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To brave the savage rushing from the wood,
And while their rocky ramparts round they see,
"Or drives his venturous ploughshare to the steep,
"On the watery calm
His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread." Milt. P. L. vii. 235. "O'er which he kindly spreads his spacious wing, And hatches plenty for th' ensuing spring." Denham. Cooper's Hill. W. V. 105. " Cepheam hic Meröen, fuscaque regna canat," Propert. iv. vi. 78. "Fuscis Ægyptus alumnis," ii. xxiv. 15. "Jam proprior tellusque natans Ægyptia Nilo; Lenius irriguis infuscat corpora campis."
"And where in pomp the sun-burnt people ride On painted barges o'er the teeming tide." V. Martial. Ep. iv. 42. "Mareotide fusca."
Manil. iv. 727. And so Dryden's version of Virg. Georg. iv. 409, pointed out by Wakefield:
Or on frail floats to neighb'ring cities ride,
[The following couplet, which was intended to have been introduced in the poem on the Alliance of Education and Government, is much too beautiful to be lost. Mason, vol. iii. p. 114.]
When love could teach a monarch to be wise,* And gospel-light first dawned from Bullen's eyes.
Var. V. 106. Neighb'ring] Distant. MS.
thin oar, and catch the driving gale." Pope. Ess. on Man, iii. 178. See Gifford's Juvenal. Sat. xv. 175. p. 460.
V. 106. Lucan will explain the meaning of the frail float: "Sic cum tenet omnia Nilus, Conseritur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro.'
Pharsal. iv. 135.
But Gilpin gives another explanation in his Western Tour, see p. 34. Add Brown's Travels in Africa, p. 66. 4to. Arbuthnot on Coins, p. 215. 4to. Denon. Trav. ii. p. 224.
*The last couplet of this poem: "When love could teach," &c. has been imitated by H. Walpole, in an inscription on a Gothic column to Queen Katharine; but with a loss of the metaphorical beauty in the original:
"From Katharine's wrongs a nation's bliss was spread, And Luther's light from Henry's lawless bed."
"If (says Dryden) Conscience had any part in moving the king to sue for a divorce, she had taken a long nap of almost twenty years together before she was awakened; and, perhaps, had slept on till doomsday, if Anne Boleyn, or some other fair lady, had not given her a jog: so the satisfying of an inordinate passion cannot be denied to have had a great share at least in the production of that schism which led the very way to our pretended Reformation." Dryden. ed. Malone, vol. iii. p. 522.
THE author's subject being (as we have seen) the necessary alliance between a good form of government and a good mode of education, in order to produce the happiness of mankind, the Poem opens with two similes; an uncommon kind of exordium: but which I suppose the poet intentionally chose, to intimate the analogical method he meant to pursue in his subsequent reasonings. 1st, He asserts that men without education are like sickly plants in a cold or barren soil (line 1 to 5, and 8 to 12); and, 2dly, he compares them, when unblest with a just and well-regulated government, to plants that will not blossom or bear fruit in an unkindly and inclement air (1. 5 to 9, and 1. 13 to 22). Having thus laid down the two propositions he means to prove, he begins by examining into the characteristics which (taking a general view of mankind) all men have in common one with another (1. 22 to 39); they covet pleasure and avoid pain (1. 31); they feel gratitude for benefits (1.34); they desire to avenge wrongs, which they effect either by force or cunning (1. 35); they are linked to each other by their common feelings, and participate in sorrow and in joy (1. 36, 37). If then all the human species agree in so many moral particulars, whence arises the diversity of national characters? This question the poet puts at line 38, and dilates upon to 1. 64. Why, says he, have some nations shewn a propensity to commerce and industry; others to war and rapine; others to ease and pleasure? (1. 42 to 46). Why have the northern people overspread, in all ages, and prevailed over the southern? (1. 46 to 58). Why has Asia been, time out of mind, the seat of despotism, and Europe that of freedom? (1. 59 to 64). Are we from these instances to imagine men necessarily enslaved to the inconveniences of the climate where they were born? (1. 64 to 72). Or are we not rather to suppose there is a natural strength in the human mind, that is able to vanquish and break through them? (1. 72 to 84). It is confest, however, that men receive an early tincture from the situation they are placed in, and the climate which produces them (1.84 to 88). Thus the inhabitants of the mountains, inured to labour and patience, are naturally trained to war (1. 88 to 96); while those of the plain are more open to any attack, and softened by ease and plenty (1. 96 to 99). Again, the Ægyptians, from the nature of their situation, might be the inventors of home navigation, from a necessity of keeping up
an intercourse between their towns during the inundation of the Nile (1.99 to ***). Those persons would naturally have the first turn to commerce, who inhabited a barren coast like the Tyrians, and were persecuted by some neighbouring tyrant; or were drove to take refuge on some shoals, like the Venetian and Hollander: their discovery of some rich island, in the infancy of the world, described. The Tartar hardened to war by his rigorous climate and pastoral life, and by his disputes for water and herbage in a country without land-marks, as also by skirmishes between his rival clans, was consequently fitted to conquer his rich southern neighbours, whom ease and luxury had enervated: yet this is no proof that liberty and valour may not exist in southern climes, since the Syrians and Carthaginians gave noble instances of both; and the Arabians carried their conquests as far as the Tartars. Rome also (for many centuries) repulsed those very nations, which, when she grew weak, at length demolished † her extensive empire. ****
†The reader will perceive that the Commentary goes further than the text. The reason for which is, that the Editor found it so on the paper from which he formed that comment; and as the thoughts seemed to be those which Gray would have next graced with the harmony of his numbers, he held it best to give them in continuation. There are other maxims on different papers, all apparently relating to the same subject, which are too excellent to be lost; these, therefore, (as the place in which he meant to employ them cannot be ascertained) I shall subjoin to this note, under the title of detached Sentiments:
"Man is a creature not capable of cultivating his mind but in society, and in that only where he is not a slave to the necessities of life.
"Want is the mother of the inferior arts, but Ease that of the finer; as eloquence, policy, morality, poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture, which are the improvements of the former.
"The climate inclines some nations to contemplation and pleasure; others to hardship, action, and war; but not so as to incapacitate the former for courage and discipline, or the latter for civility, politeness, and works of genius.
"It is the proper work of education and government united to redress the faults that arise from the soil and air.
"The principal drift of education should be to make men think in the northern climates, and act in the southern.
"The different steps and degrees of education may be compared to the artificer's operations upon marble; it is one thing to dig it out of the quarry, and another to square it, to give it
gloss and lustre, call forth every beautiful spot and vein, shape it into a column, or animate it into a statue.
"To a native of free and happy governments his country is always dear:
'He loves his old hereditary trees: '
while the subject of a tyrant has no country; he is therefore selfish and base-minded; he has no family, no posterity, no desire of fame; or, if he has, of one that turns not on its proper object.
"Any nation that wants public spirit, neglects education, ridicules the desire of fame, and even of virtue and reason, must be ill governed.
"Commerce changes entirely the fate and genius of nations, by communicating arts and opinions, circulating money, and introducing the materials of luxury; she first opens and polishes the mind, then corrupts and enervates both that and the body. "Those invasions of effeminate southern nations by the warlike northern people, seem (in spite of all the terror, mischief, and ignorance which they brought with them) to be necessary evils; in order to revive the spirit of mankind, softened and broken by the arts of commerce, to restore them to their native liberty and equality, and to give them again the power of supporting danger and hardship; so a comet, with all the horrors that attend it as it passes through our system, brings a supply of warmth and light to the sun, and of moisture to the air.
"The doctrine of Epicurus is ever ruinous to society; it had its rise when Greece was declining, and perhaps hastened its dissolution, as also that of Rome; it is now propagated in France and in England, and seems likely to produce the same effect in both.
"One principal characteristic of vice in the present age is the contempt of fame.
"Many are the uses of good fame to a generous mind: it extends our existence and example into future ages; continues and propagates virtue, which otherwise would be as short-lived as our frame; and prevents the prevalence of vice in a generation more corrupt even than our own. It is impossible to conquer that natural desire we have of being remembered; even criminal ambition and avarice, the most selfish of all passions, would wish to leave a name behind them."
Thus, with all the attention that a connoisseur in painting employs in collecting every slight outline as well as finished drawing which led to the completion of some capital picture, I have endeavoured to preserve every fragment of this great poetical design. It surely deserved this care, as it was one of