May 21, 2013

Alexander Pope May 21, 1688


Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall:
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides;
Go measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th'empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule--
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

-- Poets' Corner - Alexander Pope - Essay on Man

No fool Alexander Pope, born on this day in 1688, but rather the scourge of fools. A man who would be as much at home on the Internet today as he once was at Bartholomew Fair:

The melting, sweating, human tide was swept this way and that wreathed in the smell of roast pigs and burnt crackling, old clothes and foul breath, tobacco, coffee and ale, its ears assaulted `with the rumbling of Drums, mix'd with the Intolerable Squeakings of Cat-calls, and Penny Trumpets, made still more terrible with the shrill belches of Lottery-Pick-Pockets, thro' Instruments of the same Metal with their Faces'. The cries of nut-sellers and fruit-vendors fought with those of showmen whipping up an audience for waxworks, rope-dancing and music booths, conjuring tricks, acrobats and drolls. Once inside the booths, the impatient fairgoers, sitting on rickety benches or at trestle tables, crunched walnuts and damsons, handed round baskets of plums, pears and peaches, flirted and joked and heckled with cries of Show, Show, Show, Show!' until the players arrived....

Laughter and humiliation, illusion and reality merged in the flesh. Bearded women, Siamese twins, giants and dwarfs, 'monsters' and freaks mingled with the costumed devils and heroes of the plays, the attenuated moral emblems of medieval religious drama. The old play of The Creation of the World came complete with Noah's Ark, flying Angels, Dives rising out of Hell, and -- in 1702 -- 'with the addition of the Glorious Battle obtained over the French and Spaniards by the Duke of Marlborough'. The Fair was present and past, dream, desire and trickery, its pickpockets cunning as its conjurors, its audiences dupes to both. It could itself become the stuff of a morality play...

Not at all unlike the morality play acted out daily within the world of blogs .... discussion boards ... and other online destinations.

Indeed, if Pope were alive today he'd no doubt be posting from a page called

Posted by Vanderleun at May 21, 2013 1:13 AM | TrackBack
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