Monday 20 November 2017

From The Rape of the Lock

Alexander Pope

Pope succeeded Dryden as the great poet of the age (1600s to mid-1700s). The transition was made easier by the fact that they both wrote in the same form, the English heroic couplet -- a five-stress line rhyming in pairs.

They were both societal poets, accepting the morality and the philosophy of the age. Not for them the revolutionary ardours of the Shellyean Romantic. Both were haters of mediocrity, mercilessly satirising those whom they considered inferior poets and literary men. And they were both keen psychologists, using their barbed couplets to penetrate and expose human motive. Pope, as can be seen here, was also a master of bathos, the anti-climactic descent from one arm of the couplet to the other. These lines are about Queen Anne's palace at Hampton Court.

Close by those meads, forever crowned with flowers,

Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers,

There stands a structure of majestic frame,

Which from the neighbouring Hampton takes its name.

Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom

Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home;

Here thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey,

Dost sometimes counsel take -- and sometimes tea.

Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,

To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;

In various talk instructive hours they past,

Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;

One speaks the glory of the British queen,

And one describes a charming Indian screen;

A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;

At every word a reputation dies.

Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,

With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.

Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day,

The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;

The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,

And wretches hang that jurymen may dine...

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