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.