The Columbia History of British Poetry

By James Shapiro; Carl Woodring | Go to book overview

Dryden and Pope

T HE most original poetry written after Milton and before Blake was the work of John Dryden ( 1631- 1700) and Alexander Pope ( 1688- 1744). In the vigor of their engagement with the public life of their age--the intellectual, political, religious, and literary controversies in which the culture of the Enlightenment was revealing and creating itself--Dryden and Pope articulated the modern sound of that culture; and in the almost ninety years spanned by their two careers, theirs were the voices in which others either found or lost their own.

Their modern sound is a complex creation; its local features include, as in this couplet from Pope's The Rape of the Lock, a colloquial ease that we might associate with urban savvy:

Snuff, or the Fan, supply each Pause of Chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.

But urban savvy can be sounded in many registers:

Echoes from Pissing-Alley, Sh [adwell] call,
And Sh [adwell] they resound from A[ston] Hall.
About thy boat the little Fishes throng,
As at the Morning Toast [i.e., excrement]
that Floats along.

These lines from MacFlecknoe, both obscene and polite, could be uttered only by one entirely intimate with the city, yet their urbanity also declares a plain disapproval of the urban, a disapproval rooted in

-274-

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The Columbia History of British Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Old English Poetry 1
  • Middle English Poetry 23
  • Chaucer 55
  • Poetry in Scots: Barbour to Burns 81
  • From Ballads to Betjeman 110
  • Printing and Distribution of Poetry 132
  • Varieties of Sixteenth-Century Narrative Poetry 156
  • Sixteenth-Century Lyric Poetry 179
  • Spenser, Sidney, Jonson 203
  • Lyric Poetry from Donne to Philips 229
  • Milton 254
  • Dryden and Pope 274
  • Poetry in the Eighteenth Century 301
  • Blake 327
  • Coleridge 341
  • Poetry, 1785-1832 353
  • Byron, Shelley, and Keats 381
  • Wordsworth and Tennyson 405
  • The Victorian Era 425
  • Victorian Religious Poetry 452
  • Pre-Raphaelite Poetry 478
  • The 1890s 505
  • 1898-1945: Hardy to Auden 532
  • Yeats, Lawrence, Eliot 554
  • Poetry in England, 1945-1990 577
  • Problems and Cleavages 605
  • Brief Biographies of the Poets 643
  • Editions 671
  • Notes on Contributors 678
  • Index 683
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