Abbildungen der Seite

He points out the office of reason, describes vice as odious in itself, and yet fhews by what means we deceive ourfelves into it. He proves that not only the ends of Providence are answer'd in our paffions and imperfections, but that the general good is often promoted by them, and fhews how usefully they are diftributed to all orders of men ; points out their use to fociety, and to individuals in every ftate, and every age of life, and thus concludes the epiftle.

Whate'er the paffion, knowledge, fame or pelf, Not one will change his neighbour with himself. The learn'd is happy nature to explore,

The fool is happy that he knows no more;
The rich is happy in the plenty giv❜n,

The poor contents him with the care of heav'n.
See the blind beggar dance, the cripple fing,
The fot a hero, lunatic a king;
The ftarving chymift in his golden views
Supremely bleft, the poet in his muse.

See fome ftrange comfort ev'ry ftate attend,
And pride bestow'd on all, a common friend:
See fome fit paffion ev'ry age fupply,
Hope travels thro', nor quits us when we die.
Behold the child, by nature's kindly law,
Pleas'd with a rattle, tickled with a straw:
Some livelier play-thing gives his youth delight,
A little louder, but as empty quite :
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage;
And beads and pray'r-books are the toys of age:
Pleas'd with this bauble ftill, as that before;
'Till tir'd he fleeps, and life's poor play is o'er;

Mean while opinion gilds with various rays
Those painted clouds that beautify our days;
Each want of happiness by hope fupply'd,
And each vacuity of fenfe by pride:
These build as faft as knowledge can destroy;
In folly's cup ftill laughs the bubble, joy;
One profpect loft, another ftill we gain;
And not a vanity is giv'n in vain ;
Ev'n mean felf-love becomes by force divine,
The scale to measure others wants by thine.
See! and confefs, one comfort still muft rife,
'Tis this, Tho' man's a fool, yet God is wife.

In his third epistle, he treats of the nature and ftate of man with respect to fociety, and confiders the whole universe as one system thereof, in which nothing fubfifts wholly for itself, nor yet wholly for another, but wherein the happinefs of animals is mutual.

Look round our world; behold the chain of love
Combining all below and all above.
See plaftic Nature working to this end,
The fingle atoms each to other tend,
Attract, attracted to the next in place,
Form'd and impell'd its neighbour to embrace.
See matter next, with various life endu'd,
Prefs to one centre ftill, the gen'ral good.
See dying vegetables life sustain,
See life diffolving vegetate again :
All forms that perifh other forms fupply
(By turns we catch the vital breath, and die)
Like bubbles on the fea of matter born,
They rife, they break, and to that sea return.
Nothing is foreign: parts relate to whole;
One all-extending, all-preferving foul
Connects each being, greatest with the leaft;
Made beaft in aid of man, and man of beast ;
All ferv'd, all serving: nothing stands alone;
The chain holds on, and, where it ends, unknown.
Has God, thou fool! work'd folely for thy good,
Thy joy, thy paftime, thy attire, thy food?
Who for thy table feeds the wanton fawn,
For him as kindly spreads the flow'ry lawn.
Is it for thee the lark afcends and fings?
Joy tunes his voice, joy elevates his wings:
Is it for thee the linnet pours his throat ?
Loves of his own and raptures fwell the note:
The bounding steed you pompously bestride,
Shares with his lord the pleasure and the pride:
Is thine alone the feed that ftrews the plain?
The birds of heav'n fhall vindicate their grain:
Thine the full harvest of the golden year?
Part pays, and juftly, the deferving steer:
The hog, that plows not, nor obeys thy call,
Lives on the labours of this lord of all.

Know, Nature's children all divide her care;
The fur that warms a monarch, warm'd a bear.
While man exclaims, See all things for my ufe!'
• See man for mine!' replies a pamper'd goose:
And just as short of reafon he must fall,
Who thinks all made for one, not one for all.

He then proceeds to fhew, that reafon or instinct operates alike to the good of each individual, and enforces fociety in all animals. He confiders how far fociety is carried by inftinct, and how much farther by reafon; he beautifully defcribes the ftate of nature, and shews how reason was instructed by inftinct in the invention of arts, and in the forms of fociety.

