R. R. 2, Brandon, Wisconsin 53919
When another growing season comes upon us once again it is indeed true 'that hope springs eternal in the human heart; Man never is, but always to be blest.' These lines, which came to me early on a Sunday morning in late April, sent me into a quest for authorship.
Browsing through a few of my over five hundred books I was amazed to find so much of Alexander Pope's writing in the poetry section of my library. I have been missing something extraordinarily helpful by not reading this man's work. He was born in 1688 and lived only 58 years.
The account of his life call him 'strangely misshapen, hunch-back, dwarfed.' He acquired a curvature of the spine, and some tubercular infection which limited his growth. This seriously impaired his health. His full-grown height was four feet and six inches. He was mainly self-educated. He eagerly read Latin, Greek, French, and Italian, which he managed to teach himself. And he was an incessant scribbler.
But as I continued to search, I found a man of tremendous stature. He is described as being 'nearly always ill, often petulant and spiteful. Pope was, nevertheless, loved and respected by his peers.'
We who live in a well-formed, reasonably comely body, know very little of what the deformed and ill face every day. I planted two trees and four shrubs this past week, and believe you me, it helps to be strong, tall, and tolerably heavy when you are pushing a spade or fork into solid sod. When I remember how I used to resent being such a 'big girl' I am ashamed. After a winter of massaging my husband's back and muscles I have developed some lively muscles of my own. So I was all set for spring's work. I am happy to report that Mr. B. is just fine after knee and hip replacements.
I was rather surprised to learn that Alexander Pope was an avid gardener in spite of his troubles. A garden is a good place to dream in and gather new ideas. But how little the larger share of humanity shows its concern for the handicapped and weaker brother or sister. Yet out of these very people come lines such as, 'Hope springs eternal in the human heart; Man never is, but always to be blest.'
I wonder what would happen in our great big wonderful world if every grumbler suddenly became a thankful person? What would it be like to hear all men praise and thank God instead of taking His name in vain and cursing others through this name?
In Alexander Pope's poem 'from Essay on Man' this little misshapen person gives us a clear description of what we are. One line here 'The proper study of mankind is man' shows us how much we can learn from observing others, from lowest to highest.
If I have stirred up your curiosity to study Pope's poems, be sure not to miss his 'ODE ON SOLITUDE.' That is outstanding to me. He claims to have written this at the age of twelve. In this poem he tells how happy the man is 'Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire.' Maybe that's what I had in mind as I was planting those trees. If we would stop to consider how often we have enjoyed the shade of a tree which someone else planted it would also add to Our thankfulness. Now that we are in an energy crisis surely every dead tree becomes a boon and a blessing when cut up and burned for heat. (But, of course, we don't want to think of this in mid-summer.)
We have two fireplaces in our home, one in the basement, and the other in the living room. Should we be forced to stay at home more often to save gasoline we could enjoy their cheerful heat, and save oil in the process.
We may well find ourselves going back to some of the simple things of life as we lessen the rat race which many people compete in. Alexander Pope lived in simpler days and came forth with a great art of expressing himself in words. He may have had a misshapen body but his head was on straight, from what I can gather. Encyclopedia Brittanica calls him 'A man of plain living, high thinking, and unimpeachable integrity.' (Unquote) It added that that all his critics did not agree with him. But hasn't that always been the case? I wonder what Mr. Pope would think of the words of a lot of modern songs if he was here to turn on our radios? Supposing he were to step into an abortion clinic and watch the 'slaughter of our innocents.' Anna Mae comes up with a good question in her last column 'Soot in the Flues.' She quotes Pat Robertson in asking, 'Where would our greatness be if God truly turned His hand against us?' Yes, Anna Mae, I have tried Christ, and am experiencing His saving and keeping power every day, and I agree 'IT'S GREAT!'
God has given us so much to interest us and His diversity in His creation is awe inspiring to me. He has made men so creative also. We are hoping to attend more steam shows this summer if my Mr. B. can be on his feet again and it surely looks headed that way. I can just hear those steam men bragging about their 110 Case or their 28 Minneapolis or even a huge Under mounted Avery. Then there will be the happy fellows with their beautiful miniatures, built by their own two hands. The joy of the truly creative person is written all over their faces.
Who can ever say what individual has added the most to life's richness? I, for one, feel that the challenge of energy shortage may help to lead us back from this moral decay which is threatening our inner fiber. We need to go back to examine our roots for without roots we cannot grow. My two trees and four bushes must form strong ones this summer to survive. May God grant us good roots as well. It is the good roots that cause us to grow upward and keep our heads on straight. We cannot develop to full potential without the Spirit of God within us.