Alexander Pope

Here you will find the Long Poem An Essay on Man in Four Epistles: Epistle 1 of poet Alexander Pope

An Essay on Man in Four Epistles: Epistle 1

To Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke
 Awake, my St. John! leave all meaner things 
 To low ambition, and the pride of kings.
 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! but not without a plan;
 A wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous shoot;
 Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit.
 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.I. 

 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? 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. 

 Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find,
 Why form'd so weak, so little, and so blind?
 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.III. 

 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! kindly giv'n,
 That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n:
 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.

 Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind
 Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
 His soul, proud science never taught to stray
 Far as the solar walk, or milky way;
 Yet simple nature to his hope has giv'n,
 Behind the cloud topp'd hill, an humbler heav'n;
 Some safer world i