Alexander Pope

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Explain these lines from Alexander Pope's "Windsor Forest."

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Pope's lines celebrate the newly formed peace between nations after years of conflict.

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During the 18th Century, Alexander Pope was known as...

...the greatest English poet since John Milton.

And while this impression did not last in the Romantic and Victorian eras, this poem shows how he could have be praised in this way. 

In "Windsor Forest," Pope introduces "Eden," a Biblical allusion to the Garden of Eden. "Eden" is capitalized (a proper noun) and italicized, showing the author's desire to emphasize the importance of the word, but in lines 12-14, Pope also emphasizes "Chaos" in the same way.

This again provides a Biblical allusion. It would seem also that Pope is making a clear comparison between the beauty of Eden and that of Windsor Forest. In referring to chaos, he is alluding to the condition of the world before God placed His hands upon the unformed earth, eventually turning it into the very place that housed the often-praised Garden.

Refer to the Biblical account of the creation of the world, in Genesis 1:2—

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The earth's condition as "formless and empty" alluding to chaos, which is defined as...

... a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.

(This definition is important to paraphrasing and/or understanding Pope's poem, in lines 12-14.) In Genesis 2:8-9, God creates Eden:

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden…And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.

Biblically, Eden was perfect not only in providing food, but it was also beautiful to look at. This same feeling can be found in Pope's description of Windsor Forest. He notes that Eden has long since vanished: it only survives still in "description" and "song." However, Pope goes on to note that in this forest, it is alive again, in its...

...hills and vales, the woodland and the plain... (11)

Pope initially establishes the image of...

...The groves of Eden, vanish'd now so long... (6)

He then naturally moves along to compare the forest to the highly praised Eden. As Genesis 1:2 notes, chaos and water were first united in the creation of the world. Pope may be comparing the result (Eden) with Windsor Forest, maintaining that their beauty is similar. He writes:

Here earth and water, seem to strive again;


Not Chaos like together crush'd and bruis'd,


But as the world, harmoniously confus'd... (12-14)

When the word was created, the earth and water were in chaos— there is no harmony. Pope personifies the water and earth as if they had been fighting—"crush'd and bruis'd." However, in the forest, the water and land live in harmony, as both dwell together, one meeting the other. There may be confusion, but "harmoniously" infers a certain order in this joining. Pope goes on to support this image in the next two lines. There is "variety," and things are different, but they all "agree" (more personification). The chaos that once existed on the earth does not exist here:

Where order in variety we see,

And where, tho' all things differ, all agree. (15-16)

Where the water and earth together were once described as existing in chaos (confusion, disorder), in this magical place that Pope describes, he finds much to compare to Eden: the garden first made by the hand of God—thereby praising Windsor Forest as another Eden.

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Please paraphrase the following lines of Alexander Pope from ''Windsor Forest''.Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain, Here earth and water seem to strive again, Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised, But, as the world, harmoniously confused: Where order in variety we see, And where, though all things differ, all agree.

Pope wrote "Windsor Forest," from which the above lines are taken, to celebrate the new international relations between nations that Pope saw developing after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Actually a series of agreements, the Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of the Spanish Succession and created a new awareness of the importance of a balance of power between nations around the world.

Pope's words are symbolically describing countries with varied geographic formations as different types of vegetation all coexisting in peace. Instead of enduring the conflict of being "crushed and bruised," Pope sees the diversity between the nations as being paradoxically "harmoniously confused," finding "order in variety." Like the natural world, nations can coexist in harmony, though they may be of different varieties. The lines rejoice that, after the years of war in Western Europe, an arrangement had been formed in which "though all things differ, all agree" to live in peace.

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