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To these we owe true friendship, love sincere, 255
See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,
The sot a hero, lunatic a king;
and friendships, are wants, frailties, and passions, proves the best expedient to wean us from the world; a disengagement so friendly to that provision we are now making for another state. The observation is new, and would in any place be extremely beautiful, but has here an infinite grace and propriety, as it so well confirms, by an instance of great moment, the general thesis, That God makes Ill, at every step, productive of Good. W.
Ver. 266, with the care of Heav'n.] It is, alas! with difficulty we can persuade the Poor, that they are as much the favourites of Heaven as the Rich.
Ver. 270. the poet in his Muse.] The Author having said, that no one could change his own profession or views for those of another, intended to carry his observations still farther, and shew that men were unwilling to exchange their own acquirements even for those of the same kind, confessedly larger, and infinitely more eminent, in another.
To this end he wrote,
“What partly pleases, totally will shock:
See some strange comfort ev'ry state attend,
Behold the child, by nature's kindly law, 275
But wanting another proper instance of this truth, he reserved the lines above for some following edition of this Essay; which he did not live to give. W.
Ver. 271. See some strange comfort] How exquisite is this stanza of an unfinished Ode of Gray !
“Still where rosy Pleasure leads
Ver. 272. And pride] From La Rochefoucault, whose words are; “Nature, who so wisely has fitted the organs of our body to make us happy, seems likewise to have bestowed pride on us, on purpose, as it were, to save us the pain of knowing our own imperfections.” Maxim 36.
Wer. 274. Hope travels through, Is this Hope then no more than one of those strange comforts, those delusive pleasures, those sorts of groundless happiness, that constitute the chief enjoyment of the sot, the chemist, the poet, and the lunatic? .
Ver. 280. And beads and pray'r-books are the toys of age:] A Satire on what is called, in Popery, the Opus operatum. As this is a description of the circle of human life returning into itself by a second child-hood, the Poet has with great elegance concluded
Pleas'd with this bauble still, as that before,
his description with the same image with which he set out—And life's poor play is o'er. W. Wer. 280, the toys of age :] Exactly what Fontenelle says, “Il est des hochets pour tout age.” And Prior, “Give us play-things for old age.”
Yet it is certain that Fontenelle could not have taken this verse from Prior, for he did not understand English, though prior wrote it more than twenty years before Fontenelle.
DeLisle, whose translation of Virgil's Georgics is so frequently and so unjustly praised by Voltaire, has also translated, but not published, the Essay on Man. Millot has given another, published 1762.
Ver. 286. And each vacuity of sense by Pride :] An eminent Casuist, Father Francis Garasse, in his Somme Theologique, has drawn a very charitable conclusion from this principle; which he hath well illustrated: “Selon la Justice” (says this equitable Divine) “tout travail honnète doit étre recompensé de lotiange ou de satisfaction. Quand les bons esprits font un ouvrage excellent, ils sontjustement recompensés parles suffrages du Public. Quand un pauvre esprit travaille beaucoup, pour fair un mauvais ouvrage, il n'est pas justeni raisonnable, qu'il attende deslotianges publiques; car elles ne lui sont pas dues. Mais afin que ses travaux ne demeurent passans recompense, DIEU lui donne une satisfaction personnelle, que personne ne lui peut envier sans une injustice plus que barbare; tout ainsi que Dieu, qui est juste, donne de la satisfaction aux Grenouilles de leur chant. Autrement le blåme public, joint à leur mécontentement, seroit suffisant pour les réduire au desespoir.” W.
One prospect lost, another still we gain;
Ver. 290. And not a vanity] Dr. Balguy has given us some bold and original thoughts on this subject:
“In single persons, it must be owned, the balance of the passions is very frequently destroyed; seldom indeed preserved with exactness and truth. But then the defects to be found in one man are supplied by the excesses in another. So that, if you consider the whole species, you will neither find too much, nor too little, of any one principle in the human mind. Indolence and ambition, avarice and sensuality, resentment and compassion, if not in the same persons, yet in different persons, counteract and balance, each other. Nor is there a single sentiment implanted in our nature which can either be increased, or lessened, in the whole race of mankind, without loss or harm to the human species; unless, indeed, you assume a liberty of altering many things at a time; of forming a new and fantastic system, perhaps made up of inconsistent parts, and beyond the bounds of possibility itself. So true is that celebrated passage of Cicero, de Nat. Deorum, lib. ii. c. 34; “Si quis corrigere aliquid volet, aut deterius faciet, aut id, quod fieri non potuit, desiderabit.” Divine Benevolence, p. 100.
Ver. 294. 'Tis this, Tho' Man's a fool,] A little time after the second edition of this Epistle was published, Voltaire writes thus, July 24, 1733, to Mons. Thiriot, his friend, in London:
“A propos d'epitre, dites à M. Pope, que je l'ai très-bien reconnu, in his Essay on Man (which Pope had not owned at that time); ’tis certainly his style; now and then there is some obscurity: but the whole is charming.” Lettres de M. Voltaire, tome i. p. 165. And, speaking of it again, p. 291, he says, “C'est un ouvrage qui donne quelquefois de la peine aux lecteurs Anglois.” And in a long letter to La Marquise du Deffant, in the year 1736, p. 337, he tells her, “Tout l'ouvrage de Pope, fourmille depareilles obscurités. Il y a cent eclairs admirables qui percent
VOL. III. G
à tous momens cette nuit, et votre imagination brillante doit les aimer.” I am informed by Lord Orford, an intimate friend of this accomplished lady, that she communicated a great number of Voltaire's letters to the publishers of his Works, which they returned, and would not insert, because they bore very hard on many of the philosophers of Paris, and particularly on Helvetius.