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Sound and Sense

Sound and Sense

by Alexander Pope

Literature and Writing Theme

"Sound and Sense" takes on writing as its main subject. The speaker, who is both a poet and a literary critic, proposes that great writing is a cultivated art and that sound must fit the content. The majority of the poem gives examples of these two claims, using the ancient writers to support his cause while also giving an example through his own verse. The poem teaches us how to read poetry: to look for the way the sound helps create the meaning.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. If writing comes from art (you know, practice and hard work), not chance or nature, then why does the poet use so many images of nature in the poem?
  2. There are several references to great ancient poems and poets in "Sound and Sense." How do these references help get across the point that sound is essential to poetry?
  3. What about voice? If this poem sounds like a conversation that the critic is having with poetic community (those dead and alive), how might it not be consistent in its theory of nature and art?
  4. How do all of the voices it includes make it different than a strict argument for or against a certain artistic principle?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Writing is an art, but an art grounded in nature.

This poem argues that individual poems take precedence over general rules about poetry; for example, sound is so important to the meaning of a poem that regular meter must sometimes be broken.

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