I need a line-by-line analysis of Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism"I have absolutely no idea what it means, so I need a 'translator' of sorts to help me out with this.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The "Essay on Criticism" consists of some 746 lines written in heroic couplets, i.e. iambic pentameter lines rhymed aa, bb, cc, etc. To do a line by line analysis, you may wish to use an annotated test such as the one found at University of Toronto (reference 3 below). For each line, the best strategy is to start with carefully parsing the syntax of the line, and then paraphrasing it in your own words, eliminated inverted syntax and perhaps moving the contents of subordinate clauses into separate sentences, and substituting contemporary for 18th century language, e.g.,

'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill

2Appear in writing or in judging ill; could be paraphrased as: It is hard to say if the bad poet or the bad critic appears worse. Here Pope is suggesting that since criticism no harder to write than poetry, the bad critic has no more excuses for failure than the bad poet.


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