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What did Alexander Pope mean in these lines from ''An Essay on Criticism''? Here hills...

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted November 11, 2012 at 11:14 PM via web

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What did Alexander Pope mean in these lines from ''An Essay on Criticism''?

 Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain,

Here earth and water seem to strive again,

Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised,

But, as the world, harmoniously confused:

Where order in variety we see,

And where, though all things differ, all agree.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 11, 2012 at 11:25 PM (Answer #1)

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In this section of "An Essay on Criticism" Alexander Pope is expanding on his notion of the relationship of art to nature, as both having underlying structure that creates harmony out of apparent diversity or chaos. Pope was a Roman Catholic who believed that the underlying order of the world was evidence of its divine nature, and thus whatever superficial chaos we see in disordered nature, e.g. a boulder strewn plain, the apparently random pattern of hills, even floods and storms, still are outward manifestations of a Creation ordered by a divine will, just as the poet makes order out of words. This in both nature and literature:

 

Where order in variety we see,

And where, though all things differ, all agree.

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etjoslin | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 12, 2012 at 12:14 AM (Answer #2)

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In these lines, Pope provides an example to support his belief of a divine creator who has ordained the earth to be just as it is. He says, "Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised, But, as the world, harmoniously confused". He means that world (the "earth and water") is not random, or chaos, but instead created in harmony. The confusion stands not for the creation, but for our understanding of it. For, as he says in the next line, we can see the order in the chaos, but we cannot fully understand it. His purpose in these lines is to convey the message that in a world as big and complex as the one we live in, in can be no coincidence that everything works in harmony with itself.

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