An Essay on Criticism

by Alexander Pope

Start Free Trial

What is the meaning of these lines from Alexander Pope's ''An Essay on Criticism''?

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.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this section of "An Essay on Criticism" Alexander Pope is expanding on his notion of the relationship of art to nature, as both having underlying structure that creates harmony out of apparent diversity or chaos. Pope was a Roman Catholic who believed that the underlying order of the world was evidence of its divine nature, and thus whatever superficial chaos we see in disordered nature, e.g. a boulder strewn plain, the apparently random pattern of hills, even floods and storms, still are outward manifestations of a Creation ordered by a divine will, just as the poet makes order out of words. This in both nature and literature:

 

Where order in variety we see,

And where, though all things differ, all agree.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial