Alexander Pope is a very great poet of the 18th century. He belongs to the Neo-Classical School of poetry. His An Essay on Criticism is a very popular composition. It is a poem in the heroic couplet. It is considered a brilliant piece of craftsmanship. Its felicities of expression delight the intellect. Dryden’s concept of poetry is admirably exemplified this poem. This poem displays the overwhelming influence of the ancients on it.

An Essay on Criticism is a didactic poem. It deals with the theory of poetry. Here the rules of composition are stated in a clever fashion. The poem expresses that visionary ideas and personal taste are desirable in poetry. A scholarly mind and a disciplined response to poetic experience are also necessary. In short, the whole poem revolves round the word ‘wit’.

In the beginning part of the poem, the poet talks about the softness and flow in poetry. According to him true art comes after a lot of practice. It does not come by chance. As good dance demands good practice, so is the case with a literary artist.

In this beautiful piece Pope further says that the cool wind and the slow moving waves produce soothing effects on the minds. Thus the poetry should be soft and musical. We know that roaring waves do not produce music. In the same way bombastic words do not produce any music. Thus a literary artist should use soft words. The poet must aim at the fusion of sound and sense. To support his views Pope has given certain logical references like that of Ajax, Camilla and Timotheus.

Here we have taken only ten couplets of An Essay on Criticism to discuss. These couplets are remarkable for their classical poetic diction. Pope picks up words for their musical value. The result is an artifice of rare beauty and delight. These couplets display the objectivity of a great artist. Pope believes that the ancients should be followed. It is because they worked by the light of reason. According to the poet if these rules are followed, great poetry will be the result.

Thus Pope is one of the most representative poets of his age. His An Essay on Criticism is a memorable poem that expresses the rules of composing poems.


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