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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ode on Solitude - Alexander Pope

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, day, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mine,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.


Not quite the pastoral love poems of earlier in the week, Pope here seems to espouse the virtues of a quiet life well-lived.  Almost sounding like the Beatitudes, the life of quiet diligence and plenty sounds fairly pleasant.  The farmer in question, with his few acres, left to him by his father, lives his whole life breathing "native air in his own ground," supplied with all he could need by what he already has.

A life of quiet temperance, as easy as it sounds, with its "sweet recreation" and unconcerned pace, seems somehow sad to me.  Perhaps it is my modern eyes, but to die completely unlamented sounds awfully lonesome.  Then again, solitude and loneliness are very different things.  I'm not entirely sure Pope is glorifying this life, especially when the last two lines seem so bleak.

To "steal" away to such a peaceful life as this is certainly an attractive image.  The idea of not a single stone marking ones resting place seems bleak to me, but in a way it seems like the ultimate sign of love at at one-ness with nature.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Chris,
    The word " steal " is used here in the sense of moving stealthily - silently or secretly - and has nothing whatever to do with theft!
    John

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  2. You're right! I usually think of that usage of the word paired with "away.". I'll amend my analysis. Thanks very much!

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  3. THE BEST POEM I HAVE COME ACROSS. It provides me with serenity. Implying the uselessnes of the material fight we are having though we can live a quiet life by ourselves.

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