Alexander Pope

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What is the subject matter of the poem ''Windsor Forest'' by Alexander Pope?

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Neo-classical poets such as Pope weren't much interested in the intrinsic joy and beauty of the natural world. This is just one of the many characteristics that separated them from the next generation of Romantics such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. If the Neo-classicists invoked nature in their work it was always for the purpose of saying something about humanity, either in the general sense, or as it relates to a specific time and place.

The two are expertly fused together in Pope's "Windsor Forest." In relating the ancient history of the forest, Pope highlights the timelessness of human nature, with its overriding desire for peace and tranquility. It is Pope's fervent wish that the peacefulness of the forest will come to be replicated by the reign of Queen Anne, which he hopes will display the kind of harmony that Windsor, with its "green retreats" has provided for centuries.

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Pope's poem is nominally a description of Windsor Forest, the royal hunting preserve adjacent to Windsor Castle. Pope wrote the poem at least twice; the first version, written when he was sixteen in 1707, is what is known as a "topographical" poem, in that it describes the beauty of a place in a way that is also symbolic or allegorical. Pope lengthened the poem in 1713, turning it into an celebration of the new power and majesty of the British Empire in the wake of their victory in the Spanish War of Succession.

Although the topic of the poem is the Forest, the Forest itself is used as an extended metaphor for the political life of Britain, beginning with the Forest's establishment by William the Conqueror and contrasting William's despotism with the current benign rule of the Stuarts and Queen Anne.

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The poem "Windsor Forest" was published in anticipation of the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1713. The conclusion of this war, which had involved most of the major Western European powers of that time, and the Treaty of Utrecht which established the status of European nations after the war, severely reduced the influence of France and Spain and made Great Britain the most powerful nation in the world.

"Windsor Forest" salutes the grandeur of the British Empire in its glory. "The groves of Eden" compares England to the Garden of Eden, God's perfect creation at the beginning of the world. The entire poem praises the wonders of plant and animal life, the enchanted history of the people, and the majestic qualities of the British Empire.


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