Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“ And what created perfect ?” Why then man?
If the great end be human happiness,
Then nature deviates ; and can man do less ? 150
As much that end a constant course requires
Of showers and sunshine, as of man's desires;
As much eternal springs and cloudless skies,
As men forever temperate, calm, and wise. [sign,
If plagues or earthquakes break not heaven's de-
Why then a Borgia, or a Catiline; [forms,
Who knows, but He whose hand the lightning
Who heaves old ocean, and who wings the storms;
Pours fierce ambition in a Cæsar's mind,
Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind ?
From pride, from pride our very reasoning springs:
Account for moral, as for natural things : 162
Why charge we heaven in those, in these acquit!
In both, to reason right, is to submit.

Better for us, perhaps, it might appear, 165 Were there all harmony, all virtue here; ** That never air nor ocean felt the wind,

That never passion discompos'd the mind.

151–153. That end as much requires eternal springs, &c., as it requires that men should be forever temperate, &c.

156. Catiline and Borgia were two of the most abandoned and bloody demagogues, that ever lived.

158. Who knows but he, whose hand, &c., pours?

159--160. Julius Cæsar is here meant. Alexander the Great was vainly styled the son of Jupiter Ammon : Lhence he is called young Ammon.

166. If all were harmony there, (i. e. in the operations of nature,) and all virtue here, (i. e. in the actions of men.)

But all subsists by elemental strife;
And passions are the elements of life.

170 The general order, since the world began, Is kept in nature, and is kept in man.

VI. What would this man? Now upward will

he soar,

And, little less than angel, would be more ? 174
Now looking downward, just as grieved appears
To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears.
Made for his use all creatures, if he call,
Say what their use, had he the powers of all ?
Nature to these without profusion, kind,
The proper organs, proper powers assigned; 180
Each seeming want compensated of course;
Here with degrees of swiftness, here of force;
All in exact proportion to the state;
Nothing to add, and nothing to abate.
Each beast, each insect, happy in its own: 185
Is heaven unkind to man, and man alone ?
Shall he alone, whom rational we call,
Be pleas’d with nothing, if not bless'd with all ?
The bliss of man could pride that blessing find)

173. What would this man do or have; or what wishes this man.

When the interrogative is not directly the nom. to the verb, there being no other nom. case, it is either the nom. after the verb, governed by it, or by a prep. expressed or understood.

179–181. Nature, being kind without profusion, assigned the proper organs, &c., and compensated each seeming want.

184. To add and to abate seem to imply a passive signification - Nothing to be added and nothing to be abated.

Is not to act or think beyond mankind; 190 | No powers of body or of soul to share,

But what his nature and his state can bear.
Why has not man a microscopic eye?
For this plain reason, man is not a fly.

Say what the use, were finer optics given, 195 1.

T' inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven?
Or touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er,
To smart and agonize at every pore ?
Or quick effluvia darting through the brain,
Die of a rose in aromatic pain ?

200
If nature thundered in his opening ears,
And stunn’d him with the music of the spheres,
How would he wish that heav'n had left him still
The whispering zephyr, and the purling rill !
Who finds not Providence all good and wise, 205

190. Not to act or think beyond mankind is a substantive phrase used as a nom. after is, and to share no powers, is connected with it.

193–204. These lines have very often been misunderstood, and turned out of their true meaning. The poet adverts to the five senses, order; asking first, Why man has not a microscopic eye, i.e. an eye formed to see the smallest objects, as are those of flies? and then answers, because man is not a fly. On the principle of optics, if we could see much more minutely, we could not take in so large a space of the heavens at one view; as a fly cannot see the whole of one side 'a building upon which he may light. What would be the use, if finer touch were given, if this keener sensation cause or make us smart and agonize at every pore. Smell is supposed to be occasioned by some effluvia passing through the brain ; and what the use, were this sense so quick, or the effect of these passing effluvia so powerful, as to make us die of the smell of a rose in aromatic pain ?

Alike in what it gives, and what denies ?

VII. Far as creation's ample range extends, The scale of sensual, mental powers ascends; Mark how it mounts to man's imperial race, From the green myriads in the peopled grass: 210 What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme, The mole’s dim curtain, and the lynx's beam; Of smell, the headlong lioness between, And hound sagacious on the tainted green; Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood, 215 To that which warbles through the vernal wood ! The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine! Feels at each thread, and lives along the line: In the nice bee, what sense so subtly true. I'rom poisonous herbs extracts the healing dew! How instinct varies in the grovelling swine, Compar'd, half-reasoning elephant, with thine ! 'Twixt that, and reason, what a nice barrier! Forever separate, yet forever near !

211. How many modes or degrees of sight are there between the dimness of the mole's, and the sharpness of the lynx's ? What may be made a com. rel. or a demonstrative pronoun.

213. The lion is said to be defective in the sense of smell, so much so as not to pursue his prey by scent, as do the hounds.

215. The life that fills the flood - fishes, which are in a degree destitute of hearing.

217. It (i. e. the spider's touch) feels.

222. The elephant is here addressed, and called halfreasoning, on account of his superior sagacity, compared wiin other animals.

223. "Twixt that and reason, i. e. 'twixt the instinct of the elephant and reason

[ocr errors]

Remembrance and reflection how allied ! 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? 230
The powers of all subdued by thee alone,
Is not thy reason all these powers in one ?
VIII. See, through this air, this ocean, and

this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high! progressive life may go!
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
From thee to nothing.-On superior powers
Were we to press, inferior might on ours;
Or in the full creation leave a void, [stroy'd :
Where, one step broken, the great scale's de-
From nature's chain whatever link you strike,

235

237. Vast chain of being! comprehending natures ethereal, &c. In exclamatory sentences, like this, the nuun, as chain, seems to be a nom. independent, in a different sense from that where an address is made ; but we have no established rule for it, and therefore inust under stand a verb.

2:39. What that which no glass can reach, viz. animalcules, which cannot be discovered even by the best magnifiers; extending from infinite to thee. Extending agrees with which, after being, in line 2:37.

« ZurückWeiter »