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This is a verse of a marvellous comprehension and expressiveness. The direfulness of this pestilence is more emphatically set forth in these few words, than in forty such odes as Sprat's on the Plague at Athens.*
48. What makes all physical or moral ill?
There deviates Nature, and here wanders Will.†
POPE here accounts for the introduction of moral evil from the abuse of man's free will. This is the solid and scriptural solution of that grand and difficult question, which in vain hath puzzled and bewildered the speculatists of so many ages, ποθεν το κακον. Milton, in one of his smaller and neglected poems, has left us a sublime passage, founded on the Christian doctrine of the Fall, and of the preceding harmony of all things:
* Ταυθ' ότι μεν εςιν ισχυρα, κι σιβαρα, και αξιωματικα. He elsewhere commends a writer on account of his, TXVOTNTOS, και σεμνότητος. Dionys. Halicarnass. περι συνθέσεως, τμ. κβ.
† Ver. 111.
That we on earth, with undiscording voice,
A better wou'd you fix ?
Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow ;
Not one looks backward, onward still he goes,
To sigh for ribbands, if thou art so silly,
In a work of so serious and severe a cast, in a work of reasoning, in a work of theology, designed to explain the most interesting subject that can employ the mind of man, surely suchi strokes of levity, of satire, of ridicule, however poignant and witty, are ill placed and disgusting, åre violations of that propriety which Pope in general so strictly observed. Lucretius preserves throughout, the dignity he at first assumed ; even his sarcasms and irony on the superstitious, have something august, and a noble laughtiness in them ; as in particular, where he asks how it comes to pass that Jupiter sometimes strikes his own temples with his thunderbolts ; whether he employs himself in casting them in the deserts for the sake of exercising his arm; and why he hurls them in places where he cannot strike the guilty :
* At a Solemn Music, vol. ii.
+ Ver. 169.
* Ver. 203.
§ Ver. 223.
ll Ver. 277.
-Tum fulmina mittat; et ædes
Ile has turned the insult into a magnificent image.
50. Heroes are much the same, the point's agreed,
From Macedonia's madman the Swede.
* Lib. ii. ver. 1100.
The modern Alexander has been thus characterized by the British Juvenal, in lines as nervous and energetic as are to be found in any part of our author:
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
And afterwards of his unexpected death :
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound?
press him to the ground?
Two succeeding passages, in this fourth epistle, the first, at line 237, on the emptiness of Fame, the second, at line 259, on the inconveniencies that attend superior parts and talents, are replete with strong sense, and a penetrating
* Dodsley's Miscellanies, vol. iv. The Vanity of Human
Wishes, by Mr. Johnson.
knowledge of men and things, expressed with vigour and conciseness.
51. Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake,
As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake. *
It is observable that this similitude, which is to be found in Silius Italicus, l. xiii. v. 24, and also in Du Bartas, and in Shakespeare's Henry VI. hath been used twice more in the writings of our Poet; in the Temple of Fame, in the four hundred and thirty-sixth line, and in the Dunciad, at the four hundred and fifth. This Essay is not decorated with many comparisons; two, however, ought to be mentioned, on account of their aptness and propriety. The first is, where he compares man to the vine, that gains its strength from the embrace it gives : the second is conceived with peculiar felicity; all Nature does not, perhaps, afford so fit and close an application. It is, indeed, equally new, philosophical, and poetical :
On their own axis as the planets run,
* Ver. 363.