Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
I. The Divine Element—(God, Christ, the Holy Spirit)
God and Man
Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
 
From the “Essay on Man,” Epistles I. and IV.

  LO, the poor Indian! whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind:
His soul, proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk or Milky Way:
Yet simple Nature to his hope has given,        5
Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heaven;
Some safer world in depth of woods embraced,
Some happier island in the watery waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.        10
To Be, contents his natural desire;
He asks no angel’s wing, no seraph’s fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
  Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense,        15
Weigh thy opinion against Providence:
Call imperfection what thou fancy’st such,—
Say, here he gives too little, there too much;
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
Yet cry, If man ’s unhappy, God ’s unjust,—        20
If man alone engross not Heaven’s high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there;
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Re-judge his justice, be the god of God.
In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies;        25
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes:
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell,
Aspiring to be angels, men rebel;        30
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of Order, sins against the Eternal Cause.
*        *        *        *        *
  All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul:
That, changed through all, and yet in all the same;        35
Great in the earth as in the ethereal frame;
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent:        40
Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart;
As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
As the rapt seraph that adores and burns:
To him no high, no low, no great, no small;        45
He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.
  Cease then, nor order imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: This kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee.        50
Submit.—In this or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear;
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All nature is but art unknown to thee;        55
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And, spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear—Whatever is, is right.
*        *        *        *        *
        60
  Order is Heaven’s first law: and, this confest,
Some are and must be greater than the rest,
More rich, more wise; but who infers from hence
That such are happier, shocks all common-sense.
Heaven to mankind impartial we confess,        65
If all are equal in their happiness:
But mutual wants this happiness increase;
All nature’s difference keeps all nature’s peace.
Condition, circumstance, is not the thing:
Bliss is the same in subject or in king,        70
In who obtain defence or who defend,
In him who is or him who finds a friend;
Heaven breathes through every member of the whole
One common blessing, as one common soul.
 
 
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