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His knowledge measur'd to his state and place;
Ver. 74. What matter, soon] But surely, the sooner and the later, with respect to communicating happiness to any being, is, and must be, a circumstance of great consequence.
Ver. 77. the book of Fate,) It would obviate the heavy difficulties in which we are involved, when we argue on the Divine Prescience, and consequent Predestination, if we were to adopt Archbishop King's opinion, and say, “that the knowledge of God is very different from the knowledge of Man, which implies succession, and seeing objects one after another; but the existence and the attributes of the Deity can have no relation to time; for that all things, past, present, and to come, are all at once present to the Divine Mind.”
Ver. 81. The lamb thy riot dooms]The tenderness of this striking image, and particularly the circumstance in the last line, has an artful effect in alleviating the dryness of the argumentative parts of the Essay, and interesting the reader. No happier passage can be found in our author's works, though Johnson thought otherwise.
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
VARIATIONS. After Ver. 88, in the MS.
No great, no little; 'tis as much decreed
Wer. 93, 94. In the first Fol. and Quarto,
Wer. 87. Who sees with equal eye, &c.] Matt. x. 29.
Wer. 97. The soul (uneasy, and confin'd)] “In the old editions, it was, confin'd at home, which was altered at the persuasion of the divine, against the sense of the poet. The point to be illustrated is, that hope is implanted in man, to enable him to bear all the evils of life, though it is merely visionary, and has no foundation:
‘What future bliss he gives not thee to know,
Thus man, confined on his own earth, dreams of imaginary mansions in another world. Hope supplies the reality of them. He hopes, upon the same ground as the Indian does, for a heaven, where his dog shall accompany him. Sorry am I to give this view of the author's creed; but it is too true a representation of it. He makes no difference between the certainty of the Christian's heaven and the Indian's. It will be presumption in Lo, the poor Indian whose untutor'd mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; 100
me to go farther; and yet I cannot help observing, that, allow Mr. Pope this doctrine, and he will go near to overthrow the whole argument of the divine legation of Moses. God has implanted in mankind a religious fear, and a foreboding of a future state. The divine says, he had this from revelation: the deist, that it supplies the want of one; that it has kept the world in awe from the beginning of the creation, seconded with an opinion of Providence prevailing even in this world.” From MS. notes of our learned printer Mr. Bowyer.
Ver. 99. Lo, the poor Indian / &c.] The Poet having bid Man comfort himself with expectation of future happiness; having shewn him that this HoPE is an earnest of it; and put in one very necessary caution,
“Hope humbly then, with trembling pinions soar;”
provoked at those miscreants whom he afterward (Ep. iii. ver. 263.) describes as building Hell on spite, and Heaven on pride, he upbraids them (from ver, 98 to 113.) with the example of the poor Indian, to whom also Nature hath given this common HoPE of Mankind: but though his untutor'd mind had betrayed him into many childish fancies concerning the nature of that future state, yet he is so far from excluding any part of his own species (a vice which could proceed only from the pride of false Science), that he humanely, though simply, admits even his faithful dog to bear him company. W.
Pope has indulged himself in but few digressions in this piece; this is one of the most poetical. Representations of undisguised nature and artless innocence always amuse and delight. The simple notions which uncivilized nations entertain of a future state are many of them beautifully romantic, and some of the best subjects for poetry. It has been questioned, whether the circumstance of the dog, although striking at the first view, is introduced with propriety, as it is known that this animal is not a native of America. The notion of seeing God in clouds, and hearing him in the wind, cannot be enough applauded. Buffon says, the Americans had no domestic animals about them when that continent was discovered.
His soul, proud Science never taught to stray
After Ver. 108, in the first Ed.
Ver. 120. Alone made perfect here, The obvious meaning is, “Be content with the present life; it is your pride only that makes you think yourself ill-treated, and induces you to look for another and more perfect state.” Bolingbroke is for ever repeating the same note, and saying, “It is profane even to insinuate, and much more to affirm pe
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
remptorily, that the proceedings of God towards man, in the present life, are unjust; and, if that could be admitted, it would be absurd to admit that this may be set right; which means, if the words have any meaning, that this injustice must cease to be injustice, on the received hypothesis of his proceedings towards man in another life. One is profane, notwithstanding all the questions they beg to support the charge: the other is absurd, on the very principles on which they argue, and according to our clearest and most distinct ideas or notions of human justice.” It is a singular fact, and not sufficiently attended to, that neither the ancient philosophers nor poets, though they abound in complaints of the unequal distribution of good and evil at present, yet do not ever infer or draw any arguments, from this supposed inequality, for the necessity of a future life, where such inequality will be rectified, and Providence vindicated. Ver. 126. Men would be angels,) Verbatim from Bolingbroke, vol. v. p. 465; as are many other passages. How are we to interpret the assertion, that Pope did not really understand the principles of Bolingbroke, when the latter says to him, “These subjects have been so often treated of between you and me, that I shall say nothing of them here.” The following passage, relating to the caution and timidity of Pope, may give us a key to his conduct, vol. iv. p. 190. “Read,” says Bolingbroke to him, “the entire passage; consultyour memory; look round you, and then you shall tell me what you think of Clarke's argument. You shall tell it in my ear: I expect no more; for I know how desirous you are to keep fair with orders, whatever liberties you take with particular men.” Ver. 127. If Angels fell.) It may mortify our pride to consider how little we know of the Fall of Angels; on which event depends