Popes Essay On Man And Voltaires Candide In Plain

The Lisbon Earthquake, 1756

 The plagues of Europe, the 1699 China earthquake which killed 400,000, and the Lisbon quake which killed 30,000. Any who witness may challenge the supposition that “All is well.” Voltaire’s “Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” recounted in Chs. 5-6, in part:

And can you then impute a sinful deed
To babes who on their mothers’ bosoms bleed?
Was then more vice in fallen Lisbon found,
Than Paris, where voluptuous joys abound?
Was less debauchery to London known,
Where opulence luxurious holds the throne? . . .

Yet in this direful chaos you’d compose
A general bliss from individuals’ woes?
Oh worthless bliss! in injured reason’s sight,
With faltering voice you cry, ‘What is, is right’? . . .

Once did I sing, in less lugubrious tone,
The sunny ways of pleasure’s genial rule;
The times have changed, and, taught by growing age,
And sharing of the frailty of mankind,
Seeking a light amid the deepening gloom,
I can but suffer, and will not repine.

A caliph once, when his last hour had come,
This prayer addressed to him he reverenced:

“To thee, sole and all-powerful king, I bear
What thou dost lack in thy immensity—
Evil and ignorance, distress and sin.”
He might have added one thing further—hope.

* * * * *

Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau having been sent a copy of the poem, wrote to Voltaire that:

All my complaints are . . . against your poem on the Lisbon disaster, because I expected from it evidence more worthy of the humanity which apparently inspired you to write it. You reproach Pope and Leibnitz with belittling our misfortunes by affirming that all is well, but you so burden the list of our miseries that you further disparage our condition. Instead of the consolations that I expected; you only vex me. It might be said that you fear that I don’t feel my unhappiness enough, and that you are trying to soothe me by proving that all is bad.

Do not be mistaken, Monsieur, it happens that everything is contrary to what you propose. This optimism which you find so cruel consoles me still in the same woes that you force on me as unbearable. Pope’s poem alleviates my difficulties and inclines me to patience; yours makes my afflictions worse, prompts me to grumble, and, leading me beyond a shattered hope, reduces me to despair . . . .

“Have patience, man,” Pope and Leibnitz tell me, “your woes are a necessary effect of your nature and of the constitution of the universe. The eternal and beneficent Being who governs the universe wished to protect you. Of all the possible plans, he chose that combining the minimum evil and the maximum good. If it is necessary to say the same thing more bluntly, God has done no better for mankind because (He) can do no better.”

Now what does your poem tell me? “Suffer forever unfortunate one. If a God created you, He is doubtlessly all powerful and could have prevented all your woes. Don’t ever hope that your woes will end, because you would never know why you exist, if it is not to suffer and die . . . .”

Rousseau became convinced that Voltaire’s Candide was a response to this return letter. 

But to his Social Contract, Voltaire wrote:  “Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours.”

And in general, to his detractors, Voltaire said, “I have asked God for only one thing in my life and that is that he should make people laugh at my enemies. And he did.”

Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman

2015 Words9 Pages

Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman

Both Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle 2 and Mary Leapor's Essay on Woman expound the fatalist contention that neither man nor woman can "win," as each individual exists in a world of trade-offs. Yet, by each author's singular technique of sculpting his ideas with the literary tools of contrast, argument, and syntax, the cores of the two essays turn back to back, evolving into distinct, but contrary perspectives of Man's (in respect to mankind) and Woman's existence. Pope asserts that a profusion of trade-offs establish a certain equilibrium point where Man hangs "on this isthmus of a middle state" (Magill 2629). After defining the boundaries of Man's…show more content…

Pope chooses neither good nor bad connotations ("A being darkly wise, and rudely great") to avoid judging either of man's extremes. Instead he skillfully chooses each word to avoid judging either extreme as good or bad, right or wrong. "Darkly," on its own, connotes the unseen, the undefined and is uniquely paired with "wise," a word denoting a grasp on definition or reason. "Rudely great" again combines two impartial words that seem to stand in a paradox as a unit - "rudely" suggests low class and lack of refinement (but lacks the moral judgment of "crudely") while "great" indicates superiority, prominence and nobility (without implying self-righteous conceit, as "grand" might have done). Paired, however, each phrase ("Darkly wise" and "rudely great") carries on its own distinctive hybridized meaning. "Darkly wise," comes to depict an indefinite sensibility and "rudely great," denotes an unrefined dignity. Much simpler contrasts between black and white, dark and light, strength and weakness might have sufficed, but, efforting to capture the depth of Man's character, Pope creates contrasts that escape the banality of common antonyms and espouse the sundry spectrums of qualities that comprise Man's character. By these contrasts, Pope was able to construct his thesis, case in point, by illustrating the creative conglomeration that propitiously sets Man apart from God and beast.

Leapor contrasts images to illustrate the perfection of woman and the

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