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Thou Great First Cause, least understood;
Who all my sense confined
And that myself am blind;
To see the good from ill;
Left free the human will:
Or warns me not to do,
That, more than heaven pursue.
Let me not cast away ;
To enjoy is to obey.
Thy goodness let me bound,
When thousand worlds are round.
Presume thy bolts to throw,
On each I judge thy foe.
Still in the right to stay :
To find that better way.
Or impious discontent,
Or aught thy goodness lent.
To hide the fault I see :
I to others show
Mean though I am, not wholly so,
Since quicken'd by thy breath ;
Through this day's life or death.
All else beneath the sun,
And let thy will be done.
Whose altar, earth, sea, skies !
All Nature's incense rise !
IN FOUR EPISTLES TO SEVERAL PERSONS,
Est brcvitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu
ADVERTISEMENT. The Essay on Man was intended to have been comprised in four books :
The first of which the author has given us under that title, in four cpistles.
The second was to have consisted of the same number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human rea. son. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable, together with those which are unuseful, and therefore unattainablc. 3. Of the nature, ends, use, and
application of the different capacities of men. 4. Of the use of learning, of the science of the world, and of wits concluding with a satire against a misapplication of them, illustrated by pictures, characters, and examples.
The third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics, in which the several forms of a republic were to be examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, as far forth as they affect society : between which the author always supposed there was the most interesting relation and closest connexion : so that this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their full extent.
The fourth and last book concerned private ethics, or practical morality, considered in all the circum: stances, orders, professions, and stations of human life.
The scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to Lord Bolingbroke, Dr. Swift, and one or two more, and was intended for the only work of his riper years; but was partly through illhealth, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on prudential and other considerations, interrupted, postponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid aside.
But as this was the author's favourite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his strong capacious mind, and as we can have but a very im. perfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poetæ that now remain, it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
The first, as it treats of man in the abstract, and considers him in general under every of his relations, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three following; so that
The second book was to take up again the first and second epistles of the first book, and treat of man in his intellectual capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this, only a small part of the conclusion (which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad, and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.
The third book, in like manner, was to re-assume the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part the poet afterwards conceived might bé best executed in an epic poem; as the action would make it more animated, and the fable less in vidious: in which all the great principles of true and false governments and religions should be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.
The fourth and last book was to pursue the subject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of ethics, or practical morality; and would have consisted of many members ; of which the four following epistles were detached portions; the first two, on the characters of men and women, being the introductory part of this concluding book.
TO SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, LORD COBHAM.
Of thc Knowledge and Characters of Men.
I. That it is not suicient for this kaowledge to consider
man in the abstract : books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly, ver. 1. General inax. ins, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notonal, ver. 10. Somne peculiarity in every man, charac. teristic to himself, yet varying from himself, ver. 15. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c. ver. 31. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by, ver. 37, &c. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves, ver. 41. Some sew characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, ver. 51. The same man utterly different in dirferent places and seasons, ver. 62. Unimaginable weaknessos in the greatest, ver. 70, &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and nature, ver. 95. No judging of the motives from the actions: the same actions proceeding from contrary motives, and the same motives influencing contrary actions, ver. 100. II. Yet, to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree. The utter uncertainty of this, from nature itself, and from policy, ver. 120. Character given according to the rank of men of the world, ver. 135. And some reason for it, ver. 140. Education alters the nature, or at least character, of many, ver. 149. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature, from ver. 158 to ver. 168. IIL It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion : That will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions, ver. 175. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio, ver. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath, ver. 222, &c.