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Heroic couplets from an essay on man

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An Essay on Man is a poem published by Alexander Pope in 1733—1734. It is concerned with the natural order God has decreed for man. Because man cannot know God's purposes, he cannot complain about his position in the Great Chain of Being ll. Pope's Essay on Man and Moral Epistles were designed to be the parts of a system of ethics which he wanted to express in poetry.

An Essay on Man Questions and Answers

On its publication, An Essay on Man received great admiration throughout Europe. Voltaire called it "the most beautiful, the most useful, the most sublime didactic poem ever written in any language". Kant was fond of the poem and would recite long passages from it to his students.

  • It begins with an exposition of the rules of taste and the authority to be attributed to the ancient writers on the subject;
  • Pope argues that humanity should make a study of itself, and not debase the spiritual essence of the world with earthly science, since the two are diametrically opposed to one another;
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Rousseau also critiqued the work, questioning "Pope's uncritical assumption that there must be an unbroken chain of being all the way from inanimate matter up to God. Pope began work on it in 1729, and had finished the first three by 1731. They appeared in early 1733, with the fourth epistle published the following year. The poem was originally published anonymously; Pope did not admit authorship until 1735.

  • Because man cannot know God's purposes, he cannot complain about his position in the Great Chain of Being ll;
  • The "Essay" consists of four epistles, addressed to Lord Bolingbroke, and derived, to some extent, from some of Bolingbroke's own fragmentary philosophical writings, as well as from ideas expressed by the deistic third Earl of Shaftsbury.

Pope reveals in his introductory statement, "The Design," that An Essay on Man was originally conceived as part of a longer philosophical poem which would have been expanded on through four separate books. According to his friend and editor, William WarburtonPope intended to structure the work as follows: The four epistles which had already been published would have comprised the first book. The second book was to contain another set of epistles, which in contrast to the first book would focus on subjects such as human reason, the practical and impractical aspects of varied arts and sciences, human talent, the use of learning, the science of the world, and wit, together with "a satire against the misapplication" of those same disciplines.

Heroic Couplets" and from "An Essay on Man"

The third book would discuss politics and religion, while the fourth book was concerned with "private ethics" or "practical morality. Know then thyself, presume not God to scan The proper study of Mankind is Man. 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; The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule— Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

  • It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that a serious attempt was made to rediscover the richness, variety and complexity of the great poet in the Age of Reason and him the master of ration;
  • The second book was to contain another set of epistles, which in contrast to the first book would focus on subjects such as human reason, the practical and impractical aspects of varied arts and sciences, human talent, the use of learning, the science of the world, and wit, together with "a satire against the misapplication" of those same disciplines;
  • In Pope's world God exists, and he is benificent;
  • Epistle I concerns itself with the nature of man and with his place in the universe; Epistle II, with man as an individual; Epistle III, with man in relation to human society, to the political and social hierarchies; and Epistle IV, with man's pursuit of happiness in this world;
  • In his place, it is man's duty to strive to be good, even if he is doomed, because of his inherent frailty, to fail in his attempt.

In the above example, Pope's thesis is that man has learnt about nature and God's creation through science; consequently, science has given man power, but having become intoxicated by this power, man has begun to think that he is "imitating God".

In response, Pope declares the species of man to be a "fool", absent of knowledge and plagued by "ignorance" in spite of all the progress achieved through science. Pope argues that humanity should make a study of itself, and not debase the spiritual essence of the world with earthly science, since the two are diametrically opposed to one another: Retrieved 21 May 2015.