The Vanity of Human Wishes

by Samuel Johnson

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Please analyze the first fifteen lines of the poem '' The Vanity of Human Wishes'' by Samuel Johnson.

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This satirical poem, as the title suggests, comments upon the ways in which human wishes are actually very unwise and create far more problems than humans ever expect or imagine, but because of the vanity of humans, they are unable to identify why their wishes would have such a catastrophic impact on them. The first stanza of this poem therefore introduces this theme, recognising how this tendency to wish for things that are actually not good for humans is something that is universal. Note the first four lines:

Let Observation with extensive View,
Survey Mankind, from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious Toil, each eager Strife,
And watch the busy Scenes of crowded Life;

Observation is personified, as are many abstract qualities, as it is imagined to be a character examining the entire globe and watching the "busy Scenes of crowded Life" in order to identify the way in which human wishes are always based on vain desires. A number of different examples follow, including "How rarely Reason guides the stubborn Choice" and "How nations sink, by darling Schemes oppress'd." Each example gives the reader further proof of what Observation has noted: it is a most lamentable human instinct to want and desire what will actually be bad for them in the long term.

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