Thus then to man the voice of nature speak-
• Go, from the creatures thy inftruction take:
Learn from the birds what food the thickets yield;
Learn from the beast the phyfic of the field;
The arts of building from the bee receive;
Learn of the mole to plow, the worm to weave ;
Learn of the little nautilus to fail,

Spread the thin oar, and catch the driving gale.
Here too all forms of focial union find,
And hence let reason, late inftru&t mankind
Here fubterranean works and cities fee;
There towns aereal on the waving tree :
Learn each small people's genius, policies,
The ant's republic, and the realm of bees;
How those in common all their wealth bestow,
And anarchy without confufion know;
And these for ever, tho' a monarch reign,
Their fep'rate cells and properties maintain.
Mark what unvary'd laws preserve each state,
Laws wife as Nature, and as fixt as Fate.
In vain thy reason finer webs shall draw,
Entangle Juftice in her net of Law,
And right, too rigid, harden into wrong;
Still for the ftrong too weak, the weak too ftrong.
Yet, go! and thus o'er all the creatures sway,
Thus let the wiser make the rest obey ;
And for those arts mere inftinct could afford,
Be crown'd as monarchs, or as gods ador'd.'

He thence traces out the origin of political focieties; of monarchy, and patriarchal governments, and fhews that true religion and government had both their foundation in the principle of love, and that fuperftition and tyranny arofe from the principle of fear. He confiders the influence of felf-love, as operating to the focial and public good; treats of the restoration of true religion and government on their first principles; then defcants on mix'd governments and their various forms; and laftly, points out the true end of all, in the following admirable lines.

For forms of government let fools conteft;
Whate'er is beft adminifter'd is best:
For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
His can't be wrong whofe life is in the right
In faith and hope the world will disagree,
But all mankind's concern is charity:
All must be falfe that thwart this one great end,
And all of God, that bless mankind or mend.

Man, like the gen'rous vine, fupported lives;
The ftrength he gains is from th' embrace he gives.
On their own axis as the planets run,

Yet make at once their circle round the fun;
So two confiftent motions act the foul;

And one regards Itself, and one the Whole.
Thus God and nature link'd the gen'ral frame,
And bade felf-love and focial be the fame.

In his fourth epiftle he treats of the nature and state of man with respect to happiness, explodes all falfe notions of happiness, philofophical and popular, and affirms that it is the end of all men, and attainable by all, for God intends happiness to be equal; and to be fo, it must be focial, fince all particular happiness depends on general, and fince he governs by general, not particular laws.

Take Nature's path, and mad opinions leave,
All states can reach it, and all heads conceive;
Obvious her goods, in no extream they dwell;
There needs but thinking right, and meaning well;
And mourn our various portions as we please,
Equal is common fenfe, and common ease.

Remember, man, the universal cause
Acts not by partial, but by gen'ral laws;'

And makes what happiness we justly call
Subfifts not in the good of one, but all.
There's not a blessing individuals find,
But fome way leans and hearkens to the kind.
Each has his fhare; and who would more obtain,
Shall find, the pleasure pays not half the pain.

He observes that as it is neceffary for order, and the peace and welfare of fociety, that external goods fhould be unequal, happiness is not made to confift in these for notwithstanding that in inequality, the balance of happiness among mankind is kept even by Providence, by the two paffions of hope and fear.

If then to all men happiness was meant,
God in externals could not place content.
Fortune her gifts may varioufly difpofe,
And these be happy call'd, unhappy thofe ;
But Heav'ns juft balance equal will appear,
While thofe are plac'd in hope, and these in fear:
Not prefent good or ill, the joy or curse,
But future views of better, or of worse.

He tells us what the happiness of individuals is, as far as is confiftent with the conftitution of this world; and here it appears that the good man has evidently the advantage.

Know, all the good that individuals find,
Or God and nature meant to mere mankind
Reafon's whole pleasure, all the joys of sense,
Lie in three words, health, peace, and competence.
But health confifts with temperance alone,
And peace, oh virtue ! peace is all thy own.
The good or bad the gifts of fortune gain,
But these less taste them, as they worse obtain.

After this he points out the error of imputing to virtue what are only the calamities of nature, or of fortune, and alfo the folly of expecting that God fhould alter his general laws in favour of particulars. He proves that we are unable to judge who are good, but concludes that whoever they are they must be happy. He obferves that

« ZurückWeiter »