Alexander Pope Poetry: British Analysis
Alexander Pope’s poetry is an unmistakable challenge to the post-Romantic sensibilities of the twentieth century reader. John Stuart Mill’s dictum that “eloquence is heard, poetry is overheard,” seems entirely contradicted by the public and topical voice that characterizes the epistles, satires, and philosophic exordiums of Pope. The language of introspective reverie that poets, from the nineteenth century on, cultivate in lonely self-communion among the bowers of a refined aestheticism could not be further removed from the racy, tough, and contentious idiom of Pope. That is not to say that Pope’s language is devoid of sculptured phrases or chiseled locutions; on the contrary, his compositions are exquisitely wrought and develop with an inevitability that makes Pope, after William Shakespeare, the most quoted poet in the English language. Following the translation of the Iliad, however, Pope’s works became increasingly didactic and satirical in nature and engaged in topical assaults on the foibles, idiosyncrasies, and shortcomings that characterized the literary and political arena during the reigns of Anne and George II. The astonishing thing is that these topical satires of literary hacks long since forgotten and social customs consigned to oblivion, touch, time and again, upon that which is enduring and universal in the moral being of humanity. The literary battles and political machinations that gave occasion to Pope’s vitriolic...
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