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external goods are so far from being the proper rewards of virtue, that they are very often inconfiftent with, and deftructive to it.
What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,
To prove that these can make no man nappy without virtue, he has confidered the effect of riches, honours, nobility, greatnefs, fame, fuperior talents, &c. and given pictures of human infelicity in men poffefs'd of them all; whence he concludes, that virtue only constitutes happinefs, whose object is univerfal, and whofe profpe&t eternal; and that the perfection of virtue and happiness confifts in a due conformity to the order of providence here, and a refignation to it here and hereafter.
We have dwelt long enough, perhaps too long, on this poem; but it was neceffary to give the whole fcope and defign of the poet; that the reader might fee what art was required to make a fubject fo dry and metaphyfical, inftructive and pleafing and that it is fo will appear by the extracts we have taken, which we hope will induce our readers to perufe attentively the poem itself. From the nature of his plan, the reader will fee that the poet was deprived of many embellishments which other subjects will admit of, and tied down as it were to a chain of
argument, which would allow of no digreffions, ftudied fimiles and defcriptions, or allufions to ancient fables the want of which he has fupplied, however, with feafonable remarks, and moral reflections; all of them juft, and many of them truly fublime.
A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod;
The learned editor of the author's works informs us that this poem is only a part of what the poet intended on the fubject, and that the whole would have made four books, of which this was to have been the firft; but the author's bad ftate of health, and fome other confiderations induced him to lay the plan afide: a remnant, however, of what he intended as a fubfequent part of this was published under the title of Moral Epifles, which are in number four. The first treats of the knowledge and characters of men; the fecond, of the characters of women; and the two laft, of the use of riches; and from the masterly manner in which these are executed the world has great reafon to lament the loss of the reft.
We come now to fpeak of those preceptive poems that concern our philofophical fpeculations; and these, tho' the fubject is fo pregnant with matter, affords fuch a field for fancy, and is fo capable of every decoration, are but few. Lucretius is the most confiderable among the ancients who has written in this manner; and among the moderns I know of none but small detached pieces, except the poem called Anti-Lucretius, which has not yet received an English drefs, and Dr. Akenfide's Pleasures of the Imagination; both which are worthy of our admiration. Some of the small pieces are also well executed; and there is one entitled the Universe, written by Mr. Baker, from which I fhall borrow an example.
The author's fcheme is in fome measure coincident with Mr. Pope's, fo far efpecially as it tends to restrain the pride of man, with which defign it was profeffedly written. It may be objected, perhaps, that this poem not preceptive, and therefore not suitable to our purpose;
but it is to be confidered, that if it is not preceptive, it is didactic; if it does not teach by precept, it does by description; and therefore we hope to be allowed the liberty we are about to take.
The paffage we have felected is that refpecting the planetary fyftem, which is, in our opinion very beautiful.
Unwife! and thoughtless! impotent! and blind!
Obferve how regular the PLANETs run,
First MERCURY, amidft full tides of light,
Fair VENUS, next, fulfils her larger round,
More diftant ftill, our EARTH comes rolling on,
See, MARS, alone, runs his appointed race,
Nor nearer does he wind, nor farther stray,
More yet remote from day's all-cheering fource,
Fartheft and last, scarce warm'd by Phabus' ray,
Who there inhabit must have other pow'rs, Juices, and veins, and sense, and life than ours. One moment's cold, like theirs, would pierce the bone, Freeze the heart-blood, and turn us all to stone.
Strange and amazing muft the diff'rence be,
At his command, affrighting human-kind,
And tho' fometimes they near approach the fun,
We are now to speak of thofe preceptive poems that treat of the business and pleasures of mankind; and here Virgil claims our first and principal attention, who in his Georgics has laid down the rules of husbandry in all its branches with the utmost exactnefs and perfpicuity, and at the fame time embellished them with all the beauties
and graces of poetry. Tho' his fubject was husbandry, he has delivered his precepts, as an ingenious author obferves, not with the fimplicity of a ploughman, but with the addrefs of a poet. The meanest of his rules are laid down with a kind of grandeur, and he breaks the clods, and toffes about the dung with an air of gracefulness*. Of the different ways of conveying the fame truth to the mind, he takes that which is pleasanteft; and this chiefly diftinguishes poetry from profe, and renders Virgil's rules of husbandry more. delightful and valuable than any other.
Thefe poems which are elteemed the moft perfect of the author's works are, perhaps, the beft that can be propofed for the young ftudents imitation in this manner of writing; for the whole of his Georgies is wrought up with wonderful art, and decorated with all the flowers of poetry.
In the firft of the four books, he propofes the general defign of each Georgic, and after a folemn invocation of all the heathen deities, who are supposed to be any ways concerned in rural affairs, he addreffes himself particularly to Auguftus Caefar, whom he compliments with Divinity then falling in with his fubject, he speaks of the different kinds of tillage, that are fuitable to different foils; traces out the origin of agriculture; prefents us with a catalogue of the implements of husbandry, and points out the business peculiar to each feafon. He next defcribes the changes of the weather, and the figns in the heavens and the earth, by which the approaching change may be foretold; and in compliment to Auguftus, introduces fome prodigies which are said to have pre*Mr. Addifon. I 3