'Universal Prayer' by Alexander Pope
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Father of all! In every age,
In ev'ry clime ador'd,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood,
Who all my sense confin'd
To know but this, that Thou art good,
And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And, binding Nature fast in Fate,
Left free the human Will.
What Conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do;
This teach me more than Hell to shun,
That more than Heav'n pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives;
T' enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth's contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round.
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And teach damnation round the land
On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, O teach my heart
To find that better way.
Save me alike from foolish Pride
Or impious Discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
Or aught that goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another's woe,
To right the fault I see:
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.
Mean tho' I am, not wholly so,
Since quicken'd by thy breath;
O lead me whereso'er I go,
Thro' this day's life or death!
This day be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun
Though know'st if best bestow'd or not,
And let Thy will be done.
To Thee, whose temple is of Space,
Whose altar earth, sea, skies,
One chorus let all Beings raise!
All Nature's incense rise!
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Universal Prayer" by Alexander Pope: A Masterpiece of Mindfulness
When it comes to poetry that stands the test of time, Alexander Pope's "Universal Prayer" is undoubtedly a gem. Written in the 18th century, this masterpiece of mindfulness still resonates with readers today, thanks to its timeless message of unity, compassion, and gratitude.
At first glance, "Universal Prayer" seems like a simple prayer, one that can be recited as a form of devotion to a higher power. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the poem is much more than that. It is a powerful call to action, urging readers to embrace the values of kindness, empathy, and generosity in their daily lives.
Background and Context
To fully appreciate the beauty and significance of "Universal Prayer," it is essential to understand its historical and cultural context. Alexander Pope was a prominent figure in the Enlightenment era, a time when reason, science, and humanism were celebrated over superstition, dogma, and authoritarianism.
In this context, "Universal Prayer" can be seen as a response to the religious and political conflicts that plagued Europe during the 18th century. The poem expresses a desire for unity and harmony, not just among different religious groups but also among nations and individuals.
Moreover, Pope was known for his philosophical views on morality and ethics. He believed that every human being had the capacity for reason and virtue, and that these qualities should guide one's actions in life. This way of thinking is reflected in "Universal Prayer," where the poet calls for universal love, forgiveness, and humility as the basis for a meaningful and fulfilling existence.
Moving on to the poem itself, "Universal Prayer" is divided into two parts. The first part is a call for unity and compassion, while the second part is a reflection on the nature of humanity and the role of the divine in our lives.
The opening lines of the poem set the tone for what is to come:
Father of all! In every age, In every clime adored, By saint, by savage, and by sage, Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Here, Pope acknowledges the diversity of religious beliefs and practices across different cultures and times. By addressing the divine as "Father of all," he highlights the idea that there is a common thread that runs through all spiritual traditions – a belief in a higher power that transcends human understanding.
In the next few lines, Pope goes on to describe the universal qualities that this higher power embodies:
Thou Great First Cause, least understood, Who all my sense confined To know but this, that Thou art good, And that myself am blind;
Here, the poet acknowledges the limitations of human knowledge and the vastness of the divine. The phrase "least understood" suggests that there is much about the universe and our place in it that we cannot comprehend, and that we must accept this fact with humility and awe.
The idea that God is fundamentally good, despite our limited understanding of him, is a recurring theme in the poem. Pope believes that this goodness is reflected in the natural world and in human beings, who are capable of great kindness and compassion.
In the second half of the first stanza, Pope turns his attention to the human condition and the need for unity and compassion:
What conscience dictates to be done, Or warns me not to do, This teach me more than hell to shun, That more than heaven pursue.
Here, the poet suggests that it is our inner conscience that guides us towards the right path in life. He argues that this moral compass is more important than the promise of eternal reward or punishment, and that it should be the basis for our interactions with others.
The second stanza of the poem continues this theme of unity and compassion, with Pope calling for forgiveness and understanding:
What blessings Thy free bounty gives Let me not cast away; For God is paid when man receives, To enjoy is to obey.
Here, the poet suggests that God's ultimate reward is not in the form of material wealth or power but in the joy that comes from giving and receiving love. He urges readers to appreciate the blessings that life has to offer and to share them with others, rather than holding onto them out of fear or greed.
The final stanza of the poem turns towards a more contemplative tone, as Pope reflects on the mysteries of life and the role of the divine in shaping our destiny:
Yet not to earth's contracted span Thy goodness let me bound, Or think Thee Lord alone of man, When thousand worlds are round.
Here, the poet acknowledges the vastness of the universe and the complexity of our existence. He suggests that our understanding of God and our place in the world is limited by our own perspective, and that there is much more to discover beyond our own experience.
Overall, "Universal Prayer" is a profound meditation on the nature of humanity and the power of spirituality to bring us together. Pope's belief in the fundamental goodness of God and the importance of moral virtue is reflected in his call for universal love, forgiveness, and humility. In a time of great conflict and division, this poem remains a testament to the enduring power of human compassion and the universal truths that bind us all together.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Universal Prayer by Alexander Pope is a timeless masterpiece that has been celebrated for centuries. This poem is a beautiful expression of the human desire for peace, harmony, and unity. It is a prayer that transcends all boundaries of religion, race, and nationality, and speaks to the universal human experience.
The poem begins with the lines, "Father of all! In every age, / In every clime adored, / By saint, by savage, and by sage, / Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!" These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, as they acknowledge the existence of a higher power that is worshipped in different ways by people all over the world. The use of the word "Father" is significant, as it suggests a sense of intimacy and familiarity with the divine.
The next stanza of the poem is a plea for peace and harmony. Pope writes, "From thee, great God, we spring to thee / Ourselves, our world, our all; / Sustain, oh, more than mother, we / Thy children, in our fall." Here, Pope acknowledges that human beings are dependent on a higher power for their existence and survival. He asks for this power to sustain us, even in our moments of weakness and vulnerability.
The third stanza of the poem is a call for unity. Pope writes, "All are but parts of one stupendous whole, / Whose body Nature is, and God the soul." This line is a beautiful expression of the interconnectedness of all things. It suggests that everything in the universe is connected, and that we are all part of a larger whole. This idea is echoed in many spiritual traditions, and it is a powerful reminder of our shared humanity.
The fourth stanza of the poem is a plea for humility. Pope writes, "Teach me to feel another's woe, / To hide the fault I see; / That mercy I to others show, / That mercy show to me." Here, Pope is asking for the ability to empathize with others and to show compassion. He recognizes that we are all flawed and in need of mercy, and he asks for the ability to extend that mercy to others.
The fifth stanza of the poem is a call for forgiveness. Pope writes, "What conscience dictates to be done, / Or warns me not to do, / This teach me more than hell to shun, / That more than heaven pursue." Here, Pope is acknowledging the importance of following one's conscience and doing what is right. He recognizes that we all make mistakes, but he asks for the ability to learn from those mistakes and to seek forgiveness.
The final stanza of the poem is a plea for peace and harmony once again. Pope writes, "This world, so wide, the world of all, / We humbly beg that thou / Wilt keep us, in our rightful call, / United now and now." This final stanza is a beautiful expression of the human desire for peace and unity. It is a reminder that we are all part of the same world, and that we must work together to create a better future for ourselves and for future generations.
In conclusion, The Universal Prayer by Alexander Pope is a beautiful expression of the human desire for peace, harmony, and unity. It is a reminder that we are all connected, and that we must work together to create a better world. This poem is a timeless masterpiece that has inspired generations of people, and it will continue to inspire us for many years to come.
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