Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope Poems
  • Alexander Pope Poems

  • As a young man Pope shot to fame with The Rape of the Lock, a light-hearted mock-heroic poem about a trivial society scandal, still his best remembered work. Wit and irony, dazzling technical mastery - he perfected the English heroic couplet - acute social observation and insight into human nature were to become the hallmarks of his verse.

    Pope is one of the most quoted of English poets - 'For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread', 'A little learning is a dangerous thing', 'To err is human, to forgive, divine', all originate from his pen. While his poetry generally has suffered some neglect in recent decades, Professor Claude Rawson's selection persuasively demonstrates why it should be back in fashion.

    He aspired to make out of verse satire a serious and dignified form, and his culminating work, The Dunciad, achieves a tragic gravity which transcends its satirical mockeries. An elevated and ironic reflection on culture, it created a new genre which led eventually to the modern masterpiece of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

    Pope was a precocious talent and anxious to advertise the fact, inserting such subtitles as “Done by the Author at 12 years old” into his early published poems. He adopted many poetic forms, and this anthology includes graceful and witty lyrics, verse letters to friends in the Horatian mode, a number of devotional poems, and a variety of important discursive poems on literary and political themes, including An Essay on Criticism, Windsor-Forest, and An Essay on Man.

    This edition uses the text of the Oxford Standard Authors edition by Herbert Davis of Pope’s Poetical Works, 1966. Complete poems rather than excerpts have been selected. The beautifully typeset text is enhanced by illustrations by William Kent from the first edition of The Dunciad.

ALEXANDER POPE was born in London in 1688, the son of a well-to-do Roman Catholic cloth merchant. In 1709 he launched his career with a set of four pastorals, followed by An Essay on Criticism, Windsor Forest and the mock-epic Rape of the Lock, which cemented his reputation as the greatest poet of the age. Later works included the Dunciad, Epistles to Several Persons and the ambitious Essay on Man. Pope died in 1743. LEO DAMROSCH, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University, is the author of eight books on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature and culture, including The Imaginative World of Alexander Pope, God's Plot and Man's Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius.