Monday, December 29, 2014

The Universal Prayer - Alexander Pope

Father of all! in every age,
   In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
   Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!

Thou Great First Cause, least understood:
   Who all my sense confined
To know but this - that thou art goood,
   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 Heaven pursue.

What blessings they free bounty gives,
   Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
   To 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 deal 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, of teach my heart
   To find a better way.

Save me alike from foolish pride,
   Or impious discontent,
At aught they wisdom has denied,
   Or aught thy goodness lent.

Teach me to feel another's woe,
   To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
   That mercy show to me.

Mean though I am, not wholly so
   Since quickened by thy breath;
Oh lead me whereso'er I go,
   Though this day's life or death.

This day, be bread and peace my lot:
   All else beneath the sun,
Thou know'st if best bestowed or not,
   And let thy will be done.

To thee, whose temple is all space,
   Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
   All Nature's incense rise!

A prayer to remain vigilant in all things.  Pope reminds himself of his own blindness, his own ignorance, and that happiness can only be found in God's word.  It's a religious text with simple meaning and application.  The calls for compassion are clear and relevant to people of all walks of life, regardless of religious belief.  "Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the fault I see; That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me."

While the messages are very much couched in traditional Christian guise and language, I feel that the message, the desires for mutual compassion and understanding, for mercy and wisdom, transcend the religious context.

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