Eloisa to Abelard "Heaven First Taught Letters For Some Wretch's Aid"
by Alexander Pope

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"Heaven First Taught Letters For Some Wretch's Aid"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: Pope is here giving verse form to John Hughes' translation of the letters of the famous medieval lovers. Abelard was the learned clergyman, philosopher, and theologian who fell in love with the daughter of a friend. The intensely passionate love affair was discovered by the authorities, who confined Abelard to a monastery and Eloisa to a convent. The present poem supposes that after many years separation Eloisa accidentally comes upon a letter written by Abelard to a friend in which he recounts his misfortune. This letter reawakens in Eloisa the old emotions, and she speaks to herself as if she were addressing her lost lover:

Yet write, oh write me all, that I may joinGriefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine.Nor foes nor fortune take this pow'r away.And is my Abelard less kind than they?Tears still are mine, and those I need not spare,Love but demands what else were shed in pray'r;No happier task these faded eyes pursue,To read and weep is all they now can do.Then share thy pain, allow that sad relief;Ah more than share it! give me all thy grief.Heav'n first taught letters for some wretch's aid,Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid;They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires,Warm from the soul, and faithful to its fires,The virgin's wish without her fears impart,Excuse the blush, and pour out all the heart,Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,And waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole.