Reason, however able, cool at best, Cares not for service, or but serves when pressed, Stays 'till we call, and then not often near; But honest Instinct comes a volunteer, Sure never to o’er-shoot, but just to hit; While still too wide or short is human Wit; Sure by quick Nature happiness to gain, Which heavier Reason labours at in vain, This too serves always, Reason never long; One must go right, the other may go wrong.
See then the acting and comparing pow'rs One in their nature, which are two in ours; And Reason raise o’er Instinct as you can, In this ’tis God directs, in that ’tis Man.
These are all just components of the circumstances that led to the creation of the work, which itself is yet both more and less than these.
In the late 17th century and through at least the first half of the 18th century a particular complex of ideas permeated many of the cognoscenti of the time.
John, and to him he states in all aptness that to be without God that you are lower than life itself, and to be with God you are above all things but God.
Alexander Pope Essay On Man Interpretation
And the only way to spread this upon people is by it upon them. If Pope wishes to state that Man cannot be without God or vice versa, then fine, but, if he asks those to ask of Mother Earth a question, would that not play into Wicca? Would that not be Pope contradicting what he is stating here in the end? I feel in this line 'Yet serves to second too some other use.' 'too' is 'to' unless used in the manner of 'as well' then, um, nevermind.
Portrait of Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) by Jonathan Richardson, ca.
1736Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man. Lovejoy's very interesting Essays in the History of Ideas I finally understood the intellectual context of Alexander Pope's famous philosophical poem, An Essay On Man.
To grasp the Truth requires no special abilities, knowledge or revelation; it just requires an unprejudiced use of the gifts common to all human beings.(**) Both of these notions (and more) are subsumed in the then current meanings of the words "Nature" and "Natural Law" and are directly reflected in Pope's poem.
In this representative passage "instinct" stands in for the gifts common to all; one also sees along the way a consequence of the application of this complex of ideas to religion:(***) Say, where full Instinct is th'unerring guide, What Pope or Council can they need beside?