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Know Thyself

15 February 2009

The post I just wrote reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Alexander Pope:

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 reasoning 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 hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

I suppose these days it sounds a bit trite and it always reads a bit awkward to me. But it speaks to me very plainly about what I so often feel.

I admit, I am easily swayed by poetry, be it words of a sonnet, song, or prayer. But also the sight of falling snow, the smile of a lover. The sound of a loon, the laugh of a child. The touch of new grass, the taste of fresh okra.

Okay, fine, I’m sentimental. Sue me.


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