Explain how an "Essay on Criticism" provides a good summary of 18th century ideas about nature and its role in human endeavor in general.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism” sees a harmonious, divinely informed structure in the world that the well formed poem imitates. It is based on a fundamentally theological position that the divine Creator made an inherently rational universe, which could be comprehended by human reason and thus the action and end of reason was to illuminate divine truth; Pope wrote as an intended epitaph for Isaac Newton:

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night.
God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light.

This attitude is replicated in the “Essay on Criticism” where Pope holds up Nature as the standard for all literary composition. He emphasizes that imitation of ancient models is justified by the nearness of the ancients to nature: “Nature and Homer, were, he found the same.” Just as Adam and Eve were closer to God than modern decadent man, so to were Homer and Horace closer to God than modern poets.

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