Alexander Pope, 1688-1744:An Essay on Man, [from The Works (1736)] EPISTLE I.

Of the Nature and State of Man, with respect to the Universe. Of Man, in the Abstract.---That we can judge only with regard to our own System, being ignorant of the Relations of Systems and Things, Ver. 17, &c. to 69. That Man is not to be deemed Imperfect, but a Being suited to his Place and Rank in the Creation, agreeable to the General Order of things, and conformable to Ends and Relations to him unknown, 69, &c. That it is partly upon his Ignorance of future Events, and partly upon the Hope of a Future State, that all his Happiness in the present depends, 73, &c. The Pride of aiming at more Knowledge, and pretending to more Perfection, the cause of man's Error and Misery. The impiety of putting himself in the Place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice of his dispensations, 109 to 120. The Absurdity of conceiting himself the final Cause of the Creation, or expecting that Perfection in the moral world which is not in the natural, 127 to 164. The Unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand he demands the perfections of the Angels, on the other the bodily qualifications of the Brutes, 165. That to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miserable, 181 to 198. That throughout the whole visible world, an universal Order and Gradation in the sensual and mental Faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to man. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, reflection, reason; that Reason alone countervails all the other faculties, 199 to 224. How much farther this Order and subordination of living creatures may extend, above and below us? were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected Creation must be destroyed. The Extravagance, Madness, and Pride of such a desire, 225 to 260. The Consequence of all, the absolute Submission due to Providence, both as to our Present and future state, 273, &c. 17 18 Say first, of God above, or Man below, What can we reason, but from what we know? 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 Of Man, what see we but his Station here, From which to reason, or to which refer? Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be known, 'Tis ours to trace him, only in our own. He who thro' vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how system into system runs, What other plannets and what other suns? What vary'd being peoples ev'ry star? May tell, why heav'n made all things as they are. But of this frame the bearings, and the ties, The strong connections, nice dependencies, Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Look'd thro'? or can a part contain the whole? Is the great Chain that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? II 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find Why formed so weak, so little and so blind? First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess Why formed no weaker, blinder, and no less? Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade? Or ask of yonder argent fields above, Why Jove's Satellites are less than Jove? Of Systems possible, if 'tis confessed That Wisdom infinite must form the best, Where all must full or not coherent be, And all that rises, rise in due degree; Then, in the scale of life and sense, 'tis plain There must be, some where, such a rank as Man;

When earthquakes swallow. IV 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 In reasoning Pride (my friend) our error lies. "Suckles each herb. Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod. impelled. "'Tis for mine: "For me kind Nature wakes her genial power. here he gives too little there too much. as of man's desires. be the God of God! 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine? Earth for whose use? Pride answers. the grape. wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense Weigh thy Opinion against Providence: Call Imperfection what thou fancy'st such. Men would be Angels. or when tempests sweep Towns to one grave. as relative to all. Re-judge his justice. and spreads out every flower. Touches some wheel. the next a deity? Then say not Man's imperfect. Aspiring to be Gods. If plagues or earthquakes break not heaven's design. May. suns to light me rise: "My footstool earth. why now he breaks the clod. In human works though laboured on with pain. Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes. must be right. Yet cry. Say rather. Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend His action's. and can Man do less? As much that end a constant course requires Of showers and sunshine. being's. Say. our very reasoning springs? . When the dull ox. V 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 Go. the mine a thousand treasures brings. one single can its end produce. "The exceptions few. His time a moment. from pride. Gods unjust. So man. As much eternal springs and cloudless skies. if man's unhappy. A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain. If man. and not a whole. health gushes from a thousand springs. All quit their sphere. if God has placed him wrong? Respecting man whatever wrong we call. who here seems principal alone. Yet serves to second too some other use. calm. an Ægyptian god. the rose renew "The juice nectareous. sins against the Eternal Cause. "For me. But errs not Nature from this gracious end. men rebel: And who but wishes to invert the laws Of Order. "For me. Why doing suffering. if angels fell. Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown. 'Tis but a part we see. or drives him o'er the plains. As men for ever temperate. Now wears a Garland. and why This hour a slave. some change since all began. In God's. and rush into the skies. or nations to the deep? No ('tis replied) the first Almighty Cause "Acts not by partial. and a point his space. passion's. "Annual for me. and wise. Aspiring to be angels. Heaven in fault. His being measured to his state and place. why man restrains His fiery course. Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust. or verges to some gole. From burning suns when livid deaths descend. Why then a Borgia or a Catiline? From pride. man's as perfect as he ought. "And what created perfect?" Why then Man? If the great end be human happiness. use and end. but by general laws. checked. immortal there. and the balmy dew. When the proud steed shall know. my canopy the skies. Angels would be Gods. Then Nature deviates. alone engross not heaven's high care. "Seas roll to waft me. Alone made perfect here.49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 And all the question (wrangle 'ere so long) Is only this.

beyond mankind. and man alone? Shall he alone whom rational we call. 'Twixt that. Say what the use. perhaps. or think. The scale of sensual. just as grieved appears. betwixt each wide extreme. That never passion discomposed the mind: But All subsists by elemental strife. Be pleased with nothing. The proper organs. What thin partitions Sense from Thought divide: And Middle natures. Made for his use all creatures if he call. and the purling rill? Who finds not Providence all-good and wise. mental powers ascends: Mark how it mounts. Say what their use. without profusion kind. That never air or ocean felt the wind. All in exact proportion to the state. had he the powers of all? Nature to these. how allied. And little less than Angel. what sense so subtly true From poisonous herbs extracts the healing dew. No powers of body or of soul to share. what a nice barrier. And hound sagacious on the tainted green: Of hearing. with degrees of swiftness. Now looking downward. To smart and agonize at every pore? Or quick effluvia darting through the brain. would be more. to reason right. The general Order. yet for ever near. VI 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 The touch. of force. if not blessed with all? The bliss of man (could pride that blessing find) Is. Were there all harmony. Better for Us. Feels at each thread. how they long to join. Is heaven unkind to man. Each seeming want compensated of course Here. is to submit. To want the strength of bulls. Alike in what it gives and what denies? VII 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 What would this man? now upward will he soar. from the life that fills the flood. and lives along the line: In the nice bee. that heaven had left him still The whispering zephyr. To that which warbles through the vernal wood: The spider's touch. were finer optics given. For ever separate. half reasoning elephant! with thine. in the groveling swine. Yet never pass the insuperable line! Without this just Gradation could they be Subjected these to those. in these acquit? In both. Nothing to add. Dye of a rose in aromatic pain? If nature thundered in his opening ears. and Reason. happy in its own. it might appear. how exquisitely fine. And stunned him with the music of the spheres. if tremblingly alive all over. and the lynx's beam: Of smell.154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 Account for moral. and nothing to abate. How would he wish. to man's imperial race From the green myriads in the peopled grass! What modes of sight. and is kept in Man. not comprehend the heaven? 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 Far as Creation's ample range extends. And Passions are the Elements of life. as for natural things: Why charge we heaven in those. each insect. there. But what his nature and his state can bare. To inspect a mite. proper powers assigned. Each beast. Why has not man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason. since the whole began Is kept in Nature. all virtue here. the headlong lioness between. or all to thee? . Remembrance and Reflection. How Instinct varies. the fur of bears. not to act. Compared. man is not a fly. The mole's dim curtain.

and world on world. Planets and suns rush lawless through the sky. direction which thou canst not see: All discord. The great directing Mind of All ordains. No glass can reach! from infinite to thee. Know thy own point: this kind. to the throne of God! All this dread Order break!---For whom? For thee? Vile worm!---O Madness! Pride! Impiety! IX 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 To serve mere engines to the ruling Mind? Just as absurd. as perfect. or any other sphere. no high. no small: He fills.223 224 The powers of all subdued by thee alone. Where one step broken the great scale's destroyed. and blossoms in the trees. Warms in the sun. Being on being wrecked. From thee to Nothing! On superior powers Were we to press. And if each System in gradation roll. and equals all. inferior might on ours: Or in the full creation leave a Void. All nature is but art. To him. Is not thy reason all those powers in one? VIII 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 See. heaven bestows on thee. Tenth or ten thousandth. through this air. ordained the dust to tread. in erring reason's spite." . Spreads undivided. or the mortal hour. All are but parts of one stupendous whole. changed through all. Lives through all life. is Right. Whose body Nature is. he bounds. Let Earth unbalanced from her orbit fly. The least confusion but in one. Breaths in our soul. insect! what no eye can see. human. man. As full. and yet in all the same. As the rapt Seraph that adores and burns. universal good: And spite of pride. how high progressive life may go? Around how wide? how deep extend below? Vast chain of Being! which from God began. aspired to be the head? What if the head. angel. Alike essential to the amazing whole. not all That System only. extends through all extent. Whatever Is. Let ruling Angels from their spheres be hurled. Heaven's whole foundations to their centre nod. All chance. And Nature tremble. but the whole must fall. Natures æthereal. connects. no low. refreshes in the breeze. As full. informs our mortal part. and bursting into birth. no great. as perfect in vile man that mourns. From nature's chain whatever link you strike. for any part to claim To be another in this general frame: Just as absurd. Beast. Or hand to toil. Above. to mourn the task or pains. All matter quick. unknown to thee. Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear: Safe in the hand of one disposing Power. That. bird. nor Order Imperfection name: Our proper bliss depends on what we blame. operates unspent. Or in the natal. the eye or ear repined 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 Cease then. this due degree Of blindness. Great in the earth as in the æthereal frame. in a hair as heart. and God the soul. Submit---in this. this ocean. breaks the chain alike. One truth is clear. and this earth. X 251 252 253 What if the foot. fish. weakness. harmony not understood: All partial evil. Glows in the stars.

(spelling modernized by Don Ulin) .

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