Sound and Sense
by Alexander Pope
Funny that the poem begins with the claim that great writing comes from art (a.k.a. hard work and practice), not chance (a.k.a. natural talent), but then most of the images are things in nature. Why is the poet doing this? Is he undermining his argument? Or, is he showing that art and nature are pretty close to the same thing?
- Lines 1 and 2: The first image is one of artifice – using a simile to compare good writing to the stylized art of dancing (he's not talking about primitive dancing....or is he?).
- Lines 5 and 6: A gentle breeze in nature, a smooth stream, and then suddenly we realize the stream the speaker is referring to is the smooth numbers of syllables in a line of poetry. This metaphor really smears the difference between nature and the art of writing.
- Lines 7 and 8: Loud ocean waves beat the shore and then again, we are suddenly in the midst of a simile comparing the ocean to the sound of poetry.
- Lines 9 and 10: The poem continues with the nature metaphors, including a rock's weight enacting a laboring line of verse, as well as the geography of the plains filled with corn being the space of the poetic line.