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external goods are so far from being the proper rewards of virtue, that they are very often inconsistent with, and destructive to it.
What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,
To prove that these can make no man nappy without virtue, he has considered the effect of riches, honours, nobility, greatness, fame, superior talents, & c. and given pictures of human infelicity in men poffess'd of them all; whence he concludes, that virtue only constitutes happiness, whose object is universal, and whose prospect eternal; and that the perfection of virtue and happiness consists in a due conformity to the order of providence here, and a resignation to it here and hereafter.
We have dwelt long enough, perhaps too long, on this poem; but it was necessary to give the whole scope and design of the poet ; that the reader might see what art was required to make a subject fo dy and metaphysical, instructive and pleasing: and that it is so will appear by the extracts we have taken, which we hope will induce our readers to peruse attentively the poem itself. From the nature of his plan, the reader will see that the poet was deprived of many embellishments which other subjects will admit of, and tied down as it were to a chain of
argument, which would allow of no digressions, ftudio fimiles and descriptions, or allusions to ancient fables ; the want of which he has supplied, however, with seasonable remarks, and moral reflections; all of them just, and many of them truly sublime.
A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod;
Act well your part, there all the honour lies. The learned editor of the author's works informs as that this poem is only a part of what the poet intended on the subject, and that the whole would have made four books, of which this was to have been the first; but the author's bad ftate of health, and some other considerations induced him to lay the plan alide: a remnant, however, of what he intended as a subsequent part of this was published under the title of Moral Epislles, which are in number four. The first treats of the knowledge and characters of men ; the second, of the characters of women ; and the two last, of the use of riches ; and from the masterly manner in which these are executed the world has great reason to lament the loss of the rest.
We cone now to speak of those preceptive poems that concern our philosophical speculations ; and these, tho' the subject is 10 pregnant with matter, affords such a field for fancy, and is so capable of every decoration, are but few. Lücretius is the most considerable among the ancients who has written in this manner; and among derns I know of none but small detached pieces, except the poem called Anti-Lucretius, which has not yet received an English dress, and Dr. Akenfide's Pleasures of the Imagination ; both which are worthy of our admiration. Some of the small pieces are also well executed ; and there is one entitled the Universe, written by Mr. Baker, from which I shall borrow an example.
The author's scheme is in some measure coincident with Mr. Pope's, so far especially as it tends to restrain the pride of man, with which design it was professedly written. It may be objected, perhaps, that this poem is not preceptive, and therefore not suitable to our purpose ;
but it is to be considered, that if it is not preceptive, it is didactic ; if it does not teach by precept, it does by description ; and therefore we hope to be allowed the liberty we are about to take.
The passage we have selected is that respecting the planetary system, which is, in our opinion very beau. tiful.
Unwise! and thoughtless ? impotent ! and blind !
Observe how regular the Planets run,
First MERCURY, amidst full tides of light,
Fair Venus, next, fulfils her larger round,
More diftant still, our Earth comes rolling on,
See, Mars, alone, runs his appointed race,
Nor nearer does he wind, nor farther stray,
More yet remote from day's all-cheering source,
Fartheft and last, scarce warm'd by Phæbus'ray,
Who there inhabit must have other pow'rs,
Strange and amazing muft the diff'rence be,
Wondrous art thou, O God, in all thy ways !
Ye sons of men ! with fatisfaction know, God's own right hand dispenses all below : Nor good nor evil does by chance befall; He reigns supreme, and he directs it all.
At his command, affrighting human-kind, COMEts drag on their blazing lengths behind : Nor, as we think, do they at random rove, But, in determin'd times, through long ellipses move.
And tho’ sometimes they near approach the sun,
We are now to speak of those preceptive poems that treat of the business and pleasures of mankind; and here Virgil claims our first and principal attention, who in his Georgics has laid down the rules of husbandry in all its branches with the utmost exactness and perspicuity, and at the same time embellished them with all the beauties and graces of poetry. Tho' his subject was husbandry, he has delivered his precepts, as an ingenious author observes, not with the fimplicity of a ploughman, but with the address of a poet. The meanest of his rules are laid down with a kind of grandeur, and he breaks the clods, and tolles about the dung with an air of gracefulness *. Of the different ways of conveying the same truth to the mind, he takes that which is pleasanteft; and this chiefly diftinguishes poetry froin prose, and renders Virgil's rules of husbandry more. delightful and valuable than any other.
These poems which are eleemed the most perfect of the author's works are, perhaps, the best that can be proposed for the young students imitation in this manner of writing ; for the whole of his Georgics is wrought up with wonderful art, and decorated with all the flowers of poetry.
In the first of the four books, he proposes the general design of each Georgic, and after a folemn invocation of all the heathen deities, who are supposed to be any ways concerned in rural affairs, he addresses himself particularly to Auguflus Cæfar, whom he compliments with Di. vinity: then falling in with his subject, he speaks of the different kinds of tillaze, that are suitable to different soils; traces out the origin of agriculture ; presents us with a catalogue of the implements of husbandry, and points out the business peculiar to each season.
He next describes the changes of the weather, and the signs in the heavens and the earth, by which the approaching change may be foretold ; and in compliment to Auguflus, introduces some prodigies which are said to have prem * Mr. Addifon.