Epistle 4.2 – Essay on Man

by ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)

It is the end of all men, and attainable by all.

Take Nature’s path and mad Opinion’s leave;
All states can reach it, and all heads conceive;
Obvious her goods, in no extreme they dwell;
There needs but thinking right and meaning well:
And, mourn our various portions as we please,
Equal is common sense and common ease.

Remember, man, “the Universal Cause
Acts not by partial, but by general laws;”
And makes what happiness we justly call
Subsist not in the good of one, but all.
There’s not a blessing individuals find,
But some way leans and hearkens to the kind:
No bandit fierce, no tyrant mad with pride,
No caverned hermit, rests self-satisfied:
Who most to shun or hate mankind pretend,
Seek an admirer, or would fix a friend:
Abstract what others feel, what others think,
All pleasures sicken, and all glories sink:
Each has his share; and who would more obtain,
Shall find, the pleasure pays not half the pain.

Order is Heaven’s first law; and this confest,
Some are, and must be, greater than the rest,
More rich, more wise; but who infers from hence
That such are happier, shocks all common sense.
Heaven to mankind impartial we confess,
If all are equal in their happiness:
But mutual wants this happiness increase;
All Nature’s difference keeps all Nature’s peace.
Condition, circumstance is not the thing;
Bliss is the same in subject or in king,
In who obtain defence, or who defend,
In him who is, or him who finds a friend:
Heaven breathes through every member of the whole
One common blessing, as one common soul:
But fortune’s gifts if each alike possessed,
And each were equal, must not all contest?
If then to all men happiness was meant,
God in externals could not place content.

Essay on Man: Index to first lines

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