Epistle 4.1 – Essay on Man

by ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)

False notions of happiness

O, HAPPINESS! Our being’s end and aim!
Good, pleasure, ease, content! whate’er thy name:
That something still which prompts the eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die,
Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies,
O’erlooked, seen double, by the fool, and wise.
Plant of celestial seed! if dropp’d below,
Say, in what mortal soil thou deign’st to grow?
Fair opening to some Court’s propitious shine,
Or deep with diamonds in the flaming mine?
Twined with the wreaths Parnassian laurels yield,
Or reaped in iron harvests of the field;
Where grows?—where grows it not? If vain our toil,
We ought to blame the culture, not the soil:
Fix’d to no spot is happiness sincere,
‘Tis nowhere to be found, or everywhere;
‘Tis never to be bought, but always free,
And fled from monarchs, ST. JOHN! dwells with thee.

Ask of the learn’d the way? The learn’d are blind;
This bids to serve, and that to shun mankind;
Some place the bliss in action, some in ease,
Those call it pleasure, and contentment these;
Some, sunk to beasts, find pleasure end in pain;
Some, swelled to gods, confess e’en virtue vain;
Or. indolent, to each extreme they fall,
To trust in every thing, or doubt of all.

Who thus define it, say they more or less
Than this,—that happiness is happiness?

Essay on Man: Index to first lines

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

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