Alexander Pope is one of the most well-known poets of the 18th century. He is also famous for his excellent translations. Pope got a good education at Catholic schools and this impact his success in literature. His moral-philosophical and socio-political views were formed in the particular historical conditions of public life in England, like Jack London’s.
Unfortunately, his health wasn’t so good as education. Pope suffered from several diseases that limited his physically. However, they couldn’t impact his mental growth and, despite everything, this poet gave the world outstanding works. Among his masterpieces are epic and romantic poems. He highlighted the social events such as heyday of the English countryside, revived the romantic story of Eloisa to Abelard, edited Shakespeare’s works…
However, the most popular and outstanding work of Alexander Pope is “An essay on man” which stunned Europe with its deep sense and excellent form.
What Is the Main Idea of the Poem?
Man is not a God but he has an incredible opportunity to change the world and take an honorable place among the being.
The central problem of the poem is the relationship between people and nature. Pope reckon that man is over animals and plants because of the presence of consciousness but, at the same time, he is a God’s creation. In this case, man has a unique place in the universe and should change it in a positive way.
It is a poem about the sense of life, human opportunities and happiness, which was appreciated by lots of philosophers. For example, Voltaire
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Analysis of the Poem
Pope paid great attention to the compositional construction of the “An essay on man”, taking as its basis the substantial aspect of the composition, subordinating it to the Aristotelian principle of completeness of the plot.
The originality of this work lies in its synthetic nature, based on the interaction and synthesis of different genres (essay, message, didactic poem).
This poem outbroke the world culture because it popularized the ideas of an optimistic philosophy. In England and all over Europe people started to discuss the issue of God philosophically. “An essay on man” aroused delight of Voltaire. He knew the Pope very well and they even corresponded with each other. In these letters, the philosopher rated the poem very high and underline its importance.
However, not all ideas in this work are unique. The researchers claim that the Pope used some popular ideas of Leibnitz and Anthony Ashley Cowper. Especially there are similarities with the work Moralist.
The Major Ideas of the Poem
There are several outstanding ideas that readers should understand.
- God created a world that is the best of all possible ones. And the man as a part of this world is also perfect. This statement is fundamentally different from the medieval perception of man.
- The universe is real and hierarchical. People are over the animals but a God is over people. Such a hierarchy inspire and limit us at the same time.
- Self-love is important. A man is a crown of creation, he is admirable.
- Partial evil is not evil at all. All of us can attain the virtue of prudence.
“An essay on man” had a great influence on several generations of English and foreign poets and writers. In general, this poetic work was comprehended and embodied the ideals of the Enlightenment in its spiritual, intellectual and artistic synthesis.
Moreover, it recreates the panorama of the multifaceted literary and artistic processes in England in the first half of the 18th century, and at the same time confirms the national identity.