Alexander Pope as a Great Satirist

Alexander Pope was a full package of contradictions – sensitive, aggressive, proud, vindictive, lovable, loyal. He was a great satirist and moralist. He ‘stooped to truth and moralised his song’. He used poetry as a great instrument of moral improvement and believed that satire was his most effective weapon to destroy corrupt customs and to expose the wicked. John Dennis in his monumental book, The Age of Pope remarks “ It is a satirist that Pope, with one exception, excels all English poets.”

Pope was a dwarf and deformed in constitution. Throughout his life he never enjoyed the radiant glow of health. His life was never jovial. He was constantly haunted by morbid shadows and consequently composed bitter satires. Pope was a Roman Catholic and could not tolerate the assault of his faith. The condemnation and hatred for Roman Catholicism which prevailed in his time also made him a stern satirist. He met a series of intrigues, trickeries and deceptions in his life and wanted to take revenge. Thus, in The Dunciad he satirised a number of scholar of his time because of his personal enmities.

Pope’s great satires are Essay on Criticism, The Prologue, The Epilogue, The Moral Essay, The Dunciad, The Rape of the Lock etc.

The Rape of the Lock is his first satire. In this mock-epic poem Pope has satirised feminine frivolities. He came out with the most unpleasant and shocking remark, “Every woman at least is a rake.” And showed that all women were frivolities and their chief interest was in love making. Belinda, a fashionable lady is the representative of the aristocratic society who have had the habit to visit night club regularly. Through her Pope criticized the whole female sex.

Above all he is the representative of his age. He lacked the imaginative power and the depth of feeling which form the quintessence of great poetry.But he possessed are intellectual wisdom and wit.

From what has been said above it becomes clear that in the verse of Pope we find sparkle, brilliance and rapidity of high order. He cannot be held guilty by introducing monotony in verse. He finds greater life force in his use of heroic couplet than in either of Chaucer or Dryden. Hazlitt is of the opinion that “Pope was a poet of Art rather than Nature.”

His own words in An Essay on Criticism seem to describe him best:
    “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
     As those move easiest who have learned to dance.”
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