Eloisa to Abelard "The World Forgetting, By The World Forgot"

Alexander Pope

"The World Forgetting, By The World Forgot"

Context: Pope is here giving verse form to John Hughes' translation of the letters of the famous medieval lovers. Abelard was the learned clergyman, philosopher, and theologian who fell in love with the daughter of a friend. The intensely passionate love affair was discovered by the authorities, who confined Abelard to a monastery and Eloisa to a convent. The present poem supposes that after many years separation Eloisa accidentally comes upon a letter written by Abelard to a friend in which he recounts his misfortune. This letter reawakens in Eloisa the old emotions, and she speaks to herself as if she were addressing her lost lover. At one point she laments the fact that she cannot forget her past offence, begging Abelard himself to assist her to overcome her own nature. She expresses her envy of the innocent virgin who has no sinful past to plague her with both desire and guilt:

Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue,
Renounce my love, my life, my self–and you.
Fill my fond heart with God alone, for He
Alone can rival, can succeed to thee.
How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sun-shine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;
Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;
'Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep';
Desires compos'd, affections ever ev'n,
Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to heav'n.
Grace shines around her with serenest beams,
And whisp'ring Angels prompt her golden dreams.