Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hope Springs Eternal


III.
       Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib'd, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food,
And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

       Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

       Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd 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 giv'n,
Behind the cloud-topt hill, an humbler heav'n;
Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd,
Some happier island in the wat'ry waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
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.

The above poem is merely a section of a much longer poem, "An Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope.  Line 19 is probably the most famous and oft quoted piece of Pope's writing, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast."  

The phrase "Hope springs eternal" is what drew me to this poem.  I think it is a great illustration of the sheer tenacity of the human spirit.  It tells us that it is human nature to always find fresh cause for optimism.  Yes, there are those who are always pessimistic, or often pessimistic, but for those who choose optimism there are many more opportunities.  As long as you have faith that you will persevere and and hope for a better tomorrow, hope will spring eternal.  Pope’s “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” does not just encompass one single individual but instead is a concise treatise on the human condition.

The essence of hope itself is that wonderful blessing/curse that truly makes human beings the most intelligent and emotional creature that we are.  Its existence provides us with the very basis of living.  What does our existence amount to without the hope for a better tomorrow or expectation of things to come?

Hope is a wonderful thing.  Each morning we are filled with hope for the day.  But then also at the end of the day, hope can be a devastating thing.  For example, you spent all day hoping that your beloved would phone as he promised you but as you lay your head on your pillow, you are left with the emptiness of an unrealized hope.  However, we merely need to renew our hope for the next day and the day after.  We should never lose hope.

I was speaking to a friend last night of the hope of finding a man in my life.  I refuse to give up on that hope.  I believe that someday it will happen.  It is that hope/expectations that truly differentiates humans from the animal world around us.  For what is a life without hope?

About the Poem
The Essay on Man is a philosophical poem, written, characteristically, in heroic couplets, and published between 1732 and 1734. Pope intended it as the centerpiece of a proposed system of ethics to be put forth in poetic form: it is in fact a fragment of a larger work which Pope planned but did not live to complete. It is an attempt to justify, as Milton had attempted to vindicate, the ways of God to Man, and a warning that man himself is not, as, in his pride, he seems to believe, the center of all things. Though not explicitly Christian, the Essay makes the implicit assumption that man is fallen and unregenerate, and that he must seek his own salvation.

The "Essay" consists of four epistles, addressed to Lord Bolingbroke, and derived, to some extent, from some of Bolingbroke's own fragmentary philosophical writings, as well as from ideas expressed by the deistic third Earl of Shaftsbury. Pope sets out to demonstrate that no matter how imperfect, complex, inscrutable, and disturbingly full of evil the Universe may appear to be, it does function in a rational fashion, according to natural laws; and is, in fact, considered as a whole, a perfect work of God. It appears imperfect to us only because our perceptions are limited by our feeble moral and intellectual capacity.

Epistle I, which the above poem is from, concerns itself with the nature of man and with his place in the universe; Epistle II, with man as an individual; Epistle III, with man in relation to human society, to the political and social hierarchies; and Epistle IV, with man's pursuit of happiness in this world.  Considered as a whole, the Essay on Man is an affirmative poem of faith: life seems chaotic and patternless to man when he is in the midst of it, but is in fact a coherent portion of a divinely ordered plan. In Pope's world God exists, and he is beneficent: his universe is an ordered place. The limited intellect of man can perceive only a tiny portion of this order, and can experience only partial truths, and hence must rely on hope, which leads to faith. Man must be cognizant of his rather insignificant position in the grand scheme of things: those things which he covets most — riches, power, fame — prove to be worthless in the greater context of which he is only dimly aware. In his place, it is man's duty to strive to be good, even if he is doomed, because of his inherent frailty, to fail in his attempt.

4 comments:

Daniel said...

I hope you do find a man to make your life richer, more joyful and free.
One way to hasten this along is to live more richly, more joyfully and more freely every day now.

Coop said...

Wow! That illustration makes *something else* Spring! :)

silvereagle said...

"You gotta have hope, miles and mile of hope....." or something like that as the song says.

We all have hope for a better day, a nicer car, a better date, or whatever......it keeps us charged up and ready to go!!!

Jay M. said...

"...the hope of finding a man in my life. I refuse to give up on that hope."

Ditto. And thanks for teaching me where the title of a Stephen King novelette comes from! Now it all makes sense.

Peace <3
Jay