Comment on the importance of allusions in "The Immorality of Verse" by Horace.
Lest you should think that verse shall die,
Which sounds the silver Thames along,
Taught on the wings of truth to fly
Above the reach of vulgar song;
Though daring Milton sits sublime,
In Spenser native Muses play;
Nor yet shall Waller yield to time,
Nor pensive Cowley's mortal lay.
Sages and chiefs long since had birth
Ere Caesar was, or Newton named;
These raised new empires o'er the earth,
And those, new heavens and systems framed.
Vain was the chief's, the sage's pride!
They had no poet, and they died.
In vain they schemed, in vain they bled!
They had no poet, and are dead
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The allusions to other poets in this brilliant poem are used to support the central message of the poem, which is that immortality can only be truly gained through poetry. Note the final stanza, which seems to cement the argument of the speaker of this poem. Even though chieftains and leaders "raised new empires o'er the earth," their pride was all in "vain" because "they had not poet, and are dead." The message of this poem is very much that if we want to be immortal, or to have our name remembered throughout the history of mankind, we need to make sure that our name is enshrined in poetry.
This explains the second stanza and the way that each of the four poets mentioned, Milton, Spenser, Waller and Cowley, are shown to have stood the test of time. We still read them and we still talk about them and study their works. These poets will not "yield to time" but will endure throughout the centuries, proving that verse does not die, as the first line of this poem makes very clear.
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