Alexander Pope on self-reflection

An Essay on Man, With some Humorous Verses on the Death of Dean Swift, Written by Himself, (Oxford University, 1736), p. 34, illustration

An Essay on Man, With some Humorous Verses on the Death of Dean Swift, Written by Himself, (Oxford University, 1736), p. 34, illustration

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Alexander Pope in Epistle II of his poem “An Essay on Man”. Available online in numerous places including Project Gutenberg, Wikisource and Poetry Foundation.

Earlier Published Draft

Know then Thy-self, presume not God to scan ;
The only Science of Mankind is Man.
Plac’d on this Isthmus of a middle State,
A Being darkly Wise, and rudely great :
With too much Knowledge for the Sceptic Side,
With too much Weakness for a Stoic’s Pride,
He hangs between ; in doubt to act, or rest,
To deem himself a Part of God, or Beast,
In doubt, his Mind or Body to prefer,
Born but to die, and Reas’ning but to err,
Alike in Ignorance, his Reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much.
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d,
Still by himself abus’d, or dis-abus’d :
Created half to rise, and half to fall ;
Great Lord of all Things ; yet a Prey to all ;
Sold Judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl’d :
The Glory, Jest, and Riddle of the World !
— Alexander Pope in Epistle II of his poem “An Essay on Man” in An Essay on Man: With some Humorous Verses on the Death of Dean Swift, Written by Himself (Oxford University, 1736), p. 9. First published in 1733, with public admission of authorship in 1735(?). Still, this 1736 edition is published anonymously (on the occasion of the death of this nom de plume?). More research into the sequence of events and the author’s modification of the text is necessary.

Alexander Pope Posted on behalf of Alexander Pope on Monday, January 11th, 2010 under Quotations.

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