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____________________