Introduction to Literature, Spring 1999
Ray's Syllabus                                     Kate's Syllabus
The Eighteenth-Century Poetry

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) 

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) 

Thomas Gray (1716-1771)


Relevant Links
Other names: 
Sir Robert Walpole Daniel Defoe, 
Henry Fielding, 
Laurence Stern, 
Samuel Richardson 
Aphra Behn, 
Oliver Goldsmith, 
Discipline, Wit, & Heroic Couplet
Playing at Science, English gentry peer into the wrong ends of telescopes,
while a fop with a magnifying glass stares foolishly at a celestial sphere.
    (Astronomy Richard Houston, ca 1750 Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.  From Age of Enlightenment: 21)
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
from The Giants of the Age of Style (from The Hour of the Pearl) by Margaret. D. Stein 
More pictures of Pope . . .  

  "An Essay on Criticism"

    --Leading Questions
"An Essay on Man" 
    --Leading Questions
    Relevant Links
Illustration of Aubrey Beardsley for  Pope's The Rape of the Lock  London: Leonard Smithers, 1896.  The Elisha Whiittelsey Collection.
Questions for Group Discussion and Journal 
E-Text 1. PART 2(ll. 337-393); 2. Part 2
  1. The excerpt from Pope's poem points out and then gives examples of common errors in writing.  What are some of the problems that Pope addresses?
  2. This excerpt is a good example of the importance of sounds in poetry. In line 365 Pope says "The sound must seem an echo to the sense. What does that mean?  Can you find examples and counter-examples in this excerpt?
  3. Lines 370 and 371 are about one of the Greek heroes of the Trojan War. As you read these lines outloud, do you notice that they are difficult to say and they feel "heavy"? What has Pope done to make the words feel heavy? Can you identify the rhythm?
  4. What does the poem have to say about alliteration, assonance, rhyme or heroic couplet?

    • Application & Wild Association
      • What can you learn about writing styles in general, and your own writing style, from this poem?  If Wordsworth sees poetry as "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," Pope here emphasizes moderation, restraint and careful measuring poetic sound and sense.  Which do you prefer?
    "An Essay on Man" 
    E-Text:1.  Excerpt Epistle 1, [10] & Epistle 2 [1]); 2. Epistles 1 & 2 
  6. This section from a much longer poem explores the position of people in the universe. It suggests that there may be a large plan for all people and nature, but people cannot fully know or understand that plan or the power that made the plan ("All are but parts of one stupendous whole,/Whose body nature is, and God the soul" --from the stanza before this one). Does this poem suggest that we can completely comprehend what is happening to us and in our lives? Why not?
  7. Why does Pope say "All nature is but art"?  Does this poem suggest that we can relate to nature and find our true selves there? Unlike the Romantic poems we've read, what does this poem suggest about our relationship with nature?
  8. Pope asserts that disorder in the world may actually be part of the order of the world, but that our human minds cannot understand that order. He also suggests that some phenomena which seem random might actually have a clear purpose and cause. When he says that "All partial evil [is] universal good," what does he mean?
    • Application & Wild Association
      • Do you agree with the final statement that "Whatever IS, is right"? Explain your reasons.
¨ II, I
  1. Pope's poem asserts that we can never really know or understand God, since he is too far above our human mental abilities. So Pope says that we should "Know then thyself." Why does he think that the "proper study of mankind is Man"?
  2. This excerpt both praises and criticizes people. Can you find examples of both? What human qualities does he praise? What human characteristics does he criticize?
  3. Why does the poet assert that people are "The glory, jest, and riddle of the world"?
    • Application & Wild Association  
      • Do you agree or disagree with Pope's view of humanity? Explain your answer.

Overviews and Biographies   "An Essay on Man" & "An Essay on Criticism" Sites for Fun For Further Studies: Electronic Texts
Jonathan Swift 
More pictures of Swift . . . 
"Stella's Birthday"  "A Description of the Morning" 

--Leading Questions

    Relevant Links
from The Giants of the Age of Style (from The Hour of the Pearl) by Margaret.D.Stein
"Stella's Birthday" 
E-Text with notes
  1. To know more about Stella and Swift's relationship with her, please see the notes accompanying the online text of the poem. How would you describe the tone of this poem? Is it insulting?  Playful?  Tender?  Sad? How do you think Stella feels about the speaker mentioning her size?
  2. What is the speaker's attitude toward Stella?  Though the years have made her bigger, they have also done what for her?
  3. What is the speaker's attitude toward himself at the end of the poem? Does he also make fun of himself? Explain. 

    • Application & Wild Association
      • Compare Swift's description of Stella with Byron's in "She Walks in Beauty."
    "A Description of the Morning" 
     E-Text with notes
  1. Does this poem talk primarily about upper class people or common people?  What are they doing in the early morning?
  2. This poem presents a view of London in the eighteenth century.  Does this view of the city at dawn focus on the beauty of the city and the people? Or does it focus on the dirt and corruption in the city?
  3. How would you describe the speaker's attitude toward city people and city life?  Is there humor in the poem? Give some examples of the humor.
    • Application & Wild Association
      • Your City or Town--In his introduction Swift said that the poem is written to offer a realistic picture of a town "at half age" as opposed to the "fantastic descriptions" of some "easy writers" (See E-Text with notes).  What is your realistic picture of your town or city (say, Taipei)?  And how is it presented in commercials or propaganda?
Jonathan Swift: Relevant Links
Overviews and Biographies Swift's  poetry and "On Stella's Birthday" For Further Studies: Electronic Texts

Thomas Gray

from Thomas Gray page of the Poetry Archives
   Relevant Links 
  "Ode On  
 The Death Of A Favourite Cat Drowned In A Tub Of Goldfishes" 
--Leading Questions
A frontispiece of the "Ode" from 
"Ode On The Death Of A Favourite Cat Drowned In A Tub Of Goldfishes" 
  1.  Look in your handbook and find out what an "ode" is. What are the characteristics of an ode? How many of those characteristics do you see in this poem?
  2. This ode tells a story about a cat named Selima. What images are associated with Selima (e.g. Greek goddess, jewelry) , and the vase (e.g. lake)?  And why?  What happens to Selima? Why does it happen?
  3. Though the poem is about a female cat and the poem says "What female heart can gold despise?" Doesn't the poem also have a message for men?
  4. This poem teaches and instructs us with a moral. What is that moral?

Thomas Gray: Relevant Links
Overviews and Biographies "Ode On The Death Of A Favourite Cat " For Further Studies: ¡@ 
Disciplined Invention, Nature, Wit, & Heroic Couplet 
  • Disciplined Invention: "The poet must have 'invention,' the gift of finding materials for his poems--fictional, but representative, images of human actions and of the world in which those actions take place; and he must vivify, heighten, and order those materials that they seem true pictures of what is, or might or ought to be, or of the evil and folly that we should avoid.

  • Nature--the universal, permanent, and representative elements in the moral and intellectual experience of men.  External nature--the landscape--both as a source of aesthetic pleasure and as an object of scientific inquiry or religious contemplation attracted the attention of Englishmen throughout the 18th century,  But Pope's injunction to the critic, 'First follow Nature,' has primarily human nature and human experience in view."   Scientifically, Newton also reinforced the idea of Nature as order.(1685)

  • Wit--quickness and liveliness of mind, inventiveness, a readiness to perceive resemblances between things apparently unlike and so to enliven literary discourse with appropriate images, similes, and metaphors.  An excess of imagination was considered dangerous to sanity, and in literature to lead away from Nature and truth to falsehood and such violent and farfetched conceits as we find in the poetry of Donne of Crashaw at their boldest.  One task of the age was to tame what seemed the wildness of metaphysical wit into the more reasonable and decorous wit ...So Pope insists in the Essay on Criticism ll. 80-83, on the necessity of a harmonious union of judgment and fancy (which he calls "wit") in a work of literature. (1687)

  • Heroic Couplet 

  • "The simplest form of stanza is the couplet; it is simply two lines rhyming together.  . . . when [a single couplet] includes a complete unified thought, ending with a terminal mark of punctuation, it is called a closed couplet.  [Heroic couplet] is a strictly iambic pentameter couplet, strongly end-stopped, and with the couplets prevailingly closed.  Heroic couplets generally are varied by means of a decided caesura (strongly grammatical pause within a line), and limited to precisely ten syllables per line. The heroic couplet is the principle form of English neoclassical style("Poetic Forms and Literary Terminology"  The Norton Anthology of English Literature vol. 1.  3rd ed.  p. 2471).
Relevant Links
General Introduction 
The Pleasures of Romance are sampled by this foursome as they linger after dinner to enjoy with studied amusement, the reading aloud of a love letter.  Such entertainments were as much a part of Court life as balls or theatricals.
(Le Souper Fin Jean-Michel Moreau le jeune coloured engraving, 1776;  Age of Enlightenment Peter Gay, et al.  Time-Life International, 1966: p. 45. ) 
This painting by Pietro Longhi shows a bourgeois family taking a lesson in geography--one of many signs of the age's expanding intellectual horizons.
(The Geography Lesson Pietro Longhi, oil on canvas, ca. 1750   Age of Enlightenment Peter Gay, et al.  Time-Life International, 1966: Cover.)
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