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, as its Objects nigh, Reason's at distance, and in próspect liel;n That sees immediate Good, bý present Sense, Reason the future, and tht (onsequence :-)
E P I S T L E II.
I. Now then thyself, presume not to God
VARIATIONS. Ver. 2. Ed. ist.
The only science of Mankind is Man,
COMMENTARY, VER. 2. The proper study, &c.] The poet having shewn, in the first epistle, that the ways of God are too high for our comprehension, rightly draws this conclusion: and methodically makes it the subject of his Introduction to the second, which treats of the Nature of Man.
But here presently the accusers of Providence would be apt to object, and say, Admit that we had run into an excels, while we pretended to censure or penetrate the designs of Providence, a matter indeed too high for us; yet have not you gone as far into the opposite extreme, while you only send us to the
NOTES, Ver, 3. Placid on this ifthmus, &c.] As the poet hath given us this description of man for the very contrary purpose to which Sceptics are wont to employ such kind of paintings, namely, not to deter men from the search, but to excite them to the discovery of truth; he hath, with great judgement, reprefented Man as doubting and wavering between the right and wrong object; from which state there are great hopes he may be relieved by a careful and circumspect use of Reason. On the contrary, had he supposed Mạn so blind a; to be bufied in chusing,
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side, 5
COMMENTARY. knowledge of our own Nature: You must mock us when you talk of this as a study; for who can doubt but we are intimately acquainted with ourselves ? The proper conclufion therefore from your proof of our inability to comprehend the ways of Gr!, is, that we should turn ourselves to the study of the frame of 31URE. Thus, I say, would they be apt to object ; for, of alion, those who call themselves Freethinkers are moft given up to Pride ; especially that kind of it, which consists in a boasted knowledge of their own nature, the effects of which are so well
Not Es. or doubtful in his choice, between two objects equally wrong, the cafe had appeared desperate, and all study of Man had been effectually discouraged. But his Translator, M. De Refnel, But seeing the reason and beauty of this conduct, hath run into the very absurdity which, I have here shewn, Mr. Pope fo artfully avoided. Of which, the learned Reader may take the following examples. The Poet says,
Man acts between ; in doubt to aft, or ret. Now he tells us 'tis Man's duty to all, not rest, as the Stoics thought; and, to this their principle the latter word alludes, whose Virtue, as he says afterwards, is
Fix'd as in a Frost,
But strength of mind is exercise not rest.
Seroit-il en naissant au travail condamné ?
Aux douceurs du répos feroit-il destiné ? and these are both wrong, for Man is neither condemned to yavish Túil and Labour, nor yet indulged in the Luxury of r.pose. Again, the Poet, in a beautiful allusion to Scripture
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer ;
COMMENTARY. exposed in the first Epistle. The poet, therefore, to convince them that this study is less easy than they imagine, replies (from ☆ 2 to 19) to the first part of the objection, by describing the dark and feeble state of the human Understanding, with regard to the knowledge of ourselves. And further, to Itrengthen this argument, he shews, in answer to the second part of the objection (from 18 to 31) that the highest advances in natural knowledge may be easily acquired, and yet we, all the while, continue very ignorant of our felves. For that neither the clearest science, which results from the Newtonian philosophy, nor the most sublime, which is taught by the Platonic, will at all affist us in this self-study; nay, what is more, that Religion itself, when grown fanatical and enthusiastic, will be equally useless : Though pure and sober Religion will best instruct us in Man's Nature, that knowledge being essential to Religion, whofe subject is Man considered in all his relations; and, consequently, whose object is God.
NOTES Sentiments, breaks out into this just and moral reflection on man's condition here,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err. The Translator turns this fine and sober thought into the most outrageous Scepticism ;
Ce n'est que pour mourir, qu'il est né, qu'il respire,
Et toute sa raison n'eft presque qu'un delire. and so makes his Author directly contradict himself, where he says of Man, that he hath
too much knowledge for the Sceptic fide. Ver. 19. Born but to die, &c.] The author's meaning is, that, as we are born to die, and yet enjoy some small portion of life ; fo, though we reason to err, yet we comprehend some few truths. This is the weak state of Reason, in which Error mixes itself with all its true conclusions concerning Man's Na. ture,