Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest; In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast; In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much: Chaos of thought and passion, all confus'd; Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd:
John, Lord Bolingbroke Awake, my St. Let us since life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man; A mighty maze! Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; The latent tracts, the giddy heights explore Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar; Eye Nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies, And catch the manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can; But vindicate the ways of God to man.
Say first, of God above, or man below, What can we reason, but from what we know? Of man what see we, but his station here, From which to reason, or to which refer? Through worlds unnumber'd though the God be known, 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own.
He, who through vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how system into system runs, What other planets circle other suns, What varied being peoples ev'ry star, May tell why Heav'n has made us as we are. But of this frame the bearings, and the ties, The strong connections, nice dependencies, Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Look'd through?
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee? First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, Why form'd 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 confest 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 reas'ning life, 'tis plain There must be somewhere, such a rank as man: And all the question wrangle e'er so long Is only this, if God has plac'd him wrong?
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call, May, must be right, as relative to all. In human works, though labour'd on with pain, A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain; In God's, one single can its end produce; Yet serves to second too some other use. So man, who here seems principal alone, Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown, Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal; 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains: When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Egypt's God: Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend His actions', passions', being's, use and end; Why doing, suff'ring, check'd, impell'd; and why This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not man's imperfect, Heav'n in fault; Say rather, man's as perfect as he ought: His knowledge measur'd to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space.
If to be perfect in a certain sphere, What matter, soon or late, or here or there? The blest today is as completely so, As who began a thousand years ago.
Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of fate, All but the page prescrib'd, their present state: From brutes what men, from men what spirits know: Or who could suffer being here below? The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today, Had he thy reason, would he skip and play? Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food, And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! Who sees with equal eye, as God of all, A hero perish, or a sparrow fall, Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd, And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore! What future bliss, he gives not thee to know, But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest: The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come. To be, contents his natural desire, He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire; But thinks, admitted to that equal sky, His faithful dog shall bear him company.
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust, Yet cry, if man's unhappy, God's unjust; If man alone engross not Heav'n's high care, Alone made perfect here, immortal there: Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, Rejudge his justice, be the God of God.
In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error lies; All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies. Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes, Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell, Aspiring to be angels, men rebel:Complete summary of Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man.
eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of An Essay on Man. from Alexander Pope's poem An . Pope's Poems and Prose Summary and Analysis of An Essay on Man: Epistle I.
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About Pope's Poems and Prose;. Home» Best Essays» Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man” Summary and Analysis. Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man” Summary and Analysis Critical analysis of “An Essay on Man” “An Essay on Man,” being well-structured and carefully thought out, has its own history.
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