Alexander Pope Questions and Answers

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What is 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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Alexander Pope’s poem “The Immortality of Verse,” is a loose translation of part of Horace’s Ode IV.ix, “To Lollius.” Pope substitutes appropriate English equivalents for Horace’s references to Ancient Greek poets, so we have Milton instead of Homer, and Spenser in place of Pindar. Like Horace, Pope makes his own claim to immortality by locating himself in the company of illustrious predecessors. In the second stanza, he alludes to four poets in as many lines. The first two, Milton and Spenser, are the most celebrated epic poets England has ever produced. Horace also placed an epic poet, Homer, first, but then referred to Pindar, who was best known for writing odes, as Horace did.

The other two names Pope mentions are those of Edmund Waller and Abraham Cowley, seventeenth-century Cavalier poets more celebrated in Pope’s time than they are now. Both wrote lyric verse and were thus quite distinct from Pope, the poet of satire and mock epic, though they were very much in the...

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