An Essay on Man: Epistle III

Original Text: 
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, 4 vols. (London, 1733-34). E-10 1503 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 3627 A1 1734A ROBA.
1  Here then we rest: "The Universal Cause
2Acts to one end, but acts by various laws."
3In all the madness of superfluous health,
4The trim of pride, the impudence of wealth,
5Let this great truth be present night and day;
6But most be present, if we preach or pray.
I.
7Look round our world; behold the chain of love
8Combining all below and all above.
9See plastic Nature working to this end,
10The single atoms each to other tend,
11Attract, attracted to, the next in place
12Form'd and impell'd its neighbour to embrace.
13See matter next, with various life endu'd,
14Press to one centre still, the gen'ral good.
15See dying vegetables life sustain,
16See life dissolving vegetate again:
17All forms that perish other forms supply,
18(By turns we catch the vital breath, and die)
19Like bubbles on the sea of matter born,
20They rise, they break, and to that sea return.
21Nothing is foreign: parts relate to whole;
22One all-extending, all-preserving Soul
23Connects each being, greatest with the least;
24Made beast in aid of man, and man of beast;
25All serv'd, all serving! nothing stands alone;
26The chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown.
...
II.
79Whether with reason, or with instinct blest,
80Know, all enjoy that pow'r which suits them best;
81To bliss alike by that direction tend,
82And find the means proportion'd to their end.
83Say, where full instinct is th' unerring guide,
84What pope or council can they need beside?
85Reason, however able, cool at best,
86Cares not for service, or but serves when prest,
87Stays 'till we call, and then not often near;
88But honest instinct comes a volunteer,
89Sure never to o'er-shoot, but just to hit;
90While still too wide or short is human wit;
91Sure by quick nature happiness to gain,
92Which heavier reason labours at in vain,
93This too serves always, reason never long;
94One must go right, the other may go wrong.
95See then the acting and comparing pow'rs
96One in their nature, which are two in ours;
97And reason raise o'er instinct as you can,
98In this 'tis God directs, in that 'tis man.
...
III.
147Nor think, in nature's state they blindly trod;
148The state of nature was the reign of God:
149Self-love and social at her birth began,
150Union the bond of all things, and of man.
151Pride then was not; nor arts, that pride to aid;
152Man walk'd with beast, joint tenant of the shade;
153The same his table, and the same his bed;
154No murder cloth'd him, and no murder fed.
155In the same temple, the resounding wood,
156All vocal beings hymn'd their equal God:
157The shrine with gore unstain'd, with gold undrest,
158Unbrib'd, unbloody, stood the blameless priest:
159Heav'n's attribute was universal care,
160And man's prerogative to rule, but spare.
161Ah! how unlike the man of times to come!
162Of half that live the butcher and the tomb;
163Who, foe to nature, hears the gen'ral groan,
164Murders their species, and betrays his own.
165But just disease to luxury succeeds,
166And ev'ry death its own avenger breeds;
167The fury-passions from that blood began,
168And turn'd on man a fiercer savage, man.
IV.
303For forms of government let fools contest;
304Whate'er is best administer'd is best:
305For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
306His can't be wrong whose life is in the right:
307In faith and hope the world will disagree,
308But all mankind's concern is charity:
309All must be false that thwart this one great end,
310And all of God, that bless mankind or mend.
311Man, like the gen'rous vine, supported lives;
312The strength he gains is from th' embrace he gives.
313On their own axis as the planets run,
314Yet make at once their circle round the sun;
315So two consistent motions act the soul;
316And one regards itself and one the whole.
317Thus God and Nature link'd the gen'ral frame,
318And bade self-love and social be the same.
Publication Start Year: 
1733
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP 1.616.
Form: