Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion

By Reuben A. Brower | Go to book overview

I
THE SHEPHERD'S SONG

I no longer look upon Theocritus as a romantic writer; he has only given a plain image of the way of life amongst the peasants of his country . . . I don't doubt, had he been born a Briton, but his Idylliums had been filled with descriptions of thrashing and churning, both which are unknown here, the corn being all trod out by oxen; and butter (I speak it with sorrow) unheard of. (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to Pope, 1 April 1717 (from Adrianople))

EVERYONE remembers how the heroine of the Rape of the Lock is pictured as she journeys down the Thames to Hampton Court for an afternoon of cards and tea:

Not with more Glories, in th' Etherial Plain,
The Sun first rises o'er the purpled Main,
Than issuing forth, the Rival of his Beams
Lanch'd on the Bosom of the Silver Thames.
Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone,
But ev'ry Eye was fix'd on her alone.
(11. 1-6)

This Nymph, to the Destruction of Mankind,
Nourish'd two Locks, which graceful hung behind
In equal Curls, and well conspir'd to deck
With shining Ringlets the smooth Iv'ry Neck.
(19-22)

But now secure the painted Vessel glides,
The Sun-beams trembling on the floating Tydes,
While melting Musick steals upon the Sky,
And soften'd Sounds along the Waters die.
Smooth flow the Waves, the Zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smil'd, and all the World was gay.
(47-52)

Most readers will catch in the opening lines an allusion to the grand similes and the morning scenes of Homer; we are

-15-

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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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