Epistle II, Extract by Alexander Pope

Thank you Clare Flourish for introducing this profound poem to me, about the nature of man. Image sourced from Lancashire University.

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, 
The proper study of mankind is Man. 
Placed 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 confused; 
Still by himself abused or disabused; 
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

Shine on…!
Paul C Burr


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  1. #1 by Clare Flourish on January 2, 2012 - 12:10

    You are welcome. I do not know how familiar you are with Pope, but the New Oxford book of Eighteenth Century Verse gives a good selection of highlights, and his “Epistle to a Lady: Of the Characters of Women” is a good complement to this view of mankind.

  2. #2 by Doctapaul on January 3, 2012 - 09:28

    Thank you Clare. I shall look it up. Keep the wisdom flowing!

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