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N. Blakey in. & delin.1748.
delf Love still stronger, as itá Objects nigh, Reasons at distance, and in próspectliep;a That sees immediate Good, by presentSense, Reason the future, and the Consequence 7
EPIST LE II.
I. Now then thyself, presume not to God
to scan, The
proper study of Mankind is Man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A Being darkly wise, and rudely great :
The only science of Mankind is Man.
COMMENTARY. VER. 2. The proper study, &c.] The poet having sewn, in the first epiftle, that the ways of God are too high for our comprehenfion, rightly draws this conclusion: and methodically makes it the fubject of his Introduction to the second, which treats of the Nature of Man.
But here presently the accusers of Providence would be apt to object, and say, Admit that we had run into an excels, while we pretended to cenfure or penetrate the designs of Providence, a matter indeed too high for us; yet have not you gone as far into the opposite extreme, while you only send us to the
NOTES. Ver. 3. Plac'd on this ifthmus, &c.] As the poet hath give en us this description of man for the very.contrary purpose to which Sceptics are wont to employ such kind of paintings, namely, not to deter men from the search, but to excite them to the discovery of truth; he hath, with great judgement, represented Man as doubting and wavering between the right and wrong object; from which state there are great hopes he may be relieved by a careful and circumspect use of Reason. On the contrary, had he supposed Man so blind as to be busied in chusing,
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic fide, 5
COMMENTARY. knowledge of our own Naturę : You must mock us when you talk of this as a study; for who can doubt but we are intimately acquainted with OURSELVES ? The proper conclusion therefore from your proof of our inability to comprehend the ways of God, is, that we should turn ourselves to the study of the frame of Nature. Thus, I say, would they be apt to object ; for, of all Men, those who call themselves Freethinkers are most given up to Pride ; especially that kind of it, which consists in a boasted knowledge of their own nature, the effects of which are so well
NOTES. or doubtful in his choice, between two objects equally wrong, the case had appeared desperate, and all study of Man had been effectually discouraged. But his Translator, M. De Refnel, not seeing the reason and beauty of this conduct, hath run into the very absurdity which, I have here shewn, Mr. Pope so artfully avoided. Of which, the learned Reader may take the following. examples. The Poet says,Man açts between; in doubt to all, or reft.
1 Now he tells us 'tis Man's duty to ad, not rest, as the Stoics thought; and, to this their principle the latter word alludes, whose Virtue, as he says afterwards, is
Fix'd as in a Froft,
But strength of mind is EXERCI SE not REST.
Seroit-il en naissant au travail condamné ?
Aux douceurs du répos feroit-il destiné ! and these are both wrong, for Man is neither condemned to flavish Toil and Labour, nor yet indulged in the Luxury of repose
. *Again, the Poet, in a beautiful allusion to Scripture.
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer ;
COMMENTARY. exposed in the first Epistle. The poet, therefore, to convince them that this study is less easy than they imagine, replies (from
2 to 19) to the firs part of the objection, by describing the dark and feeble state of the human Understanding, with regard to the knowledge of ourselves. And further, to strengthen this argument, he shews, in answer to the second part of the objection (from * 18 to 31) that the highest advances in natural knowledge may be easily acquired, and yet we, all the white, continue
very ignorant of our selves. For that neither the clearest science, which results from the Newtonian philosophy, nor the most sublime, which is taught by the Platonic, will at all affist us in this self-study; nay, what is more, that Religion itfelf, when grown fanatical and enthusiastic, will be equally useless : Though pure and sober Religion will best instruct us in Man's Nature, that knowledge being essential to Religion, whose subject is Man considered in all his relations; and, confequently, whose object is God.
NOTE s. fentiments, breaks out into this just and moral reflection on man's condition here,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err. The Translator turns this fine and sober thought into the most outrageous Scepticism;
Ce n'est que pour mourir, qu'il est né, qu'il respire,
Et toute sa, raison n'est presque qu’un delire. and so makes his Author directly contradict himself, where he says of Man, that he hath
- too much knowledge for the Sceptic fide. Ver. 10. Born but to die, &c.] The author's meaning is, that, as we are born to die, and yet enjoy some small portion of life ; fo, though we reason to err, yet we comprehend some few truths. This is the weak state of Reason, in which Error mixes itself with all its true conclusions concerning Man's Na ture.