Although Finch represents order using the image of a night, and Pope with the metaphor of a body and soul, Pope's An Essay on Man, and Finch's Nocturnal Reverie, both view order as part of God's power, and agree that when mankind tries to take this power from God, specifically through their selfish thoughts, order is destroyed, and chaos born, but when mankind is content with the power that has been given to him, harmony exists on earth and in heaven.
Finch's image of a perfect night, symbolizes a perfect order. In the daytime, mankind is a constant distraction to the peaceful possibilities that can be attained, but at night, this harmony between all creatures is present. Finch uses the night to present the reader with an ideal existence, where nature, animal and God co-exist in an environment of acceptance.
In such a night, when passing clouds give place
Or thinly veil the heavens' mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bares itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite, ("Nocturnal" 7-12)
The nature is peaceful and the image is beautiful. Only at night, can clouds open up to God, and remain calm in the presence of the unknown. All of nature opens up to each other, full of love. The river surrounded in plant life, is now alive. The moon, and the leaves are all brought out, vulnerable, not in the deathly sun, but by the night, and the cool moonlight. The grass, now far from ashamed, stands up straight, near the water. And even the animals, and insects, enjoy the night, "When scattered glow-worms, but in twilight fine, / Show trivial beauties, watch their hour to shine;" ("Nocturnal" 17-18). For, night is the time where the lowest creature on the planet, the insect, has its time to be important. Finch views order in the night, for their is no good, nor bad animal, no high nor low nature, just an order of separate, but equal lives, like parts of a body
Pope's "body with many parts" metaphor helps mankind find its place on earth. An Essay on Man questions, "What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread, / Or hand to toil, aspired to be the head?" (259-260). Here, every life represents part of the universal society, whether God, mankind, beast, or nature. They all play their own part, and this is the order. The earth is made for all creatures, and there is a place for everything, "All are but parts of one stupendous whole, / Whose body, Nature is, and God the soul;" ("Essay" 267-268). And so we live with full respect of every animal, "All in exact proportion to the state; / Nothing to add, and nothing to abate. / Each beast, each insect, happy in its own;" ("Essay" 183-185). In this order, however, God is in control at all times.
Although, Pope and Finch's images are drastically different, their reasoning as to order is very similar. To begin with, both Pope and Finch believe that God has the ultimate power on earth, and in heaven. Regarding order, this power is supposed to put everybody in their place. Power is seen in both authors through the images of light. An Essay of Man answers the question of who is control of nature with, "Who knows but he, whose hand the light'ning forms, / Who heaves old ocean, and who wings the storms" (157-158) The lightning bolt is the most awesome vision of controlled, powerful light that comes from God only. Mankind cannot control this ultimate light. The light is God's, and he brings it every day, whether it is the sun, moon, stars, or a bolt of lightning. The power of God is beyond mankind's control and comprehension.
Finch shows us that God is powerful, through images of beautiful nature, flowing rivers, moonlighting, and animals grazing, but also in a simple line such as, "But silent musings urge the mind to seek/ Something, too high for syllables to speak;" ("Nocturnal" 41-42). The argument is clear, the mind cannot connect with anything as high as the heavens, nor as knowledgeable as God. Mankind can try to be in control, but there will always be that which he cannot understand, let alone become. But it is the selfish mind of mankind, which is obsessed with competition, and pride, that gets in the way, and leads to the downfall of order.
God's power keeps everything in balance, but once this is challenged, chaos is let loose. The pride of mankind to become more like God, and to quit its sphere, or body part that it belongs to, causes the world, God, existence, and order not to function properly.
In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes,
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell,
Aspiring to be angels, men rebel;
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of ORDER, sins against th' Eternal Cause." ("Essay" 123-130)
Only through the pride of the mind will anything so dreadful happen. Mankind is not angels, nor God, so therefore, they should not attempt to challenge where they have been placed, for it goes against order, as well as being selfish in the eyes of God, himself. It does not take much for an entire system to break, Pope explains, "Ask for what end th' heav'nly bodies shine,/ Earth for whose use? Pride answers, Tis for mine:/ For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r, Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev'ry flow'r;/ Annual for me . . ." ("Essay" 132-135). According to the selfish mind of mankind, the purpose of God, existence, earth, heaven, nature, and the light is for mankind only. Why is there light? Who does the sun shine on? Pride's answer is always "Me, for me, and that is all that matters." Harmony will never exist in this environment, but chaos lives naturally.
The end of the Finch's poem is the perfect example of what happens when man challenges God's power. In Nocturnal Reverie, unlike the night, where harmony exists, due to the mankind's rested soul, the daytime is seen as the birth of chaos, where mankind's mind takes over, " . . . morning breaks, and all's confused again;/ Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,/ Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued." (48-50). In these lines, we realize that mankind's daily routine is something that disturbs order so much, that only at night, while mankind's soul sleeps, is life truly calm
Finch loves the night she creates, and wants to remain in the night, for it is the harmony of order, every creature knowing their role. She does not want to be involved with the selfish mind of mankind, but rather at peace with mankind's soul, or spirit, "When a sedate content the spirit feels,/ And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;" ("Nocturnal" 39). At night, Finch's image of the relaxed spirit, is where she feels mankind should remain. The fierce light represents the distractions of the day, more specifically the aspirations of mankind's mind toward God, the bolt of lightning, the fire in the sky, the unknown, or the sun that torches the land, and does not let nature rest. But at night nature is not being abused, "While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,/ And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale" ("Nocturnal" 27-28). The cool night is able to cover up all the mind's misplaced thoughts, and find harmony.
And mankind's soul is but in a calm sleep, forgetting all the worries of the day. All of the ". . . elements of rage disarmed" ("Nocturnal" 44), being in this pleasant sleep, they have no arguments, complaints, or bickering of their place in the universe. In the sleep, in the night, in our dreams, there are no problems with who we are or where we are, or why we are, but complete satisfaction in our place. The world we live in gives us joy, and we do not wish for more. We do not wish pleasures that our out of our grasp. And in such a night, this soul enjoys life with all of the "creatures" below. All of nature, all of the beasts, birds, and insects. The night represents life without mankind's selfish mind, and here we find harmony, in our own place
In order to find harmony, Pope invites us to look at life through God's eyes, where the image is not exclusive to night, but open to all. God is the one which, "Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,/ Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees," ("Essay" 271-272), who "Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,/ As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart" ("Essay" 275-276), and "To him no high, no low, no great, no small;/ He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all," ("Essay" 279-280). The earth is nature, and the soul is God's, and God's soul as well as his body, is what warms in the sun, and enjoys the land. The creator is who breathes us in, and in one breath, understands us, comforts us, and blesses us. God puts an end to the selfish mind, and looks straight to the soul. To him, there are no boundaries, for he looks at us all equal, and without pride, but in our own place.
Through the differences images Finch and Pope face, whether night or day, body or soul, their poems do not seem to contradict each other. Pope's An Essay on Man, and Finch's Nocturnal Reverie, both find harmony when they let go of the selfishness and pride that distracts mankind's eye from true beauty. The night is not seen as beautiful, when mankind wants to control the night, and the body will not function if man wants to be a different part. God gave man free-will, however, so we are not forced to live in this harmony. But as Pope and Finch have made it clear, it looks better when we do.
Finch, Anne. "A Nocturnal Reverie." The Longman Anthology of British Literature Vol 1C. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc., 1999: 2668-2669. This was the source for the poem, which provided the exact quotes used in my paper.
Pope, Alexander. "An Essay on Man." The Longman Anthology of British Literature Vol 1C. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc., 1999: 2528-2535. This was the source for the poem, which provided the exact quotes used in my paper.