The ideas was to choose another poem in the same section of the book that was related to this one!!
From an essay on criticism
“From an Essay
Agustín Bravo, Eugenia Kenny,
Salvador Castagnino and Sol
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
The eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way;
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
Biography of Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was born in 1646 and died in 1717, he was a linen merchant of Plough
Court, London, he had a wife called Edith (1643–1733), who were both Catholics. Pope's
education was affected by the recently enacted Test Acts, which upheld the status of
the established Church in England and banned Catholics from teaching, attending a
university, voting, or holding public office on pain of perpetual imprisonment. Pope was
taught to read by his aunt, and went to Twyford school in about 1698/99. He then went
to two Catholic schools in London. Such schools, while illegal, were tolerated in some
In 1700, his family moved to a small estate in Binfield, Berkshire. This was due to
strong anti-Catholic sentiment and a statute preventing Catholics from living within 10
miles of either London or Westminster. Pope would later describe the countryside
around the house in his poem, Windsor Forest. Pope's formal education ended at this
time, and from then on he mostly educated himself by reading the works of classical
writers such as the satirists Horace and Juvenal, the epic Homer and Virgil, as well as
English authors such as Geoffrey , William Shakespeare and John Derided.
He also studied many languages and read works by English, French, Italian, Latin, and
Greek poets. After five years of study, Pope came into contact with figures from the
London literary society.
At Binfield, he also began to make many important friends. One of them, John Garyl was
twenty years older than the poet and had made many acquaintances in the London
literary world. He introduced the young Pope to the ageing playwright William Wycherley
and to William Walsh, a minor poet, who helped Pope revise his first major work, The
Pastorals. He also met the Blount sisters, both of whom would remain lifelong friends.
From the age of 12, he suffered numerous health problems, such as Pott’s disease a
form of tuberculosis that affects the bone), which deformed his body and stunted his
growth, leaving him with a severe hunchback. His tuberculosis infection caused other
health problems including respiratory difficulties, high fevers, inflamed eyes, and
abdominal pain. He grew to a height of only 1.37 m. Pope was already removed from
society because he was Catholic; his poor health only alienated him further. Although he
never married, he had many female friends to whom he wrote letters..
Themes and Tones
The tones through the poem are a critical one, as the poet criticises critics
themselves, also a wise and a serious one, as an interesting reflection is
Moreover, the themes of the poem are in our opinion are Literary Criticism,
the Nature of Critics, and Judgment as it is shown how critics and judgement
in poetry can be harmful indeed. Also, Wisdom may be another theme, as the
the poem shows how it is directly connected with age.
In this interesting poem, Pope provides a great reflection about Judgement
and critics in a strange way, as he criticizes critics themselves and the harm
they may cause.
With many metaphors he shows how for him, the capability of judging is a
divine gift, but it must be used wisely or otherwise it may end up harming
others. In this way, Pope uses literary criticism to represent criticism in
common life as a whole, and showing how critics are directly connected with
wisdom and wisdom is as well connected with age. Finally, shows well how at
the end, a bad critic may be much more harmful for a writer than a bed poem
or piece of writing.
Literary devices and language techniques
In this poem Pope’s lexical choice influences the way the reader captures the
essence of the poem. He starts the poem using provocative words such as
“Dangerous” he clearly transmits his message and his view point from the beginning
of the poem. Pope is known for making classical allusions, and in this poem he
does so. For instance he makes reference to the “Pierian spring” showing that they
are expressing their thoughts by just knowing a tiny amount of the full art.
Later in the poem he contrast all the critics he does and instead he censures the
romantic notion of young poets. “fired at first sight”, they are filled with passion, yet
they have no full knowledge.
All through the poem Pope personification knowledge -mostly at the beginning- in
order to make it easier for the reader to understand what is he trying to transmit.
As intertextuality we understand the connection,
relation or even influence between two texts or
one text to another. This resource is used
exclusively in literature.
The intertextuality present in the text can be found in the first line “A little
knowledge is a dangerous thing”. This line is connected to the poem The
mystery of phanaticism which says “That a little knowledge is apt to puff up,
and make men giddy, but a greater share of it will set them right, and bring them
to low and humble thoughts of themselves.” and in The Essays: Of Atheism which
says “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in
philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion”. In addition a Roman Writer
also mentioned this idea 1800 years before these writers, he said: “Better be
ignorant of a matter than half know it”.
These four writers present at first the idea of little
knowledge, to the extent where it is only and just
dangerous and a type of threat. However, then they
mention the idea of deep knowledge, which is completely
different to the first idea, as it represents humble, beauty
and real thinking.
Our essay question
The themes of Judgement and Criticism are very
present along the poem, as it is shown how both
can be very harmful. Comment closely on this.