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Please explain the lines below from Alexander Pope's poem, "An Essay on Man," Epistle...

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wisal | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted March 8, 2012 at 3:13 AM via web

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Please explain the lines below from Alexander Pope's poem, "An Essay on Man," Epistle 1.


AWAKE, my ST. JOHN! leave all meaner things To low ambition and the pride of Kings. Let us, since life can little more supply Than just to look about us and to die, Expatiate free o’er all this scene of man; 5 A mighty maze! but not without a plan; A wild, where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot, Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; 10 The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore Of all who blindly creep or sightless soar; Eye Nature’s walks, shoot folly as it flies, And catch the manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can, 15 But vindicate the ways of God to man.

 

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:37 AM (Answer #1)

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The opening lines of Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man” are constructed in the form of a dedicatory epistle to Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke (“my St. John”). In these lines, Pope sets forth the task of the poem as looking over humankind, and seeing in the apparent complexity and disorder of human life, and in the plenitude of nature, a divine plan. Although others may see the world as chaotic, by showing it ordered according to Providence, Pope’s poem with “vindicate the ways of God to man” by showing that what appear like an unkempt wilderness is actually a cosmos. The passage uses exploration of a physical landscape as a metaphor for an intellectual adventure,

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