on August 5, 2003
This poem serves two purposes. First, Pope wrote it in response to an upper-class quarrel over an event at a party in which a young girl had her hair cut. The incident itself was petty and stupid, but the families of the parties involved were taking it very seriously. Pope, then, wrote this poem in epic form (the most grand of poetic forms) to show the absurdity of the matter, and thus reconcile the offender and offended.
That is the first function of this poem. Even though the incident is long forgotten, the poem is still very funny. But there is a greater purpose to this poem--it was written like an epic. It contains several epic elements--an epic battle (at the card game), the invocation of muses and gods, the epic quest (to cut the hair), and several literary devices, such as epic-length similes and catalogs. This is what makes this poem so great, and what serves as a testimony to Pope's remarkable genius for wit and satire.
Pope was, in my opinion, one of the greatest English poets, certainly the greatest satirist. This is one of his greatest works, and it is short enough to read over and over again without investing too much time.
on July 16, 1998
This is a highly intelligent book on one of the finest poems by the eighteenth century's most celebrated poet. Brilliantly written with wit, style, and a flair for interesting detail, Wall's book includes textual information and a wealth of carefully selected secondary material that makes this "one-stop shopping" for anyone interested in the work or indeed in the period. Because of its combination of lively writing and scholarly erudition, I would recommend Wall's book for a wide variety of interest and knowledge levels. Wonderful Bedford series idea and terrific book.