus reproves the impious complainer of the order of Providence : You are dissatisfied with the weakness of your condition. But, in your situation, the nature of things requires just such a creature as you are : in a different situation, it might have required that you should be still weaker. And though you see not the reason of this in your own case, yet, that reasons there are, you may see in the case of other of God's creatures :

“ Ask of thy mother Earth, why oaks are made

Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade ;
Or ask of yonder argent fields above,

Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove." Here (says the Poet) the ridicule of the weeds' and the Satellites' complaint, had they the faculties of speech and reasoning, would be obvious to all ; because their very situation and office might have convinced them of their folly. Your folly, says the Poet to his complainers, is as great, though not so evident, because the reason is more out of sight ; but that there is, may be demonstrated from the attributes of the Deity. This is the Poet's clear and strong reasoning ; from whence, we see, he was so far from saying, that Man could not know the cause why Jove's Satellites were less than Jove, that all the force of his reasoning turns upon this, that Man did see and know it, and should from thence conclude, that there was a cause of this inferiority as well in the rational, as in the material creation.Warburton.

reason

45

50

Where all must full or not coherent be,
And all that rises, rise in due degree;
Then, in the scale of reas'ning life, 'tis plain,
There must be, somewhere, such a rank as Man:
And all the question (wrangle e'er so long)
Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong.

Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,
May, must be right, as relative to all.
In human works, tho' labour'd on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain ;
In God's, one single can its end produce;
Yet serves to second too some other use.
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,

55

COMMENTARY.

Ver. 51. Respecting Man, &c.] It being shown that Man, the subject of this inquiry, has a necessary place in such a system as this is confessed to be ; and it being evident, that the abuse of Free-will, from whence proceeds all moral evil, is the certain effect of such a creature's existence ; the next question will be, How these evils can be accounted for, consistently with the idea we have of God's moral attributes ? Therefore,

2. The second consequence he draws from bis principle, That of all possible systems, infinite Wisdom has formed the best, is, that whatever is wrong in our private system, is right as relative to the whole :

Respecting Man, whatever wrong we call,

May, must be right, as relative to all." That it may, he proves (from ver. 52 to 61) by showing in what consists the difference between the systematic works of God, and those of Man ; viz. that, in the latter, a thousand movements scarce gain one purpose ; in the former, one movement gains many purposes. So that

Man, who here seems principal alone,

Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown.”. And acting thus, the appearance of wrong in the partial system may be right in the universal ; for

“ 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.” That it must, the whole body of this epistle is employed to illustrate and enforce. Thus partial Evil is universal Good, and thus Providence is fairly acquitted.

NOTES.

Ver. 53. In human works,] Verbatim from Bolingbroke ; Fragments 43 and 63.-Warton.

“In the works of men,” says Bolingbroke, “the most complicated schemes produce, very hardly and very uncertainly, one single effect. In the works of God, one single scheme produces a multitude of different effects, and answers an immense variety of purposes.” This occurs towards the close of Bolingbroke's work, Fragm. 63 ; and was probably not written till after the publication of the Essay on Man.

Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal; 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.

60 When the proud steed shall know why Man restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains;

COMMENTARY.

Ver. 61. When the proud steed, &c.] From all this the Poet draws a general conclusion (from ver. 60 to 91), that, as what has been said is sufficient to vindicate the ways of Providence, Man should rest submissive and content, and own every thing to be disposed for the best ; that to think of discovering the manner how God conducts this wonderful scheme to its completion, is as absurd as to imagine that the horse and ox shall ever be able to comprehend why they undergo such different treatment in the hand of Man : nay, that such knowledge, if communicated, would be even pernicious, and make us neglect or desert our duty here. This he illustrates by the case of the lamb, which is bappy in not knowing the fate that attends it from the butcher ; and from thence takes occasion to observe, that God is the equal master of all his creatures, and provides for the proper happiness of each and every of them.

NOTES.

Ver. 60. 'Tis but a part] A new method of accounting for the origin of evil has been advanced by Hume in bis Dialogues, p. 196. “I scruple not to allow," says Cleanthes, “ that I have been apt to suspect the frequent repetition of the word infinite, which we meet with in all theological writers, to savour more of panegyric than of philosophy ; and that any purposes of reasoning, and even of religion would be better served, were we to rest content with more accurate and more moderate expressions. The terms, admirable, excellent, superlatively great, wise, and holy, these sufficiently fill the imaginations of men ; and any thing beyond, besides that it leads into absurdities, has no influence on the affections or sentiments. Thus, in the present subject, if we abandon all human analogy, as it seems your intention, Demea, I am afraid we abandon all religion, and retain no conception of the great object of our adoration. If we preserve human analogy, we must for ever find it impossible to reconcile any mixture of evil in the universe with infinite attributes ; much less can we ever prove the latter from the former. But supposing the Author of Nature to be finitely perfect, though far exceeding mankind, a satisfactory account may then be given of natural and moral evil, and every untoward phenomenon be explained and adjusted. A less evil may then be chosen, in order to avoid a greater : inconveniencies be submitted to, in order to reach a desirable end : and, in a word, benevolence, regulated by wisdom and limited by necessity, may produce just such a world as the present.”. This seems to have been borrowed from Voltaire. Questions sur l’Encyclopédie, 9 Partie, p. 348. I have heard Dr. Adam Smith say, that these Dialogues concerning Natural Religion were the most laboured of all Hume's works. They were the occasion of Dr. Balguy's publishing that capital treatise, intitled Divine benevolence : which benevolence he undertakes to vindicate like this Essay on Man, but with greater consistency and closeness of reasoning, without having recourse to a future existence. Wollaston, in a celebrated passage, has given a striking, and pathetic picture of the evils and miseries of this present life, in order to show (as many divines do in their discourses) the absolute necessity of another, for the defence of the dispensations of Providence. Dr. Balguy, from p. 110 to 127, has minutely, and step by step, confuted every part of this state

When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod,
Is now a victim, and now Egypt's God:
Then shall Man's pride and dulness comprehend

65
His actions', passions', being's, use and end;
Why doing, suffering; check’d, impelld; and why
This hour a slave, the next a deity.

Then say not Man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault; Say rather, Man's as perfect as he ought:

70 His knowledge measur’d to his state and place; His time a moment, and a point his space. If to be perfect in a certain sphere, What matter, soon or late, or here or there? The blest to-day is as completely so,

75 As who began a thousand years ago.

III. Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of Fate, All but the page prescrib’d, their present state ;

NOTES.

ment of the evils and miseries of life ; and ends by saying, “ that Wollaston has only attended to one side of the question.

He has dwelt largely on the melancholy parts of human life ; but, in great measure, overlooked its enjoyments. Apen like his could, with equal ease and success, have painted the happiness of our present state, and given it the appearance of a paradise.” This is the passage of Wollaston, which Bolingbroke has so much ridiculed. Works, vol. ii.

p.

110. Ver. 64. Egypt's God:] Called so, because the God Apis was worshipped universally over the whole land of Egypt.-Warburton.

Ver. 70. as he ought :] Consequently man is not in a lapsed or degenerate state. He is as perfect a being as ever his Creator intended him to be ; nor, consequently, did he stand in need of any redemption or atonement. The expression, as he ought, is imperfect ; for, ought to be.-Warton.

This extraordinary objection to a philosophical poem, has already been observed upon in the introductory note to the present edition.

Ver. 77. the book of Fate,] It would obviate the heavy difficulties in which we are involved, when we argue on the Divine Prescience, and consequent Predestination, if we were to adopt Archbishop King's opinion,

VARIATIONS,

Ver, 64.] In the former Editions,

Now wears a garland, an Egyptian God :
altered as above for the reason given in the note.
After ver. 68 the following lines in the first Edition :

If to be perfect in a certain sphere,
What matters soon or late, or here or there?
The blest to-day is as completely so,
As who began ten thousand years ago.--Warburton.

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