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Pope’s Horatian Poems

Thomas E. Maresca

Recent critical studies of Alexander Pope have sought to define his poetic accomplishment in terms of a broadened awareness of what the eighteenth century called wit. That Pope’s achievement can be located in wit is still generally agreed; but it now seems clear that the fullest significance of his poetry can be found in the more serious meaning the Augustans attached to that word: the ability to discern and articulate— to “invent,” in the classical sense—the fundamental order of the world, of society, and of man, and to express that order fittingly in poetry.

Thomas E. Maresca maintains that it is Pope’s success in this sort of invention that is the manifest accomplishment of his Imitations of Horace. And Maresca finds that, for these purposes, the Renaissance vision of Horace served Pope well by providing a concordant mixture of rational knowledge and supernatural revelation, reason and faith in harmonious balance, and by offering as well all the advantages of applying ancient rules to modern actions. Within the expansive bounds of such traditions Pope succeeded in building the various yet one universe of great poetry.

Thomas E. Maresca is assistant professor of English at The Ohio State University.

1966   227 pp. This title is no longer available in a traditional print edition. Click here for free access to the book's full text.