Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion

By Reuben A. Brower | Go to book overview

IX
AN ANSWER FROM HORACE

The Occasion of publishing these Imitations was the Clamour raised on some of my Epistles. An Answer from Horace was both more full, and of more Dignity, than any I cou'd have made in my own person . . .

( Pope, 'Advertisement' to the Imitations of Horace)

THE drift from philosophy as system to the satirical study of man, clear enough in the epistles To Bathurst and To Cobham, is completed with the Epistle to a Lady. In that 'ethic epistle' and in the best parts of the companion poems, Pope's poetry becomes more philosophical in the relevant sense. His language bears witness to a vision illuminated and extended by 'truths of general nature', by a belief in certain moral and social values, and by insights into the way men act and feel in solitude and society. Pope has returned to the less systematic philosophy of the Essay on Criticism,

Unerring NATURE, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchanged, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of Art.

The great frame of Nature, implied in the epithets Pope uses here, is also present by implication in the Moral Essays, but increasingly in Pope's later poems1, there are glimpses of chaos, of the uncreating word that will replace fiat lux with fiat nox. The return from abstractions to the minute particulars of mankind seems less unexpected if we remember that while Pope's right hand was completing the Essay on Man,2 his left was occupied with the casual imitations of Horace, which he first undertook in late January of 1732-3. By 20 March he had already completed his second imitation of Horace. It is worth noting also that Pope was almost certainly

____________________
1
I owe this point to T. R. Edwards, Jr., Pope's Versions of Nature: the Progression from Neo-Classic to Grotesque Poetic Style (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, 1956).
2
TE iii (i), p. xiv.

-282-

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Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Note on the Texts and Footnotes *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction - An Allusion to Europe: Dryden and Poetic Tradition 1
  • I - The Shepherd's Song 15
  • II - The World's Great Age 35
  • III - Heroic Love 63
  • IV - True Heroic Poetry 85
  • Appendix to Chapter IV 135
  • V - Am'rous Causes 142
  • VI - The Image of Horace 163
  • VII - Essays on Wit and Nature 188
  • VIII - The Proper Study of Mankind 240
  • IX - An Answer from Horace 282
  • X - This Intellectual Scene: The Tradition of Pope 319
  • Index 363
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