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Of smell, the headlong lioness between,
NOTES. expressiveness of the epithets ought to be particularly regarded. Perhaps we have no image in the language more lively than that of the last verse: “ To live along the line,” is equally bold and beautiful. In this part of the epistle the poet seems to have remarkably laboured his style, which abounds in various figures, and is much elevated. Pope has practised the great secret of Virgil's art, which was to discover the very single epithet that precisely. suited each occasion. If Pope must yield to other poets in point of fertility of fancy, or harmony of numbers, yet in point of propriety, closeness, and elegance of diction, he can yield to none. Very inferior is the translation of Abbé du Resnel, of all this fine passage, to the original, though it is evident he took pains about it. See his four lines on the spider:
Contemplez l'araignée en son réduit obscur;
Dans chacun de ses fils elle paroit vivante. Ver. 213. The headlong lioness] The manner of the lions hunting their prey in the deserts of Africa is this : At their first going out in the night-time they set up a loud roar, and then listen to the noise made by the beasts in their flight, pursuing them by the ear, and not by the nostril. It is probable the story of the jackall's hunting for the lion, was occasioned by the observation of this defect of scent in that terrible animal. P.
*Twixt that, and Reason, what a nice barrier?
For ever sep’rate, yet for ever near ! 'Remembrance and Reflection, how ally'd ; 225 What thin partitions Sense from Thought divide ! And Middle natures, how they long to join, Yet never pass th’insuperable line! Without this just gradation, could they be Subjected, these to those, or all to thee? The pow’rs of all subdu'd by thee alone, Is not thy Reason all these pow’rs in one?
NOTES. Ver. 224. For ever sep'rate, &c.] Near by the similitude of the operations ; separate by the immense difference in the nature of the powers. W.
Ver. 226. What thin partitions, &c.] So thin, that the Atheistic Philosophers, as Protagoras, held that THOUGHT was only SENSE; and from thence concluded, that every imagination or opinion of every man was true: lãoa pavraola éotiv ålndus. But the Poet determines more philosophically; that they are really and essentially different, how thin soever the partition be by which they are divided. Thus (to illustrate the truth of this observation), when a geometer considers a triangle, in order to demonstrate the equality of its three angles to two right ones, he has the picture or image of some sensible triangle in his mind, which is sense ; yet notwithstanding, he must needs have the motion or idea of an intellectual triangle likewise, which is thought ; for this plain reason, because every image or picture of a triangle must needs be obtusangular, or rectangular, or acutangular ; but that which, in his mind, is the subject of his proposition is the ratio of a triangle, undetermined to any of these species. On this account it was that Aristotle said, Nonuara rivi dioloel toū un Pavtáguara είναι, ή ουδε τάλλα φαντάσματα, αλλ' ουκ άνευ φαντασμάτων. The conceptions of the mind differ somewhat from sensible images ; they are not sensible images, and yet not quite free or disengaged from sensible images.
Ver. 232. Is not thy Reason] “Such then is the admirable distribution of nature, her adapting and adjusting not only the stuff or matter to the shape itself and form, to the circumstance,
VIII. See, through this air, this ocean, and this
earth, All matter quick, and bursting into birth: Above, how high, progressive life may go! 235 Around, how wide, how deep extend below! . Vast chain of Being! which from God began, Natures ethereal, human, angel, man, Beast, bird, fish, insect, what no eye can see, No glass can reach; from infinite to thee, 240
VARIATIONS. Ver. 238. Ed. 1st.
Ethereal essence, spirit, substance, man.
NOTES. place, element, or region; but also the affections, appetites, sensations, mutually to each other, as well as the matter, form, action, and all besides; all managed for the best, with perfect frugality and just reserve : profuse to none, but bountiful to all : never employing in one thing more than enough: but with exact economy retrenching the superfluous, and adding force to what is principal in every thing : And is not thought and reason principal in man? would we have no reserve for these ; no saving for this part of his engine ?” Shaftesbury, in the Moralist, vol. ii. p. 99.
Ver. 235. Above, how high,] This is a magnificent passage. Thomson had before said, in Summer, v. 333.
- Has any seen
From which astonish'd thought recoiling turns ?
Ver. 240. No glass can reach ;] “ There are,” says Hooke the naturalist, “8,280,000 animalcula in one drop of water.” “ Nature, in many instances,” says Themistius, “ appears to make her transitions so imperceptibly, and by little and little, that in some beings it may be doubted whether they are animal or vegetable.
From thee to Nothing On superior pow'rs !
And, if each system in gradation roll
NOTES. Ver. 244. the great scale's destroy'd : 1 All that can be said of the supposition of a scale of beings gradually descending from perfection to nonentity, and complete in every rank and degree, is to be found in the third chapter of King's Origin of Evil, and in a note of the Archbishop, marked G, p. 137. of Law's translation, ending with these emphatical words : « Whatever system God had chosen, all creatures in it could not have been equally perfect; and there could have been but a certain determinate multitude of the most perfect : and, when that was completed, there would have been a station for creatures less perfect, and it would still have been an instance of goodness to give them a being as well as others.”
Ver. 245. From Nature's chain) Almost the words of Marcus Antoninus, l. v. c. 8.; as also v. 265, from the same.
Ver. 251. Let Earth unbalanc'd] i. e. Being no longer kept within its orbit by the different directions of its progressive and attractive motions ; which, like equal weights in a balance, keep it in an equilibre. W.
It is observable, that these noble lines were added after the first folio edition. It is a pleasing and useful amusement to trace out the alterations that a great and correct writer gradually makes in his works. At first it ran,
How instinct varies! What a hog may want
Let ruling Angels from their spheres be hurl'd,
IX. What if the foot, ordain'd the dust to tread, Helena
What the advantage if his finer eyes
Study a mite, not comprehend the skies.'
How instinct varies in the growling swine,
T'inspect a mite, not comprehend the Heav'n.
No self-confounding faculties to share,
No senses stronger than his braint can bear. At present;
No pow'rs of body or of soul to share,
But what his nature and his state can bear. It appeared at first very exceptionably;
Expatiate far o'er all this scene of Man,
A mighty maze! of walks without a plan.
A mighty maze! but not without a plan!