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ARGUMENT OF EPISTLE IV.
Of the Nature and State of MAN, with respect to Happiness.
1. FALSE Notions of Happiness, Philofophical and Popular, anfwered from Ver. 19 to 27. II. It is the End of all Men, and attainable by all, Ver. 30. God intends Happiness to be equal; and to be fo, it must be social, fince all particular Happinefs depends on general, and fince he governs by general, not particular Laws, Ver. 37. As it is neceffary for Order, and the peace and welfare of Society, that external goods fhould be unequal, Happiness is not made to confift in these, Ver. 51. But, notwithstanding that inequality, the balance of Happiness among Mankind is kept even by Providence, by the two Paffions of Hope and Fear, Ver. 70. III. What the Happiness of Individuals is, as far as is confiftent with the conftitution of this world; and that the good Man has here the advantage, Ver. 77. The error of imputing to Vir
tue what are only the calamities of Nature, or of Fortune, Ver. 94. IV. The folly of expecting that God fhould alter his general Laws in favour of particulars, Ver. 121. V. That we are not judges who are good; but that whoever they are, they must be happiest, Ver. 133, &c. VI. That external goods are not the proper rewards, but often inconfiftent with, or deftructive of, Virtue, Ver. 165. That even these can make no Man happy without Virtue: Inftanced in Riches, Ver. 183. Honours, Ver. 191. Nobility, Ver. 203. Greatnefs, Ver. 215. Fame, Ver. 235. Superior Talents, Ver. 257, &c. With pictures of human Infelicity in Men poffeffed of them all, Ver. 267, &c. VII. That Virtue only conftitutes a Happiness, whofe object is universal, and whofe profpec eternal, Ver. 307, &c. That the per fection of Virtue and Happiness confifts in a conformity to the ORDER of PROVIDENCE here, and a Refignation to it here and hereafter, Ver. 326, &c.
OH HAPPINESS! our being's end and aim!
That fomething ftill which prompts th' eternal figh,
VER. 1. Oh Happiness! &c.] In the MS. thus:
Wing'd with ftrong hope, and borne by full defire:
THE two foregoing Epiftles having confidered Man with regard to the MEANS (that is, in all his relations, whether as an Individual, or a Member of Society), this last comes to confider him with regard to the END, that is, Happiness.
It opens with an Invocation to HAPPINESS, in the manner of the ancient Poets; who, when deftitute of a patron God, applied to the Mufe; and if he was not at leifure, took up with any fimple Virtue next at hand, to infpire and profper their under takings. This was the ancient Invocation, which few modern Poets have had the art to imitate with any degree either of fpirit or decorum: but our Author hath contrived to make his fubfervient to the method and reasoning of his philofophic compofition. I will endeavour to explain fo uncommon a beauty.
It is to be obferved that the pagan Deities had each their several names and places of abode; with fome of which they were fuppofed
VER. 1. Ob Happiness!] He begins his addrefs to Happiness after the manner of the ancient hymns, by enumerating the titles
Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies,
to be more delighted than others; and confequently to be then moft propitious when invoked by the favourite name and place: Hence we find, the hymns of Homer, Orpheus, and Callimachus, to be chiefly employed in reckoning up the feveral titles and habitations by which the patron God was known and distinguished. Our Poet hath made thefe two circumftances ferve to introduce his fubject. His purpose is to write of Happiness: method, therefore, requires that he firft define what Men mean by Happiness ; and this he does in the ornament of a poetic Invocation; in which the feveral names, that Happiness goes by, are enumerated
"Oh Happiness! our being's end and aim !
Good, Pleasure, Ease, Content! whate'er thy NAME." After the DEFINITION, that which follows next, is the PROPOSITION, which is, that human Happiness confifts not in external Advantages, but in Virtue. For the subject of this epistle is to detect the falfe notions of Happiness, and to settle and explain the true; and this the Poet lays down in the next fixteen lines. Now the enumeration of the feveral fituations where Happiness is fuppofed to refide, is a fummary of falfe Happiness placed in Externals: "Plant of celeftial feed! if dropt below,
Say, in what mortal foil thou deign'it to grow?
and various places of abode of this goddess. He has undoubtedly personified her at the beginning, but he feems to have dropped that idea in the seventh line, where the deity is fuddenly transformed into a plant; from thence this metaphor of a vegetable is carried on diftinctly through the eleven fucceeding lines, till he fuddenly returns to confider Happiness again as a person, in the eighteenth line,.
"And fled from Monarchs, ST. JOHN! dwells with thee!" For to fly and to dwell, cannot justly be predicated of the same fubject, that immediately before was defcribed as twining with laurels, and being reaped in harvests.
Of the numberlefs treatises that have been written on Happinefs, one of the moft fenfible is that of Fontenelle, in the third volume of his works.
Plant of celestial feed! if dropt below,
Say, in what mortal foil thou deign'ft to grow?
"Fix'd to no fpot is Happiness fincere;
'Tis no where to be found, or ev'ry where."
Fair op'ning to fome Court's propitious shine,
The fix remaining lines deliver the true notion of Happiness, and fhew that it is rightly placed in Virtue. Which is fummed up in these two:
"Sweet Peace, where doft thou dwell, I humbly crave?
Let me once know:
I fought thee in a fecret place,
And afk'd if Peace were there.
The Poet, having thus defined his terms, and laid down his propofition, proceeds to the fupport of his Thefis; the various arguments of which make up the body of the Epistle.
A hollow Wind did feem to anfwer, "No;
Go, feek elfe-where."
I did; and going, did a rainbow note," &c.
VER. 16. 'Tis no where to be found, c.] There is fomething very ftriking and poetical in Herbert's little hymn, who inquires, like our Author, where he shall find the abode of Peace and Happinefs. The firft ftanza is particularly beautiful:
'Tis never to be bought, but always free,
And fled from Monarchs, ST. JOHN! dwells with
Afk of the Learn'd the way? The Learn'd are blind;
This bids to ferve, and that to fhun mankind;
VER. 19. Afk of the Learn'd, &c.] He begins (from ver. 18 to 29.) with detecting the falfe notions of Happiness. These are of two kinds, the Philofophical and Popular: The Popular he had recapitulated in the Invocation, when Happiness was called upon, at her feveral fuppofed places of abode: the Philofophical only remained to be delivered:
Some place the bliss in action, some in case ;
"Afk of the Learn'd the way? The Learn'd are blind; This bide to ferve, and that to fhun mankind :
"Who thus define it, fay they more or less
They differed as well in the means, as in the nature of the end. Some placed Happiness in Action, fome in Contemplation; the first called it Pleasure, the fecond Eafe. Of those who placed it in Action and called it Pleafure, the route they purfued either funk them into fenfual Pleasures, which ended in Pain; or led them in fearch of imaginary Perfections, unsuitable to their nature and ftation (fee Ep. i.), which ended in Vanity. Of those who placed it in Eafe, the contemplative ftation they were fixed in, made foine, for their quiet, find truth in every thing; others, in nothing:
The confutation of thefe Philofophic errors he fhews to be very eafy, one common fallacy running through them all; namely this, that instead of telling us in what the happiness of human nature confifts, which was what was afked of them, each bufies himself in explaining in what he placed his own. WARBURTON.
VER. 18. ST. JOHN! dwells with thee.] Among the many paffages in Bolingbroke's Pofthumous Works that bear a close refem