You are on page 1of 4

1 Paper 5: Mock-Epic 4 (1) The Sylvan Scenes of Herds and Flocks And fruitful Plains and barren Rocks;

Of shallow Brooks that flowd so clear, The Bottom did the Top appear; John Dryden, To the Pious Memory of the Accomplished Young Lady Mrs. Anne Killigrew (1686) (2) It was part of Houdinis allure to produce popular spectacles of the safe but shocking transgression. He could amaze people but leave everything as it was. He could break the rules of possibility, break out of the best jails of the land, and earn the admiration of the police. [] One of the ways Houdini both reassured his audience and mystified them at the same time was by trying to devise stunts in which he didnt destroy the thing he was escaping from. Everything would look the same, except that he would now be outside rather than inside whatever it was. He would break out, but nothing would be broken. Adam Phillips, Houdinis Box: On the Arts of Escape (2001) (3) Here Thou, Great Anna! whom three Realms obey Dost sometimes Counsel takeand sometimes Tea. The Rape of the Lock (1714), III.7-8 (4) Whether the Nymph shall break Dianas Law, Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw, Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade, Forget her Prayrs, or miss a Masquerade, Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball; Or whether Heavn has doomd that Shock must fall. The Rape of the Lock, II.105-10

(5) The mock heroic mode protects readers from the pain that underlies the joke. Patricia Meyer Spacks, Reading EighteenthCentury Poetry (2009) (6) My sole concern was to borrow forms, no matter from where, by which my own preoccupations could declare themselves. Joanna Field (Marion Milner), An Experiment in Leisure (1937) (7) I remember an experience of a frustratingly double kindan experience of being strongly impressed by a peculiar brilliance of language which I had never encountered anywhere else, and yet also an experience of being in some way as it were forbidden to touch any of that brilliance, to take any of it for real or for my own. In retrospect I think this was only partly because of anything about Popes writing, and much more because of what I had already decided about the poem before I had even read a line of it. I knew that the poem was meant to be funny. As soon as I began reading it I was unconsciously referring every line I read to this single functionthe function of provoking laughter. Yet at the same time, my reading experience was actually telling me something very differentthat much of the point of this poem lay in an experience of beauty, or even of grandeur and sublimity, which could not be reduced to that comic function. In this sense, the more I learnt of a wholly conventional kind about literary history, the less able I became to read the poem. When I learnt, for example, that this poem was a mock-heroic poem, I became even less able to process my own experience of it. The point of that idea seemed to be that everything that I had experienced as grandeur and sublimity could only be meant as a joke. The function of apparently grand or sublime elements in the poem was not for them to be responded to with awe and wonder, but rather to produce the small explosion of a laugh; continually to repeat the same joke, that trivial and unimportant events would be described in a register appropriate only to heroic actionmy experience of reading the poem became one of

2 what I have come to think of as a disallowed grandeurcontinually both reading lines which struck me as sublime or magnificent and feeling at the same time that to respond to those lines directly as sublime or magnificent was to respond to the wrong thing, to miss the point of the poem entirely. Simon Jarvis on reading The Rape of the Lock, in Mock as Screen and Optic, Critical Quarterly 46 (2004) (8) Ah hapless Swain, unusd to Pains and Ills! Canst thou forgo Roast-Beef for nauseous Pills? How wilt thou lift to Heavn thy Eyes and Hands, When the long Scroll the Surgeons Fees demands! Or else (ye Gods avert that worst Disgrace) Thy ruind Nose falls level with thy Face, Then shall thy Wife thy loathsome Kiss disdain, And wholesome Neighbours from thy Mug refrain. John Gay, Trivia, or: The Art of Walking the Streets of London (1716), III. 299306 (9) By thee transported, I securely stray Where winding Alleys lead the doubtful Way. Gay, Trivia, I. 78 (10) She leads the willing Victim to his Doom, Through winding Alleys to her Cobweb Room. Gay, Trivia, III.291-2

[Richard Savage,] An Author to be Lett (1729) (11) It is true that he [Pope] has used Dung; but he disposes that Dung in such a Manner, that it becomes rich Manure, from which he raises a Variety of fine Flowers. An Author to be Lett (12) Such Order from Confusion sprung, Such gaudy Tulips raisd from Dung. Jonathan Swift, A Ladys Dressing Room (1732)

3 (13) When lo! a burst of thunder shook the flood. Slow rose a form, in majesty of Mud; Shaking the horrors of his sable brows, And each ferocious feature grim with ooze. Greater he looks, and more than mortal stares: Then thus the wonders of the deep declares. The Dunciad, II.326-31 (14) Do not, gentle reader, rest too secure in thy contempt for the Instruments for such a revolution in learning, or despise such weak agents as have been described in our poem, but remember what the Dutch stories somewhere relate, that a great part of their Provinces was once overflowd, by a small opening made in one of their dykes by a single Water-Rat. Dunciad Variorum, note on closing lines (15) Popes aim in the translations was [...] to bring Homer to his readers in [two] capacities: as recorder of an historic world now gone, and as maker of a poetic world that endures. Introduction, The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, IV: The Iliad, Books I-IX, ed. Maynard Mack (1967) (16) When we read Homer, we ought to reflect that we are reading the most ancient Author in the Heathen World; and those who consider him in this Light, will double their Pleasure in the Perusal of him. Let him think they are growing acquainted with Nations and People that are now no more; that they are stepping almost three thousand Years back into the remotest Antiquity, and entertaining themselves with a clear and surprizing Vision of Things no where else to be found, the only true mirror of that ancient World. [...] those seeming Defects [in Homers genius] will be found upon Examination to proceed wholly from the Nature of the Times he livd in. Such are his grosser Representations of the Gods, and the vicious and imperfect Manners of his Heroes. Pope, Preface to The Iliad (17) Tis however certain that the Cruelties exercisd on Enemies in War were authorizd by the military Laws of those Times; nay Religion itself became a Sanction to them. Pope, note to Iliad XXI.35 (18) Tho this incident may seem too low and base for the dignity of an Epic Poem, the learned well know it to be but a copy of Homer and Virgil [] tho our Poet [] has remarkably enrichd and colourd his language, as well as raisd the versification in these two Episodes. [] our author [] tosses about his Dung with an air of Majesty. Pope, note to Dunciad II.71ff. (19) In the original of this place Phoenix tells Achilles, that as he placed him in infancy on his lap, he has often cast up the wine he had drank upon his clothes. I wish I had any authority to say these verses were foisted into the text; for though the idea be indeed natural, it must be granted to be so very gross, as to be utterly unworthy of Homer; nor do I see any colour to soften the meanness of it: such images in any age or country, must have been too nauseous to be described. Pope, note to Iliad IX.6

Further Reading Paul Baines, The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope (2001) John Barnard, ed., Pope: The Critical Heritage (1973) Gregory G. Colomb, Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic (1992) Howard Erskine-Hill, ed., Alexander Pope: Selected Letters (2000) Eric Griffiths, Drydens Past, Proceedings of the British Academy, 84: 1993 Lectures and Memoirs (1994) Douglas Knight, Pope and the Heroic Tradition (1951) Simon Jarvis, Mock as Screen and Optic, Critical Quarterly 46 (2004), 1-19 Joseph Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (1991) Maynard Mack, Alexander Pope: A Life (1985) Claude Rawson, Mock-Heroic and War: Swift, Pope, and Others, in Satire and Sentiment 16601830 (2000) ------, Heroic Notes: Epic Idiom. Revision and the Mock-Footnote from the Rape of the Lock to the Dunciad, in Alexander Pope: World and Word, ed. Howard Erskine-Hill (1998), pp.69-110 Christopher Ricks, The Poet as Heir: Dryden and Pope, in Allusion to the Poets, pp.9-42 Pat Rogers, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Alexander Pope (2007) Patricia Meyer Spacks, Reading Eighteenth-Century Poetry (2009) Aubrey Williams, Popes Dunciad: A Study of its Meaning (1968)