1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

James Beattie, in "Essay on Poetry and Music" Essays (1776) 361-62n.



The writings of Dryden are stamped with originality, but are not always the better for that circumstance. Pope is an imitator professedly, and of choice; but to most of those whom he copies he is at least equal, and to many of them superior: and it is pleasing to observe, how he rises in proportion to his originals. Where he follows Denham, Buckingham, Roscomon, and Rochester, in his Windsor forest, Essay on Criticism, and poem on Silence, he is superior indeed, but does not soar very high above them. When he versifies Chaucer, he catches as by instinct, the ease, simplicity, and spirit of Dryden, whom he there emulates. In the Rape of the Lock he outshines Boileau, as much as the sylphs that flutter round Belinda exceed in sprightliness and luminous beauty those mechanical attendants of the goddess of luxury, who knead up plumpness for the chin of the canon, and pound vermillion for the cheek of the monk. His Eloisa is beyond all comparison more sublime and more interesting any of Ovid's letter-writing ladies. His imitations of Horace equal their archetypes in elegance, and often surpass them in energy and fire. In the lyric style, he was no match for Dryden: but when he copies the manner of Virgil, and borrows the thoughts of Isaiah, Pope is superior not only to himself, but to almost all other poets.