3.1. The Cassical Age + A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Very Famous General
The author:Alexander Pope:Alexander Pope was born in England to a father who was a linen draper. In a Protestantworld, Pope who was a Roman Catholic was banned to live in London , and wasrefused citizenship and an education. Because of this, Pope was mostly educated athome. Due to tuberculosis, Pope suffered from physical deformity damage to hishealth. Pope´s skill in writing was shown in public at a very young age when hepublished Pastorals in 1709. Two years later, Pope published An Essay on Criticismwhich was the foundation to his fame. Other works included The Rape of Lock (1714),Windsor Forest (1713), An Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady and Epistlefrom Eloisa to Abelard (1717). Apart from writing his own works, Pope also translatedHomer´s The Iliad (1715-1720) and The Odyssey (1725-1726). Later in his life, Popecreated more famous works like An Essay on Man (1733-1734) .Another greatachievement that Pope reached was his evolvement in the Scriblerus Club with JohnGay and Jonathan Swift, a club devoted to the Tories. At the age of 56, Alexander Popepassed away.
Alexander PopesWorks*Early WorksAlexander Popes literary career began in 1704 and he first attracted public attention in1709 with his Pastorals ("Alexander Pope").*Translations of HomerPopes translations of Homer (c. 700 B.C.E. ) were his greatest achievements as atranslator (Jokinen).* Editorial workPope also undertook several editorial projects. One of which was Parnells Poems(Jokinen).
The Age:18th century classicismThe 18th century is sometimes called the Augustan age, and contemporary admirationfor the classical world extended to the poetry of the time. Not only did the poets aim fora polished high style in emulation of the Roman ideal, they also translated and imitatedGreek and Latin verse resulting in measured rationalized elegant verse. Drydentranslated all the known works of Virgil, and Pope produced versions of the twoHomeric epics. Horace and Juvenal were also widely translated and imitated, Horacemost famously by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester and Juvenal by Samuel JohnsonsVanity of Human Wishes.
A Satirical Elegy*The poem is written in iambic tetrameter. In English, heroic verse, a form traditionallyused in epic and dramatic poetry, is iambic pentameter. The missing iamb,then, signifies a lack and reflects the satirical content in form. The rhyme is masculineend rhyme in couplets (aabbccdd...)*The elegy as a poetic composition usually laments and pays tribute to someone whohas died. However, Swift does the opposite, making this the second formal reflection ofsatirical content. For my post on the mock-epic.
SatireIt is hardly surprising that the world of fashion and scepticism that emerged encouragedthe art of satire. All the major poets of the period, Samuel Butler, John Dryden,Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson, and the Irish poet Jonathan Swift, wrote satiricalverse. What is perhaps more surprising is that their satire was often written in defenceof public order and the established church and government. However, writers such asPope used their gift for satire to create scathing works responding to their detractors orto criticise what they saw as social atrocities perpetrated by the government.
The poem A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General By Jonathan SwiftHis Grace! impossible! what dead!Of old age too, and in his bed!And could that mighty warrior fall?And so inglorious, after all!Well, since hes gone, no matter how, 5The last loud trump must wake him now:And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger,Hed wish to sleep a little longer.And could he be indeed so oldAs by the newspapers were told? 10
The poemThreescore, I think, is pretty high;Twas time in conscience he should die.This world he cumbered long enough;He burnt his candle to the snuff;And thats the reason, some folks think, 15He left behind so great a stink.Behold his funeral appears,Nor widows sighs, nor orphans tears,Wont at such times each heart to pierce,Attend the progress of his hearse. 20But what of that, his friends may say,He had those honors in his day.True to his profit and his pride,He made them weep before he died.Come hither, all ye empty things, 25
The poemYe bubbles raised by breath of kings;Who float upon the tide of state,Come hither, and behold your fate.Let pride be taught by this rebuke,How very mean a things a Duke; 30From all his ill-got honors flung,Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.
A few notes..This poem is about the General who has overstayed his life on earth, he cares littlefor others and the soldiers that have died under his command. Yet, he seems to bemore concern about his earnings and pride. And thats why no orphans or widowscry.A few explanatory notes:• Swift takes a scornful view of the life and achievements of Marlborough which is shown amongst other things in the lines mentioned below.• Line 6-8: This refers to the final judgement. According to Swift, Marlborough will not do well at the last trump. The last loud trump must wake him now: And, trust me, as the noise grows stronger, Hed wish to sleep a little longer.
A few notes..• Line 16: Swift emphasises the physical and unpleasant for satirical effect. This he commonly did, perhaps most notably in The Ladys Dressing Room. He left behind so great a stink.• Line 17-22: Nobody grieves for him because he caused enough grief "in his day". Behold his funeral appears, Nor widows sighs, nor orphans tears, Wont at such times each heart to pierce, Attend the progress of his hearse. 20 But what of that, his friends may say, He had those honors in his day.
A few notes..• Line 26: The praise of the general is like a bubble; seems substantial , but is hollow and easily undone. Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;• Line 32: This line refers to Genesis 2.7 albeit with a twist. While Genesis states that "[...]God formed man of the dust of the ground [...]", Swift claims that Marlborough sprung from dirt, which has slightly different connotations. Turned to that dirt from whence he sprung.
Notes you mayfind useful• An elegy is a farewell to the dead, however Swifts poem is certainly short of sympathy and A satricial elegy on the death of a late famous General is not your traditional lament.• Swift uses sarcasm and a mocking tone at the Generals late but much awaited death describing him with an ironic epithet - mighty warrior.• The speaker thinks it was inappropriate for the General to live so long and their is an undertone of critism that he died in bed, not battle, unlike all the poor soldiers that he probably sent to their deaths.• At the start of the poem, the exclamatories in the first couplet give an element of mock horror which is both sarcastic and humerous.
Notes you mayfind usefulSwift uses interesting metaphors -He burnt his candle to the snuff;...He left behind so great a stink. which describesthe General as living a full and self-centred life - living right to the end, just like thelight from the candle burning right through. The stink could represent theunpleasant atmosphere which was left behind once he had died, just like the smokefrom the candle.Another metaphor which Swift uses is -Ye bubbles raisd by breath of kings!Who float upon the tide of state;This metaphor compares the General to a bubble, insubstantial and ephemeralcreated by the king . The General does nothing for his title and instead cares aboutlittle else other than his earnings.