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Essay on Man and Other Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – 2 Jan 2000

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Crown jewels in Pope's diadem 25 Mar. 2002
By Chosroes III - Published on
Format: Paperback
Pope's defining masterworks, "Essay on Man" and "The Rape of the Lock", are crystalizations of the 18th Century's defining impulses. The "Essay on Man" proselytizes on behalf of the deistic belief in an ordered, rational universe where humankind is no divine favorite but can understand its place on the Great Chain of Being and find happiness through knowledge and acceptance. Most will join with Voltaire in his hearty rejection of the doctrine "Whatever is, is right," yet it is impossible to deny the ennobling quality of Pope's optimism:
"Grasp the whole worlds of reason, life, and sense,
In one close system of benevolence:
Happier as kinder, in whate'er degree,
And height of bliss but height of charity."
Where "Essay on Man" expresses the rational principles of the Enlightenment, "The Rape of the Lock" exemplifies the love of the frivolous, the fashionable, and the feminine which gave such light and warmth to an era famed for its elevation of the intellect. The poem exemplifies the Rococo, that most playful of styles in literature; nowhere else in English lit does so much of the spirit of Boucher come through. Pope's verse swirls and sparkles in melodic luxuriance, his creamy couplets smooth and shapely as a woman's legs.
This compact edition also includes the "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady", one of the most beautifully severe (and overlooked) poems in the language-- a rare triumph of Neo-Classical lyric. Here also are the famous "Essay on Criticism", the galloping satire of the "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot", Epistle IV of the "Moral Essays", the "Ode on Solitude" and "The Dying Christian to His Soul", and the famed little epigram from a dog's collar-- all magnificent, all of them compact and gracious in expression, articulate and penetrating in thought. The serious devotee of Pope will want to go on to the treasures (and scholarly annotations) of the Twickenham edition, but this is a terrific anthology of some indispensable works from this controversial and indispensable genius.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great Collection, Incredible Value 27 Jan. 2010
By Bill R. Moore - Published on
Format: Paperback
Samuel Johnson said that it may be a thousand years before another man comes along with powers of versification equal to Alexander Pope. It is a testament to Pope's greatness that this still does not seem hyperbolic. Indeed, in the nearly three centuries since he wrote, only a few English poets even rival his variety, and only Alfred Tennyson rivals his sheer technical mastery and quotability. The first thing one notices is his near-superhuman command of poetry's technical aspects; perhaps no one else in English has such an astonishing touch with meter, rhyme, stress, etc. His poetic variety is also notable; though best known for his unmatched heroic couplets, he mastered a diverse array of mediums. This is of course all the more striking since the moderns threw most of this out the proverbial window a century ago, making Pope a poet one essentially either loves or hates, though all can at least appreciate him. He is the acknowledged master to those who prefer formal poetry, while those who like free verse and other non-traditional forms may well think him stilted, old-fashioned, and portentous. His legend indeed became partly eclipsed when non-traditional poetry became standard, but the last few decades have seen a welcomed revival. It is clear that, whatever one prefers, Pope simply has no peer in terms of stately, precise English verse.

But Pope was far more than just a technical wizard; he is at least as notable for intellectual depth. Indeed, only Percy Shelley and Thomas Hardy among English poets are even in his league for matching craft with philosophical vigor and other thought-provoking material. It is no coincidence that several of Pope's poems, including some of the most famous, have "Essay" in the title. They essentially are essays on the philosophical issues of his day but in poetic form - a novelty then and now. Readers should not let this scare them; though often dense, Pope is nearly always readable. His language is frequently elevated, but the fact that he is quoted more often by English speakers than nearly any other writer - often without their even knowing it, so famous has his work become - shows that he is accessible. Pope's key asset here is clearness; he is so articulate and precise that we rarely wonder what he means, in great contrast to most writers of his vintage. His key issues are not ours, but his greatness and clearness are such that we can still read with interest and attention. This is all the more remarkable when we consider that his optimistic, religion-based worldview now seems distinctly naïve. Pope is one of its last exponents still read with anything but historical interest - nay, without laughter. His intellectual robustness is such that he makes the perspective seem respectable; it would take a very skilled rhetorician to refute him, and there is almost certainly no one alive who would even think of doing it in verse.

Pope's erudite reputation is well-deserved, but he is also perhaps English poetry's premier satirist. He was known to wield a fearsome pen that more than made up for his physical inadequacy, viciously mocking opponents so thoroughly that few were able to even attempt defense - all in immaculate, ever-interesting verse. His references, often disguised, to contemporary people and events are now lost on us, but we can still easily appreciate his wit and humor. Pope's verse continues to stand as some of the most bitingly satirical and humorous in English - a true sign of his astonishing variety.

As for this particular edition, it is a treasure for the curious. Containing nine poems, including full versions of the lengthy works "An Essay on Criticism," "The Rape of the Lock," and "Essay on Man," spread out over about one hundred pages, this gives an excellent overview. "Essay on Man" is Pope's greatest philosophical poem, a tour de force of his philosophy that still holds up intellectually and of course poetically. The equally great "An Essay on Criticism" is the most successful example of literary criticism in verse; many have tried, but none have come close. Pope does much to back up his views, but his essentially common sense approach has wide appeal. "The Rape of the Lock" is Pope's most famous satirical poem, a mock epic that still amuses many. The other six selections are some of Pope's best and most famous short works, showcasing his command of various forms, unparalleled skill at epigrammatic verse, and often startling lyrical beauty. Again showing his variety, they range from highly emotional to thought-provoking to humorous.

Like other Dover Thrift Editions, this is essentially a bare bones volume, though it has more supplementary material than most. There is a short biographical note and, unusually for Dover, a small number of footnotes. The latter are very helpful in identifying contemporary references but do little to explicate Pope's numerous learned allusions to things now far from common knowledge, especially classical mythology. Many will be confused and lost. Even so, this is a superb primer for the curious and will likely lead them to read more. One could hardly hope for a greater selection in such a convenient and inexpensive volume; the value is simply incredible. The dedicated will of course be disappointed by the incompleteness as well as things like the absence of line numbers and should seek out more comprehensive and/or deluxe volumes, but everyone else would do well to start here.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The classic master of English verse 28 April 2005
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Pope is the great master of polished English verse. He is the most skilled craftsman, perhaps, that the language has known. "Like the alexandrine that drags its slow length along" Pope everywhere illustrates a mastery of form as feeling. Yet precisely his precision and his intellect are what make the verse less than deeply appealing to a poor romantic soul such as myself. Pope can be a master moralist ( Vice is a monster of such frightful mien/ that to be hated needs but to be seen/ but seen too oft/ familiar with her face/ we first endure, then pity, then embrace./ And he can hold up the mirror to man and nature in a way that inspires rational hope. He can play and mock at us ( I am his master's dog at Kew, pray tell me, Sir whose dog are you?) but he does not reach the deepest down nature that the Romantics that come after will.
This fine collection contains his most famous poems " The Rape of the Lock" and "The Essay on Man' and the reader can know through this work the best of Pope. But whether the best of Pope belongs in the same league with Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Keats, Wordsworth, is another question.
PS I have just been rereading 'Essay on Man' and I think my previous remarks are somewhat wrongheaded. Pope 's thought is complex and ordered, and expressed with a beautiful facility of phrase. There are many memorable lines. I think I made the mistake of looking for Pope to be another kind of Poet, and not appreciating fully the kind of brilliant, intellectual, impersonal, philosophical Poet he is.
Classic writings of the renaissance English Catholic poet 17 Nov. 2013
By Transcendental Thomist - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although John Milton and other English Protestant poets are more popular, Alexander Pope was also widely quoted in his day, being perhaps the most widely quoted and influential man of letters in England's history. Pope's Catholicism is evident in these poems, but the beauty of his English style transcends sectarian boundaries, and his writing harkens back to the days when Europe's greatest artists also happened to be devoutly Christian. This razor-thin Dover Thrift paperback is affordable and contains a nice sampling of his most famous writings, including the metaphysical "Essay on Man."
essay on man 15 Sept. 2013
By Dave Greengaard - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
a little knowledge is a dangerous thing: drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring! the finest mind of his age, alexander pope invented the elizabethan couplet and then used it to ridicule and satirize the foibles and idiots of his society. his giant intellect encompassed all of literature from the classics to his own age. his languages included greek, latin, french, german, akkadian, and probably several hundred hindi dialects. he single-handedly forged english as the pre-eminent language of the world. i would suggest that you read everything he wrote! he even translated the Odyssey into its most readable version. don't miss out!
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