"What Man Has Made Of Man" (2023)

"What Man Has Made Of Man" (1)

Journalists are taught to put the most important information in the lede, that topic sentence or paragraph that sets up an article. By that standard, this effort is already a failure.

For justification to try something a bit different, however, I turn to the late longtime New York Times columnist William Safire. I first met Bill back in the Nixon-Agnew White House, where he was a speechwriter. He later provided commentary at CBS News, and even though we disagreed on a lot of things, I grew to like him, and I believe he, me. I think back to how different those times were in our political discourse.

Well, Bill wasn’t shy about sharing his views, and that tendency extended to offering advice about how to read a newspaper column. (In so doing, he was perhaps offering a wink at those who wish to write them.)

“Never look for the story in the 'lede.' Reporters are required to put what's happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.”

(Safire’s admonition came in one of the final pieces he wrote for The Times, titled “How to Read a Column,” which is still very much worth a read as long as you don’t use it to judge this one too harshly.)

So in the spirit of Safire, I am moving up something I had intended to put much farther down.

It might seem odd to begin a consideration of the war in Ukraine, and how it echoes the dangerous divisions we are witnessing here in the United States (the ultimate subject of this Sunday essay), with a poem about spring from William Wordsworth.

It’s the kind of thing that if you have the gall to include at all, you would try to safely tuck away toward the end of the column, once you have explained it and set it up with all the necessary context. And you would probably just pull a quote rather than printing the full poem. But for better or worse, that’s not the Steady way. We are all among friends here, right? So let’s give it a try, because it builds to one of the most haunting questions in verse, a question that reverberates in the tragedies of our current age.

"Lines Written in Early Spring," by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

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To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

That last line has echoed in my mind recently. Have we not all reason to lament what man has made of man?

Amidst the beauty of our natural world, we see humans wreak death and destruction for no purpose but the misguided pursuit of glory and ego. We see good people attacked by those cynically using vitriol to gather political power. We see wealth hoarded while so many go hungry. And we see the balance of our Earth thrown off-kilter by our short-sighted actions to a degree Wordsworth never could have imagined. It is not only what man has made of man, but what we have made of our precious planet.

As we welcome spring, a season that always builds stirrings of hope in mind and heart, the tension that Wordsworth so deftly expressed is everywhere. Let us think of the symbol of Ukraine, the bright yellow sunflower. It brings such color and beauty to our world — such a stark contrast to the mounds of eviscerated rubble in Mariupol and the death and suffering they represent.

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Washington, D.C. They bring an ethereal sense of wonder to the city, as families, couples young and old, and solitary strollers gather to admire the lush budding branches:

And yet this same city has seen such ugliness on display. That has been depressingly obvious in the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson at the Capitol, the same building that was the stage for a violent insurrection.

We must note, however, that Wordsworth lived before the age of modern science. He didn’t know how intertwined we are in our biological makeup to the rest of life. We sit not apart from nature, but amidst it. And nature itself is not simply unadulterated beauty or tranquility. The coronavirus represents nature. So too do the ravages of natural disasters. From the perspective of a wildebeest running for its life from a lion, nature isn’t very pretty.

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And in this reality, we can perhaps also find hope. We can begin by expanding the framing to what humans have made of humans, or even more optimistically, what humans have done for humans. For as much pain and suffering as I have witnessed in my career as a reporter, I have seen many more actions of heroic kindness and decency.

The stories out of Ukraine are heartbreaking, but think of all those putting their own lives at risk to help others. The people going into the rubble to pull out survivors, even as bombs continue to fall. The farmers who continue to plant in the breadbasket of Europe, even as war rages around them. The neighboring countries helping millions of men, women, and so many children who are fleeing for their lives with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Around the world, there has been an outpouring of support for the Ukrainian people. The stirring chords of the Ukrainian national anthem seem to be everywhere, a defiant pushback to forces of darkness and death:

Meanwhile, back in Washington, we can admire the steadfast resolve of Judge Jackson and her unwavering faith in this country and the rule of law. Her testimony about how she got to this moment, of those who helped along the way, is also an inspiring tribute to what humans can do for humans.

I particularly love this picture of her husband and daughter looking on — and from the likes on Twitter, I can tell I wasn’t the only one. That the picture was taken by Sarahbeth Maney, a young Black woman, makes it all the more meaningful:

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We can think of our fellow humans in the sciences who produced vaccines for Covid in record time. We can think of the engineers developing new alternative energies. We can think of the social workers, librarians, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, custodians, park rangers, and many others who provide services large and small, public and private, in the past, the present, and the future.

Ultimately, I like to believe in a conspiracy of decent people. I have lived long enough to know that the past isn’t as glorious as we would like to believe. In many ways, and for many people, it was far less just. On a global scale, our misery index, when measured for such suffering as hunger and infant mortality, has diminished.

We can learn from what worked in the past, but progress means going forward. Sometimes a snapshot of a moment of time, whether our own or that spring day from two centuries ago that inspired Wordsworth, can be misleading. We are not frozen in any one instant. Yes, we need to stop and think about what we do to each other. We need to recognize and confront the horrors that face us. But every bracketing of the present will invariably proceed into the future.

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Time marches in one direction. We can’t stop it, but we can help shape it. Each human act of support to others is one that helps heal our world. Even now, with so much anxiety and chaos destabilizing our country and beyond, we can grip firmly onto what is good and just and use it to steady ourselves for the work to be done.

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What man has made of man what do these lines convey? ›

Answer: So if Wordsworth is comparing and contrasting the works of Nature (beauty and perfection) with “What man has made of man,” then it stands to reason that he is describing the unnatural aspects of human industry: the wars, strife, and grief which lead to human suffering and unhappiness.

Why does the poet regret about what man has made of man? ›

Seeing such natural joy in everything around him, the poet believes that it might be heaven sent. Therefore, if this natural joy is Nature's holy plan, the poet has reason to lament what man has made of man.

What is the meaning of the poem Lines Written in Early Spring? ›

The poem Lines Written in Early Spring written by William Wordsworth discusses nature and its relation with human beings. Through the poem the poet laments about the disruptive relationship between humans and nature.

Have I not reason to lament what man has made of man? ›

Though he could not fathom the meaning, he realized the blissful state of nature. But he remembered the depravity of man which was evident in Napoleonic wars. He was fed up with man's capacity to destroy innocent lives and property. So, he lamented “what man has made of man”.

What is the overall message of the poem An Essay on Man? ›

Considered as a whole, the Essay on Man is an affirmative poem of faith: life seems chaotic and patternless to man when he is in the midst of it, but is in fact a coherent portion of a divinely ordered plan. In Pope's world God exists, and he is benificent: his universe is an ordered place.

What is the main ideas in the poem Essay on Man? ›

An Essay on Man describes the order of the universe in terms of a hierarchy, or chain, of being. By virtue of their ability to reason, humans are placed above animals and plants in this hierarchy.

What message does the poet want to convey through the poem no men are? ›

What message does the poet want to convey? Answer: The poet wants to say that there should be no discrimination between people on the basis of their appearance, religion or region.

Why does the poet say that we defile the human earth? ›

How, according, to the poet, the human earth is 'defiled' and the innocence of air 'outraged'? Ans: The weapons of war make the earth dirty and spoil its atmosphere. The deadly ammunition destroys the fertility of the earth and makes it barren.

What according to the poet Keats makes a man sad? ›

Answer: According to Keats man suffers from pain and suffering due to the inhuman dearth of noble natures on earth and due to the inhuman and hostile attitude that makes our days sad and darkens our ways with distress and wretchedness. Question 23.

What is spring offensive about poem? ›

“Spring Offensive” is a poem of harmony and unity that maintains a balance between sensations and abstractions, between Owen's Romantic heritage and his French experience at the war and between Owen's celebration of the soldiers and his protests against the war.

What is the main message of the poem? ›

Theme is the lesson or message of the poem.

What is the message behind the poem? ›

Message is the thing that encourages poets to create poetry. The message can be found after knowing the meaning of poetry. Message or advice is captured by readers as the impression after reading the poem. How the reader to conclude message poetry is closely related to the point of view of the reader toward something.

What is the central idea of the poem lament? ›

Central Idea of the Poem: A Lament

he recalls his memory when he was being praised and glorified by the people. But now all these happy moments have changed into sadness. He has lost the hope of life to live as he lived it in the past.

What does the last stanza of the hollow men mean? ›

The last stanza makes reference to people apart from the hollow men (Those who have crossed with direct eyes, to death's other kingdom remember us).

What man has made of man reference to context? ›

Answer. Answer: So if Wordsworth is comparing and contrasting the works of Nature (beauty and perfection) with “What man has made of man,” then it stands to reason that he is describing the unnatural aspects of human industry: the wars, strife, and grief which lead to human suffering and unhappiness.

What message does the poet want to convey to us? ›

The poet wants to say that there should be no discrimination between people on the basis of their appearance, religion, or region. It is inhuman to tease one because of one's different background.

What message does the poem convey to all of us? ›

Solution. The message that the poem conveys to us is that we must be generous and unselfish and think of others.

What is the central theme of the poem no men are? ›

The central theme of the poem No Men are Foreign revolves around the brotherhood of all humankind. The poet points out that all our boundaries and differences are human-made. Throughout the poem, James Kirkup tries to show the similarities between all humans.

What is the theme of trying to talk with a man? ›

'Trying to Talk With a Man' movingly depicts a failing relationship. Once, the poet's marriage was a happy one, filled with music and cookies, with movies and 'afternoons on the riverbank'. And even the couple's struggles, we sense, used to bring them closer together.

What is man summary? ›

"What Is Man?", published by Mark Twain in 1906, is a dialogue between a young man and an older man jaded to the world. The title refers to Psalm 8-4,[citation needed] which begins 'what is man, that you are mindful of him...'. It involves ideas of destiny and free will, as well as of psychological egoism.

What's the life of a man poem? ›

The world's a bubble; and the life of man less than a span. In his conception wretched; from the womb so to the tomb: Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years, with cares and fears.

How does the poet want to keep the people united through the poem no men are foreign? ›

No Men Are Foreign Introduction to the poem

The poet wants to say that all men are same, all men are equal. He wants to promote the concept of universal brotherhood. In this poem, the poet wants to tell us that everyone in this world is same. All people, all men are same – they eat, live, die the same way.

How does the poet express the idea of oneness of mankind? ›

In the poem, the poet emphasises the message that all men are equal. He says that all countries are same and all people equal. He reminds the readers that we all have the same body and every part of our body is same.

How does the poet describe that all human beings are the same? ›

The poet cites various examples to tell that all humans are same. According to him, in all the different clothes we wear, the body which breathes is the same. All of us have hands and feet, eyes and mouth. We all share the same earth, its resources, water, air and sunlight.

How are humans defiling the earth? ›

Answers. We defile the earth by considering other human beings as our enemies, outsiders and foreigners; by dividing our earth into countries and by developing enmity against another group of people. We wage wars and the weapons of war pollute the air we breathe, by raising dust and smoke and by piling debris on earth.

How do we humiliate the Mother earth? ›

  1. 1.by throwing garbages here and there.
  2. 2.by polluting the rivers and lakes.
  3. 3.by deforestation.
  4. 4.by not taking care of their own field,plants and trees.
  5. 5.by overpopulating or covering forest area.
Sep 6, 2020

How can you say that no men are foreign? ›

In the beginning, the poet says that 'no men are strange and no country is foreign'. So, the poet tries to remove all the borders of countries from the earth's surface. Only then no country will be foreign. Also, when there will be no borders then no county will be foreign.

Which things cause suffering to human beings? ›

The poet lists a number of things that cause suffering and pain, such as despondency, depression, unhealthy and wrong ways taken up by humans to acquire their desired goals, etc. The poet also feels that there is a real dearth of noble souls in this world.

What moves away the pain and suffering from human life? ›

According to John Keats it is only beauty that moves pain and suffering away from human life. Keats argues in the poem that a beautiful thing is a source of eternal joy and the beauty actually lies in the eyes of beholder.

What is inhuman in life? ›

lacking qualities of sympathy, pity, warmth, compassion, or the like; cruel; brutal: an inhuman master. not suited for human beings.

What is the significance of the little word in the poem Spring Offensive? ›

The word 'spring is a season of love and beauty, of birth and regeneration, of gala and union while offensive suggests an attack destruction oozing blood. Thus 'Spring Offensive' means an unnatural offense of war against nature.

What does the word spring symbolize in the poem There Will Come Soft Rains? ›

At the end of the poem, “Spring” is a symbol of new life and rebirth. This suggests that after humanity “perished utterly,” the world would be reborn in a new way, one that flourishes more completely without humankind.

Why did the Spring Offensive fail? ›

The Spring Offensives failed for several reasons. There were serious command errors. Ludendorff squandered his best chance at victory by missing British logistical vulnerabilities, and he lost a grip on the operations, repeatedly reinforcing mere tactical successes.

What is the message of the story? ›

A story's message, or theme, is what the author wants to teach you through his or her writing. Some stories have a specific kind of message called a moral, or a life lesson. You can find the message of a story by looking at the characters' actions and focusing on what is repeated throughout the story.

What is the moral lesson that the poem teaches us? ›

if we take challenges with full courage then challenges will become our friend and will reach to great heights in our life.

What is the tone of the poem? ›

The poet's attitude toward the poem's speaker, reader, and subject matter, as interpreted by the reader. Often described as a “mood” that pervades the experience of reading the poem, it is created by the poem's vocabulary, metrical regularity or irregularity, syntax, use of figurative language, and rhyme.

What does the opening line of the poem mean? ›

In the case of narrative poems, the opening lines may serve to introduce a character or plot device. Regardless of the type of poem, the opening line serves the same purpose: to hook the reader and encourage them to read the whole poem, not stopping until the very last line.

What is the moral of the poem don't quit? ›

It's all about perseverance, tenacity, determination and will-power to not to give up - especially when the things are going wrong, and when one is seemingly swimming against the tide. This poem reminds us that there are seeds of success in every failure, and that's why we mustn't quit.

What is the poem a story about? ›

The poem “A Story” by Li-Young Lee depicts the complex relationship between a boy and his father when the boy asks his father for a story and he can't come up with one. When you're a parent your main focus is to make your child happy and to meet all the expectations your child meets.

What do these lines tell you about the man mentioned in the extract? ›

c)What do these lines tell you about the man mentioned in the extract? The man mentioned in the extract was determined to keep the appointment he had made twenty years ago and in a way was a loyal friend.

What figure of speech in what man has made of man? ›

There is the figure of speech hyperbole in the expression 'a thousand blended notes'. 'What man has made of man' is an example Alliteration.

What does he in these lines refer to? ›

"He" refers to the poet's horse in these lines.

What does the line man's estrangement from a man made world mean? ›

The poem deals with the theme of the poet's father's estrangement from a man-made world. The remark implies that the man finds himself as a no-one in the midst of many people around him, who do not care for him at all.

What answers did the wise men give to his first question? ›

What answers did the wise man give to his first question? Ans. The answer for the first question some said the king must prepare a time table and follow it's strictly. Some also said that it was impossible to decide in advance the right time for doing something.

How did the wise men answer the Kings three questions? ›

Answer: Many wise men answered the kings questions, but their answers were so varied that the king was not satisfied. Someone suggested that there should be a council of wise men to help the king at the right time. Someone else suggested that the king should have a time table and follow it strictly.

What matters for God more to love human beings? ›

What matters for God more to love human beings? Ans. For God, the inner qualities of human beings matter more than their physical appearance.

What figure of speech is used in the poem Seven Ages of man? ›

Metaphor and Symbol

The Seven Ages of Man speech opens with a metaphor in which Jaques compares the world to a stage in a theatre and men and women to actors playing roles on such a stage. The idea of comparing the world to a stage was not new when Shakespeare wrote it.

What figure of speech does the poet use in? ›

Poets use figures of speech in their poems. Several types of figures of speech exist for them to choose from. Five common ones are simile, metaphor, personification, hypberbole, and understatement. A simile compares one thing to another by using the words like or as.

Why does he give to us his joy? ›

He states that God gives humankind joy so that it might take the grief away. This is his way of destroying pain.

What does your shadow look like? ›

Question 1: Who do you think your shadow looks like? Answer : I think my shadow looks exactly like me. Question 2: Why do you think your shadow jumps into bed before you can? Answer : The shadow is not a physical thing and it appears faster than light.

What does yellow wood mean Class 9? ›

Answer. i) Yellow wood symbolises the autumn season. Autumn corresponds with old age. The poet could be symbolically talking about the later stages of life.

Where does the father contemplate man's estrangement from a man made world? ›

He goes into the toilet to contemplate Man's estrangement from a man-made world. Coming out he trembles at the sink, The cold water running over his brown hands, A few droplets cling to the greying hairs on his wrists. His sullen children have often refused to share Jokes and secrets with him.

What is the meaning of the word estrangement in the poem? ›

Explanation: The word estrangement means :- the fact of no longer being on friendly terms or part of a social group.


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