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    #1

    What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    Failed to understand "spite of pride, in erring reason's spite". Please rewrite it in plain English.

    Context:

    Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow'r,
    Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
    All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
    All chance, direction, which thou canst not see
    All discord, harmony not understood,
    All partial evil, universal good:
    And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
    One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.

    Full context

  1. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    By the way, it's "Pope's" not "the Pope's".

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    It's a poetic convention - using 'spite' instead of 'despite; and it separates 'in spite [of]' for reasons of meter. And - now I come to think of it - perhaps that "in" is required to operate on the first "spite", in typical Miltonic compressed syntax (is it Milton?*); when "'spite" is used as an abbreviation of 'despite' it usually has an apostrophe (if the poet knows or cares).

    So the penultimate line means 'And, regardless of [-in spite of] pride, in spite of what reason (which can be mistaken) says.'' He could, by 'erring', mean that reason always and necessarily is wrong, but I doubt it.

    b

    PS*I hadn't seen bhai's comment when I wrote this

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    #4

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    It's a poetic convention - using 'spite' instead of 'despite; and it separates 'in spite [of]' for reasons of meter. And - now I come to think of it - perhaps that "in" is required to operate on the first "spite", in typical Miltonic compressed syntax (is it Milton?*); when "'spite" is used as an abbreviation of 'despite' it usually has an apostrophe (if the poet knows or cares).

    So the penultimate line means 'And, regardless of [-in spite of] pride, in spite of what reason (which can be mistaken) says.'' He could, by 'erring', mean that reason always and necessarily is wrong, but I doubt it.

    b

    PS*I hadn't seen bhai's comment when I wrote this
    Thank you.
    Failed to understand the underlined.

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    #5

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    What does " by 'erring'" mean?

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by NewHopeR View Post
    What does " by 'erring'" mean?
    Do you understand the definition of "to err"?

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    #7

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Do you understand the definition of "to err"?
    I usually get it as "to make mistake (inadvertently)."

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: What does it (the Pope's line) mean?

    OK. Something that's erring makes mistakes. But the -ing form in the poem doesn't make it clear whether Pope thinks that 'reason' can sometimes make mistakes or ['always and necessarily'] can only make mistakes (which is quite a bleak view: 'anything that is the result of reasoning has to be wrong - rather than trying to think "What is the right think to do?" we should simply listen [to someone or something].'

    b

    PS I've just thought that the problem word may be 'reason'. It's nothing, here, to do with 'cause and effect'. Pope is using it to refer the faculty of rational thought.
    Last edited by BobK; 15-Jun-2012 at 10:35. Reason: Added PS

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