'The Rape of the Lock' was one of Alexander Pope's most popular poems. It was a satirical attempt to reconcile the real -ife warring of two Catholic families whose feud had started with the supposed nicking of a lock of hair from the undeniably beautiful head of Arabella Fermor by her admirer, Lord Petre.
The mock-heroic tenor of the poem was supposed to defuse the situation, but, rather like most of Pope's poetry, it served to fan the flames of the feelings of those involved and to bring most of the country in on the story to comment.
It is a beautiful bit of pseudo-classical verse, in keeping with Pope's thorough knowledge and love of the classical scholars such as Homer, whose Iliad he would go on to translate to his immense financial profit. But it is also a seriously witty piece of satire, and it is still funny.
The truth of the fact that a small wrong can be writ huge in an affair of the heart is as true today as it was in the highly strung years of the early part of the 18th century. The poems included in this collection are mostly those of the young Pope. The 'Ode to Solitude' indeed is claimed to have been written by Pope when he was 12. But they are not the mere scribblings of a child. Pope was remarkably precocious, and these poems are the products of a highly trained mind, with a blissfully vicious turn of phrase. These are the writings of an extraordinary talent before he got too embroiled in the fury of his feelings about the current state of English society and its academics.
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Great reading: selection of poems could be better
Yes -- a good introduction to Pope's poetic gifts
Emilia Fox is great throughout but really hits her stride with Eloisa to Abelard.
She masters the demands of 17th C language with great aplomb
This needs close listening to appreciate Pope's conceits. Best savoured in short sessions.
The selection is curiously curated: the longer works Rape of the Lock and Eloisa to Abelard along with shorter pieces such as Elegy to an Unfortunate Lady and Epistle to Miss Blount are here, as you would expect. The selection of the juvenile work the Pastorals is an odd decision. I would have thought Windsor Forest, An Essay on Criticism or excerpts from the Dunciad would have been more canonical selections.
- Stewart Gardiner