Humans have been questioning their place in the universe for centuries. Is there an order to anything or is it all just a bunch of random chaotic occurrences. Anne Finch addresses the idea of a chaotic universe in her poem "A Nocturnal Reverie". She feels that the universe is unsettled due to how humans propel chaos onto nature. Alexander Pope also deals with the theme of chaos in his poem "An Essay on Man", however his view is opposite of Finch's. Pope feels that the chaos of the universe is organic and helps to balance nature. Both authors grapple with the relationship between man and nature, and have two very different perceptions of chaos and its origins.
Finch views nature as being innately balanced and man as being inadvertently chaotic. When referring to nature Finch uses a soothing registers. Throughout the first 24 lines of the poem words such as "trembling" and "waving" are used to describe the serenity of nature and the peacefulness behind it all. Each part of nature leads to another and it all flows together to create a unity in the world. This harmony is only interrupted when humans interfere. Nature seems to be floating around in its own balanced bubble and then "When through the gloom more venerable shows / some ancient fabric awful in repose", out of nowhere the register changes (25-26). A broken down building interrupts the flow of the poem just as it disrupts the flow of nature. The register changes from a peaceful "trembling" to a disordered "awful" due to the influence of man onto nature. It is because of this influence that chaos occurs.
Pope does not think that the influence of man onto nature is the cause of all the chaos in the universe. When speaking about the universe he uses a dramatic register. Lines 89-90 of "An Essay on Man" state: "Atoms or systems into ruin hurled, / And now a bubble burst, and now a new world". The words "hurled" and "burst" are very loud violent words. Pope uses them to express the innate chaos of nature. Humans are just floating around on a tumultuous ball of matter. He describes the world as being "A wild, where weeds and flow'rs promiscuous shoot", while men have "A mighty maze! but not without a plan;"(6-7). He thinks that nature is wild and jumbled, while humans have a distinct place in the world. Nature imposes its natural chaos onto men and causes much confusion. The problem occurs when men try to relate themselves to nature. By doing so they are confusing the chain and creating an un-needed distraction.
Finch also finds this distraction to be superficial. She thinks nature and men are completely separate entities and should be dealt with accordingly. It is only when humans go to sleep that nature can truly be at peace. When humans are awake they try to reason with their surroundings. They try to understand why the lightning bug flickers and why the horse meanders through the fields. Humans want to have the same sense of content-ness that nature seems to have. "Their short-lived jubilee the creatures keep, / Which but endures, whilst tyrant-man does sleep" is a wonderful representation of the idea that nature lives when humans sleep (37-38). When humans wake up, "Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed, / Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued" (49-50). When humans are sleeping chaos cannot be found because chaos is a manifestation of man. Humans analyze nature to often when they are awake and in turn increase the chaos that they escape while sleeping. Sleeping should not be the only chaos free time in life. In order to decrease chaos humans need to separate themselves from the non-human world.
Pope also feels that humans and non-humans need to know their own place in the universe. The universe is one huge chain, and if one link is out of balance the whole chain will be ruined. Humans have their specific purpose and though they wish they could breath under water it is not their place. Well, "What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread, / Or hand to toil, aspired to be the head"(259-260)? Then the human body would not work as it is supposed to. And what if the dog tried to run a business and a man tried to pee on fire a hydrant? Then the earth would not work as it is supposed to. The universe is a harmony of opposites with each part working a specific job that in turn compliments the whole. People need to leave nature alone and only worry about what they were put on this earth to accomplish.
Both Pope and Finch view the world as two separate entities, man and nature. It is only when the two compete and try to understand each other that chaos occurs. Finch feels that humans put chaos onto nature, and if there were no humans, nature would be equally balanced. In fact, there is no such thing as chaos; it is just another word that humans made up in order to help them understand what God did not explain to them. Pope, on the other hand, views nature as inherently chaotic. There is nothing that people can do to change it. The more people worry about chaos the more confused they will be. If humans relax and mold into the plan, according to Pope everything will fall into its own place. The difference between Finchs view of the universe and Popes view of the universe is that Finch sees the chaos as being propelled onto nature while Pope sees the chaos as being innately in nature.