Alexander Pope: “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;”(1734)

Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

An English poet, Alexander Pope is considered a major literary figure of the early 18th century. His poems include satirical and epistolary poems (letters in the form of poems) and reflect the culture, politics, and moral philosophy of his times. His works include translations of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad”.

The “Essay on Man, Epistle I” and “Essay on Man, Epistle II” are epistolary philosophical poems, published between 1732 and 1734.

Here is an excerpt from “Essay on Man: Epistle II”, stanza I.

“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;”

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 (1688–1744)

Credit: in the public domain.


See also:

“Learning the Epistolary Poem  — Poems that serve as letters to the world. “