« PreviousContinue »
cal. Representations of undisguised nature, and artless innocence, always amuse and delight. The simple notions which uncivilized nations'entertain of a future state, are many of them beautifully romantic, and some of the best subjects for poetry. It has been questioned whether the circumstance of the dog, although striking at the first view, is introduced with propriety, as it is known that this animal is not a native of America. The notion of seeing God in clouds, and hearing him in the wind, cannot be enough applauded.
8. From burning suns when livid deaths descend,
When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep
I quote these lines as an example of energy of style, and of Pope's manner of compressing together many images, without confusion, and without superfluous epithets. Substantives and verbs are the sinews of language.
9. If plagues or earthquakes break not heav'a's design,
Why then a Borgia or a Catilineit
* Ver. 142.
“ All ills arise from the order of the universe, which is absolutely perfect. Would you wish to disturb so divine an order, for the sake of your own particular interest? What if the ills I suffer arise from malice or oppression ? But the vices and imperfections of men are also comprehended in the order of the universe.
If plagues, &c.
Let this be allowed, and my own vices will be also a part of the same order."-Such is the commentary of the academist on these famous lines. *
10. The general order, since the whole began,
Is kept in nature, and is kept in man.t
How this opinion is any way reconcileable with the orthodox doctrine of the lapsed condition of man, the chief foundation of the Christian revelation, it is difficult to say.
11. Why has not man a microscopic eyed
For this plain reason, man is not a fly. '
* Hume's Essays, quarto, pag. 106.
g Ver. 171.,
Say, what the use, were finer optics giv'n,
If, by the help of such microscopical eyes, if I may so call them, a man could penetrate farther than ordinary into the secret composition and radical texture of bodies, he would not make any great advantage by the change; if such an acute sight would not serve to conduct him to the market and exchange, if he could not see things he was to avoid at a convenient distance, nor distinguish things he had to do with by those sensible qualities others do.”+
12. If nature thunder'd in his opening ears,
And stunn'd him with the music of the spheres,
It is justly objected, that the argument required an instance drawn from real sound, and
* Ver. 193.
Locke’s Essay on Human Uuderstanding, vol. I. pag. 256.
not from the imaginary music of the spheres. Locke's illustration of this doctrine, is not only proper, but poetical.* “ If our sense of hearing were but one thousand times quicker than it is, how would a perpetual noise distract'us; and we should, in the quietest retirement, be less able to sleep or meditate, than in the middle of a sea-fight.”
13. From the green myriads in the peopled grass
The mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam ;
These lines are selected as admirable patterns of forcible diction. The peculiar and discriminating expressiveness of the epithets distinguished above by italics, will be particularly regarded. Perhaps we have no image in the language, more lively than that of the last verse.
" To live along the line” is equally bold and beautiful. In this part of this Epistle the poet seems to have
Essay on Human Understanding, vol. I. pag. 255.
+ Ver. 210.
remarkably laboured his style, which abounds in various figures, and is much elevated. POPE has practised the great secret of Virgil's art, which was to discover the very single epithet that precisely suited each occasion,
14. Without this just gradation, could they be
Subjected, these to those, or all to thee?
“ Such, then, is the admirable distribution of Nature; her adapting and adjusting not only the stuff or matter to the shape and form, and even the shape itself, and form, to the circumstance, place, element, or region ; but also the affections, appetites, sensations, mutually to each other, as well as the matter, form, action, and all besides; all managed for the best, with perfect frugality, and just reserve: profuse to none, but bountiful to all : never employing in one thing more than enough; but with exact economy, retrenching the superfluous, and adding force to what is principal in every thing. And is not thought and reason principal F 3
* Ver, 229.