Abbildungen der Seite

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,
The foul's calm fun-fhine, and the heart-felt joy,
Is virtue's prize: a better would you fix?
Then give humility a coach and fix,
Juftice a conqueror's fword, or truth a gown,
Or public fpirit, its great care, a crown.
Weak, foolish man! will Heav'n reward us there
With the fame trash mad mortals wish for here?
The boy and man an individual makes,
Yet figh'ft thou now for apples and for cakes?
Go, like the Indian, in another life
Expect thy dog, thy bottle and thy wife;
As well as dream fuch are affign'd,
As toys and empires, for a god-like mind.
Rewards, that either would to virtue bring
No joy, or be destructive of the thing:
How oft by these at fixty are undone
The virtues of a faint at twenty-one !

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;
An honeft man's the nobleft work of God.
Honour and fhame from no condition rife ;
Act well your part, there all the honour lies.

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!
Can wealth, or grandeur, fatisfy the mind?
Of all thofe pleasures mortals most admire,
Is there one joy fincere, that will not tire?
Can love itself endure? or beauty's charms
Afford that blifs we fancy in its arms?—
Then, let thy foul, more glorious aims pursue:
Have thy CREATOR and his works in view :
Be these thy ftudy: hence thy pleasures bring:
And drink large draughts of wisdom from its spring:
That fpring, whence perfect joy and calm repose,
And bleft content, and peace eternal flows.

Obferve how regular the PLANETs run,
In ftated times, their courses round the SUN.
Diff'rent their bulk, their distance, their career,
And diff'rent much the compass of their year :
Yet, all the fame eternal laws obey,
While God's unerring finger points the way.

First MERCURY, amidft full tides of light,
Rolls next the fun, through his fmall circle bright.
All that dwell here must be refin'd and pure :
Bodies like ours fuch ardour can't endure:
Our EARTH would blaze beneath so fierce a ray,
And all its marble mountains melt away.

Fair VENUS, next, fulfils her larger round,
With fofter beams, and milder glory crown'd.
Friend to mankind, fhe glitters from afar,
Now the bright ev'ning, now the morning star.

More diftant ftill, our EARTH comes rolling on,
And forms a wider circle round the fun :
With her the MOON, companion ever dear!
Her course attending through the shining year.

See, MARS, alone, runs his appointed race,
And measures out, exact the destin'd space :

Nor nearer does he wind, nor farther stray,
But finds the point whence first he roll'd away.

More yet remote from day's all-cheering fource,
Vaft JUPITER performs his conftant course:
Four friendly Moons, with borrow'd luftre, rife.
Beftow their Beams, benign, and light his skies.

Fartheft and last, scarce warm'd by Phabus' ray,
Through his vaft orbit SATURN wheels away.
How great the change could we be wafted there!
How now the feafons! and how long the year!
One Moon, on us, reflects its cheerful light:
There, five attendants brighten up the night.
Here, the blue firmament bedeck'd with stars,
There, over-head, a lucid Arch appears,
From hence how large, how ftrong, the fun's bright ball !
But feen from thence, how languid and how small !—
When the keen north with all its fury blows,
Congeals the floods, and forms the fieecy fnows,
'Tis heat intense to what can there be known:
Warmer our poles than is its burning zone.

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,
'Twixt this dull Planet and bright Mercury}:
Yet reafon fays, nor can we doubt at all,
Millions of Beings dwell on either ball,
With constitutions fitted for that spot,
Where Providence, all-wife, has fix'd their lot.
Wond'rous art thou, O God, in all thy ways!
Their eyes to thee let all thy creatures raise,
Adore thy grandeur, and thy goodness praise.
Ye fons of men! with fatisfaction know,
God's own right hand difpenfes all below:
Nor good nor evil does by chance befall;
He reigns fupreme, and he directs it all.

At his command, affrighting human-kind,
COMETS drag on their blazing lengths behind :
Nor, as we think, do they at random rove,
But, in determin'd times, through long ellipfes move,


And tho' fometimes they near approach the fun,
Sometimes beyond our fyftem's Orbit run;
Throughout their race they act their maker's will,
His pow'r declare, his purposes fulfil.

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

« ZurückWeiter »