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Best Famous Alexander Pope Poems

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Written by Alexander Pope | Create an image from this poem

Ode on Solitude

How happy he, who free from care The rage of courts, and noise of towns; Contented breathes his native air, In his own grounds.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire.
Blest! who can unconcern'dly find Hours, days, and years slide swift away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day, IV.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease Together mix'd; sweet recreation, And innocence, which most does please, With meditation.
Thus let me live, unheard, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.

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Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog Which I Gave to His Royal Highness

 I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
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 Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
 In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire; Whose trees in summer yield shade, In winter, fire.
Blest, who can unconcern'dly find Hours, days, and years, slide soft away In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease Together mixed; sweet recreation, And innocence, which most does please With meditation.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.
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The Riddle of the World

 Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, A Being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest; In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast; In doubt his mind and body to prefer; Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err; Whether he thinks to little, or too much; Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd; Still by himself, abus'd or disabus'd; Created half to rise and half to fall; Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all, Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd; The glory, jest and riddle of the world.
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Sound And Sense

 True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense, The sound must seem an echo 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 should like the torrent roar; When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, The line too labors, and the words move slow; Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain, Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprise, And bid alternate passions fall and rise!

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Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady

 What beck'ning ghost, along the moon-light shade
Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
'Tis she!--but why that bleeding bosom gor'd,
Why dimly gleams the visionary sword?
Oh ever beauteous, ever friendly! tell,
Is it, in heav'n, a crime to love too well?
To bear too tender, or too firm a heart,
To act a lover's or a Roman's part?
Is there no bright reversion in the sky,
For those who greatly think, or bravely die?

Why bade ye else, ye pow'rs! her soul aspire
Above the vulgar flight of low desire?
Ambition first sprung from your blest abodes;
The glorious fault of angels and of gods;
Thence to their images on earth it flows,
And in the breasts of kings and heroes glows.
Most souls, 'tis true, but peep out once an age, Dull sullen pris'ners in the body's cage: Dim lights of life, that burn a length of years Useless, unseen, as lamps in sepulchres; Like eastern kings a lazy state they keep, And close confin'd to their own palace, sleep.
From these perhaps (ere nature bade her die) Fate snatch'd her early to the pitying sky.
As into air the purer spirits flow, And sep'rate from their kindred dregs below; So flew the soul to its congenial place, Nor left one virtue to redeem her race.
But thou, false guardian of a charge too good, Thou, mean deserter of thy brother's blood! See on these ruby lips the trembling breath, These cheeks now fading at the blast of death: Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before, And those love-darting eyes must roll no more.
Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball, Thus shall your wives, and thus your children fall; On all the line a sudden vengeance waits, And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.
There passengers shall stand, and pointing say, (While the long fun'rals blacken all the way) "Lo these were they, whose souls the furies steel'd, And curs'd with hearts unknowing how to yield.
Thus unlamented pass the proud away, The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day! So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow For others' good, or melt at others' woe.
" What can atone (oh ever-injur'd shade!) Thy fate unpitied, and thy rites unpaid? No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear Pleas'd thy pale ghost, or grac'd thy mournful bier.
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd, By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd, By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd, By strangers honour'd, and by strangers mourn'd! What though no friends in sable weeds appear, Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year, And bear about the mockery of woe To midnight dances, and the public show? What though no weeping loves thy ashes grace, Nor polish'd marble emulate thy face? What though no sacred earth allow thee room, Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb? Yet shall thy grave with rising flow'rs be drest, And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast: There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow, There the first roses of the year shall blow; While angels with their silver wings o'ershade The ground, now sacred by thy reliques made.
So peaceful rests, without a stone, a name, What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame.
How lov'd, how honour'd once, avails thee not, To whom related, or by whom begot; A heap of dust alone remains of thee, 'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be! Poets themselves must fall, like those they sung, Deaf the prais'd ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.
Ev'n he, whose soul now melts in mournful lays, Shall shortly want the gen'rous tear he pays; Then from his closing eyes thy form shall part, And the last pang shall tear thee from his heart, Life's idle business at one gasp be o'er, The Muse forgot, and thou belov'd no more!
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The Iliad: Book VI (excerpt)

 He said, and pass'd with sad presaging heart
To seek his spouse, his soul's far dearer part;
At home he sought her, but he sought in vain:
She, with one maid of all her menial train,
Had thence retir'd; and, with her second joy,
The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy,
Pensive she stood on Ilion's tow'ry height,
Beheld the war, and sicken'd at the sight;
There her sad eyes in vain her lord explore,
Or weep the wounds her bleeding country bore.
But he, who found not whom his soul desir'd, Whose virtue charm'd him as her beauty fir'd, Stood in the gates, and ask'd what way she bent Her parting steps; if to the fane she went, Where late the mourning matrons made resort, Or sought her sisters in the Trojan court.
"Not to the court" replied th' attendant train, "Nor, mixed with matrons, to Minerva's fane; To Ilion's steepy tow'r she bent her way, To mark the fortunes of the doubtful day.
Troy fled, she heard, before the Grecian sword; She heard, and trembled for her absent lord.
Distracted with surprise, she seem'd to fly, Fear on her cheek and sorrow in her eye.
The nurse attended with her infant boy, The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy.
" Hector, this heard, return'd without delay; Swift through the town he trod his former way Through streets of palaces and walks of state, And met the mourner at the Scæan gate.
With haste to meet him sprung the joyful fair, His blameless wife, E{"e}tion's wealthy heir (Cilician Thebè great E{"e}tion sway'd, And Hippoplacus' wide-extended shade); The nurse stood near, in whose embraces prest His only hope hung smiling at her breast, Whom each soft charm and early grace adorn, Fair as the new-born star that gilds the morn.
To this lov'd infant Hector gave the name Scamandrius, from Scamander's honour'd stream; Astyanax the Trojans call'd the boy, From his great father, the defence of Troy.
Silent the warrior smil'd, and pleas'd, resign'd To tender passions all his mighty mind: His beauteous princess cast a mournful look, Hung on his hand, and then dejected spoke; Her bosom labour'd with a boding sigh, And the big tear stood trembling in her eye.
"Too daring prince! ah whither dost thou run? Ah, too forgetful of thy wife and son! And think'st thou not how wretched we shall be, A widow I, a helpless orphan he! For sure such courage length of life denies, And thou must fall, thy virtue's sacrifice.
Greece in her single heroes strove in vain; Now hosts oppose thee, and thou must be slain! Oh, grant me, gods! e'er Hector meets his doom, All I can ask of heav'n, an early tomb! So shall my days in one sad tenor run, And end with sorrows as they first begun.
No parent now remains, my griefs to share, No father's aid, no mother's tender care.
The fierce Achilles wrapp'd our walls in fire, Laid Thebè waste, and slew my warlike sire! His fate compassion in the victor bred; Stern as he was, he yet rever'd the dead, His radiant arms preserv'd from hostile spoil, And laid him decent on the fun'ral pile; Then rais'd a mountain where his bones were burn'd: The mountain nymphs the rural tomb adorn'd; Jove's sylvan daughters bade their elms bestow A barren shade, and in his honour grow.
"By the same arm my sev'n brave brothers fell; In one sad day beheld the gates of hell: While the fat herds and snowy flocks they fed, Amid their fields the hapless heroes bled! My mother liv'd to bear the victor's bands, The queen of Hippoplacia's sylvan lands; Redeem'd too late, she scarce beheld again Her pleasing empire and her native plain, When, ah! oppress'd by life-consuming woe, She fell a victim to Diana's bow.
"Yet while my Hector still survives, I see My father, mother, brethren, all, in thee: Alas! my parents, brothers, kindred, all, Once more will perish if my Hector fall.
Thy wife, thy infant, in thy danger share: Oh, prove a husband's and a father's care! That quarter most the skilful Greeks annoy, Where yon wild fig-trees join the wall of Troy: Thou from this tow'r defend th' important post There Agamemnon points his dreadful host, That pass Tydides, Ajax, strive to gain, And there the vengeful Spartan fires his train.
Thrice our bold foes the fierce attack have giv'n, Or led by hopes, or dictated from heav'n.
Let others in the field their arms employ, But stay my Hector here, and guard his Troy.
" The chief replied: "That post shall be my care, Not that alone, but all the works of war.
How would the sons of Troy, in arms renown'd, And Troy's proud dames, whose garments sweep the ground, Attaint the lustre of my former name, Should Hector basely quit the field of fame? My early youth was bred to martial pains, My soul impels me to th' embattled plains: Let me be foremost to defend the throne, And guard my father's glories, and my own.
Yet come it will, the day decreed by fates, (How my heart trembles while my tongue relates!) The day when thou, imperial Troy! must bend, And see thy warriors fall, thy glories end.
And yet no dire presage so wounds my mind, My mother's death, the ruin of my kind, Not Priam's hoary hairs defil'd with gore, Not all my brothers gasping on the shore, As thine, Andromache! thy griefs I dread; I see thee trembling, weeping, captive led.
In Argive looms our battles to design, And woes, of which so large a part was thine! To bear the victor's hard commands, or bring The weight of waters from Hyperia's spring! There, while you groan beneath the load of life, They cry, 'Behold the mighty Hector's wife!' Some haughty Greek, who lives thy tears to see, Embitters all thy woes by naming me.
The thoughts of glory past and present shame, A thousand griefs, shall waken at the name! May I lie cold before that dreadful day, Press'd with a load of monumental clay! Thy Hector, wrapp'd in everlasting sleep, Shall neither hear thee sigh, nor see thee weep.
" Thus having spoke, th' illustrious chief of Troy Stretch'd his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy.
The babe clung crying to his nurse's breast, Scar'd at the dazzling helm and nodding crest.
With secret pleasure each fond parent smil'd, And Hector hasted to relieve his child; The glitt'ring terrors from his brows unbound, And plac'd the beaming helmet on the ground.
Then kiss'd the child, and, lifting high in air, Thus to the gods preferr'd a father's pray'r: "O thou! whose glory fills th' ethereal throne, And all ye deathless pow'rs! protect my son! Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown, To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown, Against his country's foes the war to wage, And rise the Hector of the future age! So when, triumphant from successful toils, Of heroes slain he bears the reeking spoils, Whole hosts may hail him with deserv'd acclaim, And say, 'This chief transcends his father's fame': While pleas'd, amidst the gen'ral shouts of Troy, His mother's conscious heart o'erflows with joy.
" He spoke, and fondly gazing on her charms, Restor'd the pleasing burthen to her arms; Soft on her fragrant breast the babe she laid, Hush'd to repose, and with a smile survey'd.
The troubled pleasure soon chastis'd by fear, She mingled with the smile a tender tear.
The soften'd chief with kind compassion view'd, And dried the falling drops, and thus pursu'd: "Andromache! my soul's far better part, Why with untimely sorrows heaves thy heart? No hostile hand can antedate my doom, Till fate condemns me to the silent tomb.
Fix'd is the term to all the race of earth, And such the hard condition of our birth.
No force can then resist, no flight can save; All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
No more--but hasten to thy tasks at home, There guide the spindle, and direct the loom; Me glory summons to the martial scene, The field of combat is the sphere for men.
Where heroes war, the foremost place I claim, The first in danger as the first in fame.
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From an Essay on Man

 Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib'd, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food,
And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n, That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n: Who sees with equal eye, as God of all, A hero perish, or a sparrow fall, Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd, And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore.
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know, But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest: The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home, Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; His soul, proud science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk, or milky way; Yet simple nature to his hope has giv'n, Behind the cloud topp'd hill, an humbler heav'n; Some safer world in depth of woods embrac'd, Some happier island in the wat'ry waste, Where slaves once more their native land behold, No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire, He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire; But thinks, admitted to that equal sky.
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The Rape of the Lock: Canto 5

 She said: the pitying audience melt in tears, 
But Fate and Jove had stopp'd the Baron's ears.
In vain Thalestris with reproach assails, For who can move when fair Belinda fails? Not half so fix'd the Trojan could remain, While Anna begg'd and Dido rag'd in vain.
Then grave Clarissa graceful wav'd her fan; Silence ensu'd, and thus the nymph began.
"Say, why are beauties prais'd and honour'd most, The wise man's passion, and the vain man's toast? Why deck'd with all that land and sea afford, Why angels call'd, and angel-like ador'd? Why round our coaches crowd the white-glov'd beaux, Why bows the side-box from its inmost rows? How vain are all these glories, all our pains, Unless good sense preserve what beauty gains: That men may say, when we the front-box grace: 'Behold the first in virtue, as in face!' Oh! if to dance all night, and dress all day, Charm'd the smallpox, or chas'd old age away; Who would not scorn what housewife's cares produce, Or who would learn one earthly thing of use? To patch, nay ogle, might become a saint, Nor could it sure be such a sin to paint.
But since, alas! frail beauty must decay, Curl'd or uncurl'd, since locks will turn to grey, Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade, And she who scorns a man, must die a maid; What then remains but well our pow'r to use, And keep good humour still whate'er we lose? And trust me, dear! good humour can prevail, When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.
" So spoke the dame, but no applause ensu'd; Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her prude.
"To arms, to arms!" the fierce virago cries, And swift as lightning to the combat flies.
All side in parties, and begin th' attack; Fans clap, silks rustle, and tough whalebones crack; Heroes' and heroines' shouts confus'dly rise, And bass, and treble voices strike the skies.
No common weapons in their hands are found, Like gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound.
So when bold Homer makes the gods engage, And heav'nly breasts with human passions rage; 'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms; And all Olympus rings with loud alarms.
Jove's thunder roars, heav'n trembles all around; Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound; Earth shakes her nodding tow'rs, the ground gives way; And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day! Triumphant Umbriel on a sconce's height Clapp'd his glad wings, and sate to view the fight: Propp'd on their bodkin spears, the sprites survey The growing combat, or assist the fray.
While through the press enrag'd Thalestris flies, And scatters death around from both her eyes, A beau and witling perish'd in the throng, One died in metaphor, and one in song.
"O cruel nymph! a living death I bear," Cried Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair.
A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast, "Those eyes are made so killing"--was his last.
Thus on Mæeander's flow'ry margin lies Th' expiring swan, and as he sings he dies.
When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down, Chloe stepp'd in, and kill'd him with a frown; She smil'd to see the doughty hero slain, But at her smile, the beau reviv'd again.
Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air, Weighs the men's wits against the lady's hair; The doubtful beam long nods from side to side; At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside.
See, fierce Belinda on the baron flies, With more than usual lightning in her eyes, Nor fear'd the chief th' unequal fight to try, Who sought no more than on his foe to die.
But this bold lord with manly strength endu'd, She with one finger and a thumb subdu'd: Just where the breath of life his nostrils drew, A charge of snuff the wily virgin threw; The Gnomes direct, to ev'ry atom just, The pungent grains of titillating dust.
Sudden, with starting tears each eye o'erflows, And the high dome re-echoes to his nose.
"Now meet thy fate", incens'd Belinda cried, And drew a deadly bodkin from her side.
(The same, his ancient personage to deck, Her great great grandsire wore about his neck In three seal-rings; which after, melted down, Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown: Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew, The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew; Then in a bodkin grac'd her mother's hairs, Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.
) "Boast not my fall," he cried, "insulting foe! Thou by some other shalt be laid as low.
Nor think, to die dejects my lofty mind; All that I dread is leaving you benind! Rather than so, ah let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames--but burn alive.
" "Restore the lock!" she cries; and all around "Restore the lock!" the vaulted roofs rebound.
Not fierce Othello in so loud a strain Roar'd for the handkerchief that caus'd his pain.
But see how oft ambitious aims are cross'd, The chiefs contend 'till all the prize is lost! The lock, obtain'd with guilt, and kept with pain, In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain: With such a prize no mortal must be blest, So Heav'n decrees! with Heav'n who can contest? Some thought it mounted to the lunar sphere, Since all things lost on earth are treasur'd there.
There hero's wits are kept in pond'rous vases, And beaux' in snuff boxes and tweezercases.
There broken vows and deathbed alms are found, And lovers' hearts with ends of riband bound; The courtier's promises, and sick man's prayers, The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs, Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea, Dried butterflies, and tomes of casuistry.
But trust the Muse--she saw it upward rise, Though mark'd by none but quick, poetic eyes: (So Rome's great founder to the heav'ns withdrew, To Proculus alone confess'd in view) A sudden star, it shot through liquid air, And drew behind a radiant trail of hair.
Not Berenice's locks first rose so bright, The heav'ns bespangling with dishevell'd light.
The Sylphs behold it kindling as it flies, And pleas'd pursue its progress through the skies.
This the beau monde shall from the Mall survey, And hail with music its propitious ray.
This the blest lover shall for Venus take, And send up vows from Rosamonda's lake.
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies, When next he looks through Galileo's eyes; And hence th' egregious wizard shall foredoom The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome.
Then cease, bright nymph! to mourn thy ravish'd hair, Which adds new glory to the shining sphere! Not all the tresses that fair head can boast Shall draw such envy as the lock you lost.
For, after all the murders of your eye, When, after millions slain, yourself shall die: When those fair suns shall set, as set they must, And all those tresses shall be laid in dust, This lock, the Muse shall consecrate to fame And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name.
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Solitude: An Ode

How happy he, who free from care The rage of courts, and noise of towns; Contented breaths his native air, In his own grounds.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire.
Blest! who can unconcern'dly find Hours, days, and years slide swift away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day, IV.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease Together mix'd; sweet recreation, And innocence, which most does please, With meditation.
Thus let me live, unheard, unknown; Thus unlamented let me dye; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lye.