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Sound and Sense

Sound and Sense

by Alexander Pope

Sound and Sense Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. This poem plays with us through sound and rhythm. Why do you think people generally find such pleasure in rhythm and rhyme?
  2. The first principle the speaker gives us is that great writing doesn't come from natural talent but from working hard. Do you agree? Is this true of most skills? Can you be good at anything if you just practice hard enough?
  3. If "ease in writing" really comes from practicing the skill of writing poetry, does this mean that poetry is only for educated people? Why, or why not?
  4. The speaker directly addresses working hard to write poetry, but he doesn't say exactly what it takes to be a good reader and listener of poetry. What can you deduce from the clues he leaves about the role of the reader or listener? How is this skill, if it is one, acquired?
  5. The speaker compares poetry and dancing. In what ways are they alike? Are there important ways in which in which they are different?
  6. The poem is a piece of literary criticism. Yet, because it is written in verse, it blurs the boundaries between the genres of criticism and creative writing. Why is this important? What does it tell us about the nature of poetry, criticism, and genre in general?
  7. Can you imitate Pope? Write a few lines of poetry where you try very hard to make sure the sound does not at all match the content. Now write a couple lines where you try to have the sound enact the idea you are discussing. Which is more difficult? What type of effect does the sound make on the way you interpret the line?

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