"God Said, Let Newton Be! And All Was Light"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 157

Context: Pope was, of course, one who ascribed to his own admonition, probably inherited from his great friend, Lord Bolingbroke, that the proper study of mankind is man. Pope was then scarcely a person to feel much sympathy for the achievements of a man like Sir Isaac Newton, whose life...

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Context: Pope was, of course, one who ascribed to his own admonition, probably inherited from his great friend, Lord Bolingbroke, that the proper study of mankind is man. Pope was then scarcely a person to feel much sympathy for the achievements of a man like Sir Isaac Newton, whose life work is perhaps best epitomized by the three laws of motion which bear his name, laws which show Newton as a student of the physical world, not man. Moreover, Pope was not one to be able to admire others. His life of enmities, petty stratagems, and downright malice was partly the result of a streak of envy of the success of others. The poet's weaknesses are belied by this epitaph, half-satiric, half-admiring, which he wrote for the great physicist; the paraphrase of the line from Genesis is obvious–and cynical:

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in Night:
God said, Let NEWTON be! and all was Light.

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