Alexander Pope An Essay On Criticism

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Artist can’t go beyond his intention, he is limited within his desires.

He should not be over ambitious and over imaginative but critics can go beyond their intention.

Clearly, the poet must have a strong sense of literary tradition in order to make intelligent judgments as the critic must have it too.

Pope notes Virgil’s discovery that to imitate Homer is also to imitate nature. His nature is the combination of two elements society (human nature) and rules of classical artists-“nature is methodized”.

The "Essay on Criticism," then, is deliberately ambiguous: Pope seems, on the one hand, to admit that rules are necessary for the production of and criticism of poetry, but he also notes the existence of mysterious, apparently irrational qualities — "Nameless Graces," identified by terms such as "Happiness" and "Lucky Licence" — with which Nature is endowed, and which permit the true poetic genius, possessed of adequate "taste," to appear to transcend those same rules.

The critic, of course, if he is to appreciate that genius, must possess similar gifts.

Pope believes that the value of literary work depends not on its being ancient or modern, but on its being true to Nature. Nature is to be found both in the matter and in the manner of expression, the two being inseparable.

When the poet is asked to follow Nature, he is actually asked to “stick to the usual, the ordinary, and the commonplace.” He is to portray the world as he sees it.

Decorum, for Pope, is the proper balance between expression and sound of content and form and it comes under versification.

Pope considers wit as the polished and decorated form of language. Artist uses ‘heroic couplet’ (form) to express the heroic subject matter (content).


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