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Alexander Pope (London, May 21, 1688 – London, May 30, 1744) is one of the most renowned English poets of the eighteenth century, particularly noted for his translations of the texts of Homer and his satirical poetry.
Born into a Catholic family in 1688, Pope was educated mainly in his home, due in part to the laws in force, which held the position of the Church of England as the religion of the state. From his youth he suffered from several health problems, including Pott’s disease (a form of tuberculosis that affects the spine), which deformed his body and stunted his growth so that his height did not exceed 137 cm. He died at the age of 56 in 1744.
Although he had written poetry since he was twelve years old, his first important contribution to the literary world is considered to be his Essay on Criticism, which he published in 1711, at 23 years of age. This was followed by The Stolen Curl (1712, revised edition in 1714), his best-known poem; Eloisa to Abelardo and the Elegy to the memory of a lady (1717). He also wrote several shorter works, of which the best are perhaps the epistles to Martha Blount. From 1715 to 1720, he worked on the translation of the Homeric Iliad. Encouraged by the excellent reception of this, Pope translated the Odyssey (1725-1726) with William Broome and Elijah Fenton.
In his 1734 paper Pope made an important consideration about the influence of landscape painters on gardening projects when he wrote the following: “All the art of gardens depends on landscape painting […] as if outside a hung landscape »(« All gardening is landscape painting […] just like landscape hung up »).
The commercial success of his translations made Pope the first English poet to be able to live solely on the profits generated by his works, «without debts to any prince or man to live», as he himself said. During this period Pope also published an edition of Shakespeare, which “regularized” his metric discreetly.
He also rewrote the verse of his compatriot in several parts. Lewis Theobald and other scholars on the subject attacked the Pope edition. That unleashed the fury of the translator and inspired the first version of his satire, “the Dunciada” (1728), first of the satirical and moral poems of his final period. Other of the most significant poems of that time were the “Essays on morality” (1731 – 1735), “Imitations of Horace” (1733-1738), the “Epistle to Arbuthnot” (1735), the “Essay on man »(1734) and an extended edition of« the Dunciada »(1742) in which Colley Cibber took the place of hero that Theobald occupied.
Pope dealt directly with the most important intellectual, political and religious problems of his era. It was he who developed the heroic couplet beyond what any poet had previously achieved. The great poets who followed him used it less than those who preceded him, because their utility had diminished for them.
Pope also wrote an epitaph, now famous, for Sir Isaac Newton:
- Nature and its laws lay hidden in the night;
- God said “let it be Newton” and everything became light.
- (Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
- God said ‘Let Newton be’ and all was light.)
To which Sir John Collings Squire then added the couplet:
- But this did not last: for the devil exclaimed:
- “May Einstein be,” so the dilemma restored.
- (It did not last: the devil, shouting “Ho.
- Let Einstein be “restored the status quo.”
Jonathan Swift was his friend and ally. In 1720, Pope formed the Scriblerus Club along with Swift and other friends (including John Gay).
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