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Essay on Man and Other Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – June 16, 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Revised ed. edition (June 16, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486280535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486280530
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Pope's defining masterworks, "Essay on Man" and "The Rape of the Lock", are crystalizations of the 18th Century's defining impulses. The "Essay on Man" proselytizes on behalf of the deistic belief in an ordered, rational universe where humankind is no divine favorite but can understand its place on the Great Chain of Being and find happiness through knowledge and acceptance. Most will join with Voltaire in his hearty rejection of the doctrine "Whatever is, is right," yet it is impossible to deny the ennobling quality of Pope's optimism:
"Grasp the whole worlds of reason, life, and sense,
In one close system of benevolence:
Happier as kinder, in whate'er degree,
And height of bliss but height of charity."
Where "Essay on Man" expresses the rational principles of the Enlightenment, "The Rape of the Lock" exemplifies the love of the frivolous, the fashionable, and the feminine which gave such light and warmth to an era famed for its elevation of the intellect. The poem exemplifies the Rococo, that most playful of styles in literature; nowhere else in English lit does so much of the spirit of Boucher come through. Pope's verse swirls and sparkles in melodic luxuriance, his creamy couplets smooth and shapely as a woman's legs.
This compact edition also includes the "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady", one of the most beautifully severe (and overlooked) poems in the language-- a rare triumph of Neo-Classical lyric. Here also are the famous "Essay on Criticism", the galloping satire of the "Epistle to Dr.
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Format: Paperback
Samuel Johnson said that it may be a thousand years before another man comes along with powers of versification equal to Alexander Pope. It is a testament to Pope's greatness that this still does not seem hyperbolic. Indeed, in the nearly three centuries since he wrote, only a few English poets even rival his variety, and only Alfred Tennyson rivals his sheer technical mastery and quotability. The first thing one notices is his near-superhuman command of poetry's technical aspects; perhaps no one else in English has such an astonishing touch with meter, rhyme, stress, etc. His poetic variety is also notable; though best known for his unmatched heroic couplets, he mastered a diverse array of mediums. This is of course all the more striking since the moderns threw most of this out the proverbial window a century ago, making Pope a poet one essentially either loves or hates, though all can at least appreciate him. He is the acknowledged master to those who prefer formal poetry, while those who like free verse and other non-traditional forms may well think him stilted, old-fashioned, and portentous. His legend indeed became partly eclipsed when non-traditional poetry became standard, but the last few decades have seen a welcomed revival. It is clear that, whatever one prefers, Pope simply has no peer in terms of stately, precise English verse.

But Pope was far more than just a technical wizard; he is at least as notable for intellectual depth. Indeed, only Percy Shelley and Thomas Hardy among English poets are even in his league for matching craft with philosophical vigor and other thought-provoking material. It is no coincidence that several of Pope's poems, including some of the most famous, have "Essay" in the title.
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Although John Milton and other English Protestant poets are more popular, Alexander Pope was also widely quoted in his day, being perhaps the most widely quoted and influential man of letters in England's history. Pope's Catholicism is evident in these poems, but the beauty of his English style transcends sectarian boundaries, and his writing harkens back to the days when Europe's greatest artists also happened to be devoutly Christian. This razor-thin Dover Thrift paperback is affordable and contains a nice sampling of his most famous writings, including the metaphysical "Essay on Man."
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Format: Paperback
Pope is the great master of polished English verse. He is the most skilled craftsman, perhaps, that the language has known. "Like the alexandrine that drags its slow length along" Pope everywhere illustrates a mastery of form as feeling. Yet precisely his precision and his intellect are what make the verse less than deeply appealing to a poor romantic soul such as myself. Pope can be a master moralist ( Vice is a monster of such frightful mien/ that to be hated needs but to be seen/ but seen too oft/ familiar with her face/ we first endure, then pity, then embrace./ And he can hold up the mirror to man and nature in a way that inspires rational hope. He can play and mock at us ( I am his master's dog at Kew, pray tell me, Sir whose dog are you?) but he does not reach the deepest down nature that the Romantics that come after will.
This fine collection contains his most famous poems " The Rape of the Lock" and "The Essay on Man' and the reader can know through this work the best of Pope. But whether the best of Pope belongs in the same league with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Keats, Wordsworth, is another question.
PS I have just been rereading 'Essay on Man' and I think my previous remarks are somewhat wrongheaded. Pope 's thought is complex and ordered, and expressed with a beautiful facility of phrase. There are many memorable lines. I think I made the mistake of looking for Pope to be another kind of Poet, and not appreciating fully the kind of brilliant, intellectual, impersonal, philosophical Poet he is.
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