Friday, January 12, 2018

Poetry of Alexander Pope - Vol 1

Thackeray called Alexander Pope (1688-1744) the greatest literary artist that England had ever seen. When I heard Professor John Sutherland say  that, "Pope is the greatest poet of the 18th century from whom elegant language flowed as easily as conversation," I figured it was time for me to become better acquainted with him. 

I was familiar with a few of his famous lines such as Behold the child, by nature's kindly law, Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw, and A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring, but had not read any of his complete works.

I was pleased to discover a depth and richness of his poetry. Even if you don't agree with everything he writes, he's worth the effort. Many of his poems are quite long and are sometimes hard to follow, but the beauty of language kept me going.

I loved the extensive "Essay on Man," but several passages stood out to me as worthy of reading and re-reading. In epistle three, he writes uniquely about sexuality and procreation:

Each sex desires alike, 'till two are one.
Nor ends the pleasure with the fierce embrace,
They love themselves, a third time, in their race!

Who knew you could write about this topic so succinctly and beautifully (and chastely)?

If you'd like a lengthy introduction to Pope's work, Volume one is available free for Kindle. The Essay on Man is available by itself. And a smaller book of poetry is here. I liked him so much that I ordered a hard cover copy of his poems to dip into again this coming year.

(Though well-known for his satire, this volume of poetry seemed more religious and philosophical in nature. I checked out Volume One from my library (digitally) and it has a different amount of pages from the Volume One at Amazon. So I'm not even sure it's the same book.)


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