Classicism in The Rape of The Lock

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      (In Outline) Pope belonged to an age which was greatly influenced by classicism. In the Augustan Age, of which Pope is considered a representative poet, the virtues most revered were moderation, good sense and rationality. These are the virtues which The Rape of the Lock, implicitly and explicitly, upholds.

      Witty expression was another aspect of the neo-classical poets, and Pope shows plenty of wit in The Rape of the Lock. The influence of classical writers is prominent in him. The very choice of the mock-epic form came from the inherent respect for the classical epic for which the neo-classical poets were unsuited both by genius and atmosphere. Homeric and Virgilian influences are clearly traceable in The Rape of the Lock. Classical allusions, too, abound in the poem, as do classical expressions such as "sol", "Phoebus", and so on.

      Ans. Pope and Dryden suffered in their reputation as poets as a result of the Romantic bias. Arnold called them 'classics of prose' but not of poetry. This verdict, the culmination of the critical views begun by Wordsworth and Coleridge, held sway for a long time, so much so that even now people are reluctant to call Pope a 'poet'.

      The resolution of the question depends on what one considers poetry to be. With the emergence of modern critical views, as those of T.S. Eliot and F.R. Leavis, there seems to be little doubt of Pope's status as poet. The Rape of the Lock is a fine example of Pope's skill on classic as a 'maker' the definition of a poet of ideas and thought, intelligence and common sense. A great poet can turn a trifle into significance and this is what Pope does in The Rape of the Lock. His craftsmanship is admirable.

      As for fancy and imagination, we see both at work at every step in The Rape of the Lock. The invention and description of the sylphs are enough to show Pope's poetic skill. There is a delicate shimmering beauty about these aerial beings as they collect to listen to Ariel's speech, their 'insect wings' glistening in the light and producing soft breezes and sending myriad colors into the air. Pope is certainly a poet, there is no longer any question about it.

University Questions

Bring out the qualities of Pope as a classical poet with reference to The Rape of the Lock.

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