What in Neoclassical poetry shows that the poets of the period considered poetry to be a mirror of life?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Neoclassical poetry period spanned from 1660 to 1798. In many ways Neoclassicism was a reaction against the Renaissance perspective of man and a return to classic thought given to us by the Ancient Greek and Romans. In the same way that Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy investigated and promoted virtue, excellence, and the meaning of life, so did Neoclassicism. While people of the Renaissance period viewed man as predominantly good and with "infinite potential for spiritual and intellectual growth," in contrast, people of the Neoclassical period viewed man as an "imperfect being, inherently sinful," and with limited potential ("Neoclassicism: An Introduction"). Therefore, the Neoclassical artists returned to Ancient Greek and Roman thought and promoted virtue through "order, logic, restraint, accuracy ... and decorum" ("Neoclassicism: An Introduction").

Since Neoclassical poets wrote about man as they truly saw him, an "imperfect being" and wrote to promote virtuous actions, we can see their writing as a reflection of life or of man as he was truly seen and, therefore, a mirror of life. Many of the most famous Neoclassical works are even satirical. For example, John Dryden wrote Absalom and Achitophel, a satirical poem that used biblical allegory to reflect upon and attack contemporary politicians while Alexander Pope also wrote the poem An Essay on Man, which is a philosophical reflection on man's ability to reason as well as on God's order of the universe.

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