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“Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or Thee?” – Alexander Pope (From “An Essay on Man”) “Then say not Man’s imperfect, Heav’n in fault; Say rather, Man’s as perfect as he ought.” – Alexander Pope (From “An Essay on Man”) “All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.” – Alexander Pope (From “An Essay on Man”) Alexander Pope is a British poet who was born in London, England in 1688 (World Biography 1).
Furthermore, he asserts that because we can only analyze what is around us, we cannot be sure that there is not a greater being or sphere beyond our level of comprehension; it is most logical to perceive the universe as functioning through a hierarchal system. Pope utilizes the beginning of section three to elaborate on the functions of the chain of being.
He claims that each creatures’ ignorance, including our own, allows for a full and happy life without the possible burden of understanding our fates.
He stresses the fact that we can only understand things based on what is around us, embodying the relationship with empiricism that characterizes the Augustan era.
He encourages the discovery of new things while remaining within the bounds one has been given.
John Bolingbroke, who Pope addresses in the first line of Epistle I when he says, “Awake, my St. ”(Pope 1)(World Biography 1) The purpose of the poem is to address the role of humans as part of the “Great Chain of Being.” In other words, it speaks of man as just one small part of an unfathomably complex universe.
Pope urges us to learn from what is around us, what we can observe ourselves in nature, and to not pry into God’s business or question his ways; For everything that happens, both good and bad, happens for a reason.
He also encourages the exploration of one’s surroundings, which provides for a gateway to new discoveries and understandings of our purpose here on Earth.
Furthermore, in line 12, Pope hints towards vital middle ground on which we are above beats and below a higher power(s).
“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed 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 confused; Still by himself abused or disabused; 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! mount where science guides, Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides; Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, Correct old time, and regulate the sun; Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere, To the first good, first perfect, and first fair; Or tread the mazy round his followers trod, And quitting sense call imitating God; As Eastern priests in giddy circles run, And turn their heads to imitate the sun.