An Essay on Man

26 May

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 diasbus’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, “An Essay on Man”, Second epistle, 1-18 (1734)

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