« PreviousContinue »
2. But vindicate the ways of God to man.
This line is taken from Milton:
And justify the ways of God to man.
POPE seems to have hinted, by this allusion to the Paradise Lost, that he intended his
for a defence of Providence, as well as Milton : but he took a very different method in pursuing that end; and imagined, that the goodness and justice of the Deity might be defended, without having recourse to the doctrine of a future state, and of the depraved state of man.
3. But of this frame, the bearings, and the tiest
The strong connections, nice dependencies,
Imagine only some person entirely a stranger to navigation, and ignorant of the nature of the
sea, or waters, how great his astonishment would be, when finding himself on board some vessel anchoring at sea, remote from all land prospect, whilst it was yet a calm, he viewed the ponderous machine firm and motionless in the midst of the smooth ocean, and considered its foundations beneath, together with its cordage, masts, and sails above. How easily would he see the whole one regular structure, all things depending on one another; the uses of the rooms below, the lodgements, and the conveniences of men and stores ! But being ignorant of the intent or design of all above, would he pronounce the masts and cordage to be useless and cumbersome, and for this reason condemn the frame, and despise the architect? O, my friend ! let us not thus betray our ignorance ; but consider where we are, and in what an universe. Think of the many parts of the vast machine, in which we have so little insight, and of which it is impossible we should know the ends and uses : when, instead of seeing to the highest pendants, we see only some lower deck, and are in this dark case of flesh, confined even to the hold and meanest station of
I have inserted this passage at length, because it is a noble and poetical illustration of the foregoing lines, as well as of many other passages in this Essay.
4. Presumptuous man! the reason would'st thou find,
Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind?
* Characteristics, vol. ii. pag. 188. edit. 12mo.There is a close resemblance in the following lines with another passage of Shaftesbury's Moralists:
What would this man? Now upward will he soar,
" Ask not merely, why man is naked, why unhoofed, why slower footed than the beasts : Ask, why he has not wings also for the air, fins for the water, and so on : that he might take possession of each element, and reign in all. Not so, said I, neither; this would be to rate him high indeed! As if he were by nature, lord of all, which is more than I could willingly allow. 'Tis enough, replied he, that this is yielded. For if we allow once, a subordination in his case; if Nature herself be not for man, but man for Nature; then must man, by his good leave, submit to the elements of Nature, and not the ele. ments to him.” Vol. ii. pag. 196, ut supra.
of Ver. 35.
VOLTAIRE, in the late additions to his works, has the following remarkable words: “I own it flatters me to see that Pope has fallen upon the very same sentiment which I had entertained many years ago.” " Vous vous étonnez que Dieu ait fait l'homme si borné, si ignorant, si peu heureux. Que ne vous étonnez-vous, qu'il ne l'ait pas fait plus borné, plus ignorant, & plus malheureux ? Quand un Français & un Anglais pensent de meme, il faut bien qu'ils ayent rai.
5. The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
The tenderness of this striking image, and particularly the circumstance in the last line, has an artful effect in alleviating the dryness in the argumentative parts of the Essay, and interesting the reader.
* Oeuvres de Voltaire. Tom. iv. pag. 227.
of Ver. 81.
6. The soul uneasy, and confin’d from home,
In former editions it used to be printed at home ; but this expression seeming to exclude a future existence, (as, to speak the plain truth, it was intended to do,) it was altered to from home ; not only with great injury to the harmony of the line, but also, to the reasoning of the
7. Lo the poor Indian ! whose untutor'd mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
Pope has indulged himself in but few digressions in this piece; this is one of the most poeti