This extract from Pope's An Essay on Criticism, like the whole poem, is written in rhyming couplets (lines rhyming in pairs). They confer a formal, regular quality to the verse. The punctuation helps to control the way in which we read: notice that there is a pause at the end of each line, either a comma, a semi-colon, or a full stop. This use of the end-stopped line is characteristic of eighteenth-century heroic couplets (iambic pentameter lines rhyming in pairs), where the aim was to reproduce classical qualities of balance, harmony, and proportion.
Get into the habit of looking at rhyme words. Are any of Pope's rhymes particularly interesting here? One thing I noticed was what is known as poetic inversion. The rhyme ‘shore’/‘roar‘is clearly important to the sound sense of the verse, but the more natural word order (were this ordinary speech) would be ‘The hoarse rough verse should roar like the torrent’. Had he written this, Pope would have lost the sound qualities of the rhyme ‘shore’/‘roar’. He would have had to find a word such as ‘abhorrent’ to rhyme with ‘torrent’ and the couplet would have had a very different meaning. He would also have lost the rhythm of the line, in spite of the fact that the words are exactly the same.
Before we leave An Essay on Criticism, did you notice that Pope's subject in this poem is really poetry itself? Like Wordsworth, Pound, and William Carlos Williams, all of whom I've quoted earlier, Pope too was concerned with poetry as a craft
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