In the Neoclassical Age (approximately 1680–1750), writers attempted largely to model their work on the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. The most important English poets during this period were John Dryden and Alexander Pope. To understand their aesthetic we can do no better than to quote a famous passage from Pope's Essay on Criticism:
'Tis more to guide than spur the Muse's steed,
Restrain his fury than provoke his speed.
The winged courser, like a gen'rous horse,
Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Pope and others of his period believed in the classical ideals of restraint, order, elegance, and balance in their work. In general, they avoided intensely personal forms of expression and any sort of emotionalism. Much of their poetry had a didactic purpose—in other words, to instruct or enlighten people—or a satiric one, including the use of the "mock-heroic" style, in which language suited to epic poetry (and which often paraphrases Homer and Virgil) is ironically...
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