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do still insist, that a man of native sagacity and diligence will prove a more able and useful practiser, than a heavy notional scholar, encumbered with a heap of confused ideas.”
He was not only a poet and a physician, but produced likewise a work of a different kind, A true and impartial History of the Conspiracy against King William of glorious Memory, in the Year 1695. This I have never seen, but suppose it at least compiled with integrity. He engaged likewise in theological controversy, and wrote two books against the Arians, Just Prejudices against the Arian Hypothesis: and Modern Arians unmasked. Another of his works is Natural Theology, or Moral Duties considered apart from Positive; with some Observations on the Desirableness and Necessity of a supernatural Revelation. This was the last book that he published. He left behind him The accomplished Preacher, or an Essay upon Divine Eloquence; which was printed after his death by Mr. White of Nayland in Essex, the minister who attended his death-bed, and testified the fervent piety of his last hours. He died on the eighth of October; 1729.
BLACKMORE, by the unremitted enmity of the wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue than his dulness, has been exposed to worse treatment than he deserved. His name was so long used to point every epigram upon dull writers, that it became at last a by-word of contempt: but it deserves observation, that malignity takes hold only of bis writings, and that his life passed without reproach, even when his boldness of reprehension naturally turned upon hin many eyes desirous to espy faults, which many tongues would have made haste to publish. But those who could not blame could at least forbear to praise, and therefore of his private life and domestic character there are no memorials.
As an author he may justly claim the honours of magnanimity. The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his confidence in himself: they neither awed him to silence nor to caution; they neither provoked him to petulance, nor depressed him to complaint. While the distributors of literary fame were endeavouring to depreciate and degrade him, he either despised or defied them, wrote on as he had written before, and never turned aside to quiet them by civility, or repress them by confutation.
He depended with great security on his own powers, and perhaps was for that reason less diligent in perusing books. His literature was, I think, but small. What he knew of antiquity, I suspect him to have gathered from modern compilers : but, though he could not boast of much critical knowledge, his mind was stored with general principles, and he left minute researches to those whom he considered as little minds.
With this disposition he wrote most of his poems. Having formed a magnificent design, he was careless of particular and subordinate elegances; he studied no niceties of versification; he waited for no felicities of fancy; but caught his first thoughts in the first words in which they were presented: nor does it appear that he saw beyond his own performances, or had ever elevated his views to that ideal perfection which every genius born to excel is condemned always to pursue, and never overtake. In the first suggestions of his imagination he acquiesced; he thought them good, and
did not seek for better. His works may be read a long time without the occurrence of a single line that stands prominent from the rest.
The poem on Creation lias, however, the appearance of more circumspection; it wants neither harmony of numbers, accuracy of thouglit, nor elegance of diction: it has either been written with great care, or, what cannot be imagined of so long a work, with such felicity as made care less necessary.
Its two constituent parts are ratiocination and description. To reason in verse, is allowed to be difficult; but Blackmore not only reasons in verse, but very often reasons poetically; and finds the art of uniting ornament with strength, and ease with closeness. This is a skill which Pope might have condescended to learn from him, when he needed it so much in huis Moral Essays.
In his descriptions both of life and nature, the poet and the philosopher happily co-operate; truth is recommended by elegance, and elegance sustained by truth.
In the structure and order of the poem, not only the greater parts are properly consecutive, but the didactic and illustrative paragraplis are so happily mingled, that labour is relieved by pleasure, and the attention is led on through a long succession of varied excellence to the original position, the fundamental principle of wisdom and of virtue.
As the heroic poems of Blackmore are now little read, it is thought proper to insert, as a specimen from Prince Arthur, the song of Mopas mentioned by Molineux.
But that which Arthur with most pleasure heari,
How some, whose parts a slight contexture show,
It has been the opinion of many persons of great sense and learning, that the knowledge of a God, as well as some other self-evident and uncontested notions, is born with us, and exists antecedent to any perception or operation of the mind. They express themselves on this subject in metaphorical terms, altogether unbecoming philosophical and judicious inquiries, while they assert, that the knowledge of a God is interwoven with our constitution, that it is written, engraven, stamped, and imprinted, in clear and discernible characters, on the heart; in which manner of speech they affect to follow the great orator of the Romans.
By these unartful phrases they can mean nothing but this, that the proposition, THERE IS A God, is actually existent in the mind, as soon as the mind has its being; and is not at first acquired, though it may be afterwards confirmed, by any act of reason, by any arguinent or deinonstration. I must confess nay inability to conceive this inbred knowledge, these original independent ideas, that owe not their being to the operation of the understanding, but are, I know not how, congenite and co-existent with it.
For how a man can be said to have knowledge before he knows, how ideas can exist in the mind without and before perception, I must own is too difficult for me to comprehend. That a man is born with a faculty or capacity to know, though as yet without any actual knowledge; and that, as the eye has a native disposition and aptitude to perceive the light, when fitly offered, though as yet it never exercised any act of vision, and had no innate images in the womb; so the mind is endued with a power and faculty to know and perceive the truth of this proposition, THERE IS A God, as soon as it shall be represented to it: all this is clear and intelligible; but any thing more is, as I have said, above my reach. In this opinion, which I had many years ago entertained, I was afterwards confirmed by the famous author of the Essay on Human Understanding. Nor can I see, that, by this doctrine, the argument for the existence of a Deity, drawn from the general assent of all nations, (excepting, perhaps, some few, who are so barbarous, that they approach very near the condition of brute animals) is at all invalidated. For supposing there is no inbred knowledge of a God; yet, if mankind generally assent to it, whether their belief proceeds from their reflection on themselves, or on the visible creation about them, it will be certainly true, that the existence of a Deity carries with it the clearest and most uncontrollable evidence; since mankind so readily and so universally perceive and embrace it. It deserves consideration, that St. Paul, upon this argument, does not appeal to the light within, or to any characters of the Divine Being originally engraven on the heart, but deduces the cause from the effect, and from the creation infers the Creator.
It is very probable, that those who believe an innate idea of a Divine Being, unproduced by any operation of the mind, were led by this to another opinion, namely, that there never was in the world a real atheist in belief and speculation, how many soever there may have been in life and practice. But, upon due examination, this opinion, I imagine, will not abide the test; which I shall endeavour to make evident.
But, before I enter upon this subject, it seems proper to take notice of the apology, which several persons of great learning and candour have made for many famous men, and great philosophers, un. justly accused of impiety.
Whoever shall set about to mend the world, and reform men's notions, as well as their manners. will certainly be the mark of much scandal and reproach; and will effectually be convinced, that it