Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Everything I Need to Know About Poetry I Learned from Alexander Pope

When I was in graduate school, one of the courses I took was on 18th century literature. The 18th century is something of the forgotten period in literature: after well-known figures like Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, but before all the famous 19th century writers (Mary Shelley, the Bronte sisters, John Keats, Emily Dickenson, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, gosh, I could go on forever so I'll stop now.)

The 18th century's best-remembered author is probably Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. But it also had Alexander Pope, who is probably better loved in academia, and who sounded the death knell for good poetry by codifying how to write it. (No, I'm not going to explain why I think this was the death knell. It would take too long.)

I mention all of this because level_head reminded me of a poem I crafted for this class. We had two creative assignments in this class; I rather liked the results of both. One was to craft a prose imitation (I did mine after the style of Swift's "A Modest Proposal.")

The other was to do a verse imitation in the syle of the day. I used the most popular 18th-century verse form, heroic couplets (rhymed iambic pentameter). The subject matter, however, is thoroughly modern. It's a lot shorter than the prose imitation (it's almost shorter than the title for the prose imitation). Maybe I'll post the prose one later; it was cute, too.

But for your amusement:

The Graduate

The Graduate wakes to the clarion Call
Of Alarm; Strike the Snooze, let Silence fall.
But there is no respite from resistless Day;
Arise and do Battle for your month's Pay.
Gather your Weapons: the Notebook spiral,
The Bic Pen, and that Tome without rival,
The Shakespeare Riverside. Prepared to fight,
You meet your Chariot--a wretched sight.
The Engine, wearied by many long Years,
Fights to turn over, while you fight back Tears.
At last it starts! You utter thankful Prayers,
Lurch onto the Road, and face the Day's Cares.
Parking, the first Challenge: Patrol the Lot,
With Eyes keen and dauntless Heart, seek a Spot;
Fruitless Hours pass as you roam the Lanes
'Til at last, a Space--Reward for your Pains!
Searching the Library is your next Goal--
Research, exhuastive, subsuming your Soul;
All efforts made for Challenge no Lesser
Than that issued by the dreaded Professor!

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