Epistle 2.4 – Essay on Man

by ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)

Virtue and Vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate, and evident: what is the office of Reason.

This light and darkness in our chaos join’d,
What shall divide? The God within the mind.

Extremes in Nature equal ends produce;
In Man they join to some mysterious use;
Though each by turns the other’s bound invade,
As in some well-wrought picture light and shade,
And oft so mix, the difference is too nice
Where ends the virtue or begins the vice.

Fools! who from hence into the notion fall
That vice or virtue there is none at all.
If white and black blend, soften, and unite
A thousand ways, is there no black or white?
Ask your own heart, and nothing is so plain;
‘Tis to mistake them, costs the time and pain.

Essay on Man: Index to first lines

Reading by Martin Geeson for Librivox.org. Download entire audiobook here.

Alexander Pope

Twickenham, or “Twitenham,” as [Pope] preferred to write it, was, in its general character and situation, precisely such a spot as Pope loved and desired. It was suburban and quiet, easy of access, and near to London, from which he never could be long absent. It was in a richly cultivated neighbourhood, presenting the finest parks and the greenest verdure, with shady walks on all sides, and his favourite river flowing past his house and garden, a ” broad mirror,” that imaged his sloping lawn, or green plat, with its one willow-tree planted by his own hand, his flowers and grotto.
The house was but an ordinary habitation, and received little embellishment, though the poet delighted to spread architectural designs over backs of letters and stray scraps of rejected poetry and paper. … “A new building,” he said, “is like a new church; when once it is set up you must maintain it in all the forms, and with all the inconveniences; then cease the pleasant luminous days of inspiration, and there is an end of miracles at once!” … His little domain was easily cultivated, yet it became, under his hands, like Shenstone’s Leasowes, “the envy of the great, and the admiration of the skilful.” from from The Life of Alexander Pope: Including Extracts from His Correspondence

See also Alexander Pope on www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

Share