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both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards. The other may seem odd, but is true.
I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness. I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning. If any man can unite all these, without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.
What is now published, is only to be considered as a general Map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connexion, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow. Consequently, these Epistles, in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage. To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable.
ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE I.
Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to the Universe.
Of Man in the abstract.-I. That we can judge only with regard to our
own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things, Ver. 17, &c. II. That Man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a Being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general Order of things, and conformable to Ends and Relations to him unknown, Ver. 35, &c. III. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happiness in the present depends, Ver. 77, &c. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of Man's error and misery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his Dispensations, Ver. 109, &c. V. The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world, which is not in the natural, Ver. 131, &c. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand, he demands the perfections of the Angels, and on the other, the bodily qualifications of the Brutes ; though, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miserable, Ver. 173, &c. VII. That throughout the whole visible world, an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to Man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, reason : that Reason alone countervails all the other faculties, Ver. 207. VIII. How much further this order and subordi. nation of living creatures may extend, above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, Ver. 233. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire, Ver. 250. X. The consequence of all, the absolute submission due to Providence, both as to our present and future state, Ver. 281, &c. to the end.
ESSAY ON MAN:
WITH THE COMMENTARY OF WILLIAM WARBURTON, D.D.
AWAKE, my St. John ! leave all meaner things
The opening of this Poem [in fifteen lines) is taken up in giving an account of the subject ; which, agreeably to the title, is an Essay on Man, or a Philosophical Inquiry into his Nature and End, his Passions and Pursuits.
The exordium relates to the whole work, of which the Essay on Man was only the first book. The sixth, seventh, and eighth lines allude to the subjects of this Essay, viz. the general Order and Design of Providence ; the Constitution of the Human Mind; the Origin, Use, and End of the Passions and Affections, both selfish and social ; and the wrong Pursuits of Happiness in Power, Pleasure, &c. The tenth, eleventh, twelfth, &c. have relation to the subjects of the books intended to follow, viz. the Characters and Capacities of Men, and the Limits of Science, which once transgressed, ignorance begins, and errors without end succeed. The thirteenth and fourteenth, to the Knowledge of Mankind, and the various Manners of the Age.
Ver. 1. Awake, my St. John! fc.] The warmth of friendship with which this Poem is inscribed to Lord Bolingbroke, and the address at the close, in which the Poet denominates him, “his guide, philosopher, and friend,” have led to an opinion that the substance of this Essay was the work of his Lordship; and that the only merit of Pope was that of transferring it into
In writing the Life of Pope, this important question unavoidably presented itself to the examination of the editor; and the result of his inquiries will be found in the eighth chapter of the Life, in the first volume of the present edition, where he has endeavoured to show, from the comparison of dates, and the evidence of contemporary documents,
I. That the Essay on Man was begun, and a great part of it completed, several years before Lord Bolingbroke had begun to write on the subject.
II. That Lord Bolingbroke continued to write his philosophical work, long after Pope had published his Essay.
III. That his Lordship has himself explicitly stated, that the Poem of Pope was an original, and not imitated from any other author.
IV. That the occasional resemblances that are found between these works, may therefore rather be considered as imitations of Pope by Lord Bolingbroke, than as imitations of his Lordship by Pope.
Let us, since life can little more supply
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.
“ To vindicate the ways of God to Man.” The men he writes against, he frequently informs us, are such as weigh their opinions against Providence (ver. 114), such as cry, If Man's unhappy, God's unjust (ver. 118), or such as fall into the notion, that Vice and Virtue there is none at all (Ep. ii. ver. 212). This occasions the poet to divide his vindication of the ways of God into two parts ; in the first of which he gives direct answers to those objections which libertine men, on a view of the disorders arising from the perversity of the human will, have intended against Providence ; and in the second, he obviates all those objections, by a true delineation of human nature, or a general, but exact, Map of Man. The first epistle is employed in the management of the first part of this dispute ; and the three following, in the discussion of the second. So that this whole book constitutes a complete Essay on Man, written for the best purpose, to vindicate the ways of God.
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.-Warburton.
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. Warton.
This whole passage is one of the happiest specimens of poetical dexterity in the conduct of an allusion, without aberration or incongruity, that has fallen under my observation. Dryden, perhaps, in his Absalom and Achitophel, part ii. might be present to our author's recollection at this place,
“ while he with watchful eye Observes, and shoots their treasons as they fly."—Wakefield. Ver. 15. Laugh where we must, &c.] Intimating, that human follies are so strangely absurd, that it is not in the power of the most compassionate, on
I. Say first, of God above, or Man below, What can we reason, but from what we know? Of Man, what see we but his station here, From which to reason, or to which refer?
20 Through worlds unnumber'd, tho' the God be known, 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own. He, who through vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how system into system runs,
25 What other planets circle other suns,
Ver. 17. Say first, of God above, or Man below, &c.] The poet having declared his subject ; his end of writing ; and the quality of his adversaries ; proceeds (from ver 16. to 23) to instruct us, from whence he intends to draw his arguments ; namely, from the visible things of God in this system, to demonstrate the invisible things of God, his eternal Power and Godhead. And why? Because we can reason only from what we know; and as we know no more of Man than what we see of his station here, so we know no more of God than what we see of his dispensations in this station ; being able to trace him no further than to the limits of our own system. This naturally leads the poet to exprobrate the miserable folly and inpiety of pretending to pry into, and call in question, the profound dispensations of Providence : which reproof contains (from ver. 22 to 43) a sublime description of the omniscience of God, and the miserable blindness and presumption of Man.
some occasions, to restrain their mirth ; and that its crimes are so flagitious, that the most candid have seldom an opportunity, on this subject, to exercise their virtue.-Warburton.
Ver. 16. VINDICATE the ways of God to Man.] Milton's phrase, judiciously altered, who says, JUSTIFY the ways of God to Man.Milton was addressing himself to BELIEVERS, and delivering reasons or explaining the ways of God; this idea, the word justify precisely conveys. Pope was addressing himself to unbelievers, and exposing such of their objections whose ridicule and absurdity arises from the judicial blindness of the objectors ; he, therefore, more fitly employs the word VINDICATE, which conveys the idea of a confutation attended with punishment. Thus suscipere vindictam Legis, to undertake the defence of the law, implies punishing the violators of it.-Warburton. Ver. 19, 20. Of Man, what see we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer?] The sense is, we see nothing of Man but as he stands at present in his station here ; from which station, all our reasonings on his nature and end must be drawn; and to this station they must all be referred.” The consequence is, that our reasonings on his nature and end must needs be very imperfect.-Warburton.
Ver. 21. Through worlds unnumber’d, &c.] Hunc cognoscimus solummodo per proprietates suas et attributa, et per sapientissimas et optimas rerum structuras et causas finales. Newtoni Princ. Schol. gen. sub fin.—Warburton.