“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
Pope, born on this date in 1688, 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.
Mostly self-educated, he taught 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.
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. He also is credited with creating the woman’s name Belinda, used in one of his writings.
“True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,” he wrote, “just as those move easiest who have learned to dance.”