Quotes from Epistle I: An Essay on Man
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree,
And drawn supports, upheld by God or thee?
Presumptuous Man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why form’d so weak, so little, and so blind?
Then in the scale of reasoning life ’tis plain
There must be, somewhere, such a rank as Man:
And all the question (wrangle e’er so long)
Is only this, if God has placed him wrong?
So Man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal:
‘Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
Then say not Man’s imperfect, Heaven in fault;
Say rather Man’s as perfect as he ought;
His knowledge measured to his state and place;
His time a moment, and a point his space:
Heaven from all creatures hides the book of Fate,
All but the page prescribed, their present state;
O blindness to the future! kindly given,
That each may fill the circle marked by Heav’n;
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be bless’d:
Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutor’d mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the God of God.
Pride still is aiming at the bless’d abodes,
Men would be Angels, Angels would be gods.
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of order, sins against th’Eternal Cause.
Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise;
My footstool earth, my canopy the skies.
But All subsists by elemental strife;
And passions are the elements of life.
The general Order, since the whole began,
Is kept in Nature, and is kept in Man.
Each beast, each insect, happy in its own:
Is Heaven unkind to Man, and Man alone?
Shall he alone, whom rational we call,
Be pleased with nothing if not bless’d with all?
The bliss of man, could pride that blessing find,
Is not to act or think beyond mankind;
Why has not man a microscopic eye?
For this plain reason, man is not a fly.
Who finds not Providence all good and wise,
Alike in what it gives and what denies?
The spider’s touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line:
In the nice bee, what sense so subtly true,
From poisonous herbs extracts the healing dew?
How instinct varies in the grovelling swine,
Compared, half-reasoning elephant, with thine!
Vast chain of being! which from God began;
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
From Nature’s chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth, or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.
Let earth unbalanced from her orbit fly,
Planets and stars run lawless through the sky;
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt Seraph that adores and burns:
Epistle I, Verse X
Cease, then, nor Order imperfection name;
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.
Submit: in this or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless’d as thou canst bear;
All Nature is but art unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good: