Alexander Pope

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Is Pope's "Windsor Forest" a celebration of Britain and its empire?

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Yes, "Windsor Forest" is centrally about celebrating Britain and its empire.

In the first part of the poem, written when he was a teenager, Pope celebrates Windsor Forest as representative of England. As the poem opens, Pope compares Windsor Forest to no less than the Garden of Eden, stating that the "hills and vales" of the forest share Eden's beauty. He alludes to the celebrated English poet John Milton's Paradise Lost in describing the forest as "not Chaos like" but harmonious. He likens the forest to classical pastoral landscapes by imagining it populated with wood nymphs. All of this is meant to exalt England as on par with paradise, as well as the much-admired world of ancient Greece and Rome.

In the latter part of the poem, written several years later, Pope celebrates England's status as a rising world power. Britain signed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which was favorable to British interests. The poem thus overflows with enthusiasm for the spread of British imperial power throughout the globe, stating:

The time shall come, when free as seas or wind
Unbounded Thames shall flow for all mankind,
Whole nations enter with each swelling tyde,
And seas but join the regions they divide;
Earth's distant ends our glory shall behold,
And the new world launch forth to seek the old.

In contradistinction to Spain, Pope envisions Britain bringing freedom, peace, and prosperity to countries like Peru and Mexico. This patriotic poem overflows with pride at a nation beginning to feel its centrality and power on the world stage.

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Pope's "Windsor Forest" is a celebration of Queen Ann's British Empire at the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession. It uses classical imagery to evoke the glories of past empires that have now been superseded by Great Britain.

This topographical work begins in Windsor but ranges into the English past and through the Thames out into the wider world now linked by British seaborne trade. Oppressions of the Norman kings of the English past are used to contrast with the contemporary freedom and prosperity of the British.

Pope borrows liberally from the imagery and literary style of imperial Rome, and his readers would have recognized and appreciated the influence of Virgil's The Georgics and Ovid's Metamorphosis. This stylistic choice is deliberate and suggests that old England has now become an imperial power comparable with the great empires of the past. Pope references the rivers of ancient empires to emphasize that the Thames, which washes the banks of Windsor Forest, is their modern heir.

Pope emphasizes harmony and concord emerging from the commercial intercourse of many nations by use of the symbolic imagery of men, plants, animals, water, and gods and goddesses resolving their opposing natures into a harmonious natural order. His vision is celebratory and optimistic, but he does not neglect to address the miseries of war, oppression, and slavery. Toward the end of the poem, he wishes that all of these, and a catalog of other evils, are banished in a new reign of peace.

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Definintely. This poem is an evocation of place above all, as the title suggests, but Pope uses the description of this place to present his view of the moral and physical superiority of Britain and how he hopes that this is something that will be recognised by the entire world through the colonial enterprise. Note the following quote:

Unbounded Thames shall flow for all mankind,
Whole nations enter with each swelling tide,
And seas but join the regions they divide;
Earth's distant ends our glory shall behold,
And the new world launch forth to seek the old.
Then ships of uncouth form shall stem the tide,
And feather'd people croud my wealthy side,
And naked youths and painted chiefs admire
Our speech, our colour, and our strange attire!

In these lines, Pope imagines the river Thames, which is "unbounded" by geography or any other limitation, entering every single nation via the oceans so that the "glory" of Britain can be seen at "Earth's distant ends." He then goes on to contemplate a coming of all distant peoples to London to see the glories of Britain, imagining "ships of uncouth form" and "feather'd people" coming to London to meet the Old World that they are so impressed by. This is a poem therefore that is all about the might and supremacy of Britain and how this makes them a leading world player in Pope's time.

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