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HOPE humbly then: with trembling Pinions soar. Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!


on Man




WAKE, my ST. JOHN! leave all meaner things


To low ambition, and the pride of Kings.
Let us (fince Life can little more supply
Than just to look about us and to die)
Expatiate free o'er all this fcene of Man;


A mighty maze! but not without a plan;
A Wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous


Or Garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.


THE Opening of this poem, [in fifteen lines] is taken up in giving an account of the Subject; which, agreeably to the title, is an ESSAY on MAN, or a Philofophical Enquiry into his Nature and End, his Paffions and Purju ts.

The Exordium relates to the whole work, of which the Efay on Man was only the first book. The 6th, 7th, and 8th lines allude to the fubjects of this Essay, viz. the general Order and Design of Providence; the Conftitution of the hu man Mind; the origin, ufe, and end of the Paffions and Affections, both felfish and focial; and the wrong pursuits of Power, Pleasure, and Happiness. The 10th, 11th, 12th, &c. have relation to the fubjects of the books intended to follow, viz. the Characters and Capacities of Men, and the Limits of Science, which once tranfgreffed, ignorance begins, and er


VER. 7, 8. A Wild-Or Garden,] The Wild relates to the human paffins, productive (as he explains in the fecond epistle) both of good and evil. The Garden, to human reason, so often tempting us to tranfgrefs the bounds God has fet to it, and to wander in fruitless enquiries.

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Together let us beat this ample field,

Try what the open, what the covert yield; 10
The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore
Of all who blindly creep, or fightless foar;
Eye Nature's walks, fhoot Folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise;
Laugh where we muft, be candid where we can; 15
But vindicate the ways of God to Man.


rors without end fuccéed. The 13th and 14th, to the Knowledge of Mankind, and the various Manners of the Age.

The Poet tells us next [line 16th] with what defign he wrote, viz.

"To vindicate the ways of God to Man."

The Men he writes againft, he frequently informs us, are fuch as weigh their opinion against Providence (ver. 114.) fuch as cry, if Man's unhappy, God's unjust, (ver. 118.) or such as fall into the notion, that Vice and Virtue there is none at all. (Ep. ii. Ver. 212.) This occafions the Poet to divide his vindication of the ways of God, into two parts. In the first of which he


VER. 12. Of all who blindly cresp, &c.] i. e. Those who only follow the blind guidance of their paffions; or those who leave behind them common fense and fober reason, in their high flights through the regions of Metaphyfics. Both which follies are expofed in the fourth epiftle, where the popular and philofophical errors concerning Happiness are detected. The figure is taken from animal life.

VER. 15 Laugh where we must, &c.] Intimating, that human follies are fo ftrangely abfurd, that it is not in the power of the most compaffionat, on fome occafions, to restrain their mirth: And that its crimes are fo flagitious, that the most candid have feldom an opportunity, on this fubject, to exercife their virtue.

VER. 16. VINDICATE the ways of God to Man.] Milton's phrase judiciously altered, who fays, JUSTIFY the ways of God

I. Say first, of God above, or Man below, What can we reafon, but from what we know? Of Man, what fee we but his ftation here,

From which to reason, or to which refer? 20



gives direct answers to thofe objections which libertine Men, on a view of the diforders arifing from the perverfity of the human will, have intended againft Providence. And in the fecond, he obviates all thofe objections, by a true delineation of human Nature; or a general, but exact, map of Man. The firft epiftle is employed in the management of the first part of this difpute; and the three following in the difcuffion of the fecond. So that this whole book constitutes a complete Effay on Man, written for the best purpose, to vindicate the ways of God.

VER. 17. Say firft, of God above, or Man below, &c.] The Poet having declared his Subject; his End of writing; and the Quality of his Adverfaries; proceeds (from Ver. 16 to 23.) to inftruct us, from whence he intends to draw his arguments; namely, from the vifible things of God in this fyftem, to de


to Man. Milton was addreffing himself to BELIEVERS, and delivering reafons, or explaining the ways of God: this idea, the word justify, precifely conveys. Pope was addreffing himfelf to UNBELIEVERS, and expofing fuch of their objections whofe ridicule and abfurdity arifes from the blindnefs of the objecters; he therefore more fitly employs the word VINDICATE, which conveys the idea of a confutation attended with punishment. Thus, fufcipere vindicam Legis, to undertake the defence of the Law, implies punishing the violators of it. VER. 19, 20. Of Man, what fee we but his ftation here, Frem which to reafon, or to which refer?]

The sense is, "we fee nothing of Man, but as he ftands at pre"fent in his station here: From which station, all our rea"fonings on his nature and end must be drawn; and to this "station they must all be referred." The confequences is, that our reafonings on his nature and end muft needs be very imperfect.

Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known,
'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He, who thro' vaft immenfity can pierce,
See worlds on worlds compofe one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other funs,
What vary'd Being peoples ev'ry star,
May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are.
But of this frame, the bearings and the ties,
The strong connections, nice dependencies, 30



monftrate the invisible things of God, his eternal Power and God-head: And why? becaufe we can reafon only from what we know; and as we know no more of Man than what we fee of his ftation here; fo we know no more of God than what we fee of his difpenfations in this ftation; being able to trace him no further than to the limits of our own fyftem. This naturally leads the Poet to exprobrate the miferable Folly and Impiety of pretending to pry into, and call in queftion, the profound difpenfations of Providence: Which reproof contains (from Ver. 22 to 43.) a fublime defcription of the Omniscience of God, and the miferable Blindnefs and Prefumption of Man.


VER. 21. Thro' Worlds unnumber'd, &c.] Hunc cognofcimus folummodo per Proprietates fuas & Attributa, & per fapientiffimas & optimas rerum ftructuras & caufas finales. Newtoni Princ. Schol. gen. fub fin.

VER. 30. The frong connections, nice dependencies.] The thought is very noble, and expreffed with great beauty, and philofophic exactness. The fyftem of the Universe is a combination of natural and moral Fitneffes, as the human fyftem is,

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