“No one should be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that they are wiser today than they were yesterday. Teach me to feel another's woe, to hide the fault I see, that mercy I to others show, and that mercy show to me.”
– Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope is credited with some of the most lasting and well-used sayings in our lexicon: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” “To err is human, to forgive devine” “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” being just a few.
Born in England on this day in 1688, Pope was a sickly child who was mostly self-educated, reading voraciously and teaching himself Latin and Greek while studying the works of Homer and Virgil and the great English writers Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dryden. Fascinated by languages and how they related to one-another, he also learned French, German and Italian, thus was able to read all the great works of literature in the languages in which they were first written.
Finding that Homer’s work was skewed in English translations, he set out to “translate it correctly,” and his finished piece has been cited as THE great translation of the great epic poet. His writing drew the attention of all the other great writers of his era, who not only befriended him but also pointed him toward a pathway of poetic writing. An essayist first, he set a new style and standard by writing his essays—including the esteemed An Essay on Criticism – in the poetic form known as the heroic couplet. His mastery of that form led to his being the second-most frequently quoted writer in the Oxford Dictionary, only after Shakespeare.
His most famous poem, arguably, is a mock-satiric work known as The Rape of the Lock, from which also came a new woman’s name, Belinda.
Reflecting on how his writing grew from his connections and reading of other great writers, past and present, he noted in heroic couplet, of course: “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, just as those move easiest who have learned to dance.”
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