Essay on Man - Part 2


Presumptious 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 and 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 fall, 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 placed 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 Gods' 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 dullness 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, Heaven in fault;
Say rather, man's as perfect as he ought:
His knowledge measured 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.

Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

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