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II. Then, as to NOBILITY, by creation or birth, this too he shews [from 1. 195 to 207] is, in itself, as devoid of all real worth as the rest because, in the first case the title is generally gained by no merit at all:
Stuck o'er with titles, and hung round with strings, That thou may'st be by kings, or whores of kings. In the second, by the merit of the first founder of the family, which will always, when reflected on, be rather the subject of mortification than glory:
Go! if your ancient, but ignoble, blood
Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood,
III. The Poet in the next place [from 1. 206 to 227] unmasks the false pretences of GREATNESS, whereby it is seen that the hero and politician (the two characters which would monopolize that quality) after all their bustle, effect only this, if they want virtue, that the one proves himself a fool, and the other a knave: and virtue they but too generally want. The art of heroism being understood to consist in ravage and desolation: and the art of politics, in circumvention. Now
-Grant that those can conquer, these can cheat,
Is but the more a fool, the more a knave.
It is not success' therefore that constitutes true greatness; but the end aimed at; and the means which are employed: and if these be right, glory will be the reward, whatever be the issue:
Who noble ends by noble means obtains,
IV. With regard to FAME, that still more fantastic blessing, he shews [from 1. 226 to 249] that all of it, besides what we hear ourselves, is merely nothing; and that even of this small portion, no more of it gives the possessor a real satisfaction, than what is the fruit of virtue.
All fame is foreign, but of true desert,
Plays round the head, but comes not near the heart. Thus he shews, that honour, nobility, greatness, glory, so far as they have any thing real and substantial, that is, so far as they contribute to the happiness of the possessor, are the sole issue of virtue, and that neither riches, courts, armies, nor the populace, are capable of conferring them.
V. But lastly, the Poet proves [from 1. 248 to 259] that as no external goods can make Man happy, so neither is it in the power of all internal. For, that even SUPERIOR PARTS bring no more real happiness to the possessor, than the rest, nay, put him into a worse condition; for that the quickness of apprehension, and depth of penetration, do but sharpen the miseries of life: In parts superior, what advantage lies? Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise? "Tis but to know how little can be known; To see all others faults, and feel our own, &c. · Painful pre-eminence! yourself to view
Above life's weakness, and its cOMFORTS too.
This to his friend-nor does it at all contradict what he had said to him concerning happiness, in the beginning of the Epistle:
'Tis never to be bought, but always free,
And, fled from monarchs, St. John! dwells with thee. For he is now proving that nothing either external to Man, or what is not in his own power, and of his own acquirement, can make him happy here. The most plausible rival of virtue is knowledge. Yet even this, he says, is so far from giving any degree of real happiness, that it deprives men of those common comforts of life, which are a kind of support to us under the want of happiness: such as the more innocent of those delusions which he speaks of in the second Epistle, where he
Till then, opinion gilds with varying rays
Now knowledge (as is here said) destroys all those comforts, by setting Man above life's weaknesses: so that in him, who thinks to attain happiness by knowledge, the fable is reversed, and in a preposterous attempt to gain the substance, he loses even the shadow. This I take to be the true sense of this fine stroke of satire, on the wrong pursuits after happiness.
Having thus proved how empty and unsatisfactory all these greatest external goods are, from an examination of their nature, the Poet proceeds to strengthen his argument [from l. 258 to 299] by these two farther considerations,
1st, That the acquirement of these goods is made with the loss of one another; or of greater, either as inconsistent with them, or as spent in attaining them:
How much of other each is sure to cost;
2dly, That the possessors of each of these goods are generally such as are so far from raising, envy in a good man, that he would refuse to take their persons, though accompanied with their possessions. And this the Poet illustrates by examples:
Think, and if still the things thy envy call,
Say, would'st thou be the man to whom they fall? &c.
3dly, Nay, that even the possession of them all together, where they have excluded virtue, only terminates in more enormous misery:
If all, united, thy ambition call,
From ancient story learn to scorn them all.
Having thus at length shewn, that happiness consista neither in any external goods, nor in all kinds of internal, that is, such of them as are not of our own acquirement,
he concludes [from 1. 298 to 301] that it is to be found in
Know then this truth (enough for Man to know)
Which the Translator turns thus:
Appren donc qu'il n'est point icy bas de bonheur
i. e. Learn therefore that there is no happiness here below, if virtue does not regulate the heart and the understanding, which destroys the whole force of the Poet's conclusion. He had proved, that happiness consists neither in external goods, as the vulgar imagined, nor yet in the visionary pursuits of the philosophers: he therefore concludes that it consists in VIRTUE ALONE. His Translator says, without virtue there can be no happiness. And so say the men against whom the Poet is here arguing. For though they supposed external goods requisite to happiness, yet it was, when enjoyed according to the rules of virtue. Mr. Pope says,
Virtue ALONE is happiness below,
and so ought his Translator to have said after him.
Hitherto the Poet had proved, NEGATIVELY, that happiness consists in virtue, by shewing it consisted not in any other thing. He now [from 1. 300 to 317] proves the same POSITIVELY, by an enumeration of its qualities, all naturally adapted to give, and to increase human happiness as its constancy, capacity, vigour, efficacy, activity, moderation, and self-sufficiency:
The only point where human bliss stands still,
And but more relish'd, as the more distress'd:
Never elated, while one man's oppress'd;
Having thus proved that happiness is indeed placed in virtue, he proves next [from 1. 316 to 319] that it is RIGHTLY placed there: For, that then, and then only, ALL may partake of it, and ALL be capable of relishing it:
See the sole bliss Heaven could on ALL bestow,
Which who but feels can taste, but thinks can know.
The Poet then observes, with some indignation, [from 1. 318 to 331] that as easy and as evident as this truth was, yet riches and false philosophy had so blinded the perception, even of improved minds, that the possessors of the first placed happiness in externals unsuitable to Man's nature; and the followers of the latter in refined visions, unsuitable to his situation: while the simpleminded man, with NATURE only for his guide, found plainly in what it should be placed:
Yet poor with fortune, and with learning blind,
To this Mr. De Crousaz,-" I made my remarks as "I went along, in reading the Poem of Mr. Du Resnel; " and, in proportion as I advanced in it, I have had the "most agreeable satisfaction to find, that my Commen"taries have been too hasty and immature on this "Poem; in so clear a light has the illustrious Abbé "placed those truths, which the prose Translator had "delivered with much less preciseness. In this trans"lation I evidently meet with the sacred terms of faith, "hope, and charity; but I don't know where he had