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From thee to Nothing.—On superior pow'rs
And, if each system in gradation roll Alike essential to th’ amazing Whole, The least confusion but in one, not all That system only, but the Whole must fall. 250 Let Earth unbalanc'd from her orbit fly, Planets and stars run lawless through the sky;
Ver. 244. the great scale's destroy'd :] 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,
Which lines at present stand thus:
Formerly it stood thus:
V All are but parts of one stupendous whole, _Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
Ver. 266. The great directing Mind, &c.] “Veneramur autem et colimus ob dominium. Deus enim sine dominio, providentia, et causis finalibus, nihil aliud est quam FATUM et NATURA.” Newtoni Princip. Schol. gener. sub finem.
Ver. 267. All are but parts] These are lines of a marvellous energy and closeness of expression. They are exactly like the old Orphic verses quoted in Aristotle, De Mundo. Edit. Lugd. folio, 1590, p. 378; and line 289 as minutely resembles the doctrine of the sublime hymn of Cleanthes the Stoic; not that I imagine Pope or Bolingbroke ever read that hymn, especially the latter, who was ignorant of Greek.
Ver. 268. Whose body Nature is, &c.] Mr. de Crousaz remarks, on this line, that “A Spinozist would express himself in this manner.” I believe he would; for so the infamous Toland has done, in his Atheist's Liturgy, called PANTHEIsTIcon: but so would St. Paul likewise, who, writing on this subject, the om- nipresence of God in his Providence, and in his Substance, says, in the words of a pantheistical Greek Poet, In him we live, and move, and have our being ; i. e. we are parts of him, his offspring: and the reason is, because a religious theist and an impious pantheist both profess to believe the omnipresence of God. But would Spinoza, as Mr. Pope does, call God the great directing
Mind of all, who hath intentionally created a perfect Universe?
“The workman from the work distinct was known 2"
a line that overturns all Spinozism from its very foundations. But this sublime description of the Godhead contains not only
the divinity of St. Paul ; but, if that will not satisfy the men he
writes against, the philosophy likewise of Sir Isaac Newton.
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
The Philosopher: —“In ipso continentur et moventur universa, sed absolue mutual passione. Deus nihil patitur ex corporum motibus; illa, nullam sentiunt resistentiam ex omnipresentia Dei.-Corpore omni et figura corporea destituitur.—Omnia re
That, chang'd through all, and yet in all the same ; Great in the earth, as in th' ethereal frame; 270
gitet omnia cognoscit—Cum unaqueque Spatii particula sit semper, et unumquodgue Durationis indivisibile momentum, ubique certe rerum omnium Fabricator ac Dominus non erit nunquam, nusquam.”
“Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
Sir Isaac Newton:—“Annon ex phaenomenis constat esse entem incorporeum, viventem, intelligentem, omnipraesentem, qui in spatio infinito, tanquam sensorio suo, res ipsas intime cernat, penitusque perspiciat, totasque intra se presens praesentes complectatur.”
But now admitting there were an ambiguity in these expressions so great that a Spinozist might employ them to express his own particular principles; and such a thing might well be, because the Spinozists, in order to hide the impiety of their principle, are wont to express the Omnipresence of God in terms that any religious Theist might employ; in this case, I say, how are we to judge of the Poet's meaning? Surely by the whole tenor of his argument. Now take the words in the sense of the Spinozists, and he is made, in the conclusion of his epistle, to overthrow all he had been advancing throughout the body of it: for Spinozism is the destruction of a Universe, where every thing tends, by a foreseen contrivance in all its parts, to the perfection of the Whole. But allow him to employ the passage in the sense of St. Paul, That we and all creatures live, and move, and have our being, in God; and then it will be seen to be the most logical support of all that had preceded. For the Poet having, as we say, laboured through his Epistle to prove, that every thing in the Universe tends, by a foreseen contrivance, and a present direction of all its parts, to the perfection of the Whole; it might be objected, that such a disposition of things
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
implying in God a painful, operose, and inconceivable extent of Providence, it could not be supposed that such care extended to all, but was confined to the more noble parts of the creation. This gross conception of the First Cause the Poet exposes, by shewing that God is equally and intimately present to every particle of Matter, to every sort of Substance, and in every instant of Being. W.
Ver. 269. That, chang'd thro' all,] “Every ear,” says a critic of the truest taste, “must feel the ill effect of the monotony in these lines. The cause of it is obvious. This verse consists often syllables, or five feet. When the pause falls on the fourth syllable, we shall find that we pronounce the six lastin the same time that we do the four first; so that the couplet is not only divided into two equal lines, but each line, with respect to time, is divided into two equal parts.” Webb's Remarks on the Beauties of Poetry.
Ver. 270. Great in the earth,). It is remarkable that perhaps the most solid refutation of Spinoza is in the fifth volume of Bayle's Dictionary, p. 199.
Ver. 274. operates unspent ;] To Lucretius, who, in these very bold and magnificent lines, has asked,
“Quis regere immensi summam 2 quis habere profundi
To this question, I say, we may answer, “That Great Being who is so powerfully described by Pope in this passage.”
See on this subject the fine and convincing Discourse of Socrates with Aristodemus, in the first book of Xenophon's Memorabilia.