Alexander Pope's An Essay On Man

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Alexander Pope's An Essay On Man

Alexander Pope's An Essay On Man is generally accepted as a wonderfully harmonious mass of couplets that gather a variety of philosophical doctrines in an eclectic and (because of its philosophic nature) antithetic muddle. No critic denies that Pope's Essay On Man is among the most beautifully written and best of his works, but few also deny that Pope's Essay On Man is an incoherent conglomeration of "incongruous scraps" ("A Letter..." 88) of philosophical axioms. In forming An Essay On Man into perhaps the greatest philosophical poem ever written, Pope masterfully incorporates allusions and metaphors in which to constrict a world of meaning into the compact work that verse must be, in comparison to
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While some would maintain that An Essay On Man "was not Pope's best work" (Hazlitt 197), it is regarded as Pope's "most celebrated poem during his own lifetime and the chief source of his international fame" (Magill 2632). As the Essay represents eighteenth century thought on the nature of man, acknowledges the existence of evil, and praises the harmony of creation, it is unsurpassed (2632). As poetry of statement, An Essay On Man is compelling, thoughtful, and "comes as close as any assertion can to justifying and explaining the cosmic order" (2635). So perhaps the decision to write the Essay in verse was not the horrible blunder that many critics assume. Examining Pope's own expressed intentions in "The Design," his introduction to the Essay, one finds that Pope,

...chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts, so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: the other may seem odd, but it is true: I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain than that much of

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