Though Pope’s philosophical ambitions result in a rather incoherent epistle, the poem demonstrates a masterful use of the heroic couplet. Some of the most quoted lines from Pope’s works actually appear in this poem. For example, the quotation “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: / Man never is, but always to be blest” appears in the problematic first epistle (95-6). Pope’s skill with verse thus far outweighs his philosophical aspirations, and it is fortunate that he chose to write in verse rather than prose. Indeed, eighteenth-century critics saw An Essay on Man as a primarily poetic work despite its philosophical themes.
One of the best-known examples of racism is the “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” scenario where parents are scandalized about their child marrying someone of a different race. Pew has done some good work on this and found that only 23% of conservatives and 1% (!) of liberals admit they would be upset in this situation. But Pew also asked how parents would feel about their child marrying someone of a different political party . Now 30% of conservatives and 23% of liberals would get upset. Average them out, and you go from 12% upsetness rate for race to 27% upsetness rate for party – more than double. Yeah, people do lie to pollsters, but a picture is starting to come together here.
A Calder mobile sways, hesitates. One might say that it makes some mistake and then starts over again. Once in his studio I saw a mallet and a gong hung from the ceiling. At the slightest gust, the mallet would chase the spinning gong. Like an awkward hand it would attack, throwing itself forward, only to veer off to the side. Then, just when one least expected it, it would bang the gong squarely in the center with a terrible noise. A mobile’s motions, on the other hand, are ordered with so much art that one could never classify them with the marble rolling on an uneven surface where all direction comes from the accident of the terrain. Mobiles have lives of their own. One day when I was talking to Calder in his studio, a mobile which had been at rest became violently agitated and came at me. I stepped backwards and thought I was out of reach. But suddenly when this violent agitation had gone, and the mobile seemed to have recoiled into rest, its long majestic tail, which had not yet moved, lazily, almost reluctantly came to life. It turned in the air, and then swung right under my nose. These hesitations, renewals, gropings, blunders, brusque decisions, and, above all, this marvelous swan-like nobility make Calder’s mobiles strange creatures existing between matter and life. Sometimes their motions seem motivated, sometimes they seem to have lost their ideas in the midst of their actions and become bewildered—bouncing like idiots. Like a swan, like a frigate, my bird flies, swims, floats. He is one, one specific bird. Then, all of a sudden, he breaks apart and there is nothing left but metal stems filled with ineffectual little quivers. These mobiles have been made neither wholly living nor wholly mechanical, they fly apart at every instant, and yet they always return to their initial position. When they are caught in the rising air they are like aquatic vegetation swayed by the current, like petals of the sensitive plant, like legs of a frog when the brain has been removed. Although Calder has tried to imitate nothing—he has wanted to create only scales and harmonies of unknown motions—his works are both lyrical inventions and almost mathematical, technical combinations. They are symbols of nature—that great vague nature which wastes pollen or which suddenly produces the flight of a thousand butterflies, that unknown nature which might be a blind chain of cause and effect or a timid development, always delayed, always disturbed, inspired by an Idea. This article was originally published, on the occasion of Alexander Calder’s recent Paris show, by Louis Carré whose permission to publish this translation we wish to acknowledge.