Sunday, January 10, 2021

Pope's "Ode on Solitude", pastoral poetry, and literary ambition

Alexander Pope's "Ode on Solitude", written in 1700 when he was twelve, replaces pastoral poetry's fanciful celebrations of the country with specific details of life on "a few paternal acres": the herds and fields and flocks who "supply" the man in "his native air". This realistic foundation for the poem's vision of "unconcern," "recreation", and "meditation" also grounds the poem's concluding rejection of the world of ambition, with "not a stone" to tell "where I lie." Yet the pun on "lie" makes the poem a "stone" that ironically fulfills both the ambition it seemingly denounces and the broader trope of the immortality of the work in poets from Horace to Shakespeare. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 January 2021)
J.M.W. Turner, Pope's villa at Twickenham (1808)

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