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If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite, in passing over terms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a temperate yet not inconsistent, and a short yet not imperfect system of Ethics."This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire, ver. It is probable the story of the jackal's hunting for the lion was occasioned by observation of this defect of scent in that terrible animal." Back to Line The double order in human, angel, man is explained by such traditional doctrine as: "In our minds, verily, we be so celestial and of so godly capacity that we may surmount above the nature of angels and be unite, knit, and made one with God" (Erasmus, Enchiridon, IV).The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: The other may seem odd, but is true I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their conciseness. That throughout the whole visible world, an universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to Man. How much further this order and subordination of living creatures may extend, above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, ver.
I was unable to treat this part of my subject in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, breaking the chain of reasoning: If any man unite all these without diminution of any of them freely confesshe will compass a thing above my capacity."What is now Published is only to be considered as a general Map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connection, and leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow. The gradations of sense, instinct, thought, refection, reason; that Reason alone countervails all the other faculties, ver.
Consequently, these Epistles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while on the one hand he demands the perfections of the angels, and on the other the bodily qualifications of the brutes; though, to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree, would render him miserable.
In the larger scheme, the poem would have consisted of four books: the first as we now have it; a second book of epistles on human reason, human arts, and sciences, human talent, and the use of learning, science and wit "together with a satire against the misapplications of them"; a third book on the Science of Politics; and a fourth book concerning "private ethics" or "practical morality." The only part of the scheme, therefore, which was fully completed was the four epistles of the Essay on Man.
Parts of the fourth book of The Dunciad were composed using material for the second book of the original essay and the four moral epistles were originally conceived as parts of the fourth book (see below).
I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of man's error and misery. The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world, which is not in the natural, ver.
To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happiness in the present depends, ver. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice of his dispensations, ver.
Secondly, Pope discusses God's plan in which evil must exist for the sake of the greater good, a paradox not fully understandable by human reason.
Thirdly, the poem accuses human beings of being proud and impious.
Man has the power of good to help feed the hungry, care for the sick, and comfort the dying.
Yet, man chooses to exercise his evil side: destroying, killing and bringing down those that are weaker.