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Sound and Sense

Sound and Sense

by Alexander Pope

Lines 13-14 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 13-14

Hear how Timotheus' vary'd Lays surprize,
And bid Alternate Passions fall and rise!

  • Timotheus was one of the most important ancient Greek poets. (The word "lays" means poems or songs.)
  • The speaker tells us that Timotheus's poems were surprising and unexpected. They made the listener's emotions go all over the place; they really moved the audience. The poems were truly unlike the boring and predictable verses poets of Pope's day produced, the ones he is critiquing right now.
  • Our oh-so-modest speaker is also saying that he is like Timotheus because his poems, too, move the reader in unexpected ways.
  • The phrase we expect to hear in the last line is "rise and fall," but we are surprised (and speaker would say pleased) to hear something unexpected – in this case, "fall and rise!"
  • By playing with the rhythms and phrases throughout the poem with ease, the speaker has shown us his skill and modeled how sound and sense should go together. With his last change up at the end of the poem we are left with a sense of delight because we're surprised by the sound.
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