Thursday, December 24, 2009

Alexander Pope: Imitations of Horace

Alexander Pope (1688–1744) is considered one of the most important poets and satirists of the Enlightenment. As one of the major influences on English literature, he helped shape, reform, and critique early eighteenth-century British verse. The extent of Pope’s influence is evident as the first half of the eighteenth century was, at one point, designated by scholars as the “Age of Pope.” Pope is known to have been one of the first authors in England who supported himself exclusively through his literary works.

In the following two “imitations” of Horace, Pope uses satirical verse to both attack and defend himself against contemporary authors whom he deemed inferior. He was also critical of the government of Prime Minister Robert Walpole under the reign of George II. Pope’s use of imitation was characteristic of Enlightenment Augustan poets, who believed that imitation was more important than originality. During this period new expressions of truth through poetry were considered presumptuous and were shunned upon. Thus, the challenge for the contemporary Augustan poet was to express oneself within the framework of classical works, which had already discovered and expressed any “truth” that needed to be revealed.

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