Sunday, December 16, 2012

Class XII, ENGLISH, Poems, "An Essay on Man"

Reference The lines given for explanation are an extract from the poem entitled An Essay on Man, written by Alexander Pope.
About the Poet
Alexander Pope occupies a very prominent position in the domain of English Literature. He was a representative poet of the 8th century also known as the Augustian age, the age of satire and heroic couplets.
About the Poem
An Essay on Man is a philosophical, didactic, thought-provoking and soul-stirring poem. It was addressed by Pope to Bolingbroke. At the beginning of the poem he says:
“The proper study of mankind is man.”
Pope in this poem is not the satirist but a moralist who has chosen his object to vindicate the ways of God to man. He thus gives his philosophical reflection on the fate and fortune of man, the nature and importance of hope and the cause of the restlessness of human soul in this world.
Heaven from all creatures hides the book of Fate —— Or who could suffer being here below?
In the opening lines of the poem, Pope has presented the benign care and kindness displayed by God’s Providence to his creatures by making them ignorant to their future fate.
He says that God has made his Creatures blind to their future. They know very little or nothing of what is going to happen to them. They don’t know what sorrows or sufferings lie in store for them. They know only about their present.
The poet says that God has done this according to a specific system. For instance, angels being spiritual beings know more than man does, man being superior to animals knows more than they do and animals being at the bottom of the hierarchy know nothing about their future.
Poet justifies this policy of the Providence as being kind and beneficial. This is intended to keep the cycle of life going. Since life on this planet is full of sorrows, sufferings, disappointments, disease and death. We would have tried to make an end to our life before the fall of the future calamity if we had the slightest knowledge of our future.
The poet wants to say that blindness to the future is a blessing kindly given to by God Almighty and it enables us to face the hard realities of life with undying courage, hope and determination.
“Ignorance of future ills is a more useful thing than knowledge.”
– Cicero
Oh blindness to the future! Kindly given ———– And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
In these lines the poet tells us how our ignorance to the future becomes a great blessing. He thinks that we are kept ignorant of our future simply because God wanted each of us to complete the work fixed for him. Man is ignorant about the days a head, so that he may complete the cycle of his life according to the wishes of God. God’s knowledge is so wide that the looks at a dying hero as accurately as he does at a small sparrow. Since God is maker, moulder and creator of this Universe. He looks at all the creatures equally. In his eyes making no difference between the creatures. He watches the actions of all the human beings, seeing a sparrow and a hero. He knows about the ruin of a planetary system as well as about the ruin of the smallest particle. It also means that death of small or a great man, the least particle or any other system does not impress God at all. God watches the astronomical systems of the Universe. Even the bursting of a bubble or the ruin of a world, both have equal importance for God. In this stanza, the poet gives very good example, to clear the fact that all the things are equal in the eyes of God whether it is an hero or an ordinary thing like sparrow all have to complete their life cycles as prescribed to them by the Almighty God.
“Hope humbly then, with trembling pinion soar ——— But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
In these lines, Pope, the moral pedagogue, is preaching the principle of humility and modesty in our life of this world.
“Greater are those who show humility.”
– Blake
He says that God has very kindly made us blind to our fate and fortune. We don’t know what sorrows and sufferings and joys and happiness lie ahead in store for us. Therefore, it is only prudent and wise to live simply with humble hopes and modest desires. We should try to rise but slowly and gradually. We should learn from the bird, which soars, but slowly balancing its wings at every step as though the bird is afraid of falling down. Similarly, we human beings should always keep death before us. Death teaches us that this world is just like an inn where we have come for a brief sojourn. Our life is just like a bubble blown up in the air. Death reveals to us the secrets of the next world and mystery of life hereafter. It also teaches us the lesson of parity and equality by treating all living beings alike.
We should also love and pray God for his blessings. God does not tell us what bliss he is going to grant us in future, But God has blessed us with hope which is really a precious gift of God. It is hope which keeps us happy and gives us comfort and solace when we are in the grip of difficulties and hardships. Thus we can say that Hope is our best companion because:
“Hope is the best armour against fate.”
Hope springs eternal in the human breast ———– Rests and expatiates in a life to come
“Hopes makes future bright.”
- Lowell

In these oft quoted lines, the poet presents an altruism about the fate of human beings that nobody is happy but every body hopes to be happy.
The poet says that instead of telling us about or fate, God gives us hope, which is really a precious gift of God. He says that hope never deserts human beings. It remains alive and active in human heart forever. Hope keeps the man happy. He forgets the difficulties and hardships of the present and is overjoyed when he thinks of the future bliss. Rossy picture of the future emerges before his eyes and he forgets grieves of the present. Alexander Pope wants to say that without hope man’s life would have been meaning less and colourless and would have not struggled ceaselessly and relentlessly for the achievements of his objectives.
About human soul, the poet remarks that it never enjoys a moment of real joy and peace in this world. It is constantly restless, disturbed and far from its real and eternal home. The eternal abode of human soul is heaven. It aspires to liberate itself from the material cage of human body and go back to its original and final home. Human soul hopes to live there permantly enjoying peace, comfort, freedom and happiness.
Therefore, Pope says that man should lead a pious, virtuous and sinless life and perform good and noble deeds for a better after death.
“Hope, like the gleaming taper’s light, adorns and cheers our body.”
- Oliver Goldsmith

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