Ode on solitude alexander pope essay

Ode on solitude alexander pope essay

A Poem a Day

Slow down, relax, read a poem a day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ode on Solitude — Alexander Pope

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 him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, day, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mine,
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.

Not quite the pastoral love poems of earlier in the week, Pope here seems to espouse the virtues of a quiet life well-lived. Almost sounding like the Beatitudes, the life of quiet diligence and plenty sounds fairly pleasant. The farmer in question, with his few acres, left to him by his father, lives his whole life breathing «native air in his own ground,» supplied with all he could need by what he already has.

A life of quiet temperance, as easy as it sounds, with its «sweet recreation» and unconcerned pace, seems somehow sad to me. Perhaps it is my modern eyes, but to die completely unlamented sounds awfully lonesome. Then again, solitude and loneliness are very different things. I’m not entirely sure Pope is glorifying this life, especially when the last two lines seem so bleak.

To «steal» away to such a peaceful life as this is certainly an attractive image. The idea of not a single stone marking ones resting place seems bleak to me, but in a way it seems like the ultimate sign of love at at one-ness with nature.

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This is where my crazy mind does its… work

Poetry Essay — Ode on Solitude

“Ode on Solitude” by Alexander Pope

To be in a state of solitude means that one has withdrawn from the world and has taken up a life of seclusion. This could be for various reasons, as one may have been born this way, one may have lost care for the world’s troubles, or one may just want to have a quieter life. This is exemplified in Alexander Pope’s poem, “Ode on Solitude.” This poem talks about how a life of isolation is still a happy and quiet life, and to maintain this peace, one must not only remain out of the world, but also remain so secluded that others cannot pester with the world’s problems.

This poem has an overall happy, content, and peaceful, yet a bit hopeful, mood. The happy mood is seen mostly in the first stanza. The content mood is seen in the first three stanzas. In the first, third, and fourth stanzas, one can see the peaceful mood, and the hopeful mood can be seen in the fifth stanza. This poem also has an air of self-sufficency or accomplishment about it. I have somewhat experienced this poem, as I have accomplished things on my own before, with no outside assistance or encouragement.

In the first stanza of the poem, the narrator speaks of a man with simple dreams, only living off his own land, which is also the land of his fathers. In the second stanza, his desires are further explained, as he wants to farm and live off his land, being completely self-sufficient. The third stanza states how this way of life is good because time has no meaning, one is healthy, has few worries, and lives quiet days. In the fourth stanza, recreation and innocence are revealed to be the results of this lifestyle. In the fifth and final stanza, it is revealed that the narrator is the man in the poem, and he wishes to be left alone, unknown from the world.

This poem may have some relevence to the world today, though certaintly not as much as the poem talks about living in complete solitude, something which is near impossible today. Even so, one can somewhat experience this poem’s meaning when accomplishing something on one’s own (such as what I showed above), as one would feel “content to breathe his native air, in his own ground. This poem may also be relevant as is shows that happiness is not necessairly being well known. It has become commonplace in today’s society that in order to live a “truly successful” life, one must become famous in some way or another. However, this poem suggests that a happy, successful life can be achieved without becoming well-known.

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Ode On Solitude, Alexander Pope – an analysis

Title
I’ll give you an ode on solitude: it’s NECESSARY! Alone time is good! That is, when balanced with not-alone time. I digress…

Gut Reaction
I’ll be honest. I had to give this a few reads before the last end of each stanza didn’t jolt uncomfortably (and then I had to stop myself from writing something crude about gag reflexes because ye gods, have I been reading too much fanfiction lately) when I read it.

Oh dear. I think I should apologise in advance. This is clearly going to be an ‘off on a tangent’ kind of analysis. I annoy myself sometimes…

After the, um, jolting (help me, just send help, okay? Brain bleach, anyone?), this feels less like an ode to solitude and more like an ode to the simple life. We’ll see…

What does it all mean?
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

I’m seeing a man who has inherited some land, or it’s been passed down the generations, and all he wants and needs is right there. He clearly isn’t a fan of Skyscanner and seeking out adventures abroad, now is he? But. He’s pretty much master of his own destiny, which is never a bad thing.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

So we’ve got some grazing land, some arable land, some livestock in the form of cows and sheep, and crops, and enough trees that he is sheltered in summer – suggests they’ve grown to some height so it must be a piece of land that’s been in the family a while – and still has enough for firewood. Is there a nod to the need to live simple WITH nature instead of AGAINST IT?

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

This man, and indeed anyone, whose life passes by quietly with a healthy body and mind, is blessed. Okay. I’d be bored out of my skull but… that’s just me. Blessed to never do anything? I get cabin fever if I’m in the same space for ten minutes! I have a problem…

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

‘Sound sleep by night’? You. You out there who DOESN’T have insomnia. What’s your secret? Please??

So this fella’s sleeping well, all is good, he’s got a great work-life balance, does the things he likes, which includes studying what he likes. Most people like the fact that he’s innocent – simple? Easygoing and laidback, content with his lot-kinda simple? But he’s not innocent with naivety, no, he ‘meditates’ on things, he’s a thinker. But the thinking comes with ease. Damn. How’s that possible??

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Let me live a simple life, I don’t wish to be famous or popular, and with that let me die just as simply as I lived? Don’t mess with my gravestone? Go and bother other people? I don’t want people to mourn the loss of me? No, I think here, he’s saying. I don’t need fuss in my life. I don’t need recognition. I don’t want people to be sad when I die, and I don’t even want the place where I lay to be marked with a (head)stone; just let me return to nature as all animals do.

I like the way he separates himself from ‘the world’, like he’s happy to not be a part of it. He sees echoes of that in the farmer he’s writing about, and he craves for that simplicity. It all feels so simple, so content, so… like I’m wearing an angora sweater which makes me itch both physically and morally. I wonder what kind of a life the author must have lived if he felt the need to pine for a life he didn’t have.

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
Homostrophic ode with all stanzas the same – the first three lines of each stanza are eight syllables and there is the somewhat clipped four syllable fourth line for each.

Tone
Wistful? Longing for a different life? Are you coveting your neighbour, Mr Pope.

Suggested rhyme scheme
Abab
Cdcd
Efef
Ghgh
Ijij

Similes and metaphors
Well clearly by ‘bread’ we mean ‘crops than can be made into bread’, and his flocks aren’t bringing him the latest off-the-rack number from Primark when they ‘supply him with attire’, unless sheep have started hitting the highstreet instead of being sheared. It could happen I suppose, in a new spin (I did NOT mean to pun) on Animal Farm.

Author’s relationship with their subject
There’s coveting. There’s envy. But there’s nothing malicious. It’s kind of like that pause before fangirl turns into stalker, no? No. It probably isn’t. That’s just me 🙂 it’s more like: your life looks so good, I want that for myself.

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
Apparently this poem was written when Pope was just twelve years old. I want to say something glib like ‘what twelve year old writes like that’ and then remember the kind of stuff that I used to write at that age and…well. Never let it be said that I can’t admit when I’m wrong. It concerns me how easily we dismiss young writers and it frustrates me when people pigeon-hole Young Adult writers into a special labelled box when Young Adult authors are some of the most incredible writers out there (looking at you, Patrick Ness).

Signing off
I’m still unconvinced that this isn’t an ode to a simple life rather than solitude, but I suppose we can conjure up the image of a farmer quite happily living along on his land. A simple life sounds so… alien to me. Contentedness? Again, not a concept I’m familiar with.

However. I can definitely get on board with the overall sentiment of wanting an easy life without any problems. To go through all your days without having a single care must be beautiful. And yes. There’s a lot to be said about misery being self-inflicted but just imagine what it must be like to live a life doing exactly what you want without worrying about things, without having to live up to anyone else’s expectations (or your own), to just, simply… live. What’s that like?

Reading a little about Pope’s history, perhaps you can see why he wanted a more simple life than the one he had. He was twelve years old at the time of this poem be written (allegedly. I wasn’t there.) which seems to coincide with the move his family made in 1700 due to anti-Catholic sentiment. He stopped having formal education. So perhaps this boy/young man, just learned for a ‘normal’, easy life, rather than the pure simplicity in the words of the poem.

Living a ‘simple’ life depends on your version of simple, doesn’t it? What you want for your life is, well, what YOU want, not what others want for you. The wish, the drive, to live as you please, that’s something that makes us individuals. Even for those who ‘settle’ before we’re ready. The want doesn’t necessarily go away.

The message of this poem is ‘the grass is always greener’. But it’s also ‘let me live my life my way’ and ‘let me be my own person’ and ‘I’m not bothering anyone, so don’t bother me’. So if I can take the ‘simple’ and swap it for ‘my way’, then I’d happily live a simple life too.

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When I read this I think of the song… it might not be a simple life, but how about a Simple Man? And since I’m that way out, how about the Lynyrd Skynyrd version and the Shinedown one too? Oh, and why not Jensen Ackles too, while we’re here?

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