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DEO OPT. MAX.
FATHER of all! in every age,
In every clime ador’d,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord !
UNIVERSAL PRAYER.] “ Some passages in the Essay on Man having been unjustly suspected of a tendency towards Fate and Naturalism, the author composed a Prayer, as the sum of all, which was intended to shew that his system was founded in Freewill, and terminated in Piety."
Ruffhead. Ver. 1. FATHER of all !) For closeness and comprehension of thought, and for brevity and energy of expression, few pieces of poetry in our language can be compared with this prayer. I am surprised Johnson should not make any mention of it. When it was first published, many orthodox persons were, I remember, offended at it, and called it, The Deist's Prayer. It were to be wished the Deists would make use of so good an one. Warton.
Ver. 4. Jehooah, Jove, or Lord!] “ It is of very little consequence,” says Seneca, De Beneficiis, “by what name you call the first Nature, and the divine Reason, that presides over the universe, and fills all the parts of it. He is still the same God. You may give Him as many names as you please, provided you allow but one Sole Principle everywhere present.”
“ Notwithstanding all the extravagances and miscarriages of the Poets," says Cudworth, chap. 4. we shall now make it plainly appear, that they really asserted, not a multitude of selfexistent and independent Deities, but one, only, unmade Deity; and all the other, generated or created gods. This hath been VOL. V. Q
Thou Great First Cause, least understood,
Who all my sense confin'd
And that myself am blind;
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
Left free the human will.
ready proved concerning Orpheus, from such fragments of the Orphic Poems as have been owned and attested by Pagan writers.” Cudworth proceeds to confirm this opinion by many strong and uncontested passages from Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Sophocles, and especially Euripides, book i. chap. iv. sect. 19; and Aristophanes, in the first line of Plutus, distinguishes betwixt Jupiter and the gods : 12 Ziū xai beos.
Warton. Ver. 6. my sense confin'd] It ought to be confinedst, or didst confine; and afterwards, gavest, or didst give, in the second person. See Lowth's Grammar.
Warton. Ver. 9. Yet gave me,] Originally Pope had written another stanza, immediately after this:
“ Can sins of moments claim the rod
Of everlasting fires ?
Which Nature's self inspires ?" The licentious sentiment it contains, evidently borrowed from a well-known passage of Guarini in the Pastor Fido, induced him to strike it out. And perhaps also the absurd metaphor of a rod of fires, on examination, displeased him.
Warton. Ver. 12. Left free] An absurd and impossible exemption, exclaims the Fatalist; " comparing together the moral and the natural world, every thing is as much the result of established laws, in the one as in the other. There is nothing in the whole universe that can properly be called contingent: nothing loose or fluctuating in any part of Nature; but every motion in the natural, and every determination and action in the moral world, are directed
What conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do,
That, more than heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
Let me not cast away;
T' enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to Earth's contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound,
When thousand worlds are round:
by immutable laws; so that, whilst these laws remain in their force, not the smallest link of the universal chain of causes and effects can be broken, nor any one thing be otherwise than it is.” All the most subtile and refined arguments that can be urged in a dispute on Fate and Free-will, are introduced, in a conversation on this subject, betwixt the angels Gabriel and Raphael, and Adam, in the fourth act of Dryden's State of Innocence, and stated with a wonderful precision and perspicuity. Reasoning in verse, was one of Dryden's most singular and predominant excellences; notwithstanding which, he must rank as a poet for his Music-ode, not for his Religio Laici.
Warton. Ver. 12. the human will.] The result of what Locke advances on this, the most difficult of all subjects, is, that we have a power of doing what we will. “ If it be the occasion of disorder, it is the cause of order; of all the moral order that appears in the world. Had Liberty been excluded, Virtue, had been excluded with it. And if this had been the case, the world could have had no charms, no beauties sufficient to recommend it to him who made it. In short, all other powers and perfections would have been very defective without this, which is truly the life and spirit of the whole creation."
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
To find that better way!
Save me alike from foolish pride,
Or impious discontent,
Or aught thy goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another's woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy show to me.
Ver. 27. And deal damnation round the land, &c.] There was no opinion that Pope held in greater abhorrence than the uncharitable doctrine, that the goodness of God was limited to any one sect; insomuch that it had been his practice from his early years to mark it with his reprobation, whenever an opportunity occurred. “ There may be errors,” says he, “I grant, but I cannot think them .of such consequence as to destroy utterly the charity of mankind; the very greatest bond by which we are engaged by God to one another; therefore, I own to you
I was glad of any opportunity to express my dislike of so shocking a sentiment, as those of the religion I profess are commonly charged with.” This was written when he was about his twenty-third year, and the same sentiment is repeated in various parts of his works. Ver. 39. That mercy] It has been said that our Poet, in this
Mean though I am, not wholly so,
Since quicken'd by thy breath;
This day, be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun,
And let thy will be done.
To thee, whose Temple is all space,
Whose altar, earth, sea, skies,
All Nature's incense rise!
Prayer, chose the Lord's Prayer for his model; but there is no resemblance but in this passage, and in the last stanza but one.
M. Le Franc de Pompignan, a celebrated avocat at Montauban, author of Dido, a tragedy, was severely censured in France for translating this Universal Prayer, as a piece of Deism; which, having been printed in London, in 4to. by Vaillant, was conveyed to the Chancellor Aguesseau, who immediately sent a strong reprimand to M. Le Franc, and he vindicated his orthodoxy in a laboured letter to that learned Chancellor. Voltaire reproached Le Franc with making this translation. His brother, Bishop of Puy au Velei, has called Locke an atheist.