English 245 with Dr. G @ SUNY TC3
2. Beowulf 1
3. Beowulf 2
4. Middle Ages
6. Sir Gawain
9. Wife of Bath
11. Biblical Drama
12. Play of Mankind
14. Thomas More
15. Philip Sidney
16. Print Culture
17. Walter Raleigh
18. Twelfth Night 1
19. Twelfth Night 2
20. Civil War
22. Aphra Behn
23. Reading Papers
25. Rape of the Lock
27. New God
**** 25. The Mock Epic ****
READINGS FOR THIS LESSON
Alexander Pope and the Augustan Era
ASSIGNMENTS FOR THIS LESSON
The lesson includes both a quiz and a journal writing assignment to be submitted on the interactive course site at SUNY Learning Network.
Write for an hour (or more if you have time). Summarize the readings or make notes you will find useful on the final essay. Some other journaling ideas for today include:
"the most attractive of ludicrous compositions"--Samuel Johnson (Damrosch 2938)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744) has been regarded as the great poet of the 18th century, but the all-time master of the heroic couplet, or paired lines of rhymed iambic pentameter. He wrote almost everything in this form: epics, epistles, satires, poems of celebration, philosophical poems. He claimed to have had the rhythm all of his life, “As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, / I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came” ("Epistle to Arbuthnot " ll. 128–29). Remarkable in Pope's couplets is the range of expression--the nuance, pause, and emphasis, varying the metrically monotonous beat “da DA da DA da DA da DA da DA.”
If you try writing some heroic couplets, there should come a point after lots of practice where the precise, rhythmic, alien form suddenly crosses over into natural speech patterns (one of the form’s virtues, according to 18th century poets). Or are the natural speech patterns of our age captured in rap or limerick or some other popular form?
Pope helped to professionalize the poet as he pulled away from the system of private patronage and moved into the public world of commercial booksellers and publishing. He also helped to privatize poetry, to authorize the writing of self along with traditional public subjects such as monarchs, national events, and British character types. His epistles and satires emphasize the occasional and the trivial.
Following the lead of John Dryden (the great Restoration poet and critic for whom our town is named), he wrote at length about literary matters: what literature does, how it works, who is great and who isn't. His "Essay on Criticism" is like Sidney's "Defense of Poetry," a classic statement on literature, but it is more practical in its advice. For example, one of famous passages describes (and illustrates as it describes) how sound should echo meaning:
But most by Numbers judge
a Poet's Song,
With his criticism, Pope teaches us to read his poetry. He shows us that the art of writing heroic couplets is not as effortless as it should seem: “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, / As those move easiest who have learned to dance” (ll. 362–63).
After spending years translating
Homer into heroic
couplets, Pope's could see everything in his life in terms of the Trojan
War. His mocking in the Rape draws constantly on the juxtaposition of
“the trivial matter and the heroic manner,” as his
introduction to the poem suggests. Everything in the
Rape has a model in Homer or Virgil or
example in our textbook allows us to compare Sarpedon’s
speech from Homer's Iliad to Clarissa’s speech inserted
to “open more clearly the MORAL of the poem.” What we
are seeing in this kind of
is the Age of Books at its peak, with books becoming so influential that
one's work is focused on them and one's life experience is dominated by
literary experience. Reading and writing have become a way of life.
Image left: cartoon by Dr. G from an 18th century bust of Alexander Pope in Roman toga.
Left: elaborate dress and
Left: Arabella Fermor (locks included), society belle to whom Pope dedicated his "Rape of the Lock." She is and isn't the original of Belinda. "The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones."
Below: Hampton Court interior showing ornate Queen Anne style furniture.
OTHER RESOURCES & AMUSEMENTS
"The Rape of the Lock" Home Page
Annotated "Rape of the
Lock" from University of Toronto
Alexander Pope at Bartleby
Alexander Pope at Victorianweb
Know of an excellent website that would wonderfully complement this lesson? Please send it to Dr. G.
Copyright 2008 by Gary Homer Gutchess