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E P I S T L E 1.
Wake, my St. John! leave all meaner things
To low ambition, and the pride of Kings.
The exordium of this poem relates to the whole work, of which the Esay on Man was only the first book. The 6ib, 7th, and fih lines allude to the subjects of this Elay, viz. the general Order and Design of Providence ; the Constitution of the human Mind; the origin, use, and end of the Passions and Affections, both selfish and social; and the wrong pursuits of Power, Pleasure, and Happiness. The roth, uith, 12th, etc. have relation to the subjects of the books intended to follow, viz. the Characters and Capacities of Men, and the Limits of Science, which once transgressed, ignorance begins, and error follows. The 13ih and 14th, to the Knowlege of Mankind, and the various Manners of the age. VOL. III.
Laugh where we must, be candid where we can ; 15 But vindicate the ways of God to Man.
I. Say first, of God above, or Man below, What can we reason, but from what we know ! Of Man, what see we but his station here, From which to reason, or to which refer? Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known, 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own. He, who thro' vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how fyftem into system runs,
25 What other planets circle other suns, What vary'd Being peoples ev'ry ftar, 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 Gradations just, has thy pervading soul -Look'd thro’? or can a part contain the whole ?
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? II. Presumptuous Man ! the reason wouldīt thou find,
35 Why form’d so weak, fo little, and so blind? First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less ?
VER. 21. Thro' worlds unnumber'd, etc.] Hunc cognoscimus folummodo per Proprietates suas et Attributa, et per fapien tissimas et optimas rerum structuras et causas finalcs. Newtoni Princ. Scbol. gen. sub fin.
Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made
49 Or ask of yonder argent fields above, Why Jove’s Satellites are less than Jove ?
Of Systems poffible, if 'tis confest
Refpcéting Man, whatever wrong we call, May, must be right, as relative to all. In human works, tho' labour’d on with pain, A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain; In God's, one single can its end produce; Yet ferves to second too fome other use. So Man, who here feems principal alone, Perhaps acts second to fome fphere unknown, Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal; 'Tis but a part we fee, and not a whole. 60
When the proud ileed fhall know why man restrains · His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains ; When the dull Ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Ægypt's God:
Then shall Man's pride and dulness conprehend 65
Then say not Man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault; Say rather, Man's as perfect as he ought:
70 His knowledge measur'd to his state and place ; His time a moment, and a point his space. If to be perfect in a certain sphere, What matter, soon or late, or here, or there? The bleft to-day is as completely so, As who began a thousand years ago. III. Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of
Fate, All but the page prescrib'd, their present state : From brutes what men, from men what spirits know: Or who could suffer Being here below ?
If to be perfect in a certain sphere,
Who fees with equal eye, as God of all,
95 Man never Is, but always To be bleft: The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo, the poor Indian ! whose untutor'd mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; 100 His foul, proud Science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk, or milky way ; Yet simple Nature to his hope has giv'n, Behind the cloud-topt-hill, an humbler heav'n ; Some safer world in depth of woods embrac’d, 105 Some happier island in the watry waste,
After ver 88, in the MS.
No great, no little ; 'tis as much decreed
That Virgil's Gnat should die as Cæsar bleed,
What bliss above he gives not thee to know,