Alexander Pope's poetical output in 18th century.

Also Read

      English classical poetry founded itself upon a scrupulous searching for perfection in the matter of style and expression in 18th century. A certain quality, not of creative emotion, not even of ideas, but of order that binds together the ideas, of the language which expressed them and a verse which gives melody and measure to language, this is what Alexander Pope and his school aimed at. It is the poetry of reason, of criticism and exposition of ideas that prevailed in the age.

English classical poetry founded itself upon a scrupulous searching for perfection in the matter of style and expression in 18th century.
18th Century Poetry

      This critical spirit was particularly favourable to the growth of moral and satirical works. The lyric is practically absent in this age. It was the flowering time of satire. Pope was the great master in the field. Some of his famous satires are The Rape of the Lock, The Epistle to Arbuthnot and The Dunciad. The first has been justly praised by critics for its airy grace and sustained lightness of touch. Macaulay has pronounced it "as the most exquisite monument of playful fancy that English literature offers".

      It has not the usual spite of spleen that characterises the two later poems. It is a 'mock-heroic' poem, dealing with a scandalous event in Pope's social circle. Pope wrote this light satire in order to laugh the matter out. It is like a page torn from the pretty and pleasure seeking life of the aristocracy of the age, he rape of the ladys lock of hair by a beau has been treated in a burlesque manner, with all the paraphernalia of an epic poem. The raillery against the feminine toibles and tashions is poignant, yet playful. As Hazlitt has put it: "It is the triumph of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and tolly. It is the pertection of the mock-heroic". Not so is the case of the two other satires. Pope's satires are inspired not by any large view of human nature, its vices and weakness, not by any moral ardour of reform but it is the personal animosity with which his satirical arrows are feathered.

      In Dunciad the great master falls heavily upon the minor poets, dramatists and critics of the age with all the force of his wrath and malice. They are made the denizens of the realm of dullness, i.e the dunces and the poem is the epic of the dunces, as Iliad is the epic of Ilium. Colly Cibber, a poetaster, who gave him offence figures as the king of the realm of dullness. The bad verses and the torn clothes of the poet are placed on a common footing and made objects of ridicule. The satire is steeped in gall. Epistle to Arbuthnot is a savage attack on Addison, the master of prose against whom Pope bore a grudge. Here Pope directs his virulent attacks on Hervey, Halifax, Theobald, Hertley and many others. It is a Horatian satire in which Arbuthnot acted as an adversaries. But in its moral indignation and malicious attacks it rivals Juvenal.

      The satirical spirit has also entered lightly into the verse of Prior and Gay. Prior's work is voluminous and varied. But he is not much of a poet. His long poem, The Town Mouse and the Contry Mouse is a parody of Dryden's The Hind and the Panther. His other works are Solomon or The Vanity of the World and Alma: or The Progress of the Mind. These are not much of success, He lives by some of his higher lyrics. Gay is an inconsiderable poet. His Rural Sports is an imitation of Pope's Pastoral, written in heroic couplet. The Sheplherid's Week was his contribution to Pope's quarrel with Philips and Steele over pastoral poetry. Trivia that describes the streets of London is a parody. His Fables are a tedious reading The philosophy is cynical and the animals introduced in the poem are men in animal shapes.

Previous Post Next Post