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The Poem

Sound and Sense: Text of the Poem

Note on Edition: This edition is based on the original poem from 1711. Typological changes (things like capitalization and italics) appear in the 1717 edition, which Pope kept in a later version. Scholars have good reasons for giving more authority to different editions, but since we can't read Pope's mind to figure out which one he preferred, we're going to use the first one.

True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance,
'Tis not enough no Harshness gives Offence,
The Sound must seem an Eccho to the Sense:
Soft is the Strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth Stream in smoother Numbers flows;
But when loud Surges lash the sounding Shore,
The hoarse, rough Verse shou'd like the Torrent roar.
When Ajax strives, some Rock's vast Weight to throw,
The Line too labours, and the Words move slow;
Not so, when swift Camilla scours the Plain,
Flies o'er th'unbending Corn, and skims along the Main.
Hear how Timotheus' vary'd Lays surprize,
And bid Alternate Passions fall and rise!

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