And Life Contrasted-Or An Essay On Man

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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.

The seventh stanza explores the vastness of the sensory and cognitive spectrums in relation to all earthly creatures.

Pope uses an example related to each of the five senses to conjure an image that emphasizes the intricacies with which all things are tailored.

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.

Those who “blindly creep” are consumed by laziness and a willful ignorance, and just as bad are those who “sightless soar” and believe that they understand more than they can possibly know.

Thus, it is imperative that we can strive to gain knowledge while maintaining an acceptance of our mental limits. Pope writes the first section to put the reader into the perspective that he believes to yield the correct view of the universe.

Pope’s endeavor to highlight the infallibility of nature is a key aspect of the Augustan period in literature; a poet’s goal was to convey truth by creating a mirror image of nature.

This is envisaged in line 13 when, keeping with the hunting motif, Pope advises his reader to study the behaviors of Nature (as hunter would watch his prey), and to rid of all follies, which we can assume includes all that is unnatural.

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