Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

quence, if the premises were right; but that will be examined impartially in the following notes.

(b) Concern’d.] A word of a double signification; both of being interested in a business, and of being troubled at any ill success of it. The word in this place implies both; first, because the Doubtful are a part of mankind, who claim this dominion, and so are reasonably inquisitive about it; and se. condly, because they have occasion to be troubled upon find. ing their title to it so very weak, after so much wealth and blood spent in the controversy. 'Tis well too, if we are not one day called to account, and made to pay dear costs for so contentious a quarrel.

(c) Only one Man.]' Here now comes properly the examination of what grounds they go on, who pretend that God has done us this great honour, and that therefore we ought to believe it well and wisely done, whatever incongruities may appear in it; which is a consequence that must certainly be agreed to, if the first part can be as well made out: but, alas! (say our scepticks) when we come to that, instead of a proof, there is nothing produced but one poor text in Genesis, whether written by Moses or some other man (for that is now disputed among divines themselves) is of no importance, since a man still, one of our own imperfect, unknowing kind; and, if he is to be credited on his single word against all our sense and reason, in a thing also that seems to derogate so much from the infinite wisdom of divine Providence, sure there is need first of proving him infallible ; whereas all the proof of that is only derived by tradition from other men still, who therefore cannot certify for one another. 'Tis said also by these sceptics, that 'tis worth onr observing, how the author of this text of man's dominion over all other creatures, has written another very extraordinary one; viz. that God walked in the garden of Eden in the cool of the evening; which, if excus’d on the account of being only a figurative expression, yet much invalidates a narration of such a valt importance, that tropes and figures seem a little impro

per in it. Divines are unwilling to save its credit by the difficulty of our understanding the Hebrew tongue (tho' no ill excuse, since it is allowed to be sometimes unintelligible) for fear of their adversaries making the same objection to other texts as extraordinary, and perhaps to all the Old Testament. Upon the whole matter, and to end so tedious a note, ’ris probable the wise author of Genesis, for reasons that might be given, and many more which we now cannot guessat, had found it fit and necessary to infuse this opinion of man's superiority into the Jews. And who knows but it was as needful to encourage them against the beasts of a wilderness in which they wandered so long, as against the kings of Canaan; whom Moses, like a wise leader, assured them before-hand the Lord would deliver into their hands?

(d) Reafon.] Left their aforesaid argument in defence of this opinion may not appear convincing, divines have added that of Reason, and set it up to be not only an instance, but an evidence of our title over all things; as being a particular talent and blessing bestowed on mankind alone. But the Scepticks evade this again, first, by denying that 'tis a talent peculiar to man, lince other animals appear manifeftl, endued with it, at least to fome degree; and, if that degree be found inferior, yet the difference seems as great sometimes between one man and another, and (perhaps they may say merrily) even between themselves and their adversaries. Secondly, they find this Reason to be such a narrow, misleading, uncertain faculty, that, in their opinion, it is much unworthy of being the great credential from the most high God, for domineering over all our fellow-creatures, who indeed seem neither to owe us, nor pay us obedience. And if the boldest maintainer of this opinion would be persuaded to take a walk into a wilderness of wild beasts, shewing his credential among them ; 'tis probable they would all pay as great submission to it, as such a rational action deserved.

(e) Censure, or Applause.] Either of these, if any thing general, is enough to carry away the opinion of most people,

N

who judge more by the car than the eye; of which there are ridiculous instances enough. I have seen a man who was po. pular, not only excused but applauded, on account of the ve, ry same action for which another lay justly under a publick odium.

(f) Snare.] If we did not trust so much to this noble fa. culty of Reason, but chiefly to our senses, as other creatures do; we should be no more deceiv'd than they are, who fel. dom play the fool and hurt themselves by their profound considerations, as many a wise man does. Was any beast ever seen to lcap chearfully into a fire, like the widows and flaves in India? which tho’ wives in these parts are not extremely apt to imitate; yet, even among us, how many people, of all religions, have suffered and fought out death on several ac, counts, that are not much less unreasonable?

(8) Praises.] I believe no man had ever a greater reputation than Brutus, not only for learning, parts, and eloquence, but for a quality above all that, moral honesty: whose glory therefore I would by no means endeavour to lessen, except in this single action; nor in that neither, as to his design in doing it; for I have a real veneration for him, but yet more for truth. I fancy the general partiality for BRUT Us, as to his killing CÆSAR, has proceeded from two causes; first, the common custom of the world to cry up whatever they are like to be the better for; and so on the contrary : as for example, prodigality, a yice equal to avarice, tho'not so sordid, is commonly rather commended than blamed, and called generosity, which is a virtue. Thus in commonwealths (which, by the way, have bred always the best writers) nothing could be more beneficial than killing any great aspiring person; and therefore those refined wits put the best glofs upon such inhumanities. The other cause of their partiality is the almost unparallelled merit of the man, whose very doing a thing was enough to make every body think it juft. But nothing is so dangerous as to be led into

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

this sort of mistake for want of considering, that as the worst men do well sometimes, the very best are not infallible.

(i) Chose to live.] This is the hardest thing I have said of BRUTUS in this whole ode; which the thought of CÆSAR'S clemency, and his ingratitude, has wrung from me: for, tho’a benefactor may carry himself afterwards so unjustly as to forfeit all title to our friendship, and perhaps to our service also; yet to return him cvil for good, is in my opinion horrible, and the very reverse of CHRIST's excellent sermon of morality. And since he kill'd Cæsar after receiving a pardon of his life from him, I do Brutus no wrong in supposing him again capable of the same fault against another CÆSAR, whom he neither knew, nor loved so well; since the publick good and liberty of Rome were as much concern’d in destroying one as the other.

(k) Betray.] In this instance of betraying a friend, and in the following one, of destroying one's father, or children ; my meaning only is, that whatever obligation or concern we happen to be under, it may be a good reason for sacrificing our interest to it, but not our honesty, by doing any ill-natur’d or immoral action.

(1) Can we.] In repeating these four verses of Mr. Cowley, I have done an unusual thing; for, notwithstanding that he is my adversary in the argument, and a very famous one too, I could not endure to let so fine a thought remain as ill express’d in this ode as it is in his; which any body may find by comparing them together. But I would not be understood as if I pretended to correct Mr. Cowley, tho’expression was not his best talent : for, as I have mended these few verses of his, I doubt not but he could have done as much for a great many of mine.

(m) As strong as fine.] I, who oppose his argument, must be allow'd to say 'tis not a good one; tho’at the same time I acknowledge it to be so fine a fallacy, and to have something in it so very sublime, that it imposes on our reason, as much as Cæsar did on Rome ; and may be a little excused by that

[ocr errors]

usurper's apophthegm, "Si violandum est jus, regnandi " causa est.”

(n) A Rape.] No-body argues well, who does not argue fairly; and therefore I freely admit there was a Rape in the case at first, which is not to be defended. Accordingly, if Brutus had killed Cæsar at the famous battle of Pharsalia, he might have prevented this Rape, and his own crime besides in revenging it so long afterwards. But, inftead of con piring against his life at that time, he only begg'd his

own.

(0) A marriage since.] CÆSAR was inexcusable for doing violence to his country; yet Rome at lait finding him so mild a governor, and so excellent a person in all respects, submitted chcarfully to him; all her greatest men, of whom BRUTUS himself was onc, acqniescing entirely under his dictatorship: which has made me carry on Mr. Cowley's metaphor a little farther than he did, and give his violated matron in marriage; Supposing Rome a wealthy bride, who, out of kindness and prudence together, is willing enough to make the best of it, and to espouse an agreeable ravisher.

(p) Fair Truth.] He was a wise man who said women were stronger than either the king or wine ; but his wisdom appeared most in preferring Truth to them all. She has a beauty outshining all the art and eloquence in the world; and I should not wonder to see a very Deist willing to die a martyr for her, tho'he believ'd no resurrection, and expected no reward. There was one of that principle lately among the Turks; a man of parts, and in nothing fantastical, who, rather than renounce some doctrines he maintain'd against a future life, and the foolish superstition of adoring MAHOMET, chose rather to die as calmly and as considerately as SOCRATES himself.

(9) In this base Age.] 'Tis almost incredible what the an. cients have written, and really performed of friendship. And therefore we see the famous old tragedies are often turned all upon that; whereas ours are only filled with love; which,

« AnteriorContinuar